Sunday, May 14, 2006


The illustrator Robert Fawcett used to complain about the grueling training in figure drawing that he received at the Slade school in London. He recalled bitterly how one professor made him devote a full week to drawing a single figure on plain paper using a hard graphite pencil. While it seemed like torture at the time, Fawcett admitted that by forcing him to focus on every nuance of the drawing, his professor weaned him from "the long, long search for shortcuts."

This training shows up in many of Fawcett's illustrations, where he rarely resorted to the popular shortcuts in rendering the human figure. He did not assume that figures stood at a right angle to the ground, or that they were symmetrical.

You rarely see straight lines for pants legs or ovals for heads. If you look at the shoulders, posture and body frames in these examples, you will see the work of an artist who kept his eyes open.

The great philosopher Immanuel Kant once observed, "Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever built." Fawcett seemed to appreciate that, and took great delight in illustrating the knot holes, wood grain and corrugated bark of his subjects.


Blogger Bearuh said...

So Very True..Thank You For Posting This!

5/16/2006 1:31 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Thanks for commenting, Bearuh-- good to hear from you!

5/16/2006 6:14 AM  
Anonymous Bob Cosgrove said...

Another great post. On the mental list of art we would love to own that most of us carry around in our heads, the Sherlock Holmes illustration from which you've plucked one of your figure examples ranks high on mine.

Are you familiar with the story Alex Toth once told, of Fawcett speaking at a SOI meeting, with a mysterious covered easel behind him? At the conclusion of his talk, said Toth, Fawcett whipped away the cloth to reveal a blow up of a Peter Arno cartoon, then said, "I'm not going to rest until my work is as beautiful and simple as this."

Fawcett's another one who cries out for a collection.

5/23/2006 9:26 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

That's a great story, Bob. I had not heard it, although I understand why it would appeal especially to an artist like Toth. Even though some of Fawcett's illustrations might seem over worked, it is clear from his book, On The Art of Drawing, that he understood the importance of distilling a drawing to its absolute essence.

The Sherlock Holmes piece is far more glorious in real life than in any reproduction I've ever seen. The linework is far more sensitive than Colliers was ever able to reproduce. You can tell it was a real labor of love for him.

No collection of Fawcett's work yet, but Illustration Magazine no. 9 reproduced a lot of his work in connection with an article I wrote about him a few years ago.

5/24/2006 7:30 AM  
Anonymous bob cosgrove said...

I envy you the viewing of that original.

I read your article in Illustration Magazine #9 with great pleasure (and note that you also have a Fawcett anecdote in the recent, excellent Bernie Fuchs issue). Now I don't suppose we could persuade you to expand that article into a book . . . ?

5/24/2006 7:25 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Bob, I'm so pleased by the thoughtful comments of you and other kindred spirits out there. The tough part about compiling a book is not the material-- there is a wealth of great art that should be reproduced-- it's chasing around for the right publisher. I practice technology law for a living, which is more than a full time job. I know very little about publishers for this kind of material but would welcome input from anyone who does.

5/25/2006 7:32 AM  
Blogger Stan Shaw said...

A Fawcett book?! Try talking to Ken Steacy about publishing it.

5/25/2006 12:13 PM  
Blogger Steve Simpson said...

truly inspirational


5/30/2006 5:45 PM  
Anonymous Brian said...

This may be naive, but why does a book have to published? Why aren't people using digital technology to just distribute copies on a CD? It seems all media are merging onto the net anyway--telephone, radio, video, etc. I don't see why this will not eventually extend to magazines and books too. It would make the publishing costs minimal. I've even seen magazines selling CD's of (admittedly) sold out back issues on CD. Its just a thought.

6/19/2006 1:37 AM  
Blogger adebanji said...

Powerful! I discovered this blog today and I just don't know where to start- this post is FANTASTIC!

9/14/2008 9:29 PM  

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