31 December 2009

Thank you, Memphis Flyer

This past week, I was forced to wake up considerably earlier than I wanted to, and to operate a motor vehicle at that, but rather than chasing the fantasy that bed might still be warm, I decided to power through the morning. I needed help though, so I stopped into one of my favorite midtown establishments, Otherlands, for a cup of a coffee and a bagel sandwich thing. Typically, I read as much of the Memphis Flyer as I can during the time it takes me to down a cup, inhale a bagel, and smoke a cigarette, folding the rest in half and tucking it under my arm with the idea I might actually finish it later. (Unfortunately, most of those newspapers are in the floor of the backseat of my car...) But instead, I decided to sit and slowly caffeinate, prepare myself for the day, and read the Memphis Flyer cover to cover.

Now, that in itself may not seem too terribly interesting, but perhaps for the simple fact that I had not taken to time to do so in months, sitting at a table by myself in a crowded coffeebar, unshowered and slovenly dressed, sipping on over-sugared coffee and reading articles that ranged from city budget allotments and public education to movie reviews, the sadly ever-shortening News of the Weird column, and the usual subtle yet hilarious jab at the Flyer's more conservative rival, the Commercial Appeal (specifically, its readers who log on to CA.com and spawn threads and threads of racist, ignorant shite) just seemed awesome.

No, nothing was specifically special about my morning (early afternoon to most of the rest of the world), and in relative terms, nothing was very special about that particular issue of the Memphis Flyer. But in an age and a society and a culture where information is limitless in its availability to everyone, where journalists find themselves adapting beautifully written articles into 140 characters for Twitter updates or Blackberry news tickers, it's good to know there are still writers out there that actually use paragraphs and grammar, and still have the venue to exhibit style and nuance. I had forgotten it's importance there for a second being that I have a special tone for my AP Mobile breaking news updates on my fancy iPhone, but it was a big blunder on my part. Especially for someone who likes to tout herself as some kind of writer, too.

So, thank you Memphis Flyer. Thank you for being free, for sticking it out through a recession & decline in paper news media, for giving spotlights to the little guys, and for always having a sense of humor.
Speaking of the little guy! Here are a few write-ups I came across during my slow midtown morning that caught my eye:

17 December 2009

P&H Art Bazaar takes Bizarre Turn via Gadsby Creson

the spreadThis past Saturday, December 12th, marked the date of the annual P&H Art Bazaar, an arts flea market for fine Memphis art patrons and daytime drunks to shop for holiday gifts. Although the turnout was considerably less than previous years, the loyal attendees were treated to a badass interactive performance piece hosted by Gadsby Creson, wife of P&H arts advocate Dwayne Butcher, and one of my personal favorite MCA staff members.

Gathering all of the unsuspecting guests around a pool table covered in brightly spraypainted beer bottles, vases, and handmade ceramic knick knacks (which appear may have been boosted from a elementary school art class), Creson led everyone in several too many rounds of Jingle Bells, all the while "checking on the turkey" in the oven, ensuring the guests of her "holiday party" all had drinks, and answering phone call after annoying phone call from the dreaded mother with no navigational skills.
After ten minutes of agonizing group singing and ten or eleven answered phone calls Creson, got flustered, grabbed an armful of vases and ran outside, leaving the four rounds of carolers trailing off in confusion. As we slowly herded outside, we found Gadsby chucking the glassware and a fireplace mantle made from cinderblocks, complete with tacky stockings, screaming in frustration about her mother's surprise holiday visits.

the wreckageThe moral of the story? No moral. But the point, Creson explained, was a response to the overwhelming stress and wastefulness of the holiday season. The breakables were hocked off for 25 cents a piece, and participants chucked them off the back porch of the P&H Cafe at the concrete fireplace in an attempt to relieve that stress.

No one could resist. Even in freezing temperatures and misting rain, it was two hours of consistent bottle smashing before the ammo was exhausted.

Hats off to Gadsby for thinking of such a fun way to blow off steam, and for keeping the P&H's take on art unconventional, interesting, and best of all, destructive.

And thanks to Dwayne Butcher for hosting another successful year of happenings at the P&H Centre for the Arts.

...and I apologize again for hitting your truck with bouncing ceramics...

Brief Interview with MAD Magazine Illustrator Tom Richmond

1. How long have you been drawing? Did you always know it was what you wanted to do?
I've wanted to be an artist for as long as I can remember, since before I started going to school as a kid. Comic books got me interested in drawing and storytelling. I've never wanted to do anything else.

2. Do you come from a family of creatives, or are you the odd one out? Were they supportive of your interests?
I am the only person in my family with any creative skills at all. I'm a total genetic throwback... or the mailman's kid.

3. Did you go to school for illustration? If not, what did you originally attend college for, and what happened to change your mind?
I went to the College of Visual Arts in St. Paul, MN, where I learned traditional illustration and fine arts. No cartooning classes were offered.

4. When did you begin working regularly for MAD Magazine, and how did you get involved with them?
My first piece in MAD appeared in October of 2000. I've been working regularly for them ever since. I started seriously pursuing work from them about a year earlier, and after a lot of sending in my latest work, meeting with the editors and art directors and some begging, I was given a shot with a MAD job.

5. Do you enjoy working for MAD? How, if at all, is their working relationship with illustrators different from other employers you’ve worked for?
MAD is like most other clients in that there is an art director, an assignment, preliminary pencil reviews and direction and final art delivery. However the dynamic with MAD is different in that they expect a lot more input into the job than just drawing the images. Their artists function as visual "writers" as well, and an integral to the humor and delivery of the MAD experience. It's more involved and more fun.

6. Describe your process, from start to finish, on a completed illustration. Go as in-depth as you wish.
See this series of blog posts for that answer: http://www.tomrichmond.com/blog/2006/07/15/diary-of-a-mad-job

7. How has your process changed or evolved over the years? (For example, do you now use digital processes in place of handskills for some steps?)
I have incorporated new techniques into my work, while keeping the central look or "style" consistent. Certainly i think my skills have improved, from composition through to color use and more effective drawing.

8. Do you have any major stylistic influences? If so, name them.
The usual suspects among the classic MAD artists: Wally Wood, Mort Drucker, Jack Davis. Other comic book artists like Ty Templeton, Hilary Barta and Bruce Timm. Also illustrators like Norman Rockwell, Frank Frazetta, Maxfield Parrish and especially Andrew Loomis.

9. Did/Do you have a mentor? If so, who, and how have they helped you?
I'd have to say if I had a mentor it would be Sam Viviano, the longtime MAD artist and current art director. He has taught me more in the time I have worked for MAD than I ever learned in college or through other experiences.

10. What are you working on now?
Currently on the drawing board I have a movie poster job, an advertising poster, a series of spot illustrations for a magazine and a graphic novel I am just getting started on.

11. What’s next for you?
Whatever comes my way. I'm getting involved more in the movie and TV business, so possibly animation and futher images for film might be in the cards in the near future.


14 December 2009


Plumed Serpent into a tessellatable shape:

& tessellated: