Wednesday, December 31, 2008

revelry

Every December 31 these guys paint their noses to match their chins and get royally toasted. Must be something to celebrate. But careful—apparently it can turn your teeth grey, or cause you to lose them altogether!

Have a HAPPEE!

Monday, December 29, 2008

will draw for food

"Jim Flora's vacation is over & he could use some new money. Why not buy a drawing now! And make him feel better fast! Telephone Jim Flora at PLaza 5-9832."

Text and images: undated business card, probably shortly after Flora's 1951 return to the US from Mexico. Technically he wasn't on "vacation"—Flora and wife (and two young kids) lived in Taxco for 15 months as artmaking ex-pats. Upon returning, Flora had to hustle for freelance commercial illustration gigs to support his family. Numerous quirky business cards that stylistically reflect the early 1950s are in the family archives.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Railroad Town duet

Detail, Railroad Town, 1951 woodcut. The work in its entirety will be featured with commentary and photos of the original block in our forthcoming book, The Sweetly Diabolic Art of Jim Flora, scheduled for September 2009 publication. Limited edition oil prints struck from the artist's block are available.

The above twosome (with maracas accompaniment—so it's a trio?) will adorn the cover of my 2009 WFMU fundraiser CD, NJX@NY$!#2 (New Jersey Excitement at New York Prices, Vol. 2), currently in production.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

Benny Goodman's clarinet

A celebrity in its own right, brags to the media about Benny's awesome embouchure. Reporter doggedly chronicles sensationalistic account, anticipates major scoop.

Detail, Columbia Records ad, Look magazine, 1943.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The First Five Years

Detail, The First Five Years, acrylic on wood, ca. early 1970s. The second of six horizontal tiers depicting incidents during the artist's childhood. Exactly what these figures represent—good question.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Monday, December 15, 2008

little grey village

Spot illustration, Coda, June 1943

Thursday, December 11, 2008

WFMU art benefit

WFMU, our favorite free-form, listener-sponsored radio station, is holding a benefit art sale. Participating artists include Cindy Sherman, James Siena, Jad Fair, and others. The only deceased contributing artist is Jim Flora, whose 1955 Mambo For Cats LP cover Barbara and I adapted for this limited edition fine art print. The edition of 15 was donated; all proceeds from sales benefit non-profit WFMU.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

new Flora screen prints

Two new Jim Flora silk screen prints are available at JimFlora.com. Both are based on untitled, undated temperas from the mid-1960s, which were discovered pages apart in a sketchpad. We informally call this one Entangled Couple:

And this one has been nicknamed Canoe Critters:

Each was produced in a numbered edition of 100 by Aesthetic Apparatus, in Minneapolis, and though the prints are color-matched, they can be purchased separately. (If you want both and use our checkout system, you'll be double-charged for shipping, but we'll reimburse you 50%. To avoid the wasted steps, email us and we'll arrange a direct PayPal transaction.)

AA also produced our Mambo for Cats, Pete Jolly Duo, and Primer for Prophets silk screen prints.

Friday, December 5, 2008

animal trainer

Untitled pen sketch, ca. early-1940s. This image was later adapted (along with more than a dozen seemingly unrelated sketch works) in a 1943 copper-engraved montage entitled Air of Panic. The white vertical skunk stripe is an artifact likely caused by long-term exposure to light; the white area was shielded from exposure while the rest of the paper became yellowed with age.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Hampton Roads (pt 2)

Undetermined media (framed, under glass): print with touch-up, or black tempera, ca. 1968, detail. Previous detail posted on August 20.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The 6.98 Jacket

Flora woodengraving for short story "The 6.98 Jacket" by Robert Lowry, appearing in Hutton Street, published by Little Man Press, Cincinnati, 1940. Print run unknown, but all LMP chapbooks were extremely limited editions between 125 and 400.

The booklet contains 18 meticulous woodcuts by Flora, none of which are known to have survived. If they were left in the custody of Lowry, he likely sold them or used them for kindling. The man was volatile. The Flora archive contains three rare late-1930s Flora lithographs bearing an artless overlay of Little Man promotional copy typed in red Courier. According to Flora's handwritten testimony, "Bob Lowry kept them and defaced them in one of his mad moods."

Some copies of Hutton Street were signed:

One of Lowry's sons told a journalist that neither he nor his brother had any original Flora works, pointing out, "Either my dad sold or gave away all his Flora artwork in the 1970s, or it was left behind in the house on Hutton Street when my grandmother sold it in the '80s and was thrown away by the people who bought it. Or it could have been in my aunt's apartment and destroyed in the fire that killed her in 2004." Our journalist friend cited Lowry's 1970s book-length manuscript Letters To My Psychiatrist, described as "a mishmash of playlets, meditations, and journal." In it, Lowry "refers to holding a garage sale in 1975 or so where he was trying to sell art that Flora and Hugo Valerio did for Little Man Press—with, apparently, no takers. Indiana University's Lilly Library has a letter from Bob to a book collector in the '70s in which he offers a Flora watercolor for sale."

Friday, November 28, 2008

reclining guitar

Guitar in a seductive pose — spot illustration from A-D Gallery invitation to Flora's first New York City exhibition, June 1943.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Dock at Conakry

Pen & ink on sketch tablet paper, 1995. If you're wondering where Conakry is located, it's on the coast of Wikistan.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Today's Daily Heller

Journalist/author/design historian Steve Heller brings a nicey to the Flora stora on his PRINT Magazine blog. Heller, who penned the 1998 New York Times obit for Flora, also wrote the Foreward in our first book, The Mischievous Art of Jim Flora.

P.S. If the guy on the right at left looks familiar, here's why.

Monday, November 24, 2008

fanastic bike

Detail: undated, untitled, and unidentified commercial illustration
ca. late 1960s/early 1970s

Saturday, November 22, 2008

puppets and rag dolls

"Next [Amelia and Pepito] went to the puppet show, and then they watched the acrobats. Best of all they liked the toy vendor. Pepito finally decided to buy a jumping jack. Amelia bought a rag doll and named it after her best friend Rosita because both of them had red cheeks."

Draft illustration, The Fabulous Firework Family, Flora's first published children's book (1955). Image from the James Flora Papers, Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut, Storrs.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Triclops

That's what we call this beastie, who seems to be self-administering a third-eye implant while balancing a bird with no eyes on his fingertip. The original art is—well, we have no idea. The image appeared in very reduced form (postage stamp-sized) on a Flora business card from the 1950s.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

critter cavalcade

Sketchbook untitled elements, with glue residue
ca. 1941-43

Saturday, November 15, 2008

barnyard balancing act

Draft overlay, The Day the Cow Sneezed, 1957, found amid the James Flora Papers in the Dr. Irvin J. Kerlan Collection, University of Minnesota. Who was Dr. Kerlan?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

the evolution of Eulenspiegel

Pencil sketches for Till Eulenspiegel LP cover, 1955. The above skeletal figures eventually morphed into this rough layout:

... which was refined as this unfinished tempera setting:

... which evolved into this finished RCA Victor Red Seal cover:

Till Eulenspiegel was an impudent prankster in German folklore. Flora rendered several pen and ink drawings of the trickster in the 1990s. Perhaps he recognized a kindred spirit.

Monday, November 10, 2008

One for the Mütter Museum

Untitled tempera on card stock, dated 6/42. Hydra-headed mutants abound during this transitional period in Flora's life. Just a few months earlier he had departed his native Ohio and relocated to Connecticut to take a job with the Columbia Records art department under Alex Steinweiss.

Actually, Flora never outgrew multi-headed mutants with bonus appendages. They recur in every period of his artistic life.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

modules

Detail, untitled tempera, ca. 1950-51. Above are eight of about 65 individual modules arrayed on the entire work. The elements are stylistically reminiscent of the Railroad Town woodcut, and cubicle art is a recurrent Flora motif.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Little Shop of Flora's

... is now open. Jim Flora hand-printed notecards, fine art bookmarks, and 2009 letterpress calendars at affordable prices.

We've also released a number of new fine art and album cover prints over the past few weeks but haven't had an opportunity to alert our mailing list. Here's two, but there's more over at JimFlora.com:

Self-Portrait, ca. 1947

Gunfight on the Roof, 1951

Sunday, November 2, 2008

facial tics

Untitled tempera with pencil on board, ca. 1942-43. Disjointed face atop a tin-toy windup key torso. No problem with that.

Friday, October 31, 2008

deviltry ascendent

Illustration, "When the Night Wind Howls," by W.S. Gilbert, anthologized in A Red Skel(e)ton In Your Closet: Ghost Stories—Gay and Grim, selected and edited by actor/comic Red Skelton. The cover of this 1965 children's book was illustrated by the great Al Hirschfeld. The dozen-plus interior illustrations are unsigned and uncredited, but they reflect the unmistakable mischief of Mr. Flora.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

loan shark

Commercial illustration, late 1950s, publication unknown. Tempera mechanical found in the Flora archives. The illustration's theme has contemporary resonance in the wake of the subprime meltdown.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Great Freight Cartel

"The Great U.S. Freight Cartel" (detail), Fortune magazine, January 1957. The full original 14" x 5-1/2" tempera work was preserved by the artist and is stored—in great condition–in the Flora archives. It's one of the earliest extant original commercial illustrations in the collection. Of the hundreds of works-for-hire rendered by Flora for dozens of magazines during the 1940s and early 1950s, all that remain are periodical reproductions. From the late 1950s on, a sizable number of original illustrations and mechanicals were retained by the artist.

Friday, October 24, 2008

men vs. dragons

Untitled tempera illustration for unknown magazine, March 1958.

Stamped on reverse: "kill" — which doesn't refer to the dragon or the knight-in-a-necktie. It refers to the drawing, which was rejected for unknown reasons.

An earlier throwdown:

Monday, October 20, 2008

Duos

Another vintage Flora illustration adorns a record cover: Charles Wuorinen's Duos CD (Albany Records, January 2009 scheduled release). The untitled tempera of pink, green, and brown criss-crossing pedestrians dates from the early 1960s. The CD joins a growing gallery of new releases carrying the Flora album cover tradition into the 21st century.

Thanks to Howard Stokar, executive producer of the CD, for requesting the cover image.

Update (Jan. 12): CD now available.

Friday, October 17, 2008

canoe critters

This untitled tempera from the mid-1960s is currently in production as a silk-screen print by Aesthetic Apparatus, based in Minneapolis. It will be released with a companion print—different theme, but identical color palette. Both works, previously uncirculated, were discovered in a sketchbook in the Flora archives. We'll post the other print shortly.

Aesthetic Apparatus produced our Mambo For Cats and Pete Jolly Duo LP cover screen prints, as well as our Primer for Prophets series.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Head Harbor Light

Pen & ink with tempera, year unknown (ca. early 1990s). One of countless water's edge works in the collection. Flora lived on Long Island Sound, loved boats, loved the seaside, and drew inspiration from all.

Head Harbor Lighthouse, built from heavy timber in 1829, sits on Campobello Island in New Brunswick. It was the summer home of FDR.

Friday, October 10, 2008

that Latin Jazz stamp

A number of Floraphiles have alerted us to a new US Postal Service stamp commemorating Latin Jazz (issued September 8, 2008). They assert that: 1) the artist is, to put it kindly, "imitating Flora," or 2) Flora himself designed the stamp.

The stamp was illustrated by Michael Bartalos, a talented artist who would not deny a Flora influence -- in fact, he was friends with Jim. Arguably it is Bartalos to whom we owe the Flora renaissance. He "discovered" a largely forgotten Flora in retirement in 1992, and subsequently brought JD King into contact with the artist. It was JD who, in turn, introduced me to Flora in 1997. Thus evolved the Flora Underground, and the subsequent revival and cottage industry. Michael penned an eloquent reminiscence about his first meeting with the illustration legend in our book The Mischievous Art of Jim Flora.

The Latin Jazz design was assigned to Mike by Dick Sheaff, a (recently retired) USPS art director who is also a veteran Floraphile. Dick told me that when the assignment crossed his desk, he regretted that Flora wasn't alive to design it, so he turned to another exponent of a similar style of illustration. While the stamps remain available, they can be purchased online at USPS.com.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Jugglers edition

The Jugglers woodcut limited edition was completed last May, but we've been too preoccupied with other Flora business to release the work.

A Jugglers page has finally been posted at JimFlora.com and the first five numbered prints are now available. In the next week or two, we hope to enact an official launch. The print was produced by Bryan Baker at Yee-Haw Industrial Letterpress, Knoxville. The work appears on page 58 in The Curiously Sinister Art of Jim Flora.

This is the second 1950s Flora woodcut which we have offered in a limited edition, following Railroad Town in 2007.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

CCA elderly gent

Detail from "Ohio," full-page illustration commissioned by Container Corporation of America, 1947. The montage (fully reproduced in The Mischievous Art of Jim Flora, page 167) originally appeared in several nationally distributed magazines, including Fortune and Time. A detail previously posted here came from a scan of the magazine tearsheet. The above detail originated from a higher-resolution color print issued in 1948 by CCA.

As their name implies, CCA manufactured containers. The one pictured in cross-section above was designed to compactly contain a fully appendaged human male, one piece of furniture, and austere bric-a-brac. Drainpipe and barrel sold separately.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Jackson Square

One of a dozen woodcuts by Flora depicting New Orleans landmarks, historical vignettes, and social settings. The series was commissioned around 1940 by the Union Central Life Insurance Company of Cincinnati for their Agency Bulletin. The whereabouts of the original blocks are unknown.

At the time, having recently completed studies at the Art Academy of Cincinnati, Flora was a struggling freelancer. "Soft-spoken and unassuming," the Bulletin proclaimed, "James happens to be the sort of artist who works away eight or ten hours a day on assignments, and then goes home to cut away on another woodblock until early morning, just to keep his hand in."

Years later, Flora told interviewer Angelynn Grant, "They were my idea of what New Orleans looked like even though I'd never been there."

HT: D. Gorton for the aerial recognition.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sax-on-a-string, 1943

Cover, Columbia-Okeh Popular Records new release monthly, March 1943. (The sepia tint is an aging artifact.) Flora had designed these foldout booklets -- covers and interiors -- over the second half of 1942. Columbia appointed Flora art director, succeeding Alex Steinweiss, in late 1943, and he continued illustrating these monthlies through 1944. Three full 1942 spreads were reproduced in The Curiously Sinister Art of Jim Flora.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Satan's sugary spawn

Our next Flora compendium is being compendicated. Target publication: September 2009, by Fantagraphics. Cover design by Laura Lindgren.

UPDATE (1 June 2009): Publication announced first week of August.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Sidney Bechet 78 set

Cover artwork (typography removed) of Sidney Bechet 78 rpm set (Columbia C-173), 1948. Flora had a particular fondness for early New Orleans jazz, especially the recordings of legendary soprano saxophonist/clarinetist Bechet (1897-1959).