Greetings Fellow Humans

April 17, 2008

(A Treatise on the Life and Artistic Influences of Rollin Kunz)

This is to be a Source Presentation; that is, a recollection of the influences on my past and future artistic works, as well as a retrospective on said works. Right-o.

Big List of Influences.

1. I was born in Milwaukee ('Stallis) to a pair of progressive, hippie-ish folks who liked to give their kids odd names.

Music: My parents enjoyed Psychedelic Rock (Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles) and off-beat, geeky spoof rock (They Might Be Giants, Frank Zappa), and so I enjoyed that, too.

Cartoons: Also from the parentage, classic cartoons (Looney Toons, Mr. Magoo, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Popeye, Sing-a-Longs) and of course the traditional holiday claymation (Claymation Christmas, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer) infested my brains. Muppets are not cartoons, but they are human facsimiles of some sort, and the affect they've had on my subconscious should not be underestimated. Plus The Simpsons.

Books: Mom read me epic fantasy fare before bed (J.R.R. Tolkien, etc.) and planted the seed of “book geek.”

Games: Board games, especially strategy games with strong visual elements, were introduced. (Checkers, Chess, Twixt, Connect Four, Go.)

Comics: Newspaper comics were my first exposure to the medium. (Calvin and Hobbes, The Far Side, FoxTrot) I would also into my Dad's old Underground Comics collection.

Movies: (Three Stooges, E.T., Batteries Not Included, Short Circuit, The Neverending Story)


Bill Watterson

Jim Henson

2. During my days in the Milwaukee Public School System, I had plenty of time to teach myself to draw from comic books, watch The Box, and begin my descent into geekdom.

Music: The Box, a local Milwaukee music video request channel, usually had little on it beyond Early 90’s hip hop (Digable Planets, Cypress Hill, Geto Boys and Fu Schnickens) and wacky spoof-rock bands (Green Jello, Weird Al Yankovich).

Cartoons: Suddenly cartoon characters had to have adventures, instead of just sort of hanging out. (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Scooby-Doo, Flintstones, Jetsons, Yogi the Bear, G.I. Joe, X-Men)

Books: Began reading fantasy and sci-fi on my own. (!) All by myself. Also: miniature catalogs, comics, magazines, etc.

Games: Role-playing games (Dungeons & Dragons) were introduced by neighbors. Miniature tabletop wargames and the detail painting that go along with them were introduced by an uncle; painting miniatures was my first extensive experience with paint. Also: Lego, Nerf, clay… building games. My first practical lessons in sculpture were with action figures. And we went out to buy our very first computer, spawning a lifelong addiction and obsession. Sam ‘n’ Max Hit the Road was the very first non-five-dollar-bin, shiny-new I-want-this game I purchased, and with it came Steve Purcell’s art.

Comics: I taught myself to draw by tracing, then copying superhero comics (Uncanny X-Men, Spawn, and pretty much anything else that came my way). Didn’t pay much attention to the writing, yet.

Movies: Star Wars. Spaceballs (and other Mel Brooks), Beetlejuice.


Steve Purcell

Todd McFarlane

[Art from Games Workshop's Warhammer 40,000]

3. The later part of elementary school was punctuated strongly by a move from this largish city to a tiny rural tourist town of 5,000 in the center of Wisconsin: Waupaca. Middle school was spent getting acquainted with new surroundings (and, as we moved to a house in the middle of the woods, drawing and reading a lot).

Music: An area-influenced change from hip hop to grunge. Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots, Soundgarden.

Cartoons: Started to go for cartoons that were actually funny and/or thoughtful. Sam 'n' Max, The Tick, Beavis and Butthead, MTV's The Head, The Maxx, Aeon Flux, Ren and Stimpy. Began to appreciate anime in middle school, through the regular channels (Dragonball Z, Pokemon).

Books: Fantasy and sci-fi in full swing: Frank Herbert's Dune series, plus R.A. Salvatore, Anne McCaffrey, Isaac Asimov, and Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman (Death Gate Cycle, Dragonlance). A lot of humor/sci-fi/fantasy books, too: Robert Asprin, Piers Anthony, and (last but not least) Douglas Adams.

Games: Full Throttle and Day of the Tentacle were my introduction to the works of Tim Schafer. Sim City, Civilization, Command & Conquer, Warcraft, and other visual strategy games are big (statistics + strategy + a building mechanism = my favored game), as are huge open-world games like Daggerfall. Also: Magic: The Gathering, which I collected mainly for the card art.

Comics: More-mature print comics (Dilbert, Gahan Wilson, Bizarro, Cartoon History of the Universe), plus a slightly more diverse taste in comic books.

Movies: Back to the Future, Goonies... you know... popular stuff, mostly. Oh, but also Monty Python! Absurdist humor is important. Titanic was the second movie I ever saw in theaters. The first? Operation Dumbo Drop.


Peter Chung's Aeon Flux

Sam Keith

Gahan Wilson

4. With high school came the Internet, and with it a great abundance of media (tethered, though it was, by dial-up). Many hours were spent in the computer lab at the school (which had a faster connection and occasional chess and Quake 2 tournaments).

Music: Electronic music, particularly with lots of bass, sampling, and scratching. (Propellerheads, Fatboy Slim, The Prodigy, The Crystal Method, Moby, The Chemical Brothers, KMFDM, White Zombie, Aphex Twin and Squarepusher)

Cartoons: Note that media began to mix here (what with the Internet being freely available and all). An anime music video of their song "Bitches" was my first experience with both Mindless Self Indulgence and anime music videos, which would lead me to Rob Zombie and KMFDM, plus a myriad of anime series (Trigun, 3x3 Eyes, Berzerk, Cowboy Bebop, Nadesico)

Books: Terry Pratchett, master of the fusion of high fantasy and absurd British humor.

Games: Ohhhhh man. I played a LOT of games in high school. I dreamt games; that is, every dream that I had at this point (indeed, most dreams I have now) involve games or have some sort of game-like mechanic in them. Every kind of game (excepting, often, racing and sports) was played by me. Final Fantasy VII was a big event, as were Fallout 2 and Jagged Alliance 2 (which I have recently reinstalled). After a few straight days of playing Pokemon on the Game Boy, I heard the MIDI music at night as I tried to fall asleep. Oh, and I got into Dungeons & Dragons again, so, you know- that should be on my resume. I also began to get into the independent game development scene, with games like Madness Interactive and Pontifex.

Comics: The Maxx, Scud: The Disposable Assassin, plus I began to select a host of webcomics (including, but not limited to, Achewood, Diesel Sweeties, Dinosaur Comics, Married to the Sea, Overcompensating, Penny Arcade, Scary-go-Round, Superosity, Toothpaste for Dinner, White Ninja, Wondermark, The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, Pictures for Sad Children, and XKCD.

Movies: Ghost in the Shell and Akira are the first in a long line of incredible anime movies (which go nicely with martial arts movies). Mystery Science Theater 3000 is a natural, as my family has a tendency to watch and make fun of old B-movies anyway. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas wins for style.


[Art from Interplay's Fallout series]

[Art from Wizards of the Coast's Dungeons & Dragons]
Rob Schrab

5. As high school swung into full angst, my tastes in media changed- from first a goth-y denial of my nature, to geeky pride, and then to stony indifference. I began to become interested in programming, logic, and philosophy, and actually took an interest in "fine artists" for the first time. Drama, with its choreographed fighting and special effects makeup, also held a place in my mind.

Music: A slew of industrial or otherwise hard-core bands (Gravity Kills, System of a Down, Ohgr, Marilyn Manson, Mindless Self Indulgence, Godhead, A Perfect Circle, Rammstein, Rob Zombie, The Union Underground) followed by the rise of the geek-core (MC Chris, MC Frontalot, MC Paul Barman, KOMPRESSOR, Parappa the Rapper) and a settling of the mind after which new music was acquired from every previous favored genre. (Butthole Surfers, Primus, Beck, Cake, The White Stripes, Coldplay, Gorillaz, Green Day, Soul Coughing, Rasputina, Control Machete, Trigun OST, VAST, The Velvet Underground)

Cartoons: More anime, laced with offbeat shorts (Don Hertzfeldt, The Animation Show). I had, by this time, begun to establish a library of bargain-bin cartoons, kung-fu flicks, and bullet opera films.

Books: Vampire: The Masquerade, plus any sci-fi or fantasy book within reach. I worked as a librarian, and could read them all!

Games: I now had access to a Playstation and Game Boy, in addition to the family PC. This is where most of my money went.

Comics: Hellboy (Mike Mignola), Sin City (Frank Miller), Preacher (Garth Ennis), Cerebus (Dave Sim). Basically anything bloody and mystical with a strong whiff of realism.

Movies: I'm more interested in Asian action films and animation than anything at this point: Vampire Hunter D, Princess Mononoke, and X were great feature-length cartoons; Jackie Chan and John Woo kick much buttocks.


Salvador Dali

M.C. Escher

Mike Mignola

Frank Miller


6. Then came college and the mixing of inclinations that it brings. Much much more media, plus (as I moved towards Photography and digital art) a much greater understanding and appreciation for the work of professional, "gallery" artists.

Music: Expands outwards in every direction. (Modest Mouse, Franz Ferdinand, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Katamari Damacy OST, Of Montreal, The Postal Service, Triplets of Bellville OST, Queens of the Stone Age, Ween, Sufjan Stevens, Wolfmother, Neutral Milk Hotel, Cracked Pepper, Bjork)

Cartoons: FLCL, One Piece, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Futurama, Family Guy, South Park, Tom Goes to the Mayor, 12 Oz. Mouse... yup, basically the Cartoon Network/Adult Swim lineup. Oh, and Naruto (40 gigs of which on one's hard drive is too much). CG movies are much better (CG Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Final Fantasy: Advent Children), and I suppose animation has just improved overall (Aachi & Ssipak, Dead Leaves, The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello).

Books: Humor (and fantasy/humor) reigns supreme: David Sedaris, Chistopher Moore. Terry Pratchett and R.A. Salvadore still interest, as well (can't keep the geek down for long). Oh, and Neil Gaiman is new to the list of both novel and comic authors.

Games: Cheap Ass Games, a company which prints their out-of-the-mainstream board games on cheap newsprint, then has the player provide the pieces, was handy during my final summer stay at the Waupaca Public Library. Daggerfall received updates in Morrowind and then Oblivion, and Sam and Max finally get a new game- an episodic one, with new episodes released monthly during the on-season! A little bit of Dungeons & Dragons is played, but then everyone gets embarrassed and goes home.

Comics: My taste in comics turns more and more to the philosophical and metaphysical: Swamp Thing, Hellblazer, Neil Gaiman, The Watchmen, Y: The Last Man, The Walking Dead, Warren Ellis.

Movies: Foreign films, especially that special brand of Japanese action flicks based off of or with style similarities with anime, make me happy (Casshern, Ichi the Killer, Versus, Happiness of the Katakuris). Non-mainstream animations like The Triplets of Bellville and The Animation Show do, too. I still love kung fu films (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, The Protector), but am now quite pleased with independent art-house-ish films as well (Napoleon Dynamite, Little Miss Sunshine, Nacho Libre, everything Wes Anderson has ever done). And suddenly comic book movies are excellent! (Hellboy, Constantine, the X-Men series, Spiderman)


Takashi Murakami

Chiho Aoshima

Gregory Crewdson

Gilbert & George

Thomas Demand

Jeff Wall

Charlie White

Ahem. Now Then: How Does This Relate to Rollin's Art?

Well, there are a few elements to consider, here. First are the formal qualities: My art mimics comics, cartoons, puppets, and claymation formally. Often it even mimics them thematically: epic, sweeping narratives toss about flamboyant characters on equally flamboyant and unlikely adventures.
Then there are the additional influences: Theatre, photo collage, Surrealism, and, to a large extent, games and game theory.
But in many ways, the story of the development of my art is the story of my life: a plugged-in, introspective big-city kid taken out to the country and isolated for a few years, fed by media and wanting nothing more than to share a world with fellow human beings.

On to the art:

Muppet Terrors
(Shower Camel)

The Henson influence here is obvious. These images were based off of nightmares I'd had as a child in Milwaukee. The puppets were created with foam rubber, colored with theatrical makeup, and photographed. This was the first photographic tableaux series I was really proud of; I had made something I hadn't seen before.

Building a Better Buffalo

This was the second of two large-format forays into digital collage. The creatures riding the cybernetic buffalo were made of animator's clay and then photographed and fitted into the collage; the collage itself is made purely from Internet imagery.

The Bird Series
(Birthing the Bird)

Here comes digital painting! Bolstered by my success with digital collage, I created this surreal series by altering straight photographs in a painterly manner, using the raw material of the image to create something fantastical.

Humor, text, and the comic format meets tableaux in this series. The marshmallow bunnies and candy-coated imagery are methods of lightening the dire mood brought on by the actual narrative content of the images and text.

Dramatic roots are revealed. This was a series of characters (each played by me, within one single, hectic day) brought to life with theatrical makeup and photographed. Each character has a pseudo-noir backstory which relates to the other characters in some way. Reading each character's background text (and the clues that were packaged within the art-book) enabled one to piece together a story involving all of them.

True Tales of the Amazing Flying Man!

My first little comic book, detailing the unlikely and unfortunate life of a man who can fly. I realize it's not photographic in any real way, but I believe this work is as close as any to the overall philosophy behind my art.

Return of Crazy Horse

Another digital collage, this time made only with scanned objects and digital painting. I'm moving closer to the digital canvas and further from photography or paper-drawing.

Stolen Carbon
(Too Many Kids? Have Some Wars)

Back on the create-art-objects-to-photograph bandwagon, this time with three candles that I carved with a soldering iron (which melted), took macro photos of, and stitched together digitally. These are big, juicy prints. The series in general speaks about an uncomfortable truth of life, that some must die so that others may live, from three different angles.

One Thousand Pardons
(One-String Bass Gimp in the Meat Castle)

For this series I took ink drawings and combined them with macro photo digital collage, creating a real-yet-unreal effect I found so successful that I decided to repeat it for my portfolio project. The idea of a rich narrative that the user must piece together is strong here.

The Uneventful Life of Arturio von Anglebanger
(Surviving the Contained Muppocalypse of Hooperdunk Village)

My portfolio series combines the narrative, drawing, and macro texturing elements I've been working with into one very ambitious project. This is a teaser image from a series of eight; the actual images blow up to a max of around 36"x30".

In closing,

What I've really put together here is a "media map" of my entire life. It doesn't include every artistic work I've ever experienced, by any means- coming up with links to all of these took long enough- but it's a rough map of the ideas that I experienced and latched onto- a sort of reflection of my personality and human experience on the Internet. Scientists looking at this from the Future should be able to completely replicate my personality, down to the smallest detail, with this, thereby making me immortal. Nifty.

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