Sunday, July 04, 2010

FROM PHOTOGRAPH TO DRAWING

Decades after fine artists embraced photography as a tool for drawing and painting pictures, illustrators remained wracked with guilt about the practice.

Artists such as Cezanne, Van Gogh, Degas, Gauguin, Toulouse Lautrec and Eakins enthusiastically used photographs as a starting point for their work.







They openly enjoyed the exciting new medium. But illustrators-- nursing a giant inferiority complex-- remained concerned that using photographs might somehow be cheating.

Norman Rockwell recounted his shame when he began to use photographs:
At a dinner at the Society of Illustrators, William Oberhardt, a fellow illustrator, grabbed my arm and said bitterly., "I hear you've gone over to the enemy." "Hunh?" I said, faking ignorance because I realized right way what he was referring to and was ashamed of it. "You're using photographs," he said accusingly. "Oh...well... you know...not actually," I mumbled. "You are ," he said. "Yes" I admitted, feeling trapped, "I am." "Judas!" he said, "Damned photographer!" and he walked away.
More than a century later, commenters to this blog hotly debate whether Norman Rockwell's use of photographs undermined his artistic legacy.

Fine artists never felt compelled to justify their methods. Illustrators on the other hand, remained defensive. As a result, the most thoughtful, self-conscious analyses about the use of photography in art tend to come from the field of illustration rather than gallery painting. One of the more articulate artists on this subject was the talented Austin Briggs, who used reference photographs early in his career but soon discovered the limitations of photographs as a tool for quality art:
It was only as I discovered that I did not really possess an image of the object I desired when I took a snapshot that I relegated the camera to its proper place: that of a gatherer of information which has not yet been digested. Only when I reverted to the laborious task of drawing the object directly did it begin to reveal its hidden forms.

Briggs' splendid drawings made from photographs clearly showed how he digested data and probed for the hidden forms.

Photographs provide an undeniable head start by translating three dimensions into two dimensions for the artist. Nevertheless, Briggs described how artists still need to make important choices in order to distill information from a photograph and find the hidden forms most meaningful to the artist. The glory of drawing is that it is a limited medium; it cannot mechanically capture all data the way a snapshot does, or reproduce a snapshot, and still be successful.
It is also well to remember what [drawing] is not. It is not tone, value or color, although some semblance of all these qualities may be obtained by the sophisticated use of line. Line (drawing in its most straight-forward meaning) is the most limited medium, being solely a matter of measure. It is long or short, angularly obtuse or acute and subject to measure. Measure is the characteristic of line... and line is drawing.

It's necessary to know the limitation one is dealing with in order to use its positive qualities to its fullest advantage. To draw an oak leaf is "an exorcism of disorder" Without knowing what a line cannot do we'd try to express the whole leaf with it, but once we know what a line cannot do, we are on our way toward expressing the leaf in the marvelously simple way a line can function. We begin to to look for the object's anatomy, its real shape reveals itself to us because we must speak with such limited means.

Thumbnail sketch by Briggs captures the essence of the forms

Note how Briggs digested information from photographs in this award winning series for TV Guide.









It does not bother me if a drawing starts from photographs as long as the artist exercises his or her judgment and taste in reducing the photograph into a line medium. That is the part of the artist's job that most interests me.

183 Comments:

Blogger Michael Fraley said...

Many years ago, when comic artist George Evans was asked to ghost the "Rip Kirby" strip for John Prentice, he was sent the photo reference. He told me that he ended up tossing it because it wasn't as real as the picture he generated from his imagination. Now that might be so, but I'd guess that even seeing the staged photos (I think it was supposed to be a body at the foot of a cliff) helped him work through some of the initial problems in making the picture. As such, it had already served its purpose.

Speaking of Rockwell, I think that James Montgomery Flagg was another illustrator who had no use for Rockwell's use of photo reference. Thinking back on Rockwell's paintings, it's amazing how his art is really so close to caricature. Knees become knobbier, adam's apples more pronounced, eyebrows threaten to leap completely over children's heads, etc. Even all of that is apart from the composition of the piece. One of my favorite Rockwell's is "Shuffleton's Barbershop," simply because of the composition. A camera can capture many things, but it can't create its own ideas or guide its own compositions. To me, it's the closest Rockwell ever came to Vermeer ... who is rumored to have used a camera obscura to help with his own compositions.

Thanks for a great blog, and a great blog entry!

7/05/2010 1:53 AM  
Blogger Philip said...

This terrible information, you blew my mind, I lost faith in the great artists. Thank you very much

7/05/2010 2:00 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7/05/2010 2:54 AM  
Blogger Ilaria said...

Argh, how come I had missed this blog until now. I have weeks of arrears now. Great writing !

7/05/2010 5:06 AM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

David, i have to give you full marks for poetic spin. to turn tracing into "digesting information" and "probing for hidden forms" is really quite something.

7/05/2010 5:18 AM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

In teaching students, one thing became apparent about using photo-reference...those who had mastered the basic of drawing were able to trace well. Those who could not draw could not trace. I challenge the hopeless romantics of this forum to throw a sheet of tracing paper over a photo and try it. Chances are that the tracing sucks out loud because most people cannot draw. That is, most people have not master the basics of translating a three dimensional object to a two-dimensional medium.
That said; I have found methods (not mine) that can transform the average student into a decent draughtsman (that is, someone who can draw whatever is placed before them) in about six months.
Think of it. Going from your current state, to being able to draw anything you can SEE...and you paid all that money to art school or college and still can't nail it accurately.
Think on this for a moment; young Victorian women were sent on "The Grand Tour" in their late teens. The vast majority of them sent back accurately drawn and rendered watercolors of the high spots on the tour. They were EXPECTED to have mastered drawing and watercolor along with at least one musical instrument. 90% of them did just that.
Taking the obligatory piano lessons and dance lessons was something carried over into the 1950's and was as common as typing is today.
It's good to remember that Caravaggio was universally derided by the masters of the day because he "cheated" and used live models. That also meant that he used convex mirrors to reflect images onto the canvas (accounting for those segmented effects).
In those times, making art was a business. For some it was a damned good business and it was always very competitive. If a device or method came out that allow an increase in production or quality, you can believe these guys jumped on it.
What Everyman fails to realize is the almost absurd simplicity of mastering drawing from life...six months from talking monkey to being able to draw anything you see. To draw anything you can imagine...add about a year or so (the best method is still Horace Lecoq de Boisboudran's course on memory drawing).
What Everyman and his romantic (and inaccurate) notions of art-making fail to understand is once you have those skills under your belt you no longer have to prove it every day. That's playing to the cheap seats...the ones who readily declare someone a genius on Facebook because they make a hard-edge picture of a dead rock star. Those are people whose sensibilities have been developed at the mall and have an annual art budget that's lower than what they spend on toilet paper...come on...'fess up. You know whom I'm talking about...continued overleaf..

7/05/2010 5:19 AM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

...continued...

Those are the loudest voices of all – huffing and puffing as if they actually knew their arses from their elbows when it comes to the practice of MAKING art. So, rather than allow any unfamiliar thoughts to enter, they immediately derail any discussion of art to 1) this is my sacred opinions based on absolutely no hands-on experience in the BUSINESS of making art…in other words, just another fans swaying to the music with his Zippo alight, and 2) realize that they are hopelessly out of their water (that expertise usually being in a cubicle office) and divert the conversation to some off-the-wall sophomoric (sophomoronic?) journey into a gallimaufry of poorly connected ideas they consider to be philosophical.
The result of all these poorly considered and ill-informed gaseous emissions has been an astounding increase in the number of messages on this board. Sadly, it’s like looking at a once useful forum being reduced to another landfill. A dumping ground for people with no interest or understanding of the art of illustration…people who have never had the energy to learn the basics and the sheer balls to go head-to-head with other skilled pros. These are people who will always be salaried workers…always work for someone rather than having the testicular fortitude to jump into the void. I am not alone in thinking very little of people who haven’t got the courage of their convictions or even have convictions.
At this season, it’s impossible to think of them taking a break from yammering about things of which they have no firsthand knowledge and pledging their lives, their fortunes and their nonexistent sacred honor.

7/05/2010 5:24 AM  
Blogger Brett said...

I think Rob Howard's comment is nearly as strong as this post. I agree completely.

7/05/2010 6:24 AM  
Blogger Ian Jackson said...

In my opinion a good drawing is a good drawing and a bad drawing is a bad drawing and it doesn't matter a damn if photographs had a part in the process.

If one starts thinking drawing is some sort of 'holy' pursuit that can magically benefit from 'pure' materials, one might begin to imagine themselves some type of art priest--or worse--art prophet.

Plenty of those floating around, but thankfully drawings speak for themselves. Even if a bad drawing gets a $50 million price-tag thanks to some fancy-talk, it is still a bad drawing.

7/05/2010 7:28 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7/05/2010 7:53 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Michael Fraley-- I agree with you about "Shuffleton's Barbershop." Marvelous work. And as for James Montgomery Flagg, he never had a kind word to say about anyone.

Philip-- hopefully not. Hopefully I increased your faith in great illustrators.

llaria-- well, I'm certainly glad you're with us now!

Laurence John wrote: "to turn tracing into "digesting information" and "probing for hidden forms" is really quite something."

Laurence-- actually, I think it's not only true, but pretty apparent when you look for the right things in Briggs' drawings. To focus on the elements that are easiest to describe in a blog comment, contrast the lines Briggs used to convey the foreheads of the baby and the nurse; Look at the telling way he captured the form of the baby's shoulder, the heavy line under the baby's arm or the subtle crinkle of the baby's eye. Look at the different texture of the broad, light line of the back of the nurse's head. None of that was traced from the photograph, it came directly from the mind and eye of Briggs. It is there. It is not imaginary and it is not spin.

7/05/2010 7:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a story I heard some years ago that always stuck with me, and I wish I could remember the source. One person complained that Norman Rockwell used a projector to trace from photographs. An artist replied, "If I give you a projector and let you trace from photographs, can you paint me a Norman Rockwell?"

--Bob Cosgrove

7/05/2010 8:04 AM  
Blogger ARMAND CABRERA said...

Great post on an important topic. If you at least learn to draw well from life before going to computer or photo aids you will prepare yourself for the proper use of technology. In the quest to separate the concept from the execution of that concept, some tools diminish the end result. I see this in painters who, when using photos, copy everything in the photo; values ,colors and detail including photo effects like lens flares or white out. What you have is then is the ability of the camera more apparent than the artist using it. This creates another related problem of people using other peoples photo work to facilitate their own painting because their own use of the camera still has their conceptual limitations.

7/05/2010 9:03 AM  
Blogger knifight said...

hi guys. I don't normally comment. As someone who is still mastering the craft of illustration, I have to agree with Ron Howard. I'm astounded sometimes by the strength of opinions I see here that I know cannot be based on any kind of knowledge of, or experience with, the art form. I try to see those comments as audience feedback - and I try to note the gaps between practitioner and consumer. I guess I feel the need to be prepared for (to steel myself for) these kinds of comments once I start publishing / releasing my work - to prevent myself from freaking out. I have seen this dynamic in other artistic fields as well. Music "critics" who have no idea, how music is made etc. Or film commentary by people who lack even the vocabulary to describe what they are looking at. This is especially true with the democratization of commentary online but it happens in print as well. There seems to be the process consumers imagine goes into creation .. and then there are the real ones (numerous in every field). While it can be annoying to the artists, I think (unfortunately) this is part of the allure of the (an) art form - not all of the allure to be sure - but a part of it. And I can understand that it can be unpleasant for the everyman to be disabused of a romantic notion about something.

Noetheless, I thank you David for pulling the curtain back sometimes (I've learned a lot from your site) but apparently doing so can be upsetting to those who maintain illusory visions of how things are done. Which can then anger artists who understand how much more than any technique or reference goes into the creation process.

Hopefully we can all coexist on the site without annoying each other too much.

7/05/2010 9:54 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

I definitely see where Phillip is coming from. The Gauguin and Cezanne on that page are especially disappointing, as are a number more of them that are on the site that the blog is linking to.

This bonnard from this.

Some of Lautrec's (which really surprised me) like this one from this photo.

I don't have serious problems with working from photographs but when it doesn't seem like your adding much of anything, and are specifically losing some of the beauty of the photograph it's sad.

That whole time period makes 10000% more sense to me now, and has lost a lot most of it's mystique.

I thank you despite that it makes me sad.

7/05/2010 12:10 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Richard and Philip, if you are disillusioned, then I have been unpersuasive with my post. The part that is stripped away by photo reference-- basically getting the proportions right-- is the least challenging part of being an artist, as far as I am concerned. The tough part, the distinctive part that summons forward the personality and judgment of the artist, is the understanding and prioritization of the forms, the sense of design, the challenge of perceiving an omni-dimensional universe (or even a two dimensional photograph) using a limited medium, such as a pencil line.

There is no need for dismay just because today artists save time on proportion.

7/05/2010 12:32 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Brett and Kniflight, I fully agree with you about the importance of Rob's comment; his experience and his eye are valuable here. (Of course, as he knows, I would probably have omitted his references to "gaseous emissions" and a "landfill," but that's just me!)

7/05/2010 12:37 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Because cameras have limited value sensitivity, photos are quite good at "finding the silhouette" which is a major difficulty in drawing. "Proportion" is only one aspect of this "graphic designing" of figures and elements.

Equally, photos freeze edge and textural details and accidents of form and lighting for inspection... all facets of drafting that reward consideration.

Oberhardt's crit of Rockwell seems damn self-serving, given that big O barely drew more than a single head at a time for the bulk of his career. Real easy to be righteous when no figures, props, backgrounds, actions, attitudes, compositions, or patterns are involved in your own work. Rockwell should have told Oberhardt, that if he couldn't draw his portraits from memory, he was a hack who was utterly dependent on the model.

Everybody is righteous to their own benefit (Life rule #4,321)

7/05/2010 12:58 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

Still disillusioned XD

I wonder with these artists how often they were using cameras, was this an occasional method to simplify a project or was this their standard?

If this was the standard... well, fuck those guys. They no longer impress me.

In highschool our painting teacher had 99% of the class work from photographs for all four years (I fortunately was not forced to do this, I would've quit the class), and the work my classmates were producing in oils are really not that far off from what I am seeing here from Cezanne, Bonnard or Gauguin.

That's a shame. I am disillusioned. Wo!

7/05/2010 1:00 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Forgot to mention how absolutely stunning the Briggs drawings are. Completely love those.

7/05/2010 1:08 PM  
Anonymous Gianfredi said...

Great subject. I can draw from life or a photo it doesn't matter to me. It does make me laugh when I see how it (the process) makes a difference in how people view the work. Not one of the people that either bought art from me or commissioned art from me ever cared about PROCESS.... just the deadline. People that still worry that a piece of art had it's begining in a photo are to put it mildly are a joke. Step up, do good art and get paid. It doesn't matter how Rockwell did what he did, in the end it was a Rockwell.

7/05/2010 1:23 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

I have this theory that the difference between a good artist and a great one is that a great one has a collection of finely tuned and tweaked sublteties, any single one of which may not seem like much or might even be imperceptible to untrained (or maybe even trained) eyes, but when added together make a distinct difference and synergy. Regarding Rockwell, I think that is what's going on here; subtleties that are somehow imperceptible to untrained eyes.

7/05/2010 3:31 PM  
Blogger Kagan M. said...

I can't believe how anyone (Laurence)could fail to see the drawing skill in those Austin Briggs pieces. I'm sure if most people traced the Briggs drawings themselves they could get that line quality.

7/05/2010 4:35 PM  
Anonymous Chad said...

Thanks for posting these great Briggs drawings.I dont care where the raw material came from because they are superior to any photo.
Can't say the same for Cezanne though, was he really so bad?

7/05/2010 5:45 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>And as for James Montgomery Flagg, he never had a kind word to say about anyone.<<<

Not true. He named me in his will and said..."I'm passing the torch to you, you sonofabitch. Now keep it lit." Flagg was one of my two spirtual fathers, The other was Mencken, who passed me the pitchfork.

7/05/2010 6:26 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>Hopefully we can all coexist on the site without annoying each other too much.<<<

Hopefully not. Nothing is accomplished with no scoreboard and without a few bruises. One thing you'll find in the world of art...and that means all arts, drama, music, words, dance and visual is that almost every worthwhile artist is unlikely to ever be voted Father Of The Year or President of The Kiwanis. Those guys are usually fairly well balanced...at least, they don't have glaring faults that cause them to drink, take drugs, get in brawls or choose to be castrated.

On the other hand, most of the really good artists were seriously flawed. Caravaggio was magnificent and also a complete asshole, Bernini had towering talent and energy. He also chased his brother into the church and tried to kill him and then had someone cut up his mistress’s face. Yeah, I know it's crazy but he was a Neapolitan and they can't help themselves.

Most common is the love/hate relationship they have with fellow artists. The truth is, in these competitive fields, it's not enough that they beat you for the commission. The really important thing is that you lose. Crazy and mean...you betcha, but that's the only solid rule to survive in the past thousand years. All the rest is the mumbling of amateurs and wannabes, like the endless nattering about the morality...MORALITY of a goddamned tool...a projector.

Those blockheads would assume the guy who grinds his own paint, weaves his own canvas and traps fur-bearing animals for his brushes to be the superior artist. In truth, those fools are scared shitless to jump into the void, so they spend as much time nursing their pitiful magnum opus as they can. The revered masters tried to get the stuff in and out of the shop as fast as they could.

It's very difficult to be pleasant to those delusional know-nothings...do-nothings. I wish you luck in the field. Gird your loins and be prepared to be kicked, stomped and lied about whilst in the scrum. That's some of the charm of the field...otherwise it's a lonely existence with a few bright spots here and there.

Just remember, none of the good ones are quite right.

7/05/2010 6:49 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>> I am disillusioned. Wo!<<<

So you prefer illusion? Isn't that another word for a lie? If someone prefers a lie, isn't that delusion?

7/05/2010 6:53 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

"Forgot to mention how absolutely stunning the Briggs drawings are. Completely love those."

Yeah, those rule

7/05/2010 8:32 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

"So you prefer illusion? Isn't that another word for a lie? If someone prefers a lie, isn't that delusion?"

Sure I prefer illusion -- like painting, that shite is sublime.

7/05/2010 8:43 PM  
Blogger william wray said...

I'm alone in the wilderness with my opinion, but I don't get the love for Briggs beyond his innovation of being the first guy to go that rough , I can see Briggs designed and simplified his shot's, while there is drawing skill there, his illo's always have felt a bit like photo scrap roughed out for a comps without quite enough drawing for for my taste. I find the toned one's especially sloppy, dirty and flat. I recognize he was a innovator like Al Parker, but I always found them both a little lacking in true design sense and finishing ability. Good at a new experiment, rushed at the finish of it. A lot of Rockwell pencil layouts were lacking too epically in the later years, but his painting carried the day. I prefer an Illustrator like Robert McGinnis who projected, but stylized more.

7/05/2010 9:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wiiliam, one of the things that blew my mind about McGinnis was that those elaborate decorative backgrounds and settings in his nude paintings were largely made up.

I'd assumed he lived in an elaborately tiled Roman villa or something..Turns out he was just working from a studio snap then making up things that would look cool..

I suppose that's where art comes in..

7/05/2010 9:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

..David,
the blog is great. i enjoy all the opinions and observations, very educational and informative.
thanks to all that contribute!
D.H.

7/06/2010 10:29 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

I wonder with these artists how often they were using cameras, was this an occasional method to simplify a project or was this their standard?

Does anyone know the answer to this?

7/06/2010 10:38 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

Oh, hey, could anyone suggest some good sites to buy art instructional texts?

The bookstores in my city all sell the most awful books; if I have to see another copy of Nicolaides' Natural Way to Draw or Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain I'm going to kill someone.

7/06/2010 10:45 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

Another question!

In this briggs drawing, why does the man's foot seem like it is sliding on the floor rather than firmly placed on it. It almost seems like if he stood-up he would slip and fall like in The Jetson's.

7/06/2010 10:50 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

That's odd. It seems like some of my posts have disappeared.

I was wondering if anyone could explain why in the Brigg's drawing of the two seated men it seems as though their feet are sliding across the floor -- as if they were to stand they would slip in the manner of The Jetsons, etc.

7/06/2010 11:48 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

That is, even in their chairs they seem to be sliding back and forth like their on a boat in very bad weather.

7/06/2010 11:53 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7/06/2010 11:54 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Richard,

A great deal of perception is purely assumed on our part. We actually analyze very little visual information at any given moment in the day and rely mostly on the memory of our experiences with most objects to inform our interaction with the world. Only anomalous elements are actually scrutinized.

As far as I understand his aesthetics, Briggs is leaving room for this aspect of our perceptual method in his picture. He has removed all the cast shadows that would have anchored the elements to the floor plane. And we "get" the anchoring anyhow because we have experience with chairs, feet and floors and don't need to be told such things have cast shadows.

Also, casting shadows under chairs is not required to tell the story.

Furthermore, if you did add the shadows "where they belong", they would "heavy" the bottom part of the picture (and thus overemphasizing meaningless and redundant information) thereby detracting from the overall tone of delicate linework.

Briggs expects that our imagination will not only understand that the feet and chair legs are touching the floor, but will also enjoy "completing" the picture by experience. As well, we enjoy the simplicity of the linear poetry, and the optical illusion of the floor plane leftover from the poetic concision.

Harvey Dunn often lectured on leaving out "obligation shadows" if they don't help the storytelling. The goal of poetry is always to say the most with the least. So any redundancy that can be subtracted is fair game for the eraser.

If you just want facts, use the photo.

7/06/2010 2:04 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

Well, I don't think that I just want facts, but the disconnected, perhaps even flat, effect between the ground and the solid entities is really disconcerting.

I wonder if there is not a way besides cast shadows to solidify their foundations.

Maybe just working lighter in the feet/leg/chairleg area so that the seperation isn't so stark. Making their shoes light tan for example. Or a darker carpet I guess, but that would kill the lightness of the whole thing.

7/06/2010 2:30 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

Or maybe just a lighter bottom edge to the shoe as if some carpet is blurring out that edge.

7/06/2010 2:31 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7/06/2010 2:33 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7/06/2010 2:36 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

I take that all of that back.

I think that the real problem is that the perspective of the texture scribbles (that make up the carpet) is off by a good 30 degrees or more. The floor is not even below them but by the time the carpet gets to the man in the background the perspective of the carpet textures are more accurate -- so he seems more solidly planted.

7/06/2010 2:38 PM  
Blogger Ray said...

David,

"Probing for hidden forms..." That sounds like what I've caught myself doing when a girl with a particularly nice body wears lose clothing.

7/06/2010 3:08 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Richard,

The intellect is the dummy that wants everything spelled out, the poor stepchild of the imagination. Instead of enjoying the optical illusion of the picture, you are trying to fix it.

There's some mental button in your mind that you need to click off, so you can set yourself free.

As Harvey Dunn used to say, "Let down the portals of your mind and just look at it!"

7/06/2010 3:16 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

Well, I am just looking at it and I am seeing a drawing of men in chairs floating.

Well, I guess that's as good a thing to make a picture of as anything else. I always liked that part of Mary Poppins when they all are laughing and drinking tea and floating around.

7/06/2010 3:37 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

No, Richard, you are thinking they are floating, just like you think you are seeing two men sitting in a posh lounge.

What you actually see is a bunch of pretty lines in a decorative arrangement.

The scenario is merely an emergent phenomena arising from your analysis of the decorative arrangement of lines.

So you are fixating on one illusion among a hundred others that you have accepted. Picayune.

7/06/2010 4:06 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

You mean I am thinking I am seeing a decorative arrangement of pretty lines but really I am just seeing graphite on paper? Wait no, I think I am seeing graphite on paper but really I am just experiencing images on a screen. Wait no, I think I am experiencing images on a screen but really its just light...

Wait, forget that.
Those guys are definitely floating.

7/06/2010 4:20 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Yes, and they are definitely flat, definitely made of lines, definitely share silhouette edges in a strange way, definitely lack color, stuff in the room has scribble where detail ought to be, there is no light source, etc.

Which is to say, if you just focused on other illusions you would notice that it is ALL "wrong" in the same way that you find the floor "wrong". The whole picture is equally false in terms of fact.

7/06/2010 4:27 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

Totally. The lack of light source is wiggity wack.

7/06/2010 5:13 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

Hi Guys
Nice drawings enjoyed the post.
I am not trying to start a riot nor do I care if people paint from photos but this quote gets to heart of my point,
“Photographs provide an undeniable head start by translating three dimensions into two dimensions for the artist.” Great draftsman do not think two dimensionally, ( I know they do sometimes) I exaggerate to make my point.

Ernest Watson writes in Creative Perspective for Artist and illustrators,
“One acquires the feeling of form: the feeling of lines and planes actually receding and not merely fooling the eye by their direction or shape on the paper. The professional artist forgets the surface of his paper- the picture plane- as soon as he begins to draw or paint upon it. When he sets down lines or masses to represent distance he actually thinks and feels distance. He projects himself right through the paper, figuratively, into a limitless beyond.”

And later Watson writes,” The person who draws naturally does not even think of a flat surface: it is space. When he sets down lines to represent distance, his pencil pushes those lines right through the paper-twenty feet or half a mile. The retreating line reaching toward the horizon may be only three inches long on the paper, but to the artist it feels just as long as the street or the railroad track or whatever he may be drawing.”

Look how much Winston Churchill’s paintings improved when Sickertt showed him how to project and grid up photos.

7/06/2010 10:10 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

"Great draftsman do not think two dimensionally, ( I know they do sometimes) I exaggerate to make my point."

Astute point.

7/06/2010 10:17 PM  
Blogger Michael Fraley said...

Adding fuel to the fire, we not only have artists using photographs, but in the case of Van Gogh's "Prisoners Exercising," we also have artists copying other artists - and managing to produce images that become more famous than the original - in that case, one by Dore.

7/07/2010 4:13 AM  
Blogger ภาพสวยด้วยงานศิลป์ said...

I love art.........................

7/07/2010 4:21 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

I love art too!

What do you think about music?

7/07/2010 9:45 AM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

Tom said...
"Great draftsman do not think two dimensionally, ( I know they do sometimes) I exaggerate to make my point."

Tom,
I would agree that in regard to the modeling of form, your statement would generally be true. But in regard to design, I believe that consideration of the flat surface area is critical. Appertaining to this, I also believe that many contemporary artists who rely upon photographs (or even working "from life", i.e. with subjects physically present) often tend to curtail or even bypass the design process; that's my beef with photo references.

7/07/2010 11:06 AM  
Blogger serena & mario sughi said...

Great blog and great topyc indeed.
Just wondering if you ever come across to David Hockney's Secret Knowledge by Thames & Hudson, where DH demonstrates as mirrors nad optics have been largely used by Holbein Caravaggio and Velasquez (amongst the others). The use of optics does not diminish the values of their masterpieces but it helps to understand them better. What a marvelous book!

7/07/2010 12:24 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

That book is a load of crap.

7/07/2010 12:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can always spot a mile away if a person is a skilled craftsman/draftsman whether they used a photograph or not.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with using photographs as references. It starts to be a problem when artists depend on them.

7/07/2010 12:45 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

Is there never a situation where someone is right on the border of being a good draftsman -- thus the photograph can tip the scale one way or the other?

7/07/2010 1:16 PM  
Blogger JF said...

Not sure how many have seen this book, which focuses on the subject of Rockwell and photography reference- the link has a lot of comparisons. http://www.amazon.com/Norman-Rockwell-Behind-Ron-Schick/dp/0316006939/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1278525894&sr=8-1

Photography is another tool- it can be a crutch if used incorrectly. I see the same kind of attitude from Oberhardt and Flagg as I do in my line of work when old guys see you drawing on a Wacom tablet. When you are creating an illustration, used to deliver a point or story, using any tool available to do this in the best means possible is certainly valid.

http://www.amazon.com/Norman-Rockwell-Behind-Ron-Schick/dp/0316006939/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1278525894&sr=8-1

7/07/2010 2:15 PM  
Anonymous larry said...

It's true that photography can be a crutch and an enabler of bad art, but it can also be a very useful tool for those who know how to draw, paint and compose. Criticizing Rockwell for using photography while ignoring the tens of thousands artistic decisions that go into making a successful image proves that many can't distinguish the difference.

I like Rob's take when he wrote "I challenge the hopeless romantics of this forum to throw a sheet of tracing paper over a photo and try it."

7/07/2010 3:33 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

"Criticizing Rockwell for using photography while ignoring the tens of thousands artistic decisions that go into making a successful image proves that many can't distinguish the difference.

I like Rob's take when he wrote "I challenge the hopeless romantics of this forum to throw a sheet of tracing paper over a photo and try it.""

I'm amazed that there are still people who haven't realized that they aren't argueing with anyone about this. No one (as far as I can tell) disagrees with you here.

7/07/2010 3:38 PM  
Anonymous larry said...

The dissenting opinion has been heard by everyone who ever picked up a brush and went to art school. I wasn't arguing with David or Rob. It feels good and unfamiliar to have this be the majority opinion, I was just affirming.

7/07/2010 4:13 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

So do you think it's unfair to hold a piece in any less regard from using a photograph?

Do you think the two are perfectly equal?

It wouldn't impress you one iota more if x-Rockwell was done without photographic references?

7/07/2010 4:21 PM  
Blogger Joss said...

I'd be curious David, to know how you feel about Cezanne. I'll be damned if you can call him an illustrator. But I wouldn't be surprised if you considered him a terrible draughtsmen. He seems to have regarded himself as such, I think he was a great artist nonetheless. Do I dare ask Rob the same? You guys are like good cop bad cop.

Rob, by your, "great artists are nuts" standard you must be even greater than you claim to be, you definitely are heir to Flagg's bastardliness. I love the image of Flagg making that remark to you, what was the nature of your acquaintance?

Thanks for the sanity inducing life rule Kev "everybody is righteous to their own benefit"

I support the disillusioning process going on here, but Rob you seem to think this forum is just for skilled pros to comment and us mice to bask silently or reverently in your glow.

Why would anyone spend time here if they had "no interest or understanding of the art of illustration" I mean c'mon at least the interest is there. I doubt you have a monopoly on the opinions of great illustrators. Surely a good number of them would find you as much a pain in the ass blowhard as some self unnamed commenter's whose names I won't mention cause their too pitiful to sign their comments(refering to earlier posts, hopefully not rousing their impotent fury thereby).

But anyway although there is a certain coldness to the Al Parker/Briggs/Fuchs/Peak "tracing" style I just love it anyway. Can't get enough of it. They do something very poetic and special with it for me.
I feel lucky to have you David, dependably stimulating my aesthetic and intellectual faculties.

Oh and it's so nice, the unusual lack of insults being volleyed, I hope I didn't ruin it by provoking Rob. Or being provoked by him?

7/08/2010 4:28 AM  
Blogger Joss said...

I'd be curious David, to know how you feel about Cezanne. I'll be damned if you can call him an illustrator. But I wouldn't be surprised if you considered him a terrible draughtsmen. He seems to have regarded himself as such, I think he was a great artist nonetheless. Do I dare ask Rob the same? You guys are like good cop bad cop.

Rob, by your, "great artists are nuts" standard you must be even greater than you claim to be, you definitely are heir to Flagg's bastardliness. I love the image of Flagg making that remark to you, what was the nature of your acquaintance?

Thanks for the sanity inducing life rule Kev "everybody is righteous to their own benefit"

I support the disillusioning process going on here, but Rob you seem to think this forum is just for skilled pros to comment and us mice to bask silently or reverently in your glow.

Why would anyone spend time here if they had "no interest or understanding of the art of illustration" I mean c'mon at least the interest is there. I doubt you have a monopoly on the opinions of great illustrators. Surely a good number of them would find you as much a pain in the ass blowhard as some self unnamed commenter's whose names I won't mention cause their too pitiful to sign their comments(refering to earlier posts, hopefully not rousing their impotent fury thereby).

But anyway although there is a certain coldness to the Al Parker/Briggs/Fuchs/Peak "tracing" style I just love it anyway. Can't get enough of it. They do something very poetic and special with it for me.
I feel lucky to have you David, dependably stimulating my aesthetic and intellectual faculties.

Oh and it's so nice, the unusual lack of insults being volleyed, I hope I didn't ruin it by provoking Rob. Or being provoked by him?

7/08/2010 4:29 AM  
Blogger Joss said...

I'd be curious David, to know how you feel about Cezanne. I'll be damned if you can call him an illustrator. But I wouldn't be surprised if you considered him a terrible draughtsmen. He seems to have regarded himself as such, I think he was a great artist nonetheless. Do I dare ask Rob the same? You guys are like good cop bad cop.

Rob, by your, "great artists are nuts" standard you must be even greater than you claim to be, you definitely are heir to Flagg's bastardliness. I love the image of Flagg making that remark to you, what was the nature of your acquaintance?

Thanks for the sanity inducing life rule Kev "everybody is righteous to their own benefit"

I support the disillusioning process going on here, but Rob you seem to think this forum is just for skilled pros to comment and us mice to bask silently or reverently in your glow.

Why would anyone spend time here if they had "no interest or understanding of the art of illustration" I mean c'mon at least the interest is there. I doubt you have a monopoly on the opinions of great illustrators. Surely a good number of them would find you as much a pain in the ass blowhard as some self unnamed commenter's whose names I won't mention cause their too pitiful to sign their comments(refering to earlier posts, hopefully not rousing their impotent fury thereby).
contd.

7/08/2010 4:30 AM  
Blogger Joss said...

(Had to split my comment. Is this a new limit on comment size?)

But anyway although there is a certain coldness to the Al Parker/Briggs/Fuchs/Peak "tracing" style I just love it anyway. Can't get enough of it. They do something very poetic and special with it for me.
I feel lucky to have you David, dependably stimulating my aesthetic and intellectual faculties.

Oh and it's so nice, the unusual lack of insults being volleyed, I hope I didn't ruin it by provoking Rob. Or being provoked by him?

7/08/2010 4:32 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

"Oh and it's so nice, the unusual lack of insults being volleyed"

We got it all out on this topic in the last post. No need for reruns.

7/08/2010 9:33 AM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

competent (basic) drawing skills are all it takes to trace a photo into a line drawing. having tried it myself, it will never impress me again. you should try it if you haven't. you'd be amazed how easy it is.

7/08/2010 5:32 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>Oh, hey, could anyone suggest some good sites to buy art instructional texts?<<<

You can check Amazon for a couple of my titles. They just went out of print and I'll warn you that one of them (Gouache For Illustration) is damned expensive...I've seen it offered for over $400 but you should be able to get it for half that. The Illustrators Bible just went off Watson-Guptill's list so used versions are more reasonable.

I'm now with Random House, so let's see what comes of it.

7/08/2010 5:48 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>Maybe just working lighter in the feet/leg/chairleg area so that the seperation isn't so stark. Making their shoes light tan for example. Or a darker carpet I guess, but that would kill the lightness of the whole thing.<<<

He didn't work for the computer. It was before his time. The computer does a notoriously bad job of reproducing black and white artwork. It really murders close pen and ink like Coll and Texiera.

7/08/2010 5:52 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>with subjects physically present) often tend to curtail or even bypass the design process; that's my beef with photo references.<<<

It's obvious that you equate life classes with making art. And making easel paintings is VERY different from making illustration. I suspect that you have never made a picture with many more than two people in it. Your lack of understanding is deep and profound. You're like a nun teaching a sex education course

7/08/2010 5:57 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>I support the disillusioning process going on here, but Rob you seem to think this forum is just for skilled pros to comment and us mice to bask silently or reverently in your glow. <<<

Not at all. I have plenty of working pros over at the Cennini forum and they are not nearly as moralistic and opinionated as the wannabes here. My only gripe with you duffers is that you clearly don't know your place in the scheme of things. If you did, you'd do less bloviating about your unfounded opinionations of what it is to be an artist.

That's like me giving advice to a cheetah on how to run fast. Know your place, know your limits and you will learn. You will learn because you will have removed that dried crust of shit you wear as a protective coating. Then, and only then will knowledgeable people help you. But do you want that or do you just want to posture?

When I hold a workshop, the students see two trash cans upon entering the studio. One is labeled EGO the other is labeled PERFORMANCE ANXIETY. Most of you have both in spades. Shake off the protective shit-crust and you'll learn just how nice and generous people like me are.

Don't try to show off unless you are willing to direct people to a site with your artwork...and it better be as good as your posing.

7/08/2010 6:08 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>competent (basic) drawing skills are all it takes to trace a photo into a line drawing. having tried it myself, it will never impress me again. you should try it if you haven't. you'd be amazed how easy it is.<<<

That's what I have said all along, Laurence. The sad thing is most of the critics aren't competent enough to do it.

7/08/2010 6:11 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>Sure I prefer illusion -- like painting, that shite is sublime.<<<

Nice slithering you did as you oiled yourself out of that foot-in-mouth

7/08/2010 6:14 PM  
Anonymous Tandy Celia said...

Rob did you teach Graydon Parrish?

7/08/2010 6:41 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7/08/2010 7:00 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7/08/2010 7:26 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

Rob Howard said...
"It's obvious that you equate life classes with making art."

Quite wrong, actually.

"I suspect that you have never made a picture with many more than two people in it."

How remarkably perceptive of you. I bet you can even look at internet pics of paintings and determine if a painter has used flake or titanium white.

Hmmm...what a coincidence:
http://tinyurl.com/2dvnum3

7/08/2010 7:27 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7/09/2010 11:08 AM  
Blogger Tom said...

Hi etc,etc

it is not just the modeling of form but the "construction" of form and space that makes 3d thinking so powerful. The major point of Watson book is 3 d thinking makes great design. None of what I just wrote is in disagreement with your fine points about the 2d aspects of design.

7/09/2010 11:40 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7/09/2010 12:37 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

It's that ability to think constructively (rather than just interpretively) in 3-dimensions that makes building your 2-dimensional design ideas actually feasible.

Elongate form here, flatten form there, and suddenly you have the power to make your 2-dimensional designs work whilst simultaneously assuring the intuitive believability that only a true 3-dimensionality can provide.

7/09/2010 12:42 PM  
Blogger william wray said...

I agree with he points Richard is trying to make and question if Dunn wouldn't find Biggs work just a drop to shorthanded. I see loads of tangents in Briggs forms that line up from not composing enough and not taking enough out. It's not all about shadow weight it's thinking harder about positioning elements in clear unobstructed ways. I think the work is held together by contrasting pattern rather than solid formal drawing. That can work, but I really think it can be and after the fact elaborate rational that is a cover for just admitting an artist you like is blowing work out fast. Briggs did great layouts that needed a final.

7/09/2010 1:41 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Not sure about that Tom. It seems to me that Watson, in the passage quoted above, is discussing how artists "in the zone" intuit form unconsciously, rather than constructively. The book itself is about constructing, mostly. I've never thought that book was about design.

Richard, your last comment can be rewritten as: 2D drawings of 3D objects look more realistic when 3D is considered. We all await your next pearl.

At the risk of wasting my breath, once again, you should pick up the Watson book so you can see

7/09/2010 1:59 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

William,

I agree that, to some degree, Briggs must have made short work of much of his illustration due to his photo-dependent style.

But tangents have a long history of being used to flatten the picture plane in decorative work. I think Briggs' drawing skills give him the opportunity to use tangents to create flowing arabesques out of the tangles of detail in his pictures. By flowing from one silhouette to another through a tangent, his line unifies disparate elements.

Regarding creating more graphic silhouettes to separate characters... the assumption behind that idea is that there is some pressing narrative need requiring characters to be separated. But this is only so where antagonistic parties jockey for dominance. But the Lounge picture in question does not have that kind of drama to it. It is a tonal piece, not a dramatic piece.

7/09/2010 2:08 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7/09/2010 2:18 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7/09/2010 2:20 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

I think Briggs is a very interesting case. There should be no debate that he spent years doing tight, realistic paintings where the elements were solidly and persuasively planted in place. His car advertisements and illustrations for the Post would impress even Dunn in that respect(although they would have been too meticulous for Dunn's taste). Then in the 1950s velocity in pictures started seemed to become more important than the gravity we are discussing. The vitality of that dynamic line (carefully planned to be spontaneous) became more important than the way a buttock hanging over the edge of a chair conveyed weight.

There were a number of brilliant line artists from around this time-- I would include Briggs, Sickles, Fawcett, and a little later, Fuchs-- who made marvelous, impressionistic drawings with a sensitive line. Fuchs took it further than Briggs, and then Peak took it to the point where (IMO) quality really began to break up under the G force.

During that period of the disintegration of older values, artists on the cutting edge sometimes got it wrong and sometimes got it right. But from my perspective, there is no mistaking that Briggs was the real deal. I think his painting here (be sure to click on the details a little further down) is an excellent combination of formal skills and Pepsi generation vitality.

7/09/2010 2:27 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

I was saying that you can more competently approach the ideal 2d design that you're attempting with a constructional/sculptural understanding of and approach to drawing than you can an interpretive system of drawing.

This is not about how realistic it looks (although I was mention that as a concern).

It's about your ability to approach your ideal formal (or informal) design. This is one major thing separates the good artist from the good camera.

The good camera is the great interpreter. It can turn light from an object into a 2d piece with perfect precision.

The good artist can approach it sculpturally, and build the three dimensions to fit what he actually wants from the 2 dimensions.

7/09/2010 2:28 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

David...

I think Leroy Neiman may have been the guy that first leapfrogged Peak and started tumbling down the other side of the hill.

Richard, construction is interpretation. So what you are writing is confusing. Are you by chance referring to the different benefits of "drawing from the imagination" versus "tracing a photo/working strictly from reference?" Generally, the composition is arrived at by imagination and then informed by reference which is, in turn, informed by training in draftsmanship. It's not an either-or situation. Only the very worst artist try to duplicate a photo verbatim.

A quick note on style... there's a reason writers use "one" rather than "your" when posting. Because when you use "your" you seem to be giving advice and offering personal criticism to the reader. When you use "one" this issue doesn't arise.

For instance, "In matters of debate, one's ego is always in danger of outpacing one's good sense" is quite a different remark than "In matters of debate, your ego is always in danger of outpacing your good sense." One is a general remark, the second is an insult.

7/09/2010 3:00 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

This sentence can be further refined by simply removing the pronoun altogether... "In matters of debate, ego is always in danger of outpacing good sense."

7/09/2010 3:05 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7/09/2010 3:11 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

I'm sorry if I offended you.

7/09/2010 3:20 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

Hi Kev
One can not design what one can not construct. All the problems that the artists solve with a flexible use of perspective in Watson's book are design problems. What I take away from the book is the more you are able to think 3d the more design options you have.

7/09/2010 3:28 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Tom, I see what you mean now, and I agree. Thanks for defogging me.

Richard, assuming your apology is serious, it is unnecessary. I wasn't offended, but the grammar you were using can have that affect. So, best to be aware of it so you can make points in the future without accidentally giving insult.

7/09/2010 3:38 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

Wow the color and the paint handling is great in that link David.

7/09/2010 3:40 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

...continued...

Although, Tom, you are talking about designing realistic work with mimetic integrity. (That's the goal of Watson's book, after all.)

For highly stylized work or "naive" work, it might be a detriment to actually understand the construction of an object. But "design" is happening all the same in these non-realistic examples.

7/09/2010 3:45 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7/09/2010 6:11 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7/09/2010 6:18 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7/09/2010 6:18 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

Have you all ever seen this?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJdwzY1o7k8&feature=player_embedded

7/09/2010 6:52 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

Aperçu, this discussion about moral and immoral tools in the studio, I am reducing the size of the studio by selling off some of the tools I no longer use. Lots of prop weapons and uniforms have already been sold. What might interest some of you are a couple of "lucies," opaque projectors. One is a LacyLucy, a rear-projection devise with a Rodenstock enlarger lens and glass drawing board. The image is projected through the back of tracing paper, vellum etc and you draw directly on it. It enlarges and reduces and is VERY accurate as to sizing.

The other is an Artograph DB4, a razor-sharp overhead projector that attaches to the side of the drawing table and projects down onto the table. It will also allow you to project small objects, statuettes, etc.

To those who consider this offer to be blandishments of Satan, grab a crucifix and chant in retro satanis. But for those who see a use in these tools, contact me at mentor@artbootcamp.com

7/09/2010 7:03 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Richard,

In answer to the question you just deleted...

I mean to say that "design" is a fairly loose word. It seems to just mean, "anything done on purpose." (To mark out, or devise, according to etymonline)

Design does not mean "to have integrity of drawing." Nor does it require the end product to be worth the paper it's printed on. There's no guarantee that a design will be beautiful either, nor functional, nor even sensible.

So the word isn't a judgment at all. And applies to much more than art. The word merely distinguishes between something devised, and something not devised.

7/09/2010 7:39 PM  
Blogger Matthew Adams said...

Are there any good artists out there who weren't bastards or were somewhat stable?

Bonnard springs to mind, but his wife was certainly not the lovely nymph he continued to paint over the years so that could hint at some instability, or an extremely patient loving man.

And if there ain't no such thing as a stable or pleasant artist, does that mean I must now start to ignore my wife and child to become great? To focus solely on illustration to the exclusion of all else?

7/09/2010 8:30 PM  
Anonymous yuk said...

Great entry David, was wondering when this one would surface. Working as an illustrator, the one thing that I always have to bear in mind is the brief.Given insane deadlines and the expectations of clients, it is sometimes far more expedient to utilize a camera then try and guess, or to spend hours researching magazines or the net for the images you need as reference. Unlike cartoon illustrations, which allow for a lot more freedom of expression, the working professional doesn't always have a choice. Besides, isn't that what new technology is all about? Why shouldn't the masters have used what was becoming available, if it helped further the process of creating beautiful and lasting images. But, as you rightly point out, becoming a slave to the still image before results in illustrations which are inevitably bland and without any character. At some point I always discard the photo and progress without ever looking at it again. I learn a lot more that way, and I also learn what to forget. Thanks for a great post.

7/10/2010 4:03 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

"The other is an Artograph DB4, a razor-sharp overhead projector that attaches to the side of the drawing table and projects down onto the table. It will also allow you to project small objects, statuettes, etc."

That's really cool, those things go for an arm and a leg -- er, I guess if that's your business they aren't that expensive at all.

7/10/2010 10:55 AM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>those things go for an arm and a leg -- er, I guess if that's your business they aren't that expensive at all.<<<

It's an excellent studio tool. I have no use for them anymore. I'm somewhat retired and never facing deadlines, so I don't need timesaving tools and I thought someone starting their career could put them to good use.

7/10/2010 6:20 PM  
Blogger Peppermint_bats said...

the ballerinas r pretty

7/11/2010 4:51 AM  
Blogger Joss said...

"those things go for an arm and a leg -- er, I guess if that's your business they aren't that expensive at all."

Richard, does that mean you think illustrators are whoring their souls? You seem to be the perfect(pitch perfect)foil for Rob.

7/11/2010 6:58 AM  
Blogger Matthew Adams said...

tin foil

7/11/2010 9:20 AM  
Anonymous ali said...

i think photos can help an artist but there is a skill to learning how to draw and paint that should be learnt from life. Once you have those skills then you can use photos to help you.

7/11/2010 11:49 AM  
Blogger william wray said...

I can't really disagree strongly with Kev or David. You both a a command of the fine points, but I still think there is a little bit of blind love rational (no matter how well reasoned) for forgiving problems with overly working from scrap. In the Briggs example ( Overall nice at a glance) I don't care for hiding the woman's leg, that much feels like a stilted photo influence. The other "sensitive line" artists mentioned Sickles, Fawcett, Peak and Fuchs-- they flat drew / stylized better than Briggs. I'm going to leave it at in my opinion Briggs showed could have been the best at times, and might have been if he had tried to be more consistent. He certainly was the innovator.

Egon Schiele, was influenced by other German expressionists who were the innovators, but in the end blew them away with the total package. God knows what he would have done if he hadn't died at 29.

7/11/2010 3:28 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>God knows what he would have done if he hadn't died at 29.<<<

He could have had a 30th birthday

7/11/2010 11:14 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

William,

I think Briggs had a lot to do with the creation of the reference in the first place. (Somebody correct me if I have this wrong.)

I agree however that a little suspicion is warranted. Using reference is one thing. Tracing reference... well, the work better exhibit a lot of "value added" or else it's going to be hard to justify on aesthetic grounds.

It is a real shame that Schiele didn't live longer. He never quite integrated his great figure work with more substantive compositions. Whether he would have done that is of course unknown. But it seems likely he would have developed out in some way that would have been worth seeing.

(Incidentally, William, I'm a fan your work. You've given me many many laughs through the years. So, thanks for that. And I'm really loving the new train paintings.)

Best,
kev

7/11/2010 11:46 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

"But it seems likely he would have developed out in some way that would have been worth seeing."

Well, we would hope. It's easily possibly that he would've brought himself stylistically back closer to the mainstream while attempting to produce something more finished. In that case we'd be better off just keeping the work that we have.

7/12/2010 9:17 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

william, you're fine art blog lists a URL for your website but the link is dead.

Is that site no longer with us or is the URL wrong?
http://www.williamwray.com/

7/12/2010 9:21 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7/12/2010 9:22 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

richard, (the human eye roll)...

What was "mainstream" in Red Vienna after 1918?

Please soak your fingers in Immodium AD.

7/12/2010 11:41 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

Are you telling me that interwar Austrian art was not centered around a semi-strict representational-ism?

I was under the impression that this was the case just about everywhere, and that we only think of the unusual works we now look at as part of the mainstream because that's what we're shown by art historians as exemplary members. Is that incorrect?

Were the majority of artists really producing stuff outside of the whole oil portraits of children with puppies and watercolour landscapes with watermills/sailboats?

7/12/2010 12:12 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

(In the same way, if you looked at the majority of painter's in our own time I think you'd find a significant predominance of watercolour and acrylic paintings of flowers, seagulls, and trees, etc. -- but if you asked the average member of the art establishment what was going on you might get the impression that most artists are doing Postmodern piles of sand.)

7/12/2010 12:17 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Richard...

Red Vienna was both a bifurcated society in political and economic crisis and a melting pot culturally. It was also an extremely densely populated and vibrant city in which socialists were popularly elected and were carrying out a radical remaking of that city and its people including usurping the institutions and funds held by the bourgeoise.

It would be impossible to know what "mainstream" painting or taste looked like under those circumstances.

7/12/2010 1:55 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

I see. Is that also true of Austria? What about central Europe as whole?

There had to be some visible semblance of a mainstream or average even during the social upheaval of the early 20th century, if not in Vienna or Austria -- at least in Europe, right?

Would these artists consider themselves members of that norm?

That seems to me to be counter to the very idea that they were revolutionary artists, which is generally how I hear these people described. Was that concept invented later or perhaps just part of the rhetoric at the time?

If there was nothing that these artists would consider a counter-force to their own work doesn't that make them the establishment? Would it be accurate then to describe them as members of the establishment?

I mean, it doesn't seem implausible to have an establishment that considers itself somehow revolutionary, we have that now with the conceptual-artists, but that isn't what was going on at the time was it?

7/12/2010 2:09 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

That post WWI era was the very moment when this question was being wrestled over. Which is why the idea of "mainstream" holds no meaning in this context.

Just before his death, Schiele was reportedly the most popular artist in Vienna. Was he, therefore, the mainstream already?

The question is unanswerable. But I would say, on the overall point, the odds that Schiele would have become more like your definition of "mainstream" are pretty much nil given who he was, how popular he was as a radical artist, and where and when he would have lived.

7/12/2010 2:44 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

"Please soak your fingers in Immodium AD."

I'm sorry, I have trouble helping it. I have *zero* engagement with artists in my daily life/city (that I can take seriously), and you all are highly respectable -- if I talk too much just remember it's out of excitement, not just because I like hearing myself talk. Besides my contact with you all I generally only get a few words out in a single day to anyone, artists or not. :-)

7/12/2010 2:47 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

"the odds that Schiele would have become more like your definition of "mainstream" are pretty much nil given who he was, how popular he was as a radical artist, and where and when he would have lived."

Well, I wasn't thinking that he'd move closer to the mainstream because of social pressures, but instead, because when you've discovered something new and interesting (like the way he worked with form) it can be difficult to bring that same knowledge into the rest of your art.

Like with Rembrandt's cartoons and the poor way they translated into oils. Not that the oils were bad, but that the quality of the cartoon didn't translate.

I worry that Schiele's style would be difficult to translate into a finished scene.

7/12/2010 2:52 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>(Somebody correct me if I have this wrong.)<<<

You have that VERY wrong. One look at the Famous Artist Courses of the 50's reveal actual category lists for setting up a "morgue." Al Parker's morgue was famous for it's scope. File cabinets were de riguer in all illustrator's studios and a good filing system was very important.

In one of my books I have devoted several pages to reference files, categories and how to collect reference. It's become much easier to do since that book was written and certainly easier to do since Al Parker's day.

The Famous Artists School predates Briggs by decades. Reference files were a standard back before then.

7/12/2010 7:23 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>And if there ain't no such thing as a stable or pleasant artist, does that mean I must now start to ignore my wife and child to become great? To focus solely on illustration to the exclusion of all else?<<<

That would be like taking up drinking because Hemingway drank to excess or the idiocy of locating some secret medium of a master. The reality is that aping their behavior will be just a veneer. Stick to being a nice guy and a great Dad and leave making the real art to the pricks. Take joy in what you have, not what you cannot be.

7/12/2010 7:28 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>Just before his death, Schiele was reportedly the most popular artist in Vienna. Was he, therefore, the mainstream already? <<<

What's this manque version of the Council of Trent got to do with illustration and how many Egon Schiele's could dance on the head of a pin. Schiele was not an illustrator. He died at 29. For all you know, he may have lived to become a tram conductor or a priest or bartender.

Any speculation of what Velazquez would have done if he was left-handed, or Warhol if he was heterosexual or what any of this has to do with illustration?

7/12/2010 7:33 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Rob,

Thanks for your response.

Yes, I am fully aware that illustrators have morgue/scrap files, as I have one myself (which I rarely use now that I have google) and all my artist friends also have them. I am aware of the discussion in the Famous Artists course about "scrap files" or morgues or whatever you want to call them.

However, to say that 50s illustrators didn't also take their own reference shots is fairly clueless. There is much evidence that they did in the Famous Artist course series themselves. I believe David has even written some posts on the topic.

The Briggs we've been discussing, the lounge picture, looks like just such a reference shot to my eye. It doesn't look constructed from scrap.

As well, there still remains several services in New York City to this day where illustrators can go to get their reference shot by pro photographers with "hollywood" lighting.

And, while we're discussing the Famous Artists Course, you seem to have forgotten that Austin Briggs was one of the founding faculty. So clearly it didn't "predate him by decades." I don't know where you got that idea.

Your last cranky post complaining about the discussion of Schiele is of course not worth responding to.

7/12/2010 8:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Once again, David, a great post...you just cannot seem to NOT come up with something interesting!

Rob, you have a wealth of knowledge in you and are damn entertaining at the same time.

Kev, I always appreciate your knowledge and presentation skills...and thankfully, no battles this time!

The best quote from the batch, to me, is

"Richard, construction is interpretation. So what you are writing is confusing. Are you by chance referring to the different benefits of "drawing from the imagination" versus "tracing a photo/working strictly from reference?" Generally, the composition is arrived at by imagination and then informed by reference which is, in turn, informed by training in draftsmanship. It's not an either-or situation. Only the very worst artist try to duplicate a photo verbatim."

I use photographs often in my work...sometimes it helps and sometimes, if I am completely honest, it makes too easy a shortcut, and stops me from thinking the appropriate amount. It's a constant battle of my own making.

There are very few artists who can paint/draw convincing realism without using photos (or mirrors) as reference...most people drift into stylization if they only draw "from the head." Now of course, that is not a bad thing at all, but most would be fooling themselves if they thought their work was convincingly realistic.

Again, great posts, people, which is why this is one of the best blogs of its kind on the web.

Ken Meyer Jr. (I keep forgetting my friggin password!)

7/12/2010 11:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

...oh, and to follow Rob's directions, my site is at www.kenmeyerjr.com/port

Ken

7/12/2010 11:18 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

" or the idiocy of locating some secret medium of a master."

That's funny you say that because I was reading an Amazon review for one of your books and some guy was going on about how "this guy is a goofball, he just wants to find the masters secret mediums. Don't buy this book." etc.

7/12/2010 11:44 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>www.kenmeyerjr.com/port<<<

Nice stuff, Ken. I am always impressed with anyone who can get a handle on watercolor. I've done about a dozen or so and just barely snuck by. You're clearly more skilled than that.

7/13/2010 1:18 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>how "this guy is a goofball, he just wants to find the masters secret mediums. Don't buy this book." etc.<<<

Well I won't deny the goofball, asshole, crypto-fascist, racist pig muthafuhkah, but seeing that those two books were on the subject of illustrator's techniques and gouache, it sound like someone talking out of the wrong orifice. There are no old masters mediums using gouache, acrylics, Prismacolor and Rubylith.

The problem I encounter are with a handful if fixated individuals who act like jilted lovers and try to say mean things and end up lying. Maybe I rebuffed their advances...who knows?

Perhaps because I still have an Atari 1064 and an old Leica, those qualify and Old Master's Mediums.

7/13/2010 1:27 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>Your last cranky post complaining about the discussion of Schiele is of course not worth responding to.<<<

Responding to that would have been beneath your dignity. I'm so glad that you preserved your dignity by not responding to my cranky comment. You're always a dignified act, Kev.

7/13/2010 1:30 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Obviously I meant the content of that post wasn't worth commenting on. I imagine most would agree.

7/13/2010 1:48 PM  
Anonymous Colin Chappell said...

If anyone hasn't mentioned it, can I just say these are marvellous drawings by Mister Briggs.
I wish him well in his career.

7/14/2010 4:12 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>Obviously I meant the content of that post wasn't worth commenting on. I imagine most would agree.<<<
First, in a display of true restraint and rectitude, you announced that you would not bring any attention to the thing you were bringing attention to. Now you, in imagining what most would think after you brought attention to that which you said you'd not bring attention to, are essentially seeking to gain a consensus for bringing attention to something you would never even acknowledge.

If this is a demonstration of today's version of true grace, I can only imagine what you consider to be good table manners.

7/14/2010 7:58 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>I wish him well in his career.<<<

He had an illustrious career. He died about thirty-five years ago.

He got his spurs as some of us did, illustrating car ads.

7/14/2010 8:02 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

Currently at the Clarke in Williamsburg Massachusetts is a show curated to explore the trememndous influence the aging Degas had on the young Picasso
If you can, go to this article in today's Wall Street Journal http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703636404575353084008273808.html?mod=WSJ_Opinion_TOPRightCarousel_1
It is well written and informative and titled, appropriately, The Continuing Conversation.

7/14/2010 8:25 PM  
Anonymous Colin Chappell said...

Apologies.I had no intention of causing offence to your readers or the estate of Mr Briggs.
Forums like this do an invaluable service in keeping the names of dead artists in front of new generations of readers.

7/14/2010 8:51 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7/14/2010 8:53 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

"First, in a display of true restraint and rectitude, you announced that you would not bring any attention to..."

Rob, nobody cares. Get past it.

Thanks for the WSJ link.

7/14/2010 8:55 PM  
Blogger astrobot said...

Fascinating as Spock would say. Ah, this never ending battle is a controversy dear to my heart and has inspired a very long winded commentary again. I couldn’t help it.

I remember telling a young man--with basic copying and sketching ability, very talented, I wanted to hire, a kid of limited means and schooling, who wanted to draw for Marvel Comics—that his work would improve if he used references, he replied that the masters like Jack Kirby drew everything from their heads and didn’t. I said well it took time for Kirby to develop his memory. I said even Jack Kirby started out using references, this was the mid-to late 80s before the internet and the wide spread use of personal computers—back then I didn’t really know how much Kirby had used them but I could tell that he did from some signs in the old comics. Now I was surprised to learn Kirby swiped from other artists left and right it seems now, at least in the beginning, the sources for these swipes are appearing more and more on the internet. In the old days I could tell crude swipes when the photo used didn’t provide enough information, say of a sport car.

I’m curious about how Kirby faked it, masking his swipes in composition, how he made them look different from a photo-reference, a swipe from other comics or a swipe from magazine cover art. He stole, for an early cover, almost a complete set up, figure, and pose from a Hal Foster comic strip. How much did he mix and match for that cover, was it just Foster alone? He admitted to stealing needed information vaguely in his Shop Talk interview with Eisner. Back in the 70s-80s I think it was less known or understood by the lay public unless you subscribed to professional magazines on commercial illustration and design (Step-by-Step graphics?) the necessity for cameras and related tools—the necessity for reference material. For some cartoonists I think Kirby is the standard barer for this type of idolized mastery.

7/15/2010 2:14 PM  
Blogger astrobot said...

Yet Kirby used photographs in some of his 50s mags. He liked photo collage and began to use them in the 1960s. He even posed as a gangster for one such photo-cover, maybe for him it wasn’t a big deal, but his fans then and now? Yet we don’t know if he ever took original references for his own personal use. I hope to learn from any finished biography more about his life and working methods. Some of his romance comics had stock photo-covers like many other comics back then. Back in the old days, you had on one hand the ignorant students and fans and on the other the magician not wanting to reveal how the trick was achieved. I noticed that talented fan-artists became pros as soon as they started improving their native ability with references and so the clumsy look of their early efforts disappeared quickly—the only difference between a talented amateur and professional?

With numerous film and other magazines to swipe or reference from (back in the heyday of magazines) it seems there was a lot of information for any artist to collect into a morgue file and re-adapt to his needs. I really don’t see how artists can not use photographs for things they have no access to other wise, costumes for example. Asked to draw a train, how can you draw one from memory if the required drawing must have some resemblance to “real” trains and you can’t recall them in detail so must do research even for a cartoon train. In Shop Talk there is tension over all this. Hogarth and Eisner are the most lived or rabid about it—how much and how do you use them. Yet fiction and pulp magazines required them consistently. It’s fascinating to see how it was done and some old magazines and books did reveal these tricks. You see a couple posing, being directed, in a small little office with a radiator behind them, later they’ll be put into a full blown action jungle scene on the drawing board.

Photography challenged and undermined the unique gifts of artists, undermined magical, superhuman powers, so the antagonism to it is either a great envy, also dependence (I need it but I hate it) or an understanding of its limitations in terms of “higher” goals, aesthetic and spiritual ambitions, not just to copy nature, not just to trace, but to bring forth uniquely individual images that are deeply connected to the mind or is it some mechanical ambition to use the brain, eye and hand like a camera? Artists after all were once our only cameras before the invention of cameras. Now they can be bionic cameras, half eye, half camera, a pen mouse is now imbedded in the hand.

In Jack Kirby’s case it seemed a myth arose that he had always had the gift of drawing completely without use of references. He’d start on one side of the blank paper without preliminaries as if tracing a preexisting finished image in his mind’s eye. In pictures of him, and many artists in their studios, the drawing board is cleared clean of references. It’s quite an impressive feat but it looks as if it wasn’t always so; he couldn’t always see everything, it is even said he traced occasionally or once. Kirby himself said that early on drawing was an agonizing process. I found in Epic Barry Smith’s expose of his rigorous use of references, studies, planning, in a desire for perfection, quite refreshing and yet he too longs for the unaided eye.

7/15/2010 2:39 PM  
Blogger astrobot said...

Later in life, Kirby states he had several possibilities in his mind’s eye in terms of drawing a page, like a master chess player with different possible moves. When he used a real boy for the character Witchboy he needed a photo reference of the young fan. But only now because of the internet are we able to debunk the perfect fully formed Jack Kirby. I think at some point in his career, maybe when his work became blockier, his use of references declined to zero, someone here stated this sort of skill becomes a stylization, or mannerism, his evolving style reached its apotheosis in abstraction just before illness damaged his control over it. Some of Kirby’s borrowing verges on what today is considered infringement. Of course if you live and work at home and no longer work in a bullpen it’s easy to flip through those reference sources.

Someone who had gone up to his house in California, before his death, told me that they saw his garage full of old magazines—he used magazines for his collage work also but apparently for swipes as well. I’ve wondered what became of his morgue file. I wonder if Kirby kept silent about his use of references because he too worried over this controversy, particularly when people became more concerned over infringement. One of the things that always annoyed me about early how to books and interviews is that these comic artists seemed reluctant to talk about the actual nuts and bolts process—why give the young upstarts a leg up into professional standards, now books and websites are everywhere that insist you must use references but of course in the proper manner.

It seems like an absurd joust against windmills that began with the camera obscura, a futile fight, but then I think how useful such memory would become if our electronic civilization were to ever collapse into barbarism. Of course people would recover and regard such skills highly. It’s a John Henry type struggle but of course the machine in a commercial mass production process does work faster. And for most people art must tell a “realistic” story or express a sentiment of some kind so storytelling trumps the value of all the various visual styles possible in telling a story. You can tell a story with stick figures or dead lifeless wooden puppets if you hold an audience’s attention.

I think the key problem for artists using photographs for comics is a problem I’ve noticed with photo-novels, I find them interesting, somewhat appealing but problematical and I don’t like them very much for this reason. The Photo-novel itself reminds you of life and movement and seems to demand that the pictures move but don’t, and thus, maybe it’s just me, distracts from the story—maybe one trick would be to be more sequential with the movement; if not highly stylized, photography in panels doesn’t allow for conscious control of design, light, unless of course you can control each figure prop, and setting in the scene or shot and can control the framing of these as well in terms of perspective, lighting, something the new 3D programs allow in virtual studios—art perhaps turns reality into symbolic shapes as well as images.

7/15/2010 2:49 PM  
Blogger astrobot said...

All right so in weak camera to reference usage I would imagine then you take what you see or you find the design accidentally already there or the design, the composition, is shaped by the camera’s framing and so any rendered art that isn’t much modified by light or even design just looks like a photograph done up as an illustration--you copied this from a photo the smart ass says.

Gene Colan is one of the few cartoonists who plays with the camera’s own distorting effects either “naturally” or by using photograph references. I’m not sure how he does it.

A strictly photo-referenced comic is an interesting hybrid style and is much better than the plain photo-novel done without any artistic control. But to use references more artfully, more effectively you must understand some aspects of design in composition and recompose everything in bits and pieces to achieve what would be achieved purely by imaginative, non-referenced compositions, is the idea? But lack of references, as was pointed by another poster, pushes you to create stylizations of a crude or primitive sort? I think Loomis in his chapters on using the camera and photos gives the best advice on how to use them in line with the higher ideals of traditional approaches.

But the camera whether still or moving can also produce beautiful compositions with the aide of set designs, the complex lighting of sound stages—the films of Orson Welles come to mind, so it seems to me that one is individualistic and the other is tied to mass production, it has to be down quickly, or comes so close to life we want or expect the life in them to suddenly move? Stills from Kubrick’s films are amazingly beautiful photographs individually and yet their power or interest is different from a painting—perhaps because they demand movement where as something drawn or painted relaxes this demand?

There is an economic aspect as well as the talent or skill of the artists in terms of getting a job down. If you could do art without making living off it?

7/15/2010 2:59 PM  
Anonymous Chad said...

Photonovel stories are never satisfactory and overly referenced comic strips also have very little visual flow.It seems to me that a well-drawn strip by an artist able to maintain a panel to panel characterization is the most successful method of storytelling. Alex Toth was critical of Doug Wildey's photo ref technique on the basis that he was unable to maintain a consistent likeness and action looked stilted.Some of Toth's narratives are very stripped down artwise but imbued with a gift of life that draws you in.
Re Kirby.I've seen quite a lot of his work and if he did use photo reference it stll comes out looking like Kirby and noone else.So does it matter if he did? (and I can't quite imagine him working that way).

7/15/2010 5:37 PM  
Blogger astrobot said...

Chad, it matters I guess only to those who are not blessed or cursed with such genius and must find ways to work with references if they need to. I don’t think everyone can be a genius like Toth or Kirby but the point was Kirby wasn’t totally free of the need to use references and the clever ways in which he borrowed intrigues me so I find these revelations curious—the latest one I found was a direct swipe of a face from Joseph Hirsch’s High Visibility 1944. Perhaps David can educate us about Hirsch?

This is also a matter of the truth versus illusions and falsehoods. Looking at Hirsch’s version of the face and Kirby’s copy, you see where Kirby missed something Hirsch had achieved in the eyes of the wounded soldier and I think, the original, Hirsch’s, is the better face. Why did Kirby miss the subtlty in the eyes?

If the young man I mentioned had known this he might not have set so high a standard for himself so early on and thus could’ve given himself a chance to grow rather than to expect all the fruits of years of experience to come immediately or that it must be there immediately--because of this myth, that the great ones can draw everything from their heads or memory alone--that the best don’t copy, don’t trace etc—but what really is curious about this is why photographs can't achieve that.

I mentioned rather badly the feeling that I expect Photo-novels to move as in motion pictures and they don’t and this works against their appeal for me. Still images are nice to look at but I find that I look longer and I'm fascinated more by drawings and paintings than photographs. I don't collect photographs. I would rather hang a painting on my wall than a photograph.

I tried to say that there is no controlled design, design comes from the camera and even if you compose you compose based on the limits of what the frame holds. Composition, color, shapes? Is it that they are so badly composed that makes them so unappealing?

What’s the actual technical explanation and solution—is it that the figure itself must be designed rather than real in order to achieve a fluid sense of motion? So photographed images appear stiff because they are not designed at all, they don’t have what? symbolic shapes?

Kirby at one point seems to become pure design, figures, background, everything seemed harmonized, fitted together in pleasing patterns, though his stylization is rigid and limited in its own way.

I’m curious to know how Toth used references when he had to, that might reveal something of the key to successfully using them for those not gifted or experienced enough not to rely on them much. I’m not an art student, just a lay person. It might have something to do with idealization. Creating ideal forms or shapes, patterns that move from one to the other? Motion is not in the real figure but in the patterns, the lines?

I must also admit that I’m someone curious about the mechanics of magic, I’m not just satisfied viewing the performance.

7/15/2010 7:38 PM  
Blogger astrobot said...

http://www.entrecomics.com/?tag=jack-kirby


The above is the link to the Foxhole cover--I'd really like to know more about Hirsch and how Kirby came to swipe him and why. I can't see if he swiped more than just the face and body of this one soldier or the whole cover is a direct copy of something Hirsch did.

7/15/2010 8:31 PM  
Blogger astrobot said...

I love the eyes in the Hirsch original, Kirby's eyes look crazy, too large, in Hirsch there is a mystery in the eyes, it's more expressive, more human. Now wouldn't it be funny if Hirsch had a whole photographed set up for this picture. It's painting rather than a photograph, I think?

7/15/2010 8:35 PM  
Blogger StimmeDesHerzens said...

to my favorite writer/artist
re:"Please soak your fingers in Immodium AD."
I love the writing in this blog, yours and the newly manly Rob H, but at some point I begin to skip cause it veers so off topic, like the phrase above. Would love to figure out how it was arrived at, but no time....
Also an adv of photography is that it captures an image which, with a doseage of inspiration, can be later turned into art...
gE

7/16/2010 1:52 PM  
Anonymous norm said...

I like the Kirby one better. The soldier looks more shell-shocked.

7/16/2010 4:46 PM  
Anonymous Chad said...

Kirby never did subtlety, he was all about action and movement.I think his take is more obviously 'dramatic' than Hirsch's.There were some comic artists that used swipes but produced run of the mill work. Kirby ,whether you like him or not,had the ability to create and destroy universes so who cares if he 'borrowed' an image here or there?

7/16/2010 5:10 PM  
Blogger astrobot said...

Yes, shell shock--is right!

7/16/2010 6:16 PM  
Blogger astrobot said...

The illustrators presented here seem caught in the middle of historical developments, what’s trendy, schools of thought, and their own ambitions and the real world, caught between artistic ambitions which are deeply personal and obsessive on one hand and mass taste and commercial demands on the other. What do the sellers sell, dreams, fantasies, clichés, covers must show or suggest sex and violence, love and romance, a story, a thrill or a scare, you can’t find these in abstractions. What do artists want?

The public and critics apparently liked Fleischer’s rotoscoped Superman and Ko-ko, at least in that era, the faking might not be good enough for us now, the use of the rotoscope is too obvious; but even Disney had to utilize this new and “awful” tracing device in order to bring realism into his rubbery figures, and used it better than the Fleishers—Disney went to even greater extremes with statues, mechanical simulations of Bambi and Pinocchio, and even constructed props to achieve imaginary “realism”. The artists at one point needed a real wooden cage to work out a problem they couldn't do with just their heads alone. Artists cannot escape their tools and tricks.

I get the feeling that competency to draw imaginatively isn’t really the question with general audiences or studios, and, tastes very to be sure, but it seems people in some sort of unconscious consensus want verisimilitude of some sort and not so much originality which may be too personal, too abstract, after all human interest, which also includes clichés, must always be at the forefront of human storytelling, so one must draw imaginatively but always with credible human emotions, behavior and actions always in mind. I’m sure most people still prefer realism over abstraction. It probably didn’t matter to mass audiences how “realism” was achieved as long as the animation gave the puppets life. Look at how far this has come with Avatar—where human emotional inflictions not just motion sensed poses now control imaginatively designed CGI puppets.

You could say Rockwell brought ideals and nostalgia to life however more complex and messy the realities of small towns were in fact so in art we always see an interplay between dreams and realities. In contrast, one of the interesting things about Burne Hogarth’s method of constructing the human body is how his anatomy ironically suggests machines and machine parts and his style though pleasing seems to emphases geometric shapes. His musculature is industrial wires clamped together!

It isn’t real at all. I found his trick to give more movement to his figure by having his characters on tip toes like Ballerinas very amusing. Hogarth’s anatomy is anatomy as design rather than reality—he finds design in the human form and exaggerates it into machine-like parts and components you can then memorize, personalize and develop along your own lines.

His early Tarzan figure and poses are all shapes that are pleasing to look upon and they don’t look as if he used much reference or any. In a Comics Journal interview he seems to me to badmouth some of his colleagues for using references.

Still there is a mannequin-like quality to his Tarzan as with Dikto’s style as well. It’s no illusion of realism. It’s meant to be fake? However much he idealized his intentions. It’s not real but abstractions meant to tell us what exactly. Why is this better or more pleasing than a strait copy of a man posing?

7/16/2010 7:17 PM  
Blogger emikk said...

Isn't the idea to come up with a good drawing anyway you can?...maybe I'm naive and a simpleton.

7/17/2010 12:35 AM  
Anonymous Chad said...

Everything an artist draws is in some way an expression of his own personality.Likewise, Hogarth's conception of anatomy says as much about him as it does about human physiology.I've noticed that most artists at a certain level of skill tend to see Hogarth's approach as mannered and ungainly.

Certain artists rise to the top because the power of their approach strikes a note with the public.Leyendecker Rockwell Pyle Frazetta Steranko for example, all very different, all distinctive and popular in their own depiction of the world.Surely this constant variation is what keeps us interested in art.

7/17/2010 9:50 AM  
Blogger astrobot said...

"Everything an artist draws is in some way an expression of his own personality."

This is very true.

Emikk, as someone who composes on the piano I was fascinated to hear of a Japanese invention of a piano that was constructed sort of like a typewriter. I learned touch typing and I thought wow this is wonderful! It might make playing the piano and difficult parts much easier. More time to get on.

I haven’t heard of it since then, it’s been about a decade now. I wonder how much it would cost to buy it. Nobody wanted to promote or sell it, and no customers, I guess. Not being a virtuoso then or now I would’ve bought it unashamedly.

What’s wrong with making difficult things easier? Well, they might say, there are human virtues in learning things that are difficult to master. Patience for one thing. But it’s a concern and passion for tradition tied to leisure and good fortune. Time. We need time to work toward mastery. One could also say mass production, making money, as well as history works against the stability of traditions. Few publicly play the harpsichord today or listen to music played on it. It's not popular.

Maybe playing it now proves you are elite and above the masses. How much of this antagonism to photographs, references and tracing is tied to vanity and snobbery and how much to a sincere desire to share the virtues of mastering what is difficult.

There is a technical human ability that must be learned in order to play a musical instrument well, with ease and to improvise if you want to--this is creative but there are instruments, software, too that can if used correctly fake it pretty close. These tools are for cripples and lesser mortals, not the gods.

7/17/2010 6:54 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>nobody cares. Get past it. <<<

another display of diving "beneath your dignity." You'll excuse me for pointing out this caricature behavior, Kev.
I could keep baiting you to find the point at which you finally drop this self-congratulatory bone, for you see, I have no dignity at all. I leave that for the scrabbling middlebrows who are intent on showing that they are not what they are.

I await your knee-jerk reaction with bated breath and baited trap.

7/18/2010 9:08 AM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>A strictly photo-referenced comic is an interesting hybrid style and is much better than the plain photo-novel done without any artistic control.<<<

It has an interesting genesis in the "fotoromanzi" that ran in popular Italian magazines like Grand Hotel. They were photos of actors and models with captions and word balloons, in a standard strip format.

I believe they create the movement toward a more filic approach to POV in strips.

7/18/2010 9:13 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

Astrobot, I believe you are talking about Uniform or Janko keyboards.

The Japanese company that sells them is Chromatone, but they were a Western invention in the 19th century.

They go for about 2 grand.

7/18/2010 9:14 AM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>I believe they create the movement toward a more filic approach to POV in strips.<<<

Ah, my lack of secretarial and office skills shows once again in my bad typing. It should be ... I believe they created the movement toward a more filmic approach to POV in strips.

7/18/2010 9:46 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Rob,

The use of POV shots in comics appears at least as early as the first issues of Detective comics in the 1930s and in Dick tracy from the 1930s as well as many other strips. Movies were an inspiration to comics from the very start. Photo-comics are just another version of comics that came later.

7/18/2010 12:31 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

And Rob...

Re: A post beneath my dignity...

Really, nobody knows what you are talking about and nobody cares anyway.

You wrote a cranky attacking post for no other reason than to try to zing me because I pointed out a bunch of basic errors you made in one of your endless "pronouncements from authority."

This fact is as plain as day.

You should have just accepted the corrections. Instead, you've tried to make a mountain of righteousness out of an anthill of nothing to assuage your bruised ego.

To repeat, nobody cares. Get past it.

7/18/2010 12:46 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

astrobot,

I believe there is something wrong with taking the easy way out in regards to art. Because the easy way out is always the mechanical solution... the solution that, between problem and solution, has the least human effort.

This is fine when tilling an acre of land, or firing a rocket, but in the arts, I would argue it is the humanity itself that is the solution to every artistic problem. The concrete solution is only a reflection of the humanity at work... which is the very reason why we consult art in the first place... to encounter the world through another personality which, with any luck, has some insight and life energy to share.

kev

7/18/2010 1:01 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

emikk,

The problem is that "good drawing" (in my estimation) is living drawing, a drawing with energy, grace, power, and imagination. And simply tracing a photo to achieve "accuracy" without considering energy, grace, power and imagination, will leave the drawing "correct" but aesthetically dead.

7/18/2010 1:03 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Seems the link broke to the Dick tracy toon from the 1930s. Second try...

Dick Tracy POV 1930s

7/18/2010 1:08 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>To repeat, nobody cares.<<< I take it that this statement is a result of a carefully conducted poll on your part.

Kev, you are an endless source of predictability, much like a duck in a shooting gallery...you are mechanically reset, are ferried into range and BANG...PING! Then you come back at the predetermined monent and expect a different result...BANG...PING!...BANG...PING!...BANG...PING!...BANG...PING!...BANG...PING!

You don't seem to get the point.

7/18/2010 4:03 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>Because the easy way out is always the mechanical solution... <<<

It depends on your conception of "easy." If you mean physical work, then yes, you have applied the workman/craftsman definition. If, on the other hand, you believe that making art is a mental and intellectual pursuit, then something like today's ateliers is the easy way out because one simply turns off their brain and trudges along like a factory worker doing repetitive tasks.

For me, art is problem solving and, at it's finest moments, the actual discovery of unseen problems.

Simply working, developing hand skills is not much different than the precise skills we see decorating fine china, painting lettering and billboards or painting flamboyent pinstriping on a car. That took time and practice and it's not done by machine...nor is it art.

People without well-developed hand skills are always in awe of those skills they have not been able to develop. There's a long history of very skilled nonentities who can draw and paint and never have two original thoughts to rub together.

7/18/2010 4:17 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Rob,

After reading your 427th post decrying modern atelier training, I can not help but agree that you are utterly predictable.

You are equally predictable in your inability to let go of a meaningless point which, clearly, nobody else cares about but you. (no science required, just listen to the silence. Hear it?)

Instead, you keep posting and posting and posting, hoping to come out on top, like some sad gambler who always thinks the next roll of the die will turn his fortunes.

But it never does.

I admit that I take a bit of pleasure imagining your silent impotent rage at your inability to win even the most insectoid picayune little victory on this message board.

But ultimately, this pleasure gives way to a kind sadness on your behalf. What is the point of your struggle? What does it gain you?

There is no point and it gains you nothing. Nobody cares.

So all that's left to say is, may peace come unto you.

Sincerely,
kev

7/18/2010 6:09 PM  
Anonymous Mike Mazursky said...

Agree that the point is meaningless. It is pretty funny watching Rob keep coming back to try to win the non-point tho. (Grabs popcorn, waits.) :)

7/18/2010 6:26 PM  
Blogger Foley said...

Neat post, but I have to disagree with you when you say the following:

"Fine artists never felt compelled to justify their methods."

Maybe we have different definitions of "justify", but it seems to me that many notable fine artists of the past 70+ years have felt compelled to justify what they were doing in the creation of art: Duchamp's "Fountain", Pollock's drip period (and then, to the art world at least, his post-drip return to figurative work), and Damien Hirst's use of animal corpses as sculptural elements spring to mind.

7/18/2010 7:36 PM  
Blogger Frank said...

The decision to use photographs or not is similar to deciding whether or not to date one person at a time, or to perpetually play the field; everyone has an opinion on it, and may judge you for it, but ultimately the only thing that matters is if you are okay with it in your own work.

7/19/2010 2:03 PM  
Blogger Anet said...

Superb! Thank you very much!

7/19/2010 2:07 PM  
Blogger Sketchguy said...

I have a friend who is a master artist and he is always saying "NO photographs!".

One day I saw him painting from copies of etchings not his own.

I think people are looking for that master artist who's magnificent work of art can't be explained, are too high for others to obtain. When they find out that the artist used "help" they feel crushed and sickened that their hero "cheated".

If you used adobe illustrator to make a straight line does that count as cheating?

7/19/2010 2:12 PM  
Blogger astrobot said...

Wow, reading here is always an educational experience. Great stuff. Rob, Kev, Richard, and David and all the other posters, thanks—I wanted to let you know I have read these posts and responses to mine with considerable interest and pleasure.

2 grand for "Janko keyboards", huh, 19th century western invention--I've got to learn more about this!

If I had more time I'd comment but works calls.

Good night gentlemen.

7/19/2010 10:14 PM  
Blogger astrobot said...

My appologies to the Ladies...goodnight...

7/19/2010 10:20 PM  
Blogger Jaleen Grove said...

I disagree that the fine art scene accepted use of photos while illustrators alone had a hangup about it. Rather, illustrators had the hangup because the fine art scene objected vehemently to use of photo-ref. (The use of photos by Impressionists and other Modernists was, I wager, kept very private). According to fine art dogma, use of photos was copying, not interpreting, the subject.

Of course, illustrators WERE interpreting too. But because their style was more naturalistic/realistic, it was easy for fine art snobs to propagandize them as copyists. They did this to distinguish their own efforts - after all, they had to defend why their crazy fauvist and cubist efforts were superior to academic art.

Unfortunately, some illustrators swallowed this anti-photo baloney in an attempt to maintain prestige in a quickly shifting marketplace.

Possibly, they feared that those who had the more difficult-to-master drawing skills based on traditional training using models and memory would be indistinguishable from those who could approximate those skills with a camera and projector, meaning the undeserving would compete with the mighty on price and prestige. I think their fears were legitimate considering your average client can't tell the difference - but to the trained eye, the master draughtsman will always excel beyond the photo-interpreter.

And when a master draughtsman interprets a photo - voila, Norman Rockwell's excellence.

7/29/2010 10:21 AM  

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