The title of prolific modern artist Ron English's book Son of Pop - Ron English Paints His Progeny pretty much explains the content of his recommended brand new 100-page, full color art book recently published by San Francisco's 9mm Books. Inside are paintings in the artist's usual irreverent, anti-corporate style (McDonalds and the tobacco industry being two of his favorite targets), only using his two children (Zephyr age 12 and Mars age 9 -- aka "the Kiss kids") as his subjects. For more information on the illustrious artist Ron English, who describes his work as "popaganda" and whose body of work and history is too long to go in to here, I recommend you check out his website or pick up the documentary about him, also titled Popaganda. Meantime, check out the selections of his art here and also read the interview he recently conducted with the AMOEBLOG about the new book Son Of Pop which also includes a mini 4-song CD featuring his same two kids singing such songs as Wesley Willis' "Rock and Roll McDonalds."
AMOEBLOG: When exactly were the paintings in Son of Pop made?
RON ENGLISH: I started working on these paintings a few months after the birth of my daughter Zephyr. I have continued painting my kids to this day.
AMOEBLOG: Whose idea was it to include your kids?
RON ENGLISH: Originally I intended to develop the kids' drawings into paintings. I had done this in the past with the childhood drawings of my wife and her brothers. By the time my kids were old enough to start drawing I'd already developed my obsession with using them as models and never ended up using their drawings.
AMOEBLOG: Do Zephyr and Mars know they are famous or does it mean anything to them?
RON ENGLISH: I took my kids to an opening where a portrait of Mars as a sad Shriner boy was on display. People easily recognized him because he had the same perturbed look on his face. Mars hates openings and thinks my art is pretty boring. Zephyr is a lot more into it. She found an art magazine with pictures of my paintings in it and she counted the number of paintings of Mars as opposed to the number of paintings of her. It aggravated her that there were more pictures of her brother than there were of her, that is until I pointed out the fact that she was on the cover, which is cooler than being buried inside the magazine.
AMOEBLOG: What are your wife's thoughts on it all?
RON ENGLISH: I think it bothers her a bit that all the paintings get sold. I think she would probably like a couple for our collection.
AMOEBLOG: Have you gotten any flak for the recurring cigarettes in the kids' mouths?
RON ENGLISH: Before I painted the smoking kids I did the billboard series of the Cancer Kids using a child version of Joe Camel in protest of RJ Reynolds cigarette campaign aimed at the youth market. The smoking kids paintings were an extension of that work. It was the adult word superimposed on children. A child holding a cigarette is a very disturbing image. Now that they're getting to an age where some children actually take up smoking I don't paint them with cigarettes anymore.
AMOEBLOG: Why so much KISS imagery?
RON ENGLISH: A lot of my work is about commenting on marketing to children and Kiss was a band that was really able to [have an] imprint on youth by creating cartoon-like versions of themselves even though their music itself is more often than not pretty adult. There are even Kiss toys. Kiss is a brand and the Kiss Kids are part of the branded generation.
AMOEBLOG: How did the idea to include the music and mini CD come about?
RON ENGLISH: Zephyr and Mars recorded their then-favorite song, "Rock and Roll McDonalds" by Wesley Willis, for the last scene in the movie Popaganda with my brother-in-law's band The Sutcliffes. That song turned out pretty good so when we started putting together the book of kid paintings Son of Pop, I thought it would be fun to have them record a few songs to be included with the book.
AMOEBLOG: I know Last Gasp is from SF and I think 9MM is too -- but you are on the East Coast. So how did that publishing dealio come about?
RON ENGLISH: Last Gasp published my first book Popaganda and were waiting for me to create enough new art to do a big coffee table book which eventually became Abject Expressionism. Son of Pop was approached as more of an art project. The design mimics the Little Golden Books of my youth.
AMOEBLOG: You mentioned your next book, Abject Expressionism, which is due out any moment now. What exactly will that book contain -- new or old art?
RON ENGLISH: Actually, it's all new work from the last few years with a few older paintings sprinkled in to lend some context to the newer paintings and billboards.
AMOEBLOG: And finally, what is your upcoming art show, Big Picture Pop at Opera Gallery in NYC, going to include?
RON ENGLISH: It's all new stuff, of course. I usually work on various series' at the same time so some paintings are new additions to ongoing series' and some are examples of a couple new series' I started this year.
For more information about Ron English's New York City art exhibit Big Picture Pop at Opera Gallery downtown (December 2007), his books Son Of Pop and Abject Expressionism, his movie Popaganda, and everything else about this wonderful American artist, visit his website. And on Friday November 30th, 2007 (3-6PM EST) tune into the weekly show I do on WFMU when Ron and his two kids Mars and Zephyr + their uncle Brandon will be my guests, talking and performing the songs on the CD that comes with Son Of Pop live in the studio.