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Book By Its Cover talks NOGOODNIKS

Updated January 12, 2012


November 7, 2011
Julia Rothman

Adrain Norvid call his new book Nogoodniks “a collection of dumb, slightly caustic, maybe barely even funny things” (from this article). It’s full of drawings and collages reminiscent of old advertisements and crude versions of comic characters of the 60s and 70s. It’s like illustrated one-line jokes, which I like very much. It’s a good book to leave around the house and pick up every now and then for a smile. You can get a copy here.
 
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Featured artist

Adrian Norvid

           Featured product

Nogoodniks




  NOGOODNIKS reviewed by The Concordian

Updated November 2, 2011


The best humour removes tongue from cheek just long enough to stick it out at the audience. From Mad magazine to Monty Python, cult franchises rely as much on in-jokes as they do on nonsense to craft the ultimate punch line: “I don’t get it.”
For some viewers, the temptation to reason with the absurd is too great to resist: but sometimes, to paraphrase Freud, Joni Mitchell’s ass is just Joni Mitchell’s ass…
At least, that’s the kind of irreverent imagery found in Adrian Norvid’s whimsical new book of illustrations Nogoodniks, published by independent press Drawn & Quarterly.
A lover of “crummy, cheap, cheesy stuff,” Norvid finds comedic cannon fodder for his collection of nearly 90 new drawings and collages in everything from 1970s counterculture to English humour to quintessential symbols of Americana. It’s-No-Wonderbread, anyone?
Invoking childhood’s most-beloved emblems (remember Tootsie Pops? Frisbees? The Hulk?) through adulthood’s sardonic lens, Norvid crafts a reading experience that resists categorization. The perversion of familiar icons is nostalgic yet fresh, and even somewhat sweet despite its crude bent.
“It’s a lot of childhood remnants, I think, because I came over here to Canada when I was
10-years-old, and I still had a lot of Englishness in me,” Norvid said of the influence of the
English culture and wordplay on his humour.
Norvid’s play with words focuses on puns and malapropisms, but also on the similar sonorous quality of words. On one page, a square-jawed, dopey-looking skull nestles near the outer corner, the text reading “dull little skull.” On another, a man’s black silk top hat seems to fly off backward into the book, the inside decorated by flourishes and the text “Topper Upper.”
“My family are from the North of England, and they were addicted to words. You felt that sitting in the living room listening to them just yak like parrots for hours on end,” Norvid recalled, imitating his relatives’ mile-a-minute speech. “It was almost like watching Monty Python, to hang around them, and of course as a kid you’d just be like, ‘God, what is going on?’”
Norvid’s expressive and cartoon-inspired art recreates a child’s sense of impatience, wonder and confusion without recourse to a narrative or to particular reading guidelines. Picked up and flipped through on a whim in a bookshop, Nogoodniks can hook a reader on any page.
“I didn’t do the drawings in any particular order, and I don’t think there’s a theme that people can go back and discover on a second reading,” explained Norvid of the book’s loosely-associated content.
“I think of it as a collection of dumb, slightly caustic, maybe barely even funny things,” he continued, “that have some kind of relationship with one another, but that you might not figure out, and that I may not even really know.”
For fans of independent comic culture, Nogoodniks will be doubly entertaining. Sometimes reminiscent in style of the bizarre illustrations of masters like R. Crumb, Norvid’s skillful drawings still communicate the same almost grassroots look.
Intense facial expressions, slightly contorted limbs and fingers, and a certain collapsing of depth both ally the illustrations of Nogoodniks with the greater independent illustration and comic publishing tradition and set it apart as a work with an identity of its own making.
As Crumb said of his own medium: “When people say ‘What are underground comics?’ I think the best way you can define them is just the absolute freedom involved—we didn’t have anyone standing over us.”
Norvid echoed the sentiment of unmediated expression when he said: “There’s definitely an attitude to this, one of being silly together. I’ll insult you, and you insult me—let’s just relax, okay?”
Unsurprisingly, the source for the book’s content is as ephemeral as the final product.
Norvid, who typically works with much larger pieces, discussed his bookmaking process as one that was spontaneous and exhilarating as well as sometimes discouraging and uncertain.
“A lot of these things just pop into my head very spontaneously, and I’ll jot them down in a little notebook,” he said, explaining the source for the book’s humour, “and then I’ll just use them. I say, the universe will give these things up, so don’t inflect them too much; have faith that they’ll work on some level. And it’s a bit of an idiot faith, really.”
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Featured artist

Adrian Norvid

           Featured product

Nogoodniks




Adrian Norvid on CBC's ALL IN A WEEKEND

Updated November 2, 2011


Adrian Norvid spends part of his time as a much-loved art professor at Concordia University. But the rest of his time is spent in a wacky parallel universe -- where he makes art based on such universal themes as... what Neil Young's lungs must look like.

He's just released his first book of drawings, called "Nogoodniks." It comes with a slew of glowing recommendations -- and all of them have been completely made up by Adrian. Like this one from James Kill-it-off-quick at The Every Other Sunday Times: "Stay well clear of this book."

Adrian Norvid joins Geeta in studio.
 
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Featured artist

Adrian Norvid

           Featured product

Nogoodniks




  Adrian Norvid Interviewed by Vice!

Updated November 2, 2011


Our pals at Drawn & Quarterly recently sent us a book called Nogoodniks by Montreal-based artist/musician/creator-guru Adrian Norvid and told us we should talk to him because he was "British and really funny". We thought the book was great in a weird, warpy, kooky (aka British) kind of way, so we snapped up Adrian's gracious invitation to have someone from VICE (me!) up to his Mile End studio for a chit-chat and workspace whirl-around. As we talked about anything and everything from Joni Mitchell's ass to getting high on Star Wars I realized bantering with Adrian is a perfectly random, perfectly good time, not unlike the experience of looking at his drawings.

At some point during the hour and a half we shuffled around his crammed space I thought “Wow, Adrian is a good listener!”, mostly because he agreed strongly with almost everything I told him, sometimes saying “good” three or four times in a row before responding while bobbing his head around and keeping arms folded and hands tucked way up in his armpits like a unleavened pretzel. In addition to the stuff he told me about his book (see below), I also learned we have the same toy piano, the same back-pack, the same butterfly mug, and his studio address is my hometown area code. So, you know, I’m just rubbing it in at this point but with all that common thread we’re pretty much BFF’s!

What does “Nogoodnicks” mean?
Nogoodnicks to me is a sort of 50’s 60’s slang meaning damned no good types from the sputnik era perhaps, like, you know, “Peacenik’ or “stick a ‘nik’ on it”. To me each page in the book is a nogoodnik. In reality it seems it’s a Russian word meaning pretty much what I always thought. Of course I didn’t research too far.

Your work is pretty hilarious.
It’s full of puns, yes.

Where did that Joni Mitchell butt idea come from?
Well I’m not sure. Probably somewhere in my head Joni Mitchell just came through, like, “Joni Mitchell, Joni Mitchell...” and then I probably thought … “Bum” … “Joni Mitchell Bum...” Aha! I don’t really know where these ideas come from, they just arrive. They arrive because it’s just like a part of my brain is doing terrible puns and it kind of sends them down a shoot and it goes “Here’s one for you... use it or weep.” I came up with “Coco Ono” yesterday. I feel like I could have my whole career based around Coco Ono. That was very exciting.

Do you freak out when a pun comes down the shoot?
For a good one, yeah. Sure. Oh yeah.

My favourite is the one with the light bulbs.
Is it? Oh! Ha! That’s good. That’s good, that’s good.

Yeah, I don’t really understand it but it’s funny. Maybe because “musn’t” is a weird word.
It is? I musn’t… I musn’t … hmmm. Well I don’t really understand it either. It’s like, I dunno. Sometimes I have to wrestle with fluorescents. A lot of these lights up in here don’t work and the building guys just stand back and say “We don’t DO, the lighting.” So you go to the hardware store to try to find the part that you want but then they look at you and say, “this is really old. Nobody does this stuff anymore.” So you have to replace the whole thing. See here, there’s this tiny little black box inside that weighs about five pounds and that’s the part they don’t make any more. That you can only get from the old lights, and you’re not going to find them until everyone starts replacing their lights. Now, whenever I see a flourescent on the road I pick it up and haul it back here. They’re very easy to wire up, but, you know, does it work? It’s very mysterious.

That’s why you have all these old lights lying around?
Yep.

So you’re making art in retro light.
Hahaha. Nice work, nice work. Good one.

Someone said there is a lot of 70s counterculture stuff in your book.
Someone said that?

Yeah!
Well, I guess, since that was really my culture growing up. But lets see. There’s the guitar pick, the guitar pedals … those are sorta 70s. And just the idea of “Museli Man”. Heh...

...but do I actually think 70’s? Well I suppose I do a lot actually. And a lot of these things, when I put them in, I really had no idea whether people would relate to them at all. I figured a lot of people would probably just be like, “What??” But also with the Frisbee, oh yeah, THAT is definitely a dated 70s thing, actually from the early 70s.

Frisbee?
No, Freebee. It’s not a Frisbee. It’s a pun on Frisbee.

Oh I see.
Oh then there’s this Coriander one. In the 70's I was just a little tiny bit too old to be really into Star Wars. But oh god it was crazy when it came out, the hype. That's probably why I refused to see it for a while, because I'm a snob like that. But then when I did see it I was like, yeah, that was amazing. I was stoned out of my mind and I just thought "Wow, I seeeee! This is the future! Robots and stuff! Soon we’ll have chips in our brains!” Or maybe that was just because I was ripped.

Hey, I have the same toy piano as you! I loved this thing when I was a kid.
Really!!? Do you want to sell it??! I’ve had one on order for like 5 months. “JAYMAR” is actually “Schoenhut” right now. In the 70’s it was supposed to be called JAYMAR. It was and is made in Brooklyn. But now it’s all in gothic lettering and they’re called SCHOENHUT.

Weird.
Yes!

Do you pump iron in here? (looking at barbells)
About three times a week I lift weights for about three minutes. And I think “I will do this EVERY DAY! I will do this EVERY time I take a pause! Mmmm, this is GREAT!” but then, that’s it. But you know, the intent is there. I feel like I may have some weights in a performance.

People don’t usually think of artists as healthy or strong.
Because they’re not. Typically. Some are. It depends on what you’re doing. I did see this one interview with Peter Saul who’s a really great New York painter and he had a little trampoline and weights in his studio. I thought that was pretty neat. A tramp would be great in here.


Why do you think people like your art?
I think the people who like it -- because I’m sure there are people who hate it -- like that they don’t have to have read Nietzsche to get it but maybe they’ve seen the cover of Nietzsche and can say “Yeah, you know, I never got that either!” And you’re allowed to laugh. There’s still this myth of the artist and we sorta want to follow his exploits in his world of not being able to make a living. Plus a lot of my stuff is music oriented and everyone is in love with music.


I think people like it because it makes them confront their pervy sides.
Oh, good.

Okay Adrian, I’ll let you get back to it. Thanks for having me.
Oh my pleasure. Hey, nice back pack! I had the same one, you know. But then I had to end it. I had it stolen one night and then a couple days later some random person called me and said “Oooooh your bag is here” so then I showed up and there it was in the rain, in a parking lot and I was like, “what the hell.” So I decided not to use it after that. But yeah, leather. That’ll last forever. It’s indestructible. Good for you.
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Featured artist

Adrian Norvid

           Featured product

Nogoodniks





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