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Showing posts from July, 2008

GARY PANTER: CHER IN JOHNNY ROTTEN'S CLOTHING?

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Artist Gary Panter is all over the news lately. Hollywood gossip magazine Entertainment Weekly placed him on this week's "Must" List along with Cher's new Las Vegas show. The New York Times applauded the arrival of a fancy new two volume, boxed collection of his work.



His recent New York gallery opening was touted (by the gallery) as a "visual tour de force." And Panter's own website announces that Panter is
"possibly the most influential graphic artist of his generation, a fact acknowledged by the Chrysler Design award he received..." It would take a lot of nerve to question the artistic judgment of Chrysler (which announced this week it had lost another half billion dollars due to its inability to design a decent car). Nevertheless, let's be brave and explore together:

Panter's web site proclaims that he "successfully broke down the barrier that separates 'trash' from 'art'...." Of course, previous artists hav…
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Watercolor demo from class last week.
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ONE LOVELY DRAWING, part 21

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This may be my favorite drawing ever.

I encountered it on the wall of a dark cave at Pech Merle in the Pyrenees.

20,000 years ago, humans were struggling for survival in a hostile ice age world. A desperate, hungry man prepared himself to hunt the dreaded wooly mammoth-- a lumbering beast that weighed ten tons, with tusks 15 feet long. The man's only weapons were a pointed stick, a rock... and this drawing.

He captured the mammoth with a line on the wall, and with a bold red color he struck a killing blow. Once... twice... twenty-seven times.

Other creatures were bigger and stronger, but only humans could give their hopes and terrors abstract form. In such dark places art was born.

This drawing contains the seeds of everything that would follow:
A design as beautiful as any modern abstract paintingA magical power over his enemies that was as illusory-- and a courage that was as genuine-- as that gained from the most persuasive religious art A message as passionate and sincere as the con…

ONE LOVELY DRAWING, part 20

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I love Mort Drucker's drawing of General Patton:



Drucker clearly owes a debt to Arthur Szyk's famous portrayals of Nazi generals from the 1940s:



Yet, as much as I love Szyk's paintings, for me Drucker's is the stronger work. Compare these two details to understand how differently the two artists make decisions:





Szyk makes thousands of tiny choices, shading with color and small feathering brush strokes. None of these lines is particularly insightful or descriptive by itself, although the cumulative effect is splendid. By contrast, Drucker's bold line is an act of supreme confidence. Every time Drucker's brush touches the paper, he is making a thoughtful observation about an object in the world.

The great illustrator Austin Briggs offered the following wisdom about the benefits of working with the restrictions imposed by line: Line ... is the most limited medium.... [I]t's necessary to know the limitation one is dealing with in order to use its positive qualities…
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Pond in Angeles Crest Forest. Watercolor on Arches cold pressed paper.
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PART OF SOMETHING LARGER

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Sometimes great and important art can only be achieved by disregarding the level of effort required.

The ancient historian Herodotus estimated that it took 100,000 workers 20 years to build one of the great pyramids of Egypt.



These workers had no labor union; they mostly led wretched lives and died unpleasant deaths. But at the same time, each of them played a role in the creation of monumental beauty. The pyramids, tombs and monuments they built have inspired humanity for all time.


Those Egyptians who did not work on the pyramids may have lived more comfortably and died with full bellies, but they disappeared from the world without a trace. All memory of them was quickly erased by the sand.

You could make a similar point about other major works, such as the great cathedrals of Europe, or Emperor Qin's army of 8,000 terra cotta warriors. These objects of great beauty could not have been created without an endless supply of cheap labor. Hundreds of thousands of underpaid peasants or s…
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Eva. Gouache in a heavy weight craft paper sketchbook.
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Something I painted for The Prince of Egypt way back when.

Copyright DreamWorks Animation SKG.
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WALTER EVERETT (1880 - 1946)

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Walter Everett's life seemed to revolve around his artwork.

As a gifted child, he was preoccupied with drawing and painting. He rode a bicycle 30 miles to take art lessons from Howard Pyle, the father of American illustration. By his early 20's Everett was already acclaimed for his work in some of the most prestigious illustration markets in the country. He did this beautifully composed drawing for Colliers at age 20:



Everett was an excellent artist but he focused so much on art that he often ignored his other responsibilities. He spent so much time mastering his craft, he frequently forgot to pay his rent or utility bills. He devoted countless hours to cutting and reshaping his beloved brushes, and even designed his own easel (which he imported from France) but he neglected his wife and son, who tired of his obssession and left him in 1917. In pursuit of artistic excellence, he even ignored the demands of his clients, refusing to compromise his high standards to meet their dea…