Fine Cartoon Art

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Posts Tagged ‘fine cartoon art’

What I’m Reading Now if Now Were Two Years Ago

Posted by jtebeau on September 15, 2012

Paul Madonna’s fabulous book

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.


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What I’m Reading Now Dept.: MINESHAFT!

Posted by jtebeau on August 15, 2012

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 Crumb

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Posted by jtebeau on July 27, 2012

(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

“!978” acrylic on canvas

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 70s 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


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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Drew Friedman, Caricaturist With “Chops, Passion and Sweat*”

Posted by jtebeau on April 22, 2012

A quick note here: legendary illustrator and caricaturist Drew Friedman is featured in an art show at the Scott Eder Gallery in Brooklyn, with an opening next week. DREW FRIEDMAN, you guys! Opening reception is April 27. Be there! I won’t be, for the love of Pete. I’ll be in New Orleans. Dang it.


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

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Fine Cartoonist-Artist Dan Clowes and Another Movie Deal….

Posted by jtebeau on November 24, 2010

He hit yon big screen a few years ago with Ghost World, and Daniel Clowes might do again with his latest book “Wilson.”

As reported by the blog Graphic Policy, it was “announced yesterday on, WILSON, Daniel Clowes’ critically acclaimed and New York Times bestselling original graphic novel, has secured a film deal at Fox Searchlight with Alexander Payne attached.” (full story is here)

Wilson, by Daniel Clowes

This is good news if you dig Clowes, and perhaps a chance at redemption after the ambitious but somewhat disjointed  Art School Confidential, the last effort to translate his work to the screen. At any rate, Clowes has been doing outstanding cartoon work for decades now, his stories often laid out like Hollywood story boards. It’s good to see him succeed, and I’m still surprised “Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron” hasn’t been adapted. David Lynch should be all over that one.


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Crumb, the Next Generation: Sophie’s Show Opens in NYC

Posted by jtebeau on November 15, 2010

Sophie Crumb’s first solo art show opened this month at DCKT Contemporary here in Manhattan. I went with Mike “Art in Brooklyn” Sorgatz and we took it in. I was curious to see what this young woman was doing artistically, the daughter of two well-known neurotic artists, and I was particularly motivated because I felt I knew her since she was a little girl. By gad, her dad Robert has been documenting the [actually fascinating] minutiae of her life (as well as everything in HIS life) through his cartoons for decades now. On the verge of 30, little Sophie (love that name; the goddessness of it and all) is all growed up. I wanted to see what she was producing.


Sophie at nine, by Robert & Aline



"Sophie Manson" by Sophie herself

Her work is good. She’s got skills, especially in the ink-and-watercolor department, something I really admire. She comments on life’s gruesome and absurd truthiness, not unlike her folks. The stuff of hers that I saw was less autobiographical, though – more akin to the paintings her uncle Maxon did. An outsider looking in, like Tocqueville or Magaret Mead.


The scene at the opening was good. A lively mix of odd comic geeks and LES/Bushwick hipster-artist types. Bottles of Miller on ice. Many pieces sold. Go get ’em Soph’.


Uncle Max and an original oil of his

"La Vraie Vie Des People" by Sophie (2010)

"Snooki Gets Booky" by Sophie (2010)

Dad Robert (in cap) at Sophie's opening (courtesy Slum Goddess)

The show runs till December 30, 2010 at DCKT Contemporary in Manhattan.

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Wayne Thiebaud: This Week’s Fine Cartoon Artist

Posted by jtebeau on October 11, 2010


"Lemon Cake" (1964) by Wayne Thiebaud


I like looking at Wayne Thiebaud‘s paintings. I mean, seriously – how could you not? The colors are vibrant as the sun shining into a Laguna Beach bakery window at 10 a.m. And the subject matter is often dessert. What’s not to like?

But one time someone said to me, “What is there to his work? What’s it ABOUT?” Well, it’s about still-lifes. And light. And beaches. And peace.

His colors are hyper-real. His subjects are outlined, and often “haloed” in warm tones. Thiebaud’s art is rooted in the fundamentals of cartooning: solid composition, strong lines and bold colors. And that makes sense when you know his back-story.

Thiebaud grew up out west and in his teens briefly worked at the Disney studios. In the Army he drew a comic strip for the Sacramento base newspaper. He also worked as a cartoonist for the Rexall Drug Company in Los Angeles. He wound up teaching art at the little UC campus in Davis, CA, about as far from the Aht World as you could be. This allowed him to do his thing, which was basically representational pop art. His signature maneuver is slathering the paint onto the canvas like frosting (which is at times only fitting), creating what former student and current Director of the Yale University Art Gallery Jock Reynolds calls “the most tactile and sensuous visual compositions imaginable.”

That’s what it’s about, my friend. And Mr. Thiebaud’s still doing it, painting twice a day at age 90.


"Bakery Case" by Wayne Thiebaud



"Fields and Furrows" by Wayne Thiebaud


The New York Times ran a nice piece about him recently. Another nice piece:


"Lemon Meringue Pie" by W. Thiebaud


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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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Fine Cartoon Illuminated Manuscripting in 9 Easy Steps

Posted by jtebeau on June 8, 2010

Recently I was commissioned to make a little sign. A simple phrase, in convenient 5″ by 7″ frame-able form. Step one was getting the phrase: “Rejoice Evermore.” Done. The client took care of that.

Step two was finding a suitable font. I used one called Blackmoor out of an ancient Letraset reference manual I’ve had for years.

Step three: Sketching out “the look.” Good old sketchbook. If those pages could talk….

The client gave major leeway on this. He wanted me to do my take of an ‘illuminated manuscript’ look, but not too ‘religious.’ I get that. I wanted it to feel joyous, of course, but a bit more organic and less stiff than some of them you see. And given the small scale, I couldn’t be TOO detailed. I went with bold lettering and a simple vine for the organic flavor around the edge, as a border.

Step four: Sketching it onto nice, thick illustration board and begin inking. I used a Rapidograph pen with India ink for this.

Step five: Finish inking and choose appropriate colors. Obviously I would to go with something warm like yellow and orange. But I wanted something organic, too, because the client likes nature (hence a vibrant green). And I chose to do the letters in reflective gold to make it more… PROFOUND!

Step six: Paint the background. I always work from front to back, a habit of my silk-screening days….

Step seven: Paint the letters gold. This was Liquitex “Antique Gold”. Good stuff. Great look.

Step eight: Paint the border… then… jazz up the background. I went with a funky sort of sunburst look. Sort of psychedelic, sort of… well… joyous!

Step nine: Black outlines on the vines and text. It wouldn’t be cartoon art without the black lines, now would it?

If you’re interested in commissioning a neat little piece like this (or big ‘un), let me know:

Thank you, Alan Janesch, for the cool gig.

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