One of my Christmas gifts this year was a collection of Brendan McCarthy’s Judge Dredd comics. He was always one of the more wildcard artists from the 80’s and 90s period I am most interested in however I have only recently come to appreciate his work. Up until a few days ago I had only known his work on Judge Dredd and related titles but after being really impressed by my new book I began looking into him further. I was first met with his cover art for influential 1990s comic book ‘Shade The Changing Man.’ This was the first comic book to be released under DC’s mature audience imprint Vertigo that ran for ten years to an ongoing cult following.
To anyone not into comic books this is already an extremely boring passage of text, I wanted to clear up I am not massively ‘into’ comic books as such I just have admiration for certain artists of the genre’s aesthetics. In particular I am interested in artists who use the medium, like McCarthy, to sum up the things they find most interesting about the world around them in the new worlds they create. To me his work screams of all the most interesting sub-cultures of its time and leading up to that point. He has a gift of successfully shouting about his stronger influences from outside graphic novels in order to make more interesting work within them. His use of collage both physical and digital paired with a natural talent for illustration is exemplified on his Cover art for Shade to incredibly experimental results:
I felt quite proud to find out he too was a student of Chelsea and was lucky enough to study under legendary painter Patrick Caulfield. The Chelsea reference came up again further in my research when reading about Cipher magazine. It was apparently made possible when Chelsea School of Art installed Britain’s first Xerox colour photocopy machine enabling students Jake Tilson and Steve Whitaker to produce the magazine and enlist McCarthy to illustrate.
Unbeknownst to me McCarthy also has had a successful career working in the design and storyboarding and even writing of Hollywood movies as well as working on music videos for Michael Jackson! Most notably it turns out he co wrote and designed the initial storyline of the latest Mad Max film, Fury Road. That was a film I looked forward to from the moment I heard it was to be released and was blown away by the end result. I remember thinking how much more considered the look of the film was as far as sets, costumes, vehicles etc in comparison to the generic clean cut marvel shit – it all makes sense now!
The more I learnt about McCarthy the more I was inspired. I suppose when you can track such a creative person’s route into the mainstream to surprisingly and uncompromisingly tasteful ends is something I aspire to as an artist. I think the elephant in the room on this course is how do we as artists make money if we are being taught that selling art through the traditional white cube gallery is old hat. McCarthy’s career has given me a new hope that there are ways round it without losing yourself or surviving on lentils. Although I have no plans to start making comic books I am completely open (and hopeful) for my fine art practice to spill into other mediums such as film design if I believe the project is right.
I think its helpful to realise your USP as an artist and rather than feeling coy about my interest in sci-fi, fantasy and fan art like I have done thus far on the course its time to bring my inner nerd to the forefront.
I realise assigning a social or political conscience to my work is proving unsuccessful however I am still aware it lacks depth, therefore I plan to add depth with fiction. From now on each piece will tell a story relating to my own fantasy world that will increase in size with every artwork. I will display the work as museum exhibits of the future recording events that haven’t happened yet. Writing a made up history of the future will open up a way for me to indirectly make comment on what has already happened by imagining how it may affect what is yet to happen. Similarly by putting little bits of myself into characters I create I can open up new ways of expressing myself in a more controlled and compartmentalised way.