Friday, March 05, 2010

THRUST



In my opinion, illustration art has a brand of potency unrivalled by any other school or genre in the history of art.


Peak


Frazetta


Hale


N.C. Wyeth

I defy you to find images with greater vigor and assertiveness in any art museum.

The difference in visual impact between illustration art and traditional painting is not simply a question of subject matter. Plenty of fine art depicts military battles, murders, rapes and other lurid or violent subjects. Yet, the difference in vitality is apparent:


Ucello


Gentileschi


Rubens

Nor can the difference between illustration and gallery painting be attributed to vigorous brushwork. Twentieth century action painters such as de Kooning, Jackson Pollock and Franz Kline used violent brush strokes to convey raw emotion, yet even their most extreme work lacks the particular force and thrust that can be found in some illustration.


Kline


de Kooning

Abstraction somehow just doesn't seem to produce the same "pop." Perhaps part of the secret lies in the fact that illustrators capture motion as wild as a ballet leap or a spear thrust, yet contain it in a form that is sufficiently controlled to be representational. That tension adds a coiled strength.


Hale (detail)

Phil Hale-- in my view, one of the most powerful and talented painters in this genre today-- talked about the importance of a contrast between two elements:

"I like the (almost stupid) blunt immediacy crushed up against some good painting." Hale says he respects both sides, even the blunt, "stupid" part: "that slightly ridiculous side is actually quite genuine and human and worth including."

I suspect another reason for the distinctive character of illustration stems from its heritage. For more than a century, illustrators have refined the characteristics that make pictures stand out on a crowded magazine rack or book shelf. Through a long incubation period on the covers of lurid pulp magazines in the 1930s, comic books and women's magazines in the 1950s, illustrators learned what makes an image jump out and grab a casual reader by the lapels, and what aspects of traditional pictures were superfluous.

This peculiar flavor to illustration does not make it better or worse than gallery painting, but for those who enjoy the virility of art, illustration is the place to start.

Some pictures may whisper to you, while other pictures may sing. These are the pictures that gasp through clenched teeth, on the final downstroke.

136 Comments:

Blogger D.R. Hovey said...

Excellent post!

3/05/2010 3:41 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

"I defy you to find images with greater vigor and assertiveness in any art museum.

The difference in visual impact between illustration art and traditional painting is not simply a question of subject matter."

David,
You contradict yourself with the very first image. It is highly symmetrical, and is in fact absolutely a question of subject matter. You have made a comparison with very well known images from traditional fine art that suggests your familiarity is limited to a mere cursory "Art Appreciation 101" class, not to mention the ambiguity and subjectivity of terms like "thrust", "vigor", and "assertiveness".

3/05/2010 4:25 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

D.R.-- thanks!

etc, etc-- the best way to disprove my point is to suggest contrary examples. I'm not sure where to go with a semantic dispute about the definition of aesthetic concepts such as "thrust" and "vigor." Do you not see thrust and vigor in these pictures?

Lastly, don't sell Frazetta short just because there is a little symmetry to the first picture. Frazetta is a smart lad; he could not have accomplished this phallic masterpiece simply by slashing his paint brush around, Kline-style. He deliberately created that high contrast focal point of the very light spearhead against the dark mastodon fur. he deliberately amplified that mastodon by chopping off his legs and using the lines of the falling trees to radiate out from him. There's a lot of invention going on here, and some powerful manipulation of archetypes. If you think this picture's strength is "absolutely a question of subject matter," I would urge you to look again.

3/05/2010 4:46 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

There can be something fatiguing about looking at someone suspended in the air, if it is going to be hung on the wall and not seen in a magazine. I have not seen too many illustrations that would stand up on a wall to a Rubens. A Rubens always looks better in reality then it ever does in reproduction, which in my experience is the direct opposite of illustrations. (Personal opinion) Television images are always violent and ever changing to keep the viewer hook, but is there much substance under the eye-catching devices? Thrust can be violent or calm. The planar development of a Greek sculpture contains thrust but it is of a calm reflective nature. The thrust and planar development of a tree does not scream for your attention but if you enter into the space of a tree the satisfaction of it’s relations and its depth is without end. What is the expression “Still waters run deep.”

3/05/2010 4:51 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Tom, I don't disagree with you (except that I believe both Rubens and illustration art look much better in reality than in reproduction.) I would just take your points a little further: There are not many illustrators that can compete with Rubens on a wall (but there aren't many fine artists that can do so, either). I agree there are many virtues to "calm and reflective" pictures (but an excess of them can be just as fatiguing as an excess of dynamic pictures). I do admire the planar development of a tree (but I admire the planar development of a tiger as well.)

3/05/2010 5:14 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

David,
High contrast focal points and radiation lines have been around for a very long time; I would not call that invention. As far as suggesting contrary examples, you have made it quite clear (even throwing down the gauntlet) that your mind is made up already and it would be a total waste of time.

3/05/2010 5:30 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

Hi David

I agree I love the planar development of a tiger also and the planar development of all things. To me that is where so much of the power of an artwork lies, in how the the artist has conceptualize form not what the form is i.e. tiger, tree boat etc. There is a great mystery in form itself and a great emptiness. Also check the eye contact in the Rubens between all those figures including the horses; see how he moves us around. There is no doubt about the direction and orientation of all his forms, from briddle to forearms to breasts and that is at the heart of thrust, where things are going.

3/05/2010 6:00 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

Great Topic by the way

3/05/2010 6:05 PM  
Anonymous MORAN said...

Glad to see you focusing on Hale. He is fabulous and I'd like to know more about him. You should spend more time on the current illustrators, rather than the ones from the last century.

3/05/2010 6:34 PM  
Blogger John said...

Where did you get that gigantic scan of a Hale painting and are there any more?

3/05/2010 6:38 PM  
Blogger Leland Purvis said...

Good pulls. I would never have spotted that for Bob Peak, great stuff. And Phil Hale is a favorite. If you ever get the chance to see any of his originals in person, I recommend it highly.

3/05/2010 7:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Enjoyed your post, as always. I agree with your celebration of illustration's liveliness, but your swipe at "fine" art is unnecessary and unpersuasive. Aren't you struck by the over-the-top, comic book appeal of Baroque art? Figures flying through space at perspectives that break the picture plane, monsters, decapitations, heroes and heroines every bit as loony as Frazetta's, black backgrounds and theatrical lighting like Pulp covers...all done 400 years ago without photo references. Why pit illustration against museum pictures?? You slight great art and illustration doesn't need the defense.

3/05/2010 7:59 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Moran-- I agree with you about Hale. I think his work is terrific.

John-- Normally I try to use images from originals whenever I can, but this week I struck out. The Hale images are just scans of paintings that have been reproduced in a number of books, including Spectrum and More Fantasy Art Masters (by Dick Jude).

Leland-- Glad you liked the Peak; there's a lot of great material back there. And I agree with you about Phil Hale's originals.

3/05/2010 9:26 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Anonymous- I take your comment seriously; I love traditional art and have written admiringly about "fine" artists (Rembrandt, Durer, Michelangelo, Rodin, Breughel, etc.) including "modern" artists (Picasso, Dubuffet, Gottlieb, Miro, etc.) as often as I thought I could get away with on a blog about "illustration."

In the broader sense, I view many of those classical artists as "illustrators" anyway, including Rubens, who illustrated the story of the rape of the Sabines.

But it is tough to write these things so that they don't tilt toward one side or the other. In this post, I emphasized that "This peculiar flavor to illustration does not make it better or worse than gallery painting," but I tend to assume that illustration will be met with more unfair skepticism, so perhaps I put my thumb on the scale subconsciously to deal with the heavier burden of proof.

3/05/2010 10:38 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Great post. Great pictures. (I would add Steve Huston's boxing pictures and Dan Adel's seascapes to the mix of modern masters of action)

At one time I was fascinated with that Rubens picture. (ooh... look at the pinwheel!) Now it just looks posed and fake to me.... hysterical, silly, melodramatic... All the rest of his stuff too, all constructed piecemeal, rather than imagined as a vision. (Although Boreas Abducts Oreithya is suprisingly Elvgrenesque.)

The emphasis on obviously symbolic actions, hand-me-down conventions, and allegory, rather than authentic behaviors, direct plein air observation, and proportionate reactions, really kept art in the realm of the mannered for an incredibly long period of time.

I've been tracing back when romantic realism first kicked the mannered conventions of baroque action to the curb. I think DeLouthenbourg was the first to make believable "action" landscapes (followed closely by Turner and Martin).

In terms of figural action, the first believable adventure image is probably Gerome's Pollice Verso. But the figure is not really in action. Things start picking up with Winslow Homer in the early 1880s (the life line, fog warning, herring net) and then by the late 1880s and 1890s lots of guys are doing realistic physical action (Luminais is noteworthy, along with Pyle and Remington and others.)

I'd love it if anybody could offer examples of earlier unmannered action image makers.

(I would deny entry in this category to anything by Rembrandt, Rubens, Tiepolo, Titian, Gericault, David, Velasquez, Michaelangelo, Da Vinci, or Delacroix... just in case those were first thoughts.)

3/05/2010 10:48 PM  
Blogger I.Welsh said...

I've seen many of Rubens originals at a local art museum, and I have to say, I am not impressed with his work. I find that I agree with you on the fine art vs. illustration front. It's always been a battle, illustrators never fit in with the likes of Van Gogh or Vermeer. But I don't think the forefathers like Dore, Klimt or Mucha wanted to be in those classifications.

Fine art always had a distant and quelled look to it. Whether it is Rubens "Allegory of the Outbreak of War" or Fuseli's "The Nightmare." You get a sense of a sigh in the piece. It's light, there's no weight to it. But if you look at Frazetta's "The Death Dealer" you feel like this creature is infront of you. You feel his overbearing presence quieting your breath a bit. You feel his dominion. The only fine artists I've seen capable of that were the High Renaissance greats. Now you look at guys like Dell'otto, Bianchi and Ross. These guys are the new generation and they up the ante and look at how fine art has collapsed into recreating post modern trash.

3/06/2010 1:09 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Kev-- what about Copley's Watson and the shark?

I like this Rubens. Notice how he took the same kind of liberties with that chestnut horse that Frazetta took with that mastodon, distorting its shape to serve the composition of the picture. The horse's head is way to tiny, the chest appears steam rollered and way too broad. The way the Roman is seated is physically impossible. But the shape works for the design, and that's what's important.

The Rubens painting may not match the virility of the Frazetta, but the flesh of those Sabine women makes up for it.

3/06/2010 3:37 AM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

Daxid, how dare you take a backhanded swipe at fine art? However, it's long been fair game to take backhanded and front-handed swipes at illustration. Aside from being whores who have sold out, none of us are terribly intelligent.

For penance, go to a museum with etc and join him on his knees as you go from masterpiece to masterpiece until either it or the splinters sink in.

Bad boy, David! There's a reason for the warm comfort of orthodox and unoriginal thinking and how dare you try to tip the sacred cows...bad boy!

3/06/2010 6:55 AM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

kev ferrara said...

"I'd love it if anybody could offer examples of earlier unmannered action image makers."

"(I would deny entry in this category to anything by Rembrandt, Rubens, Tiepolo, Titian, Gericault, David, Velasquez, Michaelangelo, Da Vinci, or Delacroix... just in case those were first thoughts.)"

Brilliant. You win.

3/06/2010 8:28 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Thanks David...

But do you really believe, in your heart of hearts, this Harpoon picture?

It was a great failing, I believe, of historical art for most of its existence... the need to show everything important simultaneously and in equal focus. Also awkward compositions (the theatrical staging) and poses (the reaching nude), melodramatic over-reactions and comical under-reactions among the figures. (i.e. the figures on the boat who seem to barely be aware of what's going on.) and the fakeness of essential aspects of the picture (the shark, the over-bouyant nude, the harbor, and the green grass-colored water)

All of the above failings are the hallmark of a constructed, rather than imagined, picture.

Compare this with the image presented in this Luminais: http://www.athle.com/upload/ssites/001078/images/Auvrgne_-_histoire/luminais_pirates_normands.jpg

(Which reminds me, I forgot to mention Brandt as an important action artist of the late 19th century.)

On the Rubens... I think for some, rendering is everything in terms of believability. But I would gladly sacrifice rendering for overall believability. All I see now in that Rubens is the Pinwheel of the limbs, and the pat way the cloth sits on the ground, the stiff neck of the guy on the horse, the parallel hoofs to the right, the lack of cast shadow in various spots.... I do not believe the moment at all. I believe the rendering, sure, but that's like enjoying the witty dialogue in a movie scene where somebody much beloved has just died (i.e. the screenwriter is all about showing off, rather than actually writing the story so it functions as a cathartic aesthetic experience related to real life.)

I guess it is the resonant power of an image that causes us to forgive the fakeness that every picture has. Even though the Rubens is far more effectively rendered than the Frazetta, I believe the Frazetta as an image, and not the Rubens. (Of course, the Frazetta is much more effective in real life than any reproduction I've seen of it. Not that any of us will ever get to see it again. The Rubens is even better technically than reproductions, but more or less the same as an image.)

Anyway, that's just my opinion on things...

kev

3/06/2010 9:35 AM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

haINt buT ONe wAy tuh BE ShoRE bOYs....getCHEE chaEEEn AN hoOK It UP tUH yOre pICKup n MIne n sEE whiCHUN KIN OUTPULL

3/06/2010 10:27 AM  
Anonymous etc, etc said...

hAINT GOT NUTHIn' 2 SAY worth SAYIN'... but I SAY IT ANYWAY, becAWZ I'm a loser and a TOOL... and I WANTS you AWL TO KNOW IT

3/06/2010 10:55 AM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

David, the examples you've chosen seem to illustrate the power of strong, solid draughtsmanship coupled with pared-down composition, which gives, i think, the 'pop' you refer to. this willingness to pare down and focus only on the essentials of the scene is much more common in illustration than fine art, because of the eye-catching quality that commercial imagery usually feels it requires (fine art having the luxury of being as vague and indirect as it feels like being). of course you could find lots of contradictory examples from each field if you wanted to.



"I'd love it if anybody could offer examples of earlier unmannered action image makers."


Kev, Caravaggio did some very convincing figure-in-action paintings (not violent action) e.g...


http://tinyurl.com/ygeacpf

3/06/2010 12:10 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Laurence... wow! You are exactly right. That is a very convincing Caravaggio in all regards. Strong image too.

Thanks,
kev

3/06/2010 2:14 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

Kev, when you consider that the above painting was done in 1601, 280 years before the invention of photography (which i think is the main influence toward realism re your 1880 date) then it's nothing short of flabbergasting.

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio veered quite a bit between the gritty realism of the above (which is copied directly from models) and a more mannered unrealistic style which seems difficult to shake off.

this is another powerful one:

http://tinyurl.com/yee93py


sometimes you get the unconvincing and the realistic in one painting:

http://tinyurl.com/y9gy332

3/06/2010 3:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kev - big fan of Steve Huston , also Alex Kanevsky . It would be interesting to give any living or dead illustrator/artist a commission of --- a warrior/primitive charging a mastodon head on , do it overnight and use little or no visual references --- and see what resulted .

Al McLuckie

3/06/2010 4:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Minor point, but in criticizing Rubens et al, I think it would be more fair if commentators took into account that the aims of art were different then. We think the posing and idealization looks hokey and unconvincing, but art was supposed to be ennobling, glorifying, and improving. Part of the reason we like Caravaggio so much is he said the hell with that.

3/06/2010 5:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

>>I defy you to find images with greater vigor and assertiveness in any art museum.<<

Solomon
J.
Solomon

3/06/2010 5:55 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Laurence... I agree, it is completely astonishing that he was doing that so early on. Extraordinary. I think of Vermeer in the same breath. Far, far ahead of their times.

Al McLuckie (martial arts guy?) - I completely agree about Kanevsky. I think he is one of the greatest artists of this era. And I completely agree about the role of imagination. Without it, I wouldn't care a bit about art.

On criticizing Rubens... There is a school of thought regarding art appreciation that proclaims that history matters more than art. I consider that view to be part of the horrendous over-elevation of the academic taxonomer over flesh and blood humans and our applied intelligence.

I subscribe to the other view, that art is timeless, that human beings haven't changed a jot in a millenia, and that, therefore, we monkeys of modernia may judge freely the products of the past according to merits of our own choosing.

You can't force anybody to like mannerism. The problem is not with people who don't like it. The problem is with mannerism. Manners, like stilted fashions, are not timeless. Conventions based on falsity quickly become cliches.

Anon... yeah, I was going to mention SJS. He is finally getting his due nowadays. A master image maker.

3/06/2010 6:22 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

"The problem is with mannerism. Manners, like stilted fashions, are not timeless. Conventions based on falsity quickly become cliches."

Kev,
To what degree if any do you consider your own art mannered?

3/06/2010 7:14 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

I'll leave that for you to judge, smart fellah.

3/06/2010 7:18 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

"I'll leave that for you to judge, smart fellah."

Frankly I judge much of it to be highly mannered, and find a great deal of irony in your castigation of mannerism.

3/06/2010 8:28 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

That's fascinating.

3/06/2010 8:54 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

I.Welsh said: "look at how fine art has collapsed into recreating post modern trash."

It can be risky to condemn avant garde art too reflexively. Sometimes you just have to give it a little time. But I must say, I agree with you that much of post modern art has lapsed into puerile nonsense. One reason for focusing on the vigor of commercial art in this post is that it is in such striking contrast with the path of much "fine" art which seems increasingly thin and purposeless.

3/06/2010 11:29 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

I don’t know Kev; you seem to be applying one criteria to all art. The art of the past is capable of commenting on your opinion also. The failures you see in Rubens are also his strengths. What he lacks in ‘believability” (which is another form or type of mannerism) he makes up for with strength and clarity. Or maybe a better why to say it is, his clarity is his strength. His understanding of anatomy as expressed in the clarity of his drawing is mind blowing. He had no photos, he had to understand how the body worked in order to create those figures and the clarity extends all the way out to the little toe in a rhythmic pattern, turning knowledge into poetry. As Louie Armstrong sing, “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.”

On top of that he has lined eight figures across the picture plane as well as into a depth of about six feet, on a canvas that is about 7 feet by 7 feet, (which means each of the figures are life size or larger) with no ambiguity in regards to the position of each figure to each other and the figures own internal relations. On top of that the “thrust” of every form, from horses ears, to horses rib cages too the ladies little fingers are stated without any confusion to their position in space and there position to the whole. (I was amazed when I started to read Descriptive geometry books). Reproductions tend to equalize everything the sheer scale of a Rubens painting is outrageous; some of them are the size of movie screens.

His pinwheel is a source of energy itself, as a tool of composition it might be contrived (I don’t know, it works in D.C.) but it is also the source of the internal energy that creates the convexities of form in the living bodies, the convex is life itself. This Radiation is like the beginning of the universe, the big bang moving in all directions at once, or to use David’s term. “thrusting” in all directions at once.


The true “subject,” of the painting is vitality, the flow of the intelligence that expresses the universe itself. His action does not lie in the apparent subject but in how the subject is developed, his brush movement is the action, he doesn’t expect you to mistake his painting for reality. He expects you to share in his feelings about the world he loves. To quote Renoir (boy I know he is not an action painter) “I like a painting which makes me want to stroll in it, if it is a landscape, or to stroke a breast or a back, if it is a figure.”

Remington‘s cowboys and Homers Woodsmen (I’m a lumber jack and I’m ok, Monty python), cowboys protecting the water hole, men saving women at sea are as conventional and mannered as any Greek god or myth or maybe a better why to but it is that the outer form has changed, togas replaced by rain slickers, olive wraths replaced by cowboy hats. Remington’s and Homer’s handling of space is a poor and flat thing relative to a Rubens although the action may be more real “ more photographic”. Neither shows the delight or the confidence of Rubens handling nor the depth of his form development. Renoir says it better again, “A painter who has a feeling for breasts and buttocks is a saved man.”

Everything about art is mannered isn’t it? It all depends on where a cultural or person considers the true meaning of art lies. For some it lies in the specific, the individual, and ambiguity while others find it in the general, in type and in clarity. Like French and English gardens, the French garden is mannered, stylize and reveals man’s geometry, man added to nature while the English garden is Nature unadorned in all its simplicity, as it is. Many cultures and people will always chose clarity of statement over “realism’ as the “Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting states, “Rocks must always have three faces”.

3/07/2010 12:11 AM  
Blogger Alan Lawrence said...

This strange Idea that doing a story in paint or pencil or ink, is somehow inferior to doing a portrait, or a nude, or a still life... is utterly ridiculous.

When a cave man drew the first mastodon he was recording a story. A hunting story. When the ancient greeks painted athletes around pots and plates, they were doing action stories about their illustrious sports heroes.

When Renaissance artists painted action scenes, they were usually meant for some church or other. Michelangello’s clients were popes and other powerful church leaders. The pope wanted Bible illustrations to inspire the faithful and that is what they got. Masterful drawing and powerhouse figure paintings were a bonus.

Pre ‘20th Century New Speak..’ artists and art buyers always assumed that paintings were there to illustrate a story. Even a sheared girl with her flock was part figure study, part rural drama.

Will this beautiful, vulnerable girl need to defend her flock from a hungry wolf?

Will her handsome boyfriend pitch in and save her at the last moment?

Simple figure paintings or quiet portraits are full of potential dramatic or romantic scenarios. I dislike obvious, explicit action paintings for the same reason that I dislike explicit pornography. Both depiction's rob the viewer of his creative imagination. It’s all there in your face, no need for the viewer to imagine anything, it’s all been done for him.

You showed a painting of a boy walking in a forrest in an earlier post. There was a Cougar on a tree branch in the top of the painting. This, in my opinion, is the best action painting on this site... because the action is yet to come.

Will the boy be killed? Will his father fire a rifle just as the animal is about to pounce on the defenceless lad?

Artists, writers and imaginative folks of all kinds like to add their own scenarios to great images. It’s the artists job to provide the imaginative spark, not the explosion.

All the nonsense about fine art verses commissioned art would have confused Michelangello, Rubens and the other great story tellers. To those guys, art was working to a brief, on commission, for a client, to a deadline. They were all illustrators, artists... What we call them now is irrelevant.

Renoir hated to be called an artist. He started out as a lad, painting porcelain in a factory and his tradesman’s attitude stayed with him, even when he was a wealthy old man and the art establishment treated him like some sort of art super star. Fine artists painting formal, esoteric, canvases in Parisian Garrets for elitist intellectuals with wine glasses and fat wallets...

What’s that all about? asks the confused tradesman, Renoir.

I’m with Renoir, Art is a trade, like any other. Draw a comic strip, paint a porcelain pot or a huge gallery canvas with esoteric hogwash...

Get paid for it.

End of story.

Alan

3/07/2010 12:21 AM  
Blogger Philip said...

very interesting post
thanks

3/07/2010 3:40 AM  
Blogger Benjamin von Eckartsberg said...

Thanks for stealing away my afternoon with this excellent post and the serious yet entertaining discussion!

3/07/2010 7:54 AM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

"Remington’s and Homer’s handling of space is a poor and flat thing relative to a Rubens although the action may be more real “ more photographic”. Neither shows the delight or the confidence of Rubens handling nor the depth of his form development"


i'm with Kev on this one. i'm not even sure what is meant to be happening in that Rubens example. 'Watson and the Shark' (David's earlier example) is also unbelievable but i suppose we can't really know the intention of each artist. Watson and the shark has more of a dream-like allegorical quality because of the lack of everyday believability, but perhaps that was intentional in the same way a large mural might use completely unrealistic space in which to place a complex narrative.
personally i find Flemish painting to be quite beautiful at times despite, or even because of the distorted pictorial space...

http://tinyurl.com/yf6ynnu

perhaps 'stylization' (which i'm all for) is simply 'mannerism' that works ? when a picture has a uniform stylization which infuses the whole pictorial world (according to it's own rules) it can transport the viewer somewhere else. the Rubens, though, just looks confusing.

3/07/2010 8:52 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Tom, I appreciate Rubens for all the reasons you describe. But, at the same time, the distance caused by the mannerist staging (the direction of the scene) prevents, for me anyway, the real feeling of "thrust." I tend to prefer Rubens' drawings because they are so honest.

We can all agree, I think, that all art has its conventions, manners, errors, and failures, the question is, how do we get past them? Or, better yet, when do we not notice them? For me, the power of the image is the dominant force in a picture. If it is striking enough, and true enough, the small factual errors that may otherwise be significant (if rendering were the main point) become inconsequential and go unnoticed.

It may be that I am overly sensitive to the compositional devices used by artists prior to the 19th century. I do think as time wore on -- maybe due to the rise of photography, maybe due to the rise of fantastic newspaper illustrators, or better salon artists -- the entire western world became more sophisticated about composition, in the same way that movies progressed from naive theater-goers jumping away from the oncoming train to savvy cineastes appreciating the complex time structures of films like Citizen Kane, Rashomon and Memento and the cross-cutting of Wild Bunch.

Mucha admonished his students to "hide their artistry" in his lectures of the late 19th century. Pyle and Dunn taught that the only point of technique was to serve the picture's needs. I think Rubens, in general, flaunts his compositional arsenal (and a considerable one that is, to be sure). And that's fine, if formal assaults on the eye are your interest. I am more interested in the informal assaults that are baked into strong images. If this is a lopsided view, so be it.

Alan, doesn't it require just as much imagination to project whether the leopard will attack the guy in the pith helmet, as to whether Mr. Pith Helmet will be able to defeat the leopard now that they're in mid-tumble? I agree it is important that the imagination be engaged. But I would hardly compare the action images of Frazetta, Hale, or Huston (which I do think engage our imaginative faculties) to the lasciviously gore-drenched pictures of, say, a Tim Vigil in his Faust comic books.

3/07/2010 9:03 AM  
Blogger Tom said...

Hi Kev-I guess I do think rendering (although I would not use that word) is the mean point. A person's technique is how one thinks and feels about the world. His or her technique also reveals how they think things are put together. You can only rendered your understanding of things. What I am saying is truth doesn’t just reside in appearance. It resides in understanding. If you understand how the world arranges itself you can just work from your imagination because you are the same thing as reality. In a lot of ways I view the subject as neutral. Like Alan said a good artist can cause you to be interested in an apple.
To me composition is much more a reflection of outlook and viewpoint. The calmness of plane changes across a Greek sculpture reflects a worldview an understanding of reality. I don't know if our sense of composition has become more sophisticated when I look around at the houses and building we build today. Although a lot of our cars and fighter planes look really good, but they take the form of least resistance.
I don't know why you would hide your artistry when making art. You can't hide it anyway. Life is always in full view. Art is a joy and that joy should be shared I think. I don’t think there is anything overcome or we need to correct the past, they saw a lot of things we do not see today. But again these are questions of outlook.

Hi Laurence- the action of the figures my not be clear in the Rubens but I still do not think that is what the painting is about, the subject is his love of life and the form itself which is clear as bell. I think that is why artist like Delacroix, Cezanne and Renoir admired his work so much.

3/07/2010 10:02 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Tom, you make an interesting argument, but one that I always find myself puzzled by. Not that there isn't a case to be made that an artist's viewpoint manifests in the way they operate with their materials. I'm sure there's a strong case there, very much like how neat handwriting seems to imply a buttoned-down mind, while unreadable scrawl means either impatience, insanity, or a medical degree.

But an image, arriving directly from the imagination... that seems to me a rather more direct statement of core beliefs about reality, unfiltered by conscious interference, unencumbered by what one has been trained to consider right or moral or politically correct or artistically permissable or compositionally sound.

Which reminds me to say, the point of hiding one's artistry is to avoid the plodding scrutiny of the intellect and to blast straightaway at the subconsciousness of the viewer.

One can be a virtuoso joy-of-life-affirming painter (Brangwyn, Sargent, Walter Everett, Cornwell, etc.) and still create highly personal images that resonate with more than the handwriting of the artist.

Correct me if you feel I'm missing your meaning.

kev

3/07/2010 12:11 PM  
Anonymous jsl said...

Hale is great, but he is able to achieve part of that speed because of photography that Rubens didn't have. Hale blurs hands and robot parts and our eyes recognize that as fast movement because of the photographs we've seen. Rubens looks slow and dull by comparison because he didn't have that knowledge.

3/07/2010 12:36 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

"It may be that I am overly sensitive to the compositional devices used by artists prior to the 19th century."

Kev,
Do you consider it a possibility that you could in fact be largely ignorant of compositional devices used by artists prior to the 19th century?

3/07/2010 2:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kev - I do teach M.A. occupationally , saw your stuff on the Frazetta forum . Are you familiar with G.Rochegrosse's Andromach ? An 18th century Frazetta if there is one . Al McLuckie

3/07/2010 3:39 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Al... I did know of Rochegrosse, but just a little. I just looked up his Andromach and it is a classic. Reminds me, actually, a lot of Pyle's war pictures, rather than Frazetta. Its a great piece and thank you for pointing it out. (I don't know which Frazetta boards you're talking about btw. Care to enlighten me?)

etc.etc... Why my dear concerned sir, it is indeed a possibility that I am largely ignorant of compositional strategies prior to the 19th century, or after the 19th century. It is also a possibility that I am not largely ignorant of them. (Possibly this notion didn't occur to you.)

Would you consider it a possibility that your intolerance of my opinion on Rubens has resulted in you becoming emotionally unhinged and obsessively seeking some kind of personal verbal vengeance on me through posts on this blog? (That would be silly, wouldn't it?)

Regardless of your issues with me, you might consider restraining your remarks to the difference between romantic action pictures and classical action pictures. Your constant effort to make this a personal issue is surely boring and annoying others as well as yours truly.

Oh, and your first posts accusing David of a cursory knowledge of classical art, contradicting himself, using vague terms, having his mind already made up... etc... etc.. I mean, please... Do you really think you're owed a goddamned thing by anybody, you tiresome ingrate.

3/07/2010 4:55 PM  
Blogger Diego Fernetti said...

Great post and great examples to illustrate your point. I do think, however, that we're being somehow unfair to the old masters, as their perception of "movement" and "force" in their era was surely different than ours. The XXIth century has been influenced by cinematography, high speed photography, comics, etc. which shows us a complex assortment of "signs" to convey the "thrust" that you describe. I always remember the writing of some Leonardo Da Vinci biographer, who described the horror of someone who saw a monstruous face painted by Leonardo on a shield. Who would flinch at the sight of even the fiercest monster's face nowadays?

3/07/2010 5:47 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

AFter all of these decades in art, I feel particularly blessed to be here, at this point in time to witness the giant sea change in our understanding of art that this discussion has engenedered. Assembled are certainly the finest minds ever put together in one small,but seminal, groups of important and knowledgeable thinkers assembled since the Council of Worms.

What an honor it has been to bask in the luminance of this many droppers of well-worn names. It's as though the great Sister Wendy had been reborn on the Internet.

While I might know a lot about art, I don't know what I like and this conversation helps cement that lack in place. I rest soundly in full knowledge that there will never be a gas shortage as long as you experts congregate to drop your cliche leavings on we lesser souls.

3/07/2010 6:41 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Rob-- no, this week is etc, etc's turn to go loco. You aren't scheduled for a while yet.

3/07/2010 6:54 PM  
Blogger Tom Lyle said...

kev-
Interesting that you mention Dan Adel in your first post. I was unaware of Dan's work until I taught this quarter (I teach for SCAD in Savannah, GA) in Lacoste, France. Who should live here, but Dan Adel.

Talented, gracious, funny as hell and a genuinely nice person.

I like his technique.

I prefer Frazetta, but ... he's good.

Thanks for the post, David. A very good topic.

Tom

3/07/2010 8:10 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

I'm a loco, intolerant, tiresome ingrate? All I need now is an art forum or blog to moderate!

3/07/2010 8:30 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Hey Tom... sounds like a heck of a nice way to spend a semester!

I don't know Mr. Adel, but he's a friend of some friends of mine. Huge fan of his work. I've seen all his shows at the Arcadia gallery in NYC, and they were fantastic... his seascapes were flat out mind-altering. Like seeing a Jackson Pollock made flesh. I believe he has a monograph coming soon, too.

Rob, poor Rob... reduced to peddling Victorian gas jokes for attention... how could a prick of a balloon be so pointless?

3/07/2010 8:52 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

Hi Kev

This is what I mean, when I went to art school everything was post modern, When I got out of school I went outside and try painting landscapes without much success. In school we mostly learned to define what art was or how it could function in a museum context, which I found interesting for a while. Almost all my instructors where moviemakers, conceptual artist, or minimalist, even old abstract expressionists. At the time I started painting outside I also started going to the museum drawing from the sculptures and painting. Drawing in the museum was the red light, I knew the artist I was looking at could not just be copying what they where seeing. Basically my understanding of drawing at the time was the Betty Edwards method, copying the edges and trying to draw thing by negative shapes. Those methods worked find when I did work from photos but they did not work out so well when working from life.

I finally started getting some books on perspective like Ernest Watson's perspective for artist which open me up to the idea of running my hand around what I saw and understanding and thinking about the whole object when I drew it. Drawing what I saw over a period of time started to lose some of its guesswork. I could control tings a lot more. I could not believe you could actual measure out the entire space of your picture once you decided on a scale for your horizon line. This lead to a lot of books on geometry and even books on descriptive geometry. In which western man can located any given point or line or shape in exact space (you may already know this) this is great for cutting stones and addressing mining problem (where to dig and at what angle).
Any way so what I mean viewpoint or technique is how an artist has conceptualize what he or she is going to draw. An obvious example would be George Bridgeman, not until I started to reading about perspective and believing the world exited in 3d did I have any idea what he writing about and explaining in regards to the human body (All his analogies to architecture). Watson’s book is good to because he shows so many examples of how artist have solve simple to complex spatial problems. Fra Anglco's head construction drawing and Durer’s Chalice drawing look like that could have come from a computer (if you know the drawings I am talking about). Older books can even be wilder like Rex Vicat Cole or George Storey books on perspective because they go into further depth then contemporary books. How to draw comics the Marvel Way was also revealing as was Ken Hultgreen's book on animal drawing.
When I learned you could do a drawing from a ground plane I was really blown away. I also really liked the old drawings architecture firms did of houses that where only proposals, again all drawn from a plans to scale. There are a lot of examples in Watson’s ink drawing book. A lot of artist who do aircraft paintings do the same thing. So as I have become more aware of these things I have become more amazed at what people have done. How they have conceived the forms they are going to paint, that is how they thought them through dimensionally. At it's simplest a coffee cup can be thought of as a sphere that has been cut in half, this ability to think in terms of analogy can make the world quite interesting and engaging. I know it is nothing new but it was new to me.

The Chinese painting manual I mentioned earlier is good to, they have some wonderful ideas for conceiving from and relations between things but their language is totally different much more poetic.

3/08/2010 12:50 AM  
Blogger Francis Vallejo said...

sorry to break up the flow...but great post!!

Hale is indeed a genius!

3/08/2010 1:26 AM  
Blogger Joss said...

This worm is very impressed with the intelligence of many comments here, I think Rob is too, otherwise would he grace us with his glow?

3/08/2010 4:17 AM  
Blogger Joss said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3/08/2010 4:35 AM  
Blogger Joss said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3/08/2010 4:46 AM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

ass thrusting worm brains on dope.

wevz.

3/08/2010 7:04 AM  
Blogger Alan Lawrence said...

A short message to Tom.

For every real, hard working artist, there are a million posers, fast track whiz kids, wannabe conceptual tossers and minimalist lazy buggers, who reckon one coat of hogwash and a good write-up will get them a reputation and cash to burn. Super star, so called artists, like the jerks who sell their own shit in cans, knock up ‘Piss Christs’ or build huge flower power puppies.

Give me a good primary school, ‘Portrait Of Miss’, or an honest life drawing from a first year art student any day of the week.

Call me old fashioned, but like the owner of this blog... I love real art, in real pencil, pen or paint. And I do not care what Century it comes from. A real work of art is ageless.

Keep posting the good stuff and leave the cans of shit to people who like that kind of thing.

Alan

3/08/2010 9:19 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Tom... I think I understand you better now: How an artist conceptualizes form and depth is very telling of their world view... the analogies we use say a lot about us.

I do agree with that premise to a degree, especially with more philosophically-minded works. But I can't see that there is much of a difference between conceptualizing form in the Bridgman manner versus the Bammes manner.

There is a big difference, of course, between Bridgman and the mostly nonexistent form of works such as Persian miniatures.

But does the lack of form in Persian miniatures mean there is a shared viewpoint there between the Persian artist and, say, a cartoonist in the U.S. right now who doesn't bother about rendering or implying form. I think the only similarity is a certain naivete... which is a lack of a world view, I would say, or a provincial world view at best.

When I consult a work of art (or any information source), I expect it will talk to me at my own level or from a higher perch. Unless, what I'm after is a retreat into simplicity, in which case a good 'ol cartoon is just what the doctor ordered. (Although I prefer Ren and Stimpy to Persian Miniatures, generally)

If Rubens subscribes to the notion of the "will to the plane" is he making an assertion about his world view or about art? In either case, personally, I don't see a necessary connection. Moreover, his spectacularly realistic rendering seems to contradict the flatness of his planar composing. Thus, I find his rendering doesn't harmonize with his compositions.

Yes, I know Wofflin said that one of the hallmarks of classicism is the disunity caused by multiplicity... but that doesn't mean I have to lend multiplicity as an idea a jot of credibility. I simply don't think it works and from what I can see of later classicists like Ingres, the tenet of multiplicity was considerably muffled, so even the staunch classicists seemed to have a problem with it. Even Rubens was more unified than many of his predecessors in classicism.

Falsity is all well and good, it seems to me, when the unity of the work is predicated on falsity. (Falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus!) Although, I have a number of artist friends who enjoy obvious falsity in their pictures to play against realism and to toy with standards of perception. So, each to his own. But I don't see how the kind of effects present in Frazetta, Wyeth, Hale, and others can be accomplished except through a focused presentation of the "image as a reality" above all else.

3/08/2010 10:26 AM  
Blogger Joss said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3/08/2010 11:27 AM  
Blogger Joss said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3/08/2010 11:40 AM  
Blogger Alan Lawrence said...

Don’t want to start a fight or anything, Joss... But you seem to say the same meaningless thing, over and over again...

"ass thrusting worm brains on dope."

I’m all for free speech, but... What is your point exactly, Is it a put down, a comment on ass thrusting... dope...what?

To kev ferrara,

Art has nothing to do with world views or complex compositional formula, and as for superficial analysis of great art, seen from the perspective of the 21st Century. Rubens would get dizzy and go nuts in our slight speed, broad band world.

Most 21st Century people, me included, have the attention span of a gold fish. We’re brought up like that. Just listen to a teenager talk. If you can catch two words in a sentence, you’re a better man than me Gunga Dinn.

Quote...

Moreover, his spectacularly realistic rendering seems to contradict the flatness of his planar composing. Thus, I find his rendering doesn't harmonise with his compositions.

End quote.

Just say... I don’t buy that Rubens action scene. It looks staged...or phoney.

You could make the same comment about a ‘Die Hard’ action scene, where Bruce kills a whole team of bad guys toting machine pistols... with his bare hands.

I’ve rendered hundreds of story panels, and not once did I think, ‘Gee, better make this one closer to Bridgemen, verses the Brammes manner.

Meet a deadline with quality pencils and inking... That’s how a working artist thinks... All this deep thinking, world view stuff is for people chilling out on weed, in a student garret, with no kids, no mortgage and no fire breathing art editor on the rampage. Intellectualising about something a 6 year old child understands perfectly when he does a ‘Portrait Of Miss.’ is ridiculous.

Art is about visualising something and rendering it so other people can see it too. If you can do that, you can call yourself an artist. How good an artist? That is for others to judge.

Alan

3/08/2010 6:36 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

Okay David, I'll join in Giotto di Bondone (Italian, 1267–1337)
Leonardo da Vinci (Italian, 1452–1519)
Albrecht Dürer (German, 1471–1528)
Michelangelo (Italian, 1475–1564)
Titian (Italian, c.1477–1576)
Sandro Botticelli (Italian, 1445–1510)
Raphael (Italian, 1483–1520)
Hans Holbein the Younger (German, 1497–1543)
Jacopo Tintoretto (Italian, 1518–1594)
Pieter Bruegel the Elder (Flemish, c.1525–1569)
Paolo Veronese (Italian, c.1528–1588)
El Greco (Greek-born Spanish, 1541–1614)
Frans Hals (Dutch, 1580–1666)
Caravaggio (Italian, 1573–1610)
Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish, 1577–1640)
Nicolas Poussin (French, 1594–1665)
Diego Velázquez (Spanish, 1599–1660)
Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606–1669)
Johannes Vermeer (Dutch, 1632–1675)
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (Italian, 1691–1770)
Joshua Reynolds (English, 1723–1792)
Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746–1828)


Thank God for cut and paste intellectualism. It makes the dimmest of us appear bright. As for the names, well it just felt good to drop them! I know, I should have put up the warning sign...CAUTION DROPPING NAMES

3/08/2010 8:08 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Alan,

I checked out your work here: http://illustratoralan-alan.blogspot.com/

Congratulations on your longevity in the field.

Regarding the gist of your criticism... Just so we're clear about this very basic point: I'll think what I want to think, and articulate what I think in the way I want to articulate it. You obviously don't have to agree with me, or even read what I write, and I'm not affected by what your opinion of me is, so your attempted barbs are just a waste of time.

But you knew all that already.

Regarding the specifics of your criticism and your authoritative pronouncements about art, all I can say is; Have you read ANYTHING written about art in the past 500 years?

If you want to think and write about art as if all artists were blue collar types, who don't have philosophical positions, or profound ideas about composition, I think that's great. I will look forward to your contributions to the discussion.

Maybe you're right and all those millions of words we thought were by Kant or Cezanne or Cennini or Hegel or Pyle or Carlson or Delacroix or Ruskin or Heidegger... were actually forged by pseudo intellectuals looking to read more into the finger paintings of 6-year olds.

Weirder things haven't happened.

kev

(I included that list of names just for you Robbie. You sweet little oaf, you.)

3/08/2010 9:24 PM  
Blogger Vandana Rajesh said...

Lovely post.Please do visit my digital art blog that combines fine art photography and digital art.

3/08/2010 11:23 PM  
Blogger Laurence said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3/09/2010 4:08 AM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

"If you want to think and write about art as if all artists were blue collar types, who don't have philosophical positions, or profound ideas about composition, I think that's great"



but the real question is... do philosophical positions and/or profound ideas about composition produce better paintings ?
isn't that the slippery road to conceptual-ville ?

does the intellectual wield a meaner paintbrush than the brute ?
as Francis Bacon (the painter, not the philosopher, obviously) once said "i've made images that intellect could never produce".

3/09/2010 4:12 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Those are great questions, Laurence (glad you're here to have an actual conversation with, btw)

"do philosophical positions and/or profound ideas about composition produce better paintings?"

As far as I can tell, the most intellectually spectacular moment of aesthetic philosophy in the arts was roughly between 1870 and WWI. At this point in history the Avant Garde were the artists who had gone through the most rigorous training available, the culmination of 400 years of more or less steady progress in the arts, who strove mightily for integrity, strong images, and a personality of their own, and were thoroughly grounded in aesthetic philosophy and argued it constantly. This era gave rise to Waterhouse, Degas, Klimt, Zorn, Sargent, Leyendecker, Pyle, Brangwyn, Fechin, Repin, Cox, Sydney Long, Twachtman, DuMond, Schiele, Abbey, Van Gogh, Bocklin, Alma Tadema, Von Stuck, Vuillard, and Eakins, just to name a few. For every one of these names, there is an instantly recognizable style, yet great artistic integrity. I would answer then that, yes aesthetic philosophy and profound ideas about composition most certainly improve artwork. Especially when those systems have integrity and promote integrity.

"isn't (philosophy) the slippery road to conceptual-ville ?"

When aesthetic philosophers no longer have sense or integrity or give a damn about the beautiful, the true, the culture, being happy... and only care about destroying what is beautiful or pleasing, or only care about politics, or being an armchair radical, or promoting themselves, or taking revenge on the talented by politicking against them in their rags, their philosophy will hurt rather than help the artist that pays attention to them. The only way to flatter a shallow snarking wordsmith with the power to make or break your career, is to offer nasty one-line jokes as art.

"does the intellectual wield a meaner paintbrush than the brute ?"

Don't be fooled by the face the artist turns toward the public. There is no painter of any note in the world who isn't a formidable aesthetic intellectual. A great painting is positively radioactive with the results of applied knowledge.

"as Francis Bacon (the painter, not the philosopher, obviously) once said "i've made images that intellect could never produce"."

The point of craft, in my understanding, is to release talent and creativity, not to hinder it. An artist may be highly intellectual, but all that rigor is (or should be) at the service of the creative imagination, which runs on the petrol of emotion.

Anyway, again, this is just my opinion on things.

3/09/2010 9:11 AM  
Blogger Alan Lawrence said...

You misunderstand me, kev ferrara.

I am not opposed to genuine intellectual insights into art, philosophy or anything else, and I’m certainly not against anyone having a strongly held opinion.

As to the blue collar artist crack...

Words are not pictures, ideas are not pictures. You can be as thick as a brick, semi illiterate, and still do good drawings and paintings. You can be an intellectual giant and not know a good painting if it bit you in the arse.

Your finger painting comment is interesting...

6 year olds can paint well because they don’t know anything about linear or arial perspective. If we are going to drop names again, and I just love doing that, Rob...

Picasso said he could paint like Raphael when he was an 8 year old, but it took him 60 years to paint like a child.

Well, that crafty Spaniard said it all... and I managed to drop two super star names as well. One from 1483–1520 and the other from the last fun filled century.

Good list of names, Rob... I’m gonna cut, paste and drop em often to make myself sound bright. Well, who the hell wants to sound like a dumb ass?

I’ve red lots of books on art actually, some useful, some a total waste of time.

I like this bog owners romantic artist stories a lot, because I’m a hopeless romantic... Tell me a story and I’ll be your best friend. Drone on about formal art stuff and I will doze off like the Simpson’s grand pa.

Nobody sounds bright when their snoring and dribbling on the shag pile.

Keep posting arty stuff, I love it to bits.

Alan

3/09/2010 10:53 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Thanks for sharing your brilliant insights, Alan. I'll share some of my own in return...

No great artist was ever "thick as a brick" about aesthetics.

Picasso lied for PR effect often and never was a great realist painter despite his solid craftsmanship.

6 year olds can't paint well.

And you clearly haven't read any art books that have helped you.

How's that for a bedtime story to doze off to, Grandpa?

3/09/2010 12:07 PM  
Blogger Shane Pierce said...

great post! look forward to more - thanks

3/09/2010 12:27 PM  
Anonymous Robert Simmons said...

Alan, I was enjoying the discussion.

How's this for an idea... if you don't like the discussion GO AWAY.

Don't complain like a petulant child when the discussion goes over your head.

What is it with hacks, that they always want to drag everyone down and keep everyone down at their intellectual level?

3/09/2010 12:39 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

Kev, i have no problem with any of those artists you've mentioned as having a recognizable style and integrity, but have you made up the term 'aesthetic philosophy' to suit your argument ? (or do you mean the branch of 'aesthetics'...i hope not, let's not go there please). i don't know what you're referring to with that term.

maybe i should have phrased the question ... "is a visual idea always an intellectual idea" ?
i don't think it is. i think you might be putting the cart before the horse. it's easy in hindsight to see a seemingly clever system
when in fact many artists are working simply from instinct, trying out anything that might feel right, that might excite the eye, that might just look good and fresh and new. you make it sound like a dry philosophical game.
what you call 'profound ideas about composition' i would call trial and error. hard work. luck. experience.
or copying others, don't forget that one. was Sargent working from an 'aesthetic philosophy' when he painted
another swagger portrait or was he just a bloody good painter with an amazing eye and technique ? (i think the eye and hand can operate
without any philosophical intervention, without any rational thought at all even).

"When aesthetic philosophers no longer have sense or integrity or give a damn about the beautiful, the true, the culture, being happy..."

by 'aesthetic philosophers' here do you mean critics ? i can't tell.

"There is no painter of any note in the world who isn't a formidable aesthetic intellectual."

again i think you've made up the phrase 'aesthetic intellectual' or maybe you can give me a clearer definition of what you mean by it.
are you saying that you have to THINK a lot about what you are about to paint before you paint it ?

"An artist may be highly intellectual, but all that rigor is (or should be) at the service of the creative imagination, which runs on the petrol of emotion."

i agree... that art is driven by emotion, visual excitement... not intellectual ideas. what it all boils down to is that i don't believe you have to be 'clever' to draw and paint well. 'clever' leads to elephant dung and pickled sharks.

3/09/2010 2:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has anyone here seen Bullets Over Broadway?

3/09/2010 3:06 PM  
Anonymous norm said...

....or Barton Fink?

(the previous anonymous was me too)

3/09/2010 3:08 PM  
Anonymous norm said...

I'm not saying dumb louts make better art than people who overthink everything...but a little balance never hurts....(and I just really like both movies...)

3/09/2010 3:12 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Laurence,

I say "aesthetic philosophy" to distinguish it from the current usage of aesthetics to just mean beautiful. Where truth was once beauty, now only clear skin, neatness, sheen, and symmetry are beautiful.

I say "aesthetic intellectual" to distinguish the species from other sorts of intellectuals, and to disinguish against aestheticians (which has lately become a nom de plump for cosmetologists and plastic surgeons.)

"Aesthetic philosophers" are people who seriously consider and discuss aesthetic philosophy, rather than cosmetology.

This is an excellent question you posed: "Is a visual idea always an intellectual idea?"

This gets sorta esoteric, but I would say there's no meaningful distinction to be drawn between imaginative ideas (which include visual ideas) and intellectual ideas. The origin of all ideas comes through the imaginative faculty of the mind.

The "intellectual" is usually associated with ideas compounded from known textual symbols... but text has its origins in pictographs, and pictographs are just sequential drawings using tribe-accepted symbols. Text is really just a way to lay out symbolic images in a linear way so its easy to follow the music. Art allows for nonlinear symbolism, which is a far more direct way to discuss any idea, but also can get mightily confusing as the reading direction isn't spelled out for us, just like in life.

Norm, there is a third way to go, aside from not thinking and overthinking. Its called thinking.

3/09/2010 3:16 PM  
Anonymous norm said...

Kev:
I agree....the trick is finding that sweet spot.

3/09/2010 3:22 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Its not a trick.

Thought is either applicable or it is not.

Overthinking is when some subject is considered beyond the point that the consideration can yield usable ideas. When to end the discovery process is a sense that can be developed.

Its like mining. Experienced miners get a sense that a mine is exhausted and smartly leave the cave to go use their gold.

Some miners quit early because they don't have the proper equipment or they're too lazy to dig. Some miners are just crazy and dig forever. Some miners can't even find the right place to dig to even begin to mine.

3/09/2010 3:36 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>(I included that list of names just for you Robbie. You sweet little oaf, you.)<<<

Kev, you master of prolixity, I suspect your spelling and grammar checker is stuck at the TOO VERBOSE warning sign. Still I have to admit that it's clever how you have turned beating around the bush into a for of exercise. Perhaps there is a book in the offing on logorrhea as an exercise regimen. You do go on.

3/09/2010 3:37 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>(I included that list of names just for you Robbie. You sweet little oaf, you.)<<<

Kev, you master of prolixity, I suspect your spelling and grammar checker is stuck at the TOO VERBOSE warning sign. Still I have to admit that it's clever how you have turned beating around the bush into a for of exercise. Perhaps there is a book in the offing on logorrhea as an exercise regimen. You do go on.

3/09/2010 3:37 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

You said that already.

3/09/2010 4:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kev - I think I saw your work on the Joe Vicas F.F. forum - whereever it was , I liked it . Al

3/09/2010 4:28 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

"I would say there's no meaningful distinction to be drawn between imaginative ideas (which include visual ideas) and intellectual ideas"


well, a visual idea e.g. a painting, doesn't have to be understood in words. an intellectual idea does.

3/09/2010 5:13 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Laurence, in either case, the actual appreciation of the information in our brains occurs pictographically... Text is just highly abstacted pictography, which has been so abstracted over time (from both pictographic writing and onomatopoetic speech) it is now more like cryptographic code... but a code we can instantly re-interpret as images....

"I traded my little red car to a bedouin for a camel and a canteen of fresh water."

When you read the above, if you invested yourself in the sentence, the words become transparent and fairly well disappear as you imagined the meaning of the words. The words themselves are just touchstones to meaning.

Much of what everybody writes is visually dead however, as we mostly communicate (for expediency) in dead metaphors, the visual meaning of which we have so thoroughly mastered that we don't need to re-visualized the words as we read.

A great book on this is S.I. Hayakawa's Language in Thought and Action.

3/09/2010 6:31 PM  
Blogger Alan Lawrence said...

Oh dear, I’ve just woken up, logged in and been chastised for being a hack who can’t follow all Kev’s impossibly esoteric dialogue... that, according to him, goes right over my balding skull.

Quote...

6 year olds can't paint well.

End Quote.

You obviously do not understand art my friend. 6 year olds only loose their ability to paint well when they start talking about art as if it was a mathematical problem. You paint with your eyes, your balls and your heart, not your mouth.

I used to have a friend like Kev, rattle on for hours about every subject under the sun he did, and then call me thick if I challenged any of his second hand pronouncements.

Needless to say, we are no longer friends. I had the temerity to say...

“A one way conversation is no conversation at all.”

Then he gave me some mad scientist speech that went something like this...

“I’m a mental giant and you’re a bird brain, Alan... like everyone else on this planet... I will rule the world some day.”

I half expected him to bust into maniacal laughter and call his vicious robot body guards. Then I’d know my place, then I’d kneel at his feet and say...

“Oh master, you’re so clever, and I’m so thick, please forgive me and call these vengeful robots off!”

Snivel, snivel, grovel, grovel!!

Think this would make a fine blue collar comic book for people who fall asleep reading art books, written by people who could not or paint a fine female bottom to save their lives, but have a good line in pseudo intellectual bullshit.

Quote...

Thanks for sharing your brilliant insights, Alan. I'll share some of my own in return...

End quote.

Sarcasm does not become mental giants like your good self, leave it to blue collar hacks like me.

Quote...

Picasso lied for PR effect often and never was a great realist painter despite his solid craftsmanship.

End quote.

Picasso could write well. I never get tired reading his great PR pronouncements, or looking at his solid craftsmanship... I presume you used that ‘Craftsman’ crack as a blue collar put down.

Give me an honest craftsman over a pseudo intellectual bore any day of the week.

I will continue to make comments about any pertinacious drivel I hear here or anywhere else. It’s up to the so called, ‘Intellectuals’ to challenge my inferior, blue collar, hack comments.

I might remind you that this blog features working illustrators, guys who sweat over actual drawing boards and know how to draw and paint, as opposed to people who bang on about sacred art... and make Grandpa Alan really sleepy.

Quote...

How's that for a bedtime story to doze off to, Grandpa?

End quote.

“Oh no...Please Noooooooo!! Kev...

More grovelling and snivelling from blue collar Alan...

“Not the one about Joe Blogs’s plainer compositional devises as opposed to Fred Nurkes no brainier approach... How many times ya gonna read me that shit you boring twat.

Weeping and general heartbreak from Alan...

“You’ll be discussing ‘Spear And Jackson Shovels next.”

Yawn!! ZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!

Alan just cried himself to sleep... Aahh!! He looks so sweet now, all quiet and kinda... Hang on...

Hope Kev didn’t bore Alan to death!!

Better than a sleeping pill Kev...

Can I have another story tonight... Oh please!! Let me!!

Alan

3/09/2010 6:45 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Sorry Alan, I skipped over your last post.

3/09/2010 7:19 PM  
Blogger liebesreime said...

For all you knowledgeable fellas (ladies?) out there, what precisely are the differences between fine art and illustration art?
I think if I had a choice of one or the other to buy, picturing the same image, I would buy a fine art piece. (Or does fine art only refer to artists such as Rembrandt, Durer, Michelangelo, Rodin, Breughel?) Offhand, just because the colors are lusher, deeper, richer....not because of "thrust", "vigor", or "assertiveness."
gD!

3/09/2010 7:31 PM  
Blogger BRiZL said...

hi Dave,
very lovely post. I've just been exposed to Phil Hale at a forum i regularly visit: http://3atoys.hyperboards.com/index.php?action=view_topic&topic_id=3153&start=1 This thread is based on his works and actually, he will be showing up to Beijing for an art show with Ashley Wood! plus have his art book published through 3A as well! Again, I find ths post very enlightening! keep up the good work!

3/09/2010 11:58 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

Kev, you're REALLY going to argue that text works the same way as imagery ? then you say...


"Much of what everybody writes is visually dead however, as we mostly communicate (for expediency) in dead metaphors, the visual meaning of which we have so thoroughly mastered that we don't need to re-visualize the words as we read."


don't NEED to ? come on, you can't have it both ways... you just said that information occurs pictographically. either we're seeing pictures in our head or we aren't.
you think that seeing pictures in your brain (aroused by reading text) has the same end effect as taking in imagery through the eyes ?

sorry Kev, but that is such a ridiculous argument i can't even begin.

3/10/2010 3:55 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Laurence, that's fine. We can end the discussion.

3/10/2010 9:39 AM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

wait, let me have a go...

forming a subjective visual picture in the brain after reading a visually descriptive passage from a novel is completely different to viewing a painting (please don't say that it's the same because they are both taken in through the eyes). a brain-image aroused by the text of a novel can be as vague or as detailed as you fancy (many people have incredibly poor inner-visualization abilities for a start) and the subjective factor means that no two people will see exactly the same thing, indeed the likelihood is that they will be vastly different. you're
also assuming that the text will be all visually descriptive. a line like "i hate everything and i want to die" isn't a visual description.

when you look at a painting you are passively observing a visual scene created by someone else (not your own subjective idea of it) which is a clever optical illusion and is received by the brain as if it were
real. text is a code, not an optical illusion like a painting.

3/10/2010 1:29 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

LA,

You are still caught up in whether the initial input is in French, English, Hieroglyphics, a painting by Rubens, a Venn Diagram, or your eyes.

Unless you are actually being physically changed through direct contact, your understanding of anything is through graphics. The language through which you receive the code is just one side of the funnel or the other.

I'm not going to go through the research. If you don't buy it, that's really okay.

By the way, I really like those clothes you make. I thought, however, you said you were in animation? Do you have some art available for perusal besides your fashions?

Al M, thanks for your kind appraisal.

3/10/2010 3:10 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

..graphics ?
Kev, you've totally lost me now, but that's usually how these discussions end up so no real loss.


i've worked as a hack storyboard artist in the past and now i'm hack animator and have no desire to show anyone the work i have to do to earn a living.

3/10/2010 3:31 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

I've done my fair share of flash banners too. C'est la vie.

3/10/2010 4:13 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Liebesreime said: "what precisely are the differences between fine art and illustration art?"

Leibesreime, you came to the right place. I happen to be the only person in the world who knows the answer to this question.

3/10/2010 4:25 PM  
Anonymous norm said...

David:
Here's a pretty visceral fine artist (check out the "men of the ring" image).

I figure there are probably plenty more out there like him.

There is some stillness present in a lot of this work, and most of it doesn't go too deep into the picture plane....but, I still think it could live in the same world in which Phil Hale lives.

(since I have a hard time getting links to work...just click on my name)

3/10/2010 5:47 PM  
Anonymous norm said...

I'm not saying this work disproves your point....but more like, "Here's a fine artist who paints like a really good illustrator. I think you may like his stuff"

3/10/2010 5:53 PM  
Anonymous norm said...

ok...maybe the subject matter and technique fooled me....I do think this could be compared to a lot of illustration work, but it may not have the "thrust" you were talking about.

3/10/2010 6:12 PM  
Blogger अर्जुन said...

Re: Steve Huston, He was an illustrator.

3/10/2010 6:48 PM  
Anonymous norm said...

... does that disqualify him?

3/10/2010 7:13 PM  
Anonymous norm said...

Cool image! I just looked at it.
...now, there's some...uh...."thrust"

3/10/2010 7:15 PM  
Anonymous norm said...

Would the "illustrator" stigma disqualify Winslow Homer too?

3/10/2010 7:20 PM  
Anonymous norm said...

...ok....sorry for another post...but I just realized Kev already mentioned these guys....I guess I should read his entire posts....

3/10/2010 7:22 PM  
Blogger अर्जुन said...

Disqualify him? No, it only corroborates D.A.

3/10/2010 8:15 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Huston's paintings in person have amazing brushwork... his brushmarks are very long and very thickly laid down and literally vibrate back and forth like an array of seismograph needles reacting in concert to a quake.

Illustration vs. Fine Art... The better question is: What precisely are the differences between the art that you thoroughly and passionately enjoy, and real art?

;)

3/10/2010 11:26 PM  
Blogger Joss said...

Liebesreime,
I think your question and the fact that people have such varying opinions of it's answer is the throbbing heart of this blog.

Here's my best shot this evening.

Illustration is art that has a purpose beyond the pure playfulness of creating visual forms, that includes the majority of visual creative endeavors. And one could go so far as to say that every artist is at the least unintentionally illustrating their world view. Fine art is any creation which someone considers beautiful. So the overlap is just about total, subjective only in terms of how "fine" you think it is, but pretty slippery, I know.

Traditionally, people consider something with conspicuous commercial elements to be discluded from the realm of fine art, but a lot of what David is doing here in my estimation is showing how blurry that line is. He is showcasing how beautiful so much overlooked-blatantly-commercial-work is and at the same time making the case that most of what we consider exclusively "Fine Art" is actually very commercial.

Bravo David, I think many of us are here because we share the love of great commercial pictures-traditionally undervalued, only I hadn't realized the possible societal value in taking this up as a cause as David has.

Additionally I do see a crudity and element of prostitution/commercialism that can debase a work of art that is otherwise exceptionally great and yet I see that there is some kind of essential bond between these two disparate tendencies. Courage, boldness, ego, bravado a "thrustiness" even, makes for great drama.

3/11/2010 3:33 AM  
Blogger Alan Lawrence said...

Someone asked in this thread what the difference was between fine art and commercial art.

There is none my friend. Definition of commercial...

Trade: Selling something that belongs to you for cash or a wage. Artists sell their work to people who want to buy it. Full stop.

Artists have done this since Adam was a lad. Grate artists, average artists, bad artists. All doing it for the cash.

I once saw a one man art exhibition by a very well known British painter in his 70s. His early work was highly original and unlike any other painter I had ever seen. Then he started doing the ‘Series’ thing, you know? a whole wall with paintings that look like storyboard frames, consistently slick and professional, consistently boring.

Never being one to keep my opinions to myself, I said to this illustrious artist,

“Since the 1990s you’re paintings all seem to be variations on a theme. It’s as if you’re trying to imitate style rather than content.

But how can an artist copy himself?

The artist just gave me resigned look and replied calmly.

“That bastard, Monet started it, Bloody walls lined with hay stacks. Then it was cathedrals. He had a big family you see, like me. Bills to pay, big houses to maintain.

I then did some research on the businessman, Monet.

Seems he was a pauper most of his life before his paintings began to sell like hot cakes, for big bucks. His dealer could not get, Monet canvases on walls quick enough and urged the chicken that laid the golden eggs... To lay more eggs.

Monet was in a field when he painted his first haystack. A simple drawing, a 6 year old could have rendered the outline in a few seconds. Then the colours. Whack, whack, swirl, swirl... Finished!

“That was easy!” exclaimed, Monet... Ding! ding! went the cash register.

He asked his step daughter to fetch more canvases and knocked out more easy, peasy haystacks. I can just imagine him adding up his daily income from these slap dash efforts.

Of course he died a rich man and his his kids profited from his dedication and hard work.

Like Renoir, who also died a wealthy man, monet was a craftsman to his boot laces. Blue collar smock and all.

Want to make it as a successful ‘Commercial Artist’ ‘Professional Artist.’ whatever!

Paint stuff, sell it, get rich... Who cares if I think Monet is a bore who painted production line pot boilers for people who like blurry landscapes. He was the richest man in the grave yard... And that is some achievement, for an artist with little talent, let alone genius.

Alan

3/11/2010 5:32 AM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

"what precisely are the differences between fine art and illustration art?"

'illustration' is done to a brief and the whole point of it is too illustrate the theme clearly.

'fine art' usually has no brief (although it can have) and it's point is to illustrate the genius of the mind that created it.

3/11/2010 8:30 AM  
Anonymous norm said...

Maybe the Nietzsche Family Circus said it best:
http://www.losanjealous.com/nfc/perm.php?c=39&q=10

3/11/2010 3:23 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

"what precisely are the differences between fine art and illustration art?"

This must be the Twinkie of all questions because it's shelf life expired decades ago and yet it still gets people munching on it.

When a sweet young thing who asked..."what is jazz,"... Louis Armstrong was reported to have said..."If you've got to ask, you'll never know."

Some people will never be able to swing with the beat.

3/12/2010 7:10 AM  
Anonymous A Fellow Pretentious Hack said...

Rob, Why not concentrate more on developing an actual idea for a post before laboring to make it sound witty? You contribution to this thread has been nothing but a string of perfume-soaked turds.

3/12/2010 9:38 AM  
Anonymous Dre said...

There seems to be a sub plot going on here in the comments section. I'll just ignore that! Art history was never my stong point. I've just discovered your blog. Interesting point you make about the depiction of movement in illustration against fine art. I'm not sure I totally agree with you. It think it's a case of context, one form of artwork which has to be actively viewed in a book versus an image on a wall which thrusts itself onto the visual cortext unbidden.

3/12/2010 2:54 PM  
Blogger Drawn to Caricature said...

There seems to be a sub plot going on here in the comments section. I'll just ignore that! Art history was never my stong point. I've just discovered your blog. Interesting point you make about the depiction of movement in illustration against fine art. I'm not sure I totally agree with you. It think it's a case of context, one form of artwork which has to be actively viewed in a book versus an image on a wall which thrusts itself onto the visual cortext unbidden.

3/12/2010 2:57 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

"what precisely are the differences between fine art and illustration art?"

If one is looking for generalizations it might be far more illuminating to consider demographics, especially comic-book fans. Phil Hale is basically a comic book artist, fine finish aside.

3/12/2010 3:49 PM  
Anonymous etc, etc said...

Hmmm... let's see... what I can say that will instantly piss people off and gain me some attention.

3/12/2010 4:42 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

"Hmmm... let's see... what I can say that will instantly piss people off and gain me some attention."

Having fun pretending to be me? Wanna try my clothes on too? No doubt who you are and that you are the real center of attention here.

3/12/2010 5:07 PM  
Anonymous Karl francis said...

Surely any picture that addresses a theme or seeks to portray an idea or a scene is to a greater or lesser extent an 'illustration'.
The fact that it may be commissioned by another is irrelevant as 'fine artists' always had patrons or customers to satisfy.
I see that the term has been hijacked and used as a means of demeaning a certain kind of artist.

3/13/2010 3:08 AM  
Blogger Joss said...

etc. etc. and imposter

If you would both get real names our chances for mature communication would be greatly enhanced.

3/13/2010 5:22 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Thanks to all for the many suggestions of fine painters whose work is relevant to this theme. I have enjoyed getting acquainted or reacquainted with artists such as Solomon, Rochegrasse, Huston, Kanevsky and Adel among others. While some of these painters are more successful than others (in my view) at achieving the "blunt immediacy" that Hale describes, all are worthy of attention and I am glad to have them as part of my vocabulary. I have also enjoyed your reasons for advocating them, and some of the exchanges on their merits. I feel that I have really benefitted from this dialogue.

3/14/2010 8:02 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Diego Fernetti said: "I do think, however, that we're being somehow unfair to the old masters, as their perception of "movement" and "force" in their era was surely different than ours."

Diego, I take your point and in a previous post I had some fun with the fact that when Leonardo da Vinci wanted to convey ultimate power he had to turn to thunderstorms or soldiers clashing on horseback for his models, rather than thermonuclear explosions or intergalactic collisions. Certainly our models for speed and power are dramatically different than the models available to artists from an earlier era.

At the same time, many of these artists lived in eras of strife where combat meant that you delivered a death blow with an axe or sword, up close and personal. You knew the speed and frenzy and panic of battle in a way that few of the artists I have highlighted do. You knew how hard you had to thrust a spear to pierce armor, and you were motivated to put your full might into it because you knew what terrible things would happen to you or your family if you didn't pierce flesh.

Why didn't artists such as these feel they had the artistic freedom to record these traumatic experiences in a more vivid, impressionistic way? What stopped them from painting a warrior bashing another with the same vigor that Phil Hale found to paint Johnny Bad Hair bringing a club down on a robot? Laurence John has referred us to an excellent Caravaggio painting of a figure in action (and you'd think Caravaggio, who fought regularly with a sword and even killed a man, would have a special appreciation for speed and power) but in my view it still conveys less of that smack-in-your-face power (and more Renaissance elegance) than Hale's work.

The great classical scholar Bernard Knox reminded us that no matter how civilized the ancient Greeks seem to us, and no matter how great their culture, when it came time to eat they would have to go out back and murder the family pet and chop it to pieces. Knox felt that this part of their lives added a certain important perspective about the world to Greek art. I would think that pictures would be similarly affected by the violence that surrounded ancient and medieval artists. The Renaissance, too, was a time of massive upheaval between warring factions.

3/14/2010 8:53 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Francis Vallejo said, "sorry to break up the flow... but great post. Hale is indeed a genius!"

Francis, always happy to have you weigh in, and it never breaks up the flow to compliment talent. That's what this is all about.

Alan Lawrence said: "Rubens would get dizzy and go nuts in our slight speed, broad band world."

Alan, the Danish physician Otto Sperling once described his visit to Rubens’ studio to watch him paint, “in the course of which [Rubens] was read to from Tacitus while, at the same time, he dictated a letter. As we did not disturb him by talking, he began to speak with us, carrying on his painting without stopping, still being read to and going on with the dictation.” In addition to being an artist, Rubens was a diplomat, author, teacher and lawyer (and fathered many children in his spare time. His huge studio was apparently a hotbed of activity with many apprentices and students, platters of food, and--best of all--a number of wonderful, buxom ladies in various stages of undress).

3/14/2010 10:29 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Rob Howard said: "Okay David, I'll join in:
Giotto di Bondone (Italian, 1267–1337)
Leonardo da Vinci (Italian, 1452–1519)
Albrecht Dürer (German, 1471–1528)...."

Rob, I share your affection for Giotto and Durer but I assume you are not offering them up as examples of artists who can convey speed and thrust? Measured by this standard (even if no other) Frazetta is superior to them both.

Kev Ferrara said, "As far as I can tell, the most intellectually spectacular moment of aesthetic philosophy in the arts was roughly between 1870 and WWI."

Wow, Kev-- you're a braver man than I am. There's a lot of competition for that trophy. If you'd included Cezanne, Picasso, Braque and perhaps Duhamp on your list, I would've understood your choice a little better, but apparently that's not what you intended. I suspect that in previous high points of culture, the "aesthetic philosophy" was a little less conspicuous because it was less of a separate academic discipline and more integrated into religion or the art trade, or just daily life.

3/14/2010 11:04 AM  
Blogger theory_of_me said...

David said: "What stopped them from painting a warrior bashing another with the same vigor that Phil Hale found to paint Johnny Bad Hair bringing a club down on a robot?"

Probably because such an intimate acquaintance with the ghastly aspects of survival triggered an urgency to get away from it in their more intellectual/artistic endeavors.

Conversely, the average artist or non-artist living today is so pampered by comparison that they become bored and can only imagine such life and death situations. We have to create artificial scenarios in things like video games, punk/rap/heavy metal music, superhero comics, and sci-fi/fantasy illustration to get the adrenaline pumping. This re-creation of ancient survival ordeals without any actual experience in such matters allows the mind to exaggerate and intensify what it can only understand superficially.

It reminds me of how overweight people were considered beautiful back in the days of Rubens. Girth was a symbol of success and thin, toned bodies reminded everyone of physical labor and strife. Today, fat people are considered ugly, lazy and dumb while thin people who work out 2 hours a day are envied.

The poles have been reversed but it adds up to basically the same thing.

3/14/2010 7:08 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

I certainly do mean to include Braque and Picasso, and Mondrian, and Kandinsky, and Cezanne, and NC Wyeth, and Rockwell, and Sorolla, and Gruger, and John Bauer, and Pogany, and Flint, and Frank Tenney Johnson, and Dean Cornwell. and Dulac, and Rackham, and Frank Lloyd Wright, and whoever else you can name who just managed to sneak in their training before the best and brightest became infinitely more likely to go into the sciences. (Although the afterglow of that era lasted a while longer, and flickers still remain)

I really do think it was an era of incredibly beneficial coincidence for the arts, where communication and wealth and book craft and the decorative arts and aesthetic philosophy and psychology, and appreciation for history, ritual, and myth, and stagecraft and mend-bending advances in the sciences all came together, synthesizing and refining thought from all over the globe and from all time (Classical Greece, Renaissance, Baroque, Persian, Egyptian, Arabian, Japanese, 18th Century Germany, 16th Century Dutch.... you name it) into one massive and multifaceted force for the professional creation of high quality culture.

Surely aesthetic philosophy was less conspicuous in other eras, simply because at no point in history until then were so many people educated so deeply in aesthetic philosophy. Which meant there was immense value in being really good that could be translated into wealth. The arts became a source of national pride for every country in the western world at once. Never happened before or since. It was just a perfect storm of an era... the Renaissance that blew away the Renaissance.

In my opinion, of course.

kev

3/14/2010 7:18 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

BRiZL-- thanks for the link to a very interesting discussion of Phil's work, with a collection of images I had not seen before. I especially enjoyed the photograph of Phil in his studio. I was surprised to see that he looks like a normal, handsome, well adjusted, friendly guy. I figured he would have purple tentacles and levitate at least 6 inches off the ground.

etc, etc said: " Phil Hale is basically a comic book artist, fine finish aside."

I'm not sure what makes you think this, or what significiance you attach to it. (Or is this another of those instances where-- sigh-- it just wouldn't be worthwhile explaining yourself?)

3/15/2010 8:27 AM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

"I'm not sure what makes you think this, or what significiance you attach to it."

David,
No doubt you will find this response not to your liking as well. I think this because the images of Hale's work you posted (as well as those I found from a Google image search) display a hyperbolical kinetic force to the figures (which obviously you admire) that look to me to be derivatives of comic book super-heroes, and as well I find the sci-fi setting of Hale's work to be very suggestive of comic books. The significance is that I have a very strong notion that the standard by which you and many others judge traditional art is in fact comic books.

3/15/2010 5:25 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Comic books are an offshoot of illustration. Illustration was an adaptation of victorian era salon painting to the requirements of art reproduction in magazines and books.

Every technique Frazetta or Hale use, including hyperbolicity, was developed before comic books was invented and before illustration really got going as a genre. I think you don't realize how much hyperbole has been a component of art from the start. Nor, I assume, have you ever played football, rugby, kill-the-carrier, or been in a bar fight.

3/15/2010 5:45 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

Kev,
I did not condemn hyperbole. But since you brought it up, do you see any connection between hyperbole and mannerism which you did condemn earlier?

3/15/2010 7:04 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

There is no necessary connection.

Just like there is no necessary connection between poetry and lies.

Art isn't journalism.

3/15/2010 7:41 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

etc, etc said, "the images of Hale's work you posted (as well as those I found from a Google image search) display a hyperbolical kinetic force to the figures (which obviously you admire) that look to me to be derivatives of comic book super-heroes,"

That doesn't surprise me, as this type of visual "force" is the theme of this post. It seems that you disapprove, but it is not clear why. "Force" is one of the oldest themes in some of the greatest art. (Simone Weil famously observed, "The true hero, the true subject matter, the center of the Iliad is force." Or try reading Shakespeare sometime). We've compared different methods of depicting force, contrasting Hale with deKooning. Do you have a problem putting them on a level playing field for this purpose? I certainly don't. deKooning came to the US to be a commercial illustrator, and when he found he could make more money as a house painter, he did that instead. So apparently deKooning did not share your daintiness about boundary lines. Or is it the "comic book" stigma that troubles you? If I had more room here, I would certainly have thrown in some examples by Jack Kirby-- not my favorite artist, but a master of what you call "hyperbolical kinetic force." He could pack more punch into a single comic panel than anyone else.

No art form gets a free pass around here; if you think that comic books are per se unworthy, then you will have to explain the merits of Lichtenstein and Warhol's comic work to me.

3/16/2010 5:49 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Kev said, "Comic books are an offshoot of illustration..." etc.

An interesting genealogy, Kev. Hadn't thought of it quite that way, but sounds right to me.

3/16/2010 5:56 AM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

David,
I did not say that I disapprove of "force".

You inquired about the significance of my post but did not respond when I offered it to you.

Do you believe that comic book art plays a significant role as a standard with which you evaluate traditional (i.e fine or old master) art?

And also, do you regard comic book art as a kind of culmination or consummation of traditional (i.e. fine or old master) artistic progress and practice?

3/16/2010 1:55 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

etc, etc said: "Do you believe that comic book art plays a significant role as a standard with which you evaluate traditional (i.e fine or old master) art?"

I think that comic book art and related popular arts are a significant art form that has played a "significant role" in modern culture. I think that at its best, comic book art form is superior to a great deal of what passes as "fine" art today. I have seen many pages of comic art that I would gladly take over artwork I have seen hanging in the Museum of Modern Art in NY. I don't have a problem evaluating it in the same breath that I use to evaluate "fine" art-- it depends on the image and the goals of the artist. I'm not sure I follow your point about being the "standard with which I evaluate" fine art.

>>"And also, do you regard comic book art as a kind of culmination or consummation of traditional (i.e. fine or old master) artistic progress and practice?"

No, but I don't think it needs to be the culmination or consummation of anything to be terrific art. I am one of those who believes there is no "progress" in art on the larger scale, the way we find progress in the sciences. You will have a hard time persuading me that art in 2000 AD is per se superior to art from 2000 BCE, or even 30,000 BCE.

3/18/2010 8:39 AM  
Anonymous Tom Button said...

Incredible post! It's really, really interesting!

Awesome blog!!

4/30/2012 6:04 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home