Jeffrey Catherine Jones, 1944–2011

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Yesterday’s Lily (1980), a collection of painting and illustration work published by Dragon’s Dream.

Artist Jeffrey Jones, whose death was announced this week, transitioned to Jeffrey Catherine Jones in the late 1990s so we’ll honour that here and won’t insist on referring to her as “he” as I’ve been seeing on some other websites. Jones’ work was significant for me mainly as a result of her participation in The Studio collective from 1975 to 1979, an affiliation of four artists—Jones, Barry Windsor-Smith, Mike Kaluta and Berni Wrightson—who shared a loft studio in New York City. The fruits of that relationship were recorded in one of my favourite art books, The Studio, in 1979. Of the four it was Barry Smith’s Pre-Raphaelite-inspired work which made the greatest impression at the time (especially Pandora), followed by Berni Wrightson’s Frankenstein illustrations. But Jones was the best painter in the group, with a style that blended influences from (among others) JM Whistler, Gustav Klimt and Frank Frazetta. There are galleries of paintings and drawings at the official website. Still to come is Better Things: Life & Choices of Jeffrey Jones, a documentary film by Maria Cabardo. Clips and trailers can be seen here.

A selection of paintings at Golden Age Comic Book Stories
The Studio Pt.1: Jeff Jones

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Roger Dean: artist and designer
Berni Wrightson’s Frankenstein

Weekend links 8

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Another label design of mine for the Adur Brewery. Much as I like Otto Weisert’s Arnold Böcklin typeface it’s something I’ve been reluctant to use in the past due to its lazy deployment by UK shop sign makers. The ribbon motifs and the hops are adapted from one of my Art Nouveau reference books, however, so it seemed appropriate in this case.

Dead Fingers Talk: The Tape Experiments of William S. Burroughs, a forthcoming exhibition at IMT, London, “presenting two unreleased tape experiments by William Burroughs from the mid 1960s alongside responses by 23 artists, musicians, writers, composers and curators.” Related: get a Naked Lunch t-shirt (or another cover design) at Out of Print clothing.

Ronald Clyne: American folk modernist. Rediscovering the album and book cover designer.

Better Things: The Life and Choices of Jeffrey Jones. A documentary about the work of artist Jeffrey Jones. Related: Mike Kaluta appears in the trailer and Golden Age Comic Book Stories has pages from Kaluta’s illustrated Metropolis (1988), a novel by Thea von Harbou.

• “I imagined myself as a giant penis launching off from earth like a spaceship.” WFMU’s Beware of the Blog explores Cary Grant’s use of LSD. Related: Orange Sunshine – The Brotherhood of Eternal Love and Its Quest to Spread Peace, Love, and Acid to the World, a book by Nicholas Schou.

• Britain’s armed forces have a lesson for the US: “Only 10 years ago, the Army was expelling soldiers for homosexuality. Now gay weddings get the regimental blessing.” A very modern military partnership.

Cassette tapes and their growing curiosity/fetish value. Related: Michael Stipe and Maison Martin Margiela’s sterling silver microcassette charm.

• Another week, another theremin link: Detergent bottles become theremins.

• “Edinburgh is a city built on the production of books”.

The National Archives UK’s photostream at Flickr.

Typographic playing cards.

• A song for Cary Grant: The Trip by Park Avenue Playground, an obscurity from 1967. And These New Puritans have a new video for Attack Music.

Roger Dean: artist and designer

Kieran at Sci-Fi-O-Rama was in touch recently asking me to contribute a paragraph about a favourite Roger Dean picture for this feature about the artist. The following splurge of polemic was the result, something I’d been intending on writing for a while. Since so many words would have overwhelmed the other contributions it’s being presented here while Kieran’s post has a variety of shorter appreciations and further examples of Dean’s art and design.

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Pathways (1973). A slightly reworked version of the original painting.

“Science fiction is unfortunate in having a most unsatisfactory framework of existence—it’s considered literary kitsch. I believe it should be the mainstream of literature because all the books that have become important down the generations of civilisation have been books about ideas. Superficially, science fiction would seem to offer the most scope for idea content, but the promise is unfulfilled. Good ideas and good writing rarely coincide. All too often the medium is used for entertainment alone and its potential beyond this should be obvious to everyone. I don’t just mean in the sense of fantasy technology. The potential for anticipating human evolution is there and perhaps the means to bring it about and definitely the means to bring about a social evolution.”

Roger Dean, interviewed in Visions of the Future (1976).

If popularity is often a curse as well as a blessing, it’s been Roger Dean‘s curse to see his work dismissed along with many other products of a decade—the 1970s—with more than its share of cultural heroes and villains. Music journalists in Britain have for years given the impression that the arrival of the Sex Pistols in 1976 swept away all that preceded them, in particular bands such as Yes whose album covers had helped raise the visibility of Dean’s art to an international level. This is not only a lazy assumption, it’s also wrong. When Yes released Going For the One in 1977 it was their first studio album in three years, yet despite the punk explosion it went to no. 1 in the UK album charts, while a rare single release from the band made the UK top ten. Yes were playing sell-out tours in Europe and the US in 1977 and 78, as were Pink Floyd whose The Wall was massively popular worldwide in 1979. Punk didn’t sweep prog away, what happened with its advent was that progressive rock and everything associated with it—Roger Dean’s art included—became critically disreputable almost overnight, such that no journalist would dare say anything good about it. That disrepute has persisted for thirty years despite a lasting and indelible influence; this is an old argument but certain facts often need restating anew. *

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Views (1975).

I was 13 in September 1975 when Roger Dean’s first collection of his illustration and design work, Views, was published. At that time, I hadn’t heard any of the music to which his paintings and drawings were attached, and I didn’t even see a copy of the book until February 1976 when I happened to be in London on a school trip and found a big pile of what I guess was the second edition in Foyle’s book shop. This appeared at exactly the right moment; I wasn’t listening to the music but I was reading a lot of science fiction and was starting to notice and imitate the work of various paperback artists. I recognised many of the pictures in Views from the covers displayed in the window of our local record shop, Cobweb, whose shopping-bag logo was a cowled magician figure à la Dean or Rodney Matthews. It’s difficult to say what struck me about Dean’s work at the time since you rarely articulate your preferences at that age. I think I liked the consistency of vision and the invention which blended the organic and mechanical, the architecture which looked at once ancient and futuristic, and the flat landscapes which put lone pine trees into rocky terrain familiar from Japanese and Chinese prints. For a teenager his style was also relatively easy to imitate if you forgot about basic things such as imagination and finesse, and I spent a year producing a lot of badly-drawn reptiles posed against lurid watercolour skies.

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Horror comics

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More horror…. It’s been a while since I posted anything work-related here, not because I haven’t been busy but because much of the work this year is still waiting to see the light of day as a result of protracted schedules.

The Mammoth Book of Best Horror Comics is an anthology from Running Press (US) that really is mammoth—over 540 pages—and includes a reprinting of my Dunwich Horror pages from The Haunter of the Dark. You can see the selections in the Sprout widget below. (Not any more you can’t. Sprout decided to make everyone pay for their previously free service. Bye bye, Sprout.) It feels a bit fraudulent being in there since my drawings are more illustrations than a comics adaptation but I imagine most people buying the book will be happy to see poor old Wilbur Whateley’s demise receive another airing. Many of the featured strips are in the hokey EC mould which is often more comic than horror (one reason I was never very taken with EC) but the material gets better as it goes along and it’s a pleasure to be in anything with an artist as good as Mike Kaluta.

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The Dunwich Horror, title page (1988).

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Hail, horrors! hail, infernal world!
Dunwich

Franklin Booth’s Flying Islands

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I was rather aggrieved a few weeks ago when I found a copy of James Whitcomb Riley’s The Flying Islands of the Night (1913) at the Internet Archive. Nice to find a free copy of a rare book but the grievance came as a result of an intention to write something about its illustrator, Franklin Booth (1874–1948), and post a picture or two. It turns out that the scanned copy available is complete but all the colour plates have been removed, probably stolen during its career as a library volume. Riley’s story is a piece of light fantasy which might well have been forgotten by now if it wasn’t for Booth’s incredible illustrations; as a result it’s the illustrations that make the book worth seeking out.

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Booth’s penmanship from Franklin Booth: American Illustrator.

Happily, and by coincidence, Mr Door Tree at the essential Golden Age Comic Book Stories has uploaded scans of his own in the past few days. Beautiful stuff and easily the equal of Booth’s contemporaries in Britain such as Charles and William Heath Robinson, Edmund Dulac et al. Booth’s colour work resembles similar watercolour book illustration of the period but his black & white work was quite unique, being done in a pen style derived from his boyhood interest in engraved magazine illustrations. His careful use of hatched lines went on to influence later American illustrators including Roy Krenkel, Mike Kaluta, Berni Wrightson and others. Golden Age Comic Book Stories has an earlier posting featuring one of Booth’s pen drawings here and a page of Mucha-esque women here.

Bud Plant’s Franklin Booth page
Franklin Booth: American Illustrator

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