Influences

My new book, The Disgusting Room, will be out soon from Sparkplug Comicbooks. I’m very proud of the book—I have always been deeply in love with comics, and while Disgusting Room probably looks about as far out of left field in terms of traditional comics as you can imagine, to me it’s spilling over with a lot of my admiration for all kinds of cartooning and image making.

In celebration of the books impending release, Robin was nice enough to ask me to write something for this site about influences on my work. Here are some images that are important to me…how they’ve influenced me I’m not sure.

I read comics and children’s books as early as I can remember. I stared at  covers like this one by Edwin John Prittie for years.

I also, like many children, loved everything the D’Aulaires drew. Trolls was genuinely horrifying to me. And that chart of Greek gods—THE chart, as far as I’m concerned.

I’ve always loved this book by Thatcher Hurd

And this beautiful, mysterious book

Wanda G’ag is someone whose books I spent a lot of time with.

Here prints, which I discovered later in life, are also very important to me.

She belonged to a group of artists loosely associated around Alfred Stieglitz 291 Gallery. Her children’s books were, if you believe what you read in her published diaries,  meant to sustain her financially so she could make more prints and drawings, some of which were exhibited at 291.

A lot of artists that exhibited there are important to me…like Marsden Hartley

Arthur Dove

and Rockwell Kent

There were always monographs of these artists laying aorund when i was a kid, but they were usually library copies. We had them for a little while, and then they were gone. When I first found comic books, the thing I couldn’t get over was that there were 22 pages of art and you could KEEP IT. I still can’t get over that in a lot of ways. My mom would always take me to museums and I loved getting the little postcards of art from the collection…collecting comics was an extension of that in a lot of ways.

At some point, comics became this thing I couldn’t turn my back on. I always loved art and the visual nature of comics really attracted me. I remember a friend at school had this card:

Somehow, after seeing that, I never went a day without being into comics. But it wasn’t like I actively sought comics out before that…comics have this weird way of choosing you. And my friend Chris Gutierrez having that Silver Surfer card in Second Grade is my shameful introduction.

These comics are pretty much printed onto my brain.

The Kindred! I remember thinking that was supposed to be a pretty quality book although the ‘plot’ was hard to decipher. The knock on those Image books was that the writing was weak but I always found that they were OVER written. I would actually draw up a diagram to figure out what was happening with those Extreme Studios books.

Those covers look great since i haven’t seen them in years…but they did begin to loose their power for me when i was surrounded by them day to day. Thankfully, that’s right when I found more underground, self published comics.

My early interest in art comics are probably boringly close to everyone else’s. So I’ll skip all that and instead talk a little bit about artists making work right now that is near and dear to me.

Sakura Maku makes comics that usually have this uniform size to them—in terms of the page border, its like a by-the-numbers comic book. But everything within those borders shows a total disregard for any set notion of how to make comics, which i find exhilirating. Sakura’s comics are also some of the best written works out there, in that they have a voice that’s very loud and personal—her characters sound completley unique.

Molly Colleen O’connell has this very round, even soft, line. I’m also impressed by how far she pushes that pleasing line into something more personal…her figures have a seed of what might be called ‘commerical appeal’ but she instead focuses on putting those figures into her narratives that take ample concentration to read.

Greg Cook’s China Guy is an older mini from one of my all time favorite cartoonists, Greg Cook. He hasnt had a ton of new work out in a while (I hear he’s at work on a long form comic?). Anyway, this is my favorite of all his work…cartoonist jesse McManus and I have spent hours talking about it.

Fiona Logusch has made a series of incredibly strong comics that have largely gone ignored by the general comics public. Shes concentrating on printmaking these days, I think. I love this etching by her

Anke Feuchtenberger is my favorite living cartoonist. Her comics seem to tower above most everything else out there…they are usually simple stories, with sparse writing, drawn in a style that isn’t neccesarily out of left field. And yet…they are completley removed from the concerns of most comics. It’s Feuchtenberger’s way of drawing the figure that I keep coming back to…it isn’t a radical approach, but her characters seem to have so much  at stake just through their movements and poses. Der Palast is my favorite of all her comics.

I have a great belief in delving as deep as one can into the incomprehensible world of images and stories that are imprinted on all of our brains. I think if the bulk of humanity did this, instead of giving up their life to toiling on mindless piecework for cynical interests, we’d all have a richer world. The way things are today, I can’t feel anything less than the highest regard for the artists listed above for bringing their art to the level that they have–for taking the time to make the things that they make.

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