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Archivemnartists.org2000s 2005

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Artists on Artists: Rob McBroom and the Ducks

via mnartists.org

Dec 2005
by Rob McBroom   December 30, 2005 It�d be fair to say to say that my basic interests haven�t changed dramatically since my childhood. Anyone familiar with my art will notice ongoing themes like G.I. Joe, Greek mythology, Master of the Universe, Pez, Batman &, old 8-bit video games & any other number of nerdly interests. The main theme, though, has been animals. I�m not exactly sure why I like them so much since my contact with them growing up was the occasional outing to the zoo or a weekend camping trip (and that�s only for people who still consider it camping when the park has fire pit, paved trails & A/C hook-ups.) I grew up in the city so the wildlife was pretty much limited to squirrels, rabbits, sparrows or whatever grisly carcass the cat decided to drag back home. Still, my favorite television show as a youngster was on PBS. (was a close second thanks in no small part to the lovely mammal Catherine Bach.) I had wanted to enter the Federal Duck Stamp competition for some time. The trouble was that I could never find much helpful information at my local library about it so the plan was put on hold until I could find out something definitive about it. Finally in 1999, the Internet proved to be the last place I�d ever have to look for duck stamp information. Not only was I able to find information on the contest itself (with its pages & pages of rules and regulations) but also find all the possible images I could ever need on specific species. Some entrants are very particular in their rendering to make sure all anatomical & taxonomic details are absolutely PERFECT & will make special sojourns to Alaska for it. The Department of the Interior had also sent me information for 3-day workshop in Maine just for the Black Scoter to help with my design. I guess it�s lucky for me (or more specifically, my wallet) that I have very little interest in rendering the birds realistically. Along with the surrealist & cartoonish slant, my work uses a lot of logos. For me it�s hard to get away from them since they, or the corporate culture they represent, are so much of how we define ourselves. I don�t necessarily mean that whole idea of evil Fortune 500 corporate culture either. I just mean that unless you�re weaving your own fabric & growing your own food, chances are in some form those things are coming from sort of company. When I use the logos I try not to let my personal feelings about them affect where I place them in a piece, it�s mainly just something that graphically works well. I�d rather not to get too preachy about anything, and let the viewer make their own judgment call about what it means since they�re bringing their own personal experiences to it. An example of this would be in the in the design for the 2005 design of the Canada Goose. In it, the bird farthest to the left has logos for Knuckleheads comedy club, Lake Mead Area Realty, US Lacrosse & a Transformers Decepticon emblem. Now for me 3 of the 4 have at least some personal connection. With Knuckleheads it was that I had a date with someone that I almost cancelled because I got super bad diarrhea from some Burger King onion rings. I ended up going but was in the restroom most of the night. The realty office I remember from a sign while going out to Hoover Dam on Thanksgiving Day in 2003. I had just had an operation 3 weeks earlier & it was one of my first big outings afterwards so it stuck in my mind despite my blissful stupor from the Percocet. The Decepticon emblem goes back to more childhood interests that still worm into my life 20 years later. As for the US Lacrosse logo, on a personal level, it means squat. It has absolutely no personal connection for me whatsoever. That�s OK though because someone else viewing it may make some other correlation with it to his or her own life. Often I get accused of just doing these to make fun of the whole culture that really digs nature art. While there are actually some subversive elements to it, that really isn�t why I do them the way I do. In a sense I find it more truthful to how I experience the ducks in �nature.� Most of the stamp designs, while taxonomically accurate, are probably the most idealized things you could ever see. Everything about their settings is PERFECT & one could expect Jesus Christ himself is parting the skies just for their magical flight. At least for me, this is a pretty far stretch from reality. When I actually see ducks or geese in flight there�s usually some giant billboard or fast food sign in view & if it�s not like that, then they�re a bunch of tiny squawking blobs passing overhead. I do realize there is some happy medium between both settings but I�m just interpreting things as I see them. Where I feel I�m actually being subversive is sneaking things in that are clearly against the contest regulations. One of the guidelines states there may be no lettering or banners of any kind in the layout. To sneak a message in I�d translate works into Morse code & incorporate the dots & dashes into the design. The most blatant example was the 2001 Black Scoter stamp that had the message in the falling drops of rain as the bird flew through a storm. In its entirety, the message is a transcription of a monologue from a pornographic movie where the exceptionally talkative lady bounces back & forth about what�s being done to her & how much she likes it. I had only started entering designs the year before & was ranked dead last. Assuming that the outcome would be the same again, I thought it apt the lighthouse in the background should be from Cape Disappointment in Washington State. It turned out a bit ironic because I was correct about being last (yet again); it also garnered attention from a curator at the Whitney Museum in New York. I plan on making & submitting the new designs each year even though I…