Posts

Showing posts from December, 2006

ONE LOVELY DRAWING, part nine

Image
There is obviously no such thing as the single greatest drawing in the history of the world. It would be foolish to think about rating art that way.

However, if there was such a drawing...



...it would probably be this one by Michelangelo. It is a preparatory drawing for Michelangelo's illustrations of the Bible for the Sistine Chapel.



I can't think of any object with more grace or beauty with which to end 2006.

This drawing is of the Libyan Sibyl who foretold "the coming of the day when that which is hidden shall be revealed." She had the power of prophecy because she was by birth half mortal and half divine: "An immortal nymph was my mother, my father an eater of corn."

I am just a lowly corn eater myself but I have enjoyed sharing these lovely images with you in 2006 and I wish all of you the happiest of new years.

THE SOURCE OF ARTISTIC INSPIRATION

Image
One item that made all the press in 2006 was the story of the counterfeit Norman Rockwell.

The Norman Rockwell Museum was embarrassed to discover that a painting they displayed as a masterful Rockwell was forged by a local cartoonist, Don Trachte.



According to the New York Times, Trachte purchased the original painting from Rockwell in 1960 but secretly painted a duplicate when he feared his estranged wife was going to take his beloved Rockwell in a bitter custody battle. Trachte hid the original behind a secret panel in his home and hung the fake in plain sight. Only after Trachte died did his family discover the genuine painting, which they promptly sold for $15.4 million.

There are lots of potential lessons from this episode. Some pundits had great fun taunting the "experts" who could not distinguish betweeen a Trachte and a Rockwell. Some were impressed by the skill of the unknown Trachte. Some focused on the detective work in uncovering the original, while others focused o…

ADVICE FROM ARTISTS

I generally sympathize with Matisse's view that artists should cut their tongues out so they won't be tempted to explain their work. It may not show, but I do try on this blog to avoid adding to the sum total of BS written about art in the world.

Here are some comments about the artistic process from illustrators or other artists that I think are particularly insightful:

Don't stop to admire a partly completed sketch.
--Robert Fawcett

On always doing your best work: The argument that "it won't be appreciated anyway" may be true, but in the end this attitude does infinitely more harm to the artist than to his client.
--Robert Fawcett

On being accused of making art like a madman: There is only one difference between a madman and me. I'm not mad
--Salvador Dali

What one has most to strive for is to do the work with a great amount of labor and study in such a way that it may appear, however much it was labored, to have been done almost quickly and almost without any …
Image
,
,
View from my office window at night. That's the glow of downtown LA over the hill.
.
.

TWO TYPES OF FOG

Image
100 years ago, women were thrilled by Redbook magazine's romantic stories about dark and mysterious men, exotic perils from the orient, women in danger, sublimated passions and heaving bosoms. The stories were illustrated by marvelous pictures like these.





Often the heroine watched as powerful men struggled over her virtue, or were reduced to helpless tears by their love for her.





The pictures, like the stories, were often shrouded in fog which left room for the reader's imagination to fill in the details. I love these art noir drawings by Gayle Hoskins, Frank Street, E. Ward and Leone Bracker.



Today, Redbook has replaced illustrations with bright, clear photographs. The articles are in sharper focus as well. There's no ambiguity in titles like 35 Sexy Places to Touch Your Man, or Get In The Mood in 5 Minutes. Recently, Redbook provided instructions for sex in an airplane bathroom the way GM might describe maintenance on an internal combustion engine ("For maximum maneuv…
Image
.
.
.
.
.

EVERYBODY HAS TO START SOMEWHERE

Image
The brilliant illustrator Bernie Fuchs is famous for his sleek, ultra-cool pictures that transformed the face of illustration in the 1950s - 1970s. The following details from an original illustration demonstrate one of his traits that I admire the most-- his ability to combine bold, innovative designs with rock solid traditional drawing skills.



The following detail is of Fuchs' close friend Austin Briggs, reflected in the window of an old car.



Nobody is born with this kind of facility, not even the great Bernie Fuchs. The proof is in Fuchs' childhood drawings which were carefully kept by his high school sweetheart-- now his wife.



Fuchs was seven years old when the movie The Wizard of Oz came out. It obviously made a big impression on him.


I like these childhood drawings, but at some point Fuchs went from drawing like lots of other kids to becoming the superstar illustrator of his generation. As Walt Reed wrote, "his pictures are probably more admired-- and more imitated-- t…
Image
.
.
.

Laura, Gouache sketch.
.
.

THE ARTIST'S CONSOLATION

Image
This illustration by Maxfield Parrish recently sold for $7.6 million, making somebody very wealthy. Parrish could've used some of that money toward the end of his career, when he fell out of favor with the public.

After Parrish died, two rival art dealers entered into a bitter tug of war over his artwork. The battle raged in angry lawsuits from coast to coast. (cf Cutler v. Gilbert) Each dealer claimed to be protecting the Parrish legacy as charges of fraud, counterfeiting, slander, libel and profiteering flew back and forth. Among the accusations traded in the Boston Globe: One of the dealers was a "convicted swindler" who pleaded guilty to a felony.
One of the dealers was selling fake Parrishes to unsuspecting buyersOne of the dealers was reproducing Parrish's art without permission

One of the dealers defrauded a store owner by charging $10,000 for the right to call her store the "Parrish Connection" and use the artist's signature as its logo.

One of the …

A FEW SMART DRAWINGS

Image
The illustrator Fred Ludekens said "drawing is thinking." Here are some wonderful examples of what makes visual thinking better than verbal thinking:


copyright The New Yorker

Images can convey complex thoughts with more immediacy, universality and ambiguity than words can offer.



For example, William Steig's drawing above of the blissful young lovers in the cottage makes a wicked statement about the darker, proprietary side of bliss by chaining the flower in the front yard:



As another example, the Foote Cone & Belding drawing below shows that creativity and logic are two sides of the same phenomenon by placing them on opposite sides of a moebius strip-- which only has one side.


copyright Foote, Cone & Belding

Next, the symbols chosen by the brilliant Saul Steinberg-- Uncle Sam facing off against a fatted Thanksgiving turkey in the bull ring, presided over by the statue of liberty and Santa Claus-- juxtapose categories rich with meaning in ways that words with definition…