Sarah Anderson is a genius at making beautifully simple comics that say so much.
German painter Jeanne Mammen was born in Berlin in 1890, however she spent her early years living in Paris. Here Mammen’s formative years were immersed in a love of French literature and the arts of the age. The artist’s privileged upbringing enabled her to study painting and drawing at various top academies in Paris, Brussels and Rome. However, with the outbreak of World War I, Mammen’s family had their assets confiscated as they were categorised as a foreign enemy, leading to impoverished conditions for the artist. Mammen, however, also benefited from the experience, as she was able to associate with a variety of people from various backgrounds, an eclectic world once hidden from the limited niceties of her middle class social circle. This, in turn, would have a major influence on her later artwork.
After moving back to Berlin, in 1921 Mammen began a professional career in art, first as…
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“..in this period in the 1950s and early ’60s? You were there with all these people I’ve already mentioned along with Oscar Zàrate and so many others. From reading about it, it feels like this was a really creative and dynamic time.”
– “Yes, it was a paradise. There were different languages, backgrounds, cultural viewpoints that were circulating around and trading funny and/or tragic stories with each other. The stories mixed together fluidly, spontaneously, through films, historietas, literature, and radio. There, reality and imaginative fiction and other fantastical stories came together to produce an intimate mix that, it seems to me, encouraged us greatly. We lived near, and in, the wide open spaces of the Argentine pampa lowlands, something that needed us to fill it with stories. I and others believed that everything that we read, watched, and listened to was happening to us, was happening there. Parallel realities leapt out from the pages and the screens into our surroundings, into our souls. Argentina tried, but did not fully succeed, in making immigrants forget their pasts. And Buenos Aires was infused with a cosmopolitan atmosphere; we were and we could be, anywhere. Calé, Arlt, Ferro, Borges, Solano López, Hudson, Dickens, Bradbury, Monicelli, Bergman, Bioy Casares, Oesterheld, Breccia, Pratt, Roume, Chandler – they all spoke to us of Buenos Aires, of Argentina, and of the world that surrounded us from the pampa to Irkutsk, being everywhere all at once. I suppose it was the same in New York. I imagine it that way as well, feverish.”
“Traditional storytelling structures aren’t especially necessary in comics – it’s what’s kept people with genuinely avant garde leanings working in commercial comics for so long….Even in what we call the ‘mainstream’ end of the field, where the superheroes live, the medium remains remarkably plastic.”
Processing words and images together is like looking at a person’s face while listening to them speak. Amazing! This makes me think about how reading comics is like living in the world; there are multiple modes of processing required of us. There’s so much information being communicated in a person’s face when they speak. But sometimes the person’s face communicates information that, juxtaposed with what they are saying, changes the meaning. Like when my mom and I say “Hate you” instead of “Love you,” there’s a certain facial expression that goes with the words that makes “Hate you” = “Love you.” I guess I’ve always liked modes of communication that are less direct than they appear.
I draw because I couldn’t communicate in the usual ways growing up. I was too shy, or weird, or something. Drawing has never been private for me; it was always the only non-private thing. I never made comics as a hobby; I chose the medium consciously, as an adult, when my parents and teachers and classmates stopped being the right audience for my drawings, and I needed an audience and a more concrete medium I could plug into. I wouldn’t write a story I didn’t want to share.
My artistic advice to someone just getting started is: Don’t worry what other people are doing, or what they think you should do; just have fun. Practice. Experiment. If you haven’t found your personal style yet, don’t worry, it will come to you. You need to make a lot of shit before you start making gold, and even when it’s gold, it’ll probably still look like shit to you sometimes. Also: Don’t expect comics to make you rich, or even make you a living. Not saying it can’t happen, but it’s about as likely as winning the lottery.
“The Parade” is a modernist dirge of a book that still packs an emotional wallop, telling the story of mankind’s recurring and deadly war fever. Einstein wrote Si a fan letter after seeing the drawings in 1951, saying, “Our time needs you and your work!” It doesn’t take a genius to see that this is still true today, so Si and I collaborated on an expanded “director’s cut” version of “The Parade,” remastered from the original art and published, this month, as a long accordion-fold book.
“Whenever I’ve had to write prose I always find writing the description is really frustrating, because I think I could just draw this. And also there’s always so much more content to a drawing than to a prose description. I feel like there’s always so much more to be done with that. Plus when you’re writing prose you’re competing against Tolstoy and Dostoevsky and it’s very difficult to do anything that would be ultimately satisfying in terms of really differentiating yourself. At best I could write a halfway decent novel. That’s all I could ever hope for and that would be quite an accomplishment.”
“It sometimes seems like that’s the overriding trend in comics right now, beautiful drawings and empty stories.
I can’t tell if that’s just the result of a generation of kids who are raised with this different form of receiving media. Is it that or is it just that they’re coming out of the art world more than they used to? I don’t know, but there is something very strange about that. It doesn’t seem to be attracting people who just want to create stories and aren’t that visually oriented. You would sort of think that would be a part of the comics world that was opening up. At least I haven’t really seen that. Or they could just be doing stories I’m not very interested in.”
Two things coming up recently regarding powerful rich “artists” making kudos and money from the hard work of whom they can only consider to be lesser mortals.
First you should know that Richard Prince has been “re-photographing” since the 1970s. He takes pictures of photos in magazines, advertisements, books or actors’ headshots, then alters them to varying degrees. Often, they look nearly identical to the originals. This has of course, led to legal trouble. In 2008, French photographer Patrick Cariou sued Prince aft..er he re-photographed Cariou’s images of Jamaica’s Rastafarian community. Although Cariou won at first, on appeal, the court ruled that Prince had not committed copyright infringement because his works were “transformative.”
..and then Dan Clowes on that Shia Lebeouf thing:
“Speaking of grudges: Have you forgiven Shia LaBeouf?”
“I don’t know. No, not really. I mean, I don’t hold a grudge. I don’t think about it that much. But I don’t think what he did was really forgivable. I don’t know that it matters that much if he’s apologizing or whatever. I just hate the idea of anybody doing that to some young artist who couldn’t hire legal representation. I’m sort of the one guy who could deal with something like that, and it would be really possible for somebody with his amount of money and power to just crush some poor young artist if that happened to them, and I would hate to see that. So I don’t think it’s something that needs to be forgiven; I think it’s something that always needs to be thought of as just a horrible thing to do.”
Difficult for me to comment on this without falling into ranting, which is how I am supposed to react.
Let’s cleanse ourselves by reading about the true artists who Lichenstein “homaged”, in Deconstructing Lichtenstein.
Finally an article addressing a parallel issue of the popular misconceptions around the creation of CGI for big budget features:
As the debate surrounding what visual effects are worth rages on, it is clear that the studios themselves have an interest in perpetuating the myth that VFX are the product of clinical assembly lines and the results are equally lifeless and mechanical. Blaming computers for the dumbing down of movies has become a journalistic trope that is bandied about to squeeze the one part of the Hollywood machine that has no union or organizational skill to push back.