23 March 2015

[PDX_art] Illustrator Vaughn Barker's Little Women

Vaughn Barker is a Portland illustrator who I'm privileged to say I've met in the flesh. He can be found behind the register at +Muse Art and Design where we've betimes also found his art on display. He's one of those people who are the committed illustrator I should have been but I can't envy him his talent. I do think he should be much more widely-known than he is.

Of course, he may well be. I have a history of being somewhat late-to-the-party. But the art I've seen hung in the store is masterfully done and inspiring to look at. What has me feeling antic inside, though, are his little women.

Peep this, folks:

She's a mail courier fearlessly ascending a rope latter to her transportation. Fierce and adorable, she's letting nothing stop her. What is her mission? Hers and hers alone to know, but I'd trust her to complete that. That sort of confidence is stopped by nothing or nobody.

It's a scan of the central part of the print you see there to the right. The titles of it is Special Delivery and it speaks warmly of a dieselpunk, 1930s/1940s atmosphere, pulp stories, adventurers and daring exploits. I look at this and my mind flashes to Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, the 'gee-whiz' sort of story that young guys and gals would read from magazines made of rough, brown paper with covers decorated with dramatically-colored paintings.

There's a sort of theory I subscribe to about the transmission of taste and style down through the decades. To us in America, the 1930s and 1940s, despite a back drop of depression, misery and war, somehow remain the height of fashion and style with this stereotypical American dash … the fedora … the trenchcoat … the smartly-dressed tough noir fellow, in those stories, even the plain girls were glamorous, even the old matrons were stylish. As you went on into the 1950s, style renewed itself and could go any direction; but through the 60s, 70s, and 80s, it just got more forgettable. So, even now, in the year 2015, if you want debonair style mixed with your adventure, you go back to the 1930s and 1940s.

Vaughn's art seems to be inflected with this sensibility. He has another series of beautiful works, in which warplanes fill the sky while a Valkyrie-like spirit seems to float amongst them. Those are dashing in and of themselves, and I highly recommend them. But, maybe it's my intensifying attraction toward all things 'toon, his little women really excite me. Built on an abbreviated canon, they exude fierceness, smarts, attitude, an unafraid personality, and are impossible not to fall in love with. Made of thick shapes and ovoid ovals, they are never the less as cute as they are formidable, and even a little bit sexy.

You just want to follow them, to see what happens to them next.

I should hope we see more of them.

You can visit Vaughn's website (and buy art prints) at http://www.vaughnbarker.com/. His alter-ego, Valentine Barker, she of the small women, holds court at her blog, http://www.chalkyheart.com. Vaughn's personal blog, The 'Stration Station, is http://strationstation.blogspot.com/

No comments: