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Showing posts from May, 2009
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Mark, acrylic on illustration board.
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PETER MAX

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"Mistah Kurtz, he dead"

Like Andy Warhol and LeRoy Neiman, Peter Max was a talented, hard working illustrator before he became a pop culture phenomenon. He studied for years with the great teacher Frank Reilly at the Art Students League in New York and learned the skills of a serious artist.

In 1963, Max was selected to paint a jazz record cover. The young and ambitious artist worked hard to finish the project on time, but his art director was less than enthused. Max begged for a one day extension and started over with a totally different approach.

He dug deeper, stayed up most of the night, and produced the following cover which won a gold medal from the Society of Illustrators for the best advertising art of 1963:



One look at this lovely picture tells you that Max was an artist who had what it takes. Note how the highest contrast and the sharpest focused lines are right on that piano keyboard where he wants to direct your attention. Beautiful.

A few years later, Max hit the jac…
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Background painting for Sinbad, Legend of the Seven Seas. Photoshop. Copyright DreamWorks Animation.
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ONE LOVELY DRAWING, part 26

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The great Joseph Clement Coll (1881-1921) drew like he was conducting a symphony orchestra.


From the Kelly Collection of American Illustration

Note in the following close up the range of effects Coll employed-- the difference between the fine pen lines and the broad brush strokes; the difference between the accuracy of the eyelashes and the almost abstract wiping of a dry brush on the cloak; and notice how Coll achieved the value he wanted for the background by first painting it with ink, then scratching it with a blade:   



Coll's line was vigorous and varied and confidently rendered.  No simple, monotonous shading here.  Look at how his line curls and twists and plays in ways that would not be visible to the reader of the printed page in Coll's era, but which nevertheless contributes to the overall vitality of the drawing.    





James Montgomery Flagg, another talented pen and ink artist, gave a good description of his superior, Coll: There is no doubt that he was one of the few ma…
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Brush pen study.
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A scene painted for the animated film Spirit, Stallion of the Cimarron. Acrylic and photoshop. Copyright DreamWorks Animation.

ONE LOVELY DRAWING, part 25

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I got a huge kick out of Steve Brodner's version of Diogenes, the ancient philosopher who carried a lantern through the streets of Athens in broad daylight, searching for an honest man.



This drawing may appear casual, but it is razor sharp-- a highly skilled, witty execution of an intelligent concept.

Brodner's scraggly line perfectly conveys the belching smoke from the grotesque cigar, the monstrous paw holding it, the neck of the gluttonous monster, the porcine nostrils inhaling more than his fair share of oxygen; it would have been easy to overplay or underplay any of these touches but Brodner balanced them just right.

Perhaps his wisest touch of all is the vapid, uncomprehending expression on the face of the man. A heavier hand would have given him a sinister expression, but the more persuasive explanation for the man's offensiveness is his utter lack of concern.

These are the touches of a master story teller with line.


DRAWING A CROWD

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I have a soft spot in my heart for artists who like to draw large crowd scenes.

It's not because crowd scenes require technical skill to handle perspective, foreshortening and complex interaction.



Gluyas Williams was famous in the 1920s and 30s for his clever drawings of large groups.



And it's not because crowd scenes require the creativity to come up with a wide variety of faces and psychological relationships.



The great Albert Dorne was famous for his crowd scenes. Note how he handled the complex architecture of this mob.

No, what I like most about artists who specialize in drawing crowds is their obvious pleasure in the act of drawing.

Most artists working under a deadline look for shortcuts. They do a good job, but they want to complete a picture as efficiently as possible and get paid. But some artists just seem to love making marks on paper, and they regularly create unnecessarily grand challenges for themselves, like these ambitious crowd scenes.

In this category, I know of no…
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Charcoal on bristol paper.
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