A discerning eye for aesthetics. It's more than your personal style or your love of architecture. I'm talking about a deep appreciation for Art with a capital A — that sublime pastime that stirs the soul and opens the heart.
Here are 10 artists you should know about. Their work runs the gamut, from performance art to mythical monster portraits. They are very different from one another, yet every single one of them possesses a singular vision you'd be crazy to ignore.
Molly Crabapple, half artist, half impresaria, is founder of Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School, an uber-hip fusion of burlesque and live drawing with branches in over a hundred cities worldwide. Her work is a heady brew of sex, steampunk, and Victoriana, and she's becoming so popular it'd be accurate to call her a movement in and of herself.
Drew Friedman has ramped up caricature into fine art with his trilogy of art books, Old Jewish Comedians. In one piece his subject, the original Pinhead, hardly needs any characteristics accentuated to achieve its effect.
Cynthia Von Buhler's multimedia work ranges from the Speakeasy Dollhouse, an immersive theater experience where the actors and audience together create a work of art, to books that combine painting andillustration with photographs of insanely intricate miniatures that she herself constructed.
If you're a connoisseur of hip culture, and especially if you're anything resembling a hipster, you've likely beheld the art of Dave Franzese of the molten-hot Brooklyn creative shop Dark Igloo, without even knowing it. His deceptively simple good-mood drawings adorn the scaffolding wrapped around the HQ of a company famous for its search engine, and he's branded some of the biggest festivals of 2012. The image here is a mashup of super villains; can you name them all?
Carlos Mare, aka Mare139, is a graffiti legend who has evolved into a renowned sculptor, using the dynamic lines, arrows, and shapes he used to tag trains. His metal sculptures, such as the one shown here, are highly sought after by collectors.
Fred Harper's got chops. He looks like Thor, and draws with the confident prowess one would expect of the Thunder God, should he ever trade in his hammer for brush and pen.
Travis Louie's otherworldly paintings look as if they could be formal photograph portraits of some retro alien race of mythical monsters. They begin as sketches and written journal entries, then extrude from his demented noggin onto canvas as elegant imaginary creatures.
Zelda Devon brings a dark, whimsical edge to her virtuoso visuals. She creates lush, erotic fine art for fans of high-end fantasy.
Kostas Seremetis is a prince of pop art mashed up with fine art. Juxtaposing classic comic book imagery with rock and film icons might seem like an easy trick, but one look at Seremetis's electrifying oeuvre, and you'll learn the difference. It's not about merely splicing A with B; the connections Kostas manifests are a unique combination of subtlety and majesty.
So there you have it. Ten tickets to inspiration and conversation fodder for your next date with that cultured special someone.
Jeff Newelt, AKA JahFurry, is an editor/writer for Heeb, SMITH, and ROYAL FLUSH magazines. He edited The Pekar Project, Harvey Pekar's American Splendor webcomics series, as well as Harvey Pekar's CLEVELAND graphic novel. Follow him at twitter.com/jahfurry and facebook.com/jahfurry.