Last week's series on the importance of good drawing prompted the following observations from other web sites:
"Apatoff is always infuriating...."Others might rest on their laurels at this point, but I have three additional clarifications to offer on the subject of good drawing:
"He seems to have a real bug up his behind.... "
"[F]or fuck’s sake."
"You don’t understand comics."
"cartooning isn’t drawing,"
"[Y]ou invariably write nonsense."
"Chris Ware’s comics... do not employ drawing.... "
1. I do not equate good drawing with 1950s photo-realism. Compare this excellent drawing by Picasso
with this terrible drawing from the Smithsonian Book of Comic Book Stories
Both drawings show distorted figures locked in an embrace. Both employ bold, loose, rapid lines. But in the first example, the distortions are compelled by expressive necessity while in the second, they result from technical ignorance. Too many artists today think their technical ignorance is concealed simply because drawings are no longer expected to be realistic. But viewers can still tell the difference.
2. Technical skill can empower, not diminish, imagination. Look at John Cuneo's splendid drawing of an alligator excited by the arrival of his goldfish martini:
The subject matter is anything but realistic, yet it is obvious from special touches such as the alligator's excited little hands or his smiling eyes that Cuneo is a brilliant draftsman.
Last week I wrote about how Leonard Starr's ability to draw hands provided a separate stream of information, parallel to the text, which enhanced the expressive quality of the picture. Cuneo's alligator hands won't be found in any anatomy book, yet note the great precision with which they were rendered. A few fingers in different directions or a few of those seemingly casual lines moved to the left or the right would make the hands less perfect.
I think Cuneo is just about the most psychologically complex illustrator working today. Look at the following detail from a different picture of an alligator, this one lolling with snakes and empty wine bottles on a living room floor.
For those who argued last week that drawing is less important than the "emotional resonance" of the subject matter, consider how Cuneo's dark imaginative content would be diminished if it were not accompanied by his great drawing skill.
3. A drawing should not be excused from excellence merely because it is one panel in the service of a larger narrative. Disney animator Preston Blair drew a hippo dancing in a ballet tutu for the movie Fantasia. His sketches are not "realistic"-- you'll never find photo reference to show how the rolls of fat would hang from a hippo prancing on her toes-- yet they are persuasive to us because Blair's drawing ability and his understanding of forms enabled him to project how a dancing hippo might operate in real life.
These sketches are another wonderful example of how imagination is empowered by technical skill.
A number of commenters explained to me last week that the drawings inside those little panels in graphic novels should not be evaluated as "drawings" because they are merely in the service of some story. It is the "larger narrative" I should be concerned about, not the qualities of some component. But take another look at Blair's loving drawings of that hippo, which make up a far smaller part of Fantasia's narrative than a panel in a graphic novel. Rather than impede the flow of the narrative, they insure that every ingredient contributes its own holistic excellence. If Blair had told his boss Walt Disney, "these individual drawings don't need to look good because they are in the service of a larger narrative," Disney would have fired his ass, and he would have been right to do so.