JIM DORAN

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Excel Blades

I’ve been using Excel Blades ever since my friend, Annie Howe, gave me some to try last summer. Previously, I had always used Xacto blades (hundreds and hundreds of them).

I’ve found Excel blades to be more consistently sharp, especially at the tip, which is what I use the most. As a surprise bonus, they sent me new handles today! Of all days, too.

I love them. You can follow the company on Instagram. They really are family owned and operated, and seem like very nice folks!

Excel Blades

The City of Lost Things

Here’s another shadow box for my upcoming show. It makes use of cut-paper shapes. The City of Lost Things (on Pine Island) is where those things that go missing turn up.

This is in a 10″ x 10″ frame. I forgot to photograph it in my studio after it was fully assembled, so here’s a photo from my phone, which shows how it turned out (in a rough, pixely way).

The City of Lost Things

Three works on display in Greenbelt

 

 

A Dark and Gorey Night

Jim Doran talking at AVAM

Being a part of the great mystery show at AVAM has been one of the great honors and pleasures of my life. It is a thrill to see my art in the same room with Ingo Swann’s paintings, and around the corner from Edward Gorey’s The Gashleycrumb Tinies and Georges Méliès’ A Trip to the Moon.

Gorey's Dracula Toy TheatreAfter I was well underway with my dioramas, I started hearing that my work is reminiscent of  Gorey. I wasn’t familiar with him until an acquaintance told me about his toy Dracula Theatre, which was inspired by the Broadway production that earned Gorey a Tony award for costume and set design. It made me swoony, and then I came into several of his books. Gorey had a fantastic sense of humor, elegantly placed around dark subject matter, and super human crosshatching abilities, which are two of my favorite qualities in another human being.

I read several books as I was preparing for this evening’s talk and my favorite is from CJ Verburg: Edward Gorey On Stage: a Multimedia Memoir: Playwright, Director, Designer, Performer. Verburg helped Gorey produce around twenty “Entertainments” in a community theater near where they both lived in Cape Cod. These “Entertainments” were plays that had twenty or so acts running from two to five minutes each. Gorey wrote and typed the scripts (something he began doing during WWII, when he was drafted to a desk job in Utah), designed the costumes, made puppets, arranged for the music, and designed the programs and posters. Verburg seemed to know Gorey better than the other authors I sampled.  I think the later part of his life, when he was so involved in these projects, is fascinating. Many of these were incomprehensible to the audience and abstract/absurd.

Gorey loved ballet, and dance informs many of his characters’ gestures. He would attend some 160+ performances on the New York City Ballet a year. He wore a fur coat, jeans and white converse sneakers. Verburg tells great stories of Gorey’s time at Harvard and the Poet’s Theater Project, of which he and his roommate, Frank O’Hara, were members.

Jim Doran talking about Edward Gorey

I talked about many other things, but one of the Great Mysteries I solved for myself is this: Gorey was influenced by French artist Charles Meryon. He collected some of his prints, which were heavily crosshatched, and quite nightmarish. Another interesting fact: Gorey was known to paint his toenails. Gorey claimed to be a Taoist, and maybe a surrealist. Gorey was also a voracious consumer of books, movies and television. According to his bio in the Gorey House website, he accumulated around 25,000 books by the time of his death at age 75. He liked soap operas, Third Rock from the Sun,  and anything he found entertaining.

So many of Gorey’s protagonist kids meet grisly endings.  When asked “Why do you hate children?” Gorey responded with “I don’t know any children.”

Ready to crosshatch

Pop-up drawings Gorey-esque drawings

People drawing in the gallery

 

The latter part of the evening involved a crosshatching exercise, inspired by the toy Dracula theatre. I made my own characters, and a zine with some basics on hatching techniques.

A quick guide to crosshatching

I have more of these. If you’d like one, please write to me.

 

Zine Scene

I had a very lucky thing happen today. I got to visit the special collections area of the library at work. There, I handled and read some very old science fiction zines. Fanzines, or “zines,” are amateur fan publications. From Wikipedia:

A science fiction fanzine is an amateur or semi-professional magazine published by members of science fiction fandom, from the 1930s to the present day. They were one of the earliest forms of fanzine, and at one time constituted the primary type of science-fictional fannish activity (“fanac”).

The first science-fiction fanzine, The Comet, was published in 1930 by the Science Correspondence Club in Chicago. The term “fanzine” was coined by Russ Chauvenet in the October 1940 issue of his fanzine Detours. “Fanzines” were distinguished from “prozines”, that is, all professional magazines. Prior to that, the fan publications were known as “fanmags” or “letterzines.”

 

Detours Zine, October 1940

Zine detail

Detours, October, 1940

I took dozens of photos – too many to share here. These are some of my favorites:

futurian-war-digest

Triton Cover Triton #2 cover

The Fantasy Amateur

Ray Bradbury Imagination cover

Imagination Zine