Exclusive Look at Paul Pope’s ADC Screenprints

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The Art Directors Club in NYC kicks off their holiday party dubbed the December Editions tonight. A select group of artists will be showing off their respective limited edition prints including Paul Pope, you know, the guy who made Batman: Year 100. Anyway, admission to ADC’s Holiday Party is $20, which will benefit The Children’s Aid Society. You can also donate a new, unwrapped toy or children’s book.

We had a quick chat with Paul about tonight’s show, what pieces we’ll be seeing and other comic book related nerdery.

You’re a pretty multifaceted individual. Have you always been into screenprints?

Yes. I guess it’s the printing process which attracts me if you get down to it. I remember even as a little kid being mesmerized by a reproduction of Picasso’s 3 Musicians in my school’s library. I loved to look at the little dot patterns made by the commercial “4-color” printing process, I could see the dots in the copy of 3 Musicians were the same kind of dots as the dots used to make up comic book coloring back in those days–even though at the time I had no idea how the art was reproduced. Later, I fell in love with the screenprint art–and the attitude– of Tadanori Yokoo, a Japanese designer and printmaker, who has long been one of my biggest influences and inspirations.

Is this an extension of your comic book work or something completely unrelated?

I’d say related, since it’s all work relating to drawing and print reproduction.

What I mean is, which do you prefer doing: comics or screenprints? Are there any similarities?

I don’t make a distinction as to which I prefer since I love both and see them as facets of my overall creative impulse. One unique thing about screenprinting is that you work with solid pigments, solid colors. And often the scale is much larger than reproduction for comics, so the work can border on the monumental. One of the pieces I have in the show is about 5 feet tall. Comics seem to me much more intimate, more personal. You hold a book and read it by yourself. A print can be viewed and appreciated by many people at once– it’s more public. Comics is private.

Do you draw on particular themes and, if so, does that show across both mediums?

So far, you could say a lot of my print work has vaguely been in the pin-up girl genre. That’s probably in part because I’m kind of known for that kind of work and so I get offers to do more work in that vein. I love sensual imagery and I love drawing curves. I’m interested in sexual imagery and finding ways to depict the human form in ways which would be attractive and meaningful to both sexes, not just the “male gaze”. I want to make erotic imagery which is tastefully done. One of the worst things we as a society have done is allow visual depictions of sex to be left in the hands of practitioners who maybe
don’t have the goal of artistic expression first in their minds. More recently, I’ve begun a series of images which pay tribute to the sorts of male icons I remember from films of my childhood– Charles Bronson in Once Upon A Time In The West and Toshiro Mifune in Yojimbo. I have more work in this series planned for next year.

Can you tell me a little more about the show tonight? What pieces do you have? Were these done just for the show or for some other reason?

The show at ADC has been curated by Young Gun award winner Chris Rubino, a fellow New York-based printmaker. He’s invited 3 artists to show their recent print work in the ADC gallery. It’s a great honor to display at the ADC, they have hosted many excellent artists in their gallery. I have 16 pieces in the show, some of which– such as the Coke Zero print and the work for Italian fashion designer Diesel Industries– were done for clients, others–such as Erika&Julia and Leone– are personal works.

When I look at some of your stuff, I notice a rock and roll vibe to them. It sort of reminds me of concert posters from back in the day. Not the faux artsy photography crap you see some bands using nowadays. Am I correct in assuming that music influences your work?

Sure, without a doubt. I always say that the secret connection between music and drawing or design is that music has no visual component and drawing has no sound component. You can use either medium to express just about any possible thought or emotion, and so when you combine the two it enhances both mediums. And ever since the printing process fell into the hands of skillful artists and designers, the print medium has been used to enhance live performance– think of Toulouse Lautrec’s circus prints for example. It’s a modern art medium.

Have you worked with any bands?

Yeah, I have. The White Stripes, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and Heavy Trash, a Canadian rock band called The Tea Party…I did a portrait of Nick Cave for a review his album The Boatman’s Call. I am talking to a couple bands now I would be happy to work with in the future. My one caveat is hip-hop, since I dont really listen to it. I don’t think I could do hip-hop justice, unlike jazz or psychedelic rock or even classical music, all of which I listen to daily.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask who your design influences are in comics and non-comics. I’ve shown your work to some graphic designer friends and they knew who you were and what you’ve done. Is there a correlation between graphic design work and comics?

I think comics are part of the graphic design tradition. A lot of the rules we use in comics are the same rules one uses in graphic design. Visual clarity, legibility, expressive intention, a mastery of the tools…these are all the same. I am really inspired by Tadanori Yokoo, as said, and also an Italian cartoonist called Guido Crepax. I adore the great French illustrator Rene Gruau, and also Picasso. I love the designer Storm Thorgerson, whose company Hipgnosis did a lot of incredible work with rock groups in the ’60s and ’70s. The UK designer Brian Cannon continued this tradition in the 1990s. I really love what he did for The Verve, especially the early singles and album cover designs he did for them.

I’m a huge fan of Batman and loved Year 100, which you won an Eisner for. Any chance you might be taking up the cowl again?

Not anytime soon. I am knee-deep in my own book Battling Boy, which is sort of my answer to Batman or Superman. Battling Boy is a new superhero– a kid monster slayer. He’s a hero I think is missing in our society, a self-empowered child who can protect himself from nightmarish adult monsters.

Any thoughts on what happened to Bruce Wayne in Final Crisis?

I don’t follow it. I have no patience for that kind of thing.

I’m sure you’ve heard that he’s coming back next year. Thoughts on that?

They periodically kill off Superman or Captain America or Batman, then according to forumla, they resurrect them again. I don’t follow continuity comics unless a really amazing cartoonist is drawing the story, an Eduardo Risso or a Frank Quietly or a John Cassaday or a Steve Rude. I think superheroes represent themes rather than function as true characters in any literary sense. Because in real life and in literature, people and characters make choices and have a destiny, and must necessarily change–maybe for the better or the worse– but they are substantively different from the person they were at the beginning of the story. The superheroes don’t change, the guardians of the franchise don’t want to change them, and the audience probably doesn’t
want it either. Some of the really great iconic comics characters–like Mickey Mouse– are so powerful a franchise the companies can’t figure out what to do with them, so they remain fairly bland figureheads. Which is a shame. The comic book heroes embody ideas and continually play out their morality tales on the paper stage. There is nothing wrong with it, I read comics and love them. But don’t tell me they’re killing off Batman. I’m not gonna kick that football…

Anything you’ve been reading lately that you think is kick-ass?

I’m really into Italian comics, like Corto Maltese, the work of Guido Crepax, and a little known Italian master called Attilio Micheluzzi, who may well be my favorite cartoonist. I love how he draws. I even own about 20 pages of his originals. I love old comics and newspaper strips. I’ve been reading a lot of the old stuff like Little Nemo In Slumberland, Little Orphan Annie, and Cap’n Easy. And Carl Barks’ Donald Duck comics–even though made for a nominally juvenile audience– continues to mystify me with its simplicity and power. I love Robert Crumb’s work. I also really loved Cat-Eyed Boy, a weird little book by Japanese manga-ka Kazuo Umezu.

You’re one of 4 picked for this show at The Art Directors Club, what’s the significance of that, why the Art Directors Club?

The ADC has always been interested in reaching across generational lines to bring creative communities together. Unlike many galleries, they don’t chafe at the thought of showing work an artist did for, say, Coke Zero or Diesel Industries. They do workshop for kids and they host events for award winning designers. It’s a venerable institution, founded in the 1920s. They’re great people and a great organization.

For more info on Paul check out his blog. Feel free to peruse his Flickr. If you’re looking to pick up some of Paul’s work (prints or otherwise) then check here.

And click on the photos below for a gallery: