My Journey with Art. Part — 1
By A M Graetz
This is a journey that started in a church in a small town called Kingston.
Three Church services a Sunday was the staple each week. Even from my earliest memories of my father preaching it was always travelling to different remote churches. After hearing a Bible story for the second time, my attention was lost. My mother must have noticed this and one day decided to give me a yellow scratch pad and pen. I would kneel on the floor and use the hard wooden seats (pews) to sketch small things or collect signatures from church goers that sat within arms reach. It became my outlet of expression and way of collecting images.
The first influence was almost always Saturday Morning Cartoons. Especially the stylings of the early Manga and Amercian/Japanese productions. That exaggerated Disney and technical isometric drawings.
Kimba the white Lion — Robotech —
These three cartoons were of the most well known and pivotal in visual influences of early 80’s cartoons.
After many years I started to imitate various cartoons from the Coles Picture book or christian Children’s books with my yellow scratch pad while in the church. I never read Coles Picture book. I just liked the abstract images or surreal illustrations and cultural faces drawn in the book. I didn’t know until later its contents had a slight racial prejudice and that the Coles picture book promoted a New World Order for world peace.
The comics and story books were confusing beyond understanding and quite dark in some hidden message that I was not getting.
I felt something was missing from the pen and ink etchings. Some of these books and I sensed they had an almost sinister edge, so my search continued.
I would later find out in my life what the word ‘Propaganda’ was about.
Hansi was possibly the most confusing of all Christian cartoons I was given to read at a young age.
In quick summation;
A Girl brainwashed but confused about Jesus being a Jew and her hero Hitler preaching against the Jews in W.W 1 era.
She gets put through the horrors of war and eventaully gets saved by U.S GI’s and then has to decide if she can accept living in America with its materialism. Also forgive and forget the atrocities of war and still believe in Jesus Christ?
And in that moment of confusion my Search continued for Storytelling and Art that suited my observations of life and what I had experienced so far.
I discovered the old MAD Magazines from the 1960’s and 70’s. I now felt that this was a new realm of artistry and story. MAD’s sarcasm mixed with clever parody and narrative were amazingly attractive to the eye. Even though I didn’t understand the subtle political messages I knew this was something to collect and attempt to imitate. From the simple good Vs evil of ‘SPY vs SPY and the classic fold ins at the back of the Magazine. It had interactivity and commentary melded together with clever attractive pen and ink line drawings. I was hooked and started to imitate some of the line drawings of the various artists that had the most defined shading style.
(see example of Jack Davis from ‘Son of Mad’ below.)
A fortuitous moment then happened as my Uncle returned from Singapore. I was given a comic or Graphic A5 landscape novel by the artist know only as LAT. The book was called ‘The Kampung Boy’. This life story of a young boy coming of age story in a small Malay village. A later sequel moving into a town, reflected my own life journey from Kingston town to Adelaide (the capital city of South Australia). Although my journey did not contain all the tropical foods, muslim references and Malay style noses. Yet the parallels of his story had the ability to transcend culture and convey a universal theme. The style of drawing and attention to detailing architecture and machines were highly influential. It taught something about the spatial relationship between nature, man and how to grow up, accept tragedy, religion, make new friends and how things always change.
The coming of age influences
The 90’s were a tumultuous time with the Balkans, Recessions, and Pending Gulf war and Music shifting to Grunge. There was a boiling resentment of everything growing after the decadent boom and bust 80’s. I was hitting my teenage years and searching for something that represented my growing cynicism for a societal system that MAD magazine had somehow pre-prepared me for.
As My Uncle had Left me with this gracious gift of influence. I then began to go through the books he had left behind at my Grandmothers House. There I found the next influential artist.
Michael Leunig; A Melbourne based cartoonist that crossed the lines into art, the human condition and Politics with a simple character that evoked something complex with simple pen and ink drawings.
I would later be taken to his exhibition at the Art Gallery of South Australia. This experience would confirm that pen and ink in a cartoon format was indeed Art.
Soon I was searching for more influence and styles at age 12. Eventually I was flicking through the various ‘FIVE’ available free to air channels that I stumbled across an ABC Documentary Called ‘A Difficult pleasure’. It was about a Sydney Based Artist Brett Whitely.
Whitely was an expert at melding of the human form, especially the female form into the Australian natural landscape. This ability spoke volumes of influence to my expanding creative work and techniques.
These simple, yet strong lines mixed in thoughtful Zen precision brush stroke and expressive flicks evoked something intriguing and yet beautiful.
Whitely’s deft creativity and art form conveyed something I had sensed all along. I knew intuitively his work to be a coalescent relationship. He had balanced his works between the violence history of colonial settlement and evocative sexual and sensual visual nature that permeated across every Australian Landscape. His style affirmed many of my thoughts pushing my style further, Drawing upon my family camping trips where I would see ancient lands worn down by millennia of rain and tidal shifts. Each rock or Headland had an beatufiul contrast of Jagged fatality and rounded feminine form jutting from the earth, in addition to the Ghost white Gumtrees shedding there bark to reveal a smooth feminine curvature.
I followed his many expressive works and modalities of medium that covered the darkness of human nature, environment, life within the built environment.
Stay Tuned for My journey with Art — Part 2