Tuesday, September 30, 2014


Here's (above) some examples of Pre-Colombian Inca sculpture. So far as I know the Incas were the world's first funny cartoonists, only their medium was pottery and sculpture, rather than paper. The L. A. County Museum has a terrific collection of these funny sculptures but it doesn't get much attention, maybe because the items are so tiny...pocket-size in some cases. Even in the Inca Golden Age officially sanctioned art was serious and large and the funny art that people actually enjoyed was small and portable.

[IMPORTANT NOTE: If the samples shown above are authentic then a major re-assessment of Inca art is in order, but I don't want to mislead anyone. I got these images from the internet by searching for things like "funny Inca art." The internet being what it is, it's possible that my sources threw Mayan and Aztec pieces into the mix without proper attribution, or that the time of origin was screwed up. I accept the pieces above as authentically pre-Colombian Inca because they're consistent with the humorous style of the curated pieces I encountered at the County Museum Inca exhibit.]

The reason I mention the Incas is to demonstrate that major trends in art are still, even today, neglected by historians. Even when good art is created under their noses historians fail to notice. Why isn't the Smithsonian beating down John K's door, begging for drawings?  Why is the work of recent Mexican folk artists ignored?

I don't know about you, but I find Mexican masks like this one (above) to be hilarious. Artful, too.

Haw! Why aren't museums collecting these!??

Wow! I can't believe how nuanced the expressions on some of these masks are! 

Some of the latest Mexican masks suffer from being too slick. Even so, they're not without interest. I'm guessing they're made to sell to tourists, but they succeed in spite of that.

For comparison here's (above) a recent African mask. It's technically well done, but it's bland and looks like it was made solely to fit the taste of black intellectuals in New York City.

I like this recent one (above) a lot better. It's funny and manages to capture the awesome vitality of youth. It also looks like it would appeal to tribal Africans, and not just to tourists.

I wish I could say the same for this recent Polynesian mask, above. Am I imagining it or does it show an anime influence?  It just doesn't feel authentically Oceanic.

New Mexican masks on the other hand, seem comfortable in their own skin. They're a bit slick but large numbers of them still manage to comment on the human condition.

I can't help thinking that Central and South America are destined to become serious cultural powerhouses in the not-too-distant future. Mexico will be a big player in that. As soon as architecture drops its silly bias against ornamental buildings the old Aztec and Mayan traditions of that country may come into play again, only in modern adaptions.

Sunday, September 28, 2014


Vintage magic posters make great Halloween decorations. Here's (above) one of my favorites. The paniced audience has been driven mad with fright.

This (above) is for Theory Cornerites who prefer simple, easy to read faces.

Is this (above) a detail from a book cover? I'm not sure. It would make a great stage set. 

Robots (above) are a popular subject for porch decorations. IMO they're twice as effective if they're giving grief to a dummy.

This (above) is one of the all-time best magic posters. It's of Kellar and the date on it is 1894...120 years ago!

This looks like an old carnival sideshow banner, but it's rendered so beautifully that it might have been a poster.

Here's (above) another rendered sideshow banner, this time of a spider woman. I've seen this kind of thing before. I guess that was a common attraction way back when.

DonB sent a link to a site that featured plenty of women in sideshow spider outfits. I'll hazard a guess that the carnival made money by selling Polaroid-type photos of audience volunteers in costume.

Friday, September 26, 2014


Wow! Here's a beautiful costume in the Tim Burton vein.

Here's Burton's "Blue Girl with Wine." It's inspired lots of Halloween costumes. 

Here's (above) one. 

And here's (above) a similar one, inspired maybe by "Corpse Bride." It looks like this girl  has contact lenses with white corneas. 

Here's contacts with black corneas! Can you really buy things like that?

Holy Mackerel!!!! Where do I get hold of this (above)? I must have one!!!

A nice photo! No wonder photographers like cloudy days! 

Not bad, not bad!

Thursday, September 25, 2014


Some artists have a knack for simple, dramatic graphics. It's a rare skill that adds value to whatever it's applied to. If this (above) were a book cover you'd have to check out what was inside, almost regardless of the subject. 

I think the artist was Don Heck. His work in this period was wonderfully stylish. 

Unfortunately he didn't stay that way (above). What happens to artists as they get older? Why the decline? I don't know the answer, but B. F. Skinner wrote about the subject and offered this solution: start a new career in midlife. Would that work? I wonder. 

Anyway, back to Halloween weirdness. Are there people with hands so big and powerful that they could grab somebody's midsection like this? It's a gruesome thought.

Maybe if Goliath had grabbed David...but no, not even then. I love the ability that art has to make the implausible seem plausible. Something like this would make a great carnival sideshow banner.

 Framed funny faces make great Halloween porch decorations.

Here's (above) a good one of Frederick March. 


Here's a picture by Travis Louie, the popular painter of portraits that morph into monsters. This artist deserves some kind of life achievement award because for decades he's produced new high quality pictures every year.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


 Voila!...the ultimate Halloween pictures! They're from French 19th Century stereoscopic images called "Diableries." They were the ViewMaster images of their day, sculpted in clay on tabletops.

The composition and textures are awe-inspiring.

The frontal images were monochrome but If the images were reversed and viewed from the back, some of the figures would appear in color.

That's because a gel containing watercolor tints was sandwiched inside and covered with tissue to disguise the technique.

The Diableries bear a resemblance to Mexican folk art dioramas (above). Is that a coincidence? Mexico and France were briefly joined (well, sort of) in the 19th Century. Maybe some kind of cultural pollination occurred during that time.

Many thanks to Brian May and his colleagues for what appears to be a terrific book on the subject!

Sunday, September 21, 2014


I was thinking about possible Halloween porch decorations today, something to scare the Trick or Treaters.  How about something like this (above) looming over the front door?  

Is it okay to put up menacing circus posters on Halloween? The gorilla in this poster looks like he's about to bash his tormentors with one of their own.

Before recent times people must have been terrified by gorillas. Here's (below) an excerpt from a gorilla adventure story:  

Above, a Picasso-influenced picture, perfect for a Halloween porch decoration. Very nice!

Above, a dark ride figure. 

Where did I get this? I forget. It looks like the top of a haunted House ride. I like it because the shapes suggest how houses could be made to look in real life. This should be the second floor of a two-story house. I don't believe in wasting interesting detail on the tops of high buildings.

This (above) reminds me of scenes in the sci-fi thriller "Inception."

Above, a couple of stills from Mario Bava films.

Geez, even I can be a mask (above)! Wait a minute...I just noticed that my nose has the texture of an orange.

Here's a caricature done by Bill Peet. If you're a cartoonist and you have an old newsprint pad and some crayon stubs lying around then you can do what Peet did and make all the porch decorations you'll ever need.

Above, more porch cartoon ideas...but who did these? Dan Krall? I forgot to write down the name.