Elwood Smith – Today’s Dagwood

by Kim Steele

 

elwoodsworld

 

Elwood H. Smith is an illustrator who speaks a language that appeals to various strata of our population.  I can remember my father laughing out loud at the comics. I have read The New York Times for thirty-five years, and they deign to include the ‘comics’ for it’s low brow aesthetic.   That is fine with me, but there is some humor lost here.  Dagwood is the spirit of Elwood Smith – simple, to the point and under the radar. He was born in Alpena, Michigan on May 23, 1941. Smith studied art at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts and the Institute of Design at IIT in Chicago.

 

As a child he poured over the Sunday comics in the Detroit Free Press. “I spent hours studying the colorful halftone images. I remember comparing the cartoonists’ drawing skills, separating the great ones from the lesser ones. Another rich source of art flowing into our household was The Saturday Evening Post.

 

The magazine featured cartoons by the likes of John Gallagher and Henry Syverson (my two favorites) but nothing excited me as much as the arrival of a new Saturday Evening Post cover illustrated by Norman Rockwell. It wasn’t until I met my high school art teacher, Nancy Boyer Feindt, that I stretched beyond my narrow, but carefully constructed world of art. My parents weren’t familiar with the arts but they were genuinely supportive of my determination to be an artist and, later on, my desire to play the guitar. My father worked as a foundry foreman in a factory. He built my first electric guitar with wood supplied by his pattern maker.”  Clearly, he  had a family of supportive parents.

 

Ben Day & the Zipatones: The band’s other members were Bill Plympton, Mark Alan Stamaty and Elwood Smith (right)

Ben Day & the Zipatones: The band’s other members were Bill Plympton, Mark Alan Stamaty and Elwood Smith (right)

 

After spending eight years learning typography and design as an art director for a small publishing company and several advertising agencies, Elwood began his career as a full-time illustrator, following his career as a guitar player.  Actually, Smith was torn between art and music. He moved after this period into the business arena, “I was a poor fit for the corporate world.”  Smith even contracted an ulcer. He spent some time in Chicago sharing a space with the noted illustrator, Slug Signorino, and then moved to New York City.

 

Bad Yolks, illustration by Elwood Smith

Bad Yolks, illustration by Elwood Smith

 

When I moved to New York, I was stimulated by all the illustrators I met at parties & art openings. Many of them were heroes, like Seymour Chwast, Milton Glazer, Paul Davis, Ed Sorel and Marshall Arisman. It was a heady time hanging out with highly creative illustrators like Guy Billout, Steven Guarnaccia and Lou Brooks; and designers like Michael Doret and Chris Austopchuk. The people and the energy of New York City were crucial to my growth as an illustrator during the five years I spent living there.”

This was a grand era of design in the United States. Paul Rand was aging and Pentagram from London were doing amazing work in graphic design; Milton Glaser (whom I met) was doing with ‘Push Pin Studios’ remarkable posters, and Massimo Vignelli, who died this year, was redesigning the New York City subway map that is still in use today.

This author, doing his best work, had the opportunity to work with some of these greats, many of whom emanated from the Design program at Yale, specifically Bennett and Elton Robinson.

 

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Despite Smith’s vast talent for humor and his illustrative ability as a child, he spent two years at a mediocre art school in Chicago, “I attended some evening classes at Chicago’s Institute of Design. Mostly, though, I’ve learned through observation, imitation and gobs of elbow grease.”  He and his wife Maggie Pickard,  who passed away recently of pancreatic cancer after thirty years of marriage, moved to Rhinebeck, NY in the early eighties.

 

As a child, and common with gifted ones, Elwood Smith did not feel he fit into the peers around him. Elwood drew from an early age, and received support from his parents.  Smith drew as means of acceptance. His high school supported Smith’s talents, when we had art class in school, and encouraged him to attend an commercial art school. His work is reminiscent of Edward Gorey without the  mystical aspect, and much more celebratory.  Smith’s gift is simple straight humor with characterization of personas. Smith ‘formulated a style [when he arrived in New York],’ he said. “I tried to converge my various influences into one, and what resulted was a very cartoony thing done with tight cross-hatching.” What he called his ‘first New York stylistic incarnation’ was, however, noted for its very mannered, very stiff line accented with wit. “I got work right away because art directors could see something that was a little different.” There is an ease of character here, that defies the usual ‘artist’ angst deal.

 

New York Times illustration by Elwood Smith

New York Times illustration by Elwood Smith

 

Elwood Smith is an award-winning, internationally known illustrator whose work has graced the pages and covers of TIME, Newsweek, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, American Heritage, Forbes and Fortune among other publications. It has been featured in advertising campaigns for SONY, Inglenook Wine, Ameristar, Land’s End, The Wisconsin Humane Society, TGI Fridays, Seitsema, Praxair, QVC, Gametek, Samsung, Mrs. Field’s Cookies and many others.

Elwood Smith’s wife and “creative partner” Maggie Pickar, said on his website, elwoodsworld.com:

“When a new job comes in, Elwood usually gets so excited that his head splits open like a ripe cantaloupe. The ideas & drawings spill out into the project like sour cream on a baked potato. Like Reddi-whip on a hot fudge sundae.”   A very loving and touching characterization that inspires creativity for young illustrators.

 

From Drawger: My Latest for the New York Times Science Section
Illustration by Elwood Smith, from Drawger.com, for The New York Times Science Section

Illustration by Elwood Smith, from Drawger.com, for The New York Times Science Section

Howdy, Drawgerites-posted: 

I‘ve been away from Drawger for much too long. I’m in the process of moving to Great Barrington, MA from Rhinebeck, NY and I might not post often until the dust settles, but I’ll check in here as often as possible. It’s been one hell of a roller coaster since Maggie died on March 25th of last year. So much has happened since that day in February when we found out she had Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer. I still can’t believe she’s gone. I look forward to the move to my new home. There’s much more to tell, but I won’t bore those who’ve taken the time to peek at this entry. I’ll add more to the saga in upcoming posts.

My favorite gig these  is creating art for the New York Times Science Section. The marvelous art director is Peter Morance, someone I’ve known since my earliest days in New York City. The editor & writer is Dennis Overbye and the two of them are an illustrator’s dream team. At least they are for me. Here’s my latest illustration for the column.

Best Wishes, E

 

Cats, Cowboys, Clowns + Cars, illustration by Elwood Smith

Cats, Cowboys, Clowns + Cars, illustration by Elwood Smith

 

 

 

 

Italy: Non abbastanza monete nella fontana…

by Sally Wilson

 

La Dolce Vita, and the Trevi Fountain

La Dolce Vita, and the Trevi Fountain

Non abbastanza monete nella fontana…not enough coins in the fountain!

Italy has the highest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world, currently 75. In a country which bleeds culture, history is an irreplaceable natural resource. We have seen first-hand that Italy is crumbling. To the rescue come some legendary names in fashion helping to revitalize, preserve and embrace Italian landmarks. Unfortunately, the U.S. has only 22 sites on the list, and 12 tentative sites.

Agrigento, Italy, photograph by Kim Steele

Agrigento, Valley of the Temples, Sicily, Italy, photograph by Kim Steele

From The Independent, July 2014:

“It’s supposed to be the gold standard for conservation. But is Unesco’s World Heritage project harming the very places it seeks to protect?”

“Since its inception, 37 years ago, Unesco World Heritage has become a global brand whose seal is slapped on the planet’s most precious places. The Taj Mahal is on the list, alongside the Pyramids of Giza and the Grand Canyon. These are the man-made and natural wonders considered to be of such outstanding value to humanity that their importance transcends borders, politics – and even economics. They are deemed deserving of the ultimate layer of protection – to be placed beyond the reach of polluters, developers, looters, bombers, and the ravages of time. The World Heritage seal is a guarantee of preservation.”

“At least that’s the perception. But now many within the conservation community are convinced Unesco is failing. They say the moribund organization is teetering on its once sound foundations as its principles and priorities crumble under the weight of bureaucracy and outside influence. The World Heritage emblem has come to represent a grandiose marketing tool – fodder for “things to see before you die” coffee-table books.”

“Not without controversy, UNESCO continues adding to the list, and donors filled with cultural/geographic patrimony do step forward. The history of benevolence with respect to the icons of Italy is interesting, not enough, continuing, albeit urgent. As if there wasn’t sufficient reason to buy Italian, history, quality, design, timlessness.”

Siracusa, Italy, photograph by Kim Steele

Siracusa, Italy, photograph by Kim Steele

From the Associated Press October, 1999:

“Architectural restorations are leaving their mark on the Vatican – and so are corporate sponsors seeking the public’s support and good publicity. On Thursday, Pope John Paul II, in a flood-lit, nationally televised evening ceremony in St. Peter’s Square, lavished praise on a $5 million, 2 1/2-year scrubbing of St. Peter’s Basilica’s facade paid for by Italy’s state energy company, ENI. Earlier in the day, ENI’s chief executive, Vittorio Mincato, unveiled a plaque, placed on the roof of the basilica behind the clock, to commemorate the sponsorship. Corporate sponsors are increasingly eager to help clean and restore artwork, church buildings and monuments in Italy blackened over the years by grime and soot. The Vatican embraced corporate sponsorship in a big way, starting with a Japanese television network’s (NHK) funding of the restoration of Michelangelo’s frescoed ceiling in the Sistine Chapel, a project which spanned the entire 1980s. Last year, a German appliance-maker paid for the cleaning of Bernini’s Colonnade cradling the square, where pilgrims’ exhaust-discharging tour buses sometimes park. Renzo Russo, founder of clothing company Diesel, is providing funds ($6.7 million) to restore and clean the oldest bridge spanning Venice’s Grand Canal, the Rialto. Fendi has pledged to restore five of Rome’s best-known fountains, beginning with the iconic 17th century Trevi fountain.”

Venice, Italy, photograph by Kim Steele

Venice, Italy, photograph by Kim Steele

From CBS News, July 2011:

“Earlier this month Italy’s national patrimony association, Italia Nostra, sent up an emergency flare, calling on UNESCO to put Venice on its danger list to try to stop the rampant destruction. “You want a Venice without the lagoons, keep cutting our funding,” says Lidia Fersuoch, president of the Venetian Italia Nostra chapter. “We’ve got uncontrollable tourism … and the Grand Canal has become an aquatic superhighway for boats. Yet no one invests in any restoration or maintenance. At this rate, there will soon be nothing left.”

“Few people understand the power of branding as well as Diego Della Valle, head of the luxury-leather-goods company Tod’s, and his friend, Ferrari president Luca Cordero di Montezemolo. Acting like modern versions of the Renaissance Medicis, they are stepping in to save Italy’s heritage with cash donations, sponsorships, and the power of their social network. At La Scala in Milan on a recent summer afternoon, the sound of tapping hammers and buzzing chain saws echoed between the decaying walls with joyful fortissimo as Della Valle settled into a red-velvet chair in a mezzanine row. The construction noise—more than the faint hum from invisible wind instruments playing somewhere backstage—was music to his ears; the shoe magnate has given more than $7 million to the storied opera house—the largest donation in the theater’s 233-year history, and a gift that will keep the singers singing for a few seasons yet, despite a budget crunch that otherwise threatens Italy’s famed patrimony. “La Scala is easily one of the top 10 symbols of Italy’s cultural excellence,” Della Valle said. “That makes it vital to our global image. Closing it would send a message to the rest of the world that Italy doesn’t care.”

Tiber River, Rome, Italy, photograph by Kim Steele

Tiber River, Rome, Italy, photograph by Kim Steele

From The Guardian, January 2013:

“Fendi throws coins in Rome’s crumbling Trevi Fountain. Fashion house gives over €2m to fund restoration of baroque masterpiece as austerity bites into Italian cultural patrimony. The urgency of the Trevi fountain project became clear last summer, when chunks of stone and plaster fell off its facade and emergency repairs costing €320,000 were carried out. The authorities then undertook a survey of the fountain. Alarmed by what it revealed, they launched an appeal to large companies and private individuals to fund “an act of social patronage”. As part of the Fendi makeover, the Trevi’s facade and statues will be cleaned and its basin given a fresh waterproofing.”

Amalfi Coast, Italy, photograph by Kim Steele

Amalfi Coast, Italy, photograph by Kim Steele

From CBS News, December 2013:

“After almost three years of debate and delay, restoration work on Rome’s ancient Colosseum has begun. Scaffolding began to obscures part of the immense structure in the heart of the Italian capital more than a month ago, but a ceremony this week marked the official start of work. Diego Della Valle, founder and chief executive of the Italian fashion and luxury design brand Tod’s, stumped up the cash to restore what is considered one of the world’s most iconic monuments, and a lasting symbol of Imperial Rome. He’s made 25 million euros ($33 million) available for the project to rejuvenate the structure, which is also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre — the largest in the world. Della Valle, who first announced his donation in 2010, lamented the years of delay at a news conference this week announcing the beginning of restoration work. Legal action brought by consumer associations and trade unions was largely behind the three-year wait.”

“Della Valle said he hoped the restoration work would be complete, as planned, within three years, and that it will show Italy is capable of maintaining its valuable heritage — something which must be safeguarded at all costs in a country where history and culture are such huge draws for the lucrative tourism sector.”

“Della Valle said many of Italy’s most iconic tourist attractions “are literally falling apart,” and said the rapport between public institutions and the private sector leaves much to be desired. He said investors are scared away from backing public projects by the sheer amount of government red tape involved, but warned the state could no longer be expected to maintain its immense cultural wealth without additional private funding.”

Segesta, Italy, photograph by Kim Steele

Paestum, Campania, Italy, photograph by Kim Steele

From blouinartinfo.com, June 2014:

Gucci has become the latest in a string of Italian fashion companies chipping in to save their country’s masterpieces of art and archaeology. Using half of all proceeds from ticket sales to its Gucci Museo, the Florentine luxury brand will channel 340,000 euros toward funding the restoration — from ensuring the correct lighting to antipollution protection — of ten 16th-century tapestries in the Sala dei Duecento of the storied Palazzo Vecchio, Florence’s town hall, and allowing them to be displayed for public viewing on a quarterly rotating basis.”

“Last month, another Florentine fashion company, Salvatore Ferragamo, pledged to donate 600,000 euros, to renovate eight rooms at the Uffizi Gallery.”

“Elsewhere in Italy, Tod’s is supporting the restoration of the Colosseum in Rome; Fendi is supporting a four-year project to restore the Trevi Fountain and provide a facelift for the Complex of the Four Fountains; Renzo Rosso, president of OTB Group (which holds Maison Martin Margiela, Marni, Viktor & Rolf, and Diesel), is funding a makeover of Venice’s iconic Ponte di Rialto; while Brunello Cucinelli has restored the Etruscan Arch in Perugia, and the medieval village of Solomeo.”

Prada is restoring the fortress in the Tuscan city of Arezzo to recover the antique Church of San Donato in Cremona, as well as Giorgio Vasari’s “Last Supper,” which was seriously damaged in a flood in 1966.”

Naples Harbor, Italy, photograph by Kim Steele

Naples Harbor, Italy, photograph by Kim Steele

 

The World Heritage Convention: The most significant feature of the 1972 World Heritage Convention is that it links together in a single document the concepts of nature conservation and the preservation of cultural properties. The Convention recognizes the way in which people interact with nature, and the fundamental need to preserve the balance between the two. The idea of creating an international movement for protecting heritage emerged after World War I. The 1972 Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage developed from the merging of two separate movements: the first focusing on the preservation of cultural sites, and the other dealing with the conservation of nature.

 

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Villa Adriana, Tivoli, Italy, photograph by Steve Winer

Villa Adriana, Tivoli, Italy, photograph by Steve Winer

 

 

 

 

 

 

Villa Adriana, Tivoli, Italy, photograph by Steve Winer

Villa Adriana, Tivoli, Italy, photograph by Steve Winer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

World Heritage Sites in Italy:

  • Rock Drawings in Valcamonica
  • Church and Dominican Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie with “The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci
  • Historic Centre of Rome, the Properties of the Holy See in that City Enjoying Extraterritorial Rights and San Paolo Fuori le Mura
  • Historic Centre of Florence
  • Piazza del Duomo, Pisa
  • Venice and its Lagoon
  • Historic Centre of San Gimignano
  • The Sassi and the Park of the Rupestrian Churches of Matera
  • City of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto
  • Crespi d’Adda
  • Ferrara, City of the Renaissance, and its Po Delta
  • Historic Centre of Naples
  • Historic Centre of Siena
  • Castel del Monte
  • Early Christian Monuments of Ravenna
  • Historic Centre of the City of Pienza
  • The Trulli of Alberobello
  • 18th-Century Royal Palace at Caserta with the Park, the Aqueduct of Vanvitelli, and the San Leucio Complex
  • Archaeological Area of Agrigento
  • Archaeological Areas of Pompei, Herculaneum and Torre Annunziata
  • Botanical Garden (Orto Botanico), Padua
  • Cathedral, Torre Civica and Piazza Grande, Modena
  • Costiera Amalfitana
  • Portovenere, Cinque Terre, and the Islands (Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto)
  • Residences of the Royal House of Savoy
  • Su Nuraxi di Barumini
  • Villa Romana del Casale
  • Archaeological Area and the Patriarchal Basilica of Aquileia
  • Cilento and Vallo di Diano National Park with the Archeological Sites of Paestum and Velia, and the Certosa di Padula
  • Historic Centre of Urbino
  • Villa Adriana (Tivoli)
  • Assisi, the Basilica of San Francesco and Other Franciscan Sites
  • City of Verona
  • Isole Eolie (Aeolian Islands)
  • Villa d’Este, Tivoli
  • Late Baroque Towns of the Val di Noto (South-Eastern Sicily)
  • Sacri Monti of Piedmont and Lombardy
  • Monte San Giorgio
  • Etruscan Necropolises of Cerveteri and Tarquinia
  • Val d’Orcia
  • Syracuse and the Rocky Necropolis of Pantalica
  • Genoa: Le Strade Nuove and the system of the Palazzi dei Rolli
  • Mantua and Sabbioneta
  • Rhaetian Railway in the Albula / Bernina Landscapes
  • The Dolomites
  • Longobards in Italy. Places of the Power (568-774 A.D.)
  • Prehistoric Pile dwellings around the Alps
  • Medici Villas and Gardens in Tuscany
  • Mount Etna
  • The Vineyard Landscape of Piedmont: Langhe-Roero and Monferrato

The Boulevardiers are in madly love with Italy. Having seen many and hoping to see all of the UNESCO World Heritage sites in Italy, we support doing anything & everything to preserve them. You can donate directly, here: UNESCO.

Assisi, Italy, photograph by Kim Steele

Assisi, Italy, photograph by Kim Steele

Portrait of a Photographer as a Young Man

by Kim Steele

 

ANSEL ADAMS FORMATIVE YEARS

 

Self-Portrait, Monument Valley, Utah 1958, Photograph by Ansel Adams, Collection Center for Creative Photography, © The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

Self-Portrait, Monument Valley, Utah,
1958, Photograph by Ansel Adams, Collection Center for Creative Photography, © The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

 

Born at the turn of the century, Adams grew up in the hinterlands of dunes and beaches of the City of San Francisco.  Descending from Maine stock, originally from Northern Ireland, the Adams Family created a niche in the physical and social scene of San Francisco.  Ansel could recall the famous earthquake of 1906 that brought San Francisco to it’s knees but being on the outskirts, he and his home that this father built was mostly saved from destruction. His father was out of town that day.

 

18 April 1906, photograph by Arnold Genthe, published in As I remember, by Arnold Genthe. New York : Reynal & Hitchcock, 1936

18 April 1906, photograph by Arnold Genthe, published in As I Remember, by Arnold Genthe. New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1936

 

His grandfather, William James Adams, traveled out west in 1850, during the Gold Rush and established a profitable dry goods business in Sacramento, only to lose it all in a fire. He returned to Maine to find a wife, back then to San Francisco to develop a successful lumber business, Adams and Blinn, including building several ships while expanding up to Washington state for lumber.  He later built a mansion in Atherton, south of San Francisco.  Ansel’s father, James Hitchcock Adams, was one of five children.  His mother’s family, Bray, traveled by wagon from Baltimore to Carson City, Nevada to found a successful freight moving company only to decimate its fortunes in ill-considered mining ventures.  It was from his mother that Ansel gained his artistic interests.

 

Family Home in the Dunes, C. H. Adams, 1903

Family Home in the dunes, Lone Mountain, San Francisco, photograph by J.H. Adams, 1903

 

Ansel’s father built a family home on the dunes in the Lone Mountain section of San Francisco, now a college campus.  From here he could see the Golden Gate of the Pacific Ocean and hear the reassuring roar of the tide.  He explored Baker Beach and played along Lobos Creek, now in the Presidio, daily.  Lucky boy. The jangle of iron wheels on cobblestoned streets called to him in the distance announcing his fathers return from work.  Unfortunately Adams was a sickly child, who was forced to retire to his bedroom frequently but was able to view the Pacific Ocean from his window.

 

Ansel Adams as aspiring concert Pianist

Ansel Adams as aspiring concert pianist

 

Adams explored childhood activities on the dunes, collecting insects and roller skating, even golfing at Lincoln Park.  Soon progress encroached on his playground, with housing developments surrounding his isolated home. Automobiles began to travel up Lake Street.  His efforts at formal schooling were quite dismal.  Home schooling was in order. Ansel was drawn to music at an early age and took up the piano.  But just in the nick of time, The Panama Pacific International Exposition came to town in 1915; his father gave him a year’s pass for diversion.  Ansel spent every possible minute there exploring exhibits for the entire year, sometimes accompanied by his father.

 

Palace of the Fine Arts, San Francisco, 1915

Palace of the Fine Arts, San Francisco, 1915

 

This Expo heralded in several ‘modern’ machines, the adding machine (Dalton) and the typewriter (Underwood). Ansel would have been diagnosed with Hyper… today.  His music education continued.  Ansel progressed through various levels of instruction, and was finally given a German piano, an Ermler — nine feet long.  He aspired to become a concert pianist, even giving lessons. Here Adams artistic spirit was nurtured, realizing that music was more than a series of notes but a physical and spiritual endeavor. One can see orchestration in his photography.

As a member of the Sierra Club, Adams began his outdooring adventures in Yosemite National Park, in 1923.

 

Ansel Adams and Cedric Wright packing for Yosemite trip

Ansel Adams and Cedric Wright packing for Yosemite trip

 

Adams was introduced to photography by a friend, Cedric Wright, who was a free spirit in the medium. Visiting him at his Bernard Maybeck home in Berkeley, Ansel became enamored with architecture as well. The arduous trip to Berkeley involved a streetcar, train and ferries, but well worth it!  An idealist, Wright was a mercurial spirit which affected Adams’ artistic development — faith in beauty. His love of the wilderness inspired Adams.

 

Cedrick Wright Home, 2515 Etna Street, Berkeley, designed by Maybeck in 1921

Cedrick Wright Home, 2515 Etna Street, Berkeley, designed by Maybeck in 1921

 

The Sierra Club posthumously published Cedric Wright: Word of the Earth, in 1960.  Edited by the luminous Nancy Newhall,wife of the photographic historian, Beaumont Newhall, with whom this author had the privilege to study at the University of New Mexico — he wrote:

Out of the vast process of evolution and through need,

Out of the cycle of passing forms,

Arises eternal, elemental beauty.

Intense beauty is liberation.

 

Wright was an ardent supporter of Adams and his artistic expression, strengthening Adams’ resolve to confidence. Wright was also a foil for their respective dalliances with woman — real and imaginary.   In a letter dated 1937 to Cedric, Adams noted:

Friendship is another form of love — more passive perhaps [than romantic love], but full of the transmitting and acceptances of things like thunderclouds and grass and the clean reality of granite.

The Adams family was prosperous for many years, his grandfather owning a mansion south of San Francisco in Atherton,CA, which burned to the ground.  Misfortune fell upon the family in various manners with enterprises in lumbering and chemical manufacturing, and the Great Depression was the final straw.  His father’s efforts to regain his fortune were dashed by a backstabbing uncle for whom Ansel was named, and they struggled thereafter.

 

Kodak Bullseye Camera, Model 2, No. D

Kodak Bullseye Camera, Model 2, No. D

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Throughout Adams childhood, his father took photographs with a Kodak Bullseye camera.  He taught Ansel the fundamentals of image making including a camera obscura!  At the same time, Ansel fell in love with the romance of the wilderness, especially Yosemite National Park.  On a family vacation there at age fourteen, he was first inspired by the splendor of the natural beauty of  the Park, from Half-Dome to Bridle Falls which he would photography many times throughout his life. Here his father bestowed upon him his first camera, a Kodak Box Brownie.  Adams was able to get the film processed at Yosemite by Pillsbury Pictures.  Ansel continued to be plagued with various illnesses and was often bedridden where he watched the images form on his walls and ceiling.

 

Holding My Box Brownie Camera, Yosemite National Park, California, c. 1918 by Ansel Adams, Corbis

Holding My Box Brownie Camera, Yosemite National Park, California, ca 1918 by Ansel Adams, Corbis

 

Ansel returned alone to Yosemite in 1917 to more seriously pursue photography. He felt the images were very weak but continued to photograph on various hikes and trails. Here Adams was taken under the wing by MIT graduate (1887) engineer, Francis Holman, who taught him about fishing, hiking and climbing. Ansel fondly called him Uncle Frank, he knew the Yosemite Sierras well.  Ansel’s expertise grew to the point where he was appointed the custodian of the Sierra Club’s office there, named LeConte Memorial Lodge, also designed by Maybeck.  He pursued technical climbing with Uncle Frank but always detested the modern drilling bolt holes in the mountains, asserting it desecration!

Adams led hiking parties throughout the Park, laden with photographic equipment.

 

Nevada Fall, Rainbow, Yosemite Valley, 1946, ca. 1947, ca. 1950, Photograph by Ansel Adams, Collection Center for Creative Photography, © The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

Nevada Fall, Rainbow, Yosemite Valley,
ca 1946, Photograph by Ansel Adams, Collection Center for Creative Photography, © The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

 

At this time, his pictures were “snapshots” (his own term) to create a “visual diary.”  Adams studied them throughout the year. His ardor encouraged him to make his own prints. He began working for a neighbor, Frank Dittman, who did photo processing in his basement, delivering them to various drug stores in San Francisco.  Ansel still pursued his music career but was mastering the craft of photography as a ‘diversion.’

Adams was honing his aesthetics and applied his understanding of design, form and tonality to his image making.  He wrote to his father:

…I am more than ever convinced that the only possible way to interpret the scenes is through an impressionistic vision.  A cold material representation gives one no conception whatever of the great size and distances of these mountains…one must rely on tone and line.

…I had the idea all framed several days before undertaking the picture…it is the representation of material things in the  abstract or purely imaginative way.

 

Diamond Cascade, Yosemite National Park, California, 1920, photograph by Ansel Adams, Corbis

Diamond Cascade, Yosemite National Park, California, 1920, photograph by Ansel Adams, Corbis

 

Ansel enclosed a print of his “most satisfactory composition yet done” with his note to his father, Diamond Cascade, 1920.  By the mid 1920’s he graduated to a larger view camera, a Korona loaded with panchromatic (B&W) 6” x 8” glass plates.  Ansel Adams was now on his way to becoming one of the most renowned photographers of the twentieth century.

 

Monolith, the Face of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, California, ca. 1927, 1927-04-17, ca. 1926, 1928, Photograph by Ansel Adams, Collection Center for Creative Photography, © The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

Monolith, the Face of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, California, 17 April 1927, Photograph by Ansel Adams, Collection Center for Creative Photography, © The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

 

All quotations from: Ansel Adams, An Autobiography, New York Graphic Society, 1985.

More about Ansel Adams here and here.

Comic CONsciousness

by Tyler and Christo Wilson

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“The great thing about the comics industry is that it’s driven by passion

…it isn’t driven by money.”

Royden Lepp, graphic novelist, The New York Times, 7/28/14

The New York Times:

Armed Animals Don’t Invent Themselves

‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Character Creators Fight for Cash and Credit

“Like millions of moviegoers over the weekend, Bill Mantlo watched “Guardians of the Galaxy,” the Marvel Studios space adventure that sold more than $172 million in tickets worldwide in its first four days of release.”

“The film’s success is particularly meaningful to Mr. Mantlo, 62, [who watched the film from his nursing home room] a comic-book writer who helped create one of the movie’s main characters: the foul-tempered, gun-wielding anthropomorphic Rocket Raccoon.”

 

Groot holding Rocket Raccoon, who was created by Bill Mantlo and Keith Giffen, in “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Photograph from, Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Pictures

Groot holding Rocket Raccoon, who was created by Bill Mantlo and Keith Giffen, in “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Photograph from, Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Pictures

Our very own Boulevardier Brothers have something to say,

and it’s all about comics, Comic-Con, and yes! it’s Comic-Con season again…

TYLER: I’ve been investing in comic books since I was 3 years old. Before I could even read I would join Ma and my older brother Christo on the weekly trips to the comic shop, and buy them just for the trip home which was a visual universe of amazing action packed illustrations. There was always a monthly budget for books and comics in our house, our Ma encouraged all varieties of reading, and she is proud today of her, “voracious reader sons.” I favored mostly Marvel titles, like Spider-Man and Iron Man, as I got older I was drawn toward the darker imprints, particularly Vertigo and the Hellblazer books.

 

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Illustration by Tyler Wilson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inspired by artists like Tim Bradstreet (Hellblazer) and Mike Mignola (Hellboy), many of my pieces explore the blending of humanity, the occult, and technology. Del Toro on Mignola, “Mike’s body of work is firmly anchored in comic-book and literary traditions of Machen, Lovecraft, Toth, and Kirby. Yet what has been emerging from them is a species all on its own.”

 

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The REAL Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr.

 

Comic books are actually versatile tools, they can be used to articulate views on political and societal shifts, as well as being colorful escapist fantasies. It is the rare author who can successfully combine both of these into a comic that doesn’t become overbearingly self serious or run off the rails (how many times can a character come back from the dead — really?).

There are of course some seminal works: Watchmen by Alan Moore, Sandman by Neil Gaiman, The Dark Knight Rises by Frank Miller, (soon to be newly released film Sin City: A Dame to Kill For — August 22, 2014 continues his genre) that manage to not only define entirely new worlds and characters, but to a certain extent hold up a gritty and super powered mirror to some of the real world’s problems. Comics have matured over the years, from their Golden Age beginnings like the jingoistic propaganda of early Captain America and Superman, to cynical and dark dystopian tales like Warren Ellis’ Transmetropolitan or the religiously polarizing and irreverent Preacher by Garth Ennis.

 

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From the Comic-Con website:

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Comic-Con International: San Diego began in 1970 when a group of comics, movie, and science fiction fans — including the late Shel Dorf, Ken Krueger, and Richard Alf banded together to put on the first comic book convention in southern California. Comic-Con started as a one-day “minicon,” called San Diego’s Golden State Comic-Minicon, on March 21, 1970 at the U.S. Grant Hotel in downtown San Diego. The purpose of this single day, which included two special guests, Forrest J Ackerman and Mike Royer, and drew about 100 attendees was to raise funds and generate interest for a larger convention. The success of the minicon led to the first full-fledged, three-day San Diego Comic-Con (called San Diego’s Golden State Comic-Con), held August 1–3, 1970, at the U.S. Grant Hotel, with guests Ray Bradbury, Jack Kirby, and   A. E. van Vogt. Over 300 attendees packed into the hotel’s basement for that groundbreaking event, which featured a dealers’ room, programs and panels, film screenings, and more…essentially, the model for every comic book convention to follow.

From the beginning, the founders of the show set out to include not only the comic books they loved, but also other aspects of the popular arts that they enjoyed and felt deserved wider recognition,  including films and science fiction/fantasy literature. After one more name change (San Diego’s West Coast Comic Convention, in 1972), the show officially became the San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) in 1973 with the fourth annual event. In 1995, the non-profit event changed its name to Comic-Con International: San Diego (CCI).

 

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CHRISTO: I’ve always been a comics fan, my Dad inspired me with his 60′s comics collection, and I passed this along to my younger brother Tyler. With 20 years and counting of collecting, I think perhaps the most astounding thing about modern comic books, and the comic industry, is how successful the material has become across the media landscape. To put this is perspective, consider that in 1996, Marvel Comics was bankrupt, and yet today the Disney/Marvel juggernaut is redefining what is possible across movies and television with projects and crossovers of immense scope. But Marvel is hardly the only success story: Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead is a cult phenomenon spanning comics, television, and a critically acclaimed episodic video game series. Similarly, Bill Willingham’s modern classic Fables is also now an award winning video game (The Wolf Among Us), as well as (arguably) the inspiration for television hit Once Upon A Time.

 

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A few Comic-Con facts from mental_floss:

The first Masquerade Ball, a fan-made costume and makeup contest, took place in 1974.

In 1979, $12,000 in receipts was stolen from the Comic-Con International Treasurer’s home. As a result, the organization behind Comic-Con had to ask fans for donations to pay off the debt.

Since 2000, San Diego Comic-Con has hosted an annual film festival called the Comic-Con International Independent Film Festival, which highlights the best in genre movie-making.

Director Kevin Smith has made guest appearances at San Diego Comic-Con since 1997. In 2007, Comic-Con organizers asked the geek icon to close out Comic-Con Saturday Nights in Hall H with an hour-and-a-half long “Geek State of the Union Address.”

San Diego Comic-Con was featured on various TV shows throughout the last decade, including The O.C., Weeds, and Entourage. The comic book convention was also featured on the reality shows Beauty and the Geek and MTV’s Punk’d and The Real World: San Diego.

 

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CHRISTO: The sheer size, scope, and cross-genre popularity of Comic-Con 2014 is perhaps the strongest evidence that comic books have truly arrived as mainstream culture. You’re equally likely to encounter Joss Whedon surrounded by the Avengers, Firefly browncoats, of Buffy-esque vampires. Guillermo del Toro might be found piloting a 50-story tall Jaeger from Pacific Rim, forestalling the vampire apocalypse in The Strain (itself a trilogy of books, comics, and now a television show), or investigating the paranormal with Hellboy. In short, comic culture is now just culture, and Comic-Con is the epicenter of the new entertainment landscape.
Note: We encourage all readers to take time and explore the visual feast of unbelievable comic art by each illustrator great in this post…hence all the links, do visit their sites and Wikipedia for an eyeball full!

 

 

 

Good Days and Bad Hair Days

July 29, 2014

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  I never knew that April 30th is National Hairstyle Appreciation Day … but that’s another day and a different story. I’ve been thinking about hair, and styles, and reminiscing. The options are numerous, and hysterical, and just plain ridiculous. Some are so bad, they’ve morphed to good, great or even legendary (in their own […]

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CASANOVA: (Catalan or Latin, casa ‘house’ + nova ‘new’) Lover; a man who is a promiscuous and unscrupulous lover

July 12, 2014

Giacomo Girolamo Casanova, painting by 
Alessandro Longhi

    Giacomo Girolamo Casanova: Synonymous with lovemaking charm and persuasion, even since Casanova’s death in 1798, his name evokes and defines the same person to this day. In today’s vernacular, “Womanizing.” Despite his impoverished condition and position at his death in Bohemia, Giacomo Girolamo Casanova’s memoir fetched a stunning figure in 2010 by the Bibliotheque […]

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Fair Cecily, and other fair-weather friends

June 29, 2014

Rex Whistler; Cecil Beaton; Georgia Sitwell; Sir William Turner Walton; Stephen Tennant; Zita Jungman; Teresa Jungman, photograph by Cecil Beaton

  All I want is the best of everything and there’s very little of that left. Never in the history of fashion has so little material been raised so high to reveal so much that needs to be covered so badly. What is elegance? Soap and water! …quotes by Cecil Beaton   I have an […]

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An Ephemeral Awareness — Death and the Coming of War

June 21, 2014

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When we arrived in Lagos, Nigeria, in January, 1966, one of the most unusual thing that we saw were tanks in the streets and soldiers behind sand bags around government buildings.  In the following days we learned that some government officials, senior military leaders and the Sultan of Sokoto had been killed during a coup […]

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Machu Picchu — “The First Tourist”

June 9, 2014

Machu Picchu, prior to excavation

      “The Explorer” by Rudyard Kipling, “Something lost behind the Ranges.  Lost and waiting for you. Go!” The Boulevardiers have been to the mountain, and climbed it. Machu Picchu, the Old Peak…and Huayna Picchu, the New Peak, to be exact. Sources noted below have reviewed its “discovery”. There is no clear and definitive […]

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Black Mountain College ~ America’s Most Creative Art School

May 10, 2014

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The New York Times has titled Black Mountain College as one of “six nodes of progressive culture in America.”  Founded in 1933 by John Andrew Rice,  there were innumerable renowned artists that pasted through these hallowed halls for such a  limited period of existence, including Robert Rauschenberg, Ben Shahn, and Joseph Albers — who brought the […]

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