The Orcus Mouth at the Parco dei Mostri, Through Time
Every summer, my colleague Fred Lynch teaches an urban sketching and journalistic drawing course in Viterbo, Italy, to students from the Montserrat College of Art, RISD and more. One of the highlights of this program is a trip to the 16th century gardens of the Parco dei Mostri (“Park of Monsters”) in Bomarzo, in the province of Viterbo, Lazio. I have long enjoyed discovering the drawings and paintings from faculty and students who have visited and documented these gardens, comparing their personal records of sculptures such as the monstrous Orcus mouth above (photograph by Kelly Murphy). Below, a beautiful ink painting by course instructor Fred Lynch.
Next, a quick ballpointpen sketch by Kelly.
Given my longheld familiarity with the Orcus mouth, I was surprised to stumble upon, while reading, a much earlier depiction of this sculpture in a most unexpected setting. 48 years ago, Japanese manga
artist master Shigeru Mizuki drew the Orcus mouth on the opening page of the 10/10/1965 episode of his classic work “Hakaba no Kitarō” (later renamed, and forever since best known worldwide as “GeGeGe no Kitarō”), a comic series about japanese folklore ghosts and spirits named yōkai. Below, the scanned page from my copy of this book. It is fascinating to witness the common interest and diverse reactions to this site, from artists across the world and centuries.
In Memory of my Great-grandparents
As a Frenchman residing in the USA, I have often been smugly asked by locals if I have a white flag in my home, or when my country will replace its tricolour flag with a single coloured one. Occasionally, I ask them in return if they know that the day on which they commemorate their veterans is the date of a French military victory. They seldom do, let alone know the exact date of Veterans Day in America.
In President Wilson’s words: "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…" Words which were uttered when there was more interest in the lessons of History than what is convenient for propaganda.
My great-grandparents served in the infantry (and budding aviation), digging trenches, building bunkers and carrying corpses. The image above is the livret militaire of my mother’s paternal grandfather who served from 1916 to 1918. Below, that of my mother’s maternal grandfather, who was a poilu from August 1914 to January 1919. In thanks of the absurd sacrifice of their generations.
A new painting created for a RISD Illustration Department show this Fall. I thought I would share the process behind the making of this piece. I wished to create an image that was 85% traditional and 15%, and applied one of my wife Kelly's trademark techniques, under her guidance.
Below, the original pencil drawing (11 in. x 14 in. = 27.9 x 35.6 cm), a compendium of characters: human, semi-human, animal, insect, bird, plant, mythological beast, undead, robot, ghost and spirit.
I then transferred this graphite drawing to a thicker painting paper stock, via a wintergreen oil transfer method: the drawing is photocopied so as to obtain a version of the art in toner ink, which when imbibed with wintergreen oil can then be printed onto another piece of paper via rubbing. This was done both to switch papers and obtain an etching like look, controlling the decay of the original line art.
Close-up of the etching like quality of the handmade print.
The print is then monochromatically painted with oils and gel medium.
I will probably keep painting future works traditionally for additional steps, but in this instance I switched to digital paint for the last 15% of the process, glazing of colours.
The making of this piece can be seen step by step on my website, as dissolves.
The Death of Neil Armstrong
A year ago today, astronaut Neil Armstrong passed away at age 82. In days following this sad news, I gave my Illustration Concepts course’s students the assignment to create an editorial illustration about this event. As we discussed various ideas and possibilities for this assignment, I felt compelled to create an illustration myself, displayed above.
I had a surreal vision of an American flag half-mast, in a silent, quiet display of respect for the fallen astronaut. I also drew a variant, with bouquets and flowers slowly floating due to the moon’s gravity, which contribute to the supernatural atmosphere of the image. However, I feel as though the added iconography may detract from the effect of the half-mast.
Pen and ink, 2013
Comic strip created for the Trubble Club’s online project The Infinite Corpse, a chain comic along the principle of a cadavre exquis. Other artists include Aaron Renier, Art Spiegelman, Scott Magoon, Sanya Glisic and 250+ more.
A quick drawing while looking out the window, created when we moved into our previous home, in 2009.
Happy Year of the Snake! #yearofthesnake
Disney purchases LucasFilm. “That’s no moon”… #StarWars7