Friday, October 18, 2013

Banksy and the persistence factor

Banksy is in town! If you don't know who he is, he's a street artist who is known for his stencils. His work originally crept up in London and can now be seen around the world. He is in NYC doing a month-long stint: stencils (many have been erased or vandalized, etc - he has enemies or "haters" apparently).

He also does sculptures. Here is one:


So work now fetches almost 2 million at auction. So how did he become so successful? Why do crowds race to the next work on a wall in NYC? Those are questions I've been asking myself because they apply to children's books (perhaps my problem is that I apply everything to what I do?). There are the examples of artists who hit the big-time immediately, such as winning the Caldecot first time around. But most often it doesn't work that way.

As in Banksy's case there are three ingredients:
1) talent
2) originality (though not anymore - there are many imitators)
3) persistence.

I think number 3 is an important one. Maybe the most? Without #3 you will get nowhere. Let me know what you think. What's most important and why?

To view my own street art blog --I shoot whatever street art I find in NYC -- go here. 

Also, on occasion, I create my own street art. I understand that not everyone agrees with street art. Some consider it vandalism. It took some persuading to convince my parents that what I was doing was not! My dad especially. It's interesting since my dad is the other artist in the family. I look at it this way: There is street art and there is vandalism. "Tagging," to me, is vandalism. Tagging is when people spray their name in illegible writing all over everything. I find it atrocious. I also find it offensive when people do it on private property. No owner should have to deal with removal of spray paint. I would also never do it in an area that has no other spray paint... but in NY, where it is EVERYWHERE, I think that adding a little piece of art to the landscape can be a good thing. It can make someone smile. When they're having a bad day and they look down and see a stenciled pigeon doing something next to their feet that can go far in my book. That's why I do what I do. Art should be free. It should be accessible to all! Below is a piece that I've been doing. Coincidently a film crew set up shop and put their "ladies" bathroom right next to my lady winking. How great is that?

I told my mom my new idea is to create a stencil of my dad wearing sunglasses and smoking a cigar. It's a really funny photo and will make a great piece. This is one way to win my dad over!

For a map of where the Banksy art is in NY go here.

Thursday, October 3, 2013


I've been seeing loads of new picture books come in lately. One really made me laugh. But not in a good way. It's not supposed to be funny. Or is it? I'm not even sure. It IS supposed to be spiritual. Ha! It's written by funny man Jim Carrey. He was really off his game when he wrote Roland Rolls. Well... I can't really say off his game because he's never written a picture book before. And that's the problem: Celebrities who ASSUME that it's easy to write a picture book and then dash one off to the publisher give children's books a bad name. In most cases, at least their books will go through some sort of editorial process and usually get really good illustrations to hold up the semi-bad text. But not in this case. Oh no! Jim Carrey declared that he didn't need a publisher, saying, “Things that seem to be in place get changed a lot. With the idea of Roland, I wanted the book to be exactly from its original source. I didn’t want other people to influence it, which is just the way of the world." Arrogance?  Um... It's possible that this brash decision will land Carrey with box loads of Roland books in his basement several years from now, collecting mold. There goes the spirituality factor, eh?

Here's how Carrey describes the book:

“It’s an early existential crisis, one that I experienced as a child when I was afraid that my parents would die. But when we realize that beneath the surface of things – the activities of our lives – we are all connected, that fear of loss gets softened.”

Ah, yes. If only more children's authors were pushed by the early existential crisis of their youths. 

Publishers Weekly describes it this way: "WithRoland, Carrey hopes to teach kids how to recognize their true identities, and how they can be individuals while being part of something larger at the same time." The illustrator decided to put this in the illustrations by glopping multiple fish eyeballs together, floating them hopelessly in the aqua water... AS ONE. Disturbing? I would say yes. There is one page where there are so many eye balls and so many colors all squished together that it looks like an acid trip. Other spreads are equally perplexing. 

“I was always two people when I was growing up,” Carrey said. “I was the kid who made my family laugh by pretending to fall down a flight of stairs, but then I’d retreat to my bedroom to think. Kids don’t get enough credit for their deeper thoughts.” Of course kids have deeper thoughts. But this book will not provide that for them. 

The book's premiss,  if I could figure it out at all, is that Roland is a wave who was care free and happy until he gets mixed in with other water (going to be very confusing for kids because ALL water is already mixed together - it was confusing for me to grasp because it makes NO sense) and is no longer happy... and then a bully wave comes along and cuts through him... blah blah blah (the story is too long)... but then Roland meets a female wave (the love of his life) and they are to live happily ever after...and they blend with one another so that they are not just separate waves but now are one wave (the art gets really odd here - there are fish type eye balls all over the place)... but then they realize that they are not just ONE with each other they are ONE with EVERYTHING! OH JOY! They are one with the water that we drink and the rivers and so on (more odd artwork). But then there is some mention of the water not being able to ever go on land but then at the end the waves head toward the land but they still live? I really don't know what Carrey was doing on with all of that. Hmm.

Is there a workable premiss with all of this? Yes. But what I read is something that I would have seen in the slush pile that would have been sent back immediately  The whole thing needs to be reworked from beginning to end. First I'd never use water to be my "character." It can't be illustrated well and water is already together. Calling a wave a separate unit from the rest of water makes no sense... at least to me. I guess it does to Jim Carrey. 

The thing is this: even though the book is a mess it will still sell because Carrey is a celebrity and is all on Ellen and various other network shows talking up his book. I read several one-star Amazon reviews where customers said they didn't even read the book until they were at home wrapping it as a present. Why wouldn't one read it in the store? Well... I guess that's another debate for another time. 

p.s If I can bring myself to buy a copy I will show examples of the interior illustrations ... because they need to be seen!