Showing posts from July, 2011


Cartoonist Chester Brown stood in front of a room full of people at Comic-Con and described his sex with prostitutes.  As he went through the details, he displayed drawings from his new book, Paying For It:

Brown belongs to that class of oddballs and misfits with a fierce compulsion to share the most scatological, sexual and personal details of their lives.  After Brown showed us drawings of his penis and described how he paid women for sex because he could not obtain sex as part of a well rounded relationship,  I asked whether he considered any part of his life too personal to put in a book.  He responded, "Not as long as it makes for a good story."

The extreme candor of such artists, combined with their vantage point on the outskirts of society, sometimes makes for interesting reading (and occasionally provides insights we couldn't get from more conventional sources).

However,  I don't think Brown's large audiences are lured by his artistic talent.  Most of the ti…


I have previously written about the work of Nathan Fowkes, a talented artist for DreamWorks Animation, a fine landscape artist, and an art teacher at the Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art.
I ran into Fowkes at Comic-Con, where he was demonstrating charcoal drawing for an enthusiastic audience.

I have always been impressed with how Fowkes works seamlessly between different media. He uses Photoshop to create wonderful concept, visual development and production art for state of the art CGI movies:

He also works in oils:

My favorites are his watercolors.  he creates light and elegant landscapes, each one a tiny gem:

At Comic-Con, he displayed his approach with charcoal:

At this point in the demonstration he is saying, "I'm desperately trying to keep it simple. You've got to keep it simple."

I think one reason Fowkes is so successful with a variety of materials is his philosophy,  "There are dozens of ways you can apply the medium. It's the principles of value (li…


I just returned from Comic-Con in San Diego.  This week I will write about five of the artists I encountered there.

One of the best things about Comic-Con is that when 43,000 teenyboppers stampede to the far side of the convention hall for a glimpse of some teenage vampire heart throb, you might be lucky enough to grab a quiet half hour with a legend such as Seymour Chwast.

Chwast is internationally renowned as one of the great innovators of 20th century graphic design:

Together with Milton Glaser and Ed Sorel, Chwast founded the famous Push Pin Studio in 1954.

He is the author of many excellent books including the bible on the history of graphic style, which he co-authored with Steve Heller. They wrote:

[T]he new movement in illustration from the mid 1950s to the present can be summed up in one word: conceptual.  Illustration evolved from explicit and romantic realism to conceptual symbolism because the issues and themes covered in magazines were becoming more complex, more critical.  Pr…

Comicon demo


Here's the demo I did at Comicon. Thanks to everyone at LAAFA and to all of you who stopped by.


Ever since civilization invented modesty, the fig leaf has created special challenges for artists.

The awkwardness of Durer's early efforts...

...eventually gave way to more natural looking solutions by artists such as Harold von Schmidt, Al Parker and James Avati:

But the motivations remained the same: to make the censor's prohibition seem like a mere coincidence of nature.  Each artist lies to us, suggesting that our view is being obstructed only by a random spoon or a fortuitous branch.

Art succeeds by directing our curiosity, and sometimes even by satisfying it, but never by thwarting it.  That's why artists attempt to disguise limits imposed on them by the censor.

Below, illustrator Geoffrey Biggs tried using randomly flapping clothes to satisfy his editor's restrictions.  Like most efforts to appear spontaneous, this required careful planning.  Biggs studied the text of a story in which a woman impetuously removes her outfit and  throws it at a man; he then carefull…



I'll be doing a charcoal portrait demo at Comicon. It will be Saturday, 2:30 at the LAAFA booth #5567, come on by!
Here are a few examples from previous years:



Thomas Hart Benton was a serious painter whose allegorical pictures of slow country life showed skill and intellect:

So what in the world was he thinking when he tried to paint a rock n' roll party, with people dancing to "the Twist" by Chubby Checker?

Check out those bongo drums.  Benton was so clueless, you have to laugh. 

N.C. Wyeth was an immensely talented artist.  The range and depth of his illustrations are awe-inspiring: 

But despite all his talent, he couldn't design a decent Coca-Cola ad to save his life:

Robert Fawcett was a fiercely talented draftsman who chiseled his subjects with an aggressive line.   His powerful black inkwork often overwhelmed his colors:

So who in their right mind would select Fawcett to paint a dainty watercolor advertising women's cosmetics?

What on earth were these artists thinking?  Were they on drugs?  Desperate for money?   Deliberately stretching to expand their range? 

Sometimes you can tell in advance that, no matter how tale…

Portrait Drawing Workshop Saturday Aug 6!

My annual portrait drawing workshop will be Saturday Aug 6, 12pm to 8pm. It's designed to be an instructive overview of the materials, techniques, and concepts for successful portrait drawing.To enroll contact, phone (877) MY-LAAFA

Here's what you'll get for your hard earned money and time:

12 to 2pm Slideshow and lecture with numerous step by step examples. We'll discuss:
• The fundamentals of constructing the head with the values of light and shadow.
• Principles for creating the illusion of space and volume on a 2 dimensional drawing surface.
• Ideas for portrait composition and creating a likeness.
• Techniques and tips on materials and the drawing process.
2-5pm: Full length Instructor demonstration from a live model.
5-6pm: Dinner break.
6-8pm: Student drawing time from a live model with instructor feedback.

Hope to see you there!


Illustrator Henry Raleigh had a thing for shoulders.

Other artists loved to draw hands.  Al Dorne, Steve Ditko and Mort Drucker all emphasized hands in their pictures, building compositions around them and infusing them with significance.  Amedeo Modigliani's tastes were a little different; he seemed to have a thing for necks, extruding them to achieve the effects he wanted.   And Robert McGinnis consistently painted women with weirdly elongated legs.  He apparently found these proportions pleasing.

But to return to our story, Raleigh had a thing for shoulders.  Many artists didn't see much potential in shoulders, assuming that they were generally symmetrical and level.  Raleigh looked closer and saw them swooping and dipping like languorous gulls:

Time and again, he placed women's shoulders at center stage, plunging and ascending to guide the viewer around his picture:

Most artists use facial expressions to convey attitude. Raleigh could convey it with shoulders:

Every cha…
Coast town.