Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Brush Up!

Art and auctions go hand in hand obviously. This week I heard about an art auction with a bit of a difference. Firstly it's a charity auction, raising funds for GiGi's Playhouse, a Down syndrome awareness centre with bases in Illinois and Iowa, North America. Secondly the auction is not actually for works of art, but a chance to bid on used brushes, donated by a galaxy of Low Brow stars including Mark Ryden, Josh Agle (Shag), Tara McPherson and Scott Musgrove, to name but a few.

The auction, entitled The Brush Project is being conducted entirely online on eBay and in the meantime the brushes can be viewed virtually at Rotofugistore on eBay and in person at Rotofugi Gallery in Chicago.

The show is being curated by the David van Alphen, owner of the DvA Gallery and himself an artist who creates surreal 70's-reliving kitsch collages under the guise of Netherland. The chosen charity is very close to his heart, being a parent of a young child affected by Down syndrome.

The auction is running now and is due to end on October 6th. Bids have started at a very reasonable $10 to $20, so this could be a great opportunity to bag one of the tools of the trade of a modern master and help a charitable cause while you are at it.

Brush donated by Marion Peck.

Brush donated by Mitch O'Connell.

Brush donated by Jeremiah Ketner.

Brush donated by Derek Yaniger.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Liddle Ladies.

One of the best things about the Pop Surrealism movement, for me, is the representation of highly diverse, but equally hugely talented female artists and in turn, the wide scope of female characters they concoct.

Seattle based Lisa Petrucci is a well established name in the Lowbrow world and her style is unique but also, often strangely familiar. Lisa paints distinctive candy coated scenes of cute big eyed gals. Working with bright liquid acrylics on plaque shaped pieces of pine, which are then coated with a thick shiny gloss called Envirotex, the vitality in Lisa's paintings really shines through.

(Liddle Wonder Woman Saves The Day - Lisa Petrucci.)

The familiar feel of Lisa's work undoubtedly comes from the fact that she is heavily influenced by aspects of popular culture common to most of us. These stem from her childhood but also she was shaped by elements of the counter-cultures of the 50's and 60's. Her works are a kind of playback of the mental VHS tape of her youthful obsessions, that she brings back to life and replays, for all of us to enjoy today through her lively ladies' antics.

(Go Go in the Garage - Lisa Petrucci.)

Lisa is an avid collector of toys and dolls from the 1970's and the associated love of dressing up and play acting carries over into her characters and their roles.

(Liddle Pirate Girl - Lisa Petrucci.)

She has been known to incorporate the cult 70's doll Blythe into her work too.

(Blythe on the Range - Lisa Petrucci.)

Among Lisa's other fascinations are comic books, cartoons, Big Eyed art, Tiki art, Kitsch and thrift store finds of all varieties.

(Part of Lisa's extensive personal collection of vintage Big Eyed art.)

The other side of Lisa's coin, is her long standing love affair with the dark, sleazy underworld of the 50's pin up magazine, the first titillating nudie movies and the daring, usually anonymous, girls who stripped for them. She pays tribute to these pioneering, boundary pushing beauties in her work.

(Big Top Beauty - Lisa Petrucci.)

(Tiki Tramp - Lisa Petruuci.)

Although maybe it shouldn't do, the mix of sultry and innocence blends perfectly.

(Garden Suprise - Lisa Petrucci.)

Scary B-movies are another passion.

(Miss Monster - Lisa Petrucci.)

And there's usually a cat to be found getting in on the act.

(Hell Kitty - Lisa Petrucci.)

(Kute 'n' Komfy - Lisa Petrucci.)

Considering her love of toys, it's only natural that Lisa should get involved in customising them.

(Lil' Leona Leopard vinyl toy - Lisa Petrucci.)

Lisa has had a comprehensive collection of her works published by Dark Horse Books entitled Kickass Cuties. You can also order signed copies from her own site.

(Lisa's book - Kickass Cuties.)

She is due to have her work featured in an upcoming book called Edgy Cute, having also had work published recently in The Garden of Eye Candy and Big-Eye Art: Resurrected and Transformed.

Lisa's work is popular in Europe as well as North America and she is scheduled to take part in a Pop Surrealism group show called "Apocalypse Wow!" at MACRO in Rome in November.

In the meantime I can't get enough of her cuties. I love Lisa's ladies and the retro rainbow fantasy lands they live in.

(Liddle Lisa - Lisa Petrucci.)

Thursday, 10 September 2009

In the Pink.

Recently I went to the opening night of an exhibition at The Archipelago Works in Sheffield. It was called 7 Styles For 7 Brothers and was a group exhibition of work by seven UK based artists originating from the graffiti world.

Basically I overdid the cheese and wine, minus the cheese, (I'd had a hard week), so my impressions of the exhibition are a bit foggy but through the haze I did enjoy the work of Pinky.

Pinky's style is very distinctive, bursting with exuberance and positivity. And colour, he loves colour, there's more oranges, yellows, turquoises, purples, greens and of course, pinks leaping out at you than you can shake a stick at. It's just as well my future hangover had yet to start.

(Some of Pinky's work with a young art fan.)

I did have a bit of a chat with Pinky and he seemed like a thoroughly nice guy to boot.

(Pinky in action - from his Flickr page.)

(Pinky stickers.)

There's a 60's and 70's retro feel to much of Pinky's stuff and he seems to take a lot of inspirations artistically, not just from the usual classic urban graffiti styles,

(1996 tag - Pinky.)

but also from the "high times" of the tune in, turn on, Haight Ashbury hippy movement era.

(Wanderlust - Pinky.)

He's quite a dab hand with a pair of scissors too - producing nice papercuts illustrating warm, feelgood messages.

(Red Heart papercut - Pinky.)

Pinky is originally from Hull, in East Yorkshire, an area I know very well and which, it has to be said, does suffer from an overload of grey.

(Photo of the Humber Bridge near Hull - Pinky.)

I can totally understand why he's taking the opportunity to help make the world a more multicoloured place for all of us.

(Blue Owl - Pinky.)

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Buy Art!

(Buy Art! - original by Liz Staley.)

Another Etsy fun discovery for me was the world of ACEO's (Art Cards, Editions and Originals) otherwise known as Artist Trading Cards.

(The Cat in Space - original by Prudence. Done by the artists' daughter.)

These cards are basically mini works of art, they can be paintings, drawings, photographs, prints, collage, textile works or use any other medium the artist has to hand. In that respect there are no restrictions. The only rule is that the cards must always measure 2 ½ by 3 ½ inches in dimension, the same size as regular trading cards e.g. sports cards. From there the sky and the artist's imagination and ability is the limit. The orientation can be in Landscape or Portrait or any other angle that fits the bill.

(The Day Out - original by Wonkyshop.)

(Dragon Whisperer - edition by Charlotte Self aka Paperstreet.)

The concept of Artist Trading Cards is credited to Swiss artist M.VÄNÇI STIRNEMANN who in 1996 created 1200 handmade cards as a means of cataloging his activities with other artists. He exhibited his cards in 1997 and at the end of the exhibition encouraged visitors to make their own cards with which to trade with him. The idea was picked up on and rapidly spread.

(Firebird - original by Kaslkaos)

Whereas Artist Trading Card purists believe that these cards should only be swapped between the creators and never sold, this meant that people who didn't produce them were excluded from being able to collect them.

(Chrysanthemums and Knot - original by Lemon Shortbread.)

(Night Scenery - embroidered original by Lemon Shortbread.)

Somewhere down the line, non artists were able to buy into the fun, when the idea was adapted so that the cards could be sold and they were therefore renamed ACEO's - as it says on the tin, Art Cards, produced in series' of Editions or one-off Originals. Apart from the size rule, the only other rule of these cards is that the artist is asked to sign and date them on the back.

(How To Train Your Human - edition by Heidi Shaulis.)

(The Fortune Teller - original by Lucy Kitten.)

ACEO's are found for sale on eBay, but my personal favourite hunting ground for them is Etsy, where, for my money, there's a lot more variety, creativity and imagination going on. Also Etsy traders tend to have very high standards in terms of communication, shipping and fairness in dealing with any customer issues.

(Meet Me Somewhere In My Head - original by Moonstr.)

Collecting them is HIGHLY addictive. Once you build up a little stack and put them in a tin or into an album, you just want to keep adding.

(Faceless - original collage by Dadadreams.)

(Amethyst - original collage by Dadadreams.)

The real cherry on top of the cake about ACEO's has got to be their price. Their small size is usually accompanied by a small price tag that anyone can afford. They usually start at well under £5 to £10 and very occasionally higher prices of around £50 are asked. But in my experience there's just as much work available by really talented artists at the lower end of the price range as there is at the top and if you have any friends with a bit of an artistic flare, give them a few blank cards (you can buy them in art shops or just cut your own) and see what they come up with.

(Boombox - original by T-Rex.)

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

The Man Who Shot Garbo.

Blogging about Niagara and Angelique Houtkamp, one thing that became apparent to me is their shared fascination with Hollywood golden era glamour and its very distinct kind of beauty. Women today, no matter how lovely they are, are never captured in quite the same light as by the photographers and film directors of the early decades of the 20th century. Amazingly the primitive, by today's standards, cameras, lighting and imaging techniques in use then, produced some of the most gorgeous photos of the women of that era and in turn, some of the most gorgeous photos of all time. Thinking about this I was reminded of a striking exhibition I once saw.

The exhibition, entitled "The Man Who Shot Garbo - the Hollywood photographs of Clarence Sinclair Bull," came to my local city art gallery in 1989. A book, by Terence Pepper, was also printed to accompany the show. Clarence Sinclair Bull was head of stills department at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Hollywood film studios for 40 years, from their founding in 1924. He took portrait shots of all the studios stars, but for 20 years he was the photographer who, almost exclusively, handled the photography of Swedish born silent star Greta Garbo. Greta's beauty and career is legendary and many, many words have been written about her by people who can do her more justice than me.

But seeing Clarence Sinclair Bull's luminous prints, enlarged and placed on show in a darkened room, was like opening a treasure chest of silver. The light spilled out of the portraits. Some of them literally sparkled and dazzled.

(Greta Garbo as Mata Hari - Clarence Sinclair Bull.)

While some emitted a warm hypnotic glow.

(Greta Garbo - portrait by Clarence Sinclair Bull.)

Sinclair Bull captured many great film stars in many magnificent moods and poses.

(Boris Karloff as Fu Manchu - Clarence Sinclair Bull.)

But his ability to not only capture on film the stunning appearance of Garbo, but also to transform it into the very essence of an aesthetic, that even today is a benchmark of classic feminine beauty, was quite an achievement to witness.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Dutch Doll.

One sunny lady whose work never fails to cheer me up is Angelique Houtkamp. Dutch born and currently Amsterdam based, Angelique's work has an immediate appeal and for me the mood in her pieces often reflect that laid back outlook and joie de vivre attitude commonly found amongst the Dutch.

Angelique's skillful and precise work belies the fact that she only started painting when she was 30. She then moved into tattooing, honing her distinctive old school, with a slightly bizarre twist, style. Although she still tattoos in Amsterdam, her artwork has become globally popular and demand for her as an artist has meant that that is now her priority.

Angelique frequently portrays doe eyed beauties, with a vintage Hollywood feel to their appearance.

(Magda - Angelique Houtkamp.)

(Love/Hate - Angelique Houtkamp.)

She sometimes likes to toy with a surreal morphing of her characters, perhaps a nod to the tall tales that sailors from the ancient age of seagoing would tell on their return to port, to captive audiences, of the strange creatures they had encountered on their perilous voyages.

(Fabienne - Angelique Houtkamp)

(Annie and Fran - Angelique Houtkamp.)

(Isabella - Angelique Houtkamp.)

Angelique's work also connects to the popular burlesque movements of the present era.

(Snakecharmer - Angelique Houtkamp.)

Exotic oriental ladies conjure up Eastern delights.

(Wong - Angelique Houtkamp.)

Sometimes her work sticks more to the lines of conventional sailor tattoo art, maybe in deference to her training done in traditional tattoo parlours in the great historical port that is Amsterdam.

(Homeward Bound - Angelique Houtkamp.)

Angelique has successfully marketed her work, using her images on fashion accessories and stationary. If you're very lucky you may even be able to commission a tattoo by her at Admiraal Tattoo in Amsterdam.

Angelique has a very close and fruitful relationship with Outre Gallery in Australia. They published the first collection of her paintings in a book called Tattoo Darling in 2007, which quickly sold out of its initial print run and continues to sell, a testament to the popularity of Anglique's work.

A follow up volume Tattoo Mystique is due to be launched by Outre in October of this year. Details are on their site. The book launch is accompanied by an art show and is likely to skyrocket Angelique's profile even higher.

Above all, there is a warmth about Angelique's work that always permeates her images. It reminds me of the Dutch word "gezellig" which is not properly translated as a meaning but more as a feeling. According to Wikipedia, “A perfect example of untranslatability is seen in the Dutch language through the word gezellig, which does not have an English equivalent. Literally, it means cozy, quaint, or nice, but can also connote time spent with loved ones, seeing a friend after a long absence, or general togetherness.”

Something of that golden otherworldliness radiates from Angelique's pictures and although I have never met the lady herself I can't help but think she must be the epitome of this happy state of being.