Sure, it’s not the most modest move naming the book about yourself The World’s Best Artist, but those looking for the class on subtlety in Mitch O’Connell’s school of self-promotion won’t find it. It’s this tounge-in-cheek and unpretentious approach, backed up by stellar illustration work that makes me a fan, and the promise of that title and the book’s glistening, padded soft-cover is delivered in spades.
I’m particularly fond of Mitch’s pen and ink work, which boasts a style all of his own with a controlled use of black lines, feathering and heavy brush strokes that never feel over worked, and add a strong sense of graphic design that carries through to his fully rendered paintings and tattoo art. Couple this with “lowbrow” references drawn from pin-ups, monster movies, gig posters and cartoons, and it’s no wonder why his work holds such strong appeal.
The book’s 290 pages almost overflow with examples, including cover art for Newsweek and the Village Voice, along with work-in-progress sketches and un-used work; some with interesting behind the scenes stories to tell. Mitch adds commentary throughout, where we learn about artistic influences, early publishing aspirations and later career development, that remains light-hearted up until a surprisingly honest and revealing “relationship gone bad” tale that describes the origins of a series of surrealist inspired paintings.
We finish up with a mystery tour around castle O’Connell. A curious mix of religious ephemera, Dirty Harry posters, plush toys and porn mags, brought together by an over-arching kitsch-logic that’s visible in all of his work. A refined style that manages to find that perfect balance of art and mainstream sensibilities, and contain the many ingredients that go into making Mitch O’Connell one of the today’s best artists. It’s one of my favourite books of the year and highly recommended.