Norn Cutson is an artist based in New York. His work is beautiful and joyous, and always makes me smile. And that’s probably his intention for he describes himself as “an illustrator in NYC bringin’ lots o’ warmth & humor to the world!”
Most likely, you’ll have seen his fabulous illustrations of singers, actresses and pop stars in magazines, on posters, or in his wonderful art book Record Collection, which tells the story of his life through the music he loves.
The novelist Lawrence Durrell once wrote “Music is only love looking for words.” In Norn’s case “Music is only love looking for pictures.”
In Record Collection Norn has re-interpreted the album covers of the music that has been central to his life - from Blondie and Throbbing Gristle to Yoko Ono and Dionne Warwick. Music has always been important to Norn, as he explained to Dangerous Minds.
‘Music was a huge thing for us growing up. My parents love music and they had big record collections; my Dad’s a lot of Martin Denny, Herb Apert, Jackie Gleason and some classical pretensions; Mom’s lots of musicals, soundtracks & pop. My sister & I quickly learned that you could control the mood of the house by choosing the right music.’
It is said, “Artists are born not made,” which is true of Norn, for as far back as he can remember he has been drawing.
‘Before I could even sit up by myself, my Mom would guide my hand with a crayon, making shapes on paper. As I got older, we would play a game transforming the shapes into animals. So I’ve really been drawing all my life.’
From crayon animals, he started copying the Funnies.
‘I remember at 5 years old locking myself in my room and teaching myself to draw Charles Schulz’ Peanuts characters, because I wanted to tell my own stories with them. You can still totally see that influence in my art.
‘I’m always drawing. Even when I am not physically drawing, I am still working things out. I have more images in my mind than I will ever have time to bring into physical reality.
‘Art is Alchemy. It’s all about snatching the image out of the ether, solidifying it in your mind, forcing the image out of your shoulder, down your arm and out of the body onto paper, so the rest of the world can see.’
His book Record Collection is a wonderful treat, a brilliant collection of pop history that synthesizes Norn’s life thru music and art.
‘My Record Collection series came out of finding a new way to tell my story. I’ve drawn autobiographical comics for decades. I love it, but sometimes when you are using words, there’s too much room for misunderstanding. Plus, I have a tendency to get sappy in my writing.
‘With Record Collection, I can evoke a time & emotion just using imagery, and its better that it’s open for everyone to project their own experience on. Peggy Lee might mean one thing to me, and something totally different for you, but we’ll both have a valid response to her image.
‘One of the things (cartoonist and author) Lynda Barry teaches is to always work in a series; that way, you build momentum from one piece to the next, and before you know it, you’ve got a body of work.
‘Record Collection also came out of that idea. But what would it be a series about?
‘At first, I thought Hindu gods & goddesses, because they would be fun to research & draw; but then I realized, to be authentic, the series had to be something that was meaningful for me, not just something I’d read about. It had to be something that really happened to me.
‘I hadn’t grown up with any religion, so what could I use as symbols that other people could see their own stories in, that was coming from a spiritual place?
‘And then of course, I knew: MUSIC was the belief system we were raised with. And with that, I’ve tapped into a series that can last me the rest of my life.
‘I believe The Goddess sends messages through the shuffle feature of our ipods. She may not be playing what we want to hear, but she’s playing what we *need* to hear. What does this song mean to me now? What did it mean when I first heard it? How does this song apply to my life?
‘Sometimes, you can use music as a time machine to go back in time and fix things, or at least understand them better.’
Volume 2 of Record Collection will be published in March, and then Norn will be working on a book of autobiographical comics. He is also planning another exhibition.
‘I’d like to have another show of my work. Seeing people’s smiles when they look at my art is a wonderful feeling. Nothing makes me happier than knowing there’s a place in the word for my images, and that I have the ability to translate them into a form that other people can see and enjoy. I feel if we have that blessing, its our responsibility to serve it.’
Check out more of Norn’s work here and on his Pinterest page.
More of Norn’s fabulous pics, plus bonus clip, after the jump…