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Showing posts from February, 2007
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Acrylic on cold pressed crescent board.
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MY FAVORITE BAD ARTISTS

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I've often made fun of today's fashionable comic artists who can't draw. You'll find them in lofty venues like the New York Times or art museums, worshipped by intellectuals who have persuaded themselves that traditional artistic standards are not relevant to the "new" art forms.


Awful drawing by Gary Panter reprinted by the Smithsonian Institution

Terrible drawing by Frank Stack also reprinted by the Smithsonian Institution
We are told for example that we can't judge the new "sophisticated and literate" brand of comic art without taking into consideration its words, or its politics, or its sadness, or some other redeeming external feature. Artists of the modern graphic novel, we are told, should not be measured by the standards applied to previous generations of artists (standards such as design, composition or linework). Instead, their pictures are to be read "like music notes on paper. They're just marks, unless you understand music, ca…
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Rotunda, charcoal sketch.
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COMICS AT THE NEW YORK TIMES

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For more than a century, the New York Times kept its nose in the air and refused to carry comic strips the way other newspapers did. Odi Profanum Vulgus Et Arceo -- "I detest the common crowd, and I rebuff them."

As a result, the Times cordoned itself off from some of the best pen and ink work of the 20th century. Brilliant political cartoonists such as David Low, Pat Oliphant and Jeff MacNelly did not appear in the Times. Phenomenal comic strip artists such as Winsor McCay, George Herriman, Alex Raymond, Milton Caniff, Walt Kelly, Leonard Starr, Bill Watterson and others appeared in competitor newspapers, but never in the Times.

A few years ago, the Times relented and began running comics such as this.



I am amazed that, after resisting 100 years of great art, the Times finally reversed its position in order to carry such feeble work. They obviously still don't get it.




The Times seems to have been duped by the currently fashionable "I'm-so-smart-I don't-have-to-…
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Off the California Central Coast. A small gouache sketch in a heavyweight craft paper sketchbook.
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ONE LOVELY DRAWING, part ten

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This is an unpublished sketch by the great Frank Brangwyn.



One of the things I like best about this drawing is how Brangwyn renders in a tight, representational way when he wants to, but does not let the parlour trick of realism distract him from higher goals. I think this is a beautifully designed study.





Many artists with dazzling technical skill have had successful careers meticulously painting eyelashes and fingernails. Boris, Vargas, Duillo and Rowena are examples that come to mind. I respect their discipline but personally I find their art to be mediocre and boring. Artists such as Brangwyn, who are able to keep realism in its proper perspective, start where those artists leave off.

HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY

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Last year on Valentine's Day, my enthusiasm got the better of my critical judgment and I posted one of the valentines that my sweetie and I design each year for friends (she provides the words, I do the drawing).

Since some of you didn't seem to mind last year's valentine too much, I'm posting another one this year-- a different type of drawing for a different kind of quote.



Rest assured that tomorrow I'll regain my high standards. But for now, Happy Valentine's day to all of you!
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Switzer Creek. Watercolor on arches cold pressed paper.
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ART AND COMPUTERS: PROGRESS AND SORROW

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In my youth I loved the smell of turpentine, the feel of a pen nib biting textured paper, and the sight of wet watercolor sparkling like ichor.

I think future generations will have to find something else to love.

Technology will continue to transform and redefine what we once called art. Perhaps not in this decade but certainly in this century, traditional notions of skill, talent, artistic vision and manual dexterity will be relegated to a smaller and less relevant corner of human experience. People raised on interactive holographic images will have neither the patience nor the sensitivity for the quieter virtues of a subtle drawing or a nuanced painting. People who distribute art globally with the push of a button will have little use for an object to hang in museums and galleries.



The playwright Buchner once observed that, no matter what the future holds for us, "inside us there is always a smiling little voice assuring us that tomorrow will be just like today." That voice t…
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Plaster cast drawings. Compressed charcoal on Rives drawing paper.
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Felicia

ART AND COMPUTERS: ANIMATION

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Drawing for Fantasia by James Algal, director of sequencing (1940)

Last week I had a good chat with Dave Bossert who is Disney's Creative Director of Animation for Special Projects. In addition to creating art with computers, Bossert works with pencil and brush. At home he is a sculptor. He talks with great fondness about other animators at Disney who work in their spare time with traditional media (including one who has an easel in his office for oil painting during his lunch break).

Bossert played a major role in animated films such as Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, The Nightmare Before Christmas, The Lion King and Fantasia 2000. But he is also a restoration animator who digitally restores, frame by frame, classic old Disney animated films such as Bambi.

So I thought Bossert was a good person to ask how computers had made things better and how they had made things worse. He turned out to be a cheerleader for computers:

I look at the computer as just another tool, like a neat new pencil o…