Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Artist I admire: Satoshi Kon

This is a few weeks late. But, the world lost a giant in the world of Animation when Japan's Satoshi Kon died. He was an animation director who had directed such brilliant films as the terrifying and tense "Perfect Blue"

the romantic and beautiful "Millenium Actress"

the heartwarming and wonderful "Tokyo Godfathers"

the surreal and sublime "Paprika"

He also directed the mindbending Television Series "Paranoia Agent"

It's rare when a director can span so many genres and can evoke so many different emotions. He was a visionary and a quote that I heard when Satoshi Kon died sums up exactly how I feel

"With Satoshi Kon's passing I'm not afraid that anime will never be the same. But that it will always be the same."
And that hits the nail on the head. He died of pancreatic cancer and he was able to write a heart-wrenching letter to his family, friends, and fans. If you feel like crying you can go check it out here. I'll post the last paragraph as it is a suitable end to this entry.

With my heart full of gratitude for everything good in the world, I'll put down my pen.
Now excuse me, I have to go.
Satoshi Kon

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Everybody Draw Mohammed day

Tomorrow is "Everybody Draw Mohammed" Day. And I find myself in a bit of a conundrum. On one hand I think it is ludicrous that artists and cartoonists can't draw or parody Mohammed like they would any other political or religious figure without fearing DEATH THREATS from extremist islamic sects. Yet, I know that I would feel pretty bad if my religion was singled out and something sacred was mocked openly.

I remember when this whole "don't draw Mohammed" stuff started. I remember thinking to myself "We should get a lot of people to draw him. They can't kill everyone, right?" And yet here we are on the eve of that actually happening, and I can't decide what to do.

Part of me feels like I should do something. But part of me doesn't want to be disrespectful. and yet another part of me wants to be cool and aloof and not care.

I can't decide. Most likely laziness will trump all and I will end up not doing anything.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Artists I Admire: Frank Frazetta

Frank Frazetta died of a stroke today. And it is strange because I am more sad than I thought that I would be. I'm not depressed by any means. But I just didn't imagine that his death would affect me at all. So to feel this kind of pang of sadness is surprising.

I always liked Frank Frazetta's art. I thought his Conan was unparalleled and his Death Dealer was an inspired design. His environments were super moody and ominous. I liked that he drew women with big butts... but it wasn't off putting like R. Crumb's women with big butts.

Then I saw a movie called "Frank Frazetta: Painting with Fire" when I was exposed to more of his work. Aside from all of the fantasy stuff he painted, he also drew a lot more straight-forward comic book work. I particularly enjoyed his Western work. But that wasn't the big thing that I took away from this movie.

The whole movie they talk about how Frazetta is a natural artist. How he has almost perfect recall of his own visual library. How if he needed to draw a rabbit, he just sat there for a second thinking... then would proceed to draw out a perfect rabbit. Then, they talked about how he had a stroke so severe that he lost use of his right hand. His drawing hand. This is a terrifying thought to any artist. But, Frank Frazetta learned to draw with this left hand. And some say that he drew BETTER with his left than with his right.
Yeah he did "that Wolfmother cover"

It's that attitude, the whole death before dishonor mentality. The never say die work ethic. That is something that inspired me. And for that Frank Frazetta has forever earned my admiration.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Artists I Admire: Naoki Urasawa

I've been getting into manga a lot lately. It really shouldn't be a big surprise since I read comic books from London. I read comic books from France. I read comic books in my underpants. So it would stand to reason that I would read comic books from Japan. Which is all manga is. Like Anime is just cartoons that are produced in Japan.

Most people deride Manga and Anime for the looking too simple. However, Manga and Anime are all about economy of line. It's about not playing an Ace when a 2 will do. Especially in Manga. Unlike American Comics which are produced monthly, Manga is produced WEEKLY.

Anyway, what got me started on this manga kick was the work of an artist named Naoki Urasawa. Junot Diaz, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for one of my favorite all-time books "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao", said "Urasawa is a national treasure in Japan, and if you ain't afraid of picture books, you'll see why."

Simply put, Naoki Urasawa is the best mangaka (Japanese comic book author) working today. Hands down.

What got my attention was a story called Pluto. Which was a retelling/continuation of Osamu Tezuka's Astro Boy story. Which in itself was a Pinocchio story. But, the little boy was a robot and not a puppet. But it is a more adult retelling.

Yeah this scene is just as sad as it looks.

Now please don't misunderstand. There are several connotations for the word "adult". One is basically "pornographic". The other is "dark and violent". Pluto is none of those things. There is conflict. Which often manifests itself physically through fight scenes. But, this is adult in the sense that it deals with complex themes that would most likely go over the heads of younger audiences.

But what is great about Urasawa's work is the nuance and emotion that he injects into each of his characters. And that emotion comes spilling off the page.

After reading Pluto and being supremely satisfied I wanted more. My friend Matt insisted that I check out Urasawa's Magnum Opus "20th Century Boys". My brain was subsequently melted by the awesomeness therein.

"20th Century Boys" is a sprawling epic that spans decades yet it is never boring. Urasawa not only is a master of emotion, he also weaves mystery and horror elements into his stories. And "20th Century Boys" is a shining example of that. He creates a mood and a feeling. And is exceptionally adept at doing so.

Urusawa is a master in the truest sense of the word. He is an amazing writer as well as fantastic artist. And he serves as an inspiration to me to write my own stories and to execute them visually.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Artists I Admire: R.M. Guera

I just recently got caught up on a comic book called "Scalped" written by Jason Aaron and Illustrated by R.M. Guera about a war veteran Dashiell "Dash" Bad Horse who returns to his home, The Prairie Rose Indian Reservation, which is run by the ruthless Chief Lincoln Red Crow. I know that it sounds like "Walking Tall" but with Indians. But, I assure you it that is not the case. It's more like Sopranos and The Shield on an Indian Reservation. Basically it's amazing. And most of that praise is due to R.M. Guera's amazing artwork.

I would best describe Guera's artwork on Scalped as Neil Adams meets Sergio Toppi inked with a ragged quill pen. It truly is amazing work. His compositions and use of light and dark are complicated and challenging. While his rendering adds a fine layer of grit which this story of a dusty and old community requires.

But the best part is that his other work is equally awesome for completely different reasons!

But, overall, his work inspires me to improve my work. While many artists are all style and no substance. Guera is a lot of style and rock solid substance. You can tell beneath those inky black shadows there are extremely well composed forms.

Instead of focusing on crappy artists who rip off other artists like Nick Simmons. I want to try to focus on artists who inspire me and help me to get better and to work harder.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Oscars... what a friggin' joke.

I have long since given up on a lot of awards ceremonies. Grammys, Emmys, Golden Globes, and especially the Oscars. When I was a kid I used to freaking love awards shows. I would watch them all, including American Music Awards, the MTV VMA and Movie Awards shows. Because I wanted to see quality and excellence rewarded to specific audiences. But, there was one year in particular when I knew that a wrong-doing had been committed and I stopped caring about awards shows.

The Oscars have had a long-standing tradition for giving the best movies the shaft for no apparent reason. But, there was one year I watched and I completely became aware as to what a crock the Academy for Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. It was 1998. And a little historical fiction movie called "Saving Private Ryan" had rocked the movie watching world to its core. It was a war movie of epic scope and realistic portrayal. And it was ball-rattlingly awesome and it brought and continues to bring hardened, grown men to tears. Everyone who had seen it knew that it was hands down the best movie they had seen all year. Except for the Academy! They apparently had seen "Shakespeare in Love" and thought, "My stars and garters what a delightful ROMP! This is much better than that icky war movie." and they gave "Shakespeare in Love" the academy award for BEST PICTURE. Are you effing kidding me? I was only 15 at the time and I knew... the Oscars are a sham.

I'm bringing this up now because this year they again have nominated one of the best movies I have seen, "The Hurt Locker". And I thought that maybe they would regain some credibility in my book. That maybe the best movie would win. The Academy has zero excuse to not give "The Hurt Locker" best picture. It swept the Baftas. It won the directors guild awards, Producers guild awards, and the Critics awards. It didn't win the Golden Globes, but the Golden Globes are all purchased anyway ("I used to not be good at a lot of things. Until I found you can buy trophies. Now, I'm good at everything."-Demetri Martin). Anyway, it looked like there was a clear cut winner of Best Picture. There would be no excuse to not give it the award. Until a couple of weeks ago.

One of the producers, Nicholas Chartier, wrote an email to a lot of members of the Academy. Here is the actual email text.

I hope all is well with you. I just wanted to write you and say I hope you liked Hurt Locker and if you did and want us to win, please tell (name deleted) and your friends who vote for the Oscars, tell actors, directors, crew members, art directors, special effects people, if everyone tells one or two of their friends, we will win and not a $500M film, we need independent movies to win like the movies you and I do, so if you believe The Hurt Locker is the best movie of 2010, help us!

I’m sure you know plenty of people you’ve worked with who are academy members whether a publicist, a writer, a sound engineer, please take 5 minutes and contact them. Please call one or two persons, everything will help!

best regards,

Nicolas Chartier
Voltage Pictures

Nothing too bad, right? Well apparently this is a huge problem. Because now the academy is up in arms about the fact that the e-mail is hinting that it is in competition with Avatar (which it is.). It seems like a lot of the Academy people are deeply upset by this. So much so that there have been mentions of people asking for their ballots back so they can change their votes. AND! The producer is no longer invited to the Academy Awards! Doesn't this seem like a big time over-reaction?

It is. I don't mean to sound too much like a conspiracy theorist, but, I bet that the academy is manufacturing this whole campaign. Just so that they have a reason to not give the movie that deserves to be awarded the award. But, if I truly have lost faith in the academy awards why is any of this a surprise?

-I got a lot of this info through the movie blog filmdrunk.uproxx.com

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Plagiarist's Delight

There has been quite a bit of uproar on the internet lately about a comic book called "Incarnate" which rips off of a VERY popular Japanese Comic Book(or Manga for the uninitiated)"Bleach". The alleged plagiarist is Nick Simmons, son of Gene Simmons of the crappy-to-average rock band KISS.

Apparently, Nick Simmons has plagiarized from a laundry list of sources. Including two of the most popular mangas in THE WORLD and an artist on online artists' community DeviantArt.

The internet, which is full of nerds who find this kind of stuff, was lightning quick to catch the offenses and jumped on him like a honeybadger does on a cobra's nest.

Even after seeing the art work, I wanted to give the guy the benefit of the doubt. I imagined a mousy kid, who really loved comic books and manga and wanted to do one for himself and his Dad, the huckster that he is, used his fame to help his son out.

Even I, in my darker moments, have thought about using other artists' work to achieve the look I desired. But, I tell myself that if I do that then I am undermining my own artistic development.

Then he issued this statement:
“Like most artists I am inspired by work I admire. There are certain similarities between some of my work and the work of others. This was simply meant as an homage to artists I respect, and I definitely want to apologize to any Manga fans or fellow Manga artists who feel I went too far. My inspirations reflect the fact that certain fundamental imagery is common to all Manga. This is the nature of the medium.

“I am a big fan of Bleach, as well as other Manga titles. And I am certainly sorry if anyone was offended or upset by what they perceive to be the similarity between my work and the work of artists that I admire and who inspire me.”

Then I saw what he looked like...

F this guy. F him right in his A.

This is not the face of an earnest but untalented artist. This is the face of an over-privileged jack-ass who either didn't think or didn't care that he would get caught. It is one thing to swipe a hand or an arm. But to swipe entire panel compositions from a Manga that has sold something like 8 million copies in America alone? That's ballsy... and stupid.

And when he did get caught, did he fess up? Did he apologize? No. He used a tactic that is abundantly present in the behavior of a-holes and lawyers (I'd like to see that Venn Diagram). The ol' "I'm sorry you feel that way." People are demanding an apology but you don't want to admit to any wrong doing? "I'm sorry you feel that way."

Bottom line: This makes me mad for so many reasons. But, the biggest reason is that there are so many comic book artists that are more talented than this dork that have trouble getting work. And they actually need it! Whereas Nick Simmons, who won't have to work a day in his life because the KISS army keeps throwing money at his daddy, gets his book (a large portion of which was PLAGIARIZED) published. And I am closing my DeviantArt account for fear that Kip Winger's kid will rip off my work.

Winger - Headed For A Heartbreak from Augustin Blanchet on Vimeo.