Saturday, 19 July 2008


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 to the fullest advantage....[O]nce we know what drawing cannot do, we are on the way toward expressing [a subject] in the marvelously simple way a line can function....[I]ts real shape reveals itself because we must speak with such limited means.