Saturday, November 12, 2011

Free guided tour on Thursday 17. Nov., kl. 1900

Gratis kveldsomvisning: torsdag 17. november kl. 1900:
 Norwegian Wood og Roman Scott 

Here are views taken today of my exhibition at Telemark Kunstnersenter:

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Exhibition Opening

Åpning: fredag 4. nov. kl. 1200
Kunstneren er tilstede også på lørdag 5. nov. kl. 12-16

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Clockwork Lime

Yesterday I finished this painting, Time Loop, whose inspiration and digital sketch was posted last month in this blog.
The time loop is an idea that is bandied about occasionally, but perhaps I should clarify my idea of it. Rather than being a literal loop, (such as a bit of spliced-in film, which repeats itself unchangingly), the time loops I'm thinking of are perhaps more like orbits of planets. Though conditions are largely the same now, when the cycle is entering a phase of concurrence, the universe is nonetheless altered slightly. Events have deja vu, but they are not precise reenactments of history. History doesn't repeat itself to the letter. Rather than Clockwork Orange, now it's Clockwork Lime.
The era is again dystopian, with violence, disposession and revolution flaring up in ways that lead pundits grasping at straws. Yet in this iteration the protagonists are not Burgess' charismatic hoodlums, but rather hooded rioters, seeking anonymity.
Arab Spring... UK Riots...Occupy Wall Street... What will the next chapter be?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Mansonia Map

This souvenir map is your official guide to a famous but neglected landscape. Blue Ribbon Comities have bulldozed some areas, but there were simply too many pavilions to wipe away entirely. Quite a number still stand today, rusted and neglected though they now are.

The beauty of maps is that they make sense; their web of streets all link together. All roads lead to Rome, or in the case of the Mansonia Map, all roads link to Manson. Charles Manson is the dark symbol incarnate of the most fulminating decade, the 1960s.

Conspiratologists are able to find countless unsettling connections to Manson. One reason for this is that many of his associates sought to distance themselves from him after the events of 1969. This lead to increased mystery and conspiracy, much in the same way that the flawed and whitewashed Warren Commission has not quelled, but increased speculation regarding the JFK assassination.

Indeed, Manson now shares a tangential association with the rogues gallery of institutions that crop up when one examines both the JFK and RFK assassinations: The CIA's MKULTRA mind control program, LSD research, Bay of Pigs wet-workers, The Mob, etc.

How far can we examine this dark footprint? Is it only a historical artifact, or does it show a legacy that extends to our current times?

The chief literary sources of inspiration for Mansonia Map are Adam Gorightly's Shadow over Santa Susana and Russ Baker's Family of Secrets (about the Bush Dynasty.) A visual source of inspiration is the map of the 1964/65 Worlds Fair.

Worlds Fair

Manson Sings

Sunday, October 9, 2011


The cover this cartoon falls under should probably be The Old New Yorker. Though the event that inspired it (Cops arresting 700 on the B'klyn Bridge) is recent, some of the characters are old: the bridge itself, and the wordplay among them.  I'll post it on my new blog too, Roman's Comics.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Powwow one-off

This is the finished painting for the sketch I posted May 16, where I also described its inspiration. I thought it applicable to show now because it reminds me of a product by Myron Fass, great genius publisher--and eccentric shock-jock bordering the edges of sanity. 
 Fass was a compelling personality well described in the most recent book I have read, Mike Howlett's beautifully illustrated The Weird World of Eerie Publications.                        

Powwow Culture recalls the type of publication that Fass' organization specialized in: the one-off. Appealing to and exploiting the public's crazes was what he was especially good at, printing magazines about JFK or Elvis (or sharks during the JAWS era.) In my alternate universe, the celebrity LaFontain is the one to celebrate. 

My Forsider paintings in this exhibition are one-offs. They are also OOAKs (isn't that the acronym they use on Ebay for One-Of-A-Kind?) They fall well short of Fass' parameter of success, sales of at least 20,000 units.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Phew--I think it's finished! (See the Sept. 4 post to see how the thing began, and the inspiration.)
It's also an illustration for my other blog, obitulog

I was recently reading about the contemporary philosopher, Derek Parfit, who claims not to be able to save images of his past, and hence rarely thinks of it. Perhaps he is able to work on moral philosophy because is he less burdened by his own identity and subjectivism. Such is not my case; my identity is hyper-subjective, full of associations. My past plays in my mind like a projector supplied with an endless, infinitely large reel of images.

I've used many sources as references to paint these faces.  They are not so much painted as engraved, scraped through paint. Am I one who bows before the graven image? Heck, I'm a far worse idolator than that--I engrave the things! In this painting you may recognize some of the faces: stars, starlets, rogues, heroes, prophets, and prophets of doom. They, and thousands of others, are engraved in the sequence that makes up my sliding puzzle of mental tiles.

Friday, September 16, 2011


This is a detail of a work in progress. In the laboratory of my studio and my blog, painting ideas come and go. Some reach completion, others don't, and the verdict is still out on this one.

I hope I can pull it off. Were I given the resources, I feel that I could edit and publish a real-life magazine of the same name (chameleon-lover, and a file on chameleons, the animal that is little understood.

The mythology of chameleons in the popular culture is that they change colors to suit their environment. This is largely true, but just the beginning of their wonderment. They also change colors to communicate: in order to affect their environment.

Just as fascinating is their personality--their human-like moods. And their sight is perhaps the keenest ever developed on this planet by any animal. In comparison to them, poor humans are as blind as dogs. Sharp-sighted hawks or cats? Poor souls are they, nearly holding white canes in comparison to the chameleon, who sees colors vividly, as well as the outline of a fly, leagues away.

Fascinating as these attributes are, they are limited subjects if one moves on to philosophical and existential questions that the chameleon opens. They are supposed to be primitive animals; reptiles, are they not? How could it be that they dream? Well, they do--easily seen by their rapid-eye-movements in sleep.  As far as I know, other reptiles are not known to dream.

Their postures and attitudes often seem uncannily human, or hominid. I believe this is an example of parallel evolution. Though humans and chameleons are not related other than in the very distant past
( in the same way that any vertibrate is related), they seem  more closely related to us. Their kind took an evolutionary journey that matches our own in two very important parts: (1.) they chose trees as their home, and (2.) they chose sight as their sense.

Primates took to the trees, needing prehensile hands to grasp branches. Same with chameleons, which have tight-clasping hands and tail. (The ground-dwelling choice, which the likes of baboons and hominids took, is late in the game, a few drops in the bucket of evolutionary time; the bulk of our primate ancestors bid their time in the trees, as most of our cousins still do.)

Our brains and attitudes are due to sight being our sense. Some estimates put it that 80% of our sensory stimulus is visual. For chameleons it must be at least that; they are, in fact, deaf, without ears. (They can, however feel vibrations, and even make vibrations to communicate through the jungle telegraph of tree branches.) Chameleons have stereoscopic vision, like us (and unlike all other reptiles, and most mammals.) Because they are so sight-oriented, they appear hyper-aware and nervous, always vigilant. They are very different from a lethargic snake, for instance. It is uncanny when they look at you directly with both eyes, which work a dissonance on your mind.

Just think about life on other planets. We are finding new Goldilocks planets every day, in regions of space remote, but not hideously far across the cosmos. Imagine encountering extraterrestrials that also chose the twin paths of trees and sight early in their evolution. Which type would be the one that reached for technology first: the reptilian one or the hairy one?

Monday, September 12, 2011


Here's my logo painting for the exhibition, which I began some months ago.
It may be finished--but  I never know before it is actually out of the studio.
It shows a mixing of old and new signs, old and new methods of communicating, surfaces and images vying for attention, especially the case now on the web.

I've always had the feeling of being buried under papers. Sometimes I can keep them under control within files, but more often than not they pile up. I tend to collect all to many things, both in my memory and in my studio!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Time Loop

'Been listening to archived broadcasts of CBS Mystery Theatre, the last great radio play program in the US, running through the '70s.   The show was broadcast late in the evening, and I remember originally listening to it with my grandparents in their camper on the Wyoming prairie, in places that felt very far from civilization--so far, not one light made by man could be seen, only the millions of stars from galaxies very close overhead in the high desert sky.

Many of the archived episodes were taped with the commercials and news issued by various affiliate stations, so you get a real time capsule of what was happening in the early to mid 1970s. The program is often eerie, but perhaps eerier is the feeling that I am in a time loop, many of the events mirroring what the world is feeling now. High oil prices, political scandals, wars, economic hardship, record prices for gold--even a debt ceiling debate.

A few years later, in high school, most nerd or geek kids had read Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange. We may have even tried out some of the Russian-Cockney slang that Burgess had constructed for the future. The book was a  horrorshow introduction to dystopia.

The future has come. Rather than cod pieces and bowlers, the protagonists sport hoodies, or burka-like hankies. In this data-sketch I superimposed the iconic image of Stanley Kubrick's sauntering thugs over a backdrop of London burning and hooded rioters. The lettering of the title is inspired by the film's opening  milk bar scene, which featured fluid signage of the same feel.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Obitulog, a work in progress

I'm painting a cover not only for a new entry, but for a new blog, called Obitulog,
(Can you believe it, yet another splinter?)

It would seem that much of what comprises the substance of one's mind is the accumulation of memories. These memories are the building blocks of associations. In the age of wiki and google we are free to find out quickly about the status of people or things that slide around on the tiles of our mind. (I wonder if that guy's still alive? is the header question of the blog.)

 Both memory and associations are dynamic; every time you revisit a memory you are likely to alter it slightly, or shift its placement, so that it occupies a slightly new place in the giant mosaic of shifting tiles that make up the mind. Some of these fall away, never to be found, while others become glued in place, firmly fixed, requiring other bits to slide around them.

This painting is inspired by sliding puzzles, the type with one space free, but filled with a matrix of tiles that support each other, sometimes barely. Unlike the mind,  the image lies on the surface. Yet sequence is important--perhaps more important than time itself. 

The question now is: what will this sliding mosaic of tiles have as their image?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Pasty-faced enough? This is the finished painting to the sketch more fully described in 29 June's entry.
Though they are observers, it seems I channeled a kind of seedy, 1930s desperation into their faces. Perhaps their garb got me thinking of time loops, the present times echoing slightly the era of dispossession and economic hardship of that decade.

Note: Here in Norway we see men in black constantly, without even realizing it. The common crosswalk/pedestrian sign is iconic, the silhouetted figure cemented firm in the classic default hat and suit.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Bubble Rubble

What's the rubble of a bubble? I was reading in a fossil book about the earliest fossils of animals way back, 600 million years or further.  There's a few jellyfish, but they're rare. Because they are basically a bubble of jelly, they don't have much structure to leave an impression.

Bubbles have always been around, but they seem to be in the air lately. Eli Pariser's book, The Filter Bubble, argues that each of us may have our own separate internet. Our profile dictates what we are offered.
This extended bust cycle in the economy, which just lurches on endlessly from one crisis to the next, makes me think of the great granddaddy of bubbles, the Tulip Bubble, which wracked Holland and the financial markets back in the 1600s.

The bubble seems so soft and etherial, just a little nothing. That's why it's such a good metaphor for insidious events or tendencies. The winds blow good fortune to some, but very many are left in poor straights as a result of these bursting bubbles.

Some insulate themselves within social networks that have an echo-chamber effect. Yes, there is great diversity and democracy on the web, much more than the days of magazines and newspapers.  But the colorful, skillfully designed covers are no longer  displayed on a dated shelf for us to buy. Gone also is the record album cover, an even more glorious format, displayed for our vote. (We put our money where our mouth was.) Our patronage provided livelihood to the artists.

 Now we read a tailor-made mix that suits our taste, so specific that we know what it is before we see it.  Apps clean up content for us. (Heavens, don't commission an illustration- just slap on a free thumbnail. The audience won't care, nor will they see it, on their diminutive smartphone screens.) We are tiny choirs finding just the right preacher.  And some preachers can be very happy with their choir; they may invent it and select it from within their own bubble. They may be so convinced of their worth, they publish a long manifesto, spread over the web.

Regarding the font of Bubble Rubble, I was inspired by a magazine from 1969, which was celebrating the impending Moon Landing. The font was evocative of an age soon to come: the future. It was at once technical and soft- bubbly even.  Amid the rubble of the space shuttle program and the austere courses nations have set themselves on, this optimism seems increasingly distant.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Coney Island Pavilion

This sketch painting is the result of my morgtage of sideshow performers discussed a few posts ago (Coney Island Interlude.) Schlitzy and Kookoo, perhaps the two most famous performers, stroll or cavort on Coney Island Beach between their shifts.
The Elephant Hotel can still be seen not far from Atlantic City, at Margate. Named Lucie, she is approximately half the size of the hotel that stood on Coney Island, though she is in fact a bit older, a trial run for the larger building.
Though the Cyclone roller-coaster is still standing and working (I had a bit of popping neck bone or gristle that rattled me for about a decade after my last phenomenal ride on it), the pictured coaster is the storied Thunderbolt, razed a decade ago during some dark dealings with the city string-pullers. The parachute tower still stands, a mysterious relic that I think is from an ancient world's fair.
The magazine cover I will paint, for which this is a sketch, will be called Pavilion, speaking of world fairs. I like the word pavilion, just the sound of it. It sounds foreign, in that way, a 100 years ago, when such words had an exotic significance. Pavilions were important; they were architecture that had a point to make, but which didn't have to endure for a long time. They were low budget, yet grand--grander than a regular building with solid foundation and purpose, whose practical reason overrode fancy.
So it was for Coney Island, an island of Pavilions. Very few stand now. But on a certain psychic wavelength, you can see them and hear them; this inspired the painting. Pattern-seeking creature that I am, I am fond of connections. And connections weave densely during the twilight at Coney Island, a web denser than the lattice comprising a rusting roller-coaster.
Coney Island, as architect Rem Koolhaas notes, was the proving ground for Manhattan; the skyscrapers were built there first, being low budget pavilions, to be razed and burnt. This place gave us the idea of the modern city, but few think of the tawdry wasteland as such an important place now.
The island had several different parks, one of which was named Luna Park, eponymous for amusement parks in many languages today. Again, few remember this original park.
Before there was Disneyland and world, there was Coney Island as the park of wonder.
Disney sanitized Coney Island's original, loucher wonder.

The mysterious mascot of Coney Island was the idiotic face, later used as the trademark of Mad Magazine, Alfred E. Newman. The genius behind Mad Magazine was Harvey Kurtzman. He employed John Cleese and Terry Gilliam later on (working on a fumetti spread, cartoons made with photos), and this connection would later result in Monty Python.

When we see freakish things on Youtube, watch satire, or questionable goings-on on reality TV, do we not owe something to the original freaks and visionaries of Coney Island?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Here is my map of New York City showing the New Littles, the neighborhoods that are made of at least a 20 percent population from a specific country. The famous Little Italy of film fame no longer exists where it did in Lower Manhattan, but you will see that there are a great many neighborhoods in greater NY that still are Italian.
This project was a challenge made by the Brian Lehrer show last month, which featured analysis of the modern demographics of the city. I used an interactive map, furnished by the show, to gather the information I needed.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Wrecked Goods

This new painting is titled Vrakgods, which translates as debris. Less correctly translated, but more interesting, would be wrecked goods.
This would be an example of a personal style of translation, which I coin as etymologocentricism (safe to say this won't become a standard word any time soon!) Such a translator chooses more directly related words, grasping for the cognates or parallels in languages of the same family, sometimes at the expense of clearest meaning, but gaining something else.
Wrecked goods, or debris, has always fascinated me, whether it's found on a lonely beach, forgotten wharf, or high-desert prairie. In the case of this painting old cars lie to rust very slowly in the dry plains outside Laramie, Wyoming. Makes from different decades rest together in a diversity that will slowly become less clear to the viewer, as time removes stylistic distinction.
The background shows the erosion and geology of a basin that once lay under a giant, shallow sea. This is a fossil hunter's paradise—the first excavation of a Tyranosaurus Rex took place there. These cars could be thought of as types of fossils too.
Wrecked goods (debris and fossils) are startling! These objects sit, revealed, before our eyes, feasting with whatever associations we like, independent of the original context wherein these things were created. In a museum, where a fossil skeleton stands, we don't see the surrounding stone, the layering and conditions that took place over millions of years. The sequence or order of history may be wiped away, but the objects like to startle us, resting as they do in the fresh light of our new eyes.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Coney Island Interlude

(morgtage or sketch for forsider painting, which may be titled Coney Island Interlude.)

One of the best midnight movies must be David Lynch's Eraser Head. Just hearing the title will summon up in your mind a special mood. Plot? It certainly has one, but the mood is what the film is about. Mood is what you first recall about great films, as you do with dreams.

Todd Browning's Freaks is the other legendary midnight movie. Eraser Head's mood is a dense fog of night, the deep sound of a boiler room's hum. Freaks' mood is more attenuated, a shrill garbled whistle on a scratchy 78 rpm disc. But it's a film I would sooner see.

I first became acquainted with Freaks from an uncanny still in a book about horror movies, a prized possession I got in the early '70s. This book stated that the film was banned. Browning, director of the iconic Dracula of Bela Lagosi, had not used makeup or special effects in Freaks, you see. He had used nature, actual sideshow performers of the 1930s era. The audiences of the day were disturbed by this—as they are today, 80 years later.

A week or two ago a seed for a painting was planted in my head as I mused about Coney Island, after seeing a good montage movie made from clips housed at, the public domain's modern Alexandria. I recognized some of the performers from Freaks, still in their prime on Coney Island in the 1940s. I was just blown away by the place, marveling at what once was, as compared to what remains in Coney Island today. It is still one of my favorite places, but it's just a husk of what was.

I decided to make a montage, a reference sheet for my painting. I call these morgtages (yes, looks like a nice typo related to the housing crisis, but it's morgue + montage.) I paste together a multitude of references of a subject, gleaned from the net. In the old days illustrators had a file cabinet called a morgue, wherein they kept their references. Now our references are found over the internet.

While gathering these references I was amazed to find that several of the side show performers have incurred a great cult following. In some cases whole websites are devoted to them. Perhaps the most popular is Schlitzy. Masterful underground cartoonist Bill Griffith's flagship character, Zippy the Pinhead, counts Schlitzy as an inspiration.

My forsider painting will be called Interlude. I imagine Coney Island in the evening, an amalgam of what is there today, and what was—including the elephant hotel. In the foreground a trio of sideshow performers stroll on the beach, taking a break. It is a quiet scene, contradicting the riotous, humorous and disturbing associations the characters and place summon up in our minds.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Menn in Black sketch

Recently I heard Nick Redfern, author behind many speculative books. His most recent is about the Men in Black phenomenon. He explores folkloric paths long before what we associate now, thanks to the MIB franchise of entertaining films. This inspired me to start a new painting.

The Observers of Fringe seem to be more on target with what the Men in Black have traditionally been through the decades, before the entertaining movie franchise.

What type of phantoms are they? Benevolent, malevolent, or something in between? The same questions could be asked about another man in black, Bigfoot. I will probably put him in the picture, toward the background.

I wanted some remove from the movie trademark, so I thought it might work to title it Menn i sort, the Norwegian variant. What happens when these shadowy figures poke around in a deciduous Norwegian wood? Can this happen here, where the wavelengths are a bit more prosaic and flat-footed? I got a flat-footed posture from a photo of the enigmatic Gilbert and George duo. (English, rather than Norwegian.)

Men in Black dress the way they do, allegedly, because they need to be generic, able to visit regardless of a period of time. Though their fedoras are unusual, their suits still blend in, a default clothing style that appears to be timeless, though formal.

A side note about the fedoras: I read with mirth that hipsters are supposed to be wearing them now. Perhaps they will become fashionable again, gaining a critical mass. Oddly, current fashion authorities are unaware, or fail to note, that such hats were quite popular among the hipsters in NY only 20 years ago. At that time there were still many original fedoras to be found in used bins. It seems now that they are manufactured in the current century, and of a different cut, with a more compact, Elvis Costellian brim.

Black Bart, Highwayman and doggerel poet of old California, sported a more compact brim, in the form of a bowler. If modern hipsters want compact brims, should they try bowlers?

Old New Yorker

This is a take off of the New Yorker magazine. Living as I do in Europe, I don't take it for granted that the publication is universally known. The wonderful thing about the New Yorker is that it still exists; every week it still comes out, full of long, rambling articles, illustrations, and cartoons. In this bleak media landscape, it surprising that something so good could still be; why shouldn't it be sleeping in the same crypt with all the other hundreds of beautiful magazines? The mag is a gem, the last of its kind.

Now, on to The Old New Yorker. The motif is taken from a neon sign, I think about E. 60th Street. The sign itself is worth everything, but I have some fond associations of the bar inside, which was a student hangout for Hunter College, some blocks up. Back in those days it was famous for selling draws, frosty mugs of draft beer costing only a dollar. Some years ago I popped in there to revisit and found it had changed typically for the worse, offering instead a grim array of expensive, bottled swill. All charm and goodness was gone—except for the sign on the facade.

No wonder it was featured in Mad Men. (if for a brief instant.) This series has an astonishing attention to detail, evoking the recent past. Rather than slapping some sceneographic sign up, they used the real McCoy, showing The Village Inn's reflections in a taxi. The curved glass of the taxi's window, passing slowly beneath the sign, caused the neon reds and oranges to undulate. This perfectly fits with the era and atmosphere that the series evokes. NY is the city that always changes, I know, but I like it when some little perfect thing can survive, just by chance.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The FugiTimes is the masthead to a broadsheet that can still be found lining the closet shelves of older houses. It is a palimpsest of fugitive events. I just began this painting, a work in progress. How it will end up, no one can tell. What I can tell now is what is moving around in my head at the moment.

I'm thinking of the nature of newspapers, how wonderful they are. But they are a double-edged sword; the events depicted in them rest in the collective imagination only a short time. They flee like the transparent, running colors on a wet canvas. Only a very few artifact-lovers pore over past copies, the journalists and illustrators forgotten by most. I have worked as a freelance illustrator for the NY Times, and the Wall St. Journal. Both were black and white only—and the WSJ, can you believe it, was still fighting last good fight of the the century...the nineteenth century, that is. The paper didn't even publish photos. Talk about good times for illustrators!

My thoughts often go to the The Old Gray Lady, The New York Times. She is putting up a good fight, and her web product is very good. I'm hoping the recently erected pay wall will take root effectively, allowing her journalists to survive; we need news to be written by journeymen, who check sources—and receive a check for their labors!

You could say news ink flows through my veins. Perhaps regular ink runs through my veins too. I got a chuckle when I was painting the black letters, trying to emulate masthead fonts: suddenly I was visited by the memory of my calligraphy teacher, a purist paleographer and former Trappist monk, who loved to rue the grotesque “progress” of the 19c. During that time the calligraphic arts were thrown out the window, and graphic designers used T-squares to draw letter forms, mutating the nature of pen strokes done by hand, so he thought.

Being visited by people from my past is a very common thing in the painting studio. Sometimes the room becomes quite full. I am often surprised by extremely fragmentary types, whose names have long run away, but who offer one quote or action that turns up like a small scrap in a bottle, quickly submerged in the roiling waves of memory. I think I will paint some of these on this canvas; it has just begun, and I am showing only the top quadrant.

For further reading on newspapers, the best book I can recommend is Matthew Goodman's The Sun and the Moon. This brings the age of the newpaper(early to mid 19c.) alive in a very entertaining way, including a hoax that may be the most successful and educational caper of all time.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Ransom Note

I wanted to advertise Forsider, so I painted this picture, celebrating different ages of communication. Though it is just oil on canvas, I now realize that it looks like a collage. Or a ransom note. (It's fun to think of what criminals will have to use these days, now that a wide variety of printed materials are not necessarily lying around; some people don't even care for books, let alone those fusty old things called magazines or newspapers.)

All the letters are talking to each other, and so are the colors and textures—or at least that is what I hope. The dominant letter is a logo in itself, and the guy most happy with the age of digital reproduction. Most of the other letters are more at home in the age of mechanical reproduction, rescued from book or product covers. Others are looking dated or corroded. Some characters may be so old, they don't even know about paper, being more comfortable in ancient clay.

Are they letters or pictures? One of my favorite things to see along a roadside is a billboard whose letters have left. They have gone off into the landscape.

When arriving in a new town, or just passing through it, it often looks alien. I have a strange method of making it part of the world, less alien: I imagine an upstairs window of a house, with a comic book or magazine open on a desk, wind from an open window gently shifting the pages. Suddenly the town doesn't seem alien anymore. The spirit of the publication, and the ideas of those who wrote and illustrated it, are fluttering about the town. No matter how cementy and drab the town is, it has some redemption.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Klan Klatch

Long ago, at a school somewhere, before the age when everyone had a pc, I remember playing around with a basic paint program. It was fun and full of promise, theoretically. Along with most anyone else using it, it was good to explore some possibilities, as long as I could ignore my clumsiness and jagged lines with a mouse. It never went anywhere because there seemed to be little we could actually apply it to. Things couldn't be printed in those days. We still used typewriters to make documents. There was no internet, no digital photos, etc.

Then over the years and decades the computer insinuated itself more into my life. Photoshop and the internet came along. But now all this stuff was so damned complicated. I would use programs for certain projects and then forget how to use them, taking a long break after frying my brain during the eternally long sessions of trying to do some basic thing.

Suddenly it occurred to me: say, what ever happened to that fun paint program? It didn't take an eternity to figure out how to draw a line or color in a shape. I searched a little and found something close: Paintbrush. It's easy to use and basically how I remember.

I decided to do a magazine title with it. Computers are good at squares and right angles, so it seemed good for designing letters. I chose to remix a painting I had done last year, called The Clan. It would work for a magazine or comic book cover. What would the title be? I like alliteration, so I chose Klan Klatch, inspired by a googled image of an old cafe. The style of the letters for Koffee Klatch, the cafe's name, were just the type that I like, vaguely New Yorker-ish. In that era, around 100 years ago, artists redesigned the wheel every time they had a project. Magazine titles, newspaper ads, whatever, were nice and hand made, even though they were straight and vaguely machine-age. These words were hand-made, but also futuristic.

Nowadays, no one reinvents the wheel. Mr. Computer hands everyone thousands of fonts, so there is no call for anyone who likes drawing letters. Not following this trend, using a retro style of paint program, I drew the Klan Klatch title, thinking about every aspect of the name. Both “Klan” and “Klatch” are words whose time has faded. They are in keeping with the style of the lettering, c. 1920. The famous Klan or KKK reached its highest membership in the 1920s, I recall reading somewhere. (Lest one think the good old days were always all that good.)

The word klatch (a social gathering) may be as worn as the klan, perhaps not even known by youth. At one time German influenced American pop culture more than it does now. The old traditions of Vaudeville, where ethnic types were stock and trade, carried on for decades into radio and TV. Beloved rocket scientists, mad scientists of horror films, and “long hair” musicians always spoke in thick accents. Ernie Kovacs had many zany German accents, along with others of the Euro-ethnic soup that was mid-century America pop.

As for the actual content of Klan Klatch, which the painting symbolizes, what is it? This is a klatch of hominids, of an apish type. Or are they more than a klatch—maybe a clan, forbidden to outsiders, ever suspicious? Perhaps Klan and Klatch are contradictions. A gathering infers strangers, or acquaintances meeting socially. Perhaps it is a family reunion. Have you ever been to a family reunion where you were a stranger?

Among the curiosities that have fascinated me recently are the traditions and concerns of families. These concerns are all-important for a few decades, as if they are rules written in stone. Then the elders die off and the rules are forgotten. The house is cleaned out and the goods taken to the dump. It's strange!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

City Island and Maxfield Parrish

There are many mysterious places along the waterways of N.Y. One of my favorites is City Island, The Bronx. It is quite far from Manhattan, though the distant spires can be glimpsed miles away. Figuratively, too, it is far from the city. Its ambience is of another time. In the foreground stands a forlorn, abandoned yacht club, seeming to remember the age of Gatsby, who would have partied on one of Long Island's Eggs not far across L.I. Sound.

Though the quiet local of City Island largely furnished the mood of this painting, the time of about 100 years since also did, inasmuch as that I used a color and value strategy inspired by one of my favorite illustrators, Maxfield Parrish. In keeping with what is appearing to be a theme of this blog, and upcoming exhibition, Parrish is an example of transitory fame. Like Al Jolson, (earlier blog) he was a star of his age. I read somewhere that a full TWENTY-FIVE PERCENT of households in America displayed a reproduction of his on their walls in the 1920s. That made him perhaps even more popular than than Jesus Christ, even the famous 1940s wallet image given to G.I.s during WWII.

In this era of TV, film, and internet, the idea of such a supremely popular visual artist is beyond our wildest imagination. Equally boggling to the mind is that such a phenomenon would now be forgotten, relatively. Mainly he is remembered by artists.

He had a special talent for clear, atmospheric scenes with heightened colors, often in the keys of yellow and purple. Though he painted in oils, he more often used paper rather than canvas. His results had a lucidity of watercolor, but an intensity and sense for detail that oils foster. I think this was due to his understanding of transparency. In my painting of City Island, I tried to use transparent pigments, such as alizarine crimson, yellow and red iron oxide, and ultramarine blue, though I painted on canvas.

Forsider, Covers, is about magazine covers—print artifacts. Parish's age was the magazine and newspaper age. I grew up at the end of this age—and was influenced by it to the point that I think in terms of magazine covers. I dream magazine covers. Thanks to Mr. Computer, we don't care about covers anymore. But rather than gnash my teeth over a bygone age, I can try to do a project in the new digital medium that has killed off (or killing) the medium I pine for.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Pages and time

This motive has been bubbling around in my mind for a few decades, though I just made this sketch. I'm thinking it would be good for a cover, as it's showing many covers.
I just had the impulse to sketch it when I was reading Erik Von Daeniken's Chariots of the Gods, a book in the air of around 1970, but now being pushed to the background a bit. I mention the air because the smell of it is quite important, having the spirit of energy of a Wyoming basement, where I rescued it last summer. (the smell of a book is the first thing I notice, before I settle my eyes into it.) These particles of smell are the same as the rocks and nature of the times in which Chariots was discussed much, the era of speculation and imagination about ancient astronauts. Von Daeniken discusses the time capsule placed in NY, 1965 (I imagine at the World's Fair.) This world's fair is the inspiration for Mansonia, the last Blog post, and a future painting.)
Sheets and covers are about time, artifacts in the air at one time, since covered up. Sometimes they fall away entirely, lost in the wind, though other times they can be pried from underneath layers pasted over them.
This notion of the time capsule is intriguing and troubling; in a scant 45 years since the capsule was layed down, the world has changed troublingly much, to the extent that we put our artifacts into mainly digital forms. This digital info is highly fugitive and transitory. As I write, I am aware that the form of a blog is becoming archaic. Unlike a book, a blog will vanish entirely, and it has no smell particles that can be rescued. Are we thinking of putting digital info in time capsules? Will we be able to decipher it 5,000 years from now? Or 50?
I have contrarian concerns to most people, concerning the web. Most worry about things like Facebook's lack of privacy, that a person's mistake will be preserved forever, etc. I doubt this: in just over a decade, a huge amount has vanished, never to be seen again. My gallery at, for instance, one of the premier web galleries of the world, folded a year or two ago, most of its pages wiped away, only a few remaining in archives. This was a very high profile site; small blogs and most pages stand an even worse chance of lasting for a long time. Keep it in perspective!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Manson on Prozac?

Mansonia Souvenir Map requires a more mellow view of Chas. Manson. I photoshopped an image that combines two different early perp-walk photos, coming up with a milder look than we usually associate with him.
The idea of the eventual cover is to provide a cartography of a word's fair devoted to Manson. After reading Adam Gorightly's The Shadow over Santa Susana I became aware that Chas. Manson may have a deeper significance for the 1960s than conventional histories chart. Like the events surrounding the JFK assassination, new maps are needed to draw a cosmos that our current times are built on. This will be the inspiration for Mansonia Souvenir Map, the cover painting to follow.

Sketch for Powwow

Powwow Culture is a dream cover, that is to say, a cover that appeared in a dream, arising spontaneously. The difficulty with spontaneous dream images is that bringing them into the waking world is the reverse of quick. Especially with painting, it can be slow. In fact, it took me around a year to even find a way of making the face. That's not even discussing the slowness of the medium of oil paint.
For Powwow culture I needed alluring eyes, especially since there are six of them. The icon that I dreamed of was a man, but the eyes were dark. Some time later I was reading an article about the now un-sung singer Al Jolson in The Saturday Book, my favorite anthology of quirky culture, and it hit me: his were the eyes I needed. The stars of that time were made up dark for the silent film age.
After I had the eyes, it was only to find hairstyles of the 70s/80s, Farrah Fawcett being the innovator for the strange unisex style of the time. At first I wanted to find year book photos of my contemporaries, but these can be actually be surprisingly difficult to find on the web, and I have no old year books, long jettisoned in my many moves. So I went to the source to find a variety of Farrah hair.
Then it was only to do some photoshop work, and I came up with this image, which is reasonably close to a mythic hero personality, a man by the name of Darrell LaFontain. As to he he is, I am not sure quite at this point.