Wednesday, October 29, 2014

proud Floraphile

Musician Mike Keneally is a Floraphile.
Info on Mike at AllMusicand here's his website.
Photo by my brother Dan Chusid, October 2014.
The book he's holding is our 2013 anthology

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


"Oldtown," pen and ink drawing, late 1930s, unpublished work. Oldtown (or Old Town?) is presumably a neighborhood in Cincinnati, where Flora lived at the time he rendered this drawing. We were unable to locate this community in a rudimentary search on our Google Machine. If any locals have the answer, please leave a comment below. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

anthropomorphic lobsters

Untitled pencil drawings for unknown project,
discovered in 1960s sketchbook

Saturday, September 6, 2014

A Flora Centennial Exhibit Sept 20-Nov 2

A Centennial Fine Art Retrospective, 1940-1975

detail, untitled tempera on paper, mid-1940s
We'll celebrate the Flora centennial with a major fine art exhibition at the Silvermine Arts Center, Norwalk CT, from September 20 – Nov 2, 2014. The exhibit, curated by Irwin Chusid, co-archivist of the Jim Flora collection, will feature dozens of rarely seen original paintings and a handful of new prints, most never previously exhibited. Flora and his wife Jane were members of the legendary Silvermine Guild of Artists, so this exhibit represents a homecoming of sorts.

untitled tempera on paper, early 1960s
There will be an opening reception on Friday, Sept 19, from 6-8pm. Come hoist a plastic "glass" of champagne in honor of the Mischievous Mr. Flora.

Depot Fire, tempera on paper, late 1960s

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The High Fidelity Exhibition

You can buy our fourth anthology The High Fidelity Art of Jim Flora and browse the man's legendary album illustrations between book covers. Or you can attend Jalopy's similarly named exhibit and be surrounded by four walls of Flora. Those walls will be adorned with vintage LP and 78 covers, proof sheets, and oversized reproductions from our fine art print catalog. The Brooklyn-based club's exhibit opens Friday June 13 from 6 - 8pm, during which yours truly will be on hand to: 1) sign your copy of The High Fidelity Art; 2) spin Flora-centric music (trad jazz, swing, and hard bop, with a smattering of Third Stream); and 3) chat about Flora. Admission is FREE, and you don't have to buy a book to attend. Jalopy has a restaurant next door to the club, and the fare is scrumptious.

Jalopy is located in Red Hook, Brooklyn (315 Columbia Street, specifically). It's not that hard to get to, though locals have a saying, "It takes people in Red Hook two hours to get to Red Hook." You can find it. It's a very cool place to hang, and it's run by a cool couple, Lynette and Geoff Wiley, who recently gave birth to a couple of cool twins.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Hipsters, Flipsters ...

Richard Myrle Buckley was born 108 years ago today in Tuolumne, CA. He later self-applied the deferential appellation Lord and became a fixture on the New York jazz nightclub scene, transforming into what his biographer Michael Monteleone described as "a strange but intriguing mix of a proper English peer of the realm and a street corner jive hipster." He played the Vaudeville circuit, was friends with gangster Al Capone, appeared on The Tonight Show, married six times, and died broke, leaving an idiosyncratic legacy of oral literature, some of it captured on tape, vinyl, and film.

You can hear one of his Lordship's epic declarations here. It's the title track from the very rare 1955 10" record (above) with a famous Flora illustration. The cover is available as a limited edition fine art print at Or you can order a Buckley portrait rendered by noted illustrator Drew Friedman. The Friedman portrait looks like Buckley. The Flora portrait looks like ... well, like Flora.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

murder in the Keystone State

Spot illustration, Columbia Records new popular-release weekly trade mailer, November 7, 1942, promoting bandleader Horace Heidt's new Columbia single, "Pennsylvania Polka." Despite the caption,  there appear to be no casualties on the dance floor.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Jim Flora: The First 100 Years

One hundred years ago today, James Royer Flora was born in the quaint village of Bellefontaine, Ohio. Above, possibly making its first public appearance, is the artist's earliest extant work, a pen & ink with pencil (or charcoal) entitled First Steps, dated June 8, 1935, around the time Flora enrolled at the Art Academy of Cincinnati. Whether the work is intended to be autobiographical shall forever remain a mystery.

To observe the centennial, we have two exhibits in development, and one or two others under consideration. The first, at a cool Brooklyn club/bistro/gallery called Jalopy, will run from June 13 to August 22. Because the club's decor is largely music-themed, this exhibit will spotlight Flora's album cover art—which also happens to be the focus of our most recent anthology, The High Fidelity Art of Jim Flora (published by Fantagraphics in August 2013). On display will be original copies of Flora album covers—some extremely rare—as well as selected offerings from our album cover fine art print catalog.

The second will be a major retrospective of Flora's fine art and commercial illustrations at Silvermine Art Center, in Norwalk, Connecticut. The opening reception takes place September 21, and the exhibit runs for six weeks. Flora and his artist wife Jane, whose Bell Island home was part of greater Norwalk, were members of the Silvermine Guild of Artists, so this exhibit is something of a homecoming. Dozens of rare works will be displayed, along with paintings and original artist prints which have appeared in our four anthologies.

So, to the esteemed Mr. Flora, wherever you are:

Monday, January 20, 2014

Flora at BlissTopic Arte

For our Spanish-speaking (-reading, actually) Floraphiles, here's a lengthy profile of our upcoming centenarian (Jan. 25) by Esther B. Vigil at The title, EXORCIZANDO DEMONIOS AL RITMO FRENÉTICO DEL JAZZ, translates as "exorcising demons to the rhythm of jazz," which is an interesting take on Flora's devilish creations. The images were borrowed from our website, except for a 1950s photo we provided of Flora at work in his studio. The article includes the 1959 UPA animated version of Flora's kiddie book The Fabulous Firework Family, for which Flora created the storyboard but not the art used in the cartoon.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Party Animals

Detail of untitled 1940s tempera casually referred to as "Tenement K," which contains quite a few enigmatic and disturbing tenants. The original work is owned by Keith McAllister, who extracted the above celebratory duo to produce a holiday card titled "Party Animals." No better way to ring in seasonal festivities than a curiously sinister Flora tableau.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Tenement K

Today we introduce a new limited edition fine art print called TENEMENT K, whose residents are bawdy, musical, criminal, and/or exhibitionistic. Doesn't matter if you're rowdy, serpentine, or headless—the landlord will rent you a room. If you were a mutant miscreant, you'd be home by now.

The previously unpublished and uncirculated work, which dates from the 1940s, is owned by a private collector who allowed us to have the work professionally photographed for print reproduction. Although the work is untitled, we have provisionally named it Tenement K to differentiate it from other untitled Jim Flora works.

Only forty (40) prints of Tenement K were produced for this edition. Each archival-quality 22" x 17" print is hand-numbered in the lower right and authenticated on the reverse with the stamped seal of Jim Flora Art (a Flora family enterprise). The provisional title does not appear in the print markings.

The launch price is $175.00 each (+ shipping and handling). Prices will increase as the edition sells down. Full print specs are included on the Tenement K page at

Friday, October 11, 2013

music and art in the crib

Flora, grinning (ca. 1985)
Flora's daughter Roussie Jacksina has received her complimentary copy of The High Fidelity Art of Jim Flora. She writes:
Hi Irwin, I received the book today and it is GORGEOUS! Where on earth did you find all that new material? You are amazing sleuths and the book is stunning. Assuming Dad is among us in the 4th dimension, I'm sure he is grinning wide.

I think the first music I ever heard was a record of Josh White singing "One Meatball" and I heard it in my crib. It's because of Dad's musical influence that I dropped out of college to hang out in jazz clubs and art galleries—not that that was his wish for me, nor was he very pleased.

Thanks so much for the copy. You, Barbara, and Laura did a fabulous job.


Monday, October 7, 2013

Gene Deitch: Flora had an "overpowering influence" on my style

Animation legend GENE DEITCH was a longtime friend of Jim Flora, a friendship that commenced in the 1940s and ended only with Flora's death in 1998. Today Gene wrote to us:
Pete Jolly Duo EP from back cover of
The High Fidelity Art of Jim Flora
THE HIGH-FIDELITY ART OF JIM FLORA arrived!  This latest treasury of Jim's art is the closest to my heart, as it covers the exact material that led me to him in the mid 1940s—and which had an overpowering influence on my own graphic attempts.  Everyone who followed my work in the Record Changer magazine, reproduced in the Fantagraphics book, THE CAT ON A HOT THIN GROOVE, knows that much of my stuff was flat-out Flora imitation-emulation, though I clearly knew all the while that Jim's endless graphic invention was inimitable.

Jim himself was in many ways a parallel of his iconic images, a sum of many parts, just as all the convoluted sassy segments strung-out in space joined into a dazzling whole.  A genius of his order may have had every reason to be arrogant, distant, or cold—yet Jim was downright jolly, warm-hearted, caring and helpful. He never berated me for stealing his stuff, but rather encouraged me and worked with me. I tried to work more with him, but am grateful that I was at least able to produce animated versions of his FABULOUS FIREWORKS FAMILY at Terrytoons and LEOPOLD, THE SEE-THROUGH CRUMB-PICKER here in Prague. Best of all, I am proud that he became my close friend and regular correspondent.  His final letter to me lingers in my heart. This new book of his further ensures that I will never forget him.
Gene's The Cat On a Hot Thin Groove was recently republished by Fantagraphics with a new cover:

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Miraculous Mambo Returns!

In 2012 we sold our 200th and final oversized Mambo For Cats screen print, the last of a limited edition produced by Aesthetic Apparatus of Minneapolis in 2006. Almost immediately, a legion of Floraphiles—especially those fond of felines and Latin terpsichore—began clamoring for this work to be restored to our catalog. The nature of limited editions precludes us from issuing the work in an identical (or even comparable) format. Two hundred hand-numbered, Flora family-authenticated, 20"-square Mambo screen prints (and two dozen proofs) exist. There won't be any more. Want one? You'll have to search on the secondary market—which means find someone who bought one and wants to sell it. We don't control that market, and price is determined by supply and demand.

But we do control the underlying image, and limited edition print protocols permit us to issue the work in an altered format. Consider it done. To celebrate the publication of The High Fidelity Art of Jim Flora, our fourth anthology—and one which specifically features all of Flora's known album covers—we've revived Mambo for Cats. This week we're launching an edition of 200 hand-numbered, 11-1/2"-square, archival-quality fine art prints. It's about 40% smaller than the screen print, and is produced on different paper with different inks via an entirely different printing process (inkjet, or giclée). The giclée image is slightly smaller than a 12" LP cover in order to accommodate a 3/4" margin on an untrimmed 13" x 19" sheet of 310g Hahnemühle stock. (A smaller margin would make matting problematic.) One other significant difference: the screen print was on cream-colored stock; the giclée stock is white.

Upon learning about the new Mambo edition, ears began to perk up in the Flora community:

We also offer a Mambo mini—a 7"-square archival quality print. This is an open edition, meaning the prints are not numbered nor is the edition limited. To date we've sold about 150 minis.

We can't guarantee these Mambo kitties will have nine lives, but for now they're happy to embark on their third.

Friday, September 20, 2013

WOW! YIP! Don't miss this!

Spot illustration, Columbia Records new popular-release weekly trade mailer, October 31, 1942, promoting Kay Kyser and His Orchestra's single "Can't Get Out of This Mood" (Columbia 36657)

Monday, September 9, 2013

The High Fidelity Art of Jim Flora

Our fourth Jim Flora anthology is officially available today.

Our first book, The Mischievous Art of Jim Flora (2004), featured Flora's known album covers. Since that book's publication, more vintage covers have been found, as well as the artist's rough drafts and rejected illustrations. The Mischievous Art went through two editions, but is now out of print, highly sought and available only at high prices through rare-book sellers. So we decided to compile a complete collection of Flora record covers (including recent discoveries) and unpublished sketches in one volume, augmented by music images not included in previous volumes. The High Fidelity Art of Jim Flora is the definitive anthology of the maestro's visual compositions, reflecting jazz, classical, and Latin music. Regarding his jam-packed canvases Flora once said he "couldn't stand a static space." There's nothing static about the images in The High Fidelity Art: they wail, dance, bounce, and swing from the chandeliers. They hit notes that shatter glass. This is art to which you can tap your toes and snap your fingers. Flora had a knack for grooving with a paintbrush.

The book features a 1998 interview with Flora which I conducted at his home on Bell Island, in Rowayton CT, just a few months before he passed away from stomach cancer. The interview has not been previously published. We also obtained from the Flora family previously unpublished photos of Jim and rare visual artifacts.

The book is published by Fantagraphics, who have created a spate of High Fidelity Art links for your web perusal:

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

slight makeover

The homepage, long overdue for an update, finally got one. Besides our forthcoming book, The High Fidelity Art of Jim Flora (due September 7 from Fantagraphics), you'll find a first announcement about a Flora centennial exhibit at Silvermine Arts Center in September 2014. We've also added links for our two Flora children's books reprinted by Enchanted Lion. In the coming weeks we will post information about several additions to our fine art prints catalog.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Kim Thompson - An Appreciation

Gary Groth (left) and Kim Thompson
On Wednesday we noted the death at age 56 of Kim Thompson, co-publisher (with Gary Groth) of Fantagraphics Books, under whose imprint we've graced the world with three Flora anthologies. (A fourth, The High Fidelity Art of Jim Flora, arrives in September.)

Kim served as the company's editor and point person for my (and Barb Economon's) Flora books. He conferred with us and designer Laura Lindgren during development and production, ensured we met deadlines, proofread and edited the final manuscripts, and shepherded the books through the crucial printing process. These tasks sound clerical, but without the involvement of Kim (and Gary), these books would not exist. Book publishers—especially in the arts—don’t last 30+ years by luck; they endure because of leadership. Kim co-helmed the company, and the success of Fantagraphics depends on artists and authors delivering quality material. Quality has to be nurtured, and sometimes imposed, from above. Kim and Gary held us to a high standard, and since we had immense respect for them—and for the reputation of the company they founded—we labored to meet their benchmark. That our relationship with Fantagraphics has lasted ten years and a quartet of books indicates we succeeded.

Kim would have supervised the development of The High Fidelity Art, but as research and writing ramped up earlier this year, he was diagnosed with lung cancer. (Gary stepped in and oversaw the project.) We received periodic reports from Kim's wife, Lynn Emmert, while he was in treatment at Seattle's Virginia Mason Hospital; some reports were upbeat, but the prognosis looked grim. On June 6, after five weeks of treatment, Kim returned home for hospice care.

In our communication (virtual, phone, face-to-face) over the years, Kim was a gentleman and a professional. He saw the big picture but could focus intently on detail. Once we were two weeks late on a deadline. We apologized, and his (paraphrased) response was, "Considering the deadlines chronically and widely missed by so many of our artists and writers, 'two weeks late' is early."

We never got the sense Kim was doing his "job"—he was doing what he loved, in a community of colleagues who shared his passions. He was unusually talented and singularly compelled—as such, perhaps something of an outsider. At Fantagraphics, he co-created a universe where he was an insider. Many people segue into make-work careers to bag a salary and justify themselves with 35 or 40 hours of weekly employment. That wasn't Kim. He had a vision and a mission. He wasn't at a desk; he co-piloted command central of an idiosyncratic publishing empire. Fantagraphics has outlived Kim; so intense was his dedication, we suspect he would not have contemplated the reverse.

We wish Gary the best, as he perseveres with the next generation of Fantagraphics staff, who are maintaining a legacy Kim co-founded. Gary has an energetic, committed team, but Kim will be irreplaceable.

Kim and Gary were always supportive and cooperative. They let us make the books we wanted to make, with no editorial interference and only helpful suggestions. Because our new book will soon be off the presses, it's too late to add a line of copy. So we'll publish it here:

The High Fidelity Art of Jim Flora 
is Dedicated to the Memory of Kim Thompson

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Kim Thompson, 56

Fantagraphics Books co-publisher Kim Thompson passed away this morning at age 56 after a four-month bout with lung cancer. Kim served as editor and point-person on our three Flora anthologies, and we missed working with him on our soon-to-be-published book #4. I'll post a detailed personal perspective on Kim tomorrow—which means I'll devote 50 times as many words explaining what a great guy he was to work with and how much we'll miss him.

Our deepest condolences to the Thompson family and to the Fantagraphics staff.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

the hand as pillow

Untitled pen & ink drawing, 1942 (reproduced in our 
second book, The Curiously Sinister Art of  Jim Flora)