Robert Rodriguez fineartprintsca

The art and interests of Robert Rodriguez

Tag: Art Deco

To Disco, With Love

That is the title of a new book in the works right now.  It won’t be out until the fall of 2015, but I saw some pages from it and it looks really exciting.  And I hated, and still do hate Disco music, but no one can deny that the music and the artwork associated with it was some really exciting stuff.  I was more into English Traditional music or Folk-Rock, or Country-Western in those days.

The book title is To Disco, With Love: Albums That Defined The Era, by David Hamsley, and will be published by Flatiron Books.

I came to know about it because David is using one of my best known illustrations.  Back around 1977 I did the album cover for Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk by Meco.  That album was a huge success.

I actually tried to get out of doing the job because the deadline was cut from one week to three days, but Steve Lumel, the art director talked me back into it.  No sleep and three days later, we were finished.  It was a fun project, though I always wished for more time to do a better job, but people seem to like it.  It was in an art exhibit a couple of years ago, entitled The Hundred Worst Album Covers In History.  As we were going to see the show, I joked that I wondered if my Meco album would be in there.  And it was!  I was relieved that it wasn’t because I did such a lousy job in the painting, but it was in the category, “People Who Are Having Entirely Too Much Fun!”  I actually think they missed the point.  That was what Disco was about wasn’t it?


Sometimes I Get My Caffeine From Coffee

Dr. Pepper is my usual mode of caffeine delivery, but a day isn’t started properly without coffee.  Did you know that New Orleans has been listed as the third most important city in the US for coffee?  With my involvement in Tales of the Cocktail, I’ve been fascinated by the whole subculture of the mixologist.  Now I am seeing the same thing happening with the barista culture, people who really know and care about creating the perfect cup of coffee.  But recently I’ve been getting a behind the scenes look into the history and the growing and roasting of the beans from the owners (Bob Arceneaux and Tom Oliver) of Orleans Coffee.  For instance, did you know that coffee cherries are actually sweet and can be eaten as a fruit?  I understand there isn’t much to them, but they taste something like watermelon, rosewater, and hibiscus combined….I’ve also heard lychee and cantaloupe.

The reason for this sudden exposure to all things coffee is that Bob and Tom asked me to design their new packaging.  Now this is an exciting project!  I was supposed to show them 5 sketches but I got carried away and I think I showed up with 15.  Here are a few of my favorites, and a little description of the thinking behind them.

A. I stole it.  The artwork is from Il Fornaio, and the logo is Orleans Coffee’s existing logo, restyled.  I actually like their old logo and I just made the O and the S larger and changed the font on Coffee, with apologies to Michael Doret.  I used his Orion font but changed the f’s a bit.  The Il Fornaio artwork shows a chef, I was going to change it to a woman with a cup of coffee done in my style,  but I like the colors a lot.

B. My Newcomb Pottery version.  This was a flattened out version of one of Newcomb’s elegant vases.  The Orleans lettering is iconically New Orleans since a lot of the streets, particularly in the Vieux Carré have their names set in tile on the street corners.  I loved this direction but realized that the colors might not have the snap on grocery shelves that would be desired, and you can’t pump up the volume or it wouldn’t be Newcomb Pottery any longer.COFFEE LABELS C&D

C. This was one of my favorites.  Again the street corner tiles for the logo, but the whole bag would be made of smaller tiles.  A lot of the older shops in the city, particularly Angelo Brocato’s Ice Cream, have tiled entries with their names set in.  That’s why there were leaves and shadows on it.  And being a white bag, I think it would stand out on the shelves.

D. The color popped on this one.  In the background would be a second line parade.  I only used a painting of the Grand Marshall that I had done awhile ago, but if it was chosen, I would have done different musicians and dancers.  My idea was to have them interlock and develop a pattern similar to Keith Haring’s dancing men, but fully painted.COFFEE LABELS E&F

E. My Cubist version.  This would have been fun to develop.  I planned to go around and take pictures of an espresso machine, a coffee grinder, the antique roaster at the company, and have someone make a fleur-de-lis in latte art for me to photograph.  Then I would cut the pictures apart to make the cubist artwork.  Something I’ve never done before, but I think it would work nicely.

F. What could be more New Orleans than a woman drinking coffee on a French Quarter balcony overlooking Jackson Square and the St. Louis Cathedral?  I don’t remember who I owe apologies to for the woman I used, some French artist from the 1880’s, but I would have had to make up my own version of her if we had gone this direction.COFFEE LABELS G&H

G. A total type solution.  Very rough but it is the general design I had in mind.  I am completely in awe of those of type treatments of the 1890’s, and that’s where I was heading with this.  It would be metallic gold in on a chocolate brown bag.  And I think my favorite part was the gold ink that would be spattered down from the top.  Fun.

H. This is still in progress, but I think it is the direction we are going.  Things will change quite a bit between now and when it is finished, but generally it will be kept simple.  A silhouetted woman savoring her coffee.  My plan was to have the outlines and the fleur-de-lis grid in the background all be metallic gold.  I was in Vienna over the summer and saw a lot of architecture by Otto Wagner whose favorite colors it seems, were white with gold leaf decorations.  He convinced me.  So clean, so elegant, and yet so rich at the same time.

Though there were other designs that had a lot to recommend them, these were my favorites.  I will post the finished version when it is completed, but a lot of thinking is necessary before we get to that point.

Discovering the New Orleans Lakefront Airport


Restored Lakefront Airport Lobby

Restored Lakefront Airport Lobby

Growing up in New Orleans, I didn’t see anything unless an adult was going there.  We never went to the Lakefront Airport.  When I finally was driving myself, there was no reason to go there.  There was only this ugly sixties style building that had never been in style, even when it was new.  I did go once to see the “Fountain of the Winds” by Enrique Alferez, which always seemed to be so completely out of place next to that monstrosity of a terminal.  But yesterday, online, I saw this fantastic sculpture that I discovered had been hidden since the early sixties by concrete panels they had added to make the terminal into a bomb shelter!  Who knew?

The airport was built during Huey Long’s administration in the mid-1930’s, and designed by the same architect that did the Louisiana state capital building.  The capital building in Baton Rouge is hard to beat…maybe Nebraska’s is a little more exciting to fans of Art Deco, but it is a toss up.  So this airport is a pretty amazing place.  And the people that are restoring it seem to be doing a very classy job of it.  The airport was one of the first major terminals of the period.  On their website, they have an interview with a woman whose father took her on a commercial flight departing from Shushan Airport (the original name).  Even as a child, she was impressed by the splendor of the terminal building. During their flight the weather was so bad, they had to make an emergency landing in Atlanta.  She describes how the airport workers escorted them across the field with umbrellas, into their terminal, which was a small clapboard house.  The contrast between the two buildings had stuck with her all these years.

So, this is something I have just found out about.  I will make a trip to see what is going on, and if possible I will post some more pictures.  I do know they are renting the building for special events, and it was used in the movie The Green Lantern as the headquarters of the Ferris Aircraft Company.  Now I will have to rent that movie.

Exterior Sculpture at Lakefront Airport

Exterior Sculpture on the facade at Lakefront Airport

Enrique Alferez Fountain  Enrique Alferez “Fountain of the Winds” at the New Orleans Lakefront Airport


WPA Hurricane Memorial

Memorial in Islamorada, Florida designed by the Federal Art Project, 1937

Memorial in Islamorada, Florida designed by the Federal Art Project, 1937

A little history…in 1932 some 43,000 marchers (about 17,000 were WWI veterans and their families) camped out in Washington, D.C. demanding early payment of their military bonuses.  The Depression had been running its course for a few years and most of these people were desperate for their money.  President Hoover ordered the military in, and the whole thing situation went to hell.  This was one of the reasons for Hoover’s defeat by Roosevelt a year later.  When confronted by another Bonus March soon after his election, Roosevelt offered them the chance to work for the CCC , which most of them accepted.  So in 1935, when one of the strongest hurricanes in US history was approaching the Florida Keys, there were about 400 Bonus Army veterans and their families living in ramshackle camps that no one thought to evacuate until the last minute.  A train was sent to save them on September 2, the hurricane struck on September 2, the train was destroyed on September 2, en route, with only the locomotive surviving and managing to arrive hours later to save the workers.  The Florida Division of the Federal Arts Project designed this memorial to hold the ashes of the 200 victims of the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane.

I was looking for photos of hurricanes from space, as reference for my Tales of the Cocktail poster, and came across this amazing story and amazing bas-relief carving.

The Curtain is Coming Up.

Not yet, but soon.  Here’s a sneak peek.  A student recently asked me how you know when a painting is finished.  That is a much more difficult question than it seems upon first hearing it.  Of course the answer is so subjective, it would have a different answer for every artist, except to say, it is finished when it is finished.  And that’s no help to a student and would probably be different for every style of art as well.  For instance, I am sure the Impressionists must have called paintings finished that any Academic painter of the period would have considered to be a study.  I guess it has something to do with when the time comes that you can’t imagine any way to make any element of the painting any better than it is, you can call it finished.  Or in the case of an illustration, it is either that, or the deadline looms, whichever comes first.

On this painting, the deadline is getting close, but isn’t exactly looming yet.  So I am still taking everything to the point where I am happy with every little bit.  So far, so good.Image

More About Adrian Paul Allison

Allison was an English stage-designer, artist, caricaturist and potter born in 1890.   The jazzy, Art Deco folding screen was one that he had made for himself and was in his London studio until he passed away in 1959.

Each panel was painted in oils on glass and depict various artists at their work.  The composer writing music in the early morning, the artist painting a still-life during the daylight hours, an evening theater scene , and an author working late into the night.

As I imagine it, painting on glass would mean working in reverse because you would have to paint the highlights first and the darks last.  Very difficult concept to keep straight as you work.  As if painting isn’t difficult enough.

Here are a few other samples of his work:


Ain’t the Internet Amazing?

I posted a question last night about an Art Deco screen, and this morning, someone not only knows the artist’s name, but had a higher resolution image.  I could get to like this.  Thank you David Johnson for sending this along.

And I was right.  Even at a size where you can see the art, it still looks good.

2006BG1856_jpg_lThe artist’s name is Adrian Paul Allinson.  If I learn anything about him, I will post that too.

Does anyone know who did this?

I am posting this terrible low-rez image of a standing screen because I know this is a great painting.  Look at the colors and the design, can’t you just see that it would blow your socks off if you could actually see it in detail?  I have looked on the internet for a higher resolution version of it with no luck.  Does anyone know who did it, or have any information that could help me track it down?


Evolution of the Tales of the Cocktail poster 2013

Hopefully, this isn’t too much like pulling aside the curtain to expose the Wizard.  I was just aiming to provide an interesting peek at the path this year’s poster took along the way.  I was putting in old photos, parts of vintage illustrations, and very rough scribbles to start thinking about the direction I wanted to take the art.  As things progressed, I would get one little section working, or one shape, or an area of color, and keep it in mind for the next step in the painting.

Originally in the development there didn’t seem to be any focus, just a scene of a group of people.  The lady in the red dress in the second sketch was a big favorite and stayed around in my layouts for a long time (versions you don’t see here).  But eventually she had to go, a more dominant figure emerged, and I knew I was on the right track.  You can see the color was starting to evolve as well.  I always think it is interesting how lucky accidents occur in the making of a picture, things you expand on until the whole piece is working much better than it was when you started.  I’ve heard stories of artists who know what they are going to do before the first brushstroke hits the canvas.  That has never been my way, though if it were possible, it would make things a lot easier.  My method is to move in little steps until I finally realize it is finished.  Step-by-step discovery, where the painting points the way as it evolves to completion.


Color Inspiration for Tales Poster

I was designing the poster for this years Tales of the Cocktail, knowing I wanted to do something with a sort of Cubist/Art Deco look to it.  That got me started.  My thinking about color evolved much more slowly.  At first I was keeping the color very greyed down and I liked it that way.  But then I started throwing in more and more vibrant colors and eventually ideas started coming to me.  I kept thinking about a painting by Edward Hopper of an usherette in a movie theater, and that reminded me of my favorite Van Gogh painting of a pool room/cafe.  I think Van Gogh described it as the kind of place that one could go mad in.  Not exactly what I wanted to convey in my Tales poster, but the color was still beautiful, so I let those two images inspire my color choices.

Also known as "The Usherette" by Edward Hopper

NEW YORK MOVIE: Also known as “The Usherette” by Edward Hopper

THE NIGHT CAFE: by Vincent van Gogh

THE NIGHT CAFE: by Vincent van Gogh