Tag Archives: ELEKTRA


November 15, 2019

#38, by Ronit Baranga (2019, photo from klassikmagazine.com)

These things inspire me. I made one selection from each medium of art, and intentionally, I did not choose anything architectural.

Untitled (Fallen Angel), by Jean-Michel Basquiat (1981)

1. Painting: Jean-Michel Basquiat

I love how his seemingly-random street-inspired paintings offer such beauty within chaos. I love how a rough stroke of paint or a small word scribbled on the surface evokes so much, yet looks like a mess.

Jeannette I through V, by Henri Matisse (1910-1916)

2. Sculpture: Henri Matisse

He not only explored forms of representation and abstraction, but he did so within a single study of five busts. From classical beauty to the Grotesque (here and here) Matisse effortlessly progresses sculpture a hundred years forward through a self-dialogue.

Elektra, by Frank Miller (1989)

3. Drawing: Frank Miller

Sure, I could name one of the Usual Suspects who line work is amazing, i.e. DaVinci, Michelangelo or Rembrandt. But what about an artist in the world of comic books and graphic novels? Frank Miller changed the entire industry of illustration with literally a few minimal lines of his pencil.

11th Street, 1951, by Robert Frank (1951)

4. Photography: Robert Frank

Frank’s work is not about capturing the beauty of a sunset or say, Half Dome at Yosemite. When he photographs daily life, Frank finds beauty within the smallest gestures, the most conventional actions and commonplace details.

Twisted, by Patrick Dougherty, West Palm Beach, Florida (photo from sun-sentinel.com)

5. Installation Art: Patrick Dougherty

Both sculpture and architecture, both nature and arts & crafts, Dougherty uses the elemental medium of branches and twigs . He offers not just a room of wood and light, but a place, an enigmatic experience, a space of mythology.

Teapots by Ronit Baranga (date unknown)

6. Ceramics: Ronit Baranga

A contemporary and new artist, Baranga mixes up delicate traditional cups and saucers with mouths and fingers, arriving at a creepy, bizarre composition—also, extraordinary and alluring.

Dr. Frankenstein, by Barry Moser (1983?)

7. Woodcutting: Barry Moser

This medium itself is so crude and simplistic, yet woodcutters have been making the most sophisticated of art pieces. By merely carving big scratches in rough blocks of wood, Moser captures facial expressions and deep emotions.

8. Literature: Edgar Allen Poe

Preceding Ronit Baranga, this author capitalized on disturbing and unsettling themes. One reading of a single work of Poe’s could leave you haunted for decades—your mind cycling through a freak show realm of horror.

Book cover for Edgar Allen Poe’s works, by David Plunkert (2014)

9. Poetry: E.E. Cummings

First, why does he write poetry in all lower-case letters? Second, it doesn’t matter when phrases like “not even the rain,has such small hands” can say so much, whether in a Woody Allen movie, or for an event of life and true love. (And that is not a typo in the quote. Cummings’ use of lower-case letters as well as irregular word spacing is all part of the art form of communication.)

in spite of everything, by E.E. Cummings (1904-1962, photo from medium.com)

10. Film: Charlie Kaufman

Speaking of movies, Kaufman is one of the most original creators working today. The rich complexity of his visions makes the best of escapist movies, but also, transplant viewers to another world. When a Kaufman movie is over, we are left there oddly sitting in this other world, and we don’t want to return to ours.

Anomalisa, by Charlie Kaufman (2015)

Alongside these ten artists that inspire me, there are so many more. There are probably at least ten in each category, and so many other categories, from fashion design to graphics, from landscape to opera set design. Most importantly, artistic explorations are rarely in cut and dry separate groups of medium. Each aspect of one artistic exploration, whether oil painting or textile design, inspires the next, such as architecture or music.


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!”

© Poon Design Inc.