Comic Art


“Your blog is dead, man”, a friend says to me this morning. I respond with an emoticon, the most antiseptic response I can venture at this observation. He’s right, and he’s wrong.

So what really has been going on this year?

It’s not like I don’t feel like writing about things in my life. But it’s so hard to start talking without, I dunno, a pivot. An Archimedean place to stand on when I move a world of words out from my head onto the page. When I switched from Live-journal to this blog, after a similar extended hiatus in 2007, I wrote down a hundred points about myself. That exercise in vanity got my brain – well, at least the part that refused to get away from the gluttonous lifestyle of single-minded consumption – out on the metaphorical blog treadmill. That post and the ones that followed in the first few weeks were it gasping but limping along bravely,  heedless of its lizard sibling’s screams of dismay. And after a while, obviously, it took on momentum, finding typing fodder in the most innocuous of life-events. It got to the point where I was on the brink of – gasp – actually writing something about my feelings and not just Things and Stuff and AwesomeCoolMindbendingActsOfMaterialism.

What usually happens then is that someone I know in real life makes a reference to my writing, interpreting the content in a way that tells me that they think they know more about me than I am letting on. Then I stop, because fuck you, you don’t know me just because I blogged about something. This perilous slip into self-consciousness affects the blatheriness of my blather, know what I mean? I think I like writing better when no one’s looking. I would keep a diary but, ugh, paper.

AND ALSO. This is what happens when I want to write – I find out it’s been done. For example: I bought an Alphonse Mucha print from a thrift shop in San Jose recently. (Isn’t it great that all my conversation-starters are about buying things? I mean, 12 years of this blog and my schtick hasn’t changed, though many other things about me have. I see those hundred things I wrote about and stifle a hollow laugh.) We had a great breakfast, two of my friends and I, after visiting a comic shop they knew about in the area. We decided to take a walk in Downtown San Jose, mostly to window-shop around the book and antique stores that I had noticed when parking the car. So I saw this gigantic framed Mucha print in the store window. It said “$100” next to it, and I was tempted. The frame itself was a work of art, and the piece in question – which I later found out was called ‘La Trappistine’ – had everything one might want in a Mucha print. A gorgeous woman, a great Q-design (I will get to that in a bit), wonderful iconography, curlicue lettering – the works.

Except the shop was closed.

I tend to look at the brighter side of things in situations like this. “Ha, I saved myself $100”, I said. My friends offered to come pick it up later, but I knew that I would start giving myself a lot of reasons not to spend money. So I passed by, walked them toward their place, and doubled back to my car. Longingly glanced at the Mucha again when I saw movement inside the store. Someone was inside! I waved, she waved back, and brought up a sign that she was writing on. It said “50% off all items”.

Long story short, 15 minutes later (because of the walk to an ATM nearby), I was hauling a rather heavy frame back to my car. I had no idea of when it was printed – pretty sure it was not an original late 19th century print, but it was just what I wanted.

And obviously it went up on the wall.

And obviously it went up on the wall.

So that got me to thinking about why I had stumbled onto Mucha’s art in the first place, and I realized that it was – obviously – comics. I believe I had read an interview by Adam Hughes about his art nouveau influences way back when, and got around to looking up the Czech artist’s work and realized that his influence on the comic-book/illustration world was formidable. Everyone from Terry Moore to Tony Harris, JH Williams to JM Linsner, Joe Quesada to Michael Kaluta have done their share of cover and interior designs inspired by Mucha’s distinctive flora-based border patterns and soft color palette.

(On an aside, check out this set of Wolverine Art Appreciation covers from 2009, where a bunch of covers featuring the Marvel character were all inspired by great paintings and painterly styles.)

So I thought of doing a post on Mucha’s influence on comics, talking about how his work is the right kind of eye-candy to be appropriated in comics. On how the commercial aspect of his work is echoed by the (somewhat) assembly-line driven work done in comics, where the intent of the cover is to grab the reader’s attention by pushing just the right aesthetic buttons.

But of course, I did some looking around, and found out that someone beat me to it. Link to a paper called Alphonse Marie Mucha: Posters, Panels … and Comic Books? by Brandon Bollom and Shawn McKinney of the University of Texas, which talks about all of the above and in much greater detail than I would have, obviously.

Mucha - Lefevre-Utile biscuits.

The first Mucha I owned is this image on tin, from a flea market in Amsterdam. It now hangs in a friend’s living room.



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