Monday, August 23, 2010


I love Thomas Fluharty's working drawing of Hugh Hefner:

The purpose of this drawing was to capture the information Fluharty needed for an oil portrait. This could never be achieved merely by tracing liver spots. Look at the vigor and character of his line:

Robert Fawcett once wrote, "A design started tentatively rarely gains in vigor later on. In anticipation of the dilution... the first rough draft [is often] put down with an almost savage intensity...." The personality that Fluharty squeezed into this drawing will survive conversion to painted shapes followed by several phases of refinement and blending.

Despite the obvious energy and speed of his drawing, he has not sacrificed acuity. Note how sharply he records the eyes, never resting with an easy symmetry:

Best of all, as he digests information Fluharty infuses it with strong opinions. Here Fluharty takes liberties with Hefner's ear, treating it like the gnarly horn of a grizzled old satyr:

One of the things I love most about good drawing is the way opinions and judgments emerge in the evaluation process.

Fluharty teaches a superb course on oil painting in the tradition of the Dutch and Flemish masters.


Blogger Richard said...

That's one of the great parts of drawing ears.

You can really screw with them, without your general audience being any the wiser.

8/24/2010 9:40 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

Have you all listened to Bobby Chiu's interview with Fluherty?

8/24/2010 10:00 AM  
Anonymous MORAN said...

I first learned about Fluharty from this blog. I agree he's great. He puts a lot of personality in his drawings. I'm surprised that he can still get away with painting in oils in this day and age.

Richard you are right about the ear.

8/24/2010 11:54 AM  
Blogger Richard said...


He is doing more and more work digitally, but by his own admission, he is really feeling the learning curve and hasn't yet managed to make them work to his liking.

I imagine that has something to do with his reliance on happy accidents.

Tangible media has quite a few of those happy accidents, and most artists who use tangible media for their careers get to know and love that element of the process.

When moving to digital you have to acclimate to the fact that happy accidents happen at a fraction of a percent as often and generally are not as significant.

If you look at the fire in this image for example -- I imagine that with traditional media this fire would have likely been the amalgamation of several happy accidents, but with digital it came out looking overworked, it's not organic.

8/24/2010 3:13 PM  
Blogger अर्जुन said...

Robert Fawcett once wrote, "A design started tentatively rarely gains in vigor later on. In anticipation of the dilution... the first rough draft [is often] put down with an almost savage intensity...."

In her tome, Classical Drawing Atelier, Juliette Aristides wrote, "Often the more masterful an artist is, the more cautiously and lightly he will begin a drawing." pg41

Whom should one believe?

Fluhartys oil technique seriously misrepresents Bouguereau and Dagnan-Bouveret.

The secret word is Rembrandt.

8/24/2010 3:24 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

अर्जुन-- now you've gone and done it. You spoke the secret password "atelier." You'd better grab the nearest foxhole, bullets should start flying any minute now.

As for who to believe, Juliette Aristides or Robert Fawcett, I think if you compare their work you will see how their respective philosophies show up in their results. Fawcett's work crackles with energy while Aristide's work is more ummm.... quiescent.

8/24/2010 3:49 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Richard, it sounds like you have been following Fluharty's work closely. I enjoyed that interview, thanks, and I agree with you about the fire. You can really see Fluharty beginning to flex his muscles with digital media, but for me his oil paintings are still superior.

MORAN, that is one great ear. Is this the portrait of Dorian Gray or what?

8/24/2010 3:54 PM  
Blogger Mellie said...

"Whom should one believe?"

Well, both and neither. Neither approach is the one true secret of great art. A vigorous start will suit some, a gentle one will suit others.

"Savage intensity" sounds all very romantic but sometimes it just isn't appropriate to a work.

8/24/2010 7:00 PM  
Blogger Ray said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8/24/2010 7:41 PM  
Blogger Ray said...

I was not familiar with Fluharty until right now, but I really dig it.


By accident, I ran across this guy...

...the other day online. I was also not familiar with him. He also does masterful portraits although with much more of a fashion/design sense. But, I love his economy and boldness of his strokes. Beautiful stuff. Are you familiar with him?

8/24/2010 7:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know about Fawcett, but Aristides can't hold a candle to Fluharty. She's supposed to be such a fine artist? Fluharty's skin tones and faces are much better. And the way he does eyes. He is much better than the supposed "fine" artist.

8/24/2010 7:58 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Ray, I was not familiar with David Downton (I don't know nearly enough about fashion illustration) but I certainly agree with you about his work. Very bold and nicely done. Thanks for the site. I am a hopeless sucker for illustrators who use hair as excuse to go all abstract expressionist.

8/24/2010 8:07 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Mellie wrote: "A vigorous start will suit some, a gentle one will suit others."

Mellie, I certainly agree with that. We turn to Vermeer for a pool of tranquility where even a ripple would be out of place.

I think that as a general matter, illustration celebrates vigor. It chooses the most dramatic moment from a story; it selects shapes and colors to grab your attention. Illustration rarely strives for gentleness, or anticipates that a viewer will spend a long, slow period basking in the subtle nuances of the picture.

8/24/2010 11:55 PM  
Anonymous JSL said...


8/25/2010 7:22 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

Doesn't all art celebrate vigor?

8/25/2010 10:06 AM  
Blogger Ray said...


To further your point, I tend to bask in the subtle nuances of a vigorous drawing more so than in one that is, as you put it...quiescent. For me, there are fewer surprises to be found and less to latch on to. It's the difference between looking at a smoothly manicured lawn and hacking one's way through the jungle with a machete to see what's on the other side. One's easily accessible and expected; the other is full of surprises.

I actually find the work of Juliette Aristides stiff, boring and derivative. It's "old masters" without the "masters" part.

I watched the interview with Fluharty. Really good stuff. My guess is that an interview with Aristides wouldn't be quite as animated.

8/25/2010 10:24 AM  
Blogger Mellie said...

Like Ray, I can't say I'm impressed by Juliette Aristides. Her work looks like the 20th century never happened.

Ultimately, of course, an artist can use whatever style he or she wants and to the devil with the rest of us. But in Aristides' case the results are pretty dull.

8/25/2010 11:36 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

"My guess is that an interview with Aristides wouldn't be quite as animated."

I wonder about that myself -- it's too bad the Art Renewal center can't get their act together with their podcasts. All the links are broken

8/25/2010 11:50 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

Have you all looked at this painting by Aristides. I rather like it personally.

And the odd use of edge control here is a little interesting.

8/25/2010 11:58 AM  
Blogger Ray said...


It's a decent painting, but I still don't want to look at it very long. (And I bet that kid gets beaten up all the time.)

As for edge control, I think most of the paintings are overly fuzzy. There's not the sensitivity to what to keep as a hard line and what to blur as there is in other neo-classical painters. It's all soft focus. Again, nothing wrong with that, but it just doesn't appeal to me, very much.

8/25/2010 2:05 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

"And I bet that kid gets beaten up all the time"

Hah. Kids don't really get beaten up as often (if ever) anymore as they did when you went to school/during the heyday of gender roles.

In fact, it's generally only the meat heads who end up picking fights with one another anymore. Sooner or later those types will wise up/kill each-other off.

tl;dr: Violence is lame.

8/25/2010 3:24 PM  
Blogger Corey Parker said...

Thanks to the comments here, this is the first I've heard of Juliette Aristides. So I looked her up and was very impressed. However, the quote "Often the more masterful an artist is, the more cautiously and lightly he will begin a drawing." goes against everything I believe in when it comes to drawing.
I looked at all the student work in the Atelier section of the site and it ALL looked like it was done by the same artist! An artist's work should have an individual voice.

8/25/2010 4:49 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Richard wrote: "Doesn't all art celebrate vigor?"

Richard, I suppose that at least indirectly most art can be said to celebrate some form of vigor (although there does seem to be plenty of art about tranquility or preciousness or resignation).

But my point was really echoing my argument in a
previous post that illustration art has a brand of potency unrivalled by any other school or genre in the history of art. This can be good or bad. Sometimes illustration shouts like a carnival barker when higher quality art is more subtle and delicate. But just by nature of its purpose and the era in which it came into being, I can't think of any other genre of art in recorded history that has the same "thrust" as illustration.

8/25/2010 8:38 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Richard, Ray, Mellie and Corey-- I think some of Aristide's drawings, such as the one flagged by Richard, are kind of nice, but for the most part I find her paintings muddy and uninspired. Like anonymous, I don't think she is in the same league with Fluharty.

8/25/2010 8:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

David, a few comments and remarks made me think of the great caricaturist (geezus, my memory is I am blanking and will have to research)...did a ton of work in Rolling Stone in the 90's and beyond...very wild, works incredibly large and despite pushing the the figures and faces the the nth degree and using anything but local color, still gets a great likeness.

Someone with a better memory than I will get this in a split second, and then I will have a V8 moment.


8/25/2010 10:09 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Sebastian Kruger?

8/25/2010 11:21 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...


8/25/2010 11:46 PM  
Blogger bill said...

maybe Philip Burke? just one link:

8/26/2010 10:55 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Forgot about Burke = greatness.

8/26/2010 1:30 PM  
Anonymous Keith said...

But this drawing doesnt even look like HH.Its all very well creating a 'vigorous drawing', but if I invited this guy to my 5 year old's birthday party to do caricatures of the guests no-one is going to be impressed by his efforts.
A good caricaturist catches a likeness with a minimum of lines.Not over-drawn like this.

8/27/2010 6:46 AM  
Blogger bill said...

I've read this forum enough to believe that this must be a set-up. To imagine that the standard for likenesses is being a hit at a 5 year old's birthday party can only be a statement meant to stir up the pot. Fluharty is an extraordinary illustrator and communicator. The fact that his chosen vehicle happens to be caricature does not mean that a successful image must be done with a minimum of line. That is certainly one way to do it eg. Cuneo, Gersten, Hirschfeld, etc.. But I'm trying to recall a rule book of caricature, maybe there is one for parties. I also happen to believe that the likeness for HH is spot on.

8/27/2010 8:48 AM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

Keith said...
"caricatures of the guests"

I don't see it as that kind of drawing, but more of an exploratory preparation for a finished painting. He seems to have been drawn to the wrinkles around the mouth, and they have modeling emphasis equal to or even greater than the mouth itself. In his finished work, Fluharty gives greater modeling emphasis to larger features such as mouth, nose, etc, which would greatly improve likeness. I suppose a drawing like this could easily be misinterpreted as getting lost in detail (an act typically associated with a novice), but his finished work clearly shows that is not the case.

8/27/2010 9:59 AM  
Anonymous Keith said...

I didnt see the finished work,I'm just commenting on this drawing and I think he missed the likeness here- which is the most important feature of a caricature or a portrait.Obviously I didnt mean to suggest caricatures can only work if they're 'simple'. I'm saying the simplest caricature that hits the mark is more effective than an elaborate over-drawn effort that doesnt look like the subject.

8/27/2010 1:14 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

I have not seen the finished painting either; I was only pointing out that, due to differences between this particular drawing and Fluharty's other finished works that I have seen, I felt the drawing was exploratory due to differences in the emphasis of the modeling, and therefore it was not appropriate to evaluate the drawing as a finished work.

As far as likeness in general goes, that can be a subjective and debatable experience, even as Sargent himself suggested.

8/27/2010 2:19 PM  
Anonymous Keith said...

I can only take this drawing for what it appears.As a piece it looks reasonably finished -it's not, for instance, a study of jowls.It's a whole head and while I'm no expert on 'Hef' I've seen enough of him to say I don't think it looks too much like him.

OK, I've just looked online and Hef's nose is nowhere near that long and he also has a longer chin than is indicated in the drawing.

So, i'd be hard pushed to describe this as a 'lovely drawing' as it falls short of its intent.I've also seen two of his caricatures of Hilary Clinton.One is good, but the other gives her a very long nose and virtually no chin. It just doesnt look like her.The danger here would be to be seduced by his classical style and miss the varying quality of likeness in some of the finished work.
But ,hey, that's only my opinion.

8/27/2010 4:34 PM  
Blogger SKIZO said...

Thank you for sharing
This fabulous work with us
See you

8/27/2010 8:02 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Keith-- As a general matter, I'm also one of those who believes in economy of line (or at least that each line should have some purpose beyond providing company for the identical line before and after it.) Of course there are exceptions to that rule... one of my favorite caricaturists, Mort Drucker, spreads lines around pretty liberally.

But in this case, I agree with bill and etc, etc. This drawing is a topographical map, charting craters and valleys for a detailed oil painting. These lines will inform Fluharty in how he blends colors-- line as a map for color is a graphic function far different from simply depicting wrinkles. I enjoy the structural notes that Fluharty took with these markings.

I would try to find a link to the finished Hefner painting on Fluharty's web site, but it is famously impossible to navigate. I recommend that people go there for the pleasures of a random cruise. But if you search on my blog for "Fluharty," you will see other examples, such as an Obama sketch, that is far more restrained in the number of lines, but is still a terrific likeness.

I agree with Bill that "Fluharty is an extraordinary illustrator and communicator." I think his treatment of facial expressions is brilliant, and I am especially entertained by his absolutely vicious treatment of the liberal politicians I admire, such as Hilary Clinton.

8/27/2010 9:56 PM  
Anonymous Keith said...

All to the good.But a caricature still has to LOOK like the person, or it has failed. That's the point you are not grasping.See your next post and you might get it.

8/29/2010 3:17 PM  
Blogger bill said...

It does look like Hef and the real point is that anything that is not working in this drawing can certainly be addressed in the painting he usually does as a finish.

8/30/2010 12:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keith you been spending too much time with the guys who do caricatures at Chuck E Cheese. This looks like Hef to me.

8/31/2010 10:33 AM  
Anonymous Keith said...

Gee, I'd love to work for you two.Impressed by stylistic slickness and lax in standards, it would be some of the easiest money I ever earnt.

8/31/2010 4:22 PM  
Blogger bill said...

So now it's not Fluharty you're attacking it's me. Put your money where your mouth is. Show me what you got and I'll tell you whether I'd hire you.

8/31/2010 4:31 PM  
Blogger bill said...

And then check out Fluharty's resume and see who has hired him.

8/31/2010 4:34 PM  
Blogger Jesse Hamm said...

I'm not a fan of Aristides's work, but I value her insights. Sometimes artists are better at teaching than doing. (Bridgman, for instance, is known for his ability to teach anatomy, and one can't argue with the results seen in his students, but I've never found his own drawings impressive.)

Re. "cautiously and lightly," I suspect what Aristides was talking about was work that aims at contemplative precision, rather than the vigor we enjoy in Fluharty. There's room in the world for both, if well done.

8/31/2010 8:55 PM  
Blogger Gary Locke said...

TOM"S sketches are brilliant....he can draw his butt off..... He does digital for speed---he'd rather do oils all the time. with the print industry tanking....caricature is REALLY dying.....not many mags buying caricature anymore. Flu makes his money doing story boards for ad agencies...........much harder than people know. THIS guy is one of the best drawers of our time!

9/01/2010 12:55 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

For those of you who have trouble seeing the true Hefner in Mr. Fluharty's drawing, or for those who just enjoy fine painting. here is Fluharty's finished Hefner painting.

9/03/2010 12:29 PM  
Blogger bill said...


9/03/2010 1:27 PM  
Anonymous MORAN said...

Fascinating to watch how he went from drawing to finished work. Excellent! Keith, that clinches it for me.

9/03/2010 1:29 PM  
Anonymous 3D Art Studio said...

good work!and Fantastic job!

9/03/2010 3:40 PM  
Anonymous Kate said...

Love the old man! SUCH character!

9/13/2010 3:39 PM  

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