Archive for ‘Art History’

Friday Odds and Ends

Here’s a really lovely 3-pager by David Lasky from yesterday’s Bloomsday commemorations.

Also lovely: these people sketches by Lucy Knisley. Can you draw that well? Me neither.

The Interwubs are all abuzz this week with Colleen Coover’s super-adorable and very funny Lana Lang comic. (Oh if only the monthlies were like this…)

Finally, the legendary Eddie Campbell has sent along a link to another fine article tracing comics early origins, so check it out.

[first few links via Spurge, I think]

Have a great weekend!

Happy Birthday, Will Eisner—Google-Style!

Google is celebrating the birthday of the late, great Will Eisner today with a terrific Eisneresque Google Doodle, and I had the pleasure of contributing a guest blog post to help celebrate the occasion as well.

Thanks to everybody at the Big G for honoring a truly important cartoonist, and a great friend to a century’s worth of comics-lovers.

Fondly remembered. Sorely missed. And now celebrated across the internet. Happy birthday, Will.

[Please note: Some news outlets are reporting that I drew the finished art for the Doodle. Not true. I was involved in early design discussions, but the final version was by artist Mike Dutton]

Friday Odds and Ends

Way, way back in the deep recesses of the horrifying guilt-mountain that is my Inbox, I found an old email from one Michelangelo Cicerone forwarding the news of a very cool Historic Tale Construction Kit, which is essentially a Create Your Own Bayeux Tapestry tool. Give it a try if you’re so inclined.

On the night table: Top Shelf’s excellent alternative manga collection AX; Mario and Gilbert Hernandez’s good-old-fashioned twisted comic book adventure Citizen Rex; and Moto Hagio’s lyrical Drunken Dream from Fantagraphics.

To satisfy your weekly Greek webcomic quota, check out the handsomely-drawn Mused by Kostas Kiriakakis.

And finally, here’s an insidious video that’ll burrow its way into your skull forever, courtesy of Warren Ellis. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Have a great weekend.

Hey, They let you take Pictures!

Had a great time in London with Ivy last week. Thanks to all the great people at UXLondon (hosts, guests, and attendees all) and to the friends who came out on ridiculously short notice to see us.

Swung by the British Museum, among other sites, and was reminded that they allow picture-taking, so I went to town on the sculptures (mostly with my iPhone, but later with a semi-real camera).

I wish all museums allowed snapshots. There are times when a postcard just won’t do, especially when looking closely at the rich textures and beautiful decay of ancient works like these.

Anyway, here are a few I liked.

Wrong Question?

Related to yesterday’s post, there’s a controversy brewing over whether video games are “Art” or not, spurred on by various comments by film critic Roger Ebert.

A couple of people have even Beetlejuiced* me, wondering which side of the issue I’d come down upon. Anyone who’s read the art chapters of UC or RC can probably guess my response.

If you’re asking if videogames are art, I think you’re asking the wrong question. I don’t think art is an either/or proposition. Any medium can accommodate it, and there can be at least a little art in nearly everything we do.

Once in a while, someone makes a work in their chosen medium so driven by aesthetic concerns and so removed from any other consideration that we trot out the A-word, but even then it’s a matter of degrees, and for most creative endeavors you can find a full spectrum from the sublime to the mundane.

The idea that for the lack of a single brush stroke or word balloon or camera angle, we could consign something as complex as a painting or a graphic novel or a motion picture to the art equivalent of Heaven or Hell does a disservice to the depth and breadth of those forms. There’s no hard dividing line, no thumbs up or thumbs down for these things.

Games are an interesting case though. Duchamp insisted that the viewer is a contributor to the creative act, and on several levels actually completes the work. In games, that “user interaction” is more than just a contribution to the work—it’s the very substance of the thing. The idea of abdicating authorship to the user (a concept I first heard about from game designer Doug Church) gets pretty close to the DNA of all games.

Does “abdicating authorship” mean abdicating any hopes of high art though? I don’t think so. But what do I know? I make comic books.

“I have come to the personal conclusion that while all artists are not chess players, all chess players are artists.” –Marcel Duchamp

“…the River in Which We Sink or Swim…”

Bill Griffith recently offered his Top 40 List on Comics and their Creation and it got me thinking about the influence of his generation—the RAW/Arcade generation you might call it—not only on comics but on popular culture generally.

If there’s one document that sums it up beautifully, it’s Gary Panter’s funny, screwed-up, poetic, and profound Rozz Tox Manifesto from 1980; a call for artists to infiltrate the lumbering machines of popular culture and start messing with the gears.

Through twisted masterpieces like Panter’s designs for Pee Wee’s Playhouse, or his friend Matt Groening’s long-running, society-scouring The Simpsons, it’s become clear in retrospect that these guys were (at least partially) dead serious about many of these ideas.

As of the last ten years, the idea of infiltrating mass media can seem almost redundant. The great mass of media is increasingly generated by a decentralized confederation of unaffiliated knuckleheads like you and me. But as long as there’s a hellish laugh track still running somewhere, Panter’s virus still has work to do.

Art Compressed

As long as I’m linking to music videos this week, here’s another great one (via Jenn Manley Lee) that plunges into art history. Good excuse to link to Jenn’s amazing Dicebox while we’re at it.

I’ve been thinking about art history a lot this year as I tunnel through my art-related graphic novel. As dorky and low-rent as most of the tableaus in the video are, it’s surprising to me how much power several of them have; producing almost a shock of recognition. (This is something Michel Gondry really understands too—that it doesn’t have to be serious or slick to deliver a punch).

I’ve been thinking of cartooning as a kind of visual compression algorithm lately. They travel in such a simple, reduced state, but when unpacked in the mind of the viewer, even a few simple lines can yield a huge set of ideas and emotions.

We’re looking at live action in the case of the video, but I think the effect might be similar.

Rube Goldberg was a Real Guy!

Ivy and I love both of the new OK Go videos for “This Too Shall Pass” (check out the marching band one also) but I’m especially fond of the Rube Goldberg machine version because I remember making stuff like this as a kid.

It’s been almost a century since the real-life Rube Goldberg started creating his ingenious cartoon machines on America’s funny pages, but his place in pop culture is as secure as ever.

Everybody sends out ripples in life, but some are more pronounced than others. I think most artists (unless they’re Buddhists?) like the idea that their own ripples will travel for a long time, but you can never predict exactly what shape they might take.

Just ask Kevin Bacon.


Last night, the family and I ate at a new burger place and I noticed that it was next to the cemetery where Jack and Rosalind Kirby are buried. This morning, Tom reminds us that Jack Kirby would have been Ninety-Two today.

I sometimes go for mid-day walks in that neighborhood and occasionally stop to pay my respects. And I always think of this story.

Karasik and Giotto and Comics

Paul Karasik offers his take on Giotto’s 600 year-old strip-style storytelling on display at the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua.

Is it “comics”?

I like to use the word at times like this because I think it encourages us to find patterns throughout art history that can inform new work today, but there are plenty of people who insist on other criteria like mechanical reproduction or direct cultural links, so take my use of the word with a grain of salt.

The definitions debate came up in the Inkstuds interviews I linked to on Saturday. Check out my own discussion with Robin from 20:15 to 23:16 for one of the most candid responses I’ve given yet on the subject.