The Ruffled Crow

Animation, Art, and Other Shiny Things

Tag Archives: Art

But Who Will Bell the Cats? – The Art of Cynthia von Buhler

Evelyn Evelyn: A Terrible Tale in Two Tomes

This is that post I mentioned in the Have You Seen My Sister Evelyn post, and Cynthia von Buhler is the artist that sent me down this rabbit hole.

Ms von Buhler not only drew the cover art for the Evelyn Evelyn album, but joined Mr Webley and Ms Palmer in creating a companion book to the disc that further details the lives of Eva and Lyn Neville:

Enthusiasts of genuine tragedy and celebrity intrigue, gird your mental loins for an authentic tale of unbelievable hardship and epic catastrophe! This wholly true and accurate account details the extraordinary lives of Evelyn and Evelyn, a darling but unfortunate pair of conjoined twins who brave extreme circumstances of calamity and adversity


…and while poking about on the intertubes to learn more about the Evelyn Evelyn album I went through a side door somewhere and ended up at one of those pages that is art. (and i don’t assign that lightly. at least i hope not… the word really deserves a completely different font as well, but you have to work with what you have)

butwhowillbellthecats.comIt is digital magic when an artist’s work and the internets come together to make more than the sum of each (remember retropolis?) and But Who Will Bell The Cats is a terrific example. Another of Ms von Buhler’s sites, The Cat Who Wouldn’t Come Inside, is also a work of art.

The Cat Who Wouldn't Come Inside

The Cat Who Wouldn't Come Inside

Ms von Buhler has illustrated several children’s books, but The Cat Who Wouldn’t Come Inside and But Who Will Bell the Cats? are the only two with their own websites. (though you can get a look inside any of the books in the library) BWWBTC is her latest and looks to be the first Ms von Buhler has also written.

Cynthia von Buhler is an internationally exhibiting visual artist, illustrator, children’s book author, and performer living in New York City. Von Buhler uses traditional as well as unconventional media: painting, sculpture, performance, video projection, installation, living fauna, collage, photography, human detritus, and electronic audio. By innovatively combining these media, often enhanced with text and electronics, von Buhler’s canvasses frequently become elaborate kinetic installations. In March 2006, Art & Antiques named von Buhler “one of the top contemporary surrealists”, however she has also been linked to the Fluxus movement.


The sculptures she creates for these two books are rich and warm and invite you to poke around looking for the little details and surprises. (the reason the books are so popular with kids, no doubt. the library got a dozen copies or so of both books a few weeks ago. got several of evelyn evelyn too, for that matter. but i digress…)

The same attention is given to her websites as well and is what puts them on my ‘best of’ list. Ms von Buhler’s primary site is at and her blog, or rather, one of her blogs is at Both are incredibly packed pieces of imaginary real estate and, much like her books, are great places to poke around in – you’ll never know what you’ll see next or where you’ll end up. Just trying to find the way back to something often has me finding something new. They are also fairly well linked together, so you can pretty much start on any one of Ms von Buhler’s sites and find yourself on her bio page as easily as on the ‘Find the Mouse‘ card trick page. I heartily endorse the ‘click everything’ method of site exploration.

Marwencol – The Art of Mark Hogancamp

Patton Comes to Marwencol

Marwencol is a small town in Belgium during World War 2. It is completely populated by women – the men having been slaughtered by Nazi soldiers.  As the story begins they save a downed American pilot, Captain Hogie who, after he recovers opens a bar that becomes famous for it’s staged “catfights”.

The alter ego of Mark Hogancamp, Captain Hogie is the anchoring character in an ongoing drama that helps Hogancamp rehabilitate himself from a vicious attack that left him brain damaged. Marwencol itself  is literally ‘a little town’ at 1/6th scale and is populated by Barbies and other Barbie-sized dolls.

Mark populates the town he dubs “Marwencol” with dolls representing his friends and family and creates life-like photographs detailing the town’s many relationships and dramas. Playing in the town and photographing the action helps Mark to recover his hand-eye coordination and deal with the psychic wounds of the attack. (via)

Deja Thoris, The Belgian Witch of Marwencol. (if the name rings a bell, it's the same name as Edgar Rice Burrough's Princess of Mars)

Events in Marwencol are more than simply parallel allegory or a retreat into fantasy, although they have resonance in both, they give Hogancamp a way to re-discover himself. The attack left big gaps in his memory and abilities; he had to re-learn the basics, to walk, talk, and eat. His coordination and simple ability to think coherently were severely impaired. He has almost no memory of  his former marriage, raging alcoholism, Naval service, or stints in jail. He’d forgotten his fondness for women’s shoes and clothing.

Hogancamp’s portraits, if they had been of actual human events, would depict those small unscripted moments of life, not the heroic acts and poses, but what goes on in between. All of it steeped in the fear and sometime brutality of a World War Two-like alternate universe and captured with the eye of a photographer from Life magazine. His sense of position, of body language, is remarkable, and that is what gives Hogancamp’s creations enough heft to easily allow the viewer to replace the peach colored plastic with flesh.

Warrior Taking a Break

Remember now, this isn’t art by some bohemian in a loft (no, there’s nothing wrong with being a bohemian in a loft, it’s just an example…) but began as a way for Mark to deal with the world around himself after his state-sponsored physical and occupational therapy ran out.

I came across Mr Hogancamp and his art via a documentary called, appropriately enough, “Marwencol“. It is a fascinating look at the man and his unusual art.

For a further look at his photographs there is a good sized gallery at his website at and check out his video archive at Vimeo.

The Timeline of Music

A Short History of America – R Crumb Edition

…with the vocal stylings of Joni Mitchell singing The Big Yellow Taxi. (From the documentary Crumb.)

This is actually 12 panels Mr Crumb drew in 1979 (colorized and collected into a poster in 1981).

Later he added a 3 panel epilogue to try and cover bases on the question asked in the 12th panel; “What Next?”.

(oddly enough, this is not a digression. call it more, uh, a warning shot across the bow)

The Chromatic Noir of Paul Kuczynski

I came across the work of Polish graphic artist Paul Kuczynski several weeks ago and keep going back to look at many of the pictures again; sometimes finding a subtlety of brush or idea I missed before, or perhaps I’d finally cogitated on it enough to see some nuance.

Or perhaps I simply read more into the work than was really there. Truth be told, I’m not sure that’s really possible when it comes to art, and especially when looking at Mr Kuczynski’s well-rendered satire.

Artful commentary is generally leveled on newspaper opinion pages and is wielded much more bluntly than Mr Kuczynski’s subtle, velvet-lined bludgeon. Geopolitical hypocrisies interspersed and interwoven with our own everyday deceits.

What makes his pieces stand out to me, though, is the art itself; the texture and style somewhat reminiscent of Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks with color gradients to give it that chromatic noir feeling.

Without regard to the subject the art itself is good. You can check out more Paul Kuczynki’s work here.

h/t to Nag on the Lake (a most excellent blog. go visit. yes, now is fine, i’ll wait)

Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual and Other News From Retropolis

Anymore it seems rare to come across a website that is simply beautiful and exudes a scent akin to fine digital Corinthian leather.

Gwen with the Toaster in her Hepmobile

In the case of Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual the scent is probably closer to light machine oil and Naugahyde, but the craftsmanship is in clear evidence.

Straight out of the retro-futuristic worlds of the old sci-fi pulps and World’s Fair ‘Worlds of Tomorrows’, Bradley W. Schenck has put together an astounding collection of work over at Webomator. Over several projects, Mr Schenk restores and re-imagines vintage graphics at The Retrovert, as well as gives us various glimpses into Retropolis (The Future That Never Was). Considering my partiality to the art deco style, this self-admitted front for a widely varied catalogue of merchandise is a potentially serious danger to my credit card balances.

Containing such departments as The Retropolis Transit Authority, Travel Bureau, and more. (even celtic art. seems kinda left-fieldish at first thought, but celtic and deco styles do have some affinity really)

Thrilling Tales however, is my favorite portion of this steampunkish empire. Currently it presents two tales; an interactive story, The Toaster With Two Brains, and an in-progress serial, The Lair of the Clockwork Book.

The Toaster With Two Brains is less like the Gates (by hal hefner) digital graphic novel and is more akin to the ‘Create Your Own Story’ book format. With a primary illustration per page, the text serves more to fill in the story around the detailed image and lets the art be what pulls the reader through the tale. What sets this divergenary account apart, besides the extraordinary art, is the ability to ‘look’ at the objects the character you are following is carrying, reminiscent of countless MUDs and RPGs I’ve played. Another nice, interactive bonus to The Toaster.

Between his 3 sites one could certainly get lost for hours just clicking around gawking at Mr Schenk’s artwork, as I can attest to personally, and it is a worthy trip indeed.

Now, you can chalk it up to a sense of duty, a need for entirety, or (as is the actual case) the seizing of an opportunity to digressively promote Good Things; I’d like to note that Seattle Public Library has their own version of Thrilling Tales every couple weeks Monday noon. Granted a brown-bag lunch-time mystery short story reading appears to be a far cry from Retropolis’ Tales, but here again something other than the words themselves pull the ‘reader’ along, namely the story-teller – the voice. If you’re in the neighborhood it’s worth a listen in on. (and remember to support your local library. and read a book. and sit up straight)

Dear Japan,

Heavy Metal

In late 1978 I came across a magazine by the name of Heavy Metal. An “Adult Illustrated Fantasy Magazine”. A comic, really.

HM began publishing in April 1977, the first issue I came across was this one, December 1978

This wasn’t your regular ol’ underground comix though, but some real, serious, art.

I was enthralled and did what back-filling early issues I could. (never got my hands on an issue number 1, though…)

The stories were by some of the best graphic artists and story tellers from around the world: Druillet, Corbin, Moebius, Royo, and Bilal were stand-outs to me in those early issues. New stories and stories written by Lovecraft, Poe, Burroughs, and Milton (to name a few) were interpreted and re-interpreted. The style and colors were as complex and rich as the stories themselves. The likes of Frank Miller, Robert Crumb, and HR Giger have contributed gallery spreads and cover art over the years as well.

From the Heavy Metal Fan Page:

Heavy Metal is a sequential art anthology magazine.  In other words; it’s a comic.  However it’s not the typical comic that most people think of.  […]

June 80 issue with the HR Giger gallery. This made me a lifelong HM fan. The cover art is a panel from Giger's Necronomicon.

Heavy Metal is mainly an assortment of different graphic illustrated stories, with the occasional article. These can vary in length anywhere from a complete half page story to dozens of pages in one [ED: or more] issue[s]. […]

The stories typically found within are works of Action and Adventure, often in a setting of Fantasy and Science Fiction. However, the stories aren’t limited to that, as you can also find Comedy, Poetry, Documentary, Drama, Horror, Mystery, Western, and just plain Weird.

Usually I have to hunt for new issues – and it can be an adventure. In the beginning the only place to find HM was at a head shop in a small by-way of Pike Place Market, and when that closed a comic store also in Pike Place (Golden Age, I think), none of the bookstore retailers would often carry it at Northgate (though the new magazine stand by the food court has it finally) and a Shoreline 7-11 that I used to frequent unexpectedly carried it for several months. Considering they only carried muscle car, WWF, and various vehicle ‘trader’ mags on that rack, the plethora of porn being behind the counter, I’d bet the appearance of HM was due to a minor minion at the mag distributor thinking it was a music rag.

An Arzach panel by Moebius

And yes, that is the curve thrown. Always check the music section. If they have it, half the time or more they put it there. (I think I’m showing tremendous restraint in not departing on a tangent about clueless people. But I digress…)

Now, I do have a definite bent towards heavy metal music (my iTunes says I have over a week’s straight worth of metal in my collection, second only to rock at 18 days and ahead of  jazz at only five and a half days)  but I don’t need to sift through slicks blaring the likenesses of the newest studded-leather huge-haired Norwegian death metal bands. On the other hand, in its’ more proper spot HM abuts superhero re-hashings and barely intelligible pre-teen mangas. Never mind… It’s a wash I guess…

Fortunately HM can be had via handy subscription, my current method of choice and exceedingly less frustrating. The furthest hunt required is to the mailbox. (and if you wonder when the next issue will be appearing there a simple e-mail answers that. They’re nice folks there at HM)

Besides various changes in publishing schedule over the last 30 years (the time it was a quarterly was particularly brutal, in my opinion) there’s been shifts in format as well.

The art has always been pretty top shelf, I’ve always found at least one story I like in every issue, however the filler and adverts periodically devolve into pin-up art and illustrated porn. (more in the special issues rather than the regular bi-monthly issues though the regular issues do have their moments) I’m not a prude by any stretch, but it’s much like going to see an exhibition of Hokusai’s Views of Mt Fuji and finding the gift shop selling drawings of Empress Suiko’s naughty bits.

Heavy Metal 2000 Cover. Yes, Julie Strain does look like that. I'll leave it to you to google the pics yourself.

Then there was the HM2k debacle…

I was a huge fan of the 1981 movie – saw it several times and have a copy, and have the issues that contain the stories the movie’s vignettes were based on. It was terrifically awesome seeing those stories come to ‘life’ on the screen.

Heavy Metal 2000, though…

The magazine itself had been getting pin-up/porn advert laden and the promotions shouted how the main character in both the movie and the accompanying video game F.A.K.K. 2, were voiced by, and modeled on, one Julie Strain. The promotions included photos of Ms Strain dressed in ye olde standard barbarian straps, patches, and cup-for-the-naughty-bits attire certain to send even the most emo pubescent male into fits of boxer short tent making. My initial thought was that there was a casting couch somewhere that was getting a serious workout. Little did I know at the time how close to the truth I was…

Just Gaze Upon the Awesomeness of the Quality Animation! (yes, that was sarcasm if you weren't sure...)

Julie Strain is a former Playboy playmate and actress in several B-grade flicks and Playboy studio releases as well as (drum roll, please) then wife of Kevin Eastman, editor of Heavy Metal magazine.

Topping at over 6-feet tall and built like an Amazon out of a Frazetta painting she wasn’t a bad figure to model the main character “Julie” after,  however when you’re  naming the main character after the real name of the actor portraying them it’s always a bad sign in my experience and this movie didn’t change that opinion.

With animation that constantly reminded me of Saturday morning cartoons, voice acting that packed the exitement of a menu reading, and a story with no ties to the magazine other than merchandizing, I was glad I waited until it came out on video to see it.

F.A.K.K. 2 from Ritual games

But, hey, they were coming out with a Heavy Metal game so it all couldn’t be bad, right? Uh… Well…

Built on the Quake III engine with graphics well done for the day, it was bound to be most excellent. I was getting into Everquest at the time and close-in melee combat was a big plus. In combination with technology and big guns… It was gonna be great.

It doesn’t matter if your shoes have an Italian pedigree, the cat can still puke in them.

Characterized as unfinished or “the framework for a much better game“, F.A.K.K. 2 sent allota cats to alotta closets hunting for a loafer… (and it’s not even worth digressing into why it was so awful. but then this entire hm2k debacle was an awful digression all on it’s own so why should I compound it?)

With all this, the huge increase in the illustrated porn adverts, and no real written content anymore, doing the big hunt and paying 5 bucks for maybe one good story was getting to be a questionable venture.

Gates by Hal Hefner Promo Poster. Go read it. Now. I'll wait...

Well, I have stuck with it and things seems to be looking up! Recently Heavy Metal has begun publishing an online comic called Gates by Hal Hefner. It looks great and promises to be a good story too. It’s at page 8 at the moment and a new page is published weekly. It “includes a soundtrack in homage to the 1981 film, Heavy Metal”. (not the newest one? imagine that…) Pretty slick offering and I hope they keep it up.

If that’s not enough, HM has a PDF sample of the current issue available online that looks stunning. Let’s hope they stick with it for the sake of the ebook market.

I suppose all this could be merely sound and fury to distract from a continued degradation of the print magazine itself, but it doesn’t look like it. There is some attempt to include written content – nothing like it had 30 years ago, but every little bit helps, as they say.

All in all, Heavy Metal Magazine remains a worthy read and the forays into online media is welcome and well done.

Book Art

Girl in the Wood (2008) - Su Blackwell

Most often the beauty of a book is contained within it’s words, sometimes it’s the rich cover or heavy paper, maybe it’s the art- or information-filled photographs.

But a few artists are bringing out a book’s different kind of beauty.

All About House Plants - Julia Feld

Su Blackwell creates some stunning art from old books; beautiful scenes reminiscent of the classic places and tales of youth.

She has also ‘sized up’ her art for commercial installations to great effect.

To my mind’s eye, however, a book is more than just a medium.

Every single book is printed for a reason. It’s not always a good reason, but enough of one to get it to press at least. What is held between the front and back cover is the reason for it’s existence. The very soul of the book.

And in a very interesting way Julia Feld has been baring those souls of select books.

Favoring out-of-date reference books Ms Feld uses various sharp implements and plenty of glue to create these intricacies that bring out the artwork within the book itself.

She’s building quite the gallery of beautiful work. Check it out at her Hokey Stokes! blog.

The Chinese Opera Mask

We have told stories since our species could walk and talk. Passing along history, personal or tribal exploits, cautionary tales to our young, the art and performance of the story is a bulging lobe of human racial memory.

Some of the earliest performances were pretty much debriefings from successful hunts and ceremonies honoring gods or scaring away spirits. Props in the form of totems and masks were often fairly specific in who or what they represented and, over time, were refined and stylized as the ritual and story spread through a culture.

And this is where our story begins…

The red mask is Zhao Kuangyin. I haven't been able to positively identify the other three.

Ancient China’s way of scaring off evil spirits, warding off disease, and petitioning for godly blessings involved a patterned step called Nuo that developed sometime between the 1000 and 200 BCE. Over centuries Nuo evolved into a dance and eventually reached the stage. Camphor and Willow wood masks were an integral part of Nuo ritual. Read more of this post

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