On the way home from Thanksgiving, Janice and I stopped at the Norman Rockwell Museum in western Massachusetts. We’re both fans of Americana, so it was fitting to see Rockwell’s paintings around that holiday.
While classified as more of an illustrator than a fine artist, Rockwell showed an idealized version of the U.S. in the early 20th century that was nonetheless influenced by the old masters. He also celebrated the common man and woman, small-town life, and the idealism of presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy.
I was also pleased to catch an exhibit about Alex Ross, one of my favorite comic book artists. Ross’ superheroes are more Reubenesque than Rockwell’s figures, but he also shows a timeless version of ourselves as we wish we could be.
Ross has combined his childhood love of Challenge of the Superfriends, an awareness of classical mythology, and an intimate look at Marvel and DC icons to help renew the medium’s optimism. His paintings also demonstrate that four-color, spandex-clad people can look impressive rather than just silly.
Like Rockwell, Ross uses models for photographic reference rather than painting directly from life or imagination. Both painters have been criticized for the practice, but I think their finished works show that imagination, accuracy, and expressiveness are all parts of their artistic process.
On a related note, here are the comics titles I’m currently reading monthly:
- Batfamily: Batgirl, Batwoman, Birds of Prey (to loan to David I.S.)
- DC Nation (for nephews), Green Arrow/Arrow (to loan), Green Lantern: the Animated Series (for nephews), Justice League, Wonder Woman, Young Justice (for nephews)
Marvel: Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes (for nephews), Captain America, Oz (Shanower/Young; trades only)
- Fantasy: Avatar: the Last Airbender/Legend of Korra, Conan the Barbarian/Queen Sonja/Red Sonja (to loan), Dresden Files, Pathfinder
- Space opera (to loan): Battlestar Galactica, Doctor Who, Star Trek: the Next Generation, Star Wars: Agent of the Empire, Clone Wars (for nephews), new classic ongoing, Warlord of Mars/Deja Thoris (to loan)
- Pulp: Rocketeer Adventures, Shadow: Year One/Masks, Sherlock Holmes (assorted titles), Steampunk/Gearhearts/Steamcraft, Steed & Mrs. Peel, Warehouse 13, Zorro Rides Again
- Trade paperback collections only: Age of Bronze, Astro City (to loan), Indiana Jones Adventures, Liberty Meadows (to loan), Mouse Guard (for niece), Muppets, Peanuts, Powers (to loan), Star Wars Adventures (for nephews)