But my favorite artist? James Evans, Jr. And he was about as real as Lion-O and Cheetara.
James “J.J.” Evans, Jr, a.k.a. Kid Dy-No-Mite, was a character on the 1970s Norman Lear sitcom “Good Times”. By the time I saw it it was in reruns. Every day. Between the hours of 4 and 5pm, on channel 13. It followed the lives of a lower income African-American family living in the Chicago housing projects. The parents, James Sr. and Florida Evans, hard-working people just trying to make it to the next day… their goal was to give their kids everything they never had. Michael was going to be a lawyer, Thelma was going to go into the performing arts and J.J. was going to be (and already was) an artist.
I gravitated to J.J. immediately. Didn’t hurt that he was the funniest character (which go old in later seasons… but that’s for another post).
They lived in a small, two-bedroom apartment. J.J.’s working area was right behind the couch… near a window to get the best light. He was a painter. Every day I hoped that J.J. would be painting something else. If he wasn’t, maybe one of his pieces would be on the easel. Up until J.J., paintings to me were either in church or in my grandparent’s house. (I’d yet to discover Bob Ross… definitely another post).
J.J. let this little kid see that painting could be really, really, cool. I may not have grasped what was happening to me at the time, but it definitely happened. Hopefully I was the only one to see painting a in a different way because of J.J.
“The Sugar Shack” by Ernie Barnes
I found out later that all the pieces featured on the show were done by a man named Ernie Barnes. And that sent me on a path of discovery… really cool discovery… of an entire group of African-American artists doing amazing work.
I always wanted to try and create an Ernie Barnes inspired piece. His expressiveness with the human form and fearless use of bold colors appeals to the cartoonist in me. So, I did. It’s an homage to the man who got me excited about art.
Trust me when I say that the theme to “Good Times” was on a non-stop loop in my head while working on this.
I’m telling you all this to tell you this: You never know where your influences will come from.
Ever have one of those mornings … when you impress the hell out of yourself?
That’s the morning I’m having. The rest of the day can be utter trash… but knowing that between the hours of 3:40am and 5:58am, I put this homage to Amedeo Modigliani out. This came out of me, through his eyes.
I am the last person to ever toot a horn… my horn or any other horn…
But damn, Frank.
Never underestimate yourself… because cool stuff can happen when you least expect it.
My family rendered in the style of Viennese Secessionst artist Gustav Klimt, a name I hadn’t really considered since sophomore year undergrad.
Full disclosure… as a young art student, I was not particularly fond of art history. I could never wrap my head around how any why the simple was forced to be complicated. How connections were connected by a million other connections that didn’t didn’t seem like they should be connected. I memorized the names, the dates, the movements, the art… but it didn’t move me. I was more concerned with the present and what I was making. I knew everything… and if I didn’t know it, so what?
Reason #286,951 why I’d love to go back in time and slap the hell out of my younger self.
As I got older, I got wiser (funny how that happens). And while not all art appeals to me on the same level, I appreciate the creation of it… even if I don’t understand it. I know what it means to stare at nothingness and make it into somethingness.
I’m STILL more concerned with the present and what I’m making… but I now know to create in the present, you have to have an understanding of the past. It all connects. Inspiration doesn’t develop in a airless, space… it needs stuff. A MFA in visual communications and that’s the deepest I go? wow…. friggin’ cartoonists, am i right?
The transformation of my FAMILY CARTOON STYLE series into an art history series is challenging me like nothing ever has… and really, I should just refer to the whole thing as an art history series. I mean, fighting the fight to put cartoons right up there with fine art is part of my life’s work… it’s not cartoon history and art history… IT’S ALL ART HISTORY!
I don’t know how much longer the series will go… and it really is wearing me out… but I’m enjoying brushing up on people, places and pieces I had long since packed away in an undergraduate storage container…