Juan here with the Art of Vanesa R. Del Rey; the 2017 Official Selections for Angoulême prizes; the glory of Katsuhika Hokusai; Censors and Satirical cartoons in Turkey; David Salle; Hallie Jay Pope on the ACLU sues NSA; understanding Neural Networks; new Suzy and Cecil.
In May 2016 Vanesa R. Del Rey came to Pittsburgh, PA, to visit the Rowhouse and share her sketchbooks and her passion for comics with Frank and the rest of us. Their conversations about her work and experiences have been transformed into the book The Art of Vanesa R. Del Rey, which is full of gorgeous images as well.
Frank Santoro: Vanesa, I’m quite taken aback by your sheer technical ability which seems to be married to a poetic sensibility. There’s a lightness there. Sometimes illustrators with that ability get heavy-handed. Yet you manage the push-pull between the two sides of yourself – because you’re like a samurai. The humble samurai.
Vanesa R. Del Rey: It’s about trying to remember that. I can get all this praise, I can get all these amazing responses from strangers, but at the end of the day – I’m still a student. I’m still learning. The crown doesn’t fit. The crown should never fit.
I had the honor to design this publication, I’m extremely happy with how it came out and I hope you dig it. The process was so invigorating that I also went and created the following video based on some footage that Michael Pisano shot in the Rowhouse during Vanesa’s stay. I turned up all the nobs.
Slam that play button to dive head first into the world of VRDR.
Heidi MacDonald’s got a look at the 2017 Official Selections for Angoulême prizes over on the Beat.
It’s quite an eclectic list, if not as diverse as you’d like to see, but Angoulême’s move to a more modern and global outlook continues to advance. The jury this year was significantly broadened after the intense scandals of last year, with more women and booksellers.
Hokusai – The glory of Manga
Over on the New York Review of Books,Christopher Benfey takes a look at Hokusai’s Lost Manga, a collection of previously uncollected drawings by Katsuhiko Hokusai, published by the Museum of Fine Arts Boston.
The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, had long possessed—in its fabulous collection of Japanese art unparalleled anywhere outside Japan—an anonymous album of drawings long assumed to be by Hokusai. That album has now been persuasively linked to the artist, through art-historical detective work, via a hitherto mysterious publisher’s advertisement, from 1823, for Master Iitsu’s Chicken-Rib Picture Book.(Iitsu was one of Hokusai’s many disguises; the title might thus be translated, as MFA curator Sarah E. Thompson notes, “Hokusai’s Tasty Morsels.”) The volume of tasty morsels remained unpublished—until now.
(…) When French artists like Manet and Degas first encountered Hokusai’s manga, in fifteen volumes numbering some 4,000 plates, it was the disjunctive, off-the-cuff quality of the images that proved most exciting. Hokusai seemed to be a Japanese flâneur, sketchbook in hand, who quickly took down whatever he saw on his travels or in his teeming imagination. Again and again in Hokusai’s Lost Manga, travelers take a break from their journeys—up craggy mountains, down dangerous rivers—to scrutinize the countryside.
A couple years ago, Steve Bissette introduced me to Hokusai with an oversized collection in the Schulz Library in White River Junction. It changed my life. All the pieces came into place. Landscape, portraits, caricature, comics, beauty, humor. It was all there. The next day Connor Willumsen gave his artist lecture as the Center for Cartoon Studies fellow. The stars had aligned…
On the subject of Hokusai, though: There are someecent publications worth looking at – Seigensha’s Hokusai Manga series. Small and lovely (~4″x6″), these make incredible companions for occasional contemplation throughout your day as you make your way through the world. As Hokusai would have liked. Check it out at your local library! You can find the ISBN over on Amazon,use that and ask your librarian real nicely for help getting your hands on these!
Maren Williams from the CBLDF reports on how a blog post featuring satirical cartoons of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is currently blocked by court order inside Turkey but freely available elsewhere. Cartooning’s once again at the forefront of censorship laws and the interaction between corporate autonomy, intellectual freedom and regional law.
Faced with no ideal options, WordPress chose to geo-block the specific site requested within Turkey but direct users to a multilingual site with directions for circumventing online censorship via services such as VPNs and Tor. It also reported the takedown to the Lumen database, and the WordPress rep identified as Janet J told Jones that the company is brainstorming ways to maximize intellectual freedom and transparency for its users:
There is no good solution to the issue of political censorship, and we are constantly reviewing the processes to find ways to combat it, including taking legal action in Turkey where appropriate. Going forward, we’ll look into making the current process clearer in our next transparency report.
Every time you email or text someone overseas, the NSA copies and searches your message. It makes no difference if you or the other person has done anything wrong.
An ACLU lawsuit is challenging this dragnet spying. We’re suing on behalf of a coalition of internet, human rights, legal, and media organizations whose work depends on the privacy of their communications.
The ACLU has filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the NSA’s mass interception and searching of Americans’ international communications. At issue is the NSA’s “upstream” surveillance, through which the U.S. government monitors almost all international – and many domestic – text-based communications. The ACLU’s lawsuit, filed in March 2015 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, is brought on behalf of nearly a dozen educational, legal, human rights, and media organizations that collectively engage in hundreds of billions of sensitive Internet communications and have been harmed by NSA surveillance. The district court dismissed the case in October 2015, concluding that the plaintiffs lacked “standing” to sue because they could not show with sufficient certainty that their communications have been intercepted. The ACLU appealed to the Fourth Circuit, and heard oral argument last week December 8, 2016 in Virginia. Details on the hearing are now available from Wikimedia Foundation.
Hallie Jay Pope‘s created a comic that lays out the nature of the NSA’s global internet surveillance system and its implications for the present. Dig into it.
Neural Networks and the Bridge in Parsing Images
On this wavelength, here’s an interesting thing to note: it’s been shown that computers can’t read, or even effectively parse comics, try as they might. Computers can parse what is in comic, but not how it’s organized. And in comics, the composition is as important as the content. The semantic units in comics are arguably too complex for computers to model and categorize.
Comics as a space for encryption. Embedded meaning within the liminal space. Think about that…
Here’s a little on why. It’s all about neural networks.
Let’s talk about how computers recognize objects in images – Adam Geitgey has a great 5 part series over on Medium on Machine Learning and neural networks. I urge you to check that out. Accessible writing for the layman on the algorithms that are beginning to dominate are everyday digital life. Worth a look. Get a glimpse of a field of thought that cross cuts computer science and linguistics.
All that said, of especial interest for us visual thinkers is Geitgey’s article on deep learning and convolutional neural networks, focused on object recognition in images. Any 3-year-old child can recognize a photo of a bird, but figuring out how to make a computer recognize objects has puzzled the very best computer scientists for over 50 years. This article delves into that.
sidenote: What does all this digital garbage have to do with your comics?
Simply put, this is the world that we live in. The Butlerian-Huxlerian-Orwellian Cyberpunk Apocalypse.
Work with me, this level of digital literacy is really important nowadays. These concepts are the cogs that turn the global machinery. It’s not magic, it’s numbers. Come to terms with the machinery or else.
What kind of Artists do we want?
I’ll confess straightaway that the proliferation of presentational art makes my heart sink. The inconvenient truth is this: It’s easier to present art than to make it. It’s easier to select than it is to invent. It gets confusing, because some of the great pictorial inventors of the twentieth century, like Andy Warhol, obviously, appeared to be doing nothing more than choosing—but that was an illusion, something borrowed from the beauty industry, where the amount of time spent in the makeup chair is meant to result in an effortlessly natural look. To make something that really holds our attention, especially over repeated viewings, requires levels of integration—intellectual, visual, cultural—expressed with a unique physicality. Art that eschews this integration is unlikely to be durably compelling for the simple reason that less is at stake. One component without the others is like an unstable chemical compound; it will degrade, or, to continue the chemistry analogy, it will fail to catalyze. Over time, the result will come to have the flavor of commentary.
This is incredibly resonant for me. Ask yourself, what is it that makes comics certain comics transcendant or revolutionary as developments in the form? What do you think Salle would say about the creative process that brought them into the world?
Suzy and Cecil is a collaborative daily comic strip project based on characters invented by Bill Boichel and Frank Santoro. It is primarily drawn by Gabriella Tito and Sally Ingraham, teammates in the Comics Workbook Roller Derby League. The strip is part of their continuing development as cartoonists – follow @suzy_and_cecil on Instagram to see the project unfold and keep an eye out for guest strips drawn by other Comics Workbook students and friends! New comics Daily!
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until next time hot shots,