jim

Here is a new piece I have just finished for Boy’s Life Magazine. The story is about using coconut fiber for various auto parts. It is my first addition to the visual used car lot of Odd-Rod art.  Could you imagine Big Daddy’s late-night tv ad? Big D standing in front of a fleet of grossly out of proportion hot rods,  a giant inflateable Rat Fink atop a broken-down outhouse of a show room. This is a real throw-back piece for me and made me think this would be a perfect opportunity to finally write something regarding my artistic influences.

Whether it is a bio for a book, a presentation to school kids, or an interview on a illustration blog, there is one question that I ( and every other artist) is asked.“Which artist has influenced you the most”?

The first few times the question is asked the instant response is, “there are so many it can’t be narrowed to just one artist”. The formula answer is as follows:

1.Go down a list of artists that you have latched on to through various stages of your artistic development.

2.Tack on professional peers you admire

3.Plug your creative buddies who’s work you find exceptional.

The list always changes , as it should. Artistic inspiration is not static.  After being asked the question many times, I started to feel like I was dodging the question.  Was it really impossible to find one artist who’s influence is ever-present, sitting behind the scene of every piece – or did I just not know the answer. I started a mental “tree” chart of my creative past.  No surprise it was the bizzaro version of the formulaic list above.  I  didn’t start taking art  “seriously” until I was in high school, so that is where the most obvious branches ended.  Frances Bacon, George Groz, Otto Dix, Max Ernst, well I guess  Dali is in there also.   If this was the end of the list then what drew me to these artists?  What I realized is that to find ones most influential artist one has to look at one’s creative sensibilities.  I was drawing before I even knew about Ernst and Groz, so which artist really spoke to my sensibilities? What images made me want to put pencil to paper and  create as cool of pictures as they were making.

As a kid in the 70’s there was nothing more cool than UGLY STICKERS. The images on the stickers were truly  gruesome. Weird monsters with eyes bulging out of their heads. Salivating mouths, on mangled and mutated bodies. Each creature had a common name like Jeff or Karen which added just enough humor to make these hideous images funny. There was a thrill buying them. Partly from the anticipation that the pack you were about to open had your most desired sticker in it, but mainly, buying them felt like you were participating in some illegal activity; purchasing illicit material that was intended for people much older. There were many other edgy monster items lurking around at time.  I had my share of odd-rod stickers and even a Big Daddy monster hot-rod black light poster. Still there was something about the Ugly Stickers that stood out.  They were straight up monsters, and exceptionally detailed to boot.

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Basil Wolverton designs

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Norman Saunders designs

There were three main artists that created the monsters for the stickers, Basil Wolverton, Norman Sanuders, and Wally Wood. Of the three,Wolverton and Saunders designs were my favorite. In the end there were just more Norman Saunders designs in the set that I liked. It was these funny/scary images, and the excitement around them, that sparked something in my developing perception of the world that made me want to create something equally powerful.

Now when the question of “most influential artist” comes up my answer will always be, Norman Saunders.

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You can find out all about Norman Saunders here.

You can find out all about Basil Wolverton here.

Everything about Ugly Stickers here. Be sure to read the article by Pete Boulay. It is a wonderful insight into Norm Sanunders involvement with the Ugly Stickers phenomenon.