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Showing posts from March, 2006

ONE LOVELY DRAWING, part two

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This jewel of a drawing by the great Robert Fawcett was a spot illustration for the story Mutiny in Paradise which appeared in This Week magazine in May 1957.

The original magazine was printed on cheap pulp paper, and most copies have long since crumbled into silt. I am posting a scan of the original so that this fine, arrogant drawing will continue to get the audience it deserves. Contrast Fawcett's use of drybush to convey the depth of the jungle outside the hut with the slashing brush strokes of the wall which energize the whole drawing.




Fawcett understood anatomy so well that he was able to depict the feet of the character with speed and confidence, despite their odd angle.



Most important, note how the subject matter was subordinated to the abstract design of the picture. Fawcett always said that the longer an artist could work on a representational drawing at the purely abstract level, the better.

ONE LOVELY DRAWING

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While it is great fun to talk about the larger landscape of art, sometimes you can see more by looking through a microscope than by looking out the window of an airplane.

That's especially true when you are talking about the intimate art of drawing. As I have noted elsewhere, I think art critic Roberta Smith got it exactly right when she wrote about the special quality of drawing:


Drawings are the most overtly delectable of all art forms...Drawings in general are like love letters. Personal in touch and feelng, physically delicate, they reflect the artist's gifts, goals and influences in the most intimate terms... [They are] a direct extension of an artists's signature and very nervous system.So I think it makes sense to take time out from bloviating about the art world to reflect on an individual drawing. I will be doing this on a regular basis, to bring attention to selected examples of long forgotten treasure and to give my detractors a better understanding of what I mean…

THE BATTLE BETWEEN GOOD TASTE AND GOOD ART

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When the illustrator Robert Fawcett decided to abandon fine art for illustration, His painter friends objected that illustration was coarse, vulgar and tasteless. Fawcett responded that "good taste" is often the enemy of creativity: the creative act in art involves a kind of courage which good taste might easily modify. It almost seems as if the creative impulse involves a large ingredient of vulgarity to be a vital statement. In drawing, an excess of what we think of as good taste can only result in an anemic product, while the more vulgar statement... is invariably stimulating.

Pulitzer prize winner Michael Chabon sided with Fawcett, praising comic art as straddling
"high art and low art [at] the margins of trash and quality....There's something stimulating about hanging out at the borders there."

One of the most marvelous inventions to spring from the borders of trash and quality was Alex Raymond's comic strip, Flash Gordon. These virile drawings with thei…

WOWEE, LOOK AT THOSE HANDS!

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Nobody draws hands like the great Mort Drucker.

close up, with pencil lines

If you study Drucker's stories for MAD magazine, you will see a wonderful ballet of hands from one panel to the next. Note in the following drawing how, in a tiny space crammed with Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Al Pacino and other superstars, a hand still dominates center stage.



There are at least two important lessons to draw from Drucker's treatment of hands.

First, Drucker constructs hands like a master architect-- he understands the structural foundation of his subject, and that gives his drawings solidity. But that's only the start. For some artists, extensive knowledge of anatomy can have a deadening effect. It locks them into a certain mechanical way of thinking. It becomes an anchor that weighs down creativity.



But if you're really good-- like Drucker-- your knowledge of anatomy sets you free. Drucker could never achieve his springing, bouncing joyful line if he had to slow down to consult …