April 23, 2014
Art, politics, angels, demons . . . and righteous dogs.


Serge Bloch, one of the most fresh-thinking people of our time is teaching the world how to see in new ways.

Long one of my favorite artists, he is interviewed here for DART by the wonderfulPerry Roalf.

Serge Bloch, one of the most fresh-thinking people of our time is teaching the world how to see in new ways.

Long one of my favorite artists, he is interviewed here for DART by the wonderfulPerry Roalf.

If your day is off to a bad start, just go to Serge Bloch’s website; you should feel better right away. For now:

Q: As an artist, what are some of your favorite things about living and working in Paris and New York

A: I was born in Colmar, in Alsace, on the border between Germany and France. I like Paris and New York; I like cities in general, they make it easy to meet people, and I like people. All loners do. NY and Paris are different cities, the people are different, and they have different cultures and histories. I like to break out of the everyday, and changing locales lets me do that; after all, one has the freedom to work from anywhere now…

How and when did you first become interested in art and illustration ?

I studied at the Ecole des Arts Décoratifs de Strasbourg. I was Claude Lapointe’s student, a famous illustrator who helped me discover the field. After that, I started an ad agency with a friend, and then ended up being hired as Art Director in a children’s publishing house. I was also drawing the whole time; I illustrated books and newspapers (among other things) printed in France and in the US, as well as other countries like Germany, Japan, Korea…

What was your first commercial assignment?

I drew a front-page illustration for the Strasbourg daily when I was still a student.

 is your favorite part of the creative process?

I like researching an idea and having it materialize, but I especially enjoy being done with a project!

Do you keep a sketchbook? What is the balance between art you create on paper versus in the computer?

I do use a sketchbook to jot down ideas and write down storylines; for years, I also used it to draw and goof around with my sons when we were waiting for food at restaurants.

When it comes to computers in comparison to paper, I like paper, and making illustrations for exhibits; being able to touch it, and to respect it, since paper is alive. Using it, I can find the honesty in a pencil stroke, or truth within colors, or collages.

Computers are creative tools. I am not a digital native, and I remember a world without computers. I also remember starting to use computers, the stress I felt seeing the little bomb icon or having the computer crash and having to start over again from scratch. I’ve mastered it now (or maybe it’s the other way around), but I try and stay modest, especially when I see how adept my students are at using digital technology. Computers also allow us to work quickly and in real time anywhere in the world; every tool one can use has its own logic and specific uses. Whether one uses a nib, a brush, bamboo, or a computer, the point is to utilize each tool’s specific strengths.

How do you spend the first hour of your work day? What is your favorite time of day for working?

I start the day by reading emails, sometimes working on projects I forgot to finish the day before and have to send out quickly. Otherwise, I procrastinate, not for too long though…

When I was younger I could work just as well at night as during the day. Nowadays, I’m asleep at night and work during the day, that is if I’m not napping. The best time for work, in any case, is when you have an idea, night or day!


What are you listening to? What are you reading?

I listen to all types of music, from all parts of the world: classical, modern, electronic… I’m often reading literature that is somehow related to my travels, whether I’m going to China, to the US, etc.

Who and what are some of your strongest influences?

Masters of the line, or stroke: Paul Klee, Steinberg, Steig, Topor, Blechman, Sempé, Ben Sann, Bosc, Chaval, André François and many more… My tastes run a fairly wide gamut, from Calder to Charles Addams.

Did your participation in the AI32 LIVE Cover Project have any spillover into your studio practice? Do you recommend marathon art projects for inspiration or redirection?

Participating in the AI32 LIVE Cover Project was a real pleasure, a truly pleasant day spent working with artists I already knew or whose work I discovered then and there. I love this kind of challenge, one that forces you to step ouf of your comfort zone and forget the outside world so as to focus in an unfamiliar place. Would do it again and again !

What was the last art exhibition you saw and what did you take away from it?

An exhibit in Paris showing photographs by Vivian Maier. Her work, as I discovered, is modest, sensitive and beautiful.She casts a unique glance on the city and its people; she’s very adept at mirror effects, to say nothing of her self-portraits, some of which almost seem like images stolen by her camera. Her work is also important for what it has to say regarding fame as opposed to obscurity, especially considering the fact that she developed a very small amount of the pictures she took. Her need to create despite meager means and continue doing what she loved also reveals the paradox present in all arts.

Have you ever had a creative block with a deadline looming? What do you do to get crackin’?

I don’t get blocked. When I run out of ideas, I fake it, but don’t tell anyone, it’s a secret. 

Is there any particular new technology you’ve embraced as an avenue towards entrepreneurial adventures?

The Internet: it’s allowed me to work across oceans. No more boundaries. Digital photography and Photoshop, as well. It gives you this immense freedom, it’s almost scary to have that much power at your disposal. You can make images move, or even add sound. Quite a revolution for those of us born to paper’s silence (a heavenly silence!)

Where do you teach—and what do you like best about teaching?

I teach at the Ecole des Arts Décoratifs de Paris. I’m new at it, and feel like a beginner. What I like best is to meet young people trying to find something.

What advice would you give to a young illustrator who is just getting noticed?

Keep your wits about you, avoid fads, work with long-term goals in mind, always stay curious and seek pleasure. P leasure is what fuels it all, without taking any for yourself how can you give it to others?

Serge Bloch has illustrated more than 300 books; his editorial illustrations appear regularly in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, The Los Angeles Times, as well as GQ and National Geographic, and two of his books have been turned into animated series. Bloch’s works have been exhibited in New York, Los Angeles, France and Italy. Bloch has received awards for his artwork and illustrations from around the world, including a Gold Medal from the Society of Illustrators, the Prix Baobab, the Bologna Ragazzi Award and the Best Book Award in Taiwan.



Thank Goodness . . .

 . . .  Geithner got his Crony Capitalist private equity job. What took him so long? Maybe the revolving door kept hitting him in the back.Geithner in tub



Thanks to everyone who participaed in Illustration Next last night at SVA. Very honored to be included in the Illustration Week festivities. We had about 370 outstanding works by the top artists in the world, many of whom showed up  to add comments about process and execution. It came in at just under 2.5 hours but not tiring to me. Art and people like this create their own evergy. Most stuck it out till the bitter end; I think they were surfing on the power of the work too.

The discussion hinged mostly on a single concept: the artist as producer. We no longer wait for the call. We dream the project, make a presentation, make the calls, make the connections, sell, create . . . invoice. Then do it some more.  If this is exciting to you, and to many of us, including me, it is, then this profession continues to work for us. That was my point made over and over by the brilliant work of my colleagues. Here are some videos from the talk. The first is the full Bo Jackson ESPN doc using illustrations by the amazing Mickey Duzyj.


Jonathan Rosen, providing the images for Christopher O’Riley, playing Debussey’s Jardins sous la pluie.


Kyle Webster is a brilliant entrepreneur, devising brushes for Photoshop. Here he sells them perfectly: Ultimate Drawing Set 2:

Simon Spilsbury’s Bath Project. He collaborates with poets in painting on walls in the town of Bath using projected images.

Yao Xiao’s and other young artists have found organizations like this, Imagelink, that provides live-art documentation for conferences and speeches.

Titmouse Studios employs some 300 artists. This and other businesses are always receiving applications from young artists. They, it turns out, give you a test. My suggestion: if you dig animation find out what the test is like, take it.

Seraph by Dash Shaw,  who is a comic artist. He was given the chance to direct this honest and deeply human animation by David Cameron Mitchell.

Richard Borge’s animated ad for Rawporter:

Victor Kerlow, an illustrator who is a young creature of print, going all out, doing hundred of drawings, the old fashioned way, for a History Channel / KIA ad:

Hanoch Piven, our friend and wonderful collage artist, has done an incredibly beautiful project. Working with the Beit Hatfutsot Museum in Tell  Aviv he has encouraged families to work on a family portrait done in Hanoch’s inimitable style: using found objects. Each piece was photographed and placed in a huge mosaic that tells the group story of Israeli families as well as each one individually. Here is the video he made to explain the idea to visitors to the museum.

Swing Shift: Sonny in ’59

Thanks to Icedrum 2: https://www.youtube.com/user/icedrum2?feature=watch

4 Questions for Joe Fournier

Joe Fournier is one of the most vigorous caricaturists around.  He has combined his various talents composer, musician, writer, illustrator,  filmmaker, voiceover actor into a magic blend that takes us to new places in this field. His animations have appeared on the Chicago Tribune website and his print pieces are offered up for syndication.  I am a fan, not just of his work, but of Joe’s demonstration of what we all need to do in this market; diversify and explore.  Hey, nobody know’s where this all is going. Going forward in this chaotic and transmutating industry will take the kind of person we see in Joe.  Strongly attacking the problem of covering the field while tenaciously holding onto his standards; not falling into the Kitty Pit. Here are (approximately) 4 questions for Joe Fournier.



Here are 4 questions for Joe Fournier.


1. Tell me the difference between the print series and video series.  Do they overlap? Are you adapting the same ideas? If not do you find a different approach to similar ones?


They are pretty similar.  The print pieces are or could be animatics for animations I suppose.  They are also much easier to turn around in a few hours as opposed to the week it would take me to do the animations.  With the news cycle zipping by with the attention span of a chimp, the shelf life of all these things is a little longer than you can hold your breath.  So, sooner the output the greater the impact, bigger the laugh.



2. What is the funding for the videos like? Are it all Trib or are you syndicating?


The videos?  Close your eyes.  What do you see?  As for the printed pieces, that I am being paid by an industry that’s circling the drain could be looked at as a victory, though a nominal one.  I am currently shopping the OpArtpieces for a syndication deal.  Hope springs eternal.



3. What recent cartoon have you done that has given you the most fun to do; actually made you laugh in a high pitched cackle in the middle of the night that might have disturbed a sleeping dog?


I liked the Rose Garden heckler No Such thing as a Stupid Question and the Sheriff Arpaio America’s Toughest Sheriff pieces.  Bigger the a-hole the more fun they are to tee up.  I like them for the little, second tier jokes that I’ll insert after I run the whole thing.  “TUCKER CARLSON SMELLS LIKE PUDDING!” means absolutely nothing, but I liked the sound of it, particularly coming from that guy.  And sheriff Arpaio saying that he was all aquiver to be able to “shake down anything darker than Debbie Reynolds!”  made me very proud, though I put in a great amount of thought deciding whether Debbie Reynolds was funnier than Doris Day.  I think I chose well.  But I’m also partial to the song pieces like The Tale of Romney Hood, and the completely absurdist pieces like Willard Scissorhands.  Of course, no bigger jerk have we than The Donald.  ! The Donald on The Donald is a personal favorite, near and dear to my heart.



4. Political cartooning is such a thankless, undistinguished, masochistic profession.  Are you an idealist assuming that cartoons will make a difference at some point and that they haven’t as yet is not a good indication of anything yet, or a romantic, suspecting that the glorious past of the art will by some inherent quality return a golden glow to people today, or are you pathological in some way and can’t really explain this nervous tick you have?


Our politics are so hostile and mean spirited right now, I think people need a little levity, a little fun.  Maybe that will turn out to be the common ground we’re looking for, who knows?  Peter Sellers, the theater director, says that all art is political, and I think there is some truth to that.  I’m not an idealist.  I started doing this work because the straight up illustration work went away.  I’m not tied to past political cartoonists.  Though they were brilliant, in today’s environment people look at it, categorize it by slamming it to either the left or right, and dismiss it.  It doesn’t have the impact it once did.  Just more white noise.  I’m trying to loosen things up, use my animation background along with some elements of the graphic novel, and get people to laugh, relax, and maybe take a bit more in.  Shit, now I do sound like an idealist.  A not-very-self-aware idealist.



Okay 5 questions. How did you learn to draw real good?



Why, by studying music, of course!  I’m a conservatory trained sax player, composer and arranger.  (Intake of breath, pause for haughty reverence.)  After college I studied music in India for a time, then returned to the states where I promptly cut my middle finger damned near off.  (My drawing hand, of course.)  So I sat around, ate Cheerios, drank cognac and watched the Oliver North trial.  (Still to this day, our finest American liar under oath.)


Then I became an illustrator.



Okay 6 questions. Where can we buy stuff you make?


Well, depends on what you want to buy.  If you’d like a copy of my compendium of printed pieces from last year, This One Goes to Eleven can be purchased here http://www.lulu.com/shop/joe-fournier/this-one-goes-to-eleven/paperback/product-18879966.html  and here  http://www.amazon.com/This-One-Goes-To-Eleven/dp/1105522628/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1340983612&sr=8-1&keywords=this+one+goes+to+eleven


My cd with the quartet, Calder’s Circus, can be purchased here http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=calders+circus%2C+joe+fournier&rh=n%3A283155%2Ck%3Acalders+circus%5Cc+joe+fournier&ajr=0  and here http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/jfournier




My site has everything else, including the large oils I’ve recently gotten into.  www.joefournierstudios.com
Finally a big thanks to you Steve, our top-shelf, groove daddy of the illustration world. Thanks for including me on your blog. You’re the best!


Thanks to you Joe, for trailblazing and showing that great work will rise, even in the rushing river of brackish media. Keep up the crazy brilliance. And don’t forget to write.