Whimsical Tour of the Web #2

No. 2:

You can certainly get very pleasantly lost in Coconino World. There’s lots of it, and the page design is reason alone to spend a little time here wandering to and fro. The name ‘Coconino’ refers to the Coconino country of George Herriman’s ‘Krazy Kat’ strips from the first half of the 20th C. He is represented in the Classics section, but it is his whimsical style that pervades the look of the website’s pages.

Essentially what you will find here is a showcase for a number of comic artists and illustrators, with plentiful offerings of strips, drawings, sketches and some flash animations. You will make the most of this treasure trove with a good broadband connection and a little French reading ability, but don’t let the lack of either of these put you off a pleasurable flit around the pages. You will mainly be asking yourself “Where do I start?”

So maybe try a few highlights:

African Flower, by José Muñoz and Carlos Sampayo, tells of the creation of a piece of beautiful jazz in moody black and white drawings and a soundtrack that begins with Charlie Mingus regarding himself in the mirror while his double bass figure sounds in a loop. If you know this lovely Duke Ellington track, there’s a nice anticipation as you hear elements of the music coming together against a NY City background. (Start here, and then choose Muñoz from the list on the left-hand side)

Or follow the Coconino World dirigible on its voyages through space and time, as depicted in a sequence of endlessly inventive drawings by Josépé and Pat Cab. The wordless fantasy travelogue traces a journey that is far-reaching and seemingly eternal, documenting denizens, travellers and strange creatures, who often seem profoundly touched by the passing of the airship. The mood of the vistas are gloriously portrayed, some very memorably with a Wild West, wide-open-space look, enhanced by muted palettes of colour. Some of these prairie panoramas are again reminiscent of the quirky background scenery in Herriman’s Krazy Kat. I think that, like me, you may well be mesmerized by this series of images.
(Find it at the Village, choose Josépé, then choose Le Dirigeabe)

Or you could enjoy the delightful cartooning style of Alexandre Clérisse, in a full length story called Jazz Club, which follows the hapless experiences of clarinettist Norman. Drawn in a 50s retro style of colourful shapes, the tale kicks off in dusty Arizona, contrasted later on with lush French woodland. The drawing is inventive, quirky and very appealing to the eye, everything lovingly detailed, including places, people and musical instruments. If you can read French you will follow the story better, but it’s pretty easy to follow most of the time, and often textless anyway. It’s a visual feast, and a well-kept-secret masterpiece. (Same route – go to this page, then select Clérisse)

Then there’s Peggy Adam’s beautiful observations and reflections of people and places – Tibet, Cambodia, Gaudeloupe included. Her visions are sensuous and dreamlike. And also: comically sketched characters in Herody’s Reunions; expressive black & white wine guzzling cartoon by Prudhomme; and Anne Simon’s bizarre illustrative flights of fancy.

#2b Coconino Classics
And that’s just a few of the contemporary artists represented on Coconino World. There’s still the Coconino Classics, a rollcall of almost 50 vintage artists spanning from the 18th to 20th centuries. The best known names include Herriman (Krazy Kat), McCay (Little Nemo), Hokusaï, Feininger, Gustav Doré, Rowlandson and Cruikshank. Some of these are more interesting as history of cartoons and comics, but there’s an immense variety of styles all collected and presented with evident devotion.

Again some of my highlights you might like to home in on:
There are the very splendid set-piece single panels of W.G.Baxter’s ribald world of Ally Sloper. Starting with a tour of the famous British seaside resorts, wend your way through 50 or so of these admirably detailed vignettes. So the actual jokes are often laid on with a late-Victorian trowel, but the drawings have a wonderful energy to them. From the Classics index page, choose Baxter.

Or enjoy the inimitable style of Cliff Sterrett in a series of Polly and her Pals from the '30s. These comic strips are good to look at, with a joyful experimental play of primary colours in a feast of shapes, patterns and near abstractions.

Expect the unexpected in Heinrich Kley’s portfolios of surreal black and white sketches. There are moments of eroticism mixed with disturbing gothic surreality – lizards taking tea, a demon makes his train set writhe like snakes, three nymphs forcefeed champagne to a prone gentleman, skiiers launch from a woman-turned-landscape, and a muse opens an artist’s pate for his inspiration to pour forth a host of people.

In contrast to Kley’s unsettling darkness, there are the innocent, pastoral colour paintings of Carl Larsson – placid houses and gardens, quiet and nostalgic but not overly loaded with sentiment. Finally, the most recent addition to the Classics is a 1935 series of charming humorous strips by Otto Soglow, about The Little King, in a bold, colourful world where all the court officials have huge puffed out chests, and the regal hero of the piece sometimes gets overlooked.

Other Websites in the Whimsical Tour
#1 The Captain Beefheart Radar Station - all about the words, music, paintings & life of Don Van Vliet.

Johnnynorms Whimsical Tour of the Web #1

This series is basically my roll call of interesting websites, things that I find curious, beautiful, enlightening, engrossing or otherwise engaging – and I dearly wish to share my knowledge of their existence and whereabouts.

So if you’ve got a few minutes, come and step aboard the cyber-trolley and see the sights with your unpredictable but well-meaning guide JohnnyNorms.

#1 The Captain Beefheart Radar Station

A good place to start: a nice big website about one of my favourite creatives, Don Van Vliet, better known in the music world as Captain Beefheart. Here at the Radar Station you can find song lyrics, poetry, paintings, discography, biography, photographs, interviews, tributes. If you like his music and haven’t encountered this place, a feast awaits you.

What I really like is the chance to explore his paintings – and there’s a lot of artwork here. There’s an imaginative frenzy at work in these paintings, a self-taught genius with a warm heart, admitting no limits to the expressive possibilities. The titles are intriguing and humourous, often referring to his own song lyrics and poems.
This one is "Beezoo, beezoo" 1985.

For newcomers of a musical persuasion, I wholeheartedly recommend investigating the phenomenon of Captain Beefheart & his Magic Band. There are more accessible ways in, but to get the full blast of the uniqueness of Captain Beefheart, jump in the deep-end and listen to “Trout Mask Replica”. It sounds like nothing else, and is so full of inspired, playful music and words, that leave a deep impression. My first time, it sounded pretty chaotic, but it lingered in my mind; eventually I was returned to it, and the order of the wild syncopation became more apparent, the strangeness and abrasiveness stopped getting in the way, and I found it beautiful and exhilirating.

There is much more eloquent writing than mine on the Radar Station about the appeal of the music, and Don Van Vliet's artistry in general. Interviews, articles and tributes abound and will fire your enthusiasm, or deepen your appreciation. The url in full is: http://www.beefheart.com/

Stained Glass by Carter Shapland

Came across this marvellous stained glass in Dulwich Christ Chapel, during a walkabout of artists' Open Houses for West Dulwich Festival. The artist is Carter Shapland, and it was made in 1969. Fairly Leger influenced I reckon. Most of the elements of the Crucifixion seem to be there (apart from the actual people obviously) - the thrice-crowing cockerel, the vinegary sponge on a stick, crown of thorns, roman soldier's dice, etc. Nice little chapel, consecrated in 1619 - part of the Foundation of the Shakespearean actor/manager Edward Alleyn.