Thursday, March 26, 2015


Another Theory Corner first: here's more of my video game sketches. In this drawing (above) I tried to give Aztec/Mayan motiffs a sort of Basil Wolverton sensibility.

 Above, some fake Aztec wall decoration (above).

I like the idea of sometimes finding yourself skating in cramped quarters. In a situation like this (above) the possibilities are endless. You can be crushed by the trolley or you can dive into manholes or open doorways that lead to other locales. You can also press yourself against the wall and accept the punches, slaps, kisses, cat scratches, farts, etc. of the passengers and pets leaning out the windows.

I love stuff like this (above).

This thought (above) would have required a total redo if it had been accepted. I was trying to make fun of traditional Japanese furniture which is very low and close to the ground, but the idea doesn't come across here.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015


I've blogged before about the mysterious and aggressive quality of color, especially when it's relatively unrestrained as it is in the Nolde picture above. Lots of people wouldn't agree with that. For them color is sentimental and comforting. I envy them. My own innocence about color has been shattered by the discoveries of a painter named Emil Nolde (1867 - 1956) who's the subject of this post.

Nolde couldn't draw people. Maybe that's a good thing because his difficulties with line may have been what led him to concentrate entirely on color.

Nolde's early paintings (above) were influenced by Van Gogh. 

Later he shows the influence of Gauguin and the Nabis.

He was even influenced by Matisse. Here (above) he takes what I call the the bold, aggressive quality of color and successfully harnesses it to decoration as Matisse did. The public liked what he was doing and he might have profitably painted this way for years to come, but around this time he seems to have become interested in color for its own sake. He became obsessed with the idea that color had a life of its own which was suffocated by line.

 Nolde wasn't the only artist to dream of liberating color. Fauves like Vlaminck and Derain (that's a Derain, above) attempted it but they confined color with line and that had the effect of taming it down.

Kandinsky (above) did the same. Even in his abstract pictures he was usually afraid to remove the lines.

Bonnard got rid of the lines but still didn't liberate the color. He just confined it a different way, in this case by muting it with white. It's as if all the painters I've mentioned wanted to open the cage door to give color its freedom, but once it was on the outside they insisted on walking it on a tight leash.

Not so Nolde. He opened the door and let the tiger escape. He allowed his color, indescribably brutal and mindful of nothing but its own will to live, to leap out and grab the viewer by the jugular.

Look at this landscape (above). The liberated red comes off as a predatory beast roaming the landscape and looking for victims. I don't know about you, but I hear the strident parts of Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" when I look at it.

 Nolde painted almost exclusively in watercolor during the WWII years, and therein lies a story.

According to Wikipedia, Nolde became a passionate Nazi while he was still living in Denmark in the 20s. His work became very well known and even caught the attention of Goebbels who was a fan of Expressionism and who arranged for Nolde to work on an infamous anti-semitic film. It must have seemed to Nolde that he had it made, but fate had something else in store for him.

It turns out that Hitler loathed Expressionism and he gave Nolde pride of place in his Degenerate Art show. Goebbels, being the toady that he was, not only dropped Nolde like a hot potato but claimed to have discovered that the artist had a Jewish ancestor. Nolde was given a rifle and shipped off to the army where he painted watercolors in secret. He was forbidden to work in oils.

So Nolde was not what you'd call a nice guy, and his pictures have a very disturbing, neurotic quality to them. Even so, you have to credit the man with liberating color in a way that nobody else had. It's impossible to imagine DeKooning or Hoffman or many of the Abstract Expressionists or even Mary Blair without reference to Nolde. What can I say? Nature distributes its gifts in ways not understandable by man.

Saturday, March 14, 2015


A friend is in Germany right now and I wish I could have gone with him. I yearn to see real traditional architecture, even if it exists mostly in touristy pockets like the village above.  

If I was there I'd hit the toy stores first. I want to see the latest designs in wooden blocks.

I also want to see the latest Lego designs. Lego's a Danish company but I'm told that German stores are full of Lego toys that you can't get in America.

Here's (above) a Lego train.

And here's (above) a prototype steampunk locomotive. The design doesn't work but I'm glad the company experiments like this.

 Here's a great wolf toy designed in the North European style for the Disney film, "Pinnochio." It's by Gustaf Tenggren who was a Swedish American steeped in the Old World sensibility.

 German traditional costumes are wonderful! Here's some Tyrolean costumes with the distinctive wide-brimmed Tyrolean hat.

Good Lord! Is it possible that cowboy hats of the American West originated in Germany or Austria?

 We all know that a lot of American Christmas traditions started in Germany, but it's less well known that the same goes for Halloween. When I was a kid the stores were full of German Halloween dye-cuts like the one above. Wow! High art for a price that kids could afford!

Here in California there are stores that sell Halloween items all year 'round. I wonder if that exists in Germany?

German design (above) still influences Halloween in the U.S.

Boy, that country loves its witches!

I wonder if posters of traditional architecture are for sale over there?

There must be lots of old photos that would make interesting posters.

Pictures like this Austrian interior (above) would make great posters, too. Does anybody sell posters like this?

Thursday, March 12, 2015


I have a comfortable little house (above) in the suburbs and all my kids were raised here.

It has the usual amenities: books, TV, etc., etc.

And a well-stocked refrigerator; you gotta have that.

Yes, all in all it's been a good life.

That's why I can't understand what my grown-up kid told me over dinner last night. He said he needed a place to stay for a few months but that he didn't want to live here. I asked why...I mean, the rent here is free, and we like having him around...and he said that he'd never get anything done here. It's way too cozy.

"Too COZY???," I asked. "What's wrong with cozy?" Everything, he said. Everything here is soft and cushy and mushy and could spend years here without being aware that time had passed. A house like this could rob you of years of your life.

Yikes! Well, I felt I had to defend the honor of the house so I pushed him to be more specific.

DAD: "Let me see if I understand. You're saying you're suffocating here. The house is dulling your mind."

KID: "Well, yeah, sort of. I don't want to exaggerate."

DAD: "Hmmmm. Come to think of it, when you were a baby you were always trying to escape."

KID: "Well, sure. Freedom. Everybody wants that!"

DAD: "So with ferocious hounds at your feet you escaped the clutches of the evil parents."

KID: "You're taking it all wrong."

DAD: "No, I get it...If you were here you'd be in quicksand. It's a slow death where the mud and the grass fill your lungs (Cough! Cough!) and you can't breathe anymore. That's it, right?

KID: Well....I didn't mean to imply....

DAD: But it's like that, right!? Like the Sargasso Sea???"

KID: "The Sargasso Sea!!!?? What's that got to do with anything?"

DAD: "The Sargasso Sea...a timeless, smelly, weatherless morass of rotting ships mired in decaying seaweed. A sailor caught in that is never seen again. That's what you think this house is like!"

KID: "Not exactly. Look, I don't want to offend. Maybe it's your collection of cats!"

DAD: "Huh? What cats? I don't have any cats!!!"

KID: "Ah, but it's as if you had cats, even if you don't! And your false teeth..."

DAD: "What are you babbling about!!!!??? I don't have false teeth!!!"

KID: "Ah, but it's as if..."

DAD: "I know, I know. It's as if I had false teeth."

KID: "Look, suppose I lived here and I wanted to bring a girl over? I can't do that with you here!"

DAD: "Why not? I wouldn't bother you...oh, wait a minute..."

DAD: "Now I get it! You want make your room into a HIPPIE LOVE NEST! Why didn't you say so? Hey, that's all right with me. I'm a guy myself. You can talk to me about things like that."

KID: "Yuuuuch! Nobody wants to talk to their Dad about sex! "

DAD: "Oh, yeah...right. to your Mom about it then."

KID: "Yikes! That's disgusting! Dad, you're not getting what I'm saying."

KID: "I want to take risks! I want to take big risks without carrying a packed lunch and an extra sweater in case the weather turns bad."

KID: "I want to meet the people from the right side of the tracks and from the wrong side of the tracks."

KID: "I want to eat at the finest restaurants..."

KID "...and when my survival depends on it, I want to eat dirty scorpions from the Kalahari Desert."

DAD (REALIZING HE'S BEATEN): "Okay, all this talk is making me hungry. Let's see...I don't have any dirty scorpions..."

DAD: "...but I do have this half-eaten Doritos!"

KID: "Excellent! Let's eat!"