Fine Cartoon Art

exaggerated, in a good way

Archive for September, 2010

Justin Bua: Fine Cartoon Artist of the Week

Posted by jtebeau on September 19, 2010

“Jazz Trio” by Justin Bua

In the mid-90s I drove a van out to California and ended up moving into the top floor of a large, drafty Victorian house in San Francisco that had made it through two major earthquakes and a fire. She was a survivor, and she swayed when the damp west wind screamed over the hill at Alamo Square, blasting down Grove Street and boom, smack into the side of 640 Laguna: Ol’ Wobbly. My room was large, and I took full advantage of all that wall space by letting my inner 13-year old decorate it as he saw fit. That meant posters, baby, and plenty of ’em.

San Francisco is the legendary home of the “rock poster” movement of the 1960s and 70s, and I figured I’d get my mitts on a few of those. Reprints, yes, but the originals were pretty pricey, so I kept looking. At one of the 1,500 stores with posters on Haight Street (lots of mushroom posters, people, LOTS of mushroom posters) I found something that knocked me out: a collection by an artist I’d never seen before. This alone was unusual.

I look at art, illustrations, cartoons and all types of graphic design constantly. CONSTANTLY. I soak it up, noticing it all even when I’m not paying attention. For something to catch my eye, overloaded as it is like Mr. Creosote in the Monty Python flick just before he eats the dessert wafer, well… a poster would have to be pretty good. These posters were excellent. The composition, the colors, the mood, even the paper they were printed on – everything was top-notch. I was delighted. I was mesmerized. I had to have one. Fortunately they were in my price range, which was just about big enough to squeeze a gnat through in those days. Man, it was a drag being that broke. The upside was having plenty of free time and all those BYO parties with other budget-constricted neo-bohemian types, but man…. Being broke in a city that swank could be a bummer. The best of times/worst of times, fer sher.

Anyway, I got the poster, and savored the purchase. “Jazz Trio” by Justin Bua. It called to me partly because I had jazz trio on the brain. My roommates and I were into seeing the Charlie Hunter Trio play in SF around that time Yes, they played The Jazz. In those days you could catch them all the time at Cafe du Nord on Market Street for about $5. A deal, to be sure. Plus, we could walk there. Frugal entertainment, I love ya!

Bua is solidly based in the cartoon idiom, and given the formidable quality of his work and of the production of the poster, it felt like fine art to me. It was lyrical, moody and surprised me with its originality and wit. Bua’s an “urban artist.” I know, I know. I don’t like the moniker either, but he comes out of the hip-hop tradition of art. Urban? Have it your way, Dude. In the old days art which affectionately featured city folks was called the Ash Can School. Bua seems influenced by guys like Ernie Barnes, Archibald Motley, Jr., and I’d say a little Thomas Hart Benton too, both accepted as fine artists. The lyrical, exaggerated figures, the rich colors, the obvious fascination with people and what they do: Bua, Benton and Motley all the way.

Check out these dance scenes, one by each artist, and you’ll see what I mean.

“The Twist” by Thomas Hart Benton

"Nightlife" by Archibald Motley

“Nightlife” by Archibald Motley

“Sugar Shack” by Ernie Barnes

“1981” by Justin Bua

Take a look at more of Bua’s work here. And that poster? I’ve still got it rolled up and stored away, ready to be tacked up again in my man cave. Or should I say manchild cave, covered in posters, to be sure.


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A Mighty Fine Cartoon Art Show… and How You Can Sponsor It

Posted by jtebeau on September 9, 2010

If you’re not already familiar with, you ought to be, and here’s a good way to get your feet wet.

Al Jaffee, the genius behind Mad magazine’s fold-ins, snappy answers to stupid questions and magnificent what-if inventions is getting a show at the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art in New York. MoCCA is looking for help funding the exhibition and using Kickstarter to get it. You can donate as little as $1, but a little more gets you a little something.

  • Donate $10 and you’re listed as a “backer” on the MoCCA website and at the exhibition
  • $25 will get you a limited-edition poster signed by Al
  • $50, and they’ll also throw in a copy of Al’s new autobiography and a limited edition T-shirt
  • $100 and you’ll get the exhibition VIP tour with Al and the curators
  • $500 ups the ante with a VIP dinner with Al and the curators
  • $1000 and you get into heaven, no questions asked. Oh, and a MoCCA lifetime membership

Writer(s) Wil Forbis said Al will “go down in history as our greatest American.” Screw Franklin, Washington, Shatner and those other pikers. Support Al Jaffe today. Riiiight HERE.

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Drawing Things to You… With Art

Posted by jtebeau on September 3, 2010

Art possesses power. Magical power sometimes. An example: Robert Crumb is on record as stating that he could draw certain [thick-limbed, troublesome] women into his life simply by drawing such specimens in his sketchbook. (I wonder why the same word is used to mean both creating an image and bringing things forth: draw a picture, draw some water, draw trouble, etc.)

Crumb had to rethink the practice, as it complicated his already crazy life to proportions he couldn’t readily deal with. Ah, the woes of a fine cartoon artist. He created a piece featuring his Mr. Natural character summoning a troublesome lass named Devil Girl in a work that metaphorically referenced his own powers to draw such women.

"Mr. Natural Conjures the Devil Girl" by Robert Crumb

Anyway, I bring this up because as a present for my wife, I made what we dubbed a “spell painting.” She listed a few things that she’d like to have in her life (dogs, good music, a lively social life with friends she loves, etc.), and I created an artistic representation of these things (in a cartoonish style, of course), with a portrait of her in the middle. So it’s sort of like a vision board that way. Or the inside of a jr. high school locker door….

Colleen's Spell Painting

Behold the power of the image with intention! She’s currently taking piano lessons and this week her teacher (a cool dude in the East Village) is having her work on Stevie Wonder’s “Ma Cherie Amour”, the music I featured in the top right of the composition. Colleen writes about it here on her blog.

One of her associates (“associates??” as if she’s in the mob or something?) insists that I now do my own spell painting, so they can hang together, in our apartment. I’ll do it, but by God, I’m going to be careful. I don’t want to end up with a Devil Girl. Already got my hands full.

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