Posts

Showing posts from March, 2007

KENT WILLIAMS

Image
I love these powerful pictures by Kent Williams, one of my favorite artists working in graphic novels today. These kinds of images have their roots all the way back in the urschleim.

Williams is also a magazine illustrator, a gallery painter and an art teacher. He teaches contemporary figurative painting in Pasadena, California.



Some of his pictures are more successful than others, but Williams is one of the very few sequential artists who I think makes effective use of the technical tools and creative choices now offered by graphic novels. For example, the following panel from the graphic novel Tell Me Dark displays far more nuanced color and shading than was possible in previous generations of comic books.



As another example, Williams used a kneaded eraser to mold a figure by lifting highlights from a background of vine charcoal. This delicate technique was not possible with the printing technology for earlier comic books.


The golden age of illustration began in the late 19th century …
Image
.
Redwood City street corner . . . . .

MEET BOB & BOB

Image
Bob & Bob was a flaky performance art team in the 1970s. They painted themselves yellow and silver and conducted "happenings" in rooms filled with popcorn or foam rubber. They named their happenings "Sex is Stupid" or "Forget Everything You Know." Sometimes Bob & Bob would perform songs against materialistic society:

People go to school and learn from books
Then they get degrees
Then they get a job and drive a Porsche Bob & Bob had no apparent drawing skills. A booklet of their work describes the team's technique for drawing:

The drawings were nothing more than scribbles but the two found something harmonious there so they decided to draw together on the same sheet of paper.They also performed comedy routines. Fortunately, Bob & Bob faded away like disco with the dawn of the 1980s. So why am I wasting your time with them? Because recently I looked at some of their drawings and was astonished to find they were truly excellent. I think these…

ARTISTS IN LOVE, part eight

Image
Edward Galinski, a Polish student, scratched this portrait on the wall of cell 18, block 11, at Auschwitz.

Edward was imprisoned by the Nazis in 1940 for opposing Germany's invasion of Poland. He worked at forced labor in the camp. One day, Edward was assigned to repair buildings at the women's camp next door. There he met Mally Zimetbaum-- a beautiful, doe eyed girl imprisoned for being a Jew.

Edward was completely smitten. He started talking with Mally under the watchful eye of the guards. After several weeks of furtive exchanges, the couple found a way to pass secret notes back and forth between the two camps. Against all odds, through the barbed wire and brutal guards, love bloomed.

Edward realized that Mally would eventually be killed in the gas chambers, so he came up with a daring escape plan. On June 24, 1944, he put on a stolen SS uniform and escorted Mally through the front gates using forged paperwork and passes that Mally had obtained. Once outside the camp, they disa…
Image
.
.

Jenny
.

WHILE WE'RE ON THE SUBJECT OF HAIR...

Image
Many comic artists draw hair in a kind of shorthand. They select from a menu of 3 or 4 basic styles they once learned, and modify the color or hairline for a little variety. Highly regarded artists such as Alex Raymond, Milton Caniff, Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby were all guilty of this timesaving practice (and as for George Wunder's Terry and the Pirates-- let's not even go there).



One reason I admire Mort Drucker so deeply is that he didn't take such things for granted. In each of these pictures, he looked with fresh eyes for the best way to capture hair with line. It's hard work-- the essence of traditional drawing-- but it really pays off.







Obviously, Drucker isn't relying on any formula here. In the pictures below, Drucker has analyzed and mastered the 3 dimensional structure of each hairstyle. Once he understands it, he can rotate it on an axis in his brain just as if he was born with a CAD CAM software program.





Drucker did not just haul this approach out for wild,…

THOSE LITTLE MOMENTS OF FREEDOM

Image
My eye is always drawn to those little places in a picture where the artist takes the liberty to play with abstract design. Sometimes you'll find artists indulging themselves when they depict folds, or water. Often you find them sneaking it in when they portray hair.



In this Joe De Mers picture (which I borrowed from Leif Peng's excellent
Today's Inspiration blog) contrast De Mers' tight, disciplined treatment of the face and hands with his wild treatment of the hair.



The hair in this "realistic" picture is as abstract as any Jackson Pollock painting. It enlivens the whole picture.

Similarly, in the following wonderful illustration, Bob Peak has carefully constructed a picture with many intricate figures, but when it comes to the hair, Peak returns to the freedom of kindergarten fingerpainting.



This must have been fun to do.



Frank Frazetta is another illustrator who created realistic, highly detailed pictures but when it came to hair, he stopped worrying about the…
Image
.
.





Sketches at the Natural History Museum.
.
Image
.
.


Neighborhood flowers. I've included some pictures to show the painting process. This is watercolor on hot press illustration board.




ART IN HELL

Image
I recently finished the second volume of the Encyclopedia of Russian Criminal Tattoos by Baldaev and Valsiliev. (It was a gift from my wife-- don't ask.)

For over fifty years, Baldaev worked in the Russian prison camps where he studied and recorded the tattoos of thousands of criminals.

The Encyclopedia documents a brutal world where hardened criminals, debased by Tsarist labor camps and Stalin's gulag, lived like animals. They killed and maimed each other impassively. Walking around naked, they copulated, masturbated and excreted in plain view with no shame or regard for others. As one horrified observer wrote, "only their bodies were alive."



You might not expect art to flower under these conditions. Yet, art had more of an impact on human life in the prison camp than it does in most museums. Prisoners decorated themselves with symbols and images illustrating their crimes, their personal histories, their politics and their sexual practices. These "symbolic portrai…