Showing posts from November, 2010


The 1980 movie Popeye was widely panned by critics. (One of the more favorable reviews called it a "mess of a movie" and "unintelligible.") It quickly disappeared from the theaters but not before MAD Magazine artist Mort Drucker dutifully captured it in a parody.

Drucker drew many important subjects for MAD, but he was also assigned to depict much of the raw sewage of American popular culture: third rate television shows that quickly imploded and movies that should never have been made. (Remember Alf? Who's The Boss? The Flying Nun?) By the time he drew Popeye, Drucker had been slogging through such subject matter for almost 25 years.

Yet, he drew these pictures with the same loving care others might reserve for the immortal themes on ancient Greek vases. Look at Drucker's beautiful work for Popeye:

I am awed by Drucker's talent, but separately awed by his dedication and consistently high standards over many decades.

Notice in the panel below how Druc…

James Gurney's New Book

As long as I'm pitching books I'd like to make a recommendation for you:

James Gurney's new book is out: "Color and Light, A guide for the Realist Painter". James gave me the opportunity review a first draft of the book and generously invited comments and criticism, but my comments are all positive. I'm taking time out from my regular posts to pitch the book to you because for years students have asked me if there's a good book on color and light out there and my answer has always been no. There are some great chapters here and great articles there but not a single comprehensive volume that I was comfortable recommending. But now James has taken his impressive knowledge and experience and given us exactly the book we've been looking for. I can't recommend it enough.


The illustrator Jules Guerin had an unusual combination of strengths. He blended the careful precision of an architectural engineer with the exaggerated, romantic colors of an impressionist.

Guerin's technical drawing skills and mastery of perspective were much in demand by architectural firms around the country.

By infusing architectural drawings with color, he made them so appealing it almost guaranteed that the design would be accepted and the project funded.

At the same time, Guerin's vivid colors and stylized designs made him a popular illustrator of books and magazines. He specialized in painting exotic subjects.

Which art school could teach Guerin two such disparate skills? Or was it just natural talent?

Actually, Guerin learned from two guys he happened to meet along the way. First, In 1889, Guerin's mother was renting out a spare room in their home when a young artist named Winsor McCay showed up at their door. McCay had just been evicted by his previous landlady a…


Moonshine is a newly published book featuring the personal work of DreamWorks visual development artists. It's on sale now at Amazon, get yourself a copy! All the profits go toward the creation of volume II which we hope to release next year.


These are portrait sketches by the great Russian painter, Valentin Serov (1865 - 1911)

While many of Serov's finished paintings are quite beautiful, I especially enjoy his preliminary sketches for their vitality and truthfulness.

Serov, who studied under the great Ilya Repin, was part of that astonishing Renaissance in Russia in the 19th and early 20th centuries. For centuries, Russian artists had manufactured religious icons to suit the rigid specifications of church dogma.

Icons were the opposite of western illusionist art. The church historically frowned on efforts to create physical images of the holy, so Russian artists went out of their way to avoid accurate, representational images. They stressed flat, distorted figures, inverted perspective and unnatural colors to emphasize that they were painting the ideal, dematerialized world rather than the natural world. (In 815 CE, if you tried to paint a realistic icon the troops of Leo the Armenian were likely to come along and thump …
Coastal city, photoshop and art rage.


This is an unpublished student drawing by illustrator Robert Fawcett at age 19.

Sketch from 1922, approximately 5" tall.

In his introduction to the upcoming book about Fawcett, Walt Reed wrote, "He'd had rigorous training in draftsmanship at the Slade School in England and learned to make it almost a science. Within the discipline of drawing the figure with a hard 4H pencil, with no erasures allowed, students learned to record proportion and perspective by eye."

The Slade School was renowned for a tough and relentless approach which quickly weeded out the unfit. Fawcett was given 10 minutes to complete this sketch, but on another occasion he was required to spend a full week drawing a single figure on a sheet of plain paper using a hard graphite pencil -- a form of torture that that forced him to focus on every nuance of the model and of drawing.

Later in life, Fawcett would entertain artist friends with horror stories about the grueling regimen of his two years at Slad…
Coastal City, Photoshop.