Saturday, June 23, 2007

Dickie Bird (1998)

Pen and ink, rendered two months before Flora's death in July 1998.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Flora drummer (1955)

Printed, matted and framed by Yee-Haw Industrial Letterpress,
Knoxville TN, exhibited at NYC Stationery Show May 2007,
to introduce a limited line of Flora cards and calendars.
Production underway, projected completion late July.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Mount Adams Winter Scene (1937)

Mount Adams Winter Scene (1937) was painted by Flora while studying at the Art Academy of Cincinnati, and is the only existing color work from his academy days. It may, in fact, be the earliest existing Flora workperiod. (There are undated student-era sketches.)

The style, of course, does not reflect Flora's future direction. At the academy he was training to be a fine artist, and such were his aspirations. It's ironic that in the depths of the Great Depression, Flora—the student—was painting on canvas. By the time he was certified by the Academy in 1939, and throughout the World War II years when he was employed (successfully) as a commercial artist, Flora rarely, if ever, painted on canvas. Existing private works from 1938 to 1945 are on paper, artist board, cardboard, blocks of wood, onionskin, postcard scraps, vellum, and occasionally on the backs of convention brochures, printer's proofs, rejected drafts—anything with a blank surface. Wartime rationing had been imposed by the government, but it couldn't suppress Flora's artistic impulses.

The oil on canvas, which measures 26" x 32", hangs at the Flint (Michigan) Institute of Arts, where it is part of the museum's Regionalists Collection. The work is cataloged as a "gift of Pat Glascock and Michael D. Hall in honor of Pat’s parents Charles R. and Nadine V. Patterson." Flora fan Andy Gabrysiak dropped us a note: "I saw it there myself a few weeks ago. It's beautiful!"

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Flora Files

Artifact from the archives: 1954 RCA Victor requisition order for the {ahem!} legendary Mambo For Cats album cover illustration. The work was commissioned by label art director—and longtime Flora buddy—Robert M. Jones, who signed the PO (fee unspecified). The finished sleeve encased a 12" slab of vinyl, we seem to recall.

This iconic Flora design was featured in The Mischievous Art of Jim Flora, and has recently been marketed as a t-shirt, a fridge magnet, and a fine art silk-screen print. It was also featured full-page in Eric Kohler's 1999 book In The Groove: Vintage Record Graphics 1940-1960 (Chronicle), although the colormatching is inexact. Copies of the original LP fetch beaucoup bucks on eBay. Oh, and it was an alt-universe postage stamp, too.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Jim Flora Meets Raymond Scott

In a design sense—and posthumously, anyway. Their professional paths nearly crossed: early in his career, composer-bandleader Raymond Scott recorded for Columbia Records but left the label in 1941, one year before Flora was hired by Columbia's art department.

I've long wanted to revive the Flora album cover tradition by adapting his art on new CDs. In 2006, Seattle's Reptet released Do This!, whose cover was bedecked with a Flora three-eyed monster we call a "triclops." Later this year, the first CD collection of the 1948-49 Raymond Scott Quintet will showcase a Flora cover (above) designed by the gifted Dutch art director Piet Schreuders. The 1951 illustration, which originally garnished a Robert Lowry short story in Mademoiselle magazine, was likely rendered during Flora's Mexican idyll. Ectoplasm refers to a Scott composition on the CD, which this author is producing for Basta Audio-Visuals.

N.B.: The Lothars album Oscillate My Metallic Sonatas (released in 2000) adapted Flora's 1955 album cover art for This Is Benny Goodman and His Orchestra (RCA Victor).

P.S. Basta is considering pressing a limited vinyl edition of Ectoplasm for the Floraphiles.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Have we met?

Perhaps we haven't been formally introduced. I'm the second book of Jim Flora art published by Fantagraphics. I was born in February and shortly thereafter found myself distributed in bookstores and on the virtual shelves of e-tailers. Even though I'm almost four months old, some of you aren't aware of my existence. So I just wanted to say "Hi," and give you a gentle poke in the ribs. Go find me and take me home. I'm good company. Your friends will like me, too, and they'll admire your sophisticated tastes in cool, esoteric art. It's not too late to be an early adopter!