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The Art of Norman Rockwell

Last weekend I went to see American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, so I thought I’d write a little bit about my experiences.

As a teenager I was a very keen collector of Coca Cola memorabilia, and it was through this that I first discovered Roackwell’s artwork. In fact, one my favourite items in my collection is a 1935 Coca Cola calendar that my Dad bought for me featuring a Rockwell painting of a boy fishing in side profile. So, having been a huge fan of his for many years, this was obviously a really exciting opportunity for me, and it really lived up to my expectations.

As his artwork is so familiar, and appears so frequently in print, I had to keep reminding myself, no, these are not printed – these are his actual paintings! I loved seeing his work for The Saturday Evening Post, particularly as so many of his covers were incredibly inventive. He was very clearly a lateral thinker, and I love that! I try to think very laterally myself when I’m presented with an art/design related challenge. They did have some examples of his work in print too, which I also had a huge appreciation for, as I love historic printed ephemera. The fact that they had all 323 tear sheets from The Saturday Evening Post, ranging from 1916 through to the 1960s was fantastic. It really showed the subtle evolution of his style throughout the decades, and also the changes in fashion, culture, and style.

Another highlight for me personally was to see that Rockwell was a huge fan of Walt Disney, and dedicated the artwork for one of his Saturday Evening Post covers (specifically, Girl Reading the Post, from 1941) to him, and that Disney had it hanging on the wall in his office for many years.

All in all, it was a fantastic exhibition. As much as I would have loved to have seen some of his Coca Cola advertisements featured for old time’s sake, thats a minor point, and overall I think I would even go so far as to say that I actually left there an even bigger fan of his than I had been when I entered.

Artist At Work

Napoleon Dynamite Cartoon

I watched the first two episodes of the new animated series of Napoleon Dynamite last night, and actually thought it was really good! It probably helps that I’m a big fan of the original 2004 film, and this, I felt, complimented that movie quite nicely. Not only does it feature the same cast of characters, who are mostly voiced by the original actors, but it also did a great job of retaining that same off-beat, indie feel, whilst adding a bit of extra pace, and a concoction of even more bizarre situations – a shift in direction that works really well for this different format. By staying true to the original source material, with a few nice little additions here and there, I think they’ve created a great companion piece. I would say, far better to have done this than to have a added two or three movie sequels. I look forward to seeing what future episodes have in store, but this was certainly a great start.

Napoleon Dynamite

The Adventures Of Tintin

I had a chance to watch Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures OF Tintin a few nights ago, so just thought I’d discuss some thoughts on it.

Overall, it was a pretty good film, with some amazing action sequences, and some stunning cinematography. I have to admit, however, I reluctantly arrived at the conclusion, as I know some others have, that the hyper-real look of the film, mixed with the vaguely cartoony features/proportions of the characters, didn’t quite work for me. For me it seemed so close to reality, but with something just not quite right about it. A little more exaggeration in the proportions of aspects of the characters, such as the eyes, for instance, would have gone a long way to resolving this, but I also think the Motion Performance techniques used in the film may also have contributed significantly to this slightly disjointed look.

Cartoons aren’t supposed to move like, or closely resemble, real people – they’re cartoons! To quote Daniel D. Snyder at The Atlantic: “While all the characters sport some kind of cartoonish features—especially their ears and noses—their photorealistic eyes are somehow blank. It’s especially odd considering that it is the goal of animation to exaggerate features into even more outrageous modes of expression. Perfect mimicry in itself pointless. In bringing them to life, Spielberg has made the characters dead.”

I can’t help but wonder whether the fact that the film was directed by a live action director may have played a significant role in this. My guess is that had the film had been made by a director with background in animation, such as Brad Bird for example, we’d have seen something with a significantly more cohesive look. Equally so had Spielberg himself made this as a live action film.

However, having just finished reading a biography of Hergé (a couple of hours before I went to see the film in fact – I set myself a target!), I have to say, in most respects, this is actually probably pretty close to the movie that Hergé would have liked to have seen made. Spielberg really did do a pretty good job of embracing the spirit of Hergé the adventure story writer – just a shame he only partially embraced Hergé the cartoonist.

The Adventures Of Tintin Poster