Monday, December 29, 2008

Kawena's Pirate Steals Our Heart

A few months ago I discovered an amazing new artist that is doing beautiful things with his work. The young (25 year old) and very talented David Kawena combines the romanticized fantasy illustrative style of Walt Disney’s animated classics with seductive male subjects. I previously posted a series created by David called the “Disney Heroes”. I was happy to write a brief review of the series and we have occasionally corresponded since then. The Disney Heroes series has gained David a large and growing fan base. I’m very happy for him. I was also happy to find a new Disney Hero David created based on the character Will Turner from Pirates of the Caribbean. This work is the first of the Disney Heroes based on a live action character instead of an animated hero.

The likeness to Orlando Bloom is remarkable. In keeping with the theme of the remainder of the series, Kawena employs an almost monochromatic sepia-toned palette to give it an Abercrombie and Fitch styling. It was fun to see animated characters brought to life this way. Its nice to see Kawena can achieve the same effect with live characters. Kawena’s Will Turner is appropriately costumed in a sexy version of his movie wardrobe. Its as if our rookie pirate decided to shop from the International Male catalog. He’s accessorized with his Aztec gold medallion and head wear borrowed from his buddy Captain Jack. I hope the swooning Miss Swann appreciates his new look as much as the rest of us do.

I have wondered why Kawena’s work has gained popularity so quickly. The obvious reason is that the subjects are very sexy. However, the Internet is full of websites featuring photos of attractive fitness models. David’s work appeals on another level. He interprets the male subject with a non-threatening innocence. The men in Kawena’s artwork are sexy and accessible without being vulgar. Female subjects have been portrayed in this way for years. Romance novels are covered with bodice busting imagery. A sexy, scantily clad woman can look trashy or virginal and vulnerable just by the costume, setting and expression of the model. David Kawena has found the technique to accomplish the same thing with male subjects.

The other key to his success is the cultural shift that has occurred. At one time animated characters were subjects for children. Cartoons were a medium to keep kids entertained on Saturday morning while mom cleaned the house and dad washed the car. But now, thanks to Japanese anime and manga, this artwork has gained an audience that includes the young adult/college-age generation. The saturation of our media with animated characters in video games and graphic novels has developed a very discriminating audience. They are also very comfortable with this media and don’t see it as juvenile or immature. Those of us from the previous generation are charmed by the nostalgia of this work, remembering the fantasies inspired by the original Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, and Little Mermaid. It should be no surprise that Kawena’s work has found a large and growing audience.

I would like to extend my thanks to David Kawena for providing me with an unwatermarked copy of this work to post on the blog. It’s a real honor for me to be allowed to post and review his work. In checking my website statistics I have found that the articles written about him are the most visited on my site. The David Kawena search terms are the most frequent entry points for new viewers of the Gemini Art blog. Pages featuring his work receive hundreds of page views per month.

I hope the viewers and readers of this site will respect David’s intellectual property rights and not copy or redistribute his work without his permission. In the email from David, he tipped me off to an upcoming big event. I won’t spoil it for him, but please stay tuned. I will be sure to share the news with you as soon as he gives permission.

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