BOOK REVIEW: Public Domain, Vol. 1 by Chip Zdarsky

Public Domain Vol. 1Public Domain Vol. 1 by Chip Zdarsky
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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This isn’t a superhero comic, but a meta-superhero comic. The central premise is similar to that of the popular novel “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay,” by Michael Chabon, which is to say it’s about how comic book artists historically made work-a-day salaries while others (actors, executives, producers, etc.) became astoundingly rich off the creations of those artists. In this case, it’s the father of two middle-aged sons, one of whom has a gambling problem.

It’s a fine story, and the character development is well done. Of the two sons, there’s one that’s incredibly likable and the other makes you want to punch him in his stupid face, and – as a twist – the likable one is the man-child and the straightlaced one is the jerk.

If you’re interested in a story about comic book justice, you should check it out.


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Andy Warhol Limerick

There was an artist named Andy Warhol
whose paintings sure enough weren't for all.
Like a flimflam man
he copied soup cans,
and viewers saw [not Campbell, but] Warhol.

BOOK REVIEW: Artpreneur by Miriam Schulman

Artpreneur: The Step-by-Step Guide to Making a Sustainable Living from Your CreativityArtpreneur: The Step-by-Step Guide to Making a Sustainable Living from Your Creativity by Miriam Schulman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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Release Date: January 31, 2023

This book is about half pep talk on selling one’s art at a higher price and half guide to marketing and selling art. “Pep talk” isn’t meant to diminish what the book does. First of all, the author does offer extensive justification for higher pricing, both from the body of research and from anecdotal experiences. Secondly, this is a pep talk that needs to be delivered and is the most important function of the book, by far. That doesn’t mean the book doesn’t do a fine job with the marketing and selling bits, but there are so many books available on that subject.

The book is directed toward graphic artists, though some of book’s message is of relevance to musicians and poets as well. (Perhaps that’s why I found the pep talk part so important, because it’s broadly germane to artists, whereas sales are quite different for media where huge numbers of copies are made versus one-of-a-kind works.)

If you’re a struggling artist or would like to avoid being one, this book is worth reading.

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BOOK REVIEW: The Madman’s Gallery by Edward Brooke-Hitching

The Madman's GalleryThe Madman’s Gallery by Edward Brooke-Hitching
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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Out: March 7, 2023 [Some editions may be out in your area]

The Madman’s Gallery presents a selection of bizarre, curious, macabre, grotesque, surreal, and psychedelic artworks with essays offering insight into the background of each painting or sculpture, including information on influences and what is known about what motivated these atypical acts of creativity. Not all of the artworks are the product of mental illness – though some are and when something is known about the artist’s mental state it’s mentioned. They are all just, in some way, preternaturally creative or unconventional.

I was pleased that the book exposed me to a new selection of art. There were only a few pieces with which (as a neophyte) I was familiar. These included: Van Eyck’s “The Arnolfini Portrait,” Bosch’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights,” Fuseli’s “The Nightmare,” Gentileschi’s “Judith Slaying Holofernes,” the Olmec heads, and Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory.” There were other well-known paintings that were referenced because they were influenced by or had something in common with the artwork under discussion.

The book disabused me of the notion that the latter half of the twentieth century art was the golden age of freakish art (though that era is well represented with discussions of Dada, Surrealism, performance art, etc.) It’s interesting to learn how much wild and weird art was being producing in previous centuries, given how little of it made it through the filter of history to a general audience.

There are many recurring themes throughout the book: death, blasphemy, fertility, demons, etc. But the latter portion of the book features some new sources of bizarre art, including hoaxes, forgeries, and AI art.

If you’re interested in art history, and particularly the weird side of the subject, I’d highly recommend you read this book.


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DAILY PHOTO: Sculpture at Jerman Beach, Bali

Taken on New Years Eve 2022 in Kuta, Bali
At sunset, Pantai Jerman

DAILY PHOTO: Strange Statues of the Sacred Monkey Forest

The Great Roundness [Free Verse]

As in Hokusai’s Great Wave,
I watch waves roll over,
before a volcanic cone.

Though these waves are
small & close,
they are perfectly rounded.

And though the distant volcano
looms large over the shore waves,
it has perfect symmetry.

I feel the roundness
&
simultaneous devastating power
of both elements at once.

BOOK REVIEW: Beauty: A Very Short Introduction by Roger Scruton

Beauty: A Very Short IntroductionBeauty: A Very Short Introduction by Roger Scruton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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This isn’t so much a book about what beauty is as where we find it, and in what kind of traits we find it, including the question of whether all that is aesthetically pleasing is beauty (or is beauty one element among multiple sources of aesthetic pleasure.) Scruton proposes four major locations of beauty: the human form (and face,) nature, everyday objects, and art. Each of these four has its own chapter (ch. 2-5,) and those chapters form the core of the book. Other chapters examine related questions such as: whether (/how) we can judge beauty, whether it means anything to say someone has good or bad taste, and how / why we find aesthetic appeal in places often consider devoid of beauty (e.g. the profane, the kitsch, the pornographic, etc.)

I found this book to be well-organized and thought-provoking. I liked that the author used a range of examples from literature and music as well as from the graphic arts. (Though the latter offer the advantage of being able to present the picture within the book — which the book often does.) I felt that the questions were framed nicely and gave me much to think about.

Some readers will find the occasional controversial opinion presented gratuitously to be annoying, as well as the sporadic blatant pretentiousness. I forgave these sins because the overall approach was analytical and considerate.

If you’re looking for an introductory guide to the philosophy of aesthetics and beauty, this is a fine book to read. [Note: there is a VSI guide (from the same series) on aesthetics that (I assume) has a different focus (though I haven’t yet read it.)]


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