Friday, January 29, 2010

Nine Stories:A Perfect Day For Bananafish

In my last blog I wrote about the cover art of J.D. Salinger books. I said that the blank covers were good because they held no pre-conceived excpectations for the readers. I also mentioned something about "fan art". I think that what I should have said was "visual interpretation", because once I started thinking about it, I realized that I have created many works based on a mixing of elements from popular culture(In the art world-and court cases-it is called appropriation). In fact, I once created an entire art show around the idea of J.D. Salinger's collection "Nine Stories". Actually, just one of the stories called "A Perfect Day For Bananafish".

A little background information should be said about the collages and the art show in general. The show was held at the Old Louisville Coffee House back in maybe 2005(?). I was asked to do a 2 person show with Brittany Ree, a local painter. Our styles and backgrounds varied from each other but in a way we felt like Warhol and Basquiat joining forces. One street artist/painter, and one silkscreen artist who had worked through the collegiate art institution. We even had a poster that parodied the Warhol/Basquiat boxing poster.

I had started with city scapes, and moved onto a series of saints, that I wanted to save for my BFA show. For some reason, I decided a series of prints illustrating Salinger's Nine Stories would be a good idea. Over the weeks leading up to the show I reread "A Perfect Day for Bananafish", drew tons of thumbnail sketches for ideas, and created collages. Everything in the collages had some sort of referential point in the text.

The cats were supposed to symbolize the "nine lives or nine viewpoints" in "Nine Stories". Not only that, but the fact that giving them human characteristics would lead back to the idea of pre-conceived images of the characters. Without the human faces, they would remain more anonymous, even though anthropomorhism would do that regardless.

The main character in this story is Seymour Glass, a member of the same family as many other Salinger characters. Most of the time Seymour is depicted as being smart, and deeply interested in eastern religions, yet he never seems to fit in with most people. He seems suspicious of the actions of others, and suicidal. In "A Perfect Day For Bananafish", he is worried about people looking at his feet, and his tattoo(which he apparently does not have).

The textual elements of the collages are supposed to give a sense of instability. They go up and down, some fit in line, and some do not. Some letters are not even the same font as the next in line. The collages themselves, also give this sense. Cat headed people, cars and floating letters are designed with the mentality of Seymour Glass in mind.

The final aspect of these collages are the fortune cookie fortunes. Each one seems to sync with the image and the story. This is a representation of the unknown. Seymour is a student of eastern religions, and fortune cookies are an Americanized version of eastern religion. This is used to further drive home the division between Seymour, and the people he is surrounded by. The idea being that the average American's idea of eastern religion was created in California(if I remember right), and delivered after dinner, while Seymour has based his whole existence on it.

In the last image we see all the elements of the collages come together. Seymours religious theories come together with a generic and-in this context-sarcastic fortune, mixed with the idea of him literally being worthless, because he has become a dead cat.

The show happened, but I didn't get these prints finished in time. I ended up using my Saint series, and sold none of them. Maybe now that Salinger has passes, it is time to revive these images.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Cover Art of J.D. Salinger

I read The Catcher in the Rye for the first time when I was about 21. My copy of this book is white with black type, and colored bands going off the corner. I bought Franny and Zooey in the book store at UofL, and later, bought Raise High The Roofbeams, Carpenters, and Seymour an Introduction, and found an old copy of Nine Stories in a box of old books that used to belong to my aunt. All of them except for nine stories have the distinctive design.

When I thought about the reasons for designing these books, I always pictured this particular edition, being designed with schools in mind. No fancy covers, no great designs, because school children were forced to read this book, and it wa one of the best known books out there, so why waste time with graphic design when a white cover with black text will suffice?

Later, after I ran out of Salinger written books to read, I did some internet research into the life of Salinger, and his work. I had read somewhere that the true reason his book covers had no images on them was that pictures give you preconceived notions about the story before you read it. Salinger essentially thought that most people-although warned against it-judged books by their covers.

I believe he was on to something with that. Imagine if Holden Caulfield was on the cover staring you right in the face. Would he still be the likable anti-hero that he is in the book now? Without seeing who he is or what he looks like, he can be anyone, and to me, part of the appeal of Holden Caulfield is that he can do the things that I cannot. Holden shares in some of the misanthropy, and simultaneous loneliness that everyone feels at some point.

Apparently early copies of the book seem to go down the route of putting a descriptive image to the books cover. In the image below we see Phoebe and Holden at the Carousel, a scene which takes place at the end of the book. Aside from the fact that the reader is now told what these characters look like, it could be assumed that now the reader will be looking for the carousel.

Those are all old editions though. The only J.D. Salinger book that I have ever seen in real life that had some sort of image on it followed the same carousel theme. It depicts a horse in red, yellow and cream colors. This edition seems to have started showing up more and more as the standard cover for Salinger's classic.The fact that the carousel was important enough for the cover, could also make readers focus so much on the meaning of the carousel, that they focus less on other aspects of the book.

I don't know where to fall on the subject of whether the covers to Salinger's books should be left blank, or should be designed better. On the one hand, I love a well designed package. A good design sells, and it gives an extra something special to the beholder, I love to physically own CD's for the same reason.

I suppose in the end though, I must show solidarity with the creator of the work. The artist's say in his creation is a very special thing that should not be tampered with, I mean look at what happened to American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis. Ellis' novel was turned into a movie, which was fine. What was not so fine, was that the movie spawned a sequel called American Psycho 2. If Salinger wants blank covers, then Salinger gets blank covers. I guess that is what fan art is for.

Cannonball Press @ NIU

Monday, January 25, 2010

Looking for Housing in Nashville, TN. Feb-April

Recently I have discovered that people besides the 22 friends on my fan page actually read this! So with that in mind, and my current housing predicament looming over my head, I thought that this may be an appropriate forum for me to put my housing needs out there in the hopes that someone, somewhere, knows something about Nashville housing.

Here is what I am looking for.

2 month lease. February 13th-April 17th

somewhere between $300-$500 a month

within 5-10 minutes of Broadway.

Thank you.

Any hints, leads, or other info can be sent to me on Facebook(shown on the right) or through my email.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Other interns & Housing

In preparation for the internship there are many things to consider.

Where will I live?

Are the other interns cool? Can I afford this?

There are a million little questions like that. In reality, this is only one question.

What will happen to every aspect of my life?

Any way you put the question into perspective it seems overwhelming. My approach personally, has been to not think about it too much at all. I mean I have 3 weeks till I leave, I shouldn't be thinking about how I can afford it, how I will get to work, what I will do with my free time, are the other interns going to like me, where I will work when I get back...Okay...This is EXACTLY the kind of stuff I have been trying to keep out of my mind! Don't panic, don't freak out! Everything is going to work out. Everything will just fall into place. If the interns don't like me, tough. If I am not good at letterpress printmaking, it's ok, because it still looks good on a resume. If I run out of money I will get a part time job, or sell stuff on eBay. The main issue I am going to have is getting a housing situation set up. This is not an issue that I can just sit back and wait for.

I got an email a while back from the "Intern Wrangler" Bethany, who sent me the email addresses of the other interns. Up till this point, I had no idea how many people were going to be interns or where everyone was from. I found out that one of the interns was from Oregon, one was from Nebraska,and the third never really said. The guy from Oregon and the guy from ? needed housing much like myself. The Nebraska girl, had a place with friends. I have no idea where I am living, but hope to rent a place of my own with one of the other guys, which I guess would make it a place of 'our' own.

I never got the housing info that I was told about, so I contacted the interns. The Oregon intern was going to be in Nashville that weekend and said that we should hang out, and that he was going to be living there from this weekend all the way through the internship. The other interns gave me a couple of different places that sounded mostly like I would be renting the room out of someones house for 300-400 bucks a month. That doesn't sound entirely bad exactly, but the reality of it is that when I am a house guest, I am never fully comfortable. I am always wondering if I am doing something wrong. Did I leave the bathroom a mess? Will staying out late be a problem? Can I eat this? Can I change the channel? Feet on the coffee table: Wrong? Not to mention the fact that I would have tons of awkward conversation for the next two months.

I guess in my head I picture the "room for rent" scenario as having a small room to myself, and the rest of the house is not my space. I feel like I want to have my own space, where I can bring my friends when they are in town, where I can clean up messes at my own pace, eat what I want and watch what I want without worrying about stepping on anybody's toes.

So I looked into some of the places listed. One of the interns said that the Music city hostel is $675 monthly for the lowest rate. That is way too much money for my blood. I mean, I honestly do not have much money at all. My grandma helped me out and my mom has been holding onto my graduation money for close to a year because the original plan was for me to be gone in September or October instead of February of the next year.

So the hostel is out, and that room for rent in your attic is out, so where will I stay? Some interns have talked about how there is an apartment complex for rent where several Hatch interns have already stayed. The leases are short, and the apartments are affordable. This sounds like a great plan! So this weekend in an attempt to look into the whole housing situation, my family and I went to Nashville.

I worked Saturday morning from 7am-2pm, then went home packed and we were on the road. We got down there around 6pm and got a hotel in this big block of hotels before you reach downtown Nashville, then went to search for food. We ate at Santa Fe which had steak, hamburgers, and potatoes, but also served burritos and fajitas. If there was a way to eat beef, they had it.

After we ate, the Oregon intern said he had just made it to town and that we should hang out. I was ok with that, but we were on the way back to our room. When we got back I called him and he was in the middle of downtown seeing Hatch Show Print for the first time even though they were closed.

It sounded loud down there, and he never mentioned hanging out that night so I figured it was probably not a good idea anyway, since we had just drove all the way back and parking would be horrible on a Saturday night. He was staying at the Music City Hostel for a few nights, until he found a place. I told him we were going to go looking tomorrow, but he said he was busy until the afternoon. So we hung out and watched house in our hotel.

The next day we went to Opry Mills and wandered around for awhile, then went downtown. Hatch Show Print isn't open on Sunday's, so we went to the Hard Rock Cafe. They are expensive (15.99 for twisted mac and cheese?!?!), but they have this cool new thing where every booth has an interactive screen that lets you vote for videos, and look at their collection of memorabilia.

After lunch we went down the street to the Frist center to see the Georgia O'Keefe show. It was ok, but I just am not a big fan of O'Keefe, or the other abstract stuff in this dude's collection. He didn't really even have a consistent collection of O'Keefe's work, or any of her more famous style and imagery. Afterward, I called the Oregon intern and he said he had already found a place since talking to him the night before. He is renting a room from a couple who have a house (or an apartment, I don't remember which). So now it is just me, and the guy from ?.

I went to look at the apartment possibility. It is called Covenant Crossing, and it seems like a cool place. The rent would be around 700 a month for a 2 bedroom which seems reasonable to me, and it is 5 miles from downtown. Right now I am making this my first choice, but I need to find out what this "short lease" really is. In all of this, I believe that the lease amount is going to be my biggest issue. If the rent were expensive I would have to deal, but if I can only get a lease for a year, then that just won't work. I am not ready to leave Louisville for a year without some sort of job possibility.

The reality of this internship is setting in, and in reality I am kind of amazed I have made it this far. I have never done anything this adventurous. I have never moved away from home. I have never gone without a job, or a plan for paying for anything. I have never worked so hard to get something that was so far away and uncertain. The fact that I did all of this without thinking that it might be too hard, or thinking that I can't do it, or being too scared to take a chance, shows how much I want to do this. I just hope I can.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Images from the Late Night War II

Like many people I was with Conan "Coco" O' Brien. I just thought he was funnier than Leno. When I was younger I would watch Letterman, then switch over to Conan. Then as I got older, I switched my late night routine to watching the Daily Show, and the Colbert Report. Then it would be time for Conan, but I haven't watched him or any of the ABC, NBC or CBS late night talk shows on a regular basis for years.

Letterman is still good, Conan is still good, and Jay gave it a nice shot at 10, but the overall outcome of everything is disappointing. I would rather have some Conan than no Conan, but what are you gonna do?

Over the years whenever controversy rears its ugly head graphic images have been there. It might be a protest sign, political image, or a poster for a social cause. In this case it is to show support for a celebrity who has been done wrong by the man.

Here is a link to a collection of Pro-Coco designs from Its interesting to see the way that these posters reflect other images or ideas from social/political causes past.

I have a theory about why Jay and Conan's shows didn't get the ratings. I feel like no one wants to watch a talk show at 10 when they watch them all night long. That is really the only thing I have to say about Jay's show. I didn't watch it myself.

As far as the Conan-not-pulling-ratings-thing, I would blame that on multiple factors. For one, Letterman is established. People know him, people like him, older people probably relate to him better. Adding to these factors is that Letterman recently had a sex scandal. People love sex scandals. I mean, when was the last time people who don't golf, cared about Tiger Woods? Same thing. People were all over Letterman because he was all over his interns. Conan starts his show but no one watches because Letterman is the big news.

The second factor in O' Brien's demise was that he was for the younger crowd. Though he was not really an "edgy" talk show host, he was a little more out there than his older late night counterparts. Like Letterman, the team of Stewart/Colbert are the established late night shows of the younger college crowd. In an age of political and social craziness(war and politics mostly), the same people who would watch Conan at 12:35, were now having to choose between satirical news coverage for an hour, or an hour of celebrities talking about movies, and a drastically reduced number of topical humor references. College aged kids love jokes, and they want to know what is going on in the world. Stewart/Colbert are both, Conan is maybe 1 1/2. If Conan was on Comedy Central after the Colbert Report, it would be two hours or power, and I probably wouldn't go to bed.

Anyway, just my point of view on the controversy. Its all over now, and I probably won't watch NBC at all for late night talk because I don't really like Leno, or Fallon. Check the link though.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Morning Breath inc.

Today I went to Barnes and Nobel. I never go there usually. I feel like their art section is lacking, and is made up primarily of 3 sections. The first being Graffiti, the second "erotic" art, the last is "how to draw manga" books, but I got a gift card for X-mas, and I figured I would use it. I was looking mostly in the fiction section because fiction is often cheaper than reality, and I thought I could get more for my money buying classics. But this isn't really going to be about how I spent $25. It will be about the fraction of a gem I found in the art section.

There was a book called "Dirty Fingernails", which was all about the artists hand, in creating design projects as opposed to using computers. I can dig it. I am somewhat of a Luddite myself(even though I am typing on a blog right now, that is linked to my facebook, that is linked to my twitter). Sometimes I get tired of the point and click, CGI, & photoshop stuff. I want to see someone work for their art! Or at least if I can't see it, it is nice to know it happened. The book is filled with a lot of nice drawings, some 3d projects, and some other kind of cool stuff, but the main thing that I got from the book was Morning Breath.

There is a company called "Morning Breath inc" from Brooklyn (I believe) who does okay CD designs for some okay bands, but makes AMAZING designs for t-shirts, screenprints, and skateboards! I feel like there is too much goodness to post pictures of a lot of stuff here, so I will just give you the link instead. Just go look around and admire the variation in their work. Sure I like a good CD package, but that isn't what impressed me about Morning Breath inc. This group has done album covers like TV ON THE RADIO's "DEAR SCIENCE", SPARTA's "WIRETAP SCARS", as well as albums by SLAYER, FOO FIGHTERS, and AFI. Think about these album covers and what they look like. Then go look at the T-shirt designs, and screenprints in their shop. It's like 2 different worlds!

Here is what I like about Morning Breath inc. the most.

1. Punk rock style. Everything is messy with that cut and paste look to it. It uses recycled (appropriated) imagery from old comic book style advertisements, girly magazines, and anything else that is heavy on the Ben-day dots.

2. Crazy vivid colors. this mixture of D.I.Y. style and bright colors reminds me of some of the work that I do, or how I wish mine looked.

3. Drawing style. as mentioned previously, I am a fan of the graphic novel style of Daniel Clowes. Well I also very recently went through my old comic book collection and was reminded of how much I love the work of Mike Allred (X-statix, the Atomics, Madman). This work reminds me of Allred's work. Colorful, minimal line work, yet very emotive and realistic.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Sherlock Knows what's up.

This is a scene from the new movie Sherlock Holmes. When I first saw the title screen for the movie in the previews I noticed the text. Do you know what that is? Those letters look like letterpress type to me! COOL!!!!

I love noticing stuff like this. It is like printmaking isn't just for art school students, and concert promoters anymore! Another example of this is Target stores new promotion "The Great Save", which features large signage all over the department with text that copies the look of a letterpress printed poster. It even mimics the imperfections often associated with a real-life-honest-to-god-hand-pulled print. I couldn't find an image of it online except for one image on the Target website. Check it out if you like.

Monday, January 11, 2010

"Brooklyn" by Nate Duvall

I would love to say that as a printmaker, I make at least one print a week, and do nothing but print all day every day, but I don't. I can't afford it and it's cold out and I don't have all the supplies to do it. I mean honestly I haven't made a print since my mono prints, and those were really just exercises in monoprinting and nothing serious. I need to put in more time and effort and experiment more with different layers and ideas.

I say this because whenever I see prints like Nate Duvall's "Brooklyn" I realize how far I have to go with my printmaking skill. When I look at this print I think about all the little windows, pipes, building facades, and fonts that all have to interlock like a puzzle when you do a screenprint.

One color next to the other, next to the other, all covered (sometimes) with an outlining color. The line work in this print is really shaken and imperfect, but the color work seems to line up perfectly with it all. I have tried to do work with fine lines and color patches and it is so difficult to master.

It seems that I have never been able to get one to line up just the way I imagined it. Its usually not bad, and I like the imperfections because it shows the presence of the human being in the production, but at the same time, I marvel at people who get their prints to come together in such a perfect way.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Print Collection 2

This print from Hatch Show Print has an interesting story for my personal history despite the fact that it was not acquired by me personally, but instead was a gift from my mom when she went on a business trip to Nashville about two years ago. When I found out that she was going I told her about Hatch and where it was and what kind of stuff it was that they did, because I thought it would be great if she could bring back a souvenir that was Hatch Show Print related. At this point I was well on my way to graduation, and had been involved with various forms of printmaking for a few years, but had yet to return to Hatch Show print with my new knowledge and respect for letterpress printmaking. I also asked her (mostly joking) to see if they were hiring.

The result of this trip was the print you see above, some post cards (posted in another Hatch related blog post somewhere around here), and the information that Hatch Show Print was not hiring, but had intern positions. I don't know if I have ever been so excited in my life! That was all I could think about, all the time! I mean I guess that, and my BFA show. I visited Hatch that summer, I sent off my resume and cover letter, and now almost 2 years later I am prepping myself for the move to Nashville and an internship at Hatch Show Print.

One of my favorite things about Letterpress prints, is that when you turn them over, they are dirty and imprinted. This print is no different. The yellow and red ink seems to have bled through to the back side of the poster because of the pressure involved in the printing process. I don't know if that actually IS why this happened, but it reminds me of printing reliefs with oriental papers and the image almost shows up on the back of the paper from rubbing. I guess I will find out in a couple of months.

The red ink used for the word "Hatch" seems to have a marbled effect that resembles what the ink probably looked like laying on the roller. Red with blackish drips smudged in it. Those mystery globs of dark paint or ink that you can't always seem to get rid of no matter how clean you are, but don't always ruin the work.

The yellow in used as the background for the window has a similar feel to it. In addition to the smudges here and there, the yellow background contains imprints of a skull pattern that I assume is not an intentional part of the original image. The skull design makes me think of a chapter in the Hatch Show book that talks about how old wood blocks were reused not only on other images, but sometimes the old blocks were dismantled to make shelving in the shop. This yellow block of windows could have at some point been a block from a Halloween print, or rock n' roll concert poster.

The yellow bleeds through the black ink layer in some spots from inconsistent inking and seem to reveal a wood grain pattern. All of these unique traits, in my mind at least, make me think about the different layers, the process, and the history of the process, associated with letterpress more than I would with your average computer designed and printed poster. That's the way I like it.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Letterpress Coasters.

Here is a video that will show you what the letterpress process is like. This is the kind of stuff I will be doing in Nashville. You know...only with posters.

Letterpress Coasters from Quarter Productions on Vimeo.