Thursday, March 24, 2011

Frank Frazetta

We've probably all seen some of Frank Frazetta's work. Back when quality still counted when it came to book covers, movie posters, and pin ups of Arnold Swarzinegger, Frank Frazetta's paintings were everywhere. He's done a huge amount of work for the Conan the Barbarian franchise, as well as the "Vacation" series, and Tarzan. While most of his work follows a pretty firm theme of monsters, tits, swords, and sweat, they're all fabulous and very well rendered, despite the metal bikinis. If you're thinking this may just be art for meathead fantasy jerk offs, I have to give Franzetta some credit for his love of powerful weapon-wielding women who definitely make up for the damsels in distress. Anyway, these are some of the best fantasy paintings I've found, and I've yet to see anyone match him in painting sweaty muscles. Enjoy.

Frazetta died a few years ago, but his work lives on through his estate, which runs his website with literally hundreds of photos in a dozen galleries:

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Sarina Brewer

When we think about sculpture, there are always a few mediums that come to mind: wood, stone, metal, paper mache. These are all versatile, and many great things have been made out of them. However, it is the deviation from the norm that I find most well-stuck in my memory- the oddities and strange charismatic formations that people make on the fringe. The work of Sarina Brewer falls into this latter category. Rather than typical media, she uses dead animals in the lost traditions of sideshow taxidermy.  her creations are amazingly lifelike, even compared to other fine art taxidermists I've seen. Her mythical creatures leap and snarl from their wooden plaques and stands with a vitality that only an expert could breathe into them. Sarina is also unique in the fact that she is a female taxidermist, and beside her craft, she has developed a macabre, eccentric persona as an artist that is as intriguing as her work. I wish I could have found more examples of her work, but since they are for sale, many are snatched up with the utmost quickness.

This piece, entitled "Franken-pussy" is made entirely of a single cat-skin, fur, skin and all. It's amazing.

 Because Brewer believes in using all of the animal, she also preserves the skinned forms of some animals in an alternate process she calls "esodermy", using parts other taxidermists would throw out.

Check out Sarina's work, which also includes jewelry and traditional-type taxidermy, at her website:

Friday, March 18, 2011

Will Cotton

If there's two things Americans love, it's beautiful women and high fructose corn syrup. This can be seen no better than in the sultry, sugary works of Will Cotton. Cotton's paintings (yes, they are all paintings), can be described as surrealist, but I'd rather call it magical realism. The flocculant, whimsical landscapes are rendered with the utmost detail-- to the point where you can almost feel how sticky Cotton's figures must be as they lounge in cotton candy or metling ice cream. Obsessed wtih this sugary delight, Cotton also sponsored a bakery exhibit in 2009, where he displayed an assortment of candy and cake goodies that inspired him for people to enjoy in real life. I'm particularly impressed with the models Cotton uses in his work- women that are not all uniform in their look and build. Sure, some fall into the stick-thin creepy model look that is so pervasive in our culture today (Check out Katie Perry's lackluster Cotton-inspired video, "California Girls"), but others have the fabulous,  thick, creamy figures that fit so well into Cotton's pin up cotton-candy landscapes.

Check out more sweet stuff at Cotton's website,

Thursday, March 17, 2011

David O'Brien

There are a lot of artists out there whose work is a dry one note; a single image repeated to the point of creating a nauseating corporate logo passed off as art (I'm talking to you, George Rodrigue). Then there are some artists that diversify in their medium so much that none of their pieces are cohesive, and their voice is lost in the variety. Then there are guys like David O'Brien, whose work has both visual variety and the unifying themes of what I see as the intricate complexity of the biological world (but I'm in medicine, I see biology everywhere). His fabulous mazes are reminiscent of bacteria under a microscope, and his series of "swarm" photo-collages are phenomenal. I'll admit, some of his work borders on artistic indulgence: While I haven't included any of them here, his series of "Scribbles" and tetrahedrons on his website are disappointingly boring and overdone this far out of the expressionist movement, but the rest of his work makes up for it. Enjoy.

 Each tiny figure in each of the "swarm" pieces is a photograph of an individual person, with some repeats, but who can tell one locust from another in a swarm anyway?

 While I'm not the biggest fan of this cutesy flocculent colored pencil stuff, I've included one of the better ones for completeness (there are a LOT of these)
This is the piece that to me resembles bacteria under magnification. The way they congregate, the mass in the center, even the arching loops and strings are fabulous. Oh, and this crazy mess is a solvable maze. Really.

A swarm of colored pencil "potato people" with close up.

 Another swarm of people, this time with a close-up below.

If you like what you see, check out David O'Brien's Website:

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


What is the sound of one hand clapping? Don't ask me, I'm not a big clapper. Japanese Zen Master Hakuin ("shrouded in white"), however, asked this question pretty much of everyone he knew until he figured it out for himself. Born in 1686, he achieved enlightment by the time he was forty-one and spent the second forty years of his life trying to get all of his deciples there too. He was widely reknowned for his emphasis on the intense study of koans, a concept in Zen buddhism of meditating at length on an abstract concept or statement until you understand it. Between doing this all the time, he also mananged to make some of the greatest calligraphy drawings to come out of Japan for this period of time. His works are stunning in their illustrative and comical nature, as well as the ease and subtle strength of each brush stroke. His antromorphised animals are charming, especially the sumor wrestling rats. It's amazing how close this man's work, put to page over 300 years ago, manages to retain its relevance and beauty in a way most modern animation could never achieve.

If you're in the New Orleans area, the New Orleans Museum of Art is hosting an exhibit of Hakuin's work throughout this and next month. These and many other classic Hakuin pieces are on display, and frankly, the computer does not do them justice.