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Los Angeles artist creates tiny, evocative worlds in '420 Characters'

Lou Beach's book,
Lou Beach's book, "420 Characters," collects stories that originated as his Facebook status updates.

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German Shepherd dogs cut into the shape of nimble birds, men with squid and moose heads – welcome to the world of artist Lou Beach. Now, the collagist and long-time illustrator transfers his surrealist imagery into literature. Beach's first published fiction, "420 Characters," presents a series of personal Facebook status updates, pithy shorts that follow fantastical plot lines and quirky characters.

Beach posts a fiction each day, and the growing popularity of his stories prompted an agent to shop his musings to a publisher. The Los Angeles-based artist said he was surprised that what began as a daily exercise would catch people's attention.

"I went ... to see what Facebook was about and soon became disenchanted with my daily life," he said. "So I just started making things up to amuse myself."

In 420 key stroke, Beach plunges into a collection of moments he thinks up, approaching the process much like he does his visual art. "It's gathering together imagery and trying to find what makes them fit together to form a narrative, whether it's visual or whether it's literary. It comes from the same urge to make a story," he said.

Beach said his ideas often surface at the tail end of sleeping, so he tries to write before starting the rest of his day. According to Beach, the technique was a trick he learned working as an illustrator.

"If I thought about a problem that I had to solve visually before I went to sleep, by the time I woke up, often times I'd have an answer. I do that a little bit here as well. It's a wonderful sort of limbo space where things float in and out and if you catch the right image you can use it when you wake up."

Some pages in the book are dedicated to his collage works, personal favorites that have yet to be shown in an exhibition. Beach said the pieces don't accompany his writing for a particular reason; they're meant to evoke a story of their own. When asked about what inspires his art and writing, Beach said it remains a mystery.

"I don't know ... They just come. I touch some dream part of myself and put it down and there it is. You tell me what it's about," he laughed.

Lou Beach will be discussing "420 Characters" during his book signing at Book Soup, Dec. 6, 2011, 7:00 p.m.


Lou Beach, collagist, illustrator and author of new book, "420 Characters"