Thursday, December 31, 2009

Back to work

Well, now that the holidays are (finally) nearing an end, I'm free to work on some of my crap. I've managed to start about twenty different images and finish none, so I'm going full-steam ahead on a Jessica Rabbit that hasn't received any love for about two months, maybe more.

I'm also going to start talking about and showcasing pin-up work by some of the greats in the business. Most pin-up work done today is done by comic artists or otherwise childish realists for more-or-less pornographic purposes.

I'm of the mind that pornography is not a thing, per se, but a quality. An image of a naked man or women can have a pornographic quality to it while also possessing artistic qualities. Obviously the determination of whether it is "porn" or not is to what degree the work possesses both. Even the rankest amateur internet porn possesses artistic qualities. The people making it made decisions about lighting, sound, body positions, and camera angle. All of that is art. The end result is very basic art and exists primarily so someone can pull some pud to it, but the art is there.

All of my work has a pornographic element to it. If we define art as something within a work meant to communicate an idea, as I argued on my Candle in the Dark blog, then pornography is a work meant to elicit a sexual response. That means there is pornographic elements all over the place. My work is of sexy women, so of course pornography is a part of it. If I did nothing but still-lifes of fruit, then I think that then my work would have no porn in it.

Pin-up artists of old used their work to stretch some serious artistic muscle and to communicate ideas beyond just "hot chick." They wanted to communicate situations, character, events, sex, friendship, and many other ideas. Compare some of the best, Gil Elvgren and Greg Hildebrant, with one that's technically good but artistically void.

Gil Elvgren: A Warm Welcome. 1959. Oil on canvas.

Greg Hildebrandt

Carlos Diez

Notice a difference? Diez's type of work is for the Heavy Metal Magazine crowd (Fantasy and boobs?! There's nothing better!). Comic-oriented, heavily pornographic, technically good but lacking the texture and staging of the works by better artists. Whereas Hildebrandt and Elvgren made a character and story in an an image worth a thousand words, Diez's can be summed up with "hot, wet chick with big boobs."

I don't want to completely deride the removal of staging, since there are other pin-up artists that communicate everything they want to communicate through the image of the woman and sparse other elements. Hajime Sorayama, for example, has little staging but elevates his erotica to such an extreme point as to make it an artistic statement in and of itself.

Hajime Sorayama

The same can be said of Olivia De Berardinis. She's far lower on the eroto-meter than Sorayama, but remains artistically dense.

Olivia De Berardinis

I LOVE the early pin-up work. Elvgren or Alberto Vargas. They had a sense of erotica but also a sense of artistic creation. It's arousing, but entertaining. Modern pinup certainly has the arousing part down, but is so devoid of artistic merit that it just stops being interesting once the erotic novelty wears off. There's no playfulness, no comedy, no story. The woman in the image is just that, an image. She is nothing but a body to get off to. The greats recognized an almost Grecian level of beauty to the human form, and you see this in some of their truly classical works, like this one by Zoe Mozert,

Or this one by Gil Elvgren

There's so much there that it's breathtaking. This is art. This is what I want to do, what I want to see, and what I want to talk about. I hope that more artists step up to produce this level of work, instead of just falling into the easy money possible from pornographic garbage.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

In Memoriam: Roy Disney.

I haven't been doing much blogging, what with the onset of the holiday season, but I had to mention this. Perhaps it was overshadowed by the death of Britney Murphey, but a death I consider more important is that of Roy Disney. Son of Roy O. Disney and nephew to Walt Disney, Roy was intimately involved with the workings of Disney Corp. from an early age.

What I think Roy will be remembered for is understanding the vision of his father and especially of his uncle. He understood that they were businessmen, but also artists. They wanted to create great things, be it movies for the ages or amusement parks that didn't have dirty carnies wandering about. The last two times Disney lost its way, Roy was on the front line fighting those who wanted to destroy it.

Now it's not that these guys were bad guys. They didn't specifically desire the destruction of Disney. It's just that they were suits-&-ties. Men who got to where they were via well-tread paths and connections, and really had no specific skills. This infection (and trust me, it is an infection), is somewhat unavoidable. As a company grows, the ethos that started with the company becomes diluted. The original guys with all the talent either die or cannot watch over every aspect of the company.

Inevitiably, a suit with an MBA gets hired. And since he has no skills, and knows that he has no real skills, he will surround himself with other skill-free people to ensure that he's never found out. Thus, the infection spreads. You can see this growth of suits-&-ties in many corporate stories. Worldcom, IBM, Disney, all American car companies, etc. It's a business story as old as business. And Roy was there to try and stop Disney Corp. from falling into the same trap.

First he led a shareholder revolt that installed Michael Eisner and brought about the Disney Renaissance. After Eisner slowly but surely lead the company into the artistic crapper, I'm left to wonder how much of the renaissance was Roy's doing, but I'll give Eisner the benefit of the doubt.

Roy was an immense stabilizing force in Disney. He always had his eye on the art, and that resulted in movies that Eisner himself would have never produced, like Fantasia 2000. Disney is incredibly lucky that they now have the guys from Pixar sprinkled throughout the corporation, hopefully providing the same focus and skill that men like Disney once provided.

If Roy had died only a few years ago, I would have lamented that he died with little hope that Disney would ever return to the lofty artistic and productive heights of its golden era and the new renaissance. But, very happily, he died now. He died with a new era of Disney just beginning to stretch its legs. The merger with Pixar and the production of Princess and the Frog must have put his heart at ease, and I'm happy about that.

Rest in peace, Roy, your work was not in vain. The company you love, I think, is safe for the time being.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Betty Boop Film Class Part 8

Otzi08 Has been kind enough to upload one of the few Betty Boop cartoons not available on YouTube; the tragically dated Teacher's Pest. I'm jumping back in time for this one, since we're already up to Minnie the Moocher, but the uploading of it was a big enough event to warrant a new film class post.

It's alarming to see how old this cartoon feels. The comic timing, the staging, the animation, the voice, everything seems old. Strangely, it feels older than some of Bimbo's earlier cartoons, like Dizzy Dishes.

Much like most of Fleischer's earliest cartoons, it seems to be ripped straight from Vaudeville, with most of the action built around allowing song-and-dance numbers. The overall staging has not yet started to delve into the surreal, instead simply using a school day as an excuse for aforementioned song & dance. Still, though, he's using cartoons to produce moving images that are simply fun to look at, and that's the only reason they exist. Like Bimbo snoring; there's no reason to have ten seconds of the table walking around other than that it looks funny. This also allows him to come up with a funny animation sequence and then repeat it. The audience doesn't notice the repeated sequence of frames because they're so damned weird to begin with that the eye actually appreciates the extra time to contemplate what it's seeing.

Furthermore, while the staging is archaic, the animation is anything but. It's substantially more advanced than what was seen in Dizzy Dishes. The constructs are still a bit wobbly, but they're much firmer. None of the grotesque fluctuations seen in earlier cartoons, where the character looks vastly different from scene to scene. To see what I mean, bring up Dizzy Dishes and freeze any given frame. Then do the same for Teacher's Pest. Each frame stands alone much better, and this cartoon is less than a year younger.