Monday, April 19, 2010

Kawaii, the 1980's and My Current Work

I've been feeling guilty of late for the photographs I've been taking.  I am like a hobbyist engaged in some time-wasting endeavor that is sure to bring no respect, to say nothing of  either fame or fortune.  The subjects themselves are of questionable taste with respect to a large demographic- tiny, cute, girly miniature toys.
There's that old adage "do what you love and the rest will follow", but at times that rings empty.  I could question the nature of motivation, i.e., how many artists are truly moved by process alone without any regard to criticism and that may describe the average outsider artist, but for most "schooled" artists, we keep our eyes on the prize: a show, a review, a publication, a sale.  We are only as good as our convictions- as long as they have been deemed acceptable by a third party.  Call me crass, but I don't speak no jive, son.
As ridiculous as it would sound, in light of my many-year obsession with the Japanese culture of the small, Kawaii is a relatively new term to me. At it's core, the word means "childlike", "sweet", and "innocent", with darker connotations such as "vulnerable", "weak" and "socially inexperienced".
Why should this matter?  I've been trying to justify my collection and the time "wasted" setting  up scenes to shoot them.  I make haste to liken this process to one I knew more formally during the time spent photographing room scenes for commercial purposes.  I am doing the same thing, albeit on a smaller (literally!) scale.  But where does the drive stem from? Why miniature?  Why small things associated with my youth? Why now? I have been temped by a growing subculture.
As has been part of  mainstream culture in Japan since the 1970's,  flaunting symbols of childhood is a way to hang onto it and thereby delay those specific aspects of adulthood that are deemed grueling and unsavory- take your pick. To wit, grown men and women drive character cars and fly on airplanes painted with Pokemon on the side. I believe the trend has only begun here as a subculture due in large part that adult-marketed toys (no, not those) have not been made available until recently.  I credit adults who were children in the 1980's to start this trend here.  Witness the small, but growing contingency of Japanophiles who delight in the cartoon offerings of Sanrio.  How about Kidrobot? Frank Kozik's been around for quite some time, but his followers had to become of age to disseminate his kawaii-like vinyl toys designs. So, why is this a trend now?  Several catalysts (and certainly, just my opinion) stem from the bright, colorful Saturday morning cartoons of the 1980's, the over-marketing of figurines like Rainbow Brite and the Transformers and florescent clothing and god-awful patterns of the late 80's and early 90's.  You didn't have to like this stuff, but it was all-pervasive. It would be remember and referenced in later years. And who doesn't want to recall their youth in some small way?  As a teenager (and I am referring to a select group here) we were all deemed Slackers, a term about as anti-life affirming for a generation as you can get.  A certain restraint was lifted.  It was implied that we had not set very high goals for ourselves, so why not grow up and play with toys?
Why else would this happen in the new millenium? Did children of the 1950's have bastardized 1970's movie remakes  about cartoons they watched as children? No, there was and, for most part, still is a stigma on continuing to reference things used and experienced as children.  It makes one seem defective in a way, like you never grew the fuck up.  There is a percentage of this blight that is being erased, as certain franchises have turn to capitalize on our collection penchant for 80's nostalgia.  Micheal Bay, I'm looking at you, asshole.
So, say what you will about my work only serving to keep my reality at an arms length. I won't deny it.
You still might think it's silly, but the Japanese know what's up.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Interview with Painter JB Krost

5 ft X3ft
Acrylic on Canvas

aprox  35"x 29"
Acrylic on Canvas

For today's entry, I've decided to interview JB Krost,  a painter from Cleveland, Ohio that I became acquainted with on  He has attended both the Cleveland Institute of Art and Cuhahoga Community College.

JB's blog can be found at:

and his online portfolio at:

CB:  How long have you been painting?
JB:  27 years, I started out with watercolors then moved to acrylic on canvas. When I grow up I want to use oils on canvas. But I have been creating things since I could remember.

CB:  What do you feel are common themes/subjects in your work?
JB:  I always attempt to include that little something  that makes the viewer ask "The Question" sometimes its hard to know what exactly it is. But I feel you usually know it when you see it, and its usually hard to put into words. Sometimes I don't know what it is until I'm deep into the canvas.

CB:  What’s a typical day in the studio like for you?
JB:  It's kind of hard to say....
I'm not the guy that runs in there all happy and joyful, saying, "Look at me, I'm creating!"  Its' more a cautious entrance, one that edges on "Oh, it's that room, the one that I need to be in", and when I'm finally settled in, I hate to be distracted.  I don't even have a radio or anything that makes noise. Usually in the winter months, I get up really early 4:00-5:00 AM when the house is silent, make coffee, and work most the day.
Sometimes I go in there not really to paint. I just look at what needs to be fixed or adjusted, and before I know it there's a brush in my hand.

CB:  Are there other artists that you take inspiration from?
JB:  I love Joan Miro, he was so free with his colors and lines, and created these little worlds and galaxies from wherever.  Marc Chagall is also a favorite, although he was far more romantic that I am.  Susan Rothenburg,
but not necessarily the horses, some of her other work is much more powerful, and says so much with so little.
Joseph Cornell- His boxes are the best, Small movable worlds. (Where did he get that stuff?)  Alberto Giacometti,
because his long narrow sculptures look as though they have been through a nuclear winter.  I could probably go on, but that's enough.

CB:  Is there a certain way that you approach the canvas with regard to style? 
JB:  That kind of hard to say.....
I'm not sure I have a specific style, But I always begin with composition, then gesture, and slowly work in light and dark values. I almost never start with a sketch.  I want to explore the mixing of the paint.  I think I learn something from every painting.
I have only taken a few drawing/painting classes, and that may have been a mistake, because I know that I must be breaking rules that have been put in place to stop fools like me from gutting canvas and wasting paint.  What can you say? Live and learn.

CB:  What compels you to make art?
JB:  For me, it hedges on a religious plane, I find that I just would not be happy at all if I didn't have the creative outlet for expression. I'm not "happy-happy"; I'm more "as long as things are not too screwed up, I'm a bit more content."  The paintings I do are all from a personal nature, I'm not sure I pick them, I think they may choose me from stories I hear about other peoples lives, my own life, or just a theme of some kind.

CB:  What do you hope others will take from your work?
Most of my work is a journey, as well as statement of my surroundings. Things happen all around us all the time.  Whether we acknowledge them or ignore them are always up to us. I try to record some of mine, but life moves so fast, I just can't get them all. I attempt to nail down a certain Idea, feeling, something I have seen, or story I've been told. We all have similar pleasures and fears, and I attempt to come clean, without spelling everything out.  I would rather that you try to figure some of these things out, come up with your own conclusion, and this may make you pay more attention to your own world.  At one point or another, we all end up in one of my paintings.  What you see here could help you decipher where you are, where you have been, and where you are going, and not all of it is pretty.


Additionally, JB would like to give a shout out to SHIRLEY ALEY CAMPBELL, who was his instructor from both schools, MARY FRANCE, and of course, his Mom who encouraged him to keep at it. 

Miss Ohio 1957
Acrylic on Canvas

31"x 34.5"
Acrylic on Canvas

Saturday, April 3, 2010


As I mentioned before, I am in geek overdrive at the moment.  Despite the fact that it's finally hit seventy outside and it's the weekend, I have proceeded to stay inside and shoot the hell out of my mini collection. The upside is that I think that what I'm churning out is good/cute/worthwhile and will hopefully only strengthen my portfolio, there's also that risk of alienating certain folk due to the limited appeal of the subject matter, but whaddaya gonna do?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

New Series/Direction For Now

It's the end of the semester and effectively the end of my being a grad student with student loan monies to burn. That said, I gotta quit spending the money that I do have, so no more sculpture for the time being, unless/until I start scavenging for material from the city dump.
So I was bored last Friday and decided to waste some time by photographing my Re-ment collection. (For those of  you not in the know/not young women into teeny, tiny replicas, Re-ment is a Japanese toy company that  painstakingly makes replicas of food and other such items. ) I own a crap-tonne, which I do believe is the official unit of measurement for such useless items bought with too much disposible income.
Anyway, I then started to look at the amazing model creations of photographer James Casebere, who creates replicas of certain locales and photographs them in such a way that leaves the viewer unable to distinguish between what is real and what is miniature.  In facsimile way, I'm trying to achieve the same thing, but with the 1:6 scale Barbie-type items that I have.  Every time I set up a scene I become inspired to push the believability from being a scene of miniatures to an image which will give the viewer pause and wonder if what they are seeing is human-sized or otherwise.  I've only done a handful so far, but I find that I'm having an amusing time creating my own bedspreads and books and crap in order to combat that utterly-awful shiny Barbie feel that the store-bought pieces have.  Yes, I'm a dork, but I'm not the only one.