Tuesday, January 25, 2011

artist at rest

Today in 1914, James Royer Flora was born in Bellefontaine, Ohio. Above our guy is pictured relaxing at home in the late 1980s. Interesting juxtaposition of bold patterns, with hunting jacket, slacks and chair vying for focal primacy. Cameo in the upper right by the Fab Four, depicted in 1964, tho it appears to be a hand-rendered (probably not by Flora) replica of a famous photo.

Flora's daughter Julia provides some family context:
I love this picture; this is exactly the way I'll always remember him, with that great head of hair and his flair (?) for mixing plaids (we used to tease him about that all the time). I'm fairly sure it was my brother Robert that took it and probably for some kind of promo shot Dad asked him to create.
In the early 1970s, Flora rendered an autobiographical montage, The First Five Years, in acrylic on wood. The work featured six stacked tiers depicting incidents during the artist's childhood. We posted one tier in December 2008. Here's another:

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Provincetown, July 1957

Provincetown 7/57, pencil drawing from sketchbook

Friday, January 21, 2011

At the Cabin

That's the title of the new CD by Seattle's quirky genre-blending jazz ensemble Reptet. It's the group's fourth release to feature a licensed Jim Flora illustration (all usages initiated by the band's drummer, John Ewing). Information about Reptet, their music, and the gatefold letterpress CD package (designed by Tom Parson) can be found at the Artists Recording Collective. The above image is an inverted detail from Flora's masterful 1951 woodcut Railroad Town.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

hybrid vehicle

This steamroller is obviously in violation of some vehicular maximum-occupancy statute. The question is—who gets ordered to court? Most likely young Fletcher (at the controls), the only homo sapien on the scene. He's the most convenient scapegoat (though not the only goat).
All the other animals jumped on top of the steam roller as fast as they could. It was the only safe place to be.

"STOP!," everyone was shouting.

But the steam roller kept right on at full speed.
Page from The Day The Cow Sneezed, Flora's 1957 children's book (his second), reprinted in October 2010 by Enchanted Lion.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Richard Strauss LP cover (1954)

Illustration from the cover of Eugene Ormandy & the Philadelphia Orchestra's 1954 Columbia Masterworks 10" LP, Richard Strauss: Till Eulenspiegels [sic] Lustige Streiche and Waltzes from Der Rosenkavalier (AL-46).

Flora illustrated about a dozen covers for Columbia during his 1943-1950 employment at the label (all released after he relinquished the Art Director chair in 1945). Following a 15-month Mexican hiatus, he rekindled his U.S. freelance career in 1951 and provided a number of work-for-hire illustrations for Columbia records and print material thru the mid-1950s.

The original artwork no longer exists except on the somewhat rare (and hence very collectible) cardboard sleeve. The bland, generic typesetting is poorly juxtaposed atop Flora's iconic fine-art imagery. We can only speculate that Flora — who also specialized in mischievous typography — provided the artwork but did not design the package.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

costing you an arm & a leg

Another pencil draft from the 1955 sketchbook we've been featuring the past few weeks. The purpose of this stand-alone drawing is unknown. Other sketches on the same and adjacent pages feature rough panels for a cartoon ad about Proctor toasters; none of those drawings depict a loss of limbs.

Monday, January 10, 2011

fiesta time

Black ink on vellum overlay of illustration from Flora's first children's book, The Fabulous Firework Family (1955). One of numerous such artifacts donated by Flora to the Dr. Irvin C. Kerlan Collection at the University of Minnesota Libraries. Overlays were used to indicate colors for printing. Flora's books were published over a 27-year span, during which printing processes underwent a number of developments. However, all Flora's books pre-date digital printing techniques.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

miscellaneous sketches

Figures from a mid-1950s sketchbook. The two panels were juxtaposed horizontally, but are stacked here for vertical display. The purpose of the drafts is unknown, and the elements are unrelated to any other sketches in the book.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

pecking order

Our title, not Flora's. Draft from sketchbook ca. 1955, purpose unknown. Adjacent pages feature rough illustrations of management skills, probably intended for a topical magazine assignment.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Baba Yaga

Baba Yaga, pen & ink and oil pastel on paper, 14" x 16", 1996. Previously unpublished and uncirculated late life work (two years before the artist's death). Wiki entry profiles a dangerous damsel:
She flies around on a giant pestle or broomstick, kidnaps (and presumably eats) small children, and lives in a hut that stands on chicken legs.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Walter Beartree & the Boo-Saying Whale

Flora authored and illustrated 17 children's books under his own name between 1955 (The Fabulous Firework Family) and 1982 (Grandpa's Witched-Up Christmas). A milk crate in the Flora archives contains contracts and correspondence for each one. Most of the letters passed between the author/artist and his legendary editress, Margaret McElderry.

The crate is also stuffed with manila folders for dozens of abandoned or rejected book ideas. Walter Beartree and the Boo-Saying Whale does not have a folder, but these pencil roughs were discovered in a sketchbook from the mid-1950s.