Tag Archives: MICHELANGELO

NOT JUST FOR KIDS: THE ART OF COMIC BOOKS

November 23, 2018

The New Mutants, by Bill Sienkiewicz

(On November 12, 2018, we lost a super hero. In memory of Stan Lee, 1922 – 2018.)

No longer targeting an adolescent male audience, comic books have become more complex and far reaching. Some comics, known as “graphic novels,” highlight the quality of the writing—even honored with the Pulitzer Prize. Alongside the award-winning stories, the artwork of comic books have evolved from the crude cartoons of early comic strips found in the back pages of the newspaper. Comic book illustration has advanced to the level of art. As in fine art, as in Michelangelo and Da Vinci.

And why?

The Avengers, by Jack Kirby

The classic art form of comics arguably started with the giants of the 50’s and 60’s, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. Their line work was crisp and clear. Though graphically modest, the art was expressive. The colors were flat, but boldly captured movement and energy in two dimensions. In part due to the limits of rudimental printing, early comic book artists were forced to be thoughtful and efficient. The results brightly portrayed the optimism of the generation.

left: Spider-Man and Mysterio, by Steve Ditko; middle: Iron Man, by John Romita; right: Iron Fist, by John Brynes

From the late 60’s to the 80’s, John Romita added tonality and detail. Influenced by the world of Pop Art, abstract graphics enhanced the drama of a scene. Later, ground breaking artist, John Byrnes, continued the study of graphic design and narrative structure, literally breaking out of the typical paneled grid of comic book pages. Note the revolutionary full page art of Iron Fist, and how the smaller insets exhibit the fist of our hero transforming to iron, alongside the oddly shaped boxes of commentary. As with the Pop Art movement, irony and criticism entered the pictorial lexicon, representing a growing interest for originality and a fresh look at old things.

Batman and Robin, by Bill Sprang

In studying the development of Batman over the generations, the simplicity and naivety of pioneer Dick Sprang’s Batman from the 40’s evolved to the heavy use of black ink from Neal Adams three decades later. In Frank Miller’s seminal 1986 release of The Dark Knight Returns, we confront the twisted representation of our gritty anti-hero, whose shadowy presence is barely contained within the limits of the physical page. From innocence to dark forces, graphic tools displayed our weariness in celebrating so-called virtuous heroes.

Batman, left: by Neil Adams; right: by Frank Miller

Testing further visual limits, Miller takes an abstract pictorial approach, reducing Superman and Batman to merely cinematic silhouettes. Yet through this graphic austerity, the carefully composed and detailed postures imply the entire story. Perhaps our brains are so filled these days with data, emotions and retorts, that a mere gesture can cause our bodies to generate complex reactions.

Superman and Batman, by Frank Miller

My all-time favorite, Bill Sienkiewicz, transforms the visuals of comics to the highest level—as a classical painter would, as a mixed-media artist would. For the past three decades, Sienkiewicz captured emotional and psychological content in the most imaginative of techniques. In this Moon Knight cover, note how the villainess in red, intentionally omitting her body’s outline, becomes the entire background of evil, or the cover drawing that is 98% minimalist black.

Moon Knight, by Bill Sienkiewicz

Going further, The New Mutants cover illustrates Sienkiewicz’s interest in mixed-media collage, expressing even the tape that attaches the scraps of paper. Doing away with the slickness of illustration now offered by digital means, he reverses his approach to show an honest and revealing snapshot of process and composition.

By Bill Sienkiewicz, left: The New Mutants; right: Elecktra

Finally, Sienkiewicz’s beloved assassin, Elektra, is treated with the skill, vision and artistry on par with any generation’s most prominent creative geniuses. With some illustrators, we have reached the bleakest and most dense part of our souls. Sienkiewicz and other innovative artists reached deep into murky places and offered beauty, instead of despair.

Is it so simple to say there is a linear path from the innocence and optimism of early generations to the difficulties and sarcasm of later generations, from oppressing nightfall to triumphant invention? If comic book art and the methods of artistic process and reproduction represent the development of the human condition, than I utter the legendary phrase by the father of comic books, Stan Lee, “Nuff Said!”

WANNA HIRE AN ARCHITECT?

June 9, 2017

Los Angeles Mixed-Use Building, by Poon Design

After interviewing your architectural candidates, hire one based on character. Know that the connection between client and architect could be a relationship of many years. I am blessed with repeat clients that appear to like me, as well as find me qualified as their design expert. Such relationships last more than just a few years; they can last a lifetime.

You will want to hire an architect that you actually enjoy being in his/her company, that you will be excited to come to their office each week to see the latest ideas—and to converse not just about your project, but perhaps, a recent weekend of skiing.

Client meetings, upper left: Alta Verde Group (photo by Poon Design); upper right: Buddhist Retreat Center (photo by Bryan Bethem); lower left: PayPal / eBay (photo by Faran Najafi); Ginza Onodera (photo by Anthony Poon)
Client meetings, upper left: Alta Verde Group (photo by Poon Design); upper right: Buddhist Retreat Center (photo by Bryan Bethem); lower left: PayPal / eBay (photo by Faran Najafi); Ginza Onodera (photo by Anthony Poon)

I am not brushing aside credentials, experience or expertise. I assume that your top three candidates all went to a good school, been published extensively, hold many awards, have a license and insurance, and references check out. But have all three displayed enthusiasm for your project?

Los Angeles Mixed-Use Building, by Poon Design (rendering by Niloo Hosseini)
Los Angeles Mixed-Use Building, by Poon Design (rendering by Niloo Hosseini)

The portfolio: Pretty pictures can say a lot. You will probably not see the perfect solution for your project in the architect’s portfolio, since each assignment is different. But make sure that you see themes that peak your interests and stretch your imagination.

Poon Design (photo by Poon Design)
Poon Design (photo by Poon Design)

How can you decide between three beautiful portfolios? How can you decide between the degree from Harvard, SCI-Arc or Berkeley? What is more relevant: a dozen AIA awards or a dozen magazine interviews? Does it matter whether the office is staffed with five architects or fifty? Five might be too mom-pop, but you will get full Principal attention. Fifty might have horsepower, but it could mean you are getting a team B or C, and paying for a lot of overhead.

Select the person that compliments your style of working and communication. A sense of humor too. In simple terms, find someone that you like. Then apply the criteria to the architect’s team: project manager, project architects, job captains, perhaps even the office assistant that greets your weekly call with enthusiasm.

Poon Design (photo by Poon Design)
Poon Design (photo by Poon Design)

I have heard of many clients who hate their architect, but they feel they have hired a “genius,” and so, will put up with the unreturned calls, project delays and arrogance. In only a few situations would I find the requirement for tolerance and patience worth the reward? Perhaps, the client has truly hired the greatest genius in the world since Michelangelo. And here, even I might accept personal discontent, so as to touch the shroud of someone so famous.

But, really? I would argue that there are other architects that have equal talent and a national reputation,

Residential estate, Northern California, by David E. Martin
Residential estate, Northern California, by David E. Martin

For one of our gazillion dollar estates that we designed, our client hired a celebrated interior decorator. By contract, this diva prohibited the client from ever calling the decorator directly. And that only the decorator can call the client. Though the client gave this situation a try for a year, so as to hopefully have greatness for the project, this fancy decorator was fired from the job—for unprofessionalism, egotism and ridiculousness.

© Poon Design Inc.