Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Political Posters

Shepard Fairey is a graphic designer who has produced a series of posters for Barack Obama. Fairey holds a BA in Illustration from the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), which he received in 1992. Fairey comes out of the skateboarding scene, and initially became known for his André the Giant Has a Posse sticker campaign. Fairey markets his work through his online company Obey Giant, where he sells posters, stickers, clothing, and other assorted goodies.

Fairey's Obama posters have been particularly hot items as of late. Of course, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and these posters have been widely imitated; or, to be more accurate, widely satirized, as we will soon see below.

Fairey's graphic style is heavily influenced by Russian and other communist propaganda posters of the early to mid-twentieth century. Of course, the fact that the Obama posters resemble popular images of Vladimir Lenin and Che Guevara is of no concern to most folks on the left-- for many, these guys are their heroes! That being said, these posters make a strong visual statement, then and now.

Another groovy poster, by the artist known as The Mac.

This image of Hillary Clinton leans more towards the Chinese poster influence. Some of the Obama posters are picking up on this look as well.

With a heavy dose of irony, Bill Gates is even portrayed in this manner.

Of course, there are those on the right that can't resist having some fun with all of this. Talk about being thrown a softball!

I looked for some McCain posters-- I couldn't even find any. I think that the Republicans have gone into hibernation. One would assume that once the campaign gets into high gear, we will be seeing some McCain posters, although I would be willing to bet that they will not look like the posters we have been looking at-- look for an American flag motif, etc. Then again, to those on the far right, McCain might just as well be running as a Democrat, so who knows!

In case you have been wondering who I am supporting for president, I'm voting for Clinton. No, not Hillary, George Clinton!

(image created by yours truly)

So, come this fall, don't forget to vote. Or not.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Work in progress

This is a piece that I have been working on lately. It started as a drawing in my sketchbook. As I have mentioned previously, I have been trying to make a point to work in a more spontaneous and intuitive manner lately. Twenty years of commercial illustration has not been that easy to shake off, but I have been working at it.

So anyway, this sketch was done back in late March, and I decided to use it as the basis for a painting. My art teacher gig keeps me really busy, and I do not have a lot of time and/or energy outside of work. Regardless, I do try to keep something going, so I have been slowly picking away at this painting. Steps taken so far: I sketched in the composition with a dark green colored pencil (a more or less arbitrary color); went over the drawing with black paint; painted over the whole canvas with red; re-established the drawing, again with black paint; and did a quick rough-in of the background.

So, now all I have to do is find some time to move this thing forward. Looks like another busy weekend; plus, the school year is almost over so things have been kind of crazy lately. I'm really looking forward to working on this painting, though. When I make some progress, I'll probably post some more pictures of it-- stay tuned....

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Thoth Tarot

A few months ago, I was wandering around at a Barnes & Noble bookstore, and found myself in the metaphysical section. Something caught my eye—it was a number of different tarot decks on display. I picked up a few decks and took a look at the enigmatic pictures on the box covers. Two of the decks I looked at were the Rider-Waite deck, and the Thoth Tarot. From an artistic perspective, I was particularly drawn to the art on the cover of the Thoth deck. Although fascinated, I did not make a purchase.

(From the Rider-Waite deck)

Some weeks passed, and I found my thoughts coming back to these strange cards. I did some research on the Internet. I discovered that the two decks I had looked at were, in fact, two of the most notable tarot decks. The Rider-Waite deck (created in 1910 by mystic Arthur Edward Waite) is arguably the most influential of any tarot deck; it has been the inspiration for a great many other decks, and has really become, in large part, the standard in terms of meaning and interpretation.

The Thoth Tarot is a tarot deck designed by the notorious and colorful British occultist, Aleister Crowley (1875-1947), and was illustrated by Lady Frieda Harris. The Thoth deck is very different from the Rider-Waite, and is significantly more complex, both visually and in terms of its esoteric meaning. The creation of this deck took five years, from 1938 to 1943. Unfortunately, neither Crowley nor Harris lived to see the deck in print—it was not published until 1969.

Becoming increasingly intrigued, I purchased a Rider-Waite and a Thoth deck. Initially interested mainly in the cards for their artwork, I soon found the tarot to be thoroughly fascinating. My intent here is not to give a detailed explanation of what tarot is about (there is a ton of stuff all over the Internet). I am simply, in keeping with the eclectic content of my blog, presenting another intriguing facet of the world of art.

The art of the Thoth Tarot features a combination of psychological archetypes, occult symbology, and a generally modernist style (note the cubist-like appearance of The Hermit and The Tower). Here are a few examples of some of the more visually stunning cards (I have left off the borders of the cards, to focus strictly on the art):

(click on images for a larger view)

The Fool

The Hanged Man

The Hermit

The Hierophant

The Magus

The Magus (alternate)

The Magus (alternate)

The Tower