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.