Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Sweetly Diabolic Art of Jim Flora

A lengthy gestation period: our new book, conceived two years ago, is today born. Fantagraphics, with godlike dominion, declared July 29 as the official publication date of The Sweetly Diabolic Art of Jim Flora, our third anthology.

Purchase at:, Barnes & Noble, or from Fantagraphics. Doesn't matter to us. Buy it. Here's what you'll discover:

Like its two predecessors, The Mischievous Art of Jim Flora (2004) and The Curiously Sinister Art of Jim Flora (2007), this anthology celebrates a visionary whose work is steeped in vari-hued paradox. Flora's figures are fun while threatening; playful yet dangerous; humorous but deadly. His helter-skelter arabesques are clustered with strangely contorted critters of no identifiable species, juxtaposed amid toothpick towers and trombones twisted into stevedore knots. Down his streets lurch demonic mutants sporting fried-egg eyes, dagger noses, and bonus limbs. Yet, despite the raucous energy projected in these hyperactive mosaics, a typical Flora freak circus often projects harmony and balance — an ordered chaos.

The Sweetly Diabolic Art of Jim Flora features paintings, drawings, and sketches from the 1940s through the 1990s — many never previously published or exhibited; more artifacts from the artist's 1940s tenure in the Columbia Records art department; and vintage newspaper and magazine illustrations. Several galleries feature never-before circulated children's book drafts and abandoned concepts that pre-date Flora's commercial success as an avatar of kid-lit.

Footnote: Any online description that says the book contains "a 1984 interview with award-winning graphic designer Robert M. Jones, who offers priceless insights," is erroneous. We had planned to include the Jones interview at the time we were obliged to provide a far-in-advance book description for the distributor's catalog, but decided to save the interview for a future book. The Fantagraphics site has the most accurate book description.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Big Evening

Jim Flora Art has released a limited-edition, archival-quality fine art print of a 1960 Flora painting entitled Big Evening. The hyperactive tableau depicts a cavalcade of misshapen, multi-eyed mutants with bonus body parts. People just like you! The work was produced in an edition of 25. Nine were sold in the first two days after release, our most successful new print launch.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

tweed cat

A work-in-progress (since finished) by the Angry Knitter. The background exhibit caught our eye.

Monday, July 20, 2009

gratuitous violence

Because we feel like it. Because cartoon violence is the best violence of all!

Cover detail, Columbia Coda, June-July 1943. The above is not a garden variety mugging—it has to do with highbrow musical theatrics. The dagger to the heart caused the victim to sing—and thereafter to be written out of the plot. Although it's possible he returned in later acts as a zombie.

Friday, July 17, 2009

those self-destructive types

Illustration, Parade magazine, January 18, 1959. Article about people with genetic and/or psychological dispositions to behavioral patterns that cause health problems. The above tableau (from a tearsheet in the Flora archives) appears on page 9 beneath the semi-title " ... Disease Personality." We're missing page 8, which would provide the rest of the title.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

good taste edifies

Absolute good taste edifies absolutely.

Cartoonist/animator Gene Deitch, in a 2003 interview with, about his then-new book, The Cat on a Hot Thin Groove:

AAJ: What is your favorite piece of album cover artwork?

Deitch: Any by James Flora.

Left: detail, Shorty Rogers Courts the Count (1955, RCA Victor)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Berber Camel Market

Detail (about one-sixth of the entire tableau), acrylic on canvas, 1992. On the back of the canvas the artist wrote: "Berber Camel Market (a plaque in Morocco)."

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Our new book. Our new book.

Longtime friend, music collector, and fellow Floraphile David Burd reports a first sighting:
The new Flora book is in stores today! I just picked up my copy.
We expected the book to hit streets in mid-August. That's what happens when you work with a niche publisher—they surprise on the upside. (Note: lists a release date of July 29, 2009.)

Illustration of celebratory Benny Goodman (above): not in this book. It appeared in our second book.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Our new book. Not our new book.

We never claimed our favorite artist was a religious figure.

Their book costs $1,500. Ours will be more "competitively priced."

Left: one of several early 1940s Flora sketches of the Crucifixion, entitled Descent From the Cross, subsequently developed into a refined pencil drawing (published in our second book, The Curiously Sinister Art of Jim Flora). Flora also rendered the work as a pen and ink with tempera during the 1990s.

HT: Don Brockway

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy 4th

Draft illustration, The Fabulous Firework Family, 1955
(published that year by Harcourt, Brace)

note: reposted from 2007