Thursday, December 23, 2010

Where have all the illustrators gone?

 Yesterday I dragged a friend along for some Christmas shopping and we wandered into the Children's book section of Barnes and Nobles. And amid all the fancy schmancy illustration with their photoshopped elephants and christmas robots was Madeline. Though I can't remember my mom actually reading it to me, I know that I often read it on my own, or probably more accurately looked at the pictures while naively wishing I were also an orphan :) 

There was something captivating about the orphanage depicted in this simple children's story, and it was definitely to the illustrator's credit. It's just seems so effortlessly beautiful. This is someone who is clearly skilled, its obvious in every picture, sometimes in the allignment of the orphan's beds, or the movement of one of the characters tilted forward in a suggested paniced run. How do you draw panic in less than five lines?!? Or, and here I wish I had a picture to show you guys, but in one image the skyline of buildings is only an outline that tapers off into nothing. My breath literally caught when I saw those buildings disapear. They are just perfect I want to cry!  

And it's easy to say that the past was awsome and now nobody can do anything right when it comes to art, but damn, these illustrations with their gimpy little trees and tilted parisien land marks have something nobody has deemed important enough to teach but would outshine a million James Jeans.

Yeah, I said it. Now put that in your pipe and smoke it!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Head map (1)

"The Birds!"

Bird Dramas 

          Initially meant to be a series of politically oriented illustrations of women and birds. I've been trying to learn how to use acrylics (so frustrating!) and am slowly getting the hang of it. But its so different and I think it effected how I create images. After I was done with the above I was like "Whoa, who made that? I didn't make that!" Even though it still has my signiature corner fetish composition going on and hooded figures it just felt so...stable? It looks so dense and heavy. Like a chunk of cement. 

homecoming (acrylic)

          Which means I made the next bird image in total retaliation haha. Where in the first one I was somber and closed in, here it became suddenly windy and moving fanciful even. I decided to follow the graphic pattern motif that tentatively started in the first, the only stylistic quality that links the two. This time though it was almost too airy and the colors too bright! This illustration reminds me of some of the old sketchers shoe ads from the 90s :)

Help Yourself (Acrylic, India Ink, watercolor, Photoshop)

          Should I talk about the messages behind them? I used to write such full blown explanations and now, the more time I spend with an image the more it opens up until all I see is open roads ahead when it comes to what they could "mean". Well though they've morphed during the process and have severed ties completely with each other for the sake of mastering a medium the thumbnail sketches depicted sort of a trifecta of woman at home during war. Since they would have all been swarthed in flowing burqua like clothing people could have read it as a commentary on whats been happening in the middle east, but really they could have been any woman. 

          Interestingly when I look back I had no interest in depicting the woman warrior. In the scribbles there are only girls being left behind to put back together whats left of civilized society and to watch the fires from afar. They're quiet and reflecting inward on their priveleged safety. Thats what the last image was supposed to be, the one watching from a distance, grateful but ashamed at the same time. Basically carrying on the proud tradition of romanticizing tragedy for the sake of entertainment hehe Maybe I'll go there in the future. 

But until then, two final papers having to be written in less than 48 hours! Wish me luck!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Facade of the Chicago Stock Exchange: The Key to Designer Heaven

Exerpts from a final paper for an Art History class. Most of the descriptions were left out to spare you readers as well as a whole section of badly argued connections to Islamic artwork. Critique wise I agreed that I talk too much but don't say enough and need to learn to weave in more factual information. Either way I thought sharing my lyrical ridiculousness would be kind of fun ;) But also, pretty pictures! 

          Of all the artifacts that the Seattle Art Museum has acquired over the years, none are quite as interesting or underexposed as SAM's Louis Sullivan's 1893 Chicago Stock Exchange Elevator Facade. It went on display in the American Art gallery March 31, 2010 after it was purchased from Sotheby's auction in 2008 from an undisclosed seller for an undisclosed price[1]. It resembles a prop taken straight out of the 1982 science fiction film noir, Blade Runner, in that it holds the same elements of ancient design glazed with modernity . Such a film reference might not crop up in everyone's first impression of Sullivan's design but that sense of mixing of past and future grandeur surely comes to attention. The elements incorporated seem both familiar and alien, archaic yet modern and it's mystery deepens when made known that the artifact was in fact rescued from the rubble of the original Chicago Stock Exchange demolished in 1972 as part of Chicago's Urban renewal project. The facade then becomes the coded message outlining Sullivan's own methodologies and obsessions with design as something higher than just art calling for an absent Rosetta stone. Definitively defining the inner workings of an artist's mind and intention at the moment of creation is of course impossible, but through tracing certain impressions and imagery that appear in the elevator facade a hypothesis of motivation can be developed. From what is presented to the viewer, the numerous allusions made to the divine point to the Chicago Stock Exchange acting as a threshold to modern spirituality that emphasized society's reverence for the accumulation of abstract wealth, a wealth that allowed Sullivan to indulge in his personal glorification of high design.

      When the overall layout of the Sullivan's Elevator covering is taken into account a tentative connection is made with another historically well known entrance design. The facade designed for the Chicago Stock Exchange is completely symmetrical and as stated before sectioned off into rectangular quadrants that frame specifically designed images without allowing cross contaminate from one section to another to occur. This high level of boxy structuring and grandeur, as well as the shared bronze-gold coloring alludes to a connection between the elevator facade and The Gates of Paradise designed by Lorenzo Ghiberti . As a student of architecture and art at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts,  it is more than likely that Sullivan encountered Ghiberti's work, especially his infamous gates that are the cornerstone of any European art history curriculum. The Gates of Paradise show ten scenes from the Old Testament and also uses intimidation factors (size, gold wealth, dramatized scenes of Godly acts) in bringing church goers into the mindset of worship when entering the Florence Baptistery. The similar amount of detail, scale of design and use of encapsulating gridded formatting bring about similar feelings of "smallness" in the viewer. Something able to effect even those uninterested in the religious connotations that Sullivan created by unabashedly tying his facade to the religious teachings of the past. In doing so he creates an identical feeling of entering someplace holy through gates that no doubt intend to simulate the indoctrinated image of the "holy gates" otherwise known as the illustrious gates of heaven.

         Take Sullivan's obsession with the circle in these works, a shape we often take for granted because it is so integral to human imagery. "Visual Entropy", or the point of "maximal symmetry, visual and constructional simplicity" has been an obsession for artists, scientists and philosophers for centuries. The Platonian, aka perfect, circle is as un- attainable as God or a let's say, a reliable economy. It's use in the facade points to the designers awareness, if only subconsciously, that the circle is the truest image of the divine and that it will continue to be read as a legitimate part of design for eons to come without the help of recognizable biblical or religious Imagery. It will never grow outdated, unlike the time-specific relief illustrations of The Gates of Paradise, which show telltale signs of their time period. Sullivan's use of the circle as motif render his design as timeless and ideologically transcending of what he saw as the restrictions of modern architecture. In this decision Sullivan finds his own description of the higher power independent of modern material culture and past theological organization that relies on the discovery of timeless imagery at the root of human artistic pursuits.

        In 1896 Sullivan said that "The artistic challenge of the tall office building is to proclaim from its dizzy height, the peaceful evangel of sentiments of beauty, the cult of higher life". Donald Hoffmann responded by asking what the "virtue of a building [is that's] trying to pretend it's something it is not?" Sullivan's gate acts as a threshold for the divide between the mundane unobserving world and the heavenly revelry in technology and human romanticism that the elevator embodies at this time as a new innovation saved only for the powerful wealthy. This divide is contrary to the famous quote "form ever follows function" that Sullivan is so iconically connected with (stated on the Seattle Art Museum description plaque) because instead of building to fulfill a practical requirement he's woven in a very un practical spiritual message that the majority of those viewing and using his design would be uninterested in comprehending. Not only would people be unwilling to decode his elevator but to do so would be to pull away from their worship of money and go back to means of revelry characteristic of an obsolete system of quiet contemplative building patronage. They see the money the building houses, not what the architecture's ornamentation is directly attempting to teach them.

         The facade, echoing The Gates of Paradise is what bars people and allows people to enter a place of either damnation or salvation. Damnation being the world of the commoners stuck in the everyday struggle against the mass of bodies, and salvation the upward mobility of those who can become part of the exclusive club of the educated , privy to secrets and admiration by those further down. This rift can also be characterized as "the artistically enlightened vs. the economically savvy", a struggle Sullivan himself experienced in completely relying on his partner Dankmar Adler to secure such large scale design projects and funding.
        Either way, the doorway itself holds hope for salvation of the perfect world and perfect circle. The facade represents a fork in the road between those acutely aware of the polar hemispheres of knowledge and those unaware and fortunately un-pestered by the realization that everyone is striving for a non-existent utopia, be it a godly, financial one or even a purely visual one. Sullivan exploits this by weaving that hope of someday reaching perfection or "designer's heaven" into the stoic facade through a language that the stock brokers and money managers will unknowingly misunderstand, thus protecting his personal expression of faith. That faith being in the simple beauty of an object and the natural principles it relies on. The faith that there is something truly eternal hidden in the human existence driven by consumption and constant cross exploitation.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Workin Workin Workin

Here's a shot of my workspace and a painting thats been in the works for awhile. For the past few months I've been haunted by this icelandic boy (not actually haunted, but pursued by the idea of) and finally a few weeks ago decided he deserved a proper canvas. Again am reverting back to the frontal facing figure but at this point am convinced it's just one of those ingrained personal archetypes that should be developed. Don't worry, that's not all I'm going to be painting, but am no longer going to apologize for this repetition in my work. The small painting has really electrified me to start working larger and be uncarring of the fact that they arn't as seamless and perfect as the current trendy illustrations (which ironically I look up to haha).
On a funner note I have SO MUCH STUFF I want to make and show you guys. Theres an interview I have to write up with a local artist I interviewed, some self loathing autobiographical comics, musical obsessions, offensive character designs, MOAR SMUT etc. If only I had the time and not so many labor intensive finals coming up!
So am really enjoying getting your feedback to the blog questions so today I want to know, in one sentence, what you're currently obsessed with. Personally, I'm bonkers about peppermint flavored things and learning about the female migrant population in China.