Archive for the 'art' Category

Worth Reading: In Search of Bill Watterson

October 22, 2007

New York Magazine links to a Cleveland Scene piece about trying to track down the elusive Bill Watterson, the Calvin and Hobbes creator who virtually disappeared from public life after retiring from his comic strip. Also included is a biography of Watterson. I for one never knew all this about him. I knew the guy was talented and that he refused to sell out (whatever that means)…definitely an interesting read.

Calvin & Hobbes belong to Bill Watterson. Please don’t sue me

But what’s the occasion to link to a 4-year-old article about a guy who hasn’t done anything the media’s paid attention to (or could pay attention to) in years?

Just this: A new biography of Charles Schulz, Peanuts creator, hit shelves earlier this month, and the Wall Street Journal asked Watterson to write the review. And he said yes.

(Aside for DC residents: Biographer David Michaelis will be at Olsson’s Penn Quarter this Thursday at 7pm to discuss and sign copies of Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography.)


Cool things to do with books (besides read them)

October 12, 2007

Via Blue Tea, two artists that create miniature dioramas using books as their medium.
Su Blackwell‘s scenes are part Joseph Cornell, part fairy tale (not that Cornell’s works aren’t themselves fairy tale).
Thomas Allen uses pulp covers in much the same way, though I’d say his work is more humorous (perhaps inherently so, due to his medium?).

I love both these artists. Check them out.

Colorful words

October 3, 2007

Flickr: laffy4k

A long time ago someone suggested I write about color words. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not an artist and that most of my color knowledge comes from the Crayola Box of 64. But it’s true, color words are fascinating.

For example, vermillion comes from the Latin for “little worm”–there must be a species of bright red worm in Italy. (Vermicelli, the thin pasta, comes from the same root. And don’t forget about vermin.) Cerulean refers specifically to the blue of the sky. Magenta is named after a dye discovered near the town of Magenta, Italy. Cerise is French for cherry.

Orange is the color of an orange–the word hasn’t changed much since ancient times. In Sanskrit it was “naranga” and the modern Arabic word is “naranj.” What should have been “a naranj” became “an aranj” and thus the fruit and color we know today. Chartreuse, apparently, gets its name from a liqueur of the same name.

Then of course there’s lavender, coral, amethyst, rose, violet, thistle, chestnut, olive, lime, and dozens of other colors derived directly from nature.

John Ciardi in “How Does A Poem Mean?” (I am very distressed to find that this is out of print) argues that every word comes from something concrete. A daisy is a day’s eye, and so forth. His theory seems to hold up for the words discussed in this post, but I’d love to see what he’d do with Phthalo Blue.

On the Commodification of the Ecstasy of the By-Products of Action

March 13, 2007

(No, this is not another Splasher post.)

 If you haven’t read Jonathan Lethem’s amazing plagiarism, “The Ecstasy of Influence,” over at Harper’s, go do so. The idea that everything is a retelling is, in itself, not a new idea, but I don’t often think of works of art and literature as being better when they play off each other. Of course it’s true, and I realized that as soon as I really thought about it, but it’s not a concept that gets much play in today’s society, where Disney continues to convince us that it’s for the public good that they own Mickey until 2019.

Now Lethem has announced on his web site that he will give away, in two months’ time, a free option on the film rights to his novel, You Don’t Love Me Yet, which is released today. The New York Times broke the story in their Arts, Briefly section and reported that Lethem said he’s “become fitful about some of the typical ways art is commodified.” There are two caveats to any aspiring filmmakers:

  1. I’d like the filmmaker to pay (something) for the purchase of the rights if they actually make a film: two percent of the budget, paid when the completed film gets a distribution deal. (I’ll wait until distribution to get paid so a filmmaker without many funds can work without having to spend their own money paying me).
  2. The filmmaker and I will make an agreement to release all ancillary rights to the film (and its source material, the novel), five years after the film’s debut. In other words, after a waiting period during which those rights would still be restricted, anyone who cared to could make any number of other kinds of artwork based on the novel’s story and characters, or the film’s: a play, a television series, a comic book, a theme park ride, an opera – or even a sequel film or novel featuring the same characters. For that matter, they can remake the film with another script and new actors. In my agreement with the filmmaker, those ancillary rights will be launched into the public domain.

I’m so amazed by this that I’m almost speechless. Way to walk the walk, Mr. Lethem. This is a man who makes his living from selling his intellectual property. He isn’t giving away something expendable. This is his life. This puts food on the table and pays the rent and he is giving it away for free. Yes, he may make some money off the film later, but he may not.

Also on Lethem’s web site is “The Promiscuous Materials Project,” similar in concept but for some of his short stories, and some song lyrics. Again, these stories are not expendable, early attempts. One story, “The Spray,” has been “the most requested story [Lethem has] published.” Interestingly, Lethem says the project was partially inspired by the idea that he could, using a Creative Commons-type license, allow more than one filmmaker to adapt the story. Indeed, despite the project being only a few months old, two filmmakers are working on “The Spray,” two other short stories are being turned into films and stage plays, and ten musicians have taken advantage of “The Promiscuous Songs,” the recordings of which are available on line.

I will be following this as the months go on to see how many directors and movie studios take Lethem up on his offer for You Don’t Love Me Yet. I’d also be interested to see if this also results in the book selling more copies. People have to read it to see if they want to film it.

I just love the idea of sharing and sampling sponsored by the creators. It’s a win-win situation: good for the original artists and good for everyone else.

 Now if only Disney would figure that out.

More on the Splasher

March 1, 2007

The Splasher is still at it. He/she made NYT’s B1 today, with one good picture and one photo that is completely irrelevant to the story. (Oh, wait. Behind the dude, there’s a Splashered painting. I have to say I’m not too impressed with whoever edited these photos today.)

Marc Schiller, who runs a Web site about street art called the Wooster Collective,, and who organized a large show of street artists in an unoccupied SoHo building in December, said that he was disturbed by the ease with which art could be destroyed by a anonymous figure.

I guess that’s what disturbs me about the whole thing, even though I still believe (as Chris Combs said more eloquently than I ever could) that the “hierarchy of mystique in street art deserves to be questioned.” Life and art are so fragile.

 (Also, as an aside, does it bother anyone else that this paragraph doesn’t mention that Wooster on Spring was organized with the cooperation of the new building’s owners? Not only does it leave the hint of insinuation that the project was, like other street art, “just as unlawful as the paint splashed onto it,” but it stiffs Caroline Cummings and the other owners who were willing to support the project, taking away the credit they deserve. I didn’t get to see Wooster on Spring, but I can imagine what kind of risk it must have been to give support to what the outside world probably sees as “a graffiti project.”)