What a Great Life Celebrating the art of joyful living
What a Great Life invites readers to celebrate the joy and beauty of each day, and the rewards of a life well lived. Its philosophy is rooted in the power of sharing positive and creative energy for the betterment of all.
What a Great Life was created in the restaurants and café’s of Los Angeles, California, whose idyllic coastal locales provide infinite beauty and inspiration. In the same way the brilliant 19th century French artist Toulouse-Lautrec found his muse in regional cafes, I decided to try his method for a year. I often say “magic happens when you leave the house” and each morning I would set out with my artist’s box thinking “time to go find the magic.” The result was What a Great Life.
The ambiance in the restaurants where I worked had to be nurturing, inviting and quiet. I carefully observed the patrons and staff, and then incorporated their mannerisms, quirks, and nuances into my artwork. Almost all of the work you will see here was done off-the-cuff, with no sketches or pre-planning. Any mistakes were harmoniously blended into the work. I rarely discard an image.
I also created the 250+ images in this book to a music playlist which included romantic French music, classic jazz, Madeleine Peyroux, Edith Piaf, Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, and more. Music makes the work come to life for me.
Designing art in public places had its rewards. One evening Conan O’Brien and his family found me and we ended up playing drawing games at his table. That experience inspired the Conan image in this book. I am proud to say the original hangs in his office.
I live in a city filled with creative people and had the honor to meet many of my entertainment industry favorites. Well known actors, musicians and visual artists would often come by to sit, schmooze and discuss my work. Other patrons would start conversations and before long, my table was full of happy people discussing art. This was a wonderful experience and a tribute to the romantic ideal of artists, writers, and poets who once philosophized about life and art in Parisian cafes. I think Toulouse Lautrec would have approved.
To create the proprietary world of What a Great Life I used a unique blend of old and new styles. I have a deep reverence for the art and motifs of the 19th century, when fashion was a romantic adventure and an idyllic representation of femininity flourished. Drawn from a fresh and vibrant palette, the images are highly detailed and welcoming.
The women of What a Great Life are beautifully dressed and wear bangles, baubles, bustles and bows to emphasize opulence. Their hair is carefully styled and often adorned with exquisite hats filled with whimsy. The gentlemen sport top hats and tails, bowlers and cummerbunds while their carefully coiffed mustaches are key to their character. I want to invoke the feeling of wealth, success and joy, because it is my sincere belief that these are available to all of us.
Whimsy abounds as characters interact with multitudes of flowers, butterflies, birds and other animals, each with a special meaning. Animals might remind us of innocence, unconditional love and friendship while birds depict liberty and freedom. Butterflies represent fertility, harmony, and a healthy, organic approach to life. What a Great Life cityscapes invoke the best of Paris and New York, while the modern age is represented by carefully placed iphones, ipads, ipods and more. You never know what might be found so enjoy your journey of discovery.
The pen and ink style that anchors What a Great Life is inspired by some of my favorite artists. These include Al Hirschfeld, Dr. Seuss, Maurice Sendak, Shel Silverstein, Edward Gorey, Tim Burton, Charles Bragg, Ralph Steadman, and R. Crumb. I have always admired Norman Rockwell and Maxfield Parrish because of their romantic “golden age” styles which you will find traces of here. My favorite designer, Emilio Puuci, and artist Peter Max are also inspirations.
What a Great Life features a rich color palette, sweeping contour ink lines, and an open handed style. Random squiggly lines might make up someone’s hair, while others mimic an automatic writing session. A dress made of endless intersecting swirls can resemble a geometric Spirograph flower pattern, or quick zigzag patterns might be sideburns or lace up shoes. Everything flows and has movement.
My method is to let the pen lead while I follow. I do not correct things, but add value to them. I believe each line is unique and has a character all its own, which is why you see various sizes and widths. Each is designed to speak to you and all are what I term “perfectly imperfect”. I believe things are perfect because of their imperfections. Often we will love someone, not for their perfectness, but for their quirkiness. What a Great Life can be thought of in the same way.
When I was a child my mother told me that I could do anything and be anything– and I believed her. Recently a friend said to me “If you could do anything, why wouldn’t you?” I like that. It says the world is at our fingertips so if we don’t take advantage of it, we are not realizing our greatest potential …so let’s get started! With What a Great Life we can meet the adventure head on, and make a profound impact in our own lives and the lives of others.
What a Great Life does not suggest we abandon our old life, but build on it. The art is designed to take you into a world that nurtures, softens and presents a better version of what is available to us. Please enjoy What a Great Life. I hope it inspires you to create the masterpiece of your life every day.
(Special thanks to Karen Jones, editor/writer)