Aron Wiesenfeld grew up with comics and became an artist largely because of them, but it’s been a long time since the comics world has seen him. Fans have watched his style evolve from work on X-Men, Cable, and Image Comics’ Team 7 in the early ’90s. These were followed by written and illustrated work with Deathblow and later a stunning Deathblow/Wolverine crossover, then a shockingly beautiful change for works like Batman: Gotham Knights #17 and covers for Y: The Last Man in 2004. But then he seemed to vanish from the comics radar.
The reality is that, as much as he loved reading comics, actually working in the industry made him realize how restrictive it was to his vision of his own work. Furthermore, the demands on his time, when he was also trying to focus on a gallery show of oil paintings was simply too much. This was compounded by how vastly different the two media are. He had to make a choice, and this is the path that choice has taken him. Escaping the comics world allowed him to broaden his horizons. Packing his bags with art supplies and camping gear and jumping into his car to travel the coast of the Pacific ocean, Wiesenfeld’s journey helped him redefine himself as a fine artist whose work has been displayed in multiple art shows and publications, including his own book, The Well, and now Travelers currently on Kickstarter.
Wiesenfeld’s press release explains, “The new book, Travelers, picks up where The Well left off. It includes artworks from 2014 to the present. As proud as I am about my first book, I have to say, Travelers is better. The Well covered 15 years of artmaking, and included a lot of my early development as a painter. Travelers is more cohesive stylistically, and it’s also arranged thematically, like a story. Flipping through it, one can see a central character traveling through seasons and landscapes, and the juxtaposition of images suggests potential stories to the reader, which is always what I try to do in my paintings individually.”
“It was a matter of picking the best pieces, and making them flow in a way that made sense,” Wiesenfeld tells WWAC, making it clear his comics roots remain influential. “Arranging them in sequential order presented an unexpected creative opportunity to expand the world of the paintings, and suggest larger stories.” People in the art community are often surprised Wiesenfeld’s CV includes comics, given the significant difference in styles of work. “I owe many of the skills that I use now to what I learned in comics, such as how to draw from imagination, and how to tell a story visually.”
“I still get a lot of inspiration from comic book creators such as Edward Gorey, Mike Mignola, Chris Ware, R. Crumb, Thomas Ott, and Joe Sacco, to name a few,” but as a constantly growing and learning artist, Wiesenfeld takes his influences and inspiration in many other artistic styles, as well. “I really respond to the emotion in the works of the Romantic era painters, such as Constable, Corot, and Caspar David Freidrich.”
Of late, his interest has expanded to the simplicity and mood that early Japanese paintings can invoke with the artists’ use of flat colours. The “sense of something pending” feeds his love of the works of Arnold Böcklin, including his most famous piece, “Isle of The Dead.” Most recently, the late Chicago surrealist Gertrude Abercrombie has caught Wiesenfeld’s attention. “Her work is very evocative, in a simple and odd way.”
As for the subject matter of Wiesenfeld’s paintings, he finds inspiration in anything, from movies to landscapes to novels. Moments of inspiration begin as a quick sketch that, if good, becomes a painting or charcoal drawing based on that sketch.
“A lot of times those ideas stall out and need to be rethought,” Wiesenfeld says, “It’s rare that an idea will go the distance to become a finished painting without major alterations along the way. But part of what I love about painting is that it is very malleable and it doesn’t need to be a particular thing. Plus during the weeks or months it takes to make a painting I’m exposed to new things, and those things come into it, consciously or not. Usually I’m really surprised by the final image.”
“There is a richness in Aron’s color even when it appears to be a grey cheerless world filled with ghosts,” says painter William Wray, describing Wiesenfeld’s work. “The viewer can be both charmed and haunted by his work. Categorizing his painting style can also elude us. Surrealism doesn’t seem to be the perfect classification. Both cartoonist and classic realist seem to equally apply. I don’t know Aron well, but if an artist’s work is a representation of themselves, it makes me want to know this very original enigma of an artist better.”
Wiesenfeld’s work has garnered him much more praise, as well as the attention of many artists and critics, including the likes of director Guillermo del Toro.
ARON WIESENFELD. American. Like Hopper he is concerned with solitude, like Magritte he is bewitched by mystery. pic.twitter.com/Rdsn9Y5VWI
— Guillermo del Toro (@RealGDT) December 20, 2015
Featuring an introduction by the New York-based art critic Kimberly Powers, Travelers collects a series of oils, charcoal, watercolor, and pencil works in an over 100-page, 10″ x 10″ full colour art book. The Kickstarter offers a softcover version of the book, and a hardcover with a bonus exclusive dust cover at higher tiers, as well as signed prints, postcards and more. Having already successfully surpassed its modest funding goal well ahead of the October 22 end date, the Kickstarter has moved on to stretch goals and further embellishments to a beautiful collectors item.
With the continued success of this kind of artistic work, it may seem that Wiesenfeld has no reason to return to his first love, but he still considers going back to comics one day. Given the breadth and depth the industry has seen now with the increased exposure of independent and small press graphic novels, creators have much more freedom to tell their story exactly as they desire. It’s the perfect scenario for Wiesenfeld’s return to sequential storytelling — if he can find the time to expand on an idea that popped into his head about a year ago. “My paintings are often like single panels from a comic, removed from the rest of the story. It’s not a stretch in my mind to imagine expanding those images onto sequential art. But I will be as surprised as anyone to see how a return to comics will look.”
We eagerly await…