Andy Warhol (1962)

In celebration of Andy Warhol’s birthday, born on this day in 1928, I wanted to share this interesting short documentary about him and his most famous creation the Marilyn Diptych. Enjoy!

Andy Warhol made Marilyn Diptych in 1962, right after Marilyn Monroe’s death. By the 1960s Marilyn’s film career as a sex symbol was all but over. Warhol would effectively immortalize Marilyn as the sex symbol of the 20th century. The seductive blonde Marilyn with the heavy-lidded eyes and parted lips is frozen in time. She is transformed into the personification of the allure and glamour of Hollywood’s Golden Age.

Marilyn would make Warhol a household name, and Warhol would make Marilyn an icon.

Marilyn Diptych is perhaps his greatest canvas, bringing together celebrity, death and exposure. It is both a warning and a love letter to America. Warhol, who is often criticized as vacuous or superficial, produced art, that is profoundly subversive and quite simply a perfect mirror of our times.

Andy Warhol and Marilyn Monroe were both the embodiment of the American dream. They also, both projected a vacant persona that made sure nobody knew the real person behind the mask.

The Marilyn Diptych is a silkscreen painting by American pop artist Andy Warhol depicting Marilyn Monroe. The monumental work is one of the artist’s most noted of the movie star. The painting consists of 50 images. Each image of the actress is taken from the single publicity photograph from the film Niagara. The underlying publicity photograph that Warhol used as a basis for his many paintings and prints of Marilyn, and the Marilyn Diptych, was owned and distributed by her movie studio. Marilyn Diptych was completed just weeks after Marilyn Monroe’s death in August 1962.

Silkscreen printing was the technique used to create this painting. The twenty-five images on the left are painted in color, the right side is black and white.

The Marilyn Diptych is in the collection of the Tate.

It has been suggested that the relation between the left side of the canvas and the right side of the canvas is evocative of the relation between the celebrity’s life and death. The work has received praise from writers such as American academic and cultural critic Camille Paglia, who wrote in 2012’s Glittering Images lauding how it shows the “multiplicity of meanings” in Monroe’s life and legacy.

In a December 2, 2004 article in The Guardian, the painting was named the third most influential piece of modern art in a survey of 500 artists, critics, and others. The artwork was also ranked ninth in the past 1,000 years by Kathleen Davenport, Director, Rice University Art Gallery, Houston.

Nina Simone (1965)

Watch the visualizer for Rudimental’s Remix of “Take Care Of Business” by Nina Simone from the album Feeling Good: Her Greatest & Remixes (2022)

In honor of Nina Simone’s birthday, born on this day in 1933, I present to you Nina Simone!

Nina Simone, was an American singer, songwriter, musician, arranger, and civil rights activist. Her music spanned styles including classical, jazz, blues, folk, R&B, gospel and pop.

The sixth of eight children born to a poor family in Tryon, North Carolina, Simone initially aspired to be a concert pianist. With the help of a few supporters in her hometown, she enrolled in the Juilliard School of Music in New York City. She then applied for a scholarship to study at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where she was denied admission despite a well received audition, which she attributed to racism. In 2003, just days before her death, the Institute awarded her an honorary degree.

To make a living, Simone started playing piano at a nightclub in Atlantic City. She changed her name to “Nina Simone” to disguise herself from family members, having chosen to play “the devil’s music” or so-called “cocktail piano”. She was told in the nightclub that she would have to sing to her own accompaniment, which effectively launched her career as a jazz vocalist. She went on to record more than 40 albums between 1958 and 1974, making her debut with Little Girl Blue. She had a hit single in the United States in 1958 with “I Loves You, Porgy”. Her musical style fused gospel and pop with classical music, in particular Johann Sebastian Bach, and accompanied expressive, jazz-like singing in her contralto voice.

Animated video directed by Sharon Liu and Aaron Lampert (2022).

Happy Birthday, Nina Simone!

Happy Stevie Day, 2021!

“If God didn‘t want me to sing it, he wouldn‘t have given me the talent to do it“ – Stevie Wonder (2005)

Interview by Barney Hoskyns

Animated by Patrick Smith

Today the world celebrates Stevie Wonder’s 71st birthday. Thank you for the music and the message of love. Learn more about Stevie Wonder, some secrets of his career, and watch must-see performances here: http://blankonblank.org/stevie-wonder/

An Open Letter to Dr. King

Walt Disney (1934)

Image result for donald duck 1934

Today is the classic Walt Disney character’s birthday, and I wanted to pay tribute and give a special shout out to my favorite Disney cartoon character of all, Donald Duck. He has inspired me to create my own band of cartoon characters with personalities and passions in which I have captured in animations of my own. Thank you and have a very happy Birthday.

Donald was created by Walt Disney when he heard Clarence Nash doing a peculiar voice while reciting “Mary Had a Little Lamb”. Nash described the voice as a goat; Walt, however, insisted that it was a duck. Nash was hired on the spot, and with a voice in place, a stage was needed to put this new duck character to the test. The solution came in the form of Walt’s experimental Silly Symphonies cartoon series. Donald made his first appearance in The Wise Little Hen on June 9, 1934. In the cartoon, Donald and his friend, Peter Pig, lie their way out of helping the titular little hen tend to her corn. Donald’s appearance in the cartoon, as created by animators Art Babbitt and Dick Huemer, is similar to his modern look; the feather, and beak colors are the same, as is the blue sailor shirt and hat, but his features are more elongated, his body plumper, and his feet bigger. His iconic voice, done by its originator Clarence Nash, is also the same. Notably, the manner of speech in which the characters’ voices are based on their respective animals is used for every character, rather than being a trait belonging solely to Donald. Donald’s personality is not developed either; in the short, he merely fills the role of the unhelpful friend from the original story.

The Wise Little Hen

Starring Donald Duck – June 9th, 1934

Bert Gillett, director of The Wise Little Hen, brought Donald back in his Mickey Mouse cartoon, Orphan’s Benefit on August 11, 1934. Donald is one of a number of characters who are giving performances in a benefit for Mickey’s Orphans. Donald’s act is to recite the poems Mary Had a Little Lamb and Little Boy Blue, but every time he tries, the mischievous orphans humiliate him, leading the duck to fly into a squawking fit of anger. This explosive personality would remain with Donald for decades to come. Although Orphan’s Benefit was Donald’s second appearance, the film was the first to significantly develop his character. Many of Donald’s personality traits first seen in Orphan’s Benefit would become permanently associated with him, such as his love of showmanship, his fierce determination, belligerence, and most famously his easily provoked temper. The film also introduced some of Donald’s physical antics, such as his signature temper tantrum of hopping on one foot while holding out one fist and swinging the other. This was the creation of animator Dick Lundy, who termed this Donald’s “fighting pose.”

Orphan’s Benefit

Starring Donald Duck – August 11th, 1934

Donald continued to be a hit with audiences. The character began appearing in most Mickey Mouse cartoons as a regular member of the ensemble with Mickey, Minnie Mouse, Goofy, and Pluto. Cartoons from this period, such as the 1935 cartoon The Band Concert — in which Donald repeatedly disrupts the Mickey Mouse Orchestra’s rendition of The William Tell Overture by playing Turkey in the Straw — are regularly hailed by critics as exemplary films and classics of animation. Animator Ben Sharpsteen also minted the classic Mickey, Donald, and Goofy comedy in 1935, with the cartoon Mickey’s Service Station. After the success of Mickey’s Service Station, Donald would often be grouped with Mickey and Goofy in several shorts, where the trio’s laughable flaws would cause mayhem to befall upon them.

Mickey’s Service Station

Starring Donald Duck – 1935

Donald was redesigned in 1936 to be a bit fuller, rounder, and cuter, starting from Moving Day (1936). He also began starring in solo cartoons, the first of these being Don Donald, released on January 9, 1937. This short also marked the first appearance of Daisy Duck (here called “Donna Duck”), as well as Donald’s car, 313. Daisy went on to become Donald’s longtime love interest and a recurring co-star in his cartoons, mirroring the relationship between Mickey and Minnie.

Don Donald

Starring Donald Duck – January 9th, 1937

Donald’s nephews, Huey, Dewey, and Louie, would make their first animated appearance a year later in the 1938 film, Donald’s Nephews, directed by Jack King (they had earlier been introduced in the Donald Duck comic strip). It is around this period that Donald began to surpass Mickey in popularity, both in the favor of audiences and even the animators, who found it increasingly difficult to create new and entertaining shorts for Mickey to star in. According to Jack Hannah, there were several cartoons developed specifically for Mickey, but when the gags became too “rough”, the story was changed to star Donald instead.

Donald’d Nephews

Starring Donald Duck – 1938

Thanks for the laughs, Donald!