Brian Crane, creator of the Pickles comic strip, won the 2013 Reuben Award for ‘Cartoonist of the Year’ from the National Cartoonists Society. Previous winners include Charles Schulz, Garry Trudeau, and Bill Watterson. Crane was born in Twin Falls, Idaho; grew up in the San Francisco Bay area; and graduated from BYU in 1973. He worked for 17 years as an illustrator, designer, and art director before realizing his dream of creating a comic strip—and the strip has been running for 25 years. He lives in Sparks, Nevada with his wife, Diana and they have seven children and fourteen grandchildren.
Pickles features Earl and Opal Pickles who have been married for over 50 years. As his bio states, “Whether observing the differences between genders and generations or taking a wry but sympathetic look at life in the twilight years, Crane’s good-natured wit and dry humor are sure to please readers of all ages.” In 2013, Baobab Press published a Pickles collection entitled, “Oh Sure! Blame it on the Dog!”
As he once said in an interview, “I hope I can do this until I die. I’m still pinching myself after 20 years. I would like nothing better than someday dropping dead into a bottle of ink.”
You have said comic strip artists are the hardest working artists on earth. What is your daily routine? My daily routine is comprised of a lot of thinking and a little drawing. It is hard to tell that I am working sometimes, because the hardest part of my job is trying to come up with a funny or clever idea for a comic strip every single day of the week. Keeping the ideas fresh is a challenge. But I find it to be somewhat easier now that I am closer in age to the 70-something-year-olds that I am writing about. It has become a case of art imitating life I guess. After I finish writing and drawing a week of strips, which usually takes most of the week to do, I scan them and email them to my daughter Emily, who colors them with Photoshop for me.
You probably grew up with Pogo and Peanuts. Which comic strips really sparked your imagination? The first comic strip I remember reading and being inspired by was Li’l Abner, by Al Capp. Then came Pogo, by Walt Kelly and later on, Peanuts and B.C. They inspired me to want to be a comic strip artist when I grew up. But by the time I was in high school I had given up on that idea, mostly because I didn’t think I could come up with enough funny ideas for a week of comic strips, let alone months, years and even decades. It wasn’t until I was approaching 40 that I decided to finally give my childhood dream a try.
*We are re-posting some of our more popular posts from 2015.
Ali Cavanaugh has a new series of watercolors on clay panels called Immerse (first three images). Although we typically profile Mormon artists we are going to make an exception for the fantastic Cavanaugh who I would call an honorary Mormon artist. She received a BFA from Kendall College of Art and Design and during her years in Santa Fe developed her modern fresco process on kaolin clay. Cavanaugh’s paintings have been featured in the Huffington Post,Fine Art Connoisseur, Hi-Fructose,The New York Times Magazine, and American Artist Watercolor. Cavanaugh is Catholic and lives in St. Louis, Missouri with her husband and four children.
Tell us about your background and your art. It was midway through art school (the early 1990s) when I started longing for a baby, for a family of my own. My mom and I were abandoned by my drug addicted father and I knew without a doubt that having a baby was going to be the experience that brought healing and closure to the black hole that was deep in my core. I met my husband, we fell in love, got married, and 3 days after college graduation I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Neve. There are no words to describe that profound experience of holding your first born. I soon discovered that this whole new world of ‘my little family’ was everything I dreamed it would be. The unconditional love that I experienced from my baby and husband set my heart on fire. The artist in me wanted to make my baby’s entire existence a work of art. I cherished every minute of her life as something so special unique, mindful that every moment was unrepeatable. I relished in the idyllic world that I had created and that I could re-experience my childhood vicariously through her. My first painting of Neve was when she was still in utero in 1994. Although I did paint a few pieces of her during those early years, it wasn’t until she was about five that she became an integral part of my art. As she grew I began to be inspired by more than just our mother daughter bond. I discovered that she was an incredible model. The unexpected compositions that she would come up with while modeling inspired me like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. Almost every time I looked at her I would visualize a perfect painting. I found that she was an inexhaustible subject and I became obsessed with painting her. As she approached 17 yrs old I knew that our relationship was going to change. I knew that my art was going to change, that a season of my life was coming to an end. I knew that she’d be moving out, going to college, and starting a life of her own. I have to be honest, when Neve did move out and started college I felt like one of my limbs had been torn from my body. Over time I healed and adjusted to the change.
Explain your series Immerse. I took time off in 2014 to step back and evaluate my work and the era that I felt was coming to an end. My new baby, Saoirse, just turned two years old. This is one of my favorite ages of children because it is when the baby starts to become a person. They grow more animated as their language develops and their physical mannerisms become more adult-like. In February of 2015 I painted my first painting of Saoirse and instantly fell in love with her as my muse. Her expression is open and honest. The innocence, the energy, the whole dynamic was a huge shift from my previous eight years of work of mostly young teen women with inward, private emotion. This spring my watercolor technique rapidly changed as I responded to the presence of a younger person in my paintings. I limited my palette to blues and greens to reflect a dream state. I began pouring and dripping watercolors instead of controlling each paint stroke with tiny brushes. My approach previously was that I took my idea and then painted every square inch with perfection and control. With these new works, I let the waterfall and move and dry and then it speaks to me. I then respond by laying down more color. The painting and I go back and forth as if we are in conversation. My new approach is to allow space for surprises. I have become forgiving in my process so that I can leave unexpected mishaps in the final painting. I have the freedom and skill to develop areas where I intend for the emotion to be more direct, while I embrace the imperfections left by the spontaneous creative process.
What are you working on next? I have my first museum show at the Ellen Noel Art Museum in Odessa, Texas scheduled for spring of 2017. I will be spending the majority of 2016 working on that exhibition. I have several portrait commissions in my studio that will get wrapped up over the next few months. I also have a series of paintings of a beautiful little 3 year old that have been praying for that has Pulmonary Vein Stenosis among other things. He fights everyday for his life. He is a living saint and his story moves me deeply, so I have to paint him. I will have that show locally in our small town probably sometime in 2016.
Louise Parker is a talented South African painter incorporating African designs, colors, and themes with gospel stories and characters. She recently moved from Port Elizabeth, a small coastal town, to Johannesburg. She and her husband have three daughters. Her painting African Proverb VI (Iron Rod), shown above,and others below display that marriage between the gospel and her native land.
Parker:The Widow’s Mite (below): The idea for this painting formulated just before conference and I was surprised during conference to hear a talk about the widow’s mite, so this painting felt as though it really needed to be out there.
Parker:African Proverb I (below): One of the first paintings I produced inspired by African women.
Parker:Price Above Rubies(below): In the eastern cape where I am originally from, the climate is harsh and the plants that grow there are hardy and not always pretty, I felt this was a perfect analogy for many good people who serve diligently and survive harsh conditions, and these wonderful people are worth more than rubies.
Parker:Blessings (below): This painting was all about how we fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others. The three ladies have the same amount of apples, but because the middle figure’s basket is so huge, it looks as though she hasn’t got an equal portion. We make all sorts of assumptions when we compare ourselves to others – mostly incorrect and that’s the message I wanted to share in this work.
How did you join the church? I was 17 years old and felt a desire to join a religion. I felt dissatisfied with the religion I had grown up with and began to investigate different religions as a matter of interest with my Jewish friend. I had known a Mormon girl at school and I had admired her parent’s marriage and relationship. I felt that I wanted that type of marriage. After having the missionary discussions, I became a member of the church just before my 18th birthday.
Describe your art career. I studied art at Nelson Mandela Metropole University, majoring in fine art. I participated in various local and regional exhibitions and taught art lessons. Around 2000 I began illustrating for Macmillan Publishers. I had never considered producing religious artwork – in 2006 I sat in a rebroadcast of conference and heard a talk by Sister Anne Pingree. She spoke about her husband giving temple recommend interviews to Relief Society sisters who walked for miles to attend the interviews. Long after they had completed the interviews, Sister Pingree and her husband were making their long drive back and saw these two faithful sisters walking back to their village carrying temple recommends that they would never use.
As Sister Pingree spoke, I began to draw a figure, holding her temple recommend close to her heart. As I went home, that Saturday night I began to plan the painting. The parable of the five wise virgins came to my mind and I began painting the following week. It was one of the most extraordinary and blessed experiences I have ever had. Work on the painting went very quickly and in spite of the detail, I completed the work in a few weeks–I had a day job at the time. I sent the painting in to the church worldwide art competition and was blessed with a purchase award. The painting was used to promote the art competition on the website and published in the Ensign.
At around the same time, we had some families move into our ward from Zimbabwe and I became close friends with one of the sisters. She shared some stories about what they suffered and endured in Zimbabwe and ideas began to develop. I began to think of the scripture in Proverbs: who can find a virtuous woman? And it just seemed fitting to produce a series of paintings paying tribute not just to South African women who are industrious and brilliant examples, but also Zimbabwean and other African sisters. These sisters are so warm and kind and happy in spite of harrowing circumstances. I began to produce vibrant colourful patterned works to try and portray this. I don’t think I’ll ever quite portray the brilliant nature of my sisters, but I will continue to be inspired by their marvelous stories.
What has been the reception to your artwork? The reception to my work has been astounding – I have received emails from members who have shared experiences of how certain paintings moved them or made them feel the spirit and this is such a humbling experience for me. The success of these paintings has been limited to America and Europe. Religious themed artwork does not seem to be a popular in South Africa – especially not for an unknown artist.
What’s your next project? I have a large project that I am very excited to start. When we were still in Port Elizabeth, a member of our stake presidency spoke to me about an idea he had for a painting. President Wildskut was raised in the Cape and when the men went out to fish and they would return home in the dark, the women would stand on the shore and hold lanterns, open the doors of their cottages to let the lights shine and they would stand and sing to the men to guide them home. The men, in turn would sing to the women as they neared the shore. He suggested the title Lead Kindly Light. I would like to do this painting on a large scale on canvas so I’ve been experimenting with acrylics and canvas.
This week we are re-posting some of the more popular posts from 2015.
One Sunday I was walking the halls of the building during sacrament meeting with an unruly two year-old. My daughter and I would study the paintings and I would have her point out people or animals. As we looked at the Sermon on the Mount I was reminded of the child and butterfly (left side) I have noticed before and always felt was so out of place. When I later searched online I came across an excellent article by Patrick Werick.
Patrick Werick does digital-image restoration and retouching for the website Restored Traditions. He posted in the past about Carl Bloch, that butterfly, and the curious children hiding in many of the paintings. I wanted to republish his post here as Carl Bloch has become such an iconic artist in Mormondom (though Bloch was not Mormon).
Guest Post:Patrick Werick
It’s fun to get to know the personality of the artist through the greatest legacy he left behind. No, Carl Bloch didn’t write a nifty blog—he spoke through his paintings. It’s fascinating to get to know a person solely through their art.
So what have we learned about our new friend Carl? He loved sneaking random children into his paintings that express some of the greatest stories of Catholicism. It’s not something you notice right away, and it’s not something he did in every painting, but there are certainly enough of his artworks where children show up—usually appearing around 10-years old. What’s even more cool is that they’re usually the only ones looking right at the viewer’s eyes, shoes or shoulders.
Carl Bloch had eight children whom he dearly loved. His friend, Hans Christian Andersen also saw the simplicity of a child in Bloch’s very personality and wrote about the same. So let’s do a survey of some of these children that show up in his paintings. Perhaps the children were even modeled off his own children.
In Christ the Consolator, Christ outsretches his arms to embrace mankind. Jesus is surrounded by suffering souls who are looking all over the place, and we see the only person looking at the camera (ahem, viewer) is a child with a doubtful look on his face. It almost looks like a hand-caught-in-the-cookie jar look. But that’s just our take.
The painting of Christ Cleansing the Temple shows a crop of terrified merchants running for their lives as Jesus gives them the boot from the temple. The frightened looking child is lost in the chaos of the moment while all are fleeing. He appears to have a rag over his arm, so maybe he’s the sandal shiner boy, or perhaps a child of one of the merchants.
In Come Unto Me, it appears to be a little girl looking at the viewer this time around. So far, it appears to be a boy in all the other images. Once again, as in the case of Christ the Consolator, everyone is looking in different places and worrying about their troubles. Only the child stares at you with a slightly somber look as if to say: “it’s ok, be simple like me and you’ll get to heaven.”
While Christ Heals the Blind Man on the road to Jericho, we get to see a variety of characters; once again with all different expressions and moods (read our blog post about these personalities). Though it’s easy to infer a lot of different moods in this painting, one of the most obscure characters is the grinning child we see being held back by his dad. He’s probably giggling, because it looks like his distracted brother is playing with his hair (parents, you know the drill). One can imagine the father whispering to his child: “Sshhh, son. Our Lord is tied up doing a miracle right now. We probably won’t get a chance to see this again; you know how the people always crowd Him, and it’s hard to get a good spot.”
Once again, while Christ Heals the Paralytic at the Bethesda Pool, a sole and obscure child is one of two looking at the viewer. This time, the child is with his mother (lady holding the water pot) and possibly his grandma (directly above child) who, interestingly enough, is also staring at the viewer as well. The old woman behind the child is smiling this time, while the child has a dazed look on his face that’s either oblivious to the miracle going on or still trying to figure out what’s happening on their daily water run.
This time around, it’s a little more difficult to spot our staring child in the painting Christ and the Children. The most obvious child in the detail above is intently looking at Jesus, while a tiny half face and eye (rest hidden in a shadow) appears to be looking at your shoes. Perhaps, in this case, he’s simply waiting his turn to receive a blessing from Christ. Isn’t that life? We spend half of it waiting in lines.
It’s pretty hard to miss the child in Christ and the Small Child. Our Lord embraces and emphasizes the olive-branch holding boy who appears to be looking at your right shoulder this time around (coffee stain on your shirt maybe?). Certainly the emphasis on the child is that you need to be simple like him to gain the kingdom of heaven. The olive branch, on the other hand, traditionally symbolizes Christ’s victory over death.
We almost missed this child while wading through Carl Bloch’s art, but there the hidden boy is (almost as hidden as the one in Christ and the Children). While Jesus Christ is Raising Lazarus from the Dead (see a shadowed Lazarus ambulating out of the tomb?), we catch a glimpse once again of a shadowy face and single eye staring at your eye. It’s hard to tell, but the boy looks a little frightened this time. It’s not that surprising, considering the crowd has gathered at the local graveyard, which is probably not the place the boy usually goes to play. However, what’s possibly more terrifying (and incredible) is to hear and see Lazarus walking out of the tomb after you probably saw him cold and dead at the wake a few days previous.
Once again, it’s very difficult to miss the child in the painting where Jesus is Found in the Temple. This time, though, he’s not looking at your shoes or eyes but at the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph. In this painting, Bloch wants us to focus and imagine the expressions of the two as they see their twelve-year-old son Jesus after searching Jerusalem for three days. Judging by the look on the boy’s face, he appears to be sad, surprised and empathetic after seeing their joy and tears—something we can use for our meditations on this mystery of the life of Christ.
And, finally, one of our very favorites at Restored Traditions: The Sermon on the Mount. Christ preaches the summation of Christian doctrine in this painting, while we also get a handful of characters to look at. Each person in the painting has different emotions and dispositions for how they are receiving the word of God (probably would make another interesting blog post by itself). However, once again focusing on the child, we see him as the only young person in a world of adults. While not looking at the coffee stain on your right shoulder this time, our little guy is in the middle of a daunting task: trying to catch a butterfly! The boy is obviously missing the point of the sermon, but his dad (above) is devoutly soaking it all in with a gesture of fidelity (folded hands). This, in turn, teaches us the awesome responsibility father’s have to learn the word of God and transmit it to their children.
Merry Christmas. In honor of Christmas Day we have a collection of images of Christ from artists profiled on The Krakens during 2015.
Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world, to show unto the world that I will fulfil all that which I have caused to be spoken by the mouth of my holy prophets. Behold, I come unto my own, to fulfil all things which I have made known unto the children of men from the foundation of the world, and to do the will, both of the Father and of the Son—of the Father because of me, and of the Son because of my flesh. And behold, the time is at hand, and this night shall the sign be given (3 Nephi 1:13-14).