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Archive for August, 2007

Mr. Ravi

funny cat painting

This is our cat Ravi. His formal portrait for my daughters room. His name is followed by his nicknames.

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Survive in Your Family

Here’s a book I have been working on for a year…at least. But it has changed significantly since I became a father. At least in some of the tone – if not the content. It started as a straight ahead ‘rules’ book. But that was dull. So I investigated self-help books. Most of which are already parodies. So I now have a book that is something in between a diary and a self-help book written by an 11 year old. Here’s a cover idea I was working on. One of these days I will get this out to editors, but wrapping it up has been difficult.

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Here’s more info for those close to the Twin Cities about a screening of my animated short,The Thing with No Head at The Walker Art Center. It takes place Saturday, September 1st. The day has a lot of great events for the family, the whole family. So bring Grandma and little Janie and Ken. They even included a piece of art for the film in the top banner advertising the event. The big idea is, the film acts as an introduction on seeing things from a different persepctive and that leads into their Picasso exhibit.

It’s part of an event called Pick-Up Picasso.

Film: A New Perspective
12 noon and 2 pm
This program of short films is full of funny characters who inspire audiences to think outside the box.

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I’m going to be writing about Graphic Novels. What the hell do I know you ask. I don’t read too many GNs. A few here or there. But there is one I really love. It was sent to me by a friend in Europe who found the English translation. It is called Ordinary Victories, I think it came out in the US in 2005. Which would make sense, since I am always three years behind anything important going on…Anyway, it is by Manu Larcenet. It is not just good, it is great. Beautiful in it’s simplicity and literary and it creates hope for graphic novels in me. (by the way, I wonder if graphic novels in translation improve, as the authors has another writer ‘editing’ and helping the prose? One more set of eyes/ears in the translation?)

Most of the time graphic novels are badly written and the pictures add nothing. (unless it is a graphic novel about a big battle and the artist can fill the pages with decapitated heads. Now that’s a graphic novel!) A well written story doesn’t NEED pictures. It takes a singular vision to produce something well written where pictures add something and aren’t just distraction. Plenty of writers create short stories and novels that I could imagine working as graphic novels, though the pictures really wouldn’t add to the enjoyment of the work. Tony Earley, Tom Franklin, Paul Auster all have some material that I can imagine working in graphic novel format – BUT, the pictures wouldn’t add anything. You could say, they are so well written, they don’t NEED pictures.

When we talk about the modern graphic novel (and I only know the word as coming from Will Eisner in description of his work) we are not talking about the ‘illustrated classics’. That’s when you take a Readers Digest version of a classic work, and add pictures to get kids to read it. I am talking about a format where the pictures and the text work together to create a new work. One can’t be without the other. The best analogy is probably a good picture book. Where if you read the manuscript it would be almost meaningless without the pictures. Now that I think about it, some of the great comic strips also fall into this category of zen-like writing and art. I am also not talking about just a repackaging of a bunch of single issue comics into a hardback form so they can sell it in the big-box stores and charge more. For me , a Graphic Novel is a well written story that, for some reason, can’t be on the page without the art accompanying it. (Perhaps the best analogy is a song with lyrics. You can listen to the music and it hints at something, but if you read just the lyrics, they may leave you a bit empty. Combined with music, they add up to a greater whole.)

So why does Ordinary Victories work for me? I can’t tell you exactly. Isn’t that great? After all my shooting my mouth off, I am a little constipated when it comes to why it works, when it works. And I think, that is a sure sign that it works.

I won’t discuss color, or line, or composition or how he draws hands. Those are obsessions and technical. Like talking about punctuation when reading Dostoevsky.

I can list some things – his topics in the novel include the art of photography, the meaning of an image, the search for meaning in art and artist. So the visual component translates well. The writing is good enough, and the characters interesting enough, that without question the manuscript could be developed into a short story and have great impact. His drawing is elegant, not overworked, but truthful and its simplicity does not make ‘logos’ of the people and things.

Find, it, buy it, read it. It’s one of the best things I have read this year, and that IS saying a lot.

” I long confused the artist with his work. It was only to psychoanalysis, by successive stages, that I was able to seperate the two. You can be a great artist and a total asshole. You can do very beautiful things, while being rather ugly yourself. You can capture all the beauty of the world on paper, yet never be part of it. It’s strange: how can one be so surpassed by what one creates? But if the work is better than the artist, why doesn’t it improve him?…”

from: Ordinary Victories, Manu Larcent

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Animation

I spend a lot of time doing on-air graphics and animation for TV. I am in the middle of finishing up two jobs that are about 50/50 animation and what I would call motion design. Now I found this link on my friend Adnan’s site, (an artist who works in feature animation, but that’s just one piece of the art puzzle he is building) and these videos freak me out. The artist t is called M.I.A. and for all I know she is huge in the world, and I’ve just missed her. I am amazed at a few of them. I’m not sure I would work in this exact way, but the freedom and energy of the music is perfectly reflected in these videos. Wow. The ‘garage band’ aspect of the on screen graphics are such a relief from the slick textures and overbearing cleanness of most motion design and TV graphics. very inspiring. Made my simple little work seem so 20th century.

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‘Sarge’ toy truck from the Pixar/Disney movie CARS, enamel based paint contains lead.

Tickle Me Elmo – Asbestos edition.

Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Plush dolls, filled with human waste.

‘Little Knifey’ action figure, real knives.

Batman Fun-to-Pose talking action figure – shouts insults in Mandarin.

Fisher-Price, Little Scientist Science Kit – weapons grade plutonium is real.

‘Little Broker’, Wall Street broker action figure – fraudulently securitized mortage loans.

Mattel – Gitmo Prisoner Action Figure, snap-on suicide bomb – real bomb.

Barbie Fun-in-the-Summer Humve, made from dried horse flesh.

Mattel Super-Easy-Bake-Oven – can produce temperatures over 2,000º.

Mattel Global Warning Plastic Manufacturing Kit, really does add to global warming.

Big Bird 24 inch doll, made from shredded SARS chickens.

‘Happy Frog’, 34 inch plush smiling frog, actual 16 pound Peruvian poison frog.

All copyrights and Trademarks belong to actual large, impersonal, morally bankrupt corporations.

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Found a great little story about how the FBI and CIA have been editing Wikipedia enteries. When presented with this fact the agencies refused to comment on whether they did it or not. I didn’t know lying was such an important part of the American method. Especially bold-faced lies. I do admire that. The ability to stand up in front of people covered in chocolate and deny you ate the chocolate. Do it with a completely straight face, no smile, no quivering cheeks or jumpy eye.Now what this has to do with cartooning and art and illustration and people who hover over a computer or drawing board all day, everything and nothing. Being aware of the world around you is never a bad thing . And when you look at animation on TV for kids, it is obvious the lack of passion and feeling in the material comes, in part, from being cut off from the ‘real’ world around it. (that is most often because real world issues conflict with the agendas of the giant companies that manufacture said animation and their goal of keeping kids eyes glued to their show so they can generate more profit) It’s as if the art of animation (other then a few festival shorts, the Simpsons every week or two, some Pixar films and maybe Southpark on a good week) is consumed with a hollow gut of nothingness. And I hate to compare things (comparisons are often sentimental or factually wrong) but the golden age cartoons, they had passion and awareness on many levels. Now, those Warner cartoons weren’t made for kids TV. They were made for a broad audience, and could cover some real and interesting issues with outlandish humor. Sort of like The Marx Brothers did or as Stephan Colbert and John Stewart do today. But TV cartoons for kids are a real bummer. Adult Swim offers some pretty good material, but it tends to fall downwards, as if the guys in the dorm really did smoke too much pot this time and will not be able to remember their names ever, ever again.Speaking of that, here’s a drawing that has almost no reason to go with this post- except it has to do with my second favorite news item lately, poisonous toys.santarecall.jpg

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