Thursday, July 12, 2012

Flinging Ink...

Famed film director John Frankenheimer once said something about how Los Angeles is not a town for artists.  I'd cite it, but I can't remember where I read it and google's no help.  It's a thought that's stuck with me over the years.  William Faulkner and F. Scott Fitzgerald, two of America's greatest novelists couldn't hack it writing screenplays here.  Many of the world's greatest directors struggled making films here.  The "art", as it were, is primarily driven by money, and if it wouldn't make money, it didn't get made...and yet it's still a town filled with creatives making whatever they want.

I brought along a lot of these thoughts when reading Jim Mahfood's recently published Los Angeles Ink Stains Volume 1, a collection of autobiographical comic strips that Mahfood has penned in the years since he arrived in Southern California.  The experience comes across as a pretty gonzo ride and provides an intimate portrait of a man who works both in and outside the system.  His work has appeared in or on everything from comics to hair care products, but you might also find it scrawled on a bar room wall.

From comic conventions to art shows in cities around the world, the strips spend equal time balancing the trials and tribulations of being a working creative with the wild times that such a venture often opens.  But it's not all random encounters with musicians, filmmakers, and other creatives as the series is never above giving a grocery list of what was eaten and where a bed was found for that night.  In fact, it's these little mundane moments that humanizes the experience in a way most Hunter Thompson-style adventures do not.

The lesson, as I took it, was to do what you do and do it to the hilt.  With talent, passion, and the will to walk outside, you'll catch up with those moments where you'll be in the right place at the right time.  Mahfood's not above spilling some churned up bile in the course of the story, but it's the open-eyed excitement of meeting each day, each person, and each experience that makes even the monotony of working at home or working a convention seem like a new opportunity.  It doles out a generous dose of hope, if you're willing to meet life halfway.  And most of all it's honest.  At one point in one nightly adventure, one of the characters asks if what they're doing will end up in Ink Stains, and Mahfood answers "Probably."

The artwork of Ink Stains is quick and simple cartoon sketches that jump cut the reader from one moment, one day, or one week to the next which keeps the read lively.  The book is punctuated with collages of photos for a different view of the variety of characters who've been rendered by Mahfood's pen.  The opening by Herbert Russel is also a fun-filled and frank exploration of the contents contained therein. In all, Ink Stains presents the sort of vigorously scribbled commotion that you would only dream of finding in someone's diary or journal.

Portrait of this blog's author by Jim Mahfood

Jim Mahfood and his work can be found HERE and HERE.