Every creative person has significant people in their lives that influence them. Some of my art mentors include Walt Disney, Walt Kelly, George Herriman, & Ernie Bushmiller. And that’s just the beginning of the cartoonist list! When it comes to graphic design I think of M.C. Escher. For Industrial/Commercial design it’s Charles and Ray Eames hands down. For architecture it’s Frank Lloyd Wright and Richard Nuetra. Of course, these lists are by no means definitive.
All artists need to be aware and sensitive to inspiration and good influences. For formal painting I’m particularly enamored by the Belgian surrealist, René Magritte (1898-1967). Magritte’s work frequently displays a collection of ordinary objects in an unusual context, giving new meanings to familiar things. The use of objects as other than what they seem is typified in his painting, “The Treachery of Images” (La trahison des images), which shows a pipe that looks as though it is a model for a tobacco store advertisement. Magritte painted below the pipe “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” (“This is not a pipe”), which seems a contradiction, but is actually true: the painting is not a pipe, it is an image of a pipe. It does not “satisfy emotionally”—when Magritte once was asked about this image, he replied that of course it was not a pipe, just try to fill it with tobacco.
Magritte’s style of surrealism is more representational than the “automatic” style of artists such as Joan Miró. Magritte’s use of ordinary objects in unfamiliar spaces is joined to his desire to create poetic imagery. He described the act of painting as “the art of putting colors side by side in such a way that their real aspect is effaced, so that familiar objects—the sky, people, trees, mountains, furniture, the stars, solid structures, graffiti—become united in a single poetically disciplined image. The poetry of this image dispenses with any symbolic significance, old or new.”
Fantômas is a fictional character created by French writers Marcel Allain (1885–1969) and Pierre Souvestre (1874–1914).
One of the most popular characters in the history of French crime fiction, Fantômas was created in 1911 and appeared in a total of 32 volumes written by the two collaborators, then a subsequent 11 volumes written by Allain alone after Souvestre’s death. The character was also the basis of various film, television, and comic book adaptations. In the history of crime fiction, he represents a transition from Gothic novel villains of the 19th century to modern-day serial killers.
The Fantômas novels and the subsequent films were highly regarded by the French avant-garde of the day, particularly by the surrealists. Guillaume Apollinaire said that “from the imaginative standpoint Fantômas is one of the richest works that exist.” The painter René Magritte and the surrealist poet and novelist Robert Desnos both produced works alluding to Fantômas.
It’s interesting to note at this point that even those who are great influences on us were themselves once influenced by someone important to their own creative journey. I’ve always liked the title of Magritte’s painting shown above, “Return of the Flame”. Which leads to…
Drawing of the Day ~ “Return of the Flame” 2005