Designmatters at Art Center is producing a book as part of an education initiative aimed at understanding and preparing for a major earthquake in the Los Angeles area. I taught a class last term that had students producing images to accompany the text throughout the book. Christoph Neimann came in for a workshop, he and Ann Field contributed illustrations to the book, and Stefan Sagmeister is responsible for the design of the entire book.
I was also asked to make some images as part of the introduction to the Narrative section that contains a collection of fiction, poetry, and evocative essays. This series deals with the temporary nature of the Los Angeles landscape, its history and mythology. I placed the drawings in old books as a reference to the literary nature of the section.
I can't read a single post of yours without playing a record.
Michael ByersDecember 8, 2007
Wow. Those images are so beautiful. Thanks for sharing.
Cathie BleckDecember 8, 2007
There is honor and love in all of those pages! Great work.
Harry CampbellDecember 9, 2007
I agree with Leo, jazz is the soundtrack here. I love that illustration of Angels Flight, such a feeling of place there, the bare lightbulbs under the arc, the tunnel, the perspective, etc etc.. Inspirational.
Richard DownsDecember 9, 2007
Hi Paul, I rode on the original Angel's Flight a few times when I was really young, I can't remember the vegetarian sign but the tunnel, perfecto!
Jim PaillotDecember 10, 2007
Brilliant! I love the "dull from beginning..." spread.
Robert SaundersDecember 10, 2007
Paul, you have a knack for the urban landscape. Real nice.
Mulholland and Cross both remind me of the movies containing references to their names: Mulholland Drive (an alltime fave) and Chinatown.
Paul RogersDecember 10, 2007
Thanks, everyone for the kind words. These drawings have been accepted into Society of Illustrator's 50th Annual in the Sequential category.
Joseph-- These are not actually printed or bound. I scanned blank pages of some old books and placed the drawings on the scans. The idea was a frame for the double images and a nod to the writers in the Narrative section of the Earthquake book.
Leo-- I can't work on anything without music on. Today's Monday, so I'm listening to my friend Phil Schaap's show online at http://www.columbia.edu/cu/wkcr/
Coleman Hawkins today.
Richard-- The vegetarian restaurant dates back to the earliest photos of Angel's Flight, before your time. I've seen some nice home movies of rides on Angels Flight, they moved it down the block and reopened it a few years back, there was a fatal accident and it's closed again.
Robert-- The Noah Cross character in Chinatown was based on the real-life L.A. water commissioner William Mulholland. But you knew that.
Bob StaakeDecember 10, 2007
wonderful paul. soooooo beautiful. as a kid growing up in los angeles, i remember a couple trips up angels flight. do you read bukowski? 70% of his books take place right there within 5 blocks. again, these are simply wonderful pieces!
Paul RogersDecember 10, 2007
Bob-- Yeah, Bukowski, Fante, Chandler. They all roamed those streets. Not a much of that vibe downtown anymore, it's all soulless high-rises and discount stores that seem to be making money on something other than what you see in their windows.
Edel RodriguezDecember 10, 2007
Hi Paul, we've had a lot of discussions at Drawger in the past about the concept of originality in illustration. Some people think borrowing is fine, others think we should be ourselves and try to take the field in new directions. I mostly subscribe to the latter.
I say this because when I look at this work, the Ben Shahn influence gets in the way of the message. Not only Shahn's drawing style, but his use of typography, the way an eye or a nose is drawn, etc. I am a big Shahn fan and have been influenced by his linework drawings, but have made a concerted effort to find my own direction.
In your jazz drawings, I see a lot of David Stone Martin as well.
Anyways, I just say this because I think you're an extraordinary talent, but I feel that I'm not getting to know the real Paul Rogers. There are too many layers of other people's work to get through. I'm sure you've discussed this before, I'd like to hear your ideas on influence.
Others here probably feel the same way, but they're too nice to mention it. I might need to work on my manners.
Dale StephanosDecember 10, 2007
I was struck by how beautiful and spirited this work is. When Edel pointed the way towards what influenced it, I thought yeah, it looks like Shahn and Martin. While it's not the lightning bolt of originality I first thought it to be, I'm no less impressed. If you hang around a place long enough, you're going to pick up the local accent.
Paul RogersDecember 10, 2007
There's nothing wrong with your manners Edel, and I appreciate the honest response.
Artists have been influencing and stealing from each other since Lascaux. I've been stealing from artists for almost that long. Ben Shahn was one of the greatest artists of the 20th Century, and his influence on this project is unmistakable and part of the message. The drawings, hand-lettering, and typeface (called BensFolk, available from Haroldsfonts.com) are deliberate and undisguised efforts to extend the style that Shahn established and left for all artists to develop further. Personal style in illustration comes from a combination of influence and personal exploration. It's the same to me as when a young musician decides to play in the style of his musical idol; he learns that style and extends it through imitation and development.
Some illustrators like to work in one style for everything, and others would rather find a way to tell their story utilizing choices from a variety of styles according to the idea. I begin any project with the idea of finding the best way to communicate a concept.
Billy Wilder had a sign on his office wall that said "How would Lubitscsh do it?" Wilder was a genius who found that he could work in any style, comedy, noir, or supense, by considering how the greats of the past had solved the same problems he's dealing with. The entire history of visual communication can be viewed as a resource for today's illustrator. The question lies in how this history is used and where.
All this may sound like justification for an artist's lack of originality, or pure laziness to some. I hope not. Working with the style of an artist one admires can be seen as a way of extending that artist's influence and bringing their work into a dialogue with contemporary ideas. Of course, this concept doesn't cross over into the imitation of an artist working today. We've all seen too much work that functions only on the level of cheap imitation of an illustrator who is still with us and owns a working telephone. This work functions on the lowest level of commercial art, the level reserved for those who know the price of everything and the value of nothing at all.
By the way, Edel, did you know David Stone Martin was Ben Shahn's assistant as young man, and worked with him on his WPA murals?
Edel RodriguezDecember 10, 2007
Paul, thanks for the info. I guess one of the things that bothered me is that you did not mention any of this in your original postóBen Shahn, the nature of the project, etc. There's an amazing lack of education about art and illustration history. Without any mention of whom your working from, I think there are people that would just assume this is all you.
I work in a lot of different ways. I tend to use the general ideas of, say, Russian poster design, or Cuban propaganda, or Cubism. I try to put all of that in my own head and see what comes out. But I don't sit there trying to duplicate the way an eye is drawn and so on. But that's how I do it, I didn't really have much of an official training as an illustrator. I've always just painted what I was thinking about at the time.
I've heard similar arguments about music in the past. How Led Zeppelin took blues songs and so on. But I don't know, somehow it bothers me more in the visual realm. Maybe because I know more about the inner workings of an artist's mind than I know about a musician's. I'm fairly sure I can directly copy a lot of artists, it's about skill and facility. I just don't see the purpose of it. And yes, I know that Ben Shan and Martin worked together. I guess I'm more interested in what it would be like to see your direct interpretation of riding around with a group of Jazz musicians in the year 2007. Not what it might have looked like in 1940. I hope that makes sense.
Again, very good draftsmanship and look to the entire project. It's not easy to draw like Ben Shahn, that's for sure, but you've done a terrific job with it.