These serve a dual purpose, both as interior art for the book and as standalone mini-prints for the print pack. I wanted a classic look for these pieces that would be typical of the times, so I tried to channel my inner Rockwell. There’s a little bit of Leyendecker in there too, I think.
I haven’t been able to draw for several days on account of moving three states away, so I had a doodlestream to try to get back in the swing of things! It’s amazing how fast you can fall out of practice.
For those who missed the stream: the Annies and bearded bear were by request, Théo is jealous because he won’t be able to grow a beard for at least another five years, boobs are basically butts, and I can’t write a nice looking capital S in cursive to save my life.
"At one point Kanye said to me, ‘Man, you gotta stop being so cool all the time.’ He said, ‘I played it cool to a certain point in my career but after a while I was like, I just gotta really go for my dreams.’" — Theophilus London
“The tail-ends of the centuries all resemble each other. They are always periods of vacillation and unrest. Magic flourishes when materialism is rife.”
Joris-Karl Huysmans, Là-Bas, 1891.
The fin de siècle preoccupation with magic and the occult was so peculiarly pervasive and profound it makes one wonder if there actually is some mystical magnetism that concentrates at the end of centuries. It is, of course, also a social phenomenon, a strange by-product of societies that think of themselves as ‘in decay’ (in yet another parallel, late Rome was obsessed with divination and fascinated by witchcraft.) The latter 19th Century was a time of curious contradiction – even as popular rhetoric trumpeted on about progress, empire and industry, new ideas and new technology, there was also a distinct feeling that the West was living its languid twilight years. This unique intersection of a material reality of prosperity with an atmosphere of spiritual decline bred the occult mania, largely born of a disgust with the common-sense ugliness of modernity and a perverse nostalgia for a fantastical pre-modern past that never was. The mania’s most popular manifestation was Spiritualism, and séances were held in bourgeois parlors and artistic salons alike. It was unusual if an Idea painter or poet didn’t confer with the Spirits.
Supposedly rooted in Medieval witchcraft, but in actuality based on the historical fantasy of Jules Michelet and Huysmans, various versions of the Black Mass became quite fashionable, I’d surmise largely due to their erotic elements and nude ‘altars’ – wonderfully, wryly depicted in Orazi’s précieux piece of Art Nouveau. Witches and Sabbats were go-to themes for paintings, and it was basically compulsory for all the eccentric Decadents to indulge in some sort of Satanic dalliance – Jean Lorrain threw a launch-party for Là-Bas in drag surrounded by people in demonic costume while the outrageous Count Eric Stenbock slept under a pentagram with his familiar, a toad named Fatima. Gautier identifies such preoccupations as indeed a hallmark of a Decadent style: “contrary to Classical style, it admits of backgrounds where the specters of superstition, the haggard phantoms of dreams, the terrors of night…move together confusedly.”
Quasi-historian Eliphas Levi’s books kickstarted an earnest revival of ceremonial High Magic, a hodgepodge of alchemy, Egyptian Hermeticism and Christian mysticism that grew intertwined with the world of arts and letters. Yeats, Crowley and Machen belonged to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and self-styled magus Joséphin Péladan founded the Salon Rose + Croix, which functioned both as a magical order and as an exhibition space for Symbolist painting. In this way, Symbolist art itself became a species of magical practice, the artist a magician penetrating into higher (or lower) spheres.
“Think of a sensuous line: of a flowing line: a line which bends and turns back on itself. Think of the feminine form, rounded and curving. Think of plant forms growing and burgeoning. Think of flowers in bud, in over-blown blossom, as seed pods. Think of ….waves, think of women’s hair, think of twisting smoke.”
The featured piece is a bit of environmental concept art of the valley’s capitol city, Lakeside; a name that persists in spite of the devastating floods that changed the valley’s landscape 100 years ago, putting it squarely in the middle of one. In addition, I’ve included a hand-drawn, seamlessly tiling marshflower and moon blossom damask in a pack of seven colors.
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