Monday, February 9, 2009


I suppose it’s always been a bit of a hallmark in my work to present lots of strange and personal ideas without much explanation. As this “Cartoon Utopia” series has become my main concentration over the last year or so, I thought I might use this space to offer up a bit of an explanation as to what I’m up to with all of this!

At the beginning of 2008 – I started to create a series of numbered 4x6” drawings as an exercise - to start to flesh out ideas for a kind of “science fiction universe” that I’ve been slowly imagining over the last few years - the idea of a “Cartoon Utopia.” So many imagined futuristic “fantasy worlds” seem to be “dystopian” in nature –dark and pessimistic. I thought it would be nice to imagine a “futuristic” fantasy where humanity had progressed in a more positive way. This first series ended up being 60 drawings, most of which were exhibited at The Hope Gallery here in Echo Park, and at the Librarie Drawn & Quarterly last summer in Montreal. I’ve laid out these drawings (along with some traditional “comics”) into a 64-page book. I’ll be announcing plans to release a small press edition of this first “chapter” soon.

While spending time as artist in residence (thanks to D&Q!) in Montreal this past summer, I decided to create a series of much larger (18x24”) drawings as part of this “Cartoon Utopia” series. I had begun reading a biography of Manly P. Hall - founder of The Philosophical Research Society and author of the classic Secret Teachings of All Ages. After finding a worn out paperback on Alchemy on the sidewalk in Montreal, I became totally hooked on looking more into ideas related to “Ancient Wisdom”.

These large drawings ended up containing & being inspired by quotes I had come across in books I had been reading. So, this second phase of the drawings shifted from describing aspects of my fictional “Cartoon Utopia” universe – to presenting drawings based on quotations that help me describe the building blocks of my ideas for this “fantasy world.” I think I’ll be working on this phase of the drawings for quite a while. The more things I read, the more curious I become. I have ideas for many more drawings, both large and small.

The ideas and history of Alchemy & Hermeticism have really opened up a new way for me to relate to a wide variety of philosophical, religious and mystical traditions, as well as modern ideas in both science and the "New Age" movement. Instead of being universally skeptical of everything, it’s helping me see similarities between all the different ways humans have invented to help describe this wonderful, fascinating world we find ourselves in. By taking it all kind of lightly, and by creating “cartoon” artwork about all of these ideas – I feel like a bit of a trickster. It’s really fun.

I don’t want to offend anyone who relates to any of these ideas in a serious fashion, but by having fun with all of it I hope to be able to present some really amazing ideas in a lighthearted way that doesn’t scare people away. In a way that draws them in with a spirit of fun and inspiration.

How about the fact that everything, on an atomic level, operates as vibration? Then – the world is really made of sound? Then what is music? Was there really an ancient culture that was lost that set up the basis for all world traditions? Was it “Atlantis”? How about the fact that physics and mathematics can’t really explain or agree that notions of “space” and “time” actually exist? Electrons can appear as either particles or waves depending on how we decide to look at them? They can “disappear” and inexplicably show up in other places? Where do they go? Is the world is a hologram? What is consciousness anyhow? Are we living in a dream? Aren’t all of these ideas really fun to consider?

I’ve begun attending a bi-weekly lecture series at PRS by my friend Maja D’Aoust
called Alchemical Relationships: Human & Divine, The Mysterium Conjunctio.
After getting home from the first week’s lecture I noticed that I could easily produce a whole range of Cartoon Utopia drawings based on my notes. So, for right now, the upcoming batch of drawings will mostly be based on Maja’s lectures. I plan to present this section of ideas as a series of mini-comics. The first one is available now!

Now of course, people have been asking me – “So, does that mean that you’re not going to make comics anymore?” I do have a whole pile of ideas for traditional panel by panel comics to present of this “Cartoon Utopia” universe – and I am putting those on the back burner for the time being. (My 4 pages in the new Kramer’s Ergot 7 are a very short introduction of these ideas.)

BUT! Something else I’m trying to do with this series of drawings (as if everything written above wasn’t enough!) is to confront and break apart the idea of what “comics” actually are for me – in terms of my approach to them – and to the nature of my art making in general. Any notoriety I’ve garnered in the last 15 years of doing this stuff has mostly had to do with the perplexing and individualistic way that I approach the medium of “comics”. Often things that readers may see as exciting, confusing, or strange – might actually represent a bit of a “failed experiment” on my part.

These drawings contain one idea each – a sentence, or a slogan – but one simple idea presented in words, along with an accompanying image. Almost all of them can be presented singularly, out of context. But as a whole, when presented together, they become something else. Not exactly a “story” – but a sequential presentation of related ideas. They really do feel like “comics” to me. They feel like honest representations of how I think, which is the most important thing to me.

these are the sorts of books that inform the Cartoon Utopia:
Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep
Peace is every Step
Master of The Mysteries
The Secret Source
A New Earth
The Collapsing Tower
2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl
Famous Utopias of the Renaissance
The World is Sound
Harmonies of Heaven and Earth

1 comment :

Jane said...

this is really interesting - thank you!