Friday, July 31, 2020

R.O. Blechman

When I was in college (Portland State University) long ago, my buddy and mentor David Harriman turned me on to all the great New York illustrators: Seymour Chwast, Milton Glazer, Saul Steinberg, Tomi Ungerer, and a guy by the name of R.O. Blechman.  Later, I found a book titled "Illustration: Aspects and Directions" in an old, dusty Portland book store, and in it I found a marvelous sequential cartoon by Mr. Blechman - I was thunderstruck!  The drawings were so delicate and shaky, yet the idea and concept was so powerful.

Then I saw one of his animated ads on TV - the famous Alka-Seltzer spot where a guy was talking to his stomach.  In fact, his art had such an impact on me that when I started to create animation, I used a derivative of his style.  Now I tell young artists to never copy other people's work, but I think that it's inevitable that we're all infuenced by the other work we see.  In fact, I've borrowed from so many people I've admired that my work is essentially a hybrid that appears to be unique to me.

I didn't meet Mr. Blechman until I moved to New York in the early 1970's.  I believe we probably met at some gallery opening or some similar cultural gathering, and I found him to be very friendly.  I remember later using his hole-punch machine to make my animation paper, and I showed him my new film, "Your Face".  Since then, we've become good friends and we even planned on a couple of big projects that, sadly, never got funded.

I bring up Mr. Blechman because I recently visited him and his lovely wife at their estate in upstate New York.  I felt privileged to enter his studios and check out his library - I always love examining another artist's library.  He had some wonderful obscure art books that I was fascinated with.

Later we had a nice lunch and walked around his very large estate.  Then I took a lovely swim in his pond and felt very refreshed. 

If you're not familiar with Mr. Blechman, please check out his masterful work, and especially his animation, including "The Soldier's Tale".

Here's my cartoon for this week - it's very relevant for these hot beach days.

--Bill P.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

The Haunted World of El Super Beasto

I'm a member of Netflix, as probably most everyone else is, but I haven't yet made the leap to streaming - so I still get the DVDs mailed to me from a list of available titles.  The problem is, I'm often too busy to keep updating my list with the titles of films I want to see.  So now they're sending me films that some algorithm seems to indicate I'll be interested in, based on my previous viewing history.

Well, one of the films I received lately was called "The Haunted World of El Super Beasto", from 2009.  I'd never heard of this film, but I was very intrigued by its description as an animated film for adults.  And since that's usually the description I use for my own films, I was excited to watch it. 

Also, the film was directed by Rob Zombie - I briefly met him and his wife once in a limo going to the airport while leaving a Spanish film festival, possibly in Sitges.  As weird as he looks, he was very gracious and polite - perhaps he knew who I was.  In any case, he never mentioned making an animated feature film, and I wish that he had.

I knew of him, of course, from a lot of his live-action films - "Halloween" (2007), "House of 1,000 Corpses" (2003) and "Devil's Rejects" (2005).  Looking him up on IMDB, I see he made a mock trailer for "Werewolf Women of the S.S." that was part of the compilation "Grindhouse" - now THERE'S a film I want to see.

So, anyway, I liked "El Super Beasto".  It had everything I love in animation - raunch, violence, sex and nudity.  I almost expected John Kricfalusi's name to appear in the credits, because the artists seemed like they were heavily influenced by John K.'s unique style.

The voice cast for "The Haunted World of El Super Beasto" included Rosario Dawson and Paul Giamatti - Paul's a former animator who generously supplied the voice-over narration for my short film "The Fan and the Flower". 

I wish I'd kept in contact with Rob Zombie, because I think we have very similar tastes.  If anyone out there knows how to reach him, please let me know.  And definitely check out "El Super Beasto". 

Below is my gag cartoon for this week - Keep Healthy,

Bill P.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Two Art Books

I'm so happy, even in the depths of all this craziness going on, because I just received two books that I totally love.  They've arrived via Amazon, and they're two art books featuring works from my favorite artists.

The first one is a large "coffee table" book about the work of N.C. Wyeth, who I've written about before in this space.  One of the giants of illustration and painting - I've been influenced by his work ever since I first saw it during college.

What struck me about his work is the way he designs his shapes to help tell the story.  His shapes are amazing - and he'd often favor the shapes and dark shadows to accentuate the emotions.  Actually, there's not a lot of detail in his work, it's covered over with dark shadows that overtake the unimportant stuff.

N.C. Wyeth "The Opium Eater"
N.C. Wyeth "Deer Slayer Threw All His Force into a Desperate Effort"
You'll notice in my animation how I try to keep details to a minimum, so I can make the characters more powerful and engaging.  That way, the story comes through a lot stronger, no distractions.  I could talk on and on about N.C. Wyeth, but I don't have the space or time now...

The other book I received - and also love - is about Thomas Hart Benton, the famous rural American painter from the 1920's to 1950's.  What I love about his work is his powerful storytelling and the exaggeration of the human body.  In fact, his subjects are so distorted that they often seem like cartoons.  They are very twisted, almost bent.  I'm not aware if Mr. Benton took drugs (I'll find out in the book, hopefully) but you can see a very close resemblance between Benton's stylized characters and the stoner comics of artists like R. Crumb.

Another reason I love his work is the fact that he ignores perspective.  In college we all studied how perspective has two or three vanishing points, and all angles had to point to those spots. Well, Mr. Benton threw all that crap out the distorted window - that's why many of his paintings are so dreamlike.  If you watch my films "Idiots & Angels" and "Cheatin'" you'll notice how I distorted the perspective a lot, to a much more interesting result, I think.

Thomas Hart Benton "The Hailstorm"
Thomas Hart Benton "Persephone"
Both of these artists influenced me a lot, and I still don't believe I've fully developed as far as I want to go with their influence (Hey, I'm still learning.)  As I've suggested many times, I've been influenced by many great artists and I'm not shy about admitting that fact.  Yet people tell me how unique and identifiable my animation is.  So I'll always keep my style my own, but it's also fun to be influenced by other artists - just so long as it isn't anime.  I hate when young artists come to my studio, looking for work and all their drawings are rip-offs of Japanese animation.  I toss their portfolios out the window (just kidding).

Today's cartoon is not for children - yet I wonder if children will even get the joke.

--Bill P.