Vividity

Revisitation • The Electric Narwhal • open edition giclée print

 

The Electric Narwhal

open-edition giclée print

Your hair stands on end as blue current ripples through the clouds overhead.

A storm is coming, heralded by crashes of thunder punctuating the songs of the cloud dwelling beasts.

To witness these mono-tusked, high-voltage mammals burst into open sky is a rare gift.

Ever since I was a kid, the narwhal has been, by far, my favorite sea creature.

It is followed, in no particular order, by the seahorse, the Orca (killer whale), and the truly alien Japanese spider crab. The last is called タカアシガニ in Japanese (Taka-ashi-gani), which translates rather uninspiringly to long-legged crab. Yes, it even beat out the mythic giant squid and its ten tentacles of fury.

I never bought into this “unicorn-of-the-sea” nonsense. For one thing, the narwhal is real, not some silly, prancing, couldn’t wake up on time to board the ark faux-pony. If you’re gonna go with a fantasy equine, spring for Pegasus. Flying easily bests whatever flickery sparkle magic the unicorn can shake out of its horn.

Most fascinating is how little we know about the narwhal.

We’re still theorizing and making discoveries. The fact that the tusk is, technically, a really long tooth doesn’t diminish the beast’s mystique at all. It does make me think that there’s a lot of cash to be made in narwhal orthodontia.

Scientists postulated in 2014 that the tusk/tooth/horn is primarily a sensory organ. If I understand correctly, seawater enters the horn, swishes around for a bit, passes through a magic field, and the narwhal’s heartbeat speeds up or slows down. This tells the creature about temperature and chemical changes, and if any lady narwhals are nearby.

A bit later in 2016, it was found that the horn could be used for echolocation. Sonar. One ping only.

Even more recently - about a week ago - drone footage (!) suggests that the tusk is used in hunting. Not for spearing fish, obviously - the narwhal has no hands with which to remove the speared fish and put them into their mouth. Rather, they bludgeon fish with the horn. The fish, utterly flabbergasted at being whacked with a unicorn horn, then submit to being eaten. This seems to be a secondary use - if you’ve got a tusk, you might as well hit someone with it.

Naturally, the aerial, Cumulonimbus-dwelling Narwhal species differs in that its horn generates an arc of electric current. This high-voltage bolt is more accurate, more dangerous, and quite a bit more surprising than a simple clobbering.

A pod of The Electric Narwhal prints splash back into the shop today.

 

Do It In the Lab

 

⊛  Do It In the Lab  
⊛  cut washi and chiyogami paper on board  
⊛ 14.9 x 10.7 in (approx.) / 378 x 272 mm  

 

It's been awhile since I've dipped my toe in POP!-py waters, let alone a pop-comic-book-Tokyo-parody. It took one of my favorite Batman villains - and Patrick Washburn - to chase me back into that brightly colored world of modern day references. Originally begun about 2 years ago for American Comics Exhibition 2010 ~Bad Guys~ from SuperVillain to Anti-hero at Gallery Kopis in Tokyo, I only got around to finishing the poster lettering a little while ago.

My Tokyo-dwelling fans will have no problem recognizing the parody and, perhaps, getting a chuckle from the cultural collision. Those of you who haven't experienced the pleasures of the Tokyo Urban Metro Subway system may need a little more guidance. Since we all know that lengthy explanations of humor only serve to make it funnier.

From 2008 through 2010 - a span of 3 years - each month Tokyo graphic designer Bunpei Yorifuji created another one of these brilliant yellow and black manner posters, instructing us passengers on proper subway etiquette.

 Tokyo Metro Manner Poster by Bunpei Yorifuji

Tokyo Metro Manner Poster by Bunpei Yorifuji

Often hilariously funny and true to life, I used to look forward to every new poster - even after the obvious rude behavior had all been covered. The thought of creating a parody poster crossed my mind pretty early in their run, but the right opportunity didn't crop up until the supervillain exhibition.

Bunpei Yorifuji talked to the Tokyo Reporter about the inspiration behind these posters in a great little interview.

For the whole run of 36 posters, check out the Gakuranman blog.

Bunpei Yorifuji's website and assorted work.

 

Plus some other places to see the posters, just in case: The Verge, Rocket News

Mr. Freeze has always been my third favorite Batman villain (Two Face takes spots one and two). 

Of all the many incarnations of the character, the original Batman: The Animated Series version will always be my favorite. The sense of loneliness and alienation, coupled with the determination to turn tragedy into strength - even if tainted with ruthlessness - always made Victor Fries one of The Bat's most sympathetic and human foes. Who among us has not wanted to feel a love and longing so intense, the rest of the world be damned?

Just remember, if you must revert to super-villainy, please refrain from freezing other passengers unnecessarily.

Final Drawing

Details (click to enlarge)

Interplanet Janet Leaves the Boys Behind

 

Interplant Janet Leaves the Boys Behind
⊛ 10.125 x 7.25 in • 257 x 184 mm
⊛ cut paper + washi + chiyogami / wood
⊛ private collection

 

“Lone eagles, soaring in the clouds, fly with silent, peaceful poise, While turkeys, in their earth-bound crowds, fill the atmosphere with noise.” -William Arthur Ward

All the boys love a girl with big dreams. The sad paradox of the situation is that by clinging on too strongly, they might ground that flight.

If you haven't guessed by now (and really, you should have) the inspiration for this piece is the amazing Schoolhouse Rock educational 'toons my generation grew up with on Saturday mornings through the 70's and the 80's. And, of course, Gallery 1988's "Idiot Box" group show which gave me the excuse to rock down memory lane. It opens tonight, April 2, 2009.

Our cast of characters (and their songs!):

Interplanet Janet

No man can tame her no matter how funky they are or how unimpeachable their command of the english language.

It might be me, but I don't remember seeing Janet all that often as a kid. Or it might be that, despite the cool space setting, I just wasn't ready for a female protagonist yet. She's grown to be one of my favorites though, mostly for the sheer surreal bizarreness of her design and adventures. The poofy hair just didn't rock my boat though, so I re-styled her with a decade-appropriate Farrah Fawcett 'do. Those wings help her soar! 

Verb

Verb was, hands-down, my favorite of the Schoolhouse Rocks. It still is. It started my love of all things truly funky. Plus: superheroes. What more can I say.

I always felt SuperVerb was just a little too clean-cut in the cartoon. I took the liberty of adding a little 70's swagger and style.

Conjunction Junction

Ah, to have the power of the Conjunction Junction engineer (Conjunctioneer?). To hook up words and phrases and clauses at a whim. The entirety of language and meaning at your fingertips. This may very well be the reason I became an English Major (before the magic of paper swept me away).

Bill

Ah Bill, you were my first pulpy hero. The first piece of paper with pathos. You fought for truth, justice and the American way (probably alongside Verb). You taught me how the Laws of our Country came into being; fighting the good fight, clawing your way up Capital Hill one step at a time. You filled me with hope, patriotism and pride.

Of course, back then I didn't know how much pork they shoved down your neck. But I still love you, man.

Flailing Purple Tentacles of Beastie Destruction!

 

Flailing Purple Tentacles of Beastie Destruction!
⊛ cut paper + washi + chiyogami / wood
⊛ 6 x 4 in • 150 x 100 mm

 

Ancient legends tell of a gargantuan, trident-wielding, octopus-headed beast that will rise from the deep, tentacles flailing, to bring a new age of chaos, darkness and destruction to the world of man.

No, I'm not referring to everyone's favorite Great Old One, Cthulu, who also waits in that long line of slimy, world-munching monsters. I'm not even talking about Emperor Guillotine from Japan's “Giant Robo” (ジャイアントロボ ), known in the US as Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot, although the alien with a cephalopod for a head almost certainly was the influence for this guy.

No, instead I refer to the Beastie Boys' unnamed adversary in their "Intergalactic" video.

With his bulbous purple noggin', stylish sackcloth robe, and starfish bling, this tentacled menace set his bugged-out eyes on metropolitan Tokyo. All I can say is, thank goodness for Giant Boxy Robots.

 MEDIUM: CUT PAPER + METAL /WOOD SIZE: 450 X 550 MM • 17 3/4 X 21 3/4" APPROX.

MEDIUM: CUT PAPER + METAL /WOOD
SIZE: 450 X 550 MM • 17 3/4 X 21 3/4" APPROX.

For extra credit: Can you name more evil, octopus-headed Big Bads? Squid critters also count.

Flailing Purple Tentacles of Beastie Destruction! combines with his arch-nemeses to form Giant Beastie Robo Machine and His Cosmic Friends, like so:

Go Beastie Ranger!

 

Go Beastie Ranger!
⊛ cut paper + washi + chiyogami / wood
⊛ 6 x 4 in • 150 x 100 mm

 

Now is the time on PaperCuts when we dance.

And fight giant monsters from outer space. Then, when that's all done and the world is safe again, we flip the music back on and kick out one last celebratory shimmy.

Go Beastie Ranger! is one of a trio of pieces created for Gallery 1988 LA's Beastie Boys-themed show, inspired by the video for "Intergalactic". Take a peak at the video and the Giant Robot here.

Where the Giant Beastie Robo-Machine pulled it's inspiration from “Giant Robo” (ジャイアントロボ) and the Kaiju monster movies, the Boys' look is equal parts Japanese construction worker and Super Sentai (スーパー戦隊). If you live outside Japan, you might be more familiar with the Super Sentai in their US form as the "Power Rangers", a show which kept the battle scenes from the original production, and changed pretty much everything else. The dance moves in the video parody the theatrical attack poses of the Super Sentai. I dove back even further in time to the 60's (Super Sentai started in '75) for this pose, using the classic Ultraman ウルトラマン battle posture. When you're wearing a silvery rubber suit, you need a funky pose to get your point across.

Go Beastie Ranger! also forms the right chest plate of the Giant Beastie Robo Machine and His Cosmic Friends, like so:

 albeit blurry, the only EXISTENT documentation of the fully assembled Ultra Form. Like Bigfoot or Nessie.

albeit blurry, the only EXISTENT documentation of the fully assembled Ultra Form. Like Bigfoot or Nessie.

Giant Beastie Robo Machine (and His Cosmic Friends)!

 

Giant Beastie Robo Machine (and His Cosmic Friends)!
⊛ cut paper + washi + chiyogami + metal /wood
⊛ 21.75 x 17.75 • 550 x 450 mm

 

UPDATE 2015:   I wish I had a better image of Giant Beastie Robo Machine, but he is sitting in storage in the US, without enough nuclear power left to make the trip to Japan.  So sad.

"Natsukashii" is my favorite word not in the english language.

It pulls together the feeling of the word "nostalgic" with "Oh wow, I haven't done/seen THAT in ages!" with a dash of "That takes me back". All in a one word expression. Say it with a sigh of longing as you flip through your yearbook. Squeal it in delight as you ride a roller coaster for the first time since you were 10 years old. Mumble it through a satisfied mouthful of your mom's apple pie. It is my favorite Japanese word.

When Gallery 1988 LA got in touch with me an eon ago about taking part in Gallery Show - Under the Influence: The Official Tribute to Beastie Boys I got hit by my first wave of natsukashii. Time rolled back a little as I watched the video for one of my favorite BB songs "Intergalactic".

Not only did the video itself bring me back to a younger age, but the retro feel of the video called back to the Japanese Kaiju monster movies of the 1960's. After a little bit of research, I was thrilled to find out that the main inspiration for the video was "Giant Robo" (ジャイアントロボ ), known in the US as Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot.

That's when the tidal wave of natsukashii really slammed into me.

I knew this robot.

Oh sure, the haziness of time had made me think that it was a Godzilla flick, and that the robot had looked like Ultraman, but I clearly remembered watching the last few minutes of the show on TV.

It was the first time my childish brain crashed into the idea that a hero could die.

As for the piece itself, it is one of the biggest cut-paper projects I've made yet. Not only is there a big ol' robot, but there are two smaller pieces as well. Both the Beastie Boys Power Ranger type guy and the Tentacle-faced baddy can be attached to the Giant Robot's chest. Kinda like a transformer, but with no vehicle shape and a whole lot more funkiness.

A surprisingly huge amount of time went into figuring out how to attach the smaller pieces to the big one.

At first I had hoped to use magnets. It would have been simple, easy, clean, and downright appropriate. Sadly, the smaller pieces kept sliding off. Back to the hardware store(s) I went. In the end, I found a nice combination bolt + washer + hook set which did the job nicely. And I've got to admit, the bolts look awesome on the mechanical man. I wish they showed up better in the photograph. I feel the same about the gold-sheened designs in the shoulder pads and feet. I found a great piece of washi paper that lent itself perfectly to the effect I was going for.

A Bright and Sunny Day

A Bright and Sunny Day
⊛ cut + torn paper + washi / wood
⊛ 14.5 x 6.6 in • 368 x 188 mm

I don't know about you, but rainy days and Sundays always get me down. Well, not so much Sundays actually. I adore me my Sundays. Stack enough drizzly and grey days end to end though, and I can get downright grumpy and laconic. Japan isn't known for it's precipitation, but since I've moved over here it seems to rain pretty much every other day (occasionally without the "other").

Even so, I don't know if I fully trust this stringy fellow to clear my skies. There's just something... oily about him. Greasy. Inky like an octopus.

In the spirit of full disclosure, that's probably the paper I used. I had originally planned to do this piece in a really nice textural black. Then I found the same wrinkly paper in this amazing blue-black color that, when it catches the light just right gives off a coppery glint like sun glancing off motor oil. I wish y'all could see it for yourselves.

Special thanks go out to the magnanimous and groovy Andy Bell, and all those creatures in his head. Having been dragged away from critter creation and forced onto his honeymoon, he asked me to contribute a guest creature. Thanks Andy, for giving my monster some playmates!

This piece has been trying to get out of my head for ages now. It's been percolating for nearly a year. I finally dragged it kickin' and screamin' into the real world just in time for the Space + Nature group show a little bit back. I literally finished it at 6 in the A.M. the day of the show. Not surprisingly, I tortured my poor fingers more making this piece than anything else I've ever done. God bless band-aids.

For regular visitors to PaperCuts... um... hi! I'm back! You might have noticed that this is my first blog in a month. Prepping for three gallery shows in August and September, and all the other stuff going on during the last few months really took it out of me. Alot more than I thought it would. Right after the show ended my poor little brain crashed. I'll try not to let that happen again. I just needed to take a little personal time to build up my energy and inspiration. So, thank you all for your patience! I'll try to reward you for it in the coming months.

The Plain One

 

The Plain One
⊛ cut + torn paper + washi / wood
⊛ 11.75 x 8.75 in • 297 x 210 mm

 

Holy Psychedelia, Batman! I'm poking my toe a bit outside my comfort zone with this piece and it's ultra-bright color scheme. Considering how many monochromatic pieces I've done recently, I felt the need to inject some vividness into my work.

By and large, adjectives are meaningless without their opposites. Our friend here wouldn't seem so plain, ordinary or drained without the vibrancy glowing behind him.

I envisioned the character as a creepy adult-kid (Creepy kids, by the way, are currently Japan's biggest cultural export. I miss giant robots.). My wife, on the other hand, decided that he was a salariman. In either case, I think he's having some problems finding his spark. I only feel this way after too little sleep, too much coffee, or a combination of the two.

I'm debating adding torn-paper leaves and flowers to the tree in the background. It would carry the green and red through the image a bit more, while also pushing the contrast between a landscape bursting with life and the man without any.