What I’m Reading Now, If Now Were About Two Years Ago

Paul Madonna’s fabulous book © 2007

I picked up Paul Madonna’s All Over Coffee a couple years back during a visit to San Francisco. Bought it at the fabled City Lights Bookstore in fact, right there on Columbus Avenue in North Beach. Historic store, historic neighborhood.

Madonna’s brush and pen and ink work is revelatory. I’ve never seen anyone capture both the subtleties and the power of light so well USING ONLY BLACK AND WHITE FOR PETE’S SAKE. How does he do it? Practice. And a great eye. And practice. He describes his learning process (and much more) in the book. I appreciate an artist who shares his process. It’s both encouraging (because since he wasn’t always that great, there may be hope for us mortals) and enlightening (ahh… so THAT’S how he did it!).

Paul Madonna © 2007

This book is a collection of work Paul did for the San Francisco Chronicle. Ostensibly, it’s a comic strip in which disembodied voices provide text to go with gorgeously rendered scenes of San Francisco, arguably the most scenic city in the U.S.

Madonna nails the feeling of San Fran, sometimes with just a clipped view between buildings, or the very top gables of an unmistakeably San Franciscan Edwardian mansion. It’s absolutely uncanny how good he is. All Over Coffee. Check it out.

My favorite one: a house on Ashbury and Page in the Haight (Paul Madonna ©2007)

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Shameless Plug for My Friend Sorgatz

Shameless is an overused word. Why do “plugs” always have to be described that way?? How about “unabashed?” Or “sincere?” “Useful?” “Worthwhile.” Let’s go with worthwhile.

Because this here is a worthwhile plug for my friend Mike Sorgatz, painter. He has a solo show opening Friday September 14, 6-9 p.m. at Figureworks, a gallery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn “dedicated to bringing you contemporary fine art that explores the human form.”

As Figureworks puts it “Michael’s paintings are immediately captivating by their vibrancy and playful abstraction. They keep one’s interest by discovering that they hold a whole world within them which is familiar to those living or walking throughout the New York City landscape.”

Also, they’re powerful and compelling and full of sound and movement. They explode from the center of the canvas, with light and shadow as thick as frosting. Check ’em out, and say hey to Mike for me. Because I’ll be out of town…

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Filed under art in new york, Art Shows, Artists, brooklyn, new york, openings

A Thank-You Postcard from Burning Man

Just got back from a fairly intense stay in the Nevada desert. Alkali dust, all the time, from an ancient sea bed filled with the pulverized shells of long-dead shellfish. Breathe that stuff, eat it, get coated with it like a sugar donut. That’s the way it is at Burning Man.

But after a period of acclimation, it can be a good thing. It got a lot better when Colleen and I got with the spirit of giving (one of the ten principles of The Burn) and started gifting these postcards to people.

“Thank You from Burning Man MMXII”

We printed up a couple hundred, stamped ’em, and encouraged people to write a thank you to someone back home or wherever, and we would see they were mailed. A little tip o’ the cap from Burning Man. Colleen’s suggestion, and a fine sentiment, to be sure, but I didn’t expect the reaction we got.

We were swamped. The first woman we met was hoping to send postcards back home, but had just missed one opportunity to do it. Then, boom. We showed up and she got her wish. Uncanny coincidences like that happen all the time at Burning Man. I conjured a root beer out of thin air once.

Another girl started to write a note home and began crying as she was doing it, big old tears running down her dusty cheeks. Foreigners flocked to us, ready to spread thanks around the globe. Kids sent thanks to parents, and parents to kids. It was sweet.

We sent a few, too (and saved a few extras), so you might see one soon. We were surprised to get quick reactions from a couple of folks who already received ours. The moral of the story is this: say thanks to people. Right now. Do it. They’ll appreciate it, and so might you.

… and a tip o’ the pith helmet from Mr. Bob Hope. Bob HOPE, ladies and gentlemen! Bob Hope!

Thanks for reading!

YOUR U.S. Snail Service, always at the ready….

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What I’m Reading Now Dept.: Mineshaft

Where did they go, all those underground comic books of yore? Well, many tanked. But R. Crumb kept it going with Weirdo for a while there. Art Spiegelman had Raw, but that was more artsy. Anyway, we have a new winner: Mineshaft, published by Everett Rand and Gioia Palmieri in North Carolina. They’re up to issue number 27, and from what I’ve seen, they’re getting better and better, featuring old timers like Crumb and newer masters like Christoph Mueller and Nina Bunjevac. Each issue is surprising and deep and worthwhile and nourishing. Check it out.

Latest issue of “Mineshaft”

by C. Mueller

by Nina Bunjevac

 

Early Mineshaft cover by R. Crumb

 

 

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“Who Will Save Us?” (a nice article by Stephanie Thompson)

(The following is a little write-up by Brooklyn arts reporter Stephanie Thompson on the recent show I have in Park Slope which ends Friday. Thanks, Steph!)

Who Will Save Us?

The Art of John Tebeau

It could be the bacon or the inviting open doors that draws one first into the new Dizzy’s Diner on the corner of President St. and Park Slope’s bustling 5th Ave. But once inside, the bold poster-style art that screams from the walls is the big star.

The arresting images by John Tebeau, up until July 27, immediately bring a warm smile of recognition followed by a giggle at the artist’s sly clever twists on the

“1978”

familiar. In the powerful illustrated montage, 1978, there is the full white-toothed smile and solid stand-up breasts of Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman, power bracelets braced and ready. There is Steve Martin, mouth and eyes open wide, an arrow through his head. There is Cap’n Crunch and the Play-Do primary-colored O-faced grin of Mr. Bill. There too are the gun-toting feather-haired girls of Charlie’s Angels, the Grease logo and John Belushi’s mug atop a “College” sweatshirt. There they all are and there we are, those of us who remember, brought back to a comfortable time and place, secure.

As a longtime illustrator and packaging designer, Mr. Tebeau clearly understands the power of icons and symbols to motivate emotions and drive people to action.

“I try to inspire or excite people with iconography, I want my art to be useful,” Mr. Tebeau said in the same earnest winking tone of his fabulously entertaining images. “If it makes somebody feel better or focuses them in a way, great, then it’s worked.”

Stroh’s, That Seventies Brew

And it has. The blue-skinned James Bond depiction, the purple-hued Duke Ellington, the orangey-red rendering of Star Trek’s Uhura, not to mention the Stroh’s beer can, all goose the diner-goer to stop mid-bite of bacon and reflect on the great motivational power of heroes, superheroes and icons from a certain place and time in history. Time past always seems better, more hopeful somehow. We can see the changes that artists make more easily with hindsight.

Mr. Tebeau’s work is inspired by artists Peter Max, Wes Wilson and Victor Moscoso whose bold posters reflected what he calls thejoyous optimism” of San Francisco in the fast-changing ‘60s and ‘70s.

By hearkening back to that time, Mr. Tebeau well captures that optimism and the necessity of bringing it back again.

“It’s easy to get distracted in life, especially the way it is now, with a lot of stimulus and not all of it good,” he said. For Mr. Tebeau personally and, he believes, universally, images and icons offer up necessary inspiration and focus to drive one’s intended life work.

“I see work as a form of salvation, although maybe that sounds too religious,” Mr. Tebeau said. “But ‘work’ is what you’re supposed to do in life. John D. Rockefeller said, ‘If you want the key to happiness, find something you do fairly well and do it with all your heart and soul.’”

As the regulated work world morphs more and more into unstructured freelance, necessitating greater self-motivation, Mr. Tebeau’s suggestion is actually faith-based: we need to trust and believe in a fair bit of divine intervention.

In Universe, Mr. Tebeau reflects the hand of God offering Adam an Ace of Hearts.

Divine Intervention

“It’s about good luck and love and the divine, about the unlikely opportunities and interventions that can come into your life that you need to seize and claim, that can help motivate you,” he said.

It is reflective of Mr. Tebeau’s own great joyous optimism that he believes this can happen to people, to anyone.

“If you focus on a vision of what you want, you can bring it to yourself, draw it to you…” he said.

As proof, he offers up the story of an investigative journalist who asked him for a rendering of his hero, Edward R. Murrow. After hanging the image over his

Murrow Five-Way

work space, the man went on to win three Edward R. Murrow awards.

Mr. Tebeau is commissioned for such work but also wants to inspire more widely with his images.

“Art doesn’t work if no one sees it,” Mr. Tebeau says, grateful extending thanks to Dizzy’s owner Matheo Pisciotta and his wife, Mary Fraioli.

The couple works with Park Slope-based art curating service Radar Curatorial to set up shows featuring local artists like Mr. Tebeau every three months at the new location on 5th Ave. as well as on the original location at 9th St. and 8th Ave.

“We have such amazing talent in Brooklyn, it’s great to support them,” Ms. Fraioli said.

Her husband agrees. “I say, ‘Buy art, save lives.’” Is the saving just of the starving artists, or is it ourselves, that is the question.

The couple has featured the art and music of staff as well as that of friends and neighbors since they first opened their doors in 1997, among those they gave their start the now well-renown photographer Lori Berkowitz.  More recently, they formalized the effort by hiring Michele Jaslow and Spring Hofeldt of Radar and offering wait-staff a 5% commission for any art they sell.

Visit Dizzy’s for the bacon, for sure, but think of buying some salve for the soul as well.

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Blast From Past Dept: “Want Some Bacon?”, a 1995 Sketchbook Piece Commemorating Pulp Fiction

Thanks to shoulder surgery, I’m posting reruns. Here’s a little chestnut from my sketchbook circa 1995, based on the infectious dialogue from Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. Enjoy!

Personality Goes a Long Way

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A quick note here: legendary illustrator and caricaturist Drew Friedman is featured in an art show at the Scott Eder Gallery in Brooklyn, running through May 31. Check it out. Friedman is a modern master of the medium.

* says Steve Brodner, one of the best political caricaturists in the biz

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