Monday, June 22, 2009

Influences Part 2

Carrie started the influences gallery, so I thought I'd add to it.

She didn't say much about R. Crumb and Ben Katchor - they're probably our two favorite cartoonists, or at least two of the top three. Katchor creates an odd world that's kind of New York in the 1950s and kind of his own mind, where minutia is everything and characters are driven by obsessive desires. His books and strips are so deeply realized that you don't really even care that there is no factory where metal grommets from old shoes are recycled for new shoes.

Crumb is a weird, sick, dangerous man, far braver about admitting it and making art out of it than any artist I can think of. Somehow his art turns his dirty mind into beauty, even when you're sickened by what he actually writes and draws.

To the list of top three cartoonists I would add Charles Schultz.

A mutual love of Peanuts was one of the things that brought us together, and believe it or not it has shaped both our lives and personalities. The most admirable thing is that after 50 years of merchandising and licensing Schultz's characters still retain their humanity and dignity, and that's a difficult accomplishment for people made up of, at most, ten lines each.

One of my biggest influences as an artist is William Blake, the greatest (and only) prophet England ever produced.

His work united word and image in a way that anticipated comics and electronic text, but has never really been equaled. I'm always borrowing words and poses from Blake, because he developed a language of the body that I wish I could speak.

And of course, let's not forget the neolithic sculptors who created the stone venus figurines that represent the oldest known human art.

Seriously. Besides creating beautiful images, they started humanity down the creative path. Who cares what they were for - idols, sexual aids, cave-man porn - they are gorgeous and, as far as I'm concerned, perfect expressions of womanhood (except for the creepy headless thing).

I, for one, subscribe to the minority opinion that they were actually carved by women looking down at their own bodies and depicting the perspective as they saw it subjectively. It makes sense to me -- it explains why so many of them are headless, and I think it's just old-fashioned chauvinism that the stone-age artists had to be men.

We've drawn and sculpted lots of them, and so what if they're becoming played-out in pop culure? They've survived 30,000 years, and we can hardly ruin them with overexposure.

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