Saturday, October 31, 2009

spooky doings

Perhaps the kid dropped his bag of trick-or-treat candy (and shed his costume) sprinting for safety. Illustration from introductory chapter of A Red Skel(e)ton in Your Closet, a 1965 anthology of "ghost stories gay and grim" selected for young readers by popular film & TV comedian Red Skelton. The book contains 21 interior illustrations which are uncredited, but Flora's trademarks are unmistakable. The artist was under contract to Harcourt, Brace at the time, and in all probability was prohibited from artist attribution for illustrations in children's books issued by other publishers (this volume was a Grosset & Dunlap title). The best of the Skel(e)ton illustrations were reproduced in our recent book, The Sweetly Diabolic Art of Jim Flora.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Gene Krupa demo booklet (1941)

Dummy pages, Gene Krupa and his Columbia recording orchestra, demo booklet, 1941, part of a series of homemade samples prepared by Flora for the Columbia Records art department. Most pages from the booklets (which earned the artist a job at Columbia) were reproduced in The Curiously Sinister Art of Jim Flora; three of the above four pages were omitted due to space constraints. We posted another unpublished page from the series here and more Flora artistic impressions of the great jazz drummer Krupa here.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

seaside setting

Detail (about two-thirds of the complete work) of an untitled, unpublished tempera on board, ca. mid-1960s. The collection contains a number of similarly composed maritime paintings from this period, though colors and figures vary. If you have our recent book, The Sweetly Diabolic Art of Jim Flora, compare this setting with Salt Pond—Block Island on page 54.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Reptet rides again

... this time to a distant galaxy. Or maybe just down the block to the Moon. The genre-surfing Seattle combo has once again (third time) licensed a Jim Flora illustration for a cover, their new 7" vinyl release Agendacide. The above element derives from the April 1963 cover of Computer Design magazine.

Previously the band's John Ewing licensed images for the Reptet's CDs Do This! and Chicken or Beef. This helps carry the Flora mid-20th album cover legacy into the 21st century, and we appreciate the torch-bearing efforts of Mr. Ewing and his cohorts. Their website is also adorned with details from other Flora works.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Bessie Smith and someone like Bessie Smith

Here are two tempera illustrations discovered in an early- to mid-1960s sketchpad in the Flora collection. The more refined of the two works has a title: Bessie Smith, presumably a vignette of the soulful, bawdy 1920s and '30s Empress of the Blues. The pianist (great hat!) is unidentified, and we can't vouch for the historical accuracy of Smith performing with her nipples exposed:

The second work, pages away in the same sketchpad, is untitled but appears to be an unfinished draft of the same scene:

It appears that Bessie gained quite a bit of weight between conception and refinement. Then again, Flora might not have had Smith in mind for the pencil and tempera draft. He often changed titles of near-identical works; many sketches were untitled, or assigned working titles which were altered for subsequent variations. A 1940s pencil sketch tagged "Boss Crump" evolved into a painting titled Self-Portrait. We'll never know at what point the artist decided that his resemblance to the legendary Tenneesse pol E. H. Crump was undeniable. A 1942 illustration for Columbia Records depicted conductor Fritz Reiner with four arms, three eyes, two noses and dueling mouths. The exact same figure was revisited in 1998—the similarity is unmistakable—but retitled Daniel Berenboim, another legendary conductor.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Jim Flora 2010 calendars available

We've received no reports of malfunctioning 2009 calendars—every day has thus far been accounted for, in the correct sequence—so we're offering 2010 models, hot off Yee-Haw's industrial presses. The spunky hyperactive figures date from Flora's mid-1950s RCA Victor LP period. Each calendar is letterpress printed one color at a time on card stock, and accessorized with a 12-month tearaway calendar. Buy one ($12.50) or a set of three at the Little Shop of Flora's.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Lobster Pound (1962)

Taking a break from conjuring bonus-limbed mutants and bug-eyed boppers, Flora often sketched maritime culture in his extended backyard. The above untitled pen & ink of a seafood shack was discovered in a travel sketchbook that contained dozens of the artist's impressions of Italy and France, several dated 1962. Back on his "home surf," Flora filled another two dozen pages of the tablet with southern Connecticut shoreline vignettes and briny motifs.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

5Qs 4 Eric Reynolds

Eric Reynolds has worked at Fantagraphics (our Flora books publisher) for 15 years, mostly as publicist. It's been our pleasure to conduct business with (and, in September 2007, meet) the affable Mr. Reynolds, an admitted Floraphile. He was recently booted upstairs by his bosses to the position of Associate Publisher. A large round of applause for that company move (though we'll miss Eric on the PR end).

Comic Book Galaxy's Trouble With Comics blog tendered "Five Questions for Eric Reynolds," which he graciously answered. Flora's name is dropped just once, but we don't begrudge Eric any perceived slight. Fantagraphics has a large artist roster and we're honored that Flora is part of it.

Above right: Eric at the Curiously Sinister Art of Jim Flora exhibit opening reception, September 22, 2007, Fantagraphics Bookstore/Gallery, Seattle.