Wednesday, August 20, 2014

GET INSPIRED -- "Sorolla and America" exhibit at San Diego Museum of Art

While many painters are familiar with the work of Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida (1863-1923), the name "Sorolla" isn't well known to most museum goers. It was lovely to see both his work and his American connections highlighted at this recent exhibit at the San Diego Museum of Art.

The "Sorolla and America"exhibit ( was organized by Sorolla's great-granddaughter, which seemed especially poignant given the deep connection the painter had with his own wife and daughters, who were often models in his paintings. Below on the right is the image of his daughter Maria, from the work "Maria at La Granja" 1907. This painting was donated to the San Diego Museum of Art by Huntington in memory of his mother Arabella Huntington.

Sorolla's first painting ever exhibited in the US was a somber-hued social commentary "Another Marguerite!" which won a Medal of Honor at the World's Columbian Exhibition in Chicago in 1893.

He was befriended by American artists such as William Merritt Chase and John Singer Sargent ... and patronage from no less than Archer Milton Hungtington soon followed. Sorolla became an ambassador for all things Spanish as he moved among the political and philanthropic circles where his paintings were exhibited in cities such as Chicago, New York, Boston, and St. Louis. His mural cycle of fourteen monumental paintings known as "Visions of Spain" was commissioned by Huntington for The Hispanic Society.  (photo below show section of finished murals --- sketches for murals were on display at this exhibit) More about these murals here:

Sorolla's commissioned portraits, and scenes at beaches and garden landscapes, secured his reputation as a painter celebrated for his evocation of light and people.

Among the landmark paintings on display for this exhibit was this portrait of explorer Christopher Columbus, which was exhibited for the first time along with the 9 oversized oil studies. It was amazing to sit in one room and see the studies and their exploration of props such as a shield or cannon; various hues of the sky and placement (or absence) of ships and sails in the background; and carefully researched depictions of costume. 

Also stunning to see are the numerous oil sketches that were on display. These small but lively canvases had a wonderful sense of color and light, using brushstrokes to hint at forms and compositions. Sorolla produced nearly 2,000 of these works known as his "Apuntes -- Spanish for notes or jottings" or sometimes called "Manchas -- stains or splashes of paint." All of these works were 8x12 or smaller.

Nifty take-home items in the gift shop included cards, magnets, and even a lens cleaning cloth with lush images from beautiful works...

This large portrait of Louis Comfort Tiffany, surrounded by his own garden of rhododendrons, was on exhibit .. and available as a greeting card :)

A final room of the exhibition was devoted to DRAWING. This "Sorolla in New York & Chicago" room was full of sketches done during his visits to US cities and explored how 'Sorolla made drawing a lifelong habit." Often these sketches were street scenes drawn from hotel room windows .. using scraps of cardboard or other found materials. The "Draw like Sorolla" wall of this gallery was set up to encourage viewers to try their own hand at sketching --- the wall supplied paper and clipboards -- and several people took up the challenge. The gallery room also explained how Sorolla would sketch "to document surroundings for later use in a painting or as a personal souvenir."

The exhibit closes on August 26th --- do see it if you can. And give yourself time to explore the other museums and gardens at Balboa Park.
San Diego -- it's much more than SDCC :) 

Also ... Stuart is a fan of Sorolla and we often have Sorolla books in stock at SNB. Here's one currently on the website:

Monday, August 11, 2014

COMIC CON 2014 -- the con is camaraderie (with links to fun finds!)

This post is first of two "wrap-up" posts on Comic Con  2014. This one is the re-cap. The 2nd one is my mini-rant. Following the "Your Guide"post are the four "epic" posts on this years con, with lots of pics and links. Enjoy!

To recap this year's con, let's review what its SUPPOSED to be all about...

Here is the current "mission statement" for SDCC as it appears on their website.

Comic-Con International: San Diego is a nonprofit educational corporation dedicated to creating awareness of, and appreciation for, comics and related popular artforms, primarily through the presentation of conventions and events that celebrate the historic and ongoing contribution of comics to art and culture.
Comic Con's foundation is the core elements of education and awareness. You'll find the best of the con in panels, programs and events that highlight educational efforts to raise awareness of and appreciation for comics and related art forms.

Comic Con is a place to celebrate artists .... and for fans to enjoy the company of others who appreciate their shared interests.

Let's highlight some of the charm and fun that you can still find at SDCC...

Little kids can still make memories at comic con. This little toddler enjoyed dancing along with the large cat character from the Skelanimals booth.When she would dance, the cat would mimic her. The crowd around them was delighted. Classic family-friendly con moment (see more Skelanimals characters at their website:


Comic Con is a place where fans can gather support for efforts to preserve the history of pop culture...
This booth highlighted a proposed museum of Sci-Fi ....

and comic con is still a place where attendees and exhibitors can get into the spirit of adventures in imagination ...

Comic con attendees endure long lines, increasing expenses .. and complicated logistics .... but they still enjoy the rush of being first into the hall when the doors open ...

And seeing the range of artists in attendance ... from Emmy winners ... (like long-time SNB pal Paul Wee )

to up and coming talent like Genevieve Tsai

There's still a feeling of there being room for all levels of talent --- and it's encouraging to see so much skill and enthusiasm all around the convention hall ...

While the huge studio and company pavilions continue to grow and spread their influence ... there are still little corners and booths where indie talent holds their ground and get a chance to find new fans ...

like long-time Comic-Con exhibitors, indie artists Loter Inc ...
Their Blue Unicorn T-Shirt was a big hit!
Here's their booth:
And a pic of the artists -- John and Shelley Loter

Another fun find... Alaska Robotics (short films and comics -- YES actual Comics at comic con!) check out their website here:

and here's another tiny booth full of goodies!
Furry Feline Creatives

also enjoyed Mike Yamada and Victoria Ying's booth with their "Extracurricular Activities" cute prints and paper products ...

I don't have a picture for the booth for "Unshelved" -- but the artist for this webcomic that takes place in a library was there with a variety of wares. I especially enjoyed his "Library Ranger" series of Merit Badges. Collect them all ...  read more and see video here:

here's a pic of sample badges .. 
 and info on one of the badge sets ...

Meeting up with friends old and new is a big part of Comic Con. The Con's growing statue makes it THE PLACE for fans and colleagues to meet-up once a year and get inspired. Many of our SNB patrons will remember the amazing Mary .. who was on our staff for 4 years, but left recently to start law school. She will be a great lawyer! We lured her back for 1 day at SDCC this year. I miss Mary!!!

If you get a chance to attend Comic Con ... don't spend all your time standing in lines. Walk the floor. Visit the artists areas ... There's more to see than just the big names that everyone knows ....

That important vibe of friendship and discovery still exists at Comic Con  ..... You just never know what you might find ... 

... or when you might meet your next best friend ....

COMIC CON 2014 -- the Con game ...

Riding down the escalator from the 2nd floor to the lobby gives you the same view from lots of different angles. There are many things to see at Comic Con ... and many ways to look at what is going on .... since I hadn't been to the show in 2 years .. There were changes that I noticed....

and to be frank ... some of them made me sad.

There is an evolution happening at Comic Con ... the pressure of all the added media attention brings a different tone to the proceedings. It's not your Mama's Comic-Con... in fact, the press has highlighted some concerns about Comic Con that worry Moms and others.

Here's a link to the LA Times article that revealed some of these concerns...

Now Comic Con has an official "policy on harassment" This element of comic con was all new to me .. but big signs about it were clearly posted in the main lobbies.

Here's the text of the poster:

"Code of conduct/ anti harassment policy

Attendees must respect common sense rules for public behavior, personal interaction, common courtesy, and respect for private property. Harassing or offensive behavior will not be tolerated. Comic-con reserves the right to revoke, without refund, the membership and badge of any attendee not in compliance with this policy.
Persons finding themselves in a situation where they feel their safety is at risk or who become aware of an attendee not in compliance with this policy should immediately locate a member of security, or a comic-con staff member, so that the matter can be handled in an expeditious manner.If your safety is at risk and you need immediate assistance you may also house a white house phone to dial 5911.
Security may be contacted by visiting our show office in lobby C. A comic-con staff member will be in the office during public hours."

It made me feel old to think that Comic Con had become yet another public gathering where safety concerns have become an issue.

The expanding interest in Comic Con and the ever-increasing number of attendees have strained the resources not only at the convention center ... but also the surrounding area. While the over-flow attractions are supposed to be fun (and are often free) .. now they have also become crowd control issues. This year, there was even a car accident related to the Zombie Walk

here's a link from the local San Diego NBC station with video and interviews about the car incident:

Decades ago... Comic Con was off the radar of the general public. It was the exotic pet of a Confederacy of geeks, scholars, fans and admirers. But it was a tiger cub.

Now the tiger has outgrown its enclosure .. and the ones who raised it... if we can't keep it fed and satisfied .. it will devour us and move on. Some of the lines at the booths had a surreal "THX1138/Soylent Green" atmosphere of people consuming something just because it was put in front of them... not with the passion and interest of fans, but just a crowd in a frenzy ... over what???

If the attendees are willing to stand in long lines for hours and hours for Comic Con exclusives like toys and A-lister movie panels ... they will continue to have less and less time to visit artists and shop the small vendors. Space for these founding resources will shrink as demand for bigger and bigger corporate pavilions grows. Comic Con is on the path to becoming a glossy pop culture trade show ... with a Las Vegas atmosphere. This might be appealing to the masses ... but not so much to the core fans that started the show. The large crowds and general excess have brought an unsavory, leering element to the con that WASN'T around years ago, but is likely to linger. 

Maybe if the core fandom rallies and takes action, comic con can find the right balance between its mission and its new levels of interest and fame. It might take some super-hero-level effort to make that happen. Fingers crossed.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

COMIC CON 2014 -- COSTUMES AND TOYS (1st of the 4 epic posts -- UPDATED 8/12)

This is the first of  the four "Amy's epic posts on SNB at Comic Con 2014. " (I have also added a re-cap post and mini-rant -- dated aug 12).
Costumes are a major attraction at Comic Con.. It's the custom these days for the costumed attendees to linger in the lobby at the major entrances where there is more space for photo ops. Also, with the ever increasing amount of studio and network-sponsored attractions set up OUTSIDE the convention center, you don't need a badge to see plenty of costumed characters and get a sense of the comic con experience.Here's link with some of the no-ticket activities

A popular one on my walking route to the Ralphs (see post "comic con survival guide" ) was an elaborate set-up sponsored by the History Channel... if you were willing to stand in the long line, they would dress you up like a Viking and put you in a green-screen scene from the production of their Viking series.

Moare about  "outside con" activities here:

Meanwhile.. inside the con the amazing Hilly and Hannah Hindi of the Hillywood show were appearing in the autograph area and wandering the hall. I took this snap in the main lobby. I became a big fan of their video parodies years ago when they were doing send-ups of the Twilight saga ... and they continue to amaze. Here's a link to their website:

And here's their "Captn. Jack" video ...

Many costumed folks wander alone ... but some also travel with companion characters. These attendees are so much fun! They are delighted to pose with fans. There's been a lot of press about "cosplay" these days -- and I don't know much about that community or the costume contests. I do appreciate the craftsmanship on display in some of the more elaborate outfits...

And the sense of humor and fun they bring to the party.

There are toys galore all around the hall. Back in our early days at comic con, the toys were mostly older re-sale items found at small vendor booths. Now the toy companies have their own big set-ups ... and the lines for mint in box "comic con exclusives" compete with the Hall H panel lines for the "guaranteed to suck up most of your day" award. Some of the movie and tv-themed replica items aren't even toys -- they are decor items made for collectors:

 searched all over the exhibition floor for "Maleficent" items, but found only a few things -- mostly film posters, stills and a few dolls

The Hot Wheels both featured this Darth Vader car:

Several of the booths were offering tie-ins with the 75th anniversary of Batman. Here's a large batman tribute from the Ugly Doll booth:
And those notorious comic-con swag bags were back. They are given to each attendee, but the artwork features a variety of images (promoting different tv shows or movies). This bag featured the classic Batman duo (for the recently released DVD set)