Archive for the ‘Brush with Peril’ Category

Wayne Thiebaud likes it, so you should too

Monday, March 19th, 2018

“Chris Wisnia mixes a crime cluttered comic world with the unfathomable high-financed art world where Van Gogh, Lucien Freud, Velasquez, Monet, Bacon, Hopper and dozens of other noteables, play, joust, shoot and torture each other in graphic clarity that shocks, entertains and surpises us with an original comic epic. – Wayne Thiebaud”

I was fortunate to take two classes from Wayne Thiebaud when I got my degree in art from U.C. Davis. He taught how great works of art create a story within them. Who is this person in the portrait? Where is this place and what is happening there? If we slow down and let the images absorb us, they create so much in their stillness, inside our heads. It causes us to see the world differently, through the eyes of that artist.
After we’ve looked at a Van Gogh painting, we begin to see those swirls when we look in the sky. When we reach for fruit on a table, Cezanne’s compositions and colors superimpose themselves on our reality. But our own perspective also changes the art’s meaning; we infuse and constantly redefine it with our own experience.

Inserting famous art into a comic book format juxtaposes the well-known, static images – usually viewed in galleries, in isolation, frozen – into new contexts in which to view them, embedding fresh stories into the images, as well as re-interpreting them to serve new roles in telling these new stories. As John Berger showed in his “Ways of Seeing,” if a Rothko is ten feet tall on a museum wall, you will read it differently than if it is two inches tall on your bathroom mirror next to a can of deodorant. Or as Hitchcock points out, if you film an old man smiling, followed by an image of a cute toddler, it “reads” differently than the smile followed by a woman in the bath. The selection and ordering causes the traditional art to become fresh and contain new meanings, constantly reinvented by new lenses through which to experience them.

Brush with Peril is a two part (roughly 225 pages per part), espionage-style graphic novel in which the characters and settings are famous museum masterworks turned into masked spies and villains. High brow art meets low brow pop culture – a round peg forced into the square hole of Mexican standoffs, fist fights, and car chases. The juxtapositions create a dialogue about the meanings and status of art, and our perceptions of it as a culture.

I am now serializing “Brush with Peril” at my Patreon site, available to anyone willing to become a patron at the $1 level.

The story? [Spoiler?]

In book one, Special Agent Ian Anger of the Global Agency of Protection learns that someone is killing American Realist Sculptors. He travels to France, seeking a vacationing artist whom he suspects may be in danger. Traveling by train, Anger is surrounded by Daumier’s passengers and beset by villainous Van Gogh thugs whom he defeats in an edgy and tense strategy game of “Name the Bean.” Following clues to Morisot’s parks, he learns that a team of deadly Rousseau footballers committed the murder. The heated battle ashore of the Monet lily pads leads him to a flurry of Degas karate-kicking ballerinas trying to help the footballers escape from a Toulouse-Lautrec theatre. We learn that a politician is trying to hire these artists, and when they refuse, he snuffs them out in a rage. Plans thwarted, this politician stoops to asking one last artist for this deadly commission: a former child prodigy realist sculptor, Shiele, who has since progressed to more abstract, academic theories, but who agrees to create something extraordinary on his own terms.

“Brush with Peril” Francis Bacon covers

Tuesday, March 6th, 2018

 

 

 

Here’s my son and I with Francis Bacon’s Figure With Meat (1954). It belongs to the The Art Institute of Chicago, IL, but it was on display at the Getty Museum when I traveled to Los Angeles in September 2016.

As I write this, I think this is the only Pope painting by Francis Bacon that I’ve ever seen face-to-face. I LOVE his pope paintings, and was totally struck by them when I first learned about them during my college education.

Learning about art like this was a large part of what got me going on my (arguably) “latest” project, “Brush with Peril,” my upcoming espionage-style graphic novel in which the characters and settings are famous museum masterworks turned into masked spies and villains.  High brow art meets low brow pop culture – a round peg forced into the square hold of Mexican standoffs, fist fights, and car chases.  The juxtapositions create a dialogue about the meanings and status of art, and our perceptions of it as a culture.

The first concept of this project – combining famous art and adventure – developed around 2005, but the SPY idea hit me in 2009, and that’s when I immediately jumped in and began the project in earnest.

Here are two “first issue” covers – they’re actually the same image, with one zoomed in tighter on the face.  I drew it/them in 2014.  Initially, I had designed a different cover image, but I was never crazy about it.  I drew this/these after conceiving a “close up on a face from a famous painting” cover theme. Colors by Gerry Chow.

These covers are after a detail of Francis Bacon , Study After Velásquez’s Portrait Of Pope Innocent X (1953), Des Moines Art Center, Iowa.

Please visit my Patreon page to check out more of my spy comic, Brush with Peril, and other projects.