Last Updated: October 1, 2003

INTERVIEW ON ART AND EROTICA

A journalist conducted this interview with me (by email) in the spring of '02 for an art magazine that seems to have disappeared. A shame to let it rot...so I've brought it to you myself.

What is it about erotic art that compels you to create it?
MK:I simply see sexuality as something so human, so grotesque and ripe for satirization, that I  cannot help but be attracted to it as a subject for my art.

What qualifies as erotic art, something titillating, sexually arousing, voyeuristic? Political?

MK: For me, it is a successful use of the artist's tools (color and the paint mediums) to approximate the feelings before, during or after coitus. Willem De Kooning said that "oil paint was made for painting the nude". I use acrylics when I paint, and, like oil, it is ideal for my own rough, expressionistic expression of sensuality. The female form especially is slammed onto the canvas with heavy slashes of paint, sometimes of fairly decayed-looking hues. The action of the woman's body and the thoughts of the individual's brain are what I attempt to capture (in the spirit of the Ukiyo-e artists) ; in the paintings of strippers, there is even a sadism. Romanticization is almost non-existent. I would say that, for myself, eroticism springs just as much from the evocative emotions of the subjects as anything else. Just showing a couple f---ing won't do it.

Am I off the track here, perhaps erotic art has nothing to do with sexuality, but stripping the human form back to something real, something raw, honest and or candid?

MK: This is getting very close to it for me. The words 'eroticism' and 'sexuality' can connote idealization, but, as stated previously, I work to attain what may be percieved as the opposite; a representation of humanity that is satirical, full of bile, yet humanistic. Not terribly easy to do.

Is erotica directly related to our sexuality or can it be an androgynous commodity?

MK: I suppose in our hip, cynical, yet dewy-eyed society, it can be, but that doesn't interest me in the least. Any sort of sexual art will be sexist, because a man or woman created it. To me, politically correct eroticism, taking all pains not to offend, and attempting to see a situation from all possible sides, is condescending. Such attempts cheat the audience of an experience it should be allowed to rightfully enjoy...or not enjoy.

Who are some artists/ periods of history in which erotic art appealed/ inspired you?

MK: There are many. As stated, Japan's 'floating world' print artists of the late nineteenth century, particularly Yoshitoshi; the Australian Norman Lindsay, famous for his prints and paintings of lush classically derived nudes of the first sixty years of the last century; the popular Tamara De Lempicka and other European artists of 'Art Moderne' sexuality of the 1920s & 1930s. Such Russian painters as V. Lyapkalo are celebrating with new, freely painted, delightfully carnal-looking nudes.

What doesn't qualify as erotic art?

MK: Pin-up paintings can be classified as at least using eroticism, but to me they do not qualify as erotic art because they reflect so little of a human experience. They are genre paintings, meant to deliver certain proscribed messages with a proscribed number of gimmicks. Individualized techniques are rare; in this regard, Earl Moran and Zoe Mozert were standouts. Moran's women seemed franker and fleshier.

Is painting as strong a medium as photography in this realm?

MK: A photograph can be manipulated in wondrous ways by the photographer, but the result will always be a manipulated photograph. In this way, the painter, starting off fresher and owing to no one but himself, has an advantage; he is the presenter of the theater of his own mind. But the erotic painter takes risks that the photographer is safe from. Viewers will agree at least on the 'sexiness' of a given photo; staying within certain perimiters, the photographer cannot help but be pleasing to the visual vocabulary we have built up; he is, after all, working in a different kind of partnership with God's handiwork. Painted art is so subjective! Techniques and styles will not translate to everyone, and if a viewer doesn't dig the approach, he may remain blind to whatever message the artist is working to convey. No painter can be 'erotic' to all.

 
 More art that was to illustrate this piece can be found in the PAINTINGS galleries.
Also, check out the GLAMOURTOONS gallery for my erotic magazine illustrations.

COPYRIGHT 2002 BY MILTON KNIGHT

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Last Updated: Febuary 8, 2004

COMICS INTERVIEW

This is the skeleton of what was to be a major illustrated article in a comics news magazine. The interview was conducted in late spring '03. The magazine has since become a Victim of the Economy, the interviewer has fled the scene, and I am left with these carefully worded answers to some incisive questions:

Which artists -- especially 1940s cartoonists -- have inspired your work?

MK: V.T. Hamlin (ALLEY OOP); Will Eisner; Animators at N.Y. studios Fleischer, Famous and Terrytoons (especially Jim Tyer, Dick Huemer, Grim Natwick); Warners directors Art Davis, Frank Tashlin and Bob Clampett; animators who worked in 1940s comic books such as Dan Gordon (who directed a few Popeyes early in the decade). Also Wilhelm Busch, Art Nouveau and Deco, and woodblock artists from the world over (and especially China and Japan!)

How did you meet editor Rick Marschall ? The man who wanted to publish
HUGO in Epic Illustrated [in 1980]?

MK: At age 16, I started hanging around the Marvel offices to show my latest. They ushered me in to his office. [Marschall,at that time editor of EPIC, is an afficianado of classic newspaper strips, and wanted HUGO to break up the "adventure comics" material in the magazine.The rest of the staff didn't go for the idea, and I concur that I wasn't ready yet.]

When you say, Im still finding my language in my work, what do you mean?

MK: Working in one of my favored mediums teaches me more about another. In painting, I am learning more about creating true atmosphere and textures,as well as observation of life and effective caricature (as opposed to following caricaturing guidelines set by others before me). In animation, I am using these lessons to stage and communicate uniquely and dramatically. This naturally feeds into the comics, where I use ink, the language of words, and a cinematic focus to communicate atmosphere, drama, mood and perspective.

The key word here is "communication", and my focus in the last few years has been learning to do so in my own language rather than in a goulash of my
idols'.


Before you made Hugo a feline court jester, was he supposed to be a
midget king -- or was that a completely different cartoon altogether?

MK: As a pre-teen fascinated with the medieval "mystique", I had created "King Lean Beef" (don't ask), who was a human but about Hugo's height (hence, no one took him seriously), and experimented with other "types" such as knights and scullery maids before settling on HUGO at age 16. I definitely consider the earlier characters to be related by a creative thread.

You say Midnite was a work of discovery for you. How exactly?

MK: I created Midnite to fill the publisher's demand for an "action hero". She was my first published comic book to star a truly sympathetic female character. (She was also created to, in a sense, counter Hugo's Trish.) Through the Midnite character, I pushed for my own ideals of beauty, fair play, etc., but in a positive sense (unlike the doomed, desperate...and possibly more realistic...Hugo.) The strip was to become more politically oriented, but for the demise of the publisher.
Parts of the Midnite art were improvised upon to put across as many details and gags as possible. I was seeing how far I could possibly go. The series was a youthful stretching of wings.

Panel from Midnite #1, 1985. 
You said all your characters are a part of you? What aspects of yourself do you see in Hugo and Slug . . . and even Midnite?

MK: Hugo has my youthful quality of 
yearning and struggling to keep his ideals
to the point of harmful denial.
I have long been working on problems similar to Slug's, whose history of
frustration, anger and fear cause him to ignore and deny semi-Heaven when it is at his fingertips (in the shapely shape of Ginger).
Midnite, like Hugo, holds fervent ideals,
but being above Hugo's lowly status
and somewhat magical besides, she (with 
much trouble) generally succeeds in
making them reality. Her lack of cynicism sometime lands her in peril, which I feel is a common problem of youth, even those 
who pride themselves on their posed and belabored "cynicism". 
(I created Midnite at age 22.)

Midnite in privately published story, 1997.
What inspired the creation of Slug and Ginger? 

MK: I had created the characters in my late teens with an eye on the underground market (inspired mostly by Robert Armstrong's MICKEY RAT!). I just liked the idea of a "mixed couple" that fought like a cartoon cat and mouse, loving and hating with no holds barred! Their behaviors were largely shaped by observations of friends and dysfunctional family members.

What do you see as the differences between Ginger and Trish?

MK: They're two completely different beings! But most obviously (and smuttily): Trish was raised as a member of medieval royalty; Ginger comes from a present-day working-class, abusive background. Trish realizes and revels in her "full worth", and uses her sex (often unconciously) as a means of bargaining. If Ginger 'uses' it at all, it is for approval. While Ginger clings to, loves and lives for the sex act itself, Trish simply loves the idea and display. To get interested in the actual act, she has to fall "into the mood".

What inspired the transformation of Ginger into someone more "earthy, sensual, and soulful" ?

MK: At first, the character design change. The initial design, with long black hair and flesh-colored body, was Ginger in her hoydenish years; it was more
of a generic "Archie"-inspired design, fairly typical of what cartoonists "do".As I became more inspired by early 20th century poster design and similar sources, I gave Ginger what was, to me, the more harmonious "all-black" design. I started signifying her glossy lips with black ink and white gouache highlighting, and her eyes correspondingly grew more "realistic" and heavy-lidded.

Her new style of beauty made the character more sensual and her dedication to the relationship with Slug (SLUG?!) more quizzical...and the quizzicality saddened her, slowing her pace. It worked, and I kept it. It was this new portrayal that a lady described as "Sophia Lollobrigida", purposely mangling Lollo and Loren to signify a mournful, heavily sensual type.

Did you approach SCREW MAGAZINE with the "Slug 'N' Ginger strip," or did they approach you?

MK: I approached them. Ginger first appeared on a cover, and they just kept
buying.  They've also appeared in BIG BOOBS, JUGGS and Penthouse's HOT TALK.

You said that Howard Chaykin's quote helped inspire you to move to
  California? What did he say?

MK: "Nobody wants your work out there, Milton! Come here!" Inspiring.

    You described California as a surreal place where people aren't exactly
   very deep. Looking back, do you regret the move -- or have you found peace?

MK: It was a necessary move, and a good one seeing as how my art has grown. And, now that my home is out of the movie-making center (which I hated), I am in a more aesthetically pleasing atmosphere. Peace, but without knowing many people I can take seriously.

   Did you approach Mu Press to publish HUGO, or did they come to you?

MK: I approached them in 1995 with the proposal of doing "THE HUGO COLLECTION" of Fantagraphics reprints. In 2002, when MU printed a 1985 Hugo story (for the first time) in their anthology series, WILD KINGDOM, I suggested the new series.

From "The Paradise Kids", the 1985 story appearing in WILD KINGDOM #14.
Have you been happy with the fan-response to HUGO's return?

MK: Very much so. I don't hear from as many as I'd like, but people have written and said many heartening and thoughtful things.  The characters seem to mean many important things to different people. Some have even written HUGO fiction of their own. 
Just as wonderful are the responses from non-comics fans...regular folks who
just happened to read the book. While the response of fan circle females has been largely reserved (I think most fans' thoughts and responses are trained and overly 'serious'), the non-fan ladies have expressed joy; they find HUGO to be extemely "cute and sexy". I feel that the recent progression of the character from a forever-frustrated menial to one who is still lowly but has an strange appeal to the ladies (who both love and despise him) has been a successful one.

 Do you see HUGO as a series of mini-series -- or as an ongoing series?
   Will the current series be collected in trade paperback?

MK: I'd like it to be an ONGOING series...when I find a publisher who'd like that too, it will be.
MU has passed on the paperback idea; the publisher, has, as a matter of course, erased the zip disk with the first issue data to record the data for the
second, and intends to repeat the deed for the third! HUGO needs a new home! 

Do you have any future plans for your other characters -- SLUG 'N'GINGER, HINKLEY, MIDNITE, or others? Will we see their return to comics soon?

MK: HINKLEY was a one shot. But as for the rest, I'd like them all back in comics, and soon.

   From working with Ralph Bakshi to DIC, how would you sum up your timeworking in animation? Do you miss it?

MK: Good times and bad, often exciting; always a thrill seeing my concepts moving on a screen, but always filtered through the system and (except for the Bakshi project and a public service spot) rendered by artists half a world away. I miss the money.

After all these years -- and all your experiences, which medium do you prefer to work in: comics or animation?

MK: To me, each offers possibilities that are great and very distinct from the
other. I love working with the cinematic medium, dealing with staging,
psychology in movement and working with background paintings and music, and the medium can actually reach more people, though the sheer labor and difficulties of budgeting and distribution to do so deter many. I love working with the graphic art of comics, and the literary part, too. One can actually tell stories on a deeper psychological level than is comfortable with animation, which fairly demands storytelling with a swift pace and is gone quicker'n a wink. One can artfully juxtapose art & type, create a tale worthy of a novelist and dialogue worthy of a poet.
I'd be happy to work to my full potential in either medium, or even better,
both. AND painting.

In which galleries have you displayed your work? What has the response been like?

MK: In 1989, Psychedelic Solution in N.Y., which is a pioneering gallery of
psychedelic & rock art. Since I've moved to L.A. in 1991, I've been in 
Gallery Figeroua in Los Feliz, CA. , Gallery Bink in Portland, OR. , and have hung with the CANNIBAL FLOWER group in L.A. 
Reactions have been generally positive...I've sold...and people have gushed
about the "life" and the "verve". Many seem strangely overwhelmed, as if it is "too much". As in all my work, I give my all in these paintings, and that just isn't seen too often these days. Mine is not a safe, distant art.


Photo by Rita Street


Posted December 22, 2006:

Here's a LINK to a new interview at the comic book website, JAZMAONLINE!


COPYRIGHT 2006 BY MILTON KNIGHT

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