Tuesday, April 22, 2008
PAUL COKER, JR.
You've seen Paul Coker Jr.'s drawings all over the place-- on countless greeting cards, ads, magazines and comic books-- but when was the last time you actually paused to look at them? His drawings may appear simple, but they reflect considerable sophistication and talent.
For example, Coker understands anatomy and body language. Notice the shoulders and lowered head of this boy looking over his father's work:
or the twist of the body and the bouncing step of the happy runner in the background:
This is how a good artist uses anatomy: not as a distraction, but with confidence and understatement, in the service of the total image. Coker's drawings never brag about his knowledge, but they would not "ring true" without it.
Or look how at how Coker takes fundamentally symmetrical subjects-- a ball, or a standing boy-- and transforms them into highly asymmetrical, interesting shapes by means of the personality in his drawing:
And Coker's mastery of facial expressions ranges from the reserved (above) to the zany (below).
Any artist who has been asked to draw children knows how incredibly difficult it is to simplify them without losing character and believability. In my view, only a handful of cartoonists, such as Charles Schulz, Percy Crosby, Hank Ketcham and Paul Coker managed to pull it off well.
Coker's drawings will never attract the kind of fanatical fans who collect pictures of muscular barbarians or huge-breasted space nymphs. Coker specializes in a different kind of subject matter.
Nevertheless, he is a highly observant and subtle artist who draws with a beautiful line. I wanted to post a few examples here for those of you who may have thought that the pictures on Hallmark cards weren't worth your attention.