Saturday, October 17, 2009


Sophie Herbert

You should turn to ink only when you are no longer afraid of commitment.

If you're looking for a more casual relationship, choose a pencil because I guarantee you, ink will still be there in the morning when you wake up, and she ain't leaving after breakfast.

Newer art tools, from the etch-a-sketch to its successor, the WACOM tablet, sometimes give us the impression we can make all our mistakes disappear. 

The Etchasketchist

Photoshop enables us to retrace our steps and magically wipe our fingerprints off a murder weapon or retrieve the phone number we imprudently handed out in that bar last night. But the benefits of this freedom come with a cost.

Ink is the medium for artists who are prepared to stand by their actions. Ink reserves her special favors-- as well as her frustrations-- for those artists who understand the significance of commitment.

Ink is applied wet but leaves a fossil record of every decision or mistake the artist made. That record can be difficult to live with, but its finality transforms the psychology of the experience; artists who enjoy playing with the wetness of ink recognize they can't escape the consequences of their actions when that ink dries.

Saul Steinberg had just one chance to get this bold flourish right. This Hineni moment was important to the character of the art.

Andre Francois

Ink can be experienced by means of a rigid pen or a yielding brush (offering the artist yin or yang alternatives). Some people prefer the metal backbone and sharp point of a pen nib because it offers precision and control. For this I cannot blame them. But personally, I find the nonvertebrate brush provides the strength to make the more powerful statement. The point on a brush bends to the resistance of the paper but the more it bends, the stronger and bolder its mark becomes.

Note the virilty of that lapel stroke by the great Leonard Starr

Which leads me to the point of this post: When Francis Bacon laid out the scientific method for understanding the physical universe, his great insight was that the only way to master nature is to obey her. Only by observing nature's properties and following her laws can you then command her to do your bidding. On the strength of this perception, humans launched the scientific revolution, patiently collecting the information to harness the physical world.

This rule applies equally to the hydrology of ink. Once you have learned to understand and respect her properties, ink can perform magnificent feats for you.

She is likely to serve you better through the fluid freedom of the brush than through the pen which constrains her nature. (This law also applies to other physical sciences, such as love.)

Some fools believe they can have it both ways, getting the benefits of the medium without having to deal with all of her messy capriciousness, simply by caging her in a rapidograph and regulating her through a 000 nib. But this is not mastering ink. Such people are emotional misers. They don't understand ink, and never will.


C B Sorge said...

A beautiful article! And it's eeriely fitting in a time when I am knee-deep in learning about inking myself because of my school classes right now. I've just recently fell in love with a quality inking brush.


Bombproof said...

I love the last line! fools! haha. great article.

MDG14450 said...

Two words: White out

Rob Howard said...

Thank you for that, David. We were just discussing the relation of the inflexible and insensitive Rapidograph to the equally dull Wacom tablet.

I have a theory that some devices (say a camera) have a strong personality that is difficult to impose one's personality on. Ten people with ten cameras shooting the same subject will produce work that's uniform and difficult to ascribe to an individual camera owner. Ten people with a brush facing the same subject will produce wildly different pictures. The brush has no personality. It's a servant that does not impose on the artist, whereas the camera has a big set of rules, so does the Rapidograph (it only works at a narrow range of angles as opposed to the flexible steel pen).

The computer makes art based on an engineer's conception of art. I am a great admirer of engineers and, from what I see with those pressing their efforts in the visual field, they seem to be equally in awe of art. But they are as unlikely to understand what an artist needs as i am to understand what they require...and how they tick. Truly, I find engineers and their products endlessly fascinating, but the production of topflight art is a Rubicon they can never cross. That said, some illustrators have melded traditional media and digital together to produce some exceptional things. Still, I have never seen a Rapidograph drawing that didn't have me reaching for a pack of matches.

Diego Fernetti said...

How I hate ink! No wonder buddhist monks spend their lives in calligraphy practice...

Einbildungskraft said...

Re: Some fools believe they can have it both ways, getting the benefits of the medium without having to deal with all of her messy capriciousness...But this is not mastering WOMEN. Such people are emotional misers. They don't understand WOMEN, and never will.
g B

Mark said...

Well said, David. Ink is not for the timid. If I don't like something the whole paper gets tossed. Guess how many pages of a 100 pg sketchbook survive to the end once the ink has had her way. Now I look to perfect my line, yet ink will do odd things even when you think you have her figured out. I can't get enough of it.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps you generalized more than you meant to. What about Searle? Steadman? Richard Thompson? George Herriman? I love brushwork too, but a pen can can be just as expressive and sensitive to the wonderful character of ink. A pen can get that splattery, blobby, scratchy quality of ink that a brush just doesn't do.

Tom said...

Hi David
I really enjoy your blog. I think you could take the logic one step further, as the acher in Zen and the Art of Archery said, "it is not the bow, it is the archer."

Have you ever read Vernon Blake's the "the Art and Craft of Drawing?". Talking about getting to the heart of the matter.

David Apatoff said...

CB-- you have a great adventure ahead of you.

Bombproof-- thanks for writing

MDG 14450-- I can tell you aren't a big fan of zen ink painting. I'm not sure white out would have been of much use to Steinberg if he had gone astray with that flourish. And my experience with the original art of Alex Raymond, Neal Adams, Leonard Starr, Mort Drucker etc. etc. who did multiple ink drawings every days for years was that you never saw white out in the drawings-- just on the panel borders when a line was extended too far.

David Apatoff said...

Rob, I agree with you whole heartedly about the rapidograph. It is great for keylining and mechanical drawing, but in my book, artists who reach out to it for drawing are chasing the wrong values. As for digital painting, I think it's becoming a closer call. I saw the spectrum show currently at the Society of Illustrators where digital art hung side by side with traditional media. I was impressed by what the best artists are now able to do with digital painting. It will be an interesting field to watch.

Diego-- there are times when I could hate ink too. It inspires strong passions, unlike say... kneaded erasers.

David Apatoff said...

Einbildungskraft, I knew that someone would be paying attention....

Mark, I feel your pain.

Anonymous, that is fair. There is certainly a different dynamic between scratching and biting the surface to lay down ink on the one hand and guiding the flow of ink with the strands of a sable or camel hair brush on the other. It is something of a yin and yang distinction; each has its charm. When Stan Drake died, Leonard Starr wrote a brilliant little tribute about how Drake employed a pen nib ( he used "a flexible rapier-like point" and "whipped that sucker around like Zorro.") Part of his tribute was re-used in Starr's introduction to the first volume of the Classic Comics Press collection of the Juliet Jones strip, which I commend to you.

Tom, I haven't read Vernon Blake's book, but I will check it out.

kev ferrara said...

What is not generally recognized is that the brush and pen are philosophical instruments. They have been evolved in the academy of human experience for eons. Their rise to perfection was not hindered by smooth, straight-edged minds... the forerunners of those CADs that have tapped out a better mouse... one that works on paper, but doesn't work on paper. At Wacom and Adobe the oblivious think it obvious that Stephen Wolfram knows more about the subconscious than Plato. But the more one thinks about how and why the willing willingly suspend disbelief, the more one appreciates that NKS is NSFW.

Joe Jusko said...

This is a wonderfully insightful entry that can equally apply to traditional painters as well. Those who have never learned the tactile feel of a brush or pen pressing on a support are truly missing something special as an artist.

Mecha said...

Beautifully said.

Antonio said...


>Saul Steinberg had just one chance >to get this bold flourish right.

Actually, he probably first designed the whole thing carefully, correcting and improving it over several iterations, it in pencil. Once the design was worked out he had *many* chances to get that "bold flourish" right. He just had to start with the flourish itself. If it went ok, then he kept it. If not, then he started over on a new sheet of paper. He could try it at least hundred times in an hour and keep the best one. Then he just had to complete the drawing with the other rather easy elements placed around it.

Or...he could do it like Al Hirschfeld. Did you ever see how the line king actually made those flowing, so spontaneous looking lines? Here:

(pencil, pencil ,pencil .... scratch scrath scrath scratch - plod, plod, plod - photographically reduce, then print -oh, the boldness, oh the romance :D )

That being said, I love my chinese brushes and my brushpen never leaves me. I go into jazz clubs and do an exercise I call "drawing the music" which means drawing the musicians with each line placed at a time determined by their changing rythm. I love having to accept the result. But those are exercises and fun drawings. I am sure everyone who has brush and ink as their main tool (not my case) does the same kind of spontaneous exercises, but, as far as finished work goes, I find that most inkers I know are actually of a particularly anal retentive type, no matter what they proclaim when taken by the romantic mood.


Einbildungskraft said...

Einbildungskraft, I knew that someone would be paying attention....

yes. your words are so often sparklingly diamantiferous so I like to pay attention; I am consistantly surprised that illustration art can produce such intricate, varied & knowledgable discussions. Its a new world.

faunawolf said...

It is the permanence of ink that has kept me from using it often and why, when I see ink line drawings, I am always impressed. There is an added sense of confidence to making something from scratch in such a permanent medium....
says the girl with tattoos all over her body.

Diego Fernetti said...

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! kneaded erasers! Don't get me started on the cursed kneaded erasers!!! you made me recall the slimy quality of a certain Stadler "white" kneadable eraser...

Antonio said...

you should really have dropped another big name from philosophy, since Plato would actually love digital drawing. Especially if you'd go for vector rather than raster. What, with those curving lines defined by polynomial equations (that's what they are, you know)? Do you know the greeks invented algebraic geometry? Do you know that that is precisely the study of polynomials and their roots (and the pretty pictures that result, not the approximate ones on the sand or in ink, but the "platonic" ones that a mathematician has access to)? Digital art of the vector kind, defined by perfect mathematical objects, scale independent, *device* independent, *support* independent, defined only "up to isomorphism", is the closest art has been to...platonic objects. The very things that you despise about it are the qualities Plato would love. Each print of the drawing, even each display of the drawing, varying with each monitor and printer and paper type and ink, is a platonic shadow of the perfect, mathematical object, stored in the computer. And actually the stored bits, they too are a shadow. You can store the same drawing in an infinite number of ways, in different languages, in different file systems, you can re-order the bits, you can spread it on the network in 100 different conventions of file storage and description, or you can store them as a set of holes in paper even. It doesn't matter. you can do whatever you want and it doesn't matter because what you have drawn is not the shadow but the mathematical object itself, defined by the equations. You could show the abstract pattern of polynomial curves to an (intelligent) alien creature without eyes and he could "see" it. When you yield that wacom and work in raster mode you are painting with light. That is beautiful in itself. But when you yield it in vector mode you are painting directly into the world of Plato, you are shaping polynomial equations with your hands! Can anybody who (rightly) sees poetry and philosophy in a bunch of hairs from a dead sable fail to find it in this? Only if Plato's world is really foreign to you. (and in favor of raster mode I could call in Pythagoras, btw, just study figurate numbers when you get a break - there you are painting with integers)

But I guess that is the world of Wolfram too. If you find a brush to be a philosophical tool and fail to notice the same about Wolfram's Mathematica, then what can I say except that you clearly don't understand it.

Perhaps you just have and allergy to the works of those boring "straight-edged" (and "compassed" too) people who gave us such unpoetic things as Euclidean Geometry, splines, and the ability to fly to the moon. But then you shouldn't count Plato among your fellows. He would prefer to have a beer with Wolfram.

It is a funny thing, this semester I am teaching precisely Euclidean Geometry, the modern kind. The first thing that I teach is that most statements in ordinary language sound good but mean absolutely nothing. Words have to be carefully massaged in order to have any meaning at all. Even being wrong takes considerable effort.

Antonio said...

Rob: I have to add that my wacom pen is infinitely more interesting than my radiograph and it is unfair to even put them in the same room. Pressure sensitivity on a radiograph is allmost null in two way: The pressure you exert on it usefully is on a very small gamut, and the reaction you get from it by varying the pressure is allmost none. On the other hand my wacom feels 256 levels of pressure (some expensive ones have up to 1024, I am told) and I feel the gamut both in my hands and on the screen, visually. I can hover just above the screen and get the thinnest line, or press really hard and get a fat line. I can, with training, make the kind of one-stroke teardrop shape I'd make with my brushpen. Actually the pressure gamut I feel in my hands is bigger than with the brush pen, since I cannot press the brush as much in its useful range, though it is not as delicately controllable within the gamut (it will get there one day, we need a completely dedicated computer - no disturbing concurrent processes - and a whole new type of pen - we have to remember that our wacoms are still bricks, or at least they are the kind of pelikan brush that the poor kids use in primary school. We need artists to work with engineers in the same way that they did to bring about the beautiful brushes we have today (instead of bitching about the current tools and showing a rather "conservative" lack of imagination like some people who won't be named or alluded to :))).

David: Nowadays I carry a nintendo ds in my pocket. Not for games, I don't have time for that, but for drawing, as a digital sketchbook. It is a very spontaneous tool, and great for painting at night. You think about colour as colour and not as pigment, which is a good exercise. Also, and you will like this, the nintendo doesn't have UNDO. :)

kev ferrara said...

Anon, I was talking about raster (NKS is the uber-raster philosophy), not vector. Which is to say, my post was related to the content of David's post.

Your gust of educated wind was a nice warm breeze however.

kev ferrara said...

Sorry, I meant Antonio, not Anon.


Antonio said...

it all still applies, I focused on vector because of your mention of Plato, but all of it is still valid for raster (take instead Pythagoras, as I was careful to say, he is there at the pub alongside Plato and Wolfram). The geometrical (raster) object still exists beyond the specific way in which it is displayed, etc etc, all things that should be obvious to one quoting Plato apropos de rien, but I won't repeat myself, I know it is pointless.

Anonymous said...

I meant summoning Plato, not quoting

Anyway, it doesn't matter. I should learn to avoid arguing over the internet. I'm off to have fun pushing *both* pixels and ink. That is my philosophy: "Why choose?"


Adam Black said...

In my humble experience, the best way to learn inking is to buy a sable #3 brush, a bottle of ink, a magnifying glass and any reprint of Will Eisner's comic work.

Take that magnifying glass to Eisner's art, and you'll see that he pretty much lets the brush do what it wants.

Then, get some ink on your brush and let it do the talking.

kev ferrara said...

Antonio, you make a good point that abstractions are comparable at the level of abstraction. The issue is the reason behind why Plato has had such an effect on the aesthetic philosophy of an instrument such as an inking brush, whereas pythagoras has not. I'm not really referencing the theory of forms here, except tangentially. The core issue is the cave.

Kagan M. said...

David, this made my day!

Joao Diniz said...

Great, fantastic reading. I was wondering if I could translate it and take it to my drawing classes? We often discuss good bits of text, and since we're actually talking about inking right now, it would be a great piece of advice.

Tom said...

Hi David

The Vernon Blake book is out of print but you can find it used at Amazon or Abe Books. He also has an easier book called The way to sketch with a beautiful description of a Chinese ink painting I am sure you will get a kick out of it. He is a little old fashion and sounds incredibly opinionated until you start to realize his opinions are in fact sound judgements.

He also wrote another book for children I think it is called Drawing for children . Boy kids must have been a lot
smarter 80 years ago.

Rob Howard said...

With so much missing of the point, it's no wonder that most folks shy away from the rigorous demands of pen and ink. You have to be able to stay on target with that medium.

Sheesh, can't anyone discuss the nuts and guts of art, not what would happen if Plato had Play-Do or a Wacom. What's pen and ink got to do with Plato, Pythagoras...and the horse they came in on!

Sounds like too much time was spent wool-gathering and sitting on arses in classrooms talking idle talk. Quite the opposite of Daniel Vierge, Joseph Clement Coll, Leonard Starr and Hal Foster getting up and actually walking the walk.

Some of the best training I had was doing line art for a big clipart company. Everybody had to be pretty, handsome, trim and with lots of personality coming from just a few lines. Over the years I learned how to minimize detail and imply it. Also, how to create my own conventions. Hard work but it paid off in the skills I gained.

Anonymous said...

Baby wants attention again.

Don't nobody give it to him, ok?

inkdestroyedmybrush said...

excellent stuff, and I'm holding my Rafael sable "0" brush while reading this. (OK, putting it down to type now).

There is so much Zen to the inking movement and after years of working on getting the right brush and the right ink to bend to my will, we've agreed to meet in the middle and have an equitable compromise. There is so much there when the brush hits the paper that its almost impossible to describe the tactility to someone not used to it.

please note the name of my blog, which should say how much i love working with paper and ink...


Laurence John said...

"The computer makes art based on an engineer's conception of art. I am a great admirer of engineers and, from what I see with those pressing their efforts in the visual field, they seem to be equally in awe of art. But they are as unlikely to understand what an artist needs as i am to understand what they require..."

i'm not sure Rob... they're all just tools, sitting around with dormant potential until an artist picks them up and does something interesting with them. The quality/lack of quality of the end result isn't the tool's fault... it's the artist's. I think we over romanticize the traditional fine art tools.

"What's pen and ink got to do with Plato, Pythagoras...and the horse they came in on!"

my thoughts entirely.

Rob Howard said...

Supplying the answer to "why can't Johnny think," here is a listing of various college's curricula. I suspect that not one of them produces many students who could pass the 8th-grade test from century-old McGuffey Reader.


It appears that, even if he didn't attend college, Grandpa was pobably better educated than you are. Think of him as being anonymous with grace and intelligence.

David Apatoff said...

Kev-- " the brush and pen are philosophical instruments"-- amen!

Joe Jusko-- thanks very much! It's nice to have you visit here.

Mecha-- thank you, I appreciate it.

Antonio, it is true that Steinberg had many opportunities to get that flourish right if he was prepared to throw out the drawing and start all over again. That's the price you pay with ink, that you don't have with photoshop. I referred to that moment where Steinberg faced the blank paper as a "hineni" moment after the term in the old testament. When god calls you forth to account for yourself, and presents you with some difficult test, he asks where you are (basically, "where do you stand?") And if you are ready for your test, you say "Hineni," meaning "I am here, ready to do what I have to do." For example, when god instructed Abraham to kill his son at an appointed time and place, god was there waiting at the appointed hour and called out to Abraham "Where are you?" and Abraham is supposed to have responded, "Hineni." I think when your ink pen or brush hovers above that expensive blank strathmore paper you have a Hineni moment that you don't get with a pencil or with opaque paint.

David Apatoff said...

Faunawolf, I can't settle on a single artist whose work I would want to see on my wall every day for the rest of my life, so the odds of my joining you at the tattoo parlour are not good. Nevertheless, I agree with you about the confidence of ink.

Diego, I can understand hating ink but don't tell me you have a grudge against the poor, humble, amorphous little kneaded eraser as well! How can anyone muster hatred for an unobjectionable little lump like that? You sound like you must be a pretty hard guy to get along with.

faunawolf said...

David: *laughs* indeed! Seems to be almost hypocritical of me. However, it's my own confidence in my ability to use the medium.
P.S. good reason not to get a tattoo then.

kev ferrara said...

Hineni... yes exactly! I get into this question all the time when I'm inking. Especially when I am feeling ambitious in the drawing stage... ambitions that have to be performed by the shaky inker lurking within.

If you'll forgive the self-reference, I just did an ink drawing where, in the drawing stage I set myself up for the exact hineni high wire act you discuss. And you can see exactly where in the drawing I met the challenge and where a moment's hesitation caused strokes lacking in authority. Ink and brush are unforgiving in a really Old Testament way!

David Apatoff said...

Joao, if you feel like translating this for your group, go right ahead, I am flattered. I just throw this stuff out in the stratosphere and am always pleasantly surprised when anyone reads it.

Adam Black, I agree there is no substitute for getting some ink on your brush.

inkdestroyedmybrush-- thanks, I agree (and I enjoyed your blog).

Thanks, Kagan M and Laurence. Tom, I will track it down.

Murray Tinkelman said...

Hi David,

As you know, I enjoy your blog and log on regularly. I am often amused, entertained and sometimes enlightened by your posts and those of your regulars. However!!! That is in spite
of the often smug and "Holier than Thou" opinions that are posted by your acolytes. I speak
of pens, photos and people. Okay, you guessed it, it's my ox whose been gored. Twice!

First, I would like to address the photo reference issue. I share your admiration for Bernie Fuchs, Al Parker, Norman Rockwell and Austin Briggs. However, they all used and indeed depended on photo reference. I recall visiting Austin Briggs at his home in the 70's in Westport, Connecticut. While we were speaking, he was called away to the phone by his butler, yes, I said butler. When he left the room, I peeked behind some accordion doors in his studio and saw more
photographic equipment than Eastman Kodak had in their Rochester, New York headquarters. That did not prevent him from signing his Grace Line ads "Sketched at Sea, Austin Briggs" All of us at Cooper Studio guffawed as we knew all of the models that he used and probably could guess the F stop they were shot at, sketched at sea indeed. No doubt about it, Briggs was an incredibly facile draftsman, but he suffered from that peculiar conceit of trying to hide his dependence on photographic reference.

Also, I may have told you the story about Bernie Fuchs and Mark English speaking to my Parsons School of Design class sometime in the mid-70's when a particularly loquacious
young lady asked Bernie a 5 minute long question about every facet of his painting that was projected on the screen. Bernie, after a looooong pause replied, "It was all in the shot." Also, English at this point in his career was not only taking photographs but he was painting directly on them.

And there is always Norman Rockwell. Some have said that he stopped being a great illustrator when he started using photo reference. This nonsense begs the question "If it is so darn easy to be Briggs, Fuchs or Rockwell by using a camera, why haven't more illustrators
reached their level of excellence?" Not to mention Al Parker, Coby Whitmore, Joe DeMers, or Joe Bowler to cite of few more illustrators who used photography regularly. Perhaps it is not the camera but the artist behind the camera that makes the difference. Also, can anybody explain the state of grace granted to Fuchs, Briggs, Parker and a very few others that projected their photos that is not given to others.

I would very much like to know the qualifications of those who have the power to grant absolution. I'm sure that I can go on for a few more pages, however I'm saving a bit of energy for my follow up rant regarding the High Priests who have excommunicated me and my 5x0 Rapidograph. I did not realize that my medium invalidated my message. To those cruel detractors, let me paraphrase Dr. Freud, "Sometimes it's just a fountain pen." By the way David,
speaking of pens, the old fashioned "ruling pen" is a far better instrument for drawing keylines than the technical pen/Rapidograph.

Till next time, with affection and respect,

LCG said...

What a delightful article, David! And, yes, we were just talking about the beauty of pen and ink (I'll include the brush here, too) vs. the bland insensitive rapidograph. I love working on rice paper with a brush...very Zen & no white-out allowed! ;-)

Antony said...

Another beautifully written article that sadly exposes your lack of experience using computers in the picture-making process. It's sad, because for experience you're replacing tired myths about the "cleanliness" of computers (this just shows that you don't use software to make pictures, not that what you're saying is true of them). It's probably a useful dualism for your writing, but it's a misleading one for aspiring illustrators! The only thing costless editing does is raise the stakes in the process, not decrease them. I've drawn with pencil, ink and my Wacom consistently for the last eleven years. Their differences, while interesting and revealing, bear nothing on questions of commitment or quality. They are simply different, each with their own peculiar bent on the real world. Sorry.

In any case, my entire career is in part a commitment to changing the orthodoxy of "analog vs. digital" as it bears on one's aesthetic values, and so expect me to stick around for awhile.

It would be great if all of us Mort Drucker fans could get along on all fronts, but as I've acknowledged above, things aren't that neat.


अर्जुन said...

Mr. Tinkelman, well said. It amazes that the same people that ride others for being hung-up and obsessed by technique, flip and use the same position to degrade others.

Next somebody is going to ruin my day by telling me Neal Adams, Robert McGinnis, and Drew Struzan were known to trace projected photographs. Outrageous!

Rob Howard said...

Murray, just because you use it and just because people will buy it does not mean that the Rapidograph is a sensitive instrument. It is capable of the same sensitivity that has kept the ballpoint pen out of serious contention.

Chris Ofili paints with elephant shit. People pay for it, ergo elephant shit is a valid art material capable of expressing a rare artistic sensibility.

Sorry, Murray, I'm not buying it. The mechanical effect is good for communicating with less sophisticated rubes who are impressed with the amount of man-hours it took to do a piece.

The snide "high priest" characterizations is at the level of those who sign on as 'Anonymous'.

Li-An said...

Very interesting post as I am obsessed with the ink line. I won't be so hard with Rapidograph as Hermann (the belgium comics artist worked a lot with Rapidograph and his work is not "cold".
I'm a little surprised the comments do not focused on the fact that computer paintings rely on the "go back" options. Working with computers mean "nothing is really definitive, you can always go back". I don't like this. It's a great way to try things but the field of searching is limited to the software. There is the ink but there is the paper too. The combination of paper AND ink is something I did never met in my computer. I like the idea the think I draw cannot be changed. I like the idea it needs some courage too put ink on a paper. Photoshop is a good image of how some people consider their life: something where nothing is definitive, where you can go back ever and ever, where the choice is not important.
About math and computer painting: as a 10 years math teacher I think it's an interesting point of view but only to discuss. Mathematical model and equations do not show only in Photoshop but in the way the paper drink the ink. Platonic ideal needs to be update with some more recents math theories :-) (sorry for my bad english).

Laurence John said...

"If it is so darn easy to be Briggs, Fuchs or Rockwell by using a camera, why haven't more illustrators
reached their level of excellence?"

is doing the easy thing very rewarding ?
lots of illustrators don't want to rely on photos to produce their work.
it has a certain LOOK, and it's not for everyone. It can look facile, slick. it can inhibit the use of the imagination and stylization. illustrators who have learned the hard way to draw without reference know that tracing photos is the easier option. LOTS of illustrators have reached 'their level of excellence' in their own styles.

"Also, can anybody explain the state of grace granted to Fuchs, Briggs, Parker and a very few others that projected their photos that is not given to others"

they all had an excellent eye for composition/narrative and an in-vogue style.

Laurence John said...


i wouldn't include Rockwell with Fuchs and Briggs personally. He's from an earlier era and didn't copy photos from the ouset. even during the 40s and 50s he tweaked the physical features, re-composed and stage-managed the whole image to a far greater extent than the other 2. only by the end of his career was he slavishly tracing single photos, possibly in an attempt to stay fashionable, but the work is far weaker by then.

just saying.

David Apatoff said...

Hi, Murray, and thanks for writing. You always have fascinating stories to share, and I see that today is no exception. I hope you will jump in often.

I also see that you have re-ignited the photography-in-art debate. As I have said before, I didn't have trouble with Degas and Lautrec using photographs so I don't have trouble with Austin Briggs using photographs. I understand that artists as powerful as Rockwell reemained insecure about using photography, but they grew up in an era where demigods such as Leyendecker and Oberhardt scowled on the practice. (Who knows? Perhaps the Leyendecker generation felt they had to be purer than the fine arts crowd because of their own insecurity about working in illustration.)

In any event, I agree with both you and Rob Howard-- photography is a powerful tool for those who know how to use it, but unless an artist has his own center of gravity, he can easily be captured in the gravitational pull of the camera. A great many artists orbit helplessly around the camera like derelict satellites that long ago lost the power to control their own movements. That didn't happen to Briggs or Fuchs or Parrish or Rockwell. I think you explained the distingushing characteristic best: that "state of grace granted to Fuchs, Briggs, Parker and a very few others that projected their photos that is not given to others."

David Apatoff said...

Antony, if you find that it is equally difficult to draw lines using a Wacom tablet, you might try plugging it in. Sometimes that helps.

I have not used computers for picture making nearly as much as I would like, but that just puts digital art on a list of 10,000 other things I haven't done yet nearly as much as I would like (and not at the top, either). But I didn't have to get much further than the layers function on photoshop to understand the siren song of digital art, and I do use computers for what you accurately describe as "costless editing."

You say, "The only thing costless editing does is raise the stakes in the process, not decrease them." But those are different stakes: shorter deadlines, more unreasonable demands for changes from art directors, greater intervention by clients, instant delivery around the globe-- all of these raise the stakes for an artist but not in the kind of "Hineni" sense we've been discussing here.

I do hope you will "stick around" here. Despite my having fun with your overstatements, one of the best things about this little street corner is that I really learn things from complementary disciplines, from math professors to digital artists to military flag collectors.

Joe Jusko said...

I don't think I missed a link in previous comments, so here's an interesting (and topical) post on Rockwell's photo ref from James Gurney's blog

Anonymous said...

ink sucks

David Apatoff said...

Anonymous-- do I detect a jilted suitor?

Joe Jusko, thanks for the link. James Gurney's blog is always excellent, and his insights on Rockwell and photography are well worth reading.

Laurence John said...

Joe, that links illustrates exactly what i was getting at in my p.s. above...
Rockwell gently caricatured almost everyone he painted, he didn't just slavishly trace.


David Apatoff said...

Laurence, I don't think many here would take exception to your point that Rockwell transformed the photographs he used for reference. Your problem is going to be on the other half of the equation, persuading people that Briggs, Parker and Fuchs on the other hand "slavishly traced" photographs rather than adding as much judgment and creativity as Rockwell.

Murray Tinkelman asked, "If it is so darn easy to be Briggs, Fuchs or Rockwell by using a camera, why haven't more illustrators
reached their level of excellence?"
You responded, "Is doing the easy thing very rewarding?" If you are suggesting that more illustrators aren't like Briggs or Fuchs because it is unrewarding to do such easy work, you're just going to have a lot of people snickering at you behind your back.

Murray Tinkelman said...

Hey Tom,
What a concept? A rapidograph filled with elephant excrements. I'll bet it will flow better than the bovine bullshit you spew.
Your penpal,

PS Snide? Snide, you say? I feel like I am channeling Groucho. I've been called snotty, arrogant, cocky, stupid, highhanded, insentive, but snide? That's an outrage!!! I guess that I have to challenge you to a duel. Rapidographs at ten paces.

kev ferrara said...

I think the difference is that Rockwell's style, when he was at the top of his game, assisted in the presentation of his view of life. When he used photos he reformed their lines to suit his needs in that regard.

Briggs, I would say, relined the forms in his photos to suit his view of aesthetics. And his aesthetics acted as a kind of metaphoric tone which suffused whatever he was illustrating, informing it abstractly.

Rockwell was characterizing the individuals in his pictures. Briggs toned the whole picture with his characteristic linework. So Briggs, rather than serving the drama, served it up instead... with style. But without, in my opinion, thinking about substance. He seems to have ran everything through the same rendering filter, which gave all his work the same brand of nervous energy, whether he was illustrating a battle scene, a family picnic, or an intimate love scene.

I assume the decorative or graphic aspects of layout had completely subsumed the idea of providing the reader with dramatic authenticity by Briggs' heyday. But, again, that's all history and all that is left is the art.

(Big fan of yours, Murray. Especially your book covers. Sorry if I've rankled your feathers now and again by what I write.)


Laurence John said...

"If you are suggesting that more illustrators aren't like Briggs or Fuchs because it is unrewarding to do such easy work, you're just going to have a lot of people snickering at you behind your back"

just wanted to provoke a little debate with that question, not really implying anything (too much).

I've tried tracing photos and i personally found it unrewarding, so i assume there are other illustrators who would also find it so. if that raises snickers i couldn't really give a damn. but you tell me which you think is easier... creating a stylized world from your own imagination or taking a decent photo and tracing it ?

Rob Howard said...

>>> I guess that I have to challenge you to a duel. Rapidographs at ten paces.<<<

Murray, that's really something you don't want to do. Back in the halcyon days of rock and roll, there was a famous venue that many bands avoided playing...Texas. The justifiable fear was that past all the puffery, there would be a feed salesman in the audience who'd get on stage, pick up the superstar's guitar and blow his doors off.

New York is not the universe and there are a bunch of us cowboys out there who can easily cause some very deflated egos. Understand this...I'm not Mister Rogers of some other nice guy and have, through my contentious attitude, attracted gnats and fleas as enemies (damn, I wish I had some good quality enemies, but just gnats and fleas). My challenge is simply...pick up a brush or pencil and make a complete fool of me. Sadly, those tools are much too heavy for the gnats and fleas to lift, let alone operate.

Murray, I do not suffer fools gladly but I gladly make fools suffer. I guess that I'll never win the Miss Congeniality award except that I will never put down another artist's work. In that, we're on the same team and have more in common than we do with stock brokers.

I know you Rob said...


By now it should be evident to anybody that cares, that your laundry list of self-aggrandizements are by and large pathetic fantasies easily dismantled with the proof already at hand.

You are one of those people who are so far down in their own well of lies, and for such a long time, that any glint of the light of truth blinds and must be shunned. Otherwise you would realize just how alone in the dark you are.

Please respond to this message with another denial of reality... some more fatuous self-regarding puffery disguised by uninterestingly ornate language that recalls the mannerist verbosity of Keith Olberman combined with the clueless Victorian haughtiness of Margaret Dumont.

Or just stop. Stop wasting so much energy desperately denying the obvious to a blog-full of strangers who really don't care. Think about it: With the energy you save, you might be able to do some artwork.

Blob Howard Sucks said...

When did Blob Howard officially take over the blog? Shouldn't he get his own space?

Ah that's right! If he had his own space and acted that way, no one would show up.

Much better to cling to someone else (David Apatoff) in a parasitical way.

Has anybody figured out the mental disorder associated with never has-beens who constantly ladle out slop to anybody who disagrees with their inflated self-image?

David Apatoff, why must we suffer this narcissist (that's it!) on this blog?

You should limit him to 2 comments per post until he cleans up his act. In the first he can tell everybody what he thinks. In the next he make a general ad hominem attack of anybody who disagrees with him. It would save a lot of space, and wouldn't involve censorship.

But the never-ending Blob Howard show is getting tiresome. You should do something if you want any real conversation here.

Laurence John said...

Anon Rob-baiters... YOU are the tiresome ones. at least have the guts to put a user-name to your cowardly tirades.

Anne Onym, U.S. said...

I agree with you, Laurence. Rob should stop baiting all the anonymous posters.

Rob Howard said...

Fleas...Gnats! Doesn't anyone have any testicular fortitude anymore? I don't want to be forced to use a can of RAID as the ultimate argument.

Chip said...

This was an amazing, inspiring post. As an artist that works equally with both ink-brush and computer, I can say unequivocally that I learn far more and create better work with ink, brush and board. I never have the same sense of accomplishment when I finish a computer image that I do when I finish a piece at my table and go to sleep with ink dried on my fingers. Thanks again.

Have a Pleasant Day said...

Rob, since your "testicular fortitude" arises from the use of your mouth, can we assume you are filled up to your gums with scrotal essence? It certainly would explain why you are so full of balls.

Smelly Blob Howard said...

I'm sure we all look like fleas and gnats to the gigantic ego of IllustrationArt's very own Cliff Claven, Blob Howard.

Just think of all the years of hard work, practice, and talent that made Blob the great narcissist that he is! Insufferable narcissists like him don't come along every day, you know. He's special. He's a narcissist's narcissist.

When will the Blob get the, worship that he so dutifully demands from a yawning public?

Is it just me, or does the endless posting of a never has-been on this blog or any other place smack of the most desperate, ridiculous, and pathetic behavior imaginable?

BTW, I have no doubt that you, Blob, are attacked constantly by gnats and fleas.

But what does that have to do with us?

Charlotte said...

"Is it just me, or.."

It's just you. You're the tiresome blowhard filling this blog with nothing to offer.

Antonio said...

I get your point, but here is mine:
A "hineni" moment is imposed by circumstances, and gives no second chances. You have to respond to a challenge put in front of you, not one you created for the hell of it, and you have only one chance to make it. Namely, Abraham had his task imposed on him by God. It was a fleeting moment and any failure with be both final and costly beyond measure.

Now, in art a "hineni" moment is this: Suddenly the perfect girl sits in front of you on the subway and strikes accidentaly a fleeting magnificent pose. You have just a few seconds (you don't know how many) to whip out your notebook and catch both her likeness and the essence of her pose before it vanishes forever, all the while your heart is racing and you are trying not to be noticed while you draw frantically. You did not expect the moment, and if you fail to respond properly then you will never get it back. That is a hineni moment, and it doesn't even matter if you did it in pencil or ink, you certainly had no time for erasers.(it's even more hineni if you decided you will prostitute your art immediately afterwards as an excuse to get her phone number - then your drawing HAS to be good! Talk about pressure! Try drawing when all you can hear is your heart pounding and all you can see is how blindingly she seems to glow :))

Now, by contrast, the examples you provided are professional illustrations. They were sketched and planned beforehand. When they were inked, that was mostly a very well prepared (though highly skilled) step in the workflow of a professional. If at some point you decided to improvise a step then that was just your choice, and, it can be argued, just shabby planning. If you screw up, then it was a risk *you* decided to take, and all you loose anyway is just an expensive piece of paper and a few hours of hard work. All of it can be repeated, if never exactly, then at least just as well. There is no transcendent, irreplaceable loss.

My scientific illustration teacher specializes in ink and does these marvelously detailed drawings. As he says, when he is doing the final art, there is almost no chance of going wrong, because everything has already been decided. He says he'd have to be mad to risk 50+ hours of work, halfway through, on a whim. If he does get a new idea half way through that is worthy of a change of plans then he just tries it first on top of the work with tracing paper or something. Or on a xerox copy. Professional work is a controlled matter, and an illustrator is above all a professional.

Now, the same guy, when out in the field, will wait patiently for hours, in a cramped camouflaged spot, for a specific animal to appear fleetingly in front of him. Then he will whip out his brushpen or pencil and maddly squetch it before it hops away again, maybe never to return. Those are the hineni moments, and he will both answer them bravely and love every goddamn one of them :)

As an aside, I think Abraham missed his moment. He had the great opportunity to tell The Lord to go screw himself. I did read the Bible and I never understood what Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son's life to the whim of God meant beyond the utterance "yes, Lord, you are cruel and given to childish whims and I am your unquestioning bitch". Yes, even taking God's promise into account. But that is just me, perhaps I'm wrong and I'll get faith one day on the road to Damascus, although herpes is far more likely and not as damaging :)

Antonio said...

Anonymous, apply your prescription to yourself and get your own blog. Then I am sure we'd all go visit, when our tight schedule allows. How about never? Is never good for you?

Rob Howard said...

Antonio, planning ahead is definitely part of so much finished pen and ink work. There's also a real sensuousness to using a flexible steel pen as we can see in those joyous Stienberg drawings. I suppose part of the allure is similar to tightrope mistake and the piece can be badly harmed. There's no UNDO button on a pen and that fact produces a specific mindset that is absent on those who do rely on the undo button.

Sure, you can always cut mortices and burnish areas with an agate burnisher but something like the Stienberg drawing must be produced au premier coup for it to work as well as he makes it work. For that sort of approach the only solution to a mistake is to throw it away and start again.

I wish there was a way that we could see pen rendering on a monitor without having to blow it up into detailed fragments. Diagonal lines and pixels don't want to exist happily.

afdumin said...

Jules Feiffer.

MORAN said...

This is supposed to be a blog about art and a lot of smart comments are said here, but recently the smart comments are getting drownded out by the big babies on both sides. You are both just looking for someplace to mud wrestle, not talk about art. This applies to Rob and Murray who at least have the guts to take credit for their views as well as all the little cowards who live to attack them. Will you all just get over yourselves and your childish arguments that have nothing to do with these topics?

Another round of stupid insults isn't going to hurt or persuade the other side any more than the last round of insults did or the round before that or the round before that. You're just wasting everybody's time, especially your own.

Some of you actually have smart things to say on point, so say them.

MORAN said...

When one argues with lunatics, there is always the problem that no one will be able to tell the difference. One of the great things about the net is that one may argue with lunatics anonymously, avoiding that pitfall.

Fyi, courage is usually humble and quiet. Which is why war heroes tend to be quiet about their heroism, while insecure charlatans tend to be boisterous and self-aggrandizing. There is no courage involved in being a horse's ass online. In most ways, everybody is anonymous online, which is why so much of online life is about "second life"... the false fronts and store fronts and verbal fronts people put up to show the general public... while they sit around in their underwear.

This kind of dust up never happened before Sir Dumont showed up. Look back through the archives for yourself. So get on the right side of what's actually going on. He is purposely veering between content and provocation because he is obsessed with centering all the attention around himself. If you like that, fine. Many of us do not. To us, at the very least his "courage" in doing this should be met with a cyber bloody nose or two... mere symbols compared to what would befall him were he to act this way in life, un-anonymously, face to face with his targets.

Courage you say? lol LMAO

LCG said...

Moran, the ubiquitous anonymous poster,

You are not the "many" and we aren't in kindergarten. We don't need a schoolmarm with character primers to instruct us who has merit and who the idiots are. We can plainly see by the anonymous posts and the ones attached to a name, who at least can stand like a man by their words.

Obvious Cennini Shill said...

Linda C. Grummon (LCG)... weird how the first link on your blog is to Cennini forum.

Nice try.

LCG said...

Yes, I'm as transparent as they come. I have a first name and a last, a middle initial, I stand upright and I love Art.

Rob Howard said...

When discussing art, I have difficulty in not picking up a pencil to illustrate a point. It would be nice if these blogs allowed the respondents to add a drawing of theirs to help illustrate their points.

I have been posting something of a gallimaufry of my artwork on Facebook at the Roberts Howard page. Amazingly, there have been no vitriolic comments from anonymous detractors. In fact, the comments are almost embarrassingly gushing. The insufficiently endowed can post their anonymous hate mail at

Matthew Adams said...

Hmmm, instead of turning this blog into a pissing contest, let's get back to discussing ink. Unless we want to talk about the Zen of pissing one's name in the snow, something an Aussie like myself doesn't get to do all that often.

Im not sure we're giving digital art a completely fair go. It might lack that edge of fear because of the undo button, but so what? The challenge for digital artist is the same as any artist in any medium, and that is "how do i use this tool to make my image/idea live?"

Don't read this, its too harsh said...

Rob, the only person who wants to see you lift your little pencil is already here defending your pinpoint manliness.

If you can't figure out why many here think you're a schmuck and the boneheaded swooners on facebook think you're great, then you're dumber than you look.

I'll give you a hint, the people who come here are fans of great illustration and art. People who appreciate such fine things have little patience for the bluster and bull of your like.

And your swooners... well, I don't know... It may very well be that the people who defend you are the very people who are dumb enough to pay you to supply them with easily available information in the hopes that it will bring them one step closer to that mythical career in art you keep telling them you have.

At least Max Bialystock had something real to offer the ladies he stole money from.

Matthew Adams said...

I am one of those that think Rob Howard spews out a lot of rubbish (and when he says something worthwhile it is only because he says so much that at least some of it has to be right). But at least he signs his own name to the rubbish he spews, not something that can be said of the anonymouses who bait him for their own sick self gratification.

It is getting a tad bit boring people. And it distracts from the effort David puts into an otherwise fantastic blog

MORAN said...

LCG, that comment by "MORAN" that you criticized was not really by me, it was by the shitty little anonymous coward who keeps attacking Rob all the the time. He didn't like what I said about their childishness, so he just wrote back and stole my name to make a dumb comment. It's worse than being the cowardly little asshole that he is, to be a cowardly little identity thief. You see him doing that a lot recently, disrupting this conversation by taking on the names of other commenters.

David, it kills me to say this but you should start screening these comments just to keep this childish asshole Rob-hater from stealing other people's identities.

Rob Howard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rob Howard said...

Matthew, unless it's your hobby (and even if it is) the pursuit of art is one giant pissing contest. It is one of the most competitive fields imaginable. You are constantly weighing the worth of every one of your pieces not only against immediate competition but against guys who died three centuries ago.

Only if you are indulging in art therapy and making pictures to release your deep inner whatever-it's-called are you not engaged in a pissing contest...especially in the field of illustration.

What has escaped notice here is that this blog is named ILLUSTRATION ART. The standards for judging illustration are far more rigorous and narrow than for fine art. It's functional art. It's not art don't on spec but done to custom order, to a specific size, subject and within a specific time frame. Most importantly, unlike most fine art, illustration is commissioned and bought by professional art buyers, not people who made their money in other fields and indulge the passion to collect.

Thus, applying the standards and motivations of fine arts to illustration is foolish at best. And to think that there is no major pissing contest going on in this field is delusional. Sure, those of us who have been through decades of it will be joined in our war stories and then "strip his sleeve and show his scars and say ...These wounds I had on Crispian's day." That's why, although I will disagree with Murray on the advantage of certain tools, I will address him with the respect he deserves for having repeatedly thrown himself into that uber-competitive field and survived...even making his own mark.

My attitude toward those parvenus, those dreamers, those wannabes and those confused souls who think that illustration is akin to fine arts, in intent and method, can be less than hospitable. Until I see the sleeves rolled up and the scars honorably got in the field, you're just talking the talk. Maurray's walked the walk for decades. So have I and while that doesn't mean that we're going to be soul kissing, it does mean that we spent many years in this great pissing contest called illustration.

Part of my pissing has been to take time away from my money-making studios to write books for up and coming illustrators and to operate a couple of online sources for artists of all stripes (for the sole purpose of helping them become better and become my competition). So you'll excuse me if I do not respect everyone because of their eating, sleeping, breathing and excreting. I want to see the work. I want to see the sleeves and scars.

Matthew Adams said...

Rob, all this macho talk of pissing (admittedly I am partly responsible for it) and scars is just pointing out the obvious result of some of the more negative bullshit of living in the world, either as an illustrator, fine artist or just plain bricklayer. It's dog eat dog and everyone understands this. To boast about it (and seemingly enjoy it) strikes me as almost psychopathic.

I would also have to disagree with your attitude "toward those parvenus, those dreamers, those wannabes and those confused souls who think that illustration is akin to fine arts, in intent and method, can be less than hospitable."
Though I only disagree in the sense that fine arts should be akin to illustration in intent and method (I know that it often isn't but I guess that is what makes me a dreamer).

Rob Howard said...

>>> I guess that is what makes me a dreamer<<<

I don't know if that's the case so much as not being a good reader. Coming into a blog titled ILLUSTRATION ART and applying the yardstick of fine arts (and then complaining) is like going to a blog devoted to Latin and complaining that they aren't writing in English.

I suppose that there are enough people who have be rewarded for a lifetime of petulant whining who expect that tactic works in all situations. It's true that whining works in most situation, but not in all. If one wishes to be a truthful artist, the first thing they must abandon is believing their own bullshit, no matter how warm and well-worn it is.

The bottom line is always about the portfolio. May I see yours in order to know if i am addressing a fellow pro or just another wannabe. Portfolios matter in the world of art.

Matthew Adams said...

Actually Rob, you didn't read right this time, but that might be because I didn't explain my idea clearly. What I wrote is that I apply the yardstick of illustration to fine art, not the other way round.

As for my portfolio, you can find it at
I wouldn't call myself a pro, even though for a while I was making a living from it, and hope to continue at some stage in the future. At the moment i have decided a normal 9 to 5 job is better for my mental health (freelancing from home while suffering depression is a good recipe for addiction of one type or another).

I certianly have no illusions about the quality (or lack off) of my work.

Heidi Siki said...

Right Rob... you spend half your time here talking about how much money you supposedly made... your LUCRATIVE 5-portrait portrait career, your 60,000 PAID subscribers in 1995 on compuserve, that Illustration was the HIGHEST PAID profession at the time you say you worked in it...

but... but... these businesses.... why, it was all done for charity for the poor wayward artists... Oh that's so nice of your Robby. You're an angel.

And a complete nutbag. Sell your bullshit somewhere else pal.

Blob Howard the Clown said...

Isn't it nice how Blob Howard is using fake posting names and his equally narcissist hack buddies to defend his parasitical fiefdom here on somebody else's blog?

Is it not completely apparent that you have the most pathetic form of mental case camping out here?

Blob is a never has-been. And it doesn't matter if you are a great painter and disagree with him. If you post anything, he'll just say it sucks anyway. And if there's an expert on pushing crappy artwork out the door, its Blob Howard. Take a look at who's doing the judging.

For some odd reason, David Apatoff has resigned himself to the presence of the Blob Howard tapeworm infesting his blog.. Probably because he is too busy to police it. Too bad for the rest of us.

Its very obvious that Blob is at the complete end of his never has-been career. With loads of time and contempt on his hands, he can't find anything better to do than shovel his crap out to everybody else.

I've not met one excellent painter (and I've met many) who had enought time, interest, or pettiness to do the Blob Howard dance. That's proof positive he's got no future, and his crummy paintings are evidence he had no past either.

Rob Howard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rob Howard said...

>>>Fyi, courage is usually humble and quiet. Which is why war heroes tend to be quiet about their heroism, while insecure charlatans tend to be boisterous and self-aggrandizing<<<

I just couldn't let this pass because it's all part of a Hollywood myth that has become imbedded in the psyches of those couch spuds who have never seen military service but, because of what they see in the movies, consider themselves experts.

The reality is that many reunions of combat units are places where one hears blood-chilling war stories recounted, as Shakespeare says..."with advantage." The idea of the lone hero sweeping into town (or hamlet or prison camp as in the movies) and wiping out the bad guys in an act of superhuman skill and will is movie stuff. But then, for him to say..."aww shucks, Ma'am, it twarn't nuthin'" either indicates someone so insensitive that he had no idea of what it is he just did or else, a complete liar. Shucks ma'am, it was a helluva scary thing I just did and could have gotten much worse than this trickle of blood from the corner of my mouth indicates.

Anyone who speaks of the quiet hero has only met them in movies. I can't say that I have ever encountered a real hero...just lots of guys who screwed up some courage to get out of bad situations, but no Audie Murphy types. None of the guys I was with were of the "aww shucks ma'am" taciturn least not when among their comrades. Those reunions are pretty wide ranging affairs...lots of laughter, no tortured souls (more Hollywood crap) just jokes about screwing up. They are also the last place left where no one remmbers your first're always a last name or a nickname. None of those quiet, Aww shucks Gary Cooper types. Just regular guys who actually volunteered to subject themselves to life and death decisions at the command of some men who would later go on to be night managers at a McDonalds.

Yep, the movies and reality are very different and one can always spot someone who never did it by their blanket statements based on the hero riding off into the sunset. True, some people got hurt of killed but then some civilians get hurt and killed driving to work.

What's never mentioned is the bad food in the service. That's the real test of courage.

Meanwhile, Anonymouse, keep watching High Noon, Rambo and the Military Channel. It shows. It's also obvious that you have never soiled your delicate sensibilities by actually volunteering for service to your country. You are an example of the adage..."nothing risked, nothing gained."

Kim said...

GREAT post, David!

Kim Smith

Blob Howard, Western Hero said...

Just keep turning out the garbage, Blob. You're no hero. Just an old, old narcissistic never has-been who demands attention and authority for absolutely nothing.

Why would you think that I'm an artist at all? I have no portfolio. So what do you say to somebody who's not in the biz or trying to be in the biz? That they can't have an opinion? Tell that to your next portrait art patron while you kiss their rear end. What a spineless faker you are!

I just like great artwork. And what I dislike is pompous, insufferable jackasses. That description fits you to a T, Blob.

Look at the petulant never has-been, screaming for his apple!

If there is anybody riding off into the sunset, its you old man. And just like the movies, all you see is the horse's ass. That's you Blob. The big horse's ass.

Have a nice (lonely) day!

David Apatoff said...

Chip-- Thanks for writing. I can relate to that "ink on your fingers" point.

Li-An-- it's so good to have another math teacher join us here. I am a firm believer in the poetry of geometry and although math is not my chosen field, I feel that I learn a lot from commenters who contribute that discipline. Also, your point "There is the ink but there is the paper too" is a point well taken. Ink is part of a relationship with paper and it would be unfair to focus only on one side.

Matthew Adams-- " let's get back to discussing ink."

Thank you for that. I agree that you make a valid point about the redeeming attributes of digital art, and I don't want to sell them short. We used to face a lot of tests-- such as fighting with bears in prehistoric caves-- that we no longer face, and we are better off for it. During that phase of our early history, fighting with bears was one clear way of finding out what kind of person you were. 30,000 years later, fighting with ink provided another kind of test. Today? Well, those tests just seem to get subtler and more ambiguous all the time so we'd better have a pretty good internal gyroscope in order to understand who we are and what we stand for.

David Apatoff said...

afdumin-- Don't just stop with "Jules Feiffer"-- what about him? I'm curious about what you think of his way with ink.

Kim-- how nice of you to stop in. Sorry that the boys on the playground are a little unruly today, but it is always a pleasure to hear from you.

Rob Howard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rob Howard said...

>>>30,000 years later, fighting with ink provided another kind of test. Today?<<<

Enter Messrs Harley and Davidson, whose products have picked up where bears and sabre-toothed tigers left off...lowering the number of idiots, although unlike Mike Judge's Idiocracy posits, Clevon's world is not just in the better trailer parks of this country but firmly rooted in the 'burbs with crypto-Clevon's kids now getting a degree in college stuff (a BCS). They still can't write a cogent and coherent paragraph and still look like they're fresh from a casting session at Hieronymus Bosch's studio but they are what passes for citizens. Recently we were in a restaurant (one that required neckties as well as shoes) and saw one of Clevon's kids being upscale and order one of them there "flaming yons." He'd heard that upscale people like Brittany Spears and Ashton Kutcher eat flaming yon rather than regular old steak.

So here's to Harley and Davidson and those increasingly few, the brave who ride without the restrictions of a helmet. This Bug's for you.

Anonymous said...

"Yes, I'm as transparent as they come."

*Except for when I make up fictitious online identities and use other artists names to spy for Rob Howard. I'm so transparent people can see right through me.

David Apatoff said...

Rob, my initial reaction was that Messrs Harley & Davidson presented a different category of trial, because motorcycles are a purely voluntary way to spend leisure time. But when you think about it, prehistoric men didn't need to go a mile into the earth, guided only by pine torches, to paint on a particular wall. They could have chosen to paint on a cliff wall and avoided the cave bears.

So one might conclude that the casualties our ancestors suffered in the jaws of cave bears were just as self-inflicted as the casualties that bikers without helmets suffered at the hands of Harley Davidson. In a way, all of these tests we've been talking about-- as important as they are-- might be lumped together as attempts to give ourselves form, using a little tyranny against nature. We can always argue ourselves out of one test and slip into another, less stressful one but ultimately ya gotta serve somebody.

Anonymous said...

I bet, the eloquent anon Rob baiter here is no one else but Rob Howard himself, having the time of his live. Sick man, thats for sure...

Anonymous said...

Nonsense, I'm sure it is Mr Apatoff trying to get rid of the Blob!

Anonymous said...

No! He's Spartacus!

Matthew Adams said...

"Well, those tests just seem to get subtler and more ambiguous all the time so we'd better have a pretty good internal gyroscope in order to understand who we are and what we stand for."

I suspect that the ambiguity comes from the fact that a lot of digital illustration is trying to mimic more traditional art, with brushes in photoshop and illustrator trying to create the effect of drawing with an actual pen or brush.

Anonymous said...

Aperçu the gallimaufry of posts by Mssrs. Anon and Anonymous, and the other punily-endowed mall-texters bantering about the authorship of my posts like a gaggle of virginal sorority sisters fresh from a midnight swim with their favorite dean: Assuage my curiosity… by what arriviste petulance have you simpering gnats deemed yourselves remotely capable of dishonoring my name, let alone worthy of mimicking me? The very idea that you were able to hunt-and-peck my designation into your sticky keyboards with your quivering, bloodless digits shocks the consciousness worse than a bad day at the waterboard. One would expect the very letters of my appellation alone to scald your fingers to the touch.

Instead, like a jar of honey on the porch banister of an Antebellum Plantation House, the sweetness of my amber-colored pheromone bisque “Brings ‘em running in the heat!” as Mammy Pennebaker used to say. My Midas-like luck in business notwithstanding, this particular honkey honey trap has attracted more than its fair market share of braying wanna-bes. The scurrying toward the bowl has become so dense and multifarious that, in truth, I can no longer tell the gnats from the rats, the Sciaridae from the Sigmodontinae. (Possibly the gnats and rats form a bottom feeding little ecosystem of mutual parasitism? Ain’t you lil’ guyz cute?)

Hear me Gnats, and the anonymice you rode in on… I would have expected that the light from my Facebook page alone would have sent your feral and febrile little hindquarters scurrying into the dingy ratholes from which you have mistakenly ventured. Yes that’s right, scamper away from the light of the real world. Can’t hack it in the swamps? Can’t hump it to the DMZ? Golly gee, I am sorry to hear it as I blow my nose on a stock certificate worth more than your entire net worth. Take heart, for I hear “suicide is painless,” (and I don’t just mean on the radio.)

And to the mistakenly anointed “eloquent anonymous,” do you think vocabulary and grammar alone make the man? Your mere mimicry of the surface elements of my linguistic prowess demonstrates just how many unremunerated hours you passed knitting wool in chatty college coffee klatches. Got yourself quite a parsel of what some folk in quaint hamlets that side of the Mason-Dixon call “useless book learnin’.”

The inimitable and fructifying qualities of the brobdingnagian soul, however, like a perfect grape on a high hanging vine on the slopes of Torrechiara Castle, forever hangs away from your reach. To put it with my signature bluntness, “Your arms too short to box with God.”

Understand, you must appreciate that the questions of talent, wit, erudition and the kind of experience that forges steel chest-plates from the mere ore of flesh and blood… these qualities aren’t available to those with “attention deficits” located roughly where the cerebellum was once charted in Henry Gray’s Anatomy. Google is a poor man’s substitute for the erudition that only comes with a fair and fertile seasoning. Gents, you are simply not in my league.

I wish to end this mere trifle of a dust-off with one last withering sting. If you had read your Juvenal, you would recognize the marvelous precision of the following apropos extract: “An incurable itch for scribbling takes possession of many, and grows inveterate in their insane breasts.”

Truly, in halcyon antiquity there was no time for men who were less than men, nor simpering scribblers without portfolio.

Rob Howard said...

>>>But when you think about it, prehistoric men didn't need to go a mile into the earth, guided only by pine torches, to paint on a particular wall. <<<

Perhaps the regular neighborhood was so covered with grafitti that they had to burrow deep into the caves to get some blank wall to draw on. It does appear that there was a great deal of magical belief involved in that search, and we should not discount the motivating power of magic in mankind's history. We seem to be more motivated by the invisible than the visible...belief in supernatural powers that will keep you alive after death or knock off thirty pounds of belly fat in two months. Whether it's religion or advertising, it's all fueled by magical belief.

Rob Howard said...

>>>a lot of digital illustration is trying to mimic more traditional art, with brushes in photoshop and illustrator trying to create the effect of drawing with an actual pen or brush.<<<

That seems to be the way fledgling art forms come a-borning. When photography was becoming popular, the photographers immediately seized upon it's ability to mimic the neo-classical art of the day. They'd set up elaborate tableaux to mimic a David painting.

To my eyes, digital art has been most successful in animated cartoons. There it can show off its special qualities. There is a site (whose name escapes me at the moment) that features humorous and fanciful melding of disparate images...people with fish scales and fins, etc. but that more speaks to the taste of inartistic people given artistic tools.

internet marketing services said...

love reading your entries. very nice.

Blob Howard, Petulant Ass said...

Look at the old fat boy! Look at him try to imitate an educated man by using silly, florid languange and calling everybody names! The high school graduate with a vocational skill tries so hard to imitate a truly educated man, just like he tries to imitate a real artist. He can't stand even the slightest criticism of his worthless opinions or worthless work!

Yes, the old never has-been sits while the sun sets on his life, his hands and mind idle and empty. And all he can do is ladle out crap to deal with the bitterness of it all. What a sad end to the Blob!

The non-legend of Blob Howard and his hack illustration and "fine art" career is almost at an end. What a happy thought! And he'll take his vomiting maw and engorged narcissism with him.

It's amazing that any adult can pat himself on the back for actually working like the rest of humanity. What a man of courage! And by his own admission, his work is nothing special, dictated to him by his masters, a thing wholly impersonal and mediocre. Yet the Blob has recast himself as a genius!

Behold a very very ordinary man, with an extraordinary mental illness, which he has no shame in showing anybody unfortunate enough to look.

Just like his work!

Have yet another nice (lonely) day Blob!

David Apatoff said...

Matthew (and Rob)--

"I suspect that the ambiguity comes from the fact that a lot of digital illustration is trying to mimic more traditional art, with brushes in photoshop and illustrator trying to create the effect of drawing with an actual pen or brush."

This is a topic with unlimited potential. We can all appreciate how simulating known tools (such as a pencil or brush) makes the new medium more comfortable for both artist and viewer. And we can all appreciate that the medium can grow outward from that initial platform. But whither should it go? What new direction would better serve Matt's admirable goal of using the tool "to make my image/idea live?"

If you go too far in one direction, you bump into the film medium which is already snapping up digital real estate faster than the Brazilians are clearing the rain forest. In this sense, I agree with Rob, "digital art has been most successful in animated cartoons. There it can show off its special qualities." But there must be other directions out there, and I sure would be interested in the views of Matt or others about where that future lies.

अर्जुन said...

Speaking for this gnat on the back of a rat on the downtown track as seen from the passing uptown tube train. I wouldn't mind seeing a few scans of the >> "line art for a big clipart company. Everybody had to be pretty, handsome, trim and with lots of personality coming from just a few lines. Over the years I learned how to minimize detail and imply it. Also, how to create my own conventions. Hard work but it paid off in the skills I gained."~Rob Howard >> Surely links are soon to follow, right?

Einbildungskraft said...

Re: "Behold a very very ordinary man, with an extraordinary mental illness, which he has no shame in showing anybody unfortunate enough to look."

my dear David, yes Rob Howard elicits all kinds of boisterous reactions with his words, but Blob Howard is just as amusing, just thought I would let you know that I think that. The level of bickering is as interesting as the art!
Greetings to you, the Rob, and the Blob

David Apatoff said...

Einbildungskraft, I am glad to hear it's entertaining.

I devote 97.43% of my brain to the practice of law, so I'm not about to devote the remaining 2.57% to enforcing some code of conduct. I come here to get away from laws. (Besides, my mama didn't raise me to be no censor.) As a consequence, this place operates under what lawyers call "the license of the playground" and Jack London calls "the law of club and fang."

You'll forgive me if I devote my attention to the art, which is the part that interests me most, but I'm glad we offer something for everyone!

Tom Lyle said...

I teach at a college and if not for me no one in the school would be aware of Leonard Starr. The man has a line quality that is unbelievable. I read Mary Perkins as a kid just because I liked his art so much. Thanks for keeping the flame going.
Great blog and very insightful commentary

Tom Lyle said...

Btw, those who hate ink:
It's usually because it is a skill set that takes time and effort to learn and we don't want to take the time to learn it. Having spent most of my career just doing pencil art and letting others ink it, I've found great joy in the way ink can transform a drawing from the pencil art. Ink is the bomb!!
Leonard Starr, Stan Drake, Alex Raymond, Hal Foster, Roy Crane ... all genius with ink.

Also, my big problem with digital art is the lack of an original to have, hold, love and cherish.

Prints, giclees' and the like are not the same.


Rob Howard said...

>>>Greetings to you, the Rob, and the Blob<<<

That's generous of you to say. I prefer to let the anonymity stew (or wallow) in his own juices because his solitary pleasures are reputed to lead to blindness.

Rob Howard said...

>>>..."the law of club and fang."

Ah, we're it true, David. Sadly it's a nerf bat and wax lips.

I truly cannot feel any negative feelings as they would be overshadowed by an astonishing day of business with a new colleague.

Matthew Adams said...

Is it the potential for accident that brings an illustration to life (by allowing or controlling that accident with a brush or pen dipped in ink or paint)?

Because if that is the case digital art (at least concerning digital art for print) is buggered.

I would start looking towards animation as well (though the choice to use animation to "animate" otherwise dull lines seems obvious), but with a focus more on games than straight foward animation.

"people with fish scales and fins, etc. but that more speaks to the taste of inartistic people given artistic tools." That, if accident is the life giver, is one option of giving life to digital art (people as tools). Not my prefered option, and i suspect not the prefered option of most of the others here.

Tom said...

Hi David

The talk of the use of photos as source material has my wondering what it would be like to compare a few old master drawings that are not photo based i.e. Rembrandt or the like next to and art work that has use a photo as it source. Just to see if what or any differences exit.

Oh and I have one book suggestion for you (I promise no more after this) but for some one who likes mark making that is an abstraction itself while at the same time expressing or describing the surface of a form you should see if you can find a copy of Philip Rawson’s small book Drawing. It is out of print, the first chapter and the connections he makes between drawing and our humanness is astonishing

Mammy Pennebaker said...

Rob, I hope the next time you have an astonishing day of business with a new colleague you will remember to tell us.

Also, let us know if you have a semi fascinating day of old business with a former colleague, or if you're just full of business and out of your league.

Thanks Schmuck

Rob Howard said...

Matthew, I think the high-wire act of risking mistakes might keep the illustrator on his toes but I don't know that it brings an illustration to life.

Some of the resistance to digital work is the natural resistance of people to new things they perceive as threatening what they hold dear. When the Mac first enabled Everyman to reach past his developed skill set, we saw a virtual Niagara of horrid graphic design and illustration.

That's leveled off a bit (we're still miles away from those glorious days of highly evolved design and illustration of the 60's and 70's. They were based in extraordinary skill and knowledge, not a quick course at the local community college in how to be a graphic designer as part of an office team of secretaries.

I find the engineer's mind endlessly fascinating and their systematic approach to problem solving might be a good skill for those of us who rely mostly on intuition and seat-of-the-pants actions. Some of the jaw-dropping digital effects in animation and still image rendering are the result of some engineers/programmers analyzing a visual effect they wish to reproduce reliably. How many traditional artists have taken the time to analyze what it is that makes an oil slick on water produce that rainbow effect and then translate it into paint? Most of us won't observe what's happening and immediately reach for the most brilliant colors in our kit. Those engineers really observe such effects. In the case of the rainbow oil slick, they learn that the colors are very dull and grey but the order in which they are presented created the iridescent effect. That's useful info for anyone painting a peacock or a pigeon's neck.

Perhaps we should examine the thinking that goes into making these digital products and see if we can apply them to our own work.

David Apatoff said...

Matthew, I think the potential for an accident (both positive and negative) is definitely part of it, but not all of it. I was musing here
about that very issue, the significance of adding the physical elements (earth, air, fire and water) into the process of making art.

Briefly, I think the tactile sensation of a physical medium is an important ingredient, and I also think that there is a duet that takes place when you accept the looser control that is inevitable when you are pushing tangible matter back and forth across a page (matter that sometimes ends up pushes back, and that may change its properties based on the time of day or ambient temperature). You don't seem to get that duet (at least not to the same degree) when you are manipulating electrons in a rule defined process. In one of my examples, if you wanted to depict snowflakes you could spatter white paint with a toothbrush or you could try to make random white dots with photoshop. The former will always look more natural-- do you call that an accident or is just achieving a better effect with a looser form of control (as with the pen / brush metaphor?)

Rob Howard said...

I don't know if that's the case, David. I'm of two minds on this matter and I believe that we are on an important cusp that will define a major direction for digital art. The standards of measurement will have to be altered, just as they were with photography.

Of interest is the recent contemporary portrait show at the National Portrait Gallery (not a great museum by any standard). The winning portrait is a digital print that competed with traditional paintings. I suspect the judges where the same that awarded our president a Nobel Peace Prize in that they were sending a personal message designed to poke the eye of what they see as the establishment. I think it's a flawed decision but it does say something about digital art. What it says, I am not sure.

Einbildungskraft said...

re I devote 97.43% of my brain to the practice of law

So you are a ...judicious artist in the blog?
Or,... artistic lawyer in nyc?

Yes you are always politely silent in these disputes between artists I've noticed, its nice that the more egregious ones are not deleted (altho some may be)~
g from ca

kev ferrara said...

Ink, more than any other medium that is not a sport, demonstrates real physical and mental mastery at once.

The whole point of the computer is to give endless opportunity to simulate physical mastery in a simulated reality. The whole circus is a safety net.

This is very similar to the dangerous lure of video games. Where fake mastery of fake realities hypnotize the depressed into thinking they've accomplished something. (What can be more entertaining, after all?)

In a world where more and more minds are separated from the physical world by commercial efforts to provide ever more believable fantasies, the distinction between the real reality and simulated reality is in danger of losing its salience. What's that Goethe line -- "The confusion of the real and the ideal never goes unpunished."

In a strange twist of fate, the dwindling priesthood of believers in reality are the monks who are not cloistered.

kev ferrara said...

Maybe "depressed" is too strong a word. "Mentally strained" might be a better way to put it.


Rob Howard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rob Howard said...

Kev, there was an interesting melding of the skills of virtual reality in a real situation in Desert Storm when the armored units encountered the highly vaunted Republican Guard and beat them a ton to nothing. The kids who had been brought up on video games just played a super fast video game in a bumpy room. They never saw the real life damage, just what was on the screen and for that, they were vastly superior.

I suppose that there are other crossovers between the virtual and the real. I had to shut down my Facebook accounts and flee from all of those virtual roses, virtual Mafia hitmen, virtual tea cups and people acting like automata.

Antonio said...

>Platonic ideal needs to be update >with some more recents math >theories :-)

fourtunately in our field hardly anything gets obsolete. :) The other day I taught my students how calculate fractions like the egyptians (they used unitary fractions). They thought it was a funny and quaint diversion until I showed them both its various advantages over decimal fractions and the fact that many hard questions about them remain open.

Now, of course Platonism is not mathematics proper but philosophy of mathematics, but that too is as vibrant a concept as it ever was. In fact the platonists have clearly scored points over the formalist view (Bourbaki take that ;)). Godel's theorem shows that there are truths that cannot be proven, and that tells you that what you capture in any formalism is just part of an object. What is that object? It sounds very much like the platonic object of whom all formalizations are just shadows. I can have euclidean geometry as a system of axioms, or as a model over the reals, but then the reals can be axiomatized themselves or be built on top os something else as a model. Still we know that all these models represent the same "things". All these isomorphic things are "concrete" shadows of the unfathomable object itself
- they are its many faces. Modern mathematics gives a very concrete notion to what appeared to be a very mystical concept - that's how I used to see platonism when I was an undergrad, just ancient mambo jambo. Now after getting used to category theories and other ultra-modern beasts I realize I just lacked the language. The platonic object is just the equivalence class of all its infinite shadows.

Antonio said...

>The whole point of the computer >is to give endless opportunity to >simulate physical mastery in a >simulated reality.

that is one aspect of it but why do you reduce the computer to a single aspect (and such an unflattering one at that)? I can't see how that is its "whole point".
That is throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

The computer allows me to think colors in terms of additive mixtures. It allows me to separate a lighted sphere into the specular reflection, the diffuse reflection, the subsurface scattering, place all of it in different layers and then tweak it, not to get at some final piece of art, but to learn about colour and optics by actually manipulating light at will. Before the computer you could only do that inside your mind. Now you can see it! Many art students and professionals don't even know what light is or how it handles! Some students and even teachers I met think the specular reflection of the light source is at the point directly facing the light (what a surprise when the highlight is at the rim of a big beach ball facing the sun)! They squirm at seeing the highlight in a drop of water on top of its darkest zone. I saw several books that mistake the highlight of the specular reflection with the brightest part of the diffuse reflection. They just fake light with a few meaningless daubs of paint and hide all the things they don't know about beneath the "give" of the materials. "Just draw what you see" is a great advice, but if it is the only advice it reduces us to the visual equivalent of a parrot. Playing around with light in photoshop is a pure exercise that separates the thought on colour from the particulars of the specific media - the material properties or chemical limitations of the various types of paint - and can be translated into knowledge about light and optics that can later be translated into - for instance - new and more intelligent ways of expressing stuff through daubs of paint.

The use of a computer for painting can be just as enlightening as its use for a mathematician or physicist doing algebra or calculating the trajectory to the moon. It helps you go further at the same game you were already playing before the computer existed. I can understand you may react with anger to the way dumb people use a tool, but anger is blinding. Computers don't dumb people down. (some)People dumb computers down!

kev ferrara said...

Combat simulation is different because modern weaponry is intended to do the same thing as digital simulation... which is to put distance between the person pulling the trigger and the reality of his target. And that distance is fine because the soldier doesn't care where the splatter goes, as long as it goes. Whereas, for an artist, the control of the splatter is everything.

Now if some outfit tried to simulate judo or capoiera using just digital methods, (plus joystick or wii controller, say), that would be absurd because the essence of the thing is the direct gestural contact... even moreso than physical art-making, where the liquid pigment-loaded brush acts against the hard surface of paper or canvas like an impedance-matching device for the mind's eye, (like the the old time vibrating recording needle on the slightly molten spinning vinyl record.)

For such a martial arts simulation program to actually be a useful analog, it would need to hooked up to some real-world dummy "riding bull" of an opponent or partner for the student to learn to physically interact with.

I assume someday soon there will be wacom electronic brush attachments that get very close to the feel of a series 7 sable or coarse 1-inch hog bristle brush against the surface of the cintiq screen. This will highly improve the simulated experience of art making, making the transition to real surfaces, tools and pigments from the digital simulation world much easier.

Antonio, that was very well put.

Antonio said...

The other night there was a beautiful haze in Lisbon. The street lights were reflecting in the night sky in a most curious way. I could see the relation of the various parts of the sky (hard to say of the sky, in fact they were quite proximate masses of air) to the various land structures was not at all like I expected. Thanks to my nintendo DS (that I bought for use as a pocket digital sketchbook - it has no UNDO by the way) I could do plein air night! I couls capture the exact colours and relations in the middle of the night, through my own eyes and not just memory or later photo study. This is a new ability at our fingertips. Digital art is about using new tools to think and paint in new ways, not just some cop out to make it easier to fake your way through the stuff you did before (and should keep on doing when appropriate).

kev ferrara said...

Sorry, Antonio, I was writing as you were posting.

I meant that the whole engineering point was to replicate the art making experience. That is the foundation of these programs,the starting point.

Now, of course, once those tools are in place, the infinite possibilities of scalability and scanning, and vector tools (etc.) open up a million different doorways for creativity. But still, all that opportunity is based on the core architecture which still aims at a simulation of a physical art making experience, which results in a simulated art work... which is actually the first reproduction of an artwork that never existed.

No doubt, over time, there will be masses of people who prefer to live in an all digital world, in preference to the real one. And to them, the infinite scalability of everything will mean that "original" no longer applies to anything, art or otherwise. Except, that is, for their own consciousness or soul, which must necessarily remain unitary. (I see the idea of uploading consciousness as essentially madness. The death of the physical brain is the death of the person, IMHO.)


kev ferrara said...

did it again...

These digital abilities and tools are simulated abilities and simulated tools. Not real ones. Although some of the abstract knowledge required to make simulated art crosses over, like anatomy, gesture, color theory, perspective, etc.

In my opinion, the most philosophically sensible use of digital art tools I've ever seen is Android Jones' cintiq performances, which demonstrate the essential similarity of digital art to live theater... as experience, rather than object d'art.

antonio said...

>Android Jones' cintiq >performances

is that the guy from conceptart?

If it's the one I'm thinking of, he sort of gets on my nerves with that, actually :p

And it's quite general with the videos from that place. Some of those guys know their stuff but insist on putting airs of rock stars and trying to look cool,and it really hurts. Looks like highschool all over again, with some actually quite moderately bright kids trying hard to look and speak like morons. I bought a video one time from one of them and the guy seemed to think it was just too uncool to complete a sentence with anything but "whatever" and a smirk. How I miss the days when a teacher of art was a guy like Robert Hale, who actually *was* funny (without being stupid) and did it while enlightening the whole room with a single well placed sentence that would resonate in your mind for years to come.

Those performances (again, if I'm thinking of the right guy) enlightened me about nothing except the menus in the programs he used, and I don't really care much for that. I prefer stuff that I do on the computer and tells me something about what is outside.

That being said, conceptart seems to have some people who do know their stuff, and I saw some of the writing in the forums that was saner than the nonsensical videos I watched and actually quite interesting. Maybe the video thing is just some sort of trademark that they think goes well with their demographic or something. Or I am just getting old.

As for the rest,
of course you already know I disagree with you on what "real" means, but there is no way we can argue on that without going into philosophy and physics all over again and then people will complain quite rightly that this is not what they payed their ticket for :) (and also I have nothing to add that I haven't said before and that I checked already doesn't ring with you, so we'll just agree to disagree)

Anonymous said...

Could you put a BACK button on the bottom of your page.

Rob Howard said...

>>>And it's quite general with the videos from that place. Some of those guys know their stuff but insist on putting airs of rock stars and trying to look cool,and it really hurts. Looks like highschool all over again, with some actually quite moderately bright kids trying hard to look and speak like morons. I bought a video one time from one of them and the guy seemed to think it was just too uncool to complete a sentence with anything but "whatever" and a smirk.<<<

Same here, Antonio. I bought a video and the guy knew his stuff but being good at it was not enough. He had to turn the whole thing into a fictional-autobiography, from the made-up name, to the action on the street, to the smirks and like oh-so way kewl 'tude, dude. Basically it was the typical trickle-up ghetto attitude as interpreted by white suburbanites.

He really knew what he was doing but you had to wade through so much shit to get there that it dissuaded me from ever buying another video from those way kewl fashion victims.

It reminds me of imperial Russia when low-cut gowns were the rage and young ladies would not wear a coat in the middle of winter in order to display their fashionable cleavage. Thousands died of pneumonia but I'm sure that all thought it was worth it.

Those way kewl dewds are driving away business (and what the hell is that website all about anyway?) but I'm sure they think it's worth it to stay fashionablly ghetto-ized.

Francis Vallejo said...

I'm coming into this late, but just wanted to say great piece David! I am a student of the ink, with a lot of respect towards those that have tamed it!

Anonymous said...

No, Rob, is not driving away business from themselves.

You are from yourself.

Your last post -- that lame "balanced" attempt to criticize them was as transparent as it was eye-roll worthy.

Nice Try, though.

etc, etc said...

Lets see who can make the best monster with fiery innards.

Etc, Etceteris Paribus said...

Let's see who can create a stiff, false, clichéd monster composition...

Rob, you'd fit right in at CA... in their critique forum, where lots of young artists with fiery innards defend their awkward efforts in post after juvenile post.

Anonymous said...

Keep it pithy.


Antonio said...

>Those way kewl dewds are driving >away business (and what the hell >is that website all about >anyway?) but I'm sure they think >it's worth it to stay >fashionablly ghetto-ized.

I am sure they cater to numerous audience that really enjoys that particular style. Their pseudo-punk-rocker-cum-emo persona or whatever it is seems very business-like to me. They probably don't mind losing my business or yours to please their target demographic who want their heroes to stick it to the man or whatever the hell they think they are doing. I don't blame them for it, I just dislike it personally, that's all. I did learn from them (in one of the forums some time ago) how to handpaint proper gradients and mixes in photoshop (and a few other techniques) so I am quite grateful. I just can't keep my eyes from rolling when I look at the videos, and that particular movement of the eyeballs makes it hard to focus on the screen. :)

etc, etc said...

>>>Rob, you'd fit right in at CA... in their critique forum, where lots of young artists with fiery innards defend their awkward efforts in post after juvenile post.<<<

Big swing and a miss...I am not Rob.

kev ferrara said...

Assuming your question isn't a rhetorical one, Rob, I would say is kind of like wetcanvas but geared a bit more toward younger subject matter... a bit more fantasy illustration and a little less flower and bottle painting. But just a bit.

The range of interest is actually quite wide. Maybe the widest of any art site on the net that is actually serious. There's both digital and traditional artists, and the interests range anywhere from the methods of the old masters or classic illustrators to the silliest of cartoons to the latest cgi techniques used in concept design for movies. There's a lot of cross pollination among these artists as well. (And some long standing squabbles... The question of Manga's worth, or the value of the anatomy books of Burne Hogarth, just as two examples, usually result in a dustup.)

Thousands of artists go there every day to get inspiration, advice, crits, tips, theory, to find other like-minded artists, or just to gab in the Lounge.

One of the great things happening is that more and more serious professionals are posting there, and many are also getting involved and some are even creating the training downloads. In fact Sterling Hundley just did a download for them about idea creation and Donato Giancola has just done one as well. And I know William Whitaker does some stuff for them too. Some of the downloads are also about the business side of illustration.

I hope that answers the question "what's that site about?"


Rob Howard said...

>>> (some)People dumb computers down!<<<

Stop picking on me, Antonio ;-)

Rob Howard said...

Thanks for the synopsis, Kev. My attitude is of one with limited time...there's far too much shit to wade through to make the effort of rooting out the occasional gem worthwhile. Whenever everyone's opinions have equal weight, the entire edifice is brought down.

For anyone who has lived long enough to start shaving, they know that not everyone is created equal. Some people are far less accomplished than others. I suspect that very few of the people at Conceptart are published authors or have work in museums...but their mothers and their friends think that they're great!

Published Author said...

Kev, this might explain things:

Rob Howard said...

Gee, Human Lint, it would be nice if you and the unmanly Mr. Manely got your facts right and actually watched what was happening on the video. I realise that anyone who has any accomplishments in life is consider a direct insult to your virtual nonexistence or Manley's unmanly sucking up to the ghetto wannabes, but the truth is that some of us have accomplished things without ever considering your lack of skills and accomplishments in mind.

I don't imagine that you have the cajones to man up and ever show what it is that you do besides be insulted by people who accomplish what you can't.

Rembrandt and Velazquez had people like you in mind when they painted. They and every other artist had nothing more pressing than to accomplish things to make you feel like bitchy little girls.

Would the Anonymouse like some cheese to go with his whines? Waaah...mean old Rob Howard doesn't conform to my standards of decency...waaaah!...yeah, right...and the horse you came in on.

Anonymous said...

Sereiously, Anonymous, put aside the differnces (the accomplished vs. the wannabe) and allow me to address a problem that has vexed us...problems with the sewers in this town. I thought I'd get an expert opinion.

Have a Pleasant Day said... said...

The unmanly Mr. Manley...Hahahaha. I love it

Blob Howard Sucks said...

Okay, you caught me. I'll stop my solitary habit before I go blind, but I was told it's important to love oneself before you can love others. And that's my goal, to finally love another person. After all these years I'm not very fussy as long as they don't turn the lights on.

Published Author said...

Anyone who will listen, this might explain things:

It proves my point and everyone kows what my point is. If you don't, you're stupid and arrogant and mean and -- God how I hate mean people who slink around.

Have a Pleasant Day said...

Blob Howard!...Hahahaha. I love it

Anonymous said...

Rob, why are you wasting so much time defending yourself on this blog?

Let it go man. Nobody cares.

Terry Brown said...

Pen and ink? Charles Dana Gibson wrote:

"Beginners are worried needlessly over the quality of paper and ink to be used. It is only necessary that one should be white and the other black"

This was in a FAQ he wrote to "My Dear Collier" in 1904 and published in that magazine.

Terry Brown
Rockwell Center for American Visual Studies
Norman Rockwell Museum

David Apatoff said...

Tom Lyle-- so happy to hear from another Leonard Starr fan-- I agree with you 100%, he is a fabulous talent. I love his work in On Stage.

Tom-- Thanks, I'll look for Rawson's book. It would help if it was still in print.

Francis Vallejo-- glad to hear from you. I see from your own blog that you have been busy; keep up the good work.

David Apatoff said...

Terry Brown-- good to have you weigh in. That's a great quote from Gibson, but it's always the geniuses who offer you the humble, totally unhelpful "aw shucks" explanation for what they do-- "it's just a matter of black and white." (As I've said here before, such advice is like the Steve Martin comedy routine on how to get a million dollars tax free-- "first you get a million dollars, then don't pay taxes on it.)

By the way, black and white may have been enough for the simple old days of Gibson, but in the modern space age era of Al Dorne and Robert Fawcett, they were adding a little sepia to that black ink, for warmth.

Blob Howard, the Obese Poser said...

What a shock to see that the Blob has posted rather uncreative and otherwise lame insults, pretending to be me!

But that's right in character, considering the Blob is a pretender in many respects of his rather lame and uncreative life. Like pretending to be a genius when, by his own admission, his work is mediocre and entirely dictated to him. And the fact that he posts Photoshopped pictures on his portrait website and passes them off as paintings! What an ass!

I am happy to know that I got under his pasty, unctious skin with the truth.

By the way, he spends lots of time trying to defend his non-existent reputation on this blog and elsewhere because he has LOTS of time on his hands. Because he is not a big-name, big-income artist. He is a small-time huckster and liar.

Have yet another nice, lonely day, Blob! The facade will only last so long.

Anonymous said...

I too thought a lot of Rob's paintings looked like they were done by a series of photoshop filters...
Is it true? Are they digital?

Anonymous said...

Man, I can only imagine the day I qualify for my own internet stalker..

Could you guys take this elsewhere?

Would that be alright? I'd like to read the comments on the topics.

(yeah, I know I just added to the noise vs signal ratio, still..)

Anonymous said...

I don't think Rob wants to take this elsewhere. This is the blog he wants and he's got all the time in the world to squat on it, talk shit, brag, lie, puff out his chest, and act like a pompous know-it-all ass in order to promote himself and his businesses. He does not care about anybody else's experience on here. And David has been taught by his mother to let perseverative brow-beating bullies have their way. And there you have it.

For those of us who used to enjoy this blog not only for the author's essays, but also for the "after party" conversation Pre-Rob, the mourning period has not yet passed. It may of course. Lots of us have already left permanently. But our haunting of this old, once-loved house hardly qualifies as stalking.

Which reminds me, I knew and know a bunch of WWII vets and Nam vets... guys who have actually seen the real hell of combat, guys who were wounded. Not guys who were stationed stateside, as I assume our boy wonder was. In my experience, those real heroes NEVER talk about their experiences.

I once asked an older gentleman I know who had been in the Pacific, and fought on one of the islands, "Do you remember your time there?" And he replied, with this frenzied look in his rheumy eyes that I never saw before or since, "I've spent every day of my life trying to forget."

So that's just one more instance of know-it-all baloney from the Boar's Head.

But that's just his way. Really, we should all sit back and relax and let him insult, cajole, bully, pout, brag, pretend and lie.

Laurence and some Rob Acolytes said...

Personally, I don't care whether somebody is an ass, as long as they sign their name.


David in Disguise said...

Can we please talk about art for a change?

And don't you talk about my mother!

Anonymous said...

Anon, you're the one pissing all over David's blog and you're coming off like a scorned woman. Get a grip, get over him already.


Rob Howard said...

I was just looking through a copy of Leonard Starr's collection, Mary Perkins On Stage Volume One. It's nicely printed by Classic Comics Press and comes with (at least mine did) a signed and numbered print. Every page is a lesson in how to handle pen and ink with grace. I agree with Howard Chaykin that Mary Perkins was the last great adventure strip. It really held the reader and brought the characters to life. Quite an accomplishment on many levels.

Joe Jusko said...

I wrote the intro for Vol 3. Even as a kid in the early 70's I realized what a genius he was. I had the pleasure of moderating a Starr panel at this year's San Diego Comicon. Learned a lot about the history of the strip and his thoughts on inking. What a gentleman, and a true talent!

Rob Howard said...

Joe, did he write it all by himself or did he have a writing partner?

Joe Jusko said...


Yeah, he said he wrote it all himself. Didn't know anything about the theater world but got to know it better and better and began using life experiences of people he knew and stories from the news as catalysts for storylines.

David Apatoff said...

Rob and Joe-- as you will see from my next post, I think Leonard Starr is a most worthy sidetrack for a discussion about ink. I am one of his biggest fans.

Starr had an assistant to finish the backgrounds that he laid out, but he pencilled and inked all of the figures and wrote the whole strip himself. There was a brief period in the 1960s when he hired writer Archie Goodwin to script the strip but, as Goodwin later recounted, it quickly became clear that Starr had to rewrite Goodwin's script to bring it up to Starr's standards so they went their separate ways.

For me, On Stage will always be the epitome of craftsmanship.

Joe Jusko said...

Ah, he never mentioned Archie (who, btw, was one of the nicest people I've ever known), probably because it was such a blip. We talked a bit about his backgrounds, since I was always so impressed with them. I was always so impressed that as a native New Yorker I could recognize every location used in the strip.

Joe Jusko said...

Well THAT was a bit repetitive! lol oops.

David Apatoff said...

Joe, I suspect that if Starr didn't mention Archie Goodwin, it's because it might have seemed ungracious to do so; They apparently jointly concluded that Goodwin didn't work out after only a few weeks. I read the story directly from Goodwin (who I agree was a talented and very nice person.) Essentially he said that Starr was extremely nice about it, but that they both recognized shortly after Goodwin started work that Starr had to rewrite virtually everything Goodwin wrote, to "punch it up."

Charles Pelto said...

Well it took a while to read all this. Interesting dialog going on here, some I glossed over - it being way too over the humble head of yours truly, some I read with great pleasure.

A couple of thoughts:

The tools used define the outcome of any work of art. I know this sounds really basic but that's just the way it is. And - the tool also defines the technique - the technique the tool.

The artist with his tool and technique define the work as well. You can't have one without the other. Starr is Starr, Drake is Drake, Steadman is Steadman, etc., etc., etc. It's the artist using the tool, the tool using the artist. Like Popeye said - I yams what I yam. The ends justify the means.

I have learned this by working with the art of Leonard Starr, Irwin Hasen, Stan Drake, and now John Cullen Murphy, Frank Godwin and Jose Luis Salinas.

Each of these artists have (to me) a distinctly different approach to the same problem - how to convey a story (or image, feeling, message) with the use of pen/brush and ink (and words). And each in their own right are (again, to me) masters of the art form.

And the debate over art created with a brush or pen and that created with the use of computer is, to me, a moot point.

They are different mediums and you cannot duplicate one with the other. Oh sure it might look the same on a computer screen but pixels are not paint, pencil or ink. Yes, it's still art, and yes it's still illustration. But it's computer-generated illustration. Another form of drawing.

But: To me - computer generated art (especially coloring/or inking) looks fake. Sort of like visiting a wax museum.

Give me pen/brush and ink, canvas and paint any day. I did some painting in the past and I know the joy (and frustration) of working with tools to create the image of that image you hold in your mind. It's up to the artist to decide if he has suceeded or failed with the use of his tools in what he was trying to achieve.

And don't get me wrong. I think some amazing art is created digitally - it's still after all - drawing. Just another form of illustration.

I'm in an interesting position in doing these books. I spend a lot of time scanning, cleaning, and straightening the source material available, on a computer. Volume 7 (currently in production) was a particular challenge since a large portion of the 'Pete in Viet Nam' dailies had to be replaced.

A lot of the source dailies were cut off at the bottom. I found a good source for all of them but there was lots of cleaning to do. [I'm working on a list of these dailies to find even better source i.e - original art, cleaner newspaper clippings - production proofs.

Because of this I spent a lot of time looking, studying, and cleaning weeks and weeks of Leonard's work on a computer screen while working in PhotoShop. And you all know how pixels work. Looking at Leonard's work for hours at a time on a large wide-screen monitor was pure ecstasy for an illustration freak like me.

In the past 6 months I have received an education in how Leonard used a brush. Something that is now a part of my psyche and the way I look at things.

I've also had the same experience with John Cullen Murphy and how he constructs a fight sequence over a week of dailies. Amazing!

And, OH that Salinas!

And Stan Drake. My God! What an artist! The way his figures move across the panel just astounds me.

The thing I like about all these guys whose work I'm publishing is:

1. They can draw.
2. They can tell a story.
3. I believe in the characters.

And they're doing it with pen, brush and ink. An amazing acheivement.

Друг said...

Oddly, I've always found ink to be a much more liberating medium. When I work with a correctable medium I always find myself second-guessing and correcting my mistakes, and generally not making progress (at least when I'm fooling around), but with pen the fact that I can't correct my mistakes makes me much more forgiving of myself when I make them and the time I would have spent correcting gets spent redoing.