by Art Chantry (email@example.com )
MY old partner, jamie sheehan, tripped across this in one of her files t’other day. it’s an illustration of me by illustrator/godhead ed fotheringham (‘edwin judah fotheringham’, ‘mr. fotheringham’, etc.) i have no recollection exactly what this was for, but i seem to remember it was supposed to be used in the new yorker when and if they were going to do an item on my solo retrospective exhibit at PS1/MOMA about ten years back. of course, the article got bumped for something more better, so this never ran. i plain forgot about it. i’m not even sure this image is associated with that ‘non’-article, either.
Ed’s style was inspired by a number of 1950′s illustrators and artists (andy warhol, ben shahn, david stone martin, paul klee, et al.) but, the ‘blotted line’ look had completely disappeared from use and seemed to be totally forgotten for a generation or two. he picked up the style while working on a project that we both designed – a record cover for his old house mates, the band, “Mudhoney”( the LP called “piece of cake”.) there was a magic moment when (after several attempts) he came to the meeting with exactly the style the band and i wanted – and it was brilliant! it was like watching a flower open into bloom. within a couple of years, ed was earning healthy six figures working in this style and even had the treasured neiman marcus account exclusively.
Ed is a fully trained gallery painter/artist who studied under jacob lawrence (among other luminaries). he wasn’t making it selling art in seattle (nobody does) and was killing time performing in proto-grunge bands with his buddies. for instance, he was the “singer” (i use the term loosely) in “the Thrown-Ups”, a band that became more renown for it’s theatrics and costuming (due to ed) than for it’s ‘music’.
But, ed has another, far more potent secret weapon at his disposal – his incredible sparkling wit. when he adopted this forgotten blotty-line style, it was a sort of ‘unlearning to draw’ exercise for an artist with his accomplishments behind him. in effect his humor and attitude (aka-’wit’) is such a powerful tool that he could draw stick figures and still be a hit. ed’s work has become a master prototype for a new generation to learn from. he’s reached the level of the legendary.
There was also the problem of imitators. when this style re-emerged with ed, there was an almost instant explosion of copycats and imitators on the market – all trying to cash in on ed’s meteoric success. almost all of them have faded away or moved on to other copycat styles. but, ed is still there, doing as good as he ever has. the style is now so firmly associated with his work that people now to it as the ‘fotheringham style’. nobody can come close to doing it as well, simply because they aren’t ed. he has the magic.
In the history of the seattle rock scene (aka ‘grunge’) there were so few people who were actually financially successful and built monied careers, that you can almost count them on the fingers of your two hands. further, most of those people are the managers and record execs. the actual ARTISTS on those fingers are shockingly small. it think you might even say that ed fotheringham is the only VISUAL artist of the grunge era to make a lasting impact on us. he’s strangely one of the superheroes of grunge.
Boy, he’s gonna hate that i said that.
AC:well, in seattle and in editorial realms, there were dozens of imitators of ed’s new look within a year. we all used to point out how bad some of the copycats were, too. virtually anybody could draw a blotty line like that. but, absolutely nobody had ed’s wit. so, their drawings just looked sort of dull and stupid in
parison. and they didn’t sell product, either. ed’s work would make people participate and they didn’t even know WHY. it was that good….have any of noticed what ed actually has me doing? i’m burning a hole in the forehead of a happy face – with my cigar. damn, that guy has me totally pegged….