Excellent day at mi casa yesterday. Nicky Galifianakis, the world renown creator of Nick and Zuzu (nickyandzuzu.com) and artistic half of Carolyn Hax's Washington Post column, took precious time out of his busy schedule zipping up and down the California coast to pay a visit to my humble abode. Wherein we happily slung the pixels around as we jointly reveled in the power of digital art tools.
And because we were using my computer, I still have a record of the fun. The work that was done "for realsies" (e.g. for publication) will have to remain a secret, but some of the fun doodling miiight have looked something like this:
Great stuff, no? That's just the result of Nicky trying out a new tool and immediately knocking it out of the park.
My biggest wish is that the visit could have been longer, but other engagements beckoned. So focused on cartooning were we, that it didn't occur to me until after the visit that no pics were taken. Of course, the picture above is more than enough but I'm sad I didn't get a picture of the man himself. So I had to create my own. I'm no caricaturist but here's my poor attempt at capturing the artist behind the art:
Wax on, wax off
Starting in the Fall, my part of the country can look forward to a visit from hordes of cute birdies called Cedar Waxwings. They're called that, supposedly, because the bright yellow they sport on their tail looks like drips of wax. Kinda does.
Whilst strolling through my neighborhood just now I heard their VERY distinctive call. Doesn't really sound like a bird call, more like a high pitched tweedle, for want of a better word. When you hear it, you know there are waxwings around, probably all perched at the top of a tree. And there they were:
As I got closer I knew they'd take off; they're pretty skittish. So I was ready to snap them just as they decided to leave:
More than most, these guys really like to form flocks (or swarms, as a dynamicist would say) and they move about as if controlled by a single intelligence. There are lots of examples of multi-body systems in the world and these guys are a particularly attractive one. That's why I decided to feature them as the chapter opener on one of my books. Streaks of brown and yellow against a cloud filled blue sky. Pretty nice.
Of course, for that shot I was using something a little bit upscale from my iPhone. They don't make it easy.
Wait, what's that you say? You still can't really tell what they look like? Ah, okay. Maybe this will help:
Up close and personal. Wax on, wax off.
How do I admire thine artistry? Let me count the ways. No, better not try; I can't count that high.
Just four days ago I received my copy of The Art of Richard Thompson. And I've been high on it ever since. In case you, dear reader, aren't yet familiar with Richard's work, I so very strongly recommend that you do as I did and hop over here: https://squareup.com/market/one-more-page/art-of-richard-thompson and buy yourself a copy. You won't regret it. (And, no, I don't make any commission from the sale - this is just flat out good advice.)
Richard represents, without doubt, the high-water mark of illustration and cartooning. His mastery of brush and pen, ink and paint, is mind-bogglingly overwhelming. It can fairly be said, "Look upon these works and despair." Because the level he sets is so high, the path to despair for the struggling artist is an easy one to tread. How can one compete? The answer is, one can't. But just as Michelangelo's existence didn't preclude that of others, so Richard's brilliance should serve to inspire, to set a mark to aim at, however much one might fall short in the end.
What I've chosen to focus on is a detail from one of Richard's hanged clown pieces. That something could be so grotesque and beautiful at the same time is a marvel. Here it is:
I could talk about the technique, the colors, the composition but ... what I'm going to focus on is the form characterization. You glance at the picture and you immediately see the head of a clown. But look closer. Just how far does this clown depart from reality? Consider the eyes and nose and then ask where the rest of the head "should" be. I've answered that question below:
Based on just those elements, the rest of the head should be moving lower left. Yet it clearly doesn't. Now repeat, focusing on the neck and mouth. What does that bring us?
A side view. Both of my prior examples are OK cartooning. They're also what 90 percent of the cartoonists in the world, myself included, would first do. But Richard sees the world more completely. Both approaches have some merit so why not combine them? Why not indeed. And, as you can see from his original, it raises the image up to another level of absurdity and beauty. Distorted, absurd and yet immediately powerful and compelling.
You know what I'm doing these last few days? Paging through this gem of a book, digesting its ideas, and planting them within myself. I already feel the affects. I don't even remember what I paid for it but whatever it was, it was a bargain. This stuff is priceless.