Monday, May 05, 2014

STYLE



Where does style come from?

Frederick Taubes (who was a real smart guy) wrote that an artist's personal style "seems to stem from geography, climate, diet and other factors."  Some people speculate that "other factors" might include eye disease.

Others suggest that that stylistic distortions might be an artist's way of covering up for technical weaknesses.  For example, illustrator Seymour Chwast, who draws with a flat, simplified style,  stated that he avoids pictures "that require craftsmanship and a drawing ability that I do not have."  Illustrator Edward  Sorel, famous for drawing with loose swirls, said “I have never had the confidence that I could draw.... To me, a person with drawing skill is a guy who can sit down to a piece of paper and draw upon his familiarity with the body and with gesture, and do whatever he wants to do...”

But ahhh, when an artist possesses the skill to "do whatever he wants to do,” and  uses that skill to develop a personal style out of strength rather than weakness, the result can be a joy to behold.  It becomes a full throated expression of the artist's personal reaction to the world's forms and colors. 

Which brings me to Carter Goodrich.

Goodrich is one of those artists with the formidable drawing skill to do whatever he wants. The following Forbes cover from 1989, an illustration of Europeans courting the Russian bear...


...shows that Goodrich not only understands anatomy, facial expressions and body language (what Sorel called "gesture") but also that he has that rare and wonderful ability to spin his knowledge into all kinds of imaginative scenarios.  Does he need to take a revealing human facial expression and posture, put them on a huge shaggy bear and dress her up in a fancy gown (complete with ursine cleavage)?  Not a problem.

Note the marvelous spread of her haunches-- a masterful touch, one that would escape a less imaginative artist.

Unlike many artists with great technical skill, Goodrich never seems to have been tempted to waste his abilities on hard realism.  Instead, he knew to follow his imagination and his powers of observation into a distinctive personal style.    His wide faces, exaggerated bodies and distinctive palette have made his work instantly recognizable to readers of the New Yorker:

 


More of Goodrich's delicious style is displayed in this illustration from The Emperor's New Clothes:

Weird hairdos and faces, extravagant gestures and bizarre fabrics all given credibility by excellent drawing.



Goodrich is such a master of visual story telling, he is free to take liberties with accuracy: 

 

In the following detail, note how Goodrich conveys speed with just the direction of those pencil strokes in the shadow of the hockey player, or how the white trail of that one skate dramatizes the ominous, searching approach,  or how Goodrich directs our attention to that puck by engineering the highest contrast spot in the picture (a dense black shape framed in a white window) or how effectively he uses that foreshortened purple hockey stick to establish the spatial relationship with the goalie.  Brilliant.


Contrast how the lines under the player show directional speed while the lines surrounding the puck-- both horizontal and vertical-- do not.  You wouldn't notice such tiny touches in the printed version, yet their effect would be unmistakeable.

With such a rich assortment of tools at his disposal, Goodrich doesn't need to worry about drawing that front skate accurately in order to be understood.  He has the freedom to play games with the foot (exaggerate it or draw it like a tiny stump) with no risk of confusing anyone.  Similarly, he can disconnect that pelvis and make the skater look like a sack of bowling balls hurtling down the ice.  The audience still gets it because Goodrich maintains such exquisite control over the image in other respects.

You can't just take such liberties; if your style is genuine you have to earn them.

Goodrich has not only earned his freedom, he knows how to put it to good use.

 




144 Comments:

Blogger Tom Sarmo said...

Totally admire Chwast, Sorel, and Goodrich. Chwast and Sorel's quotes show a refreshing lack of pretension. I liked this post--it celebrates and elevates true non-"meat-camera" art (to quote Kev Ferrara).

5/05/2014 4:00 PM  
Anonymous MORAN said...

Goodrich is a total genius. Does he only work in color pencil?

5/05/2014 5:07 PM  
Blogger Donald Pittenger said...

David, you noted "Goodrich is one of those artists with the formidable drawing skill to do whatever he wants." A visit to his web site, especially the Character Design subsection, shows a rich imagination based on astute observation of actual types of people.

But what I wonder is, Do you (or any reader of this post) know of examples of his work where the element of caricature isn't present -- where he shows his stuff depicting reality. To me, that could pin down what you stated regarding drawing skill. In other words, Does Goodrich have the "full package" ... or is he basically a very talented caricaturist.

5/05/2014 5:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for this info about Goodrich. He is top character designer on Despicable Me but I totally didn't know he did illustrations. These are fantastic.

JSL

5/05/2014 9:06 PM  
Anonymous www.32Pages.ca said...

Wonderful article. He is also a brilliant children's picture book author and illustrator. Check out his Zorro and Mister Bud series. So fantastic. A new one is coming out in June-Mister Bud Wears the Cone.

5/05/2014 9:46 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Smart and joyful is a tough combination to beat!

5/05/2014 10:03 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Tom Sarmo-- I agree with you about Chwast and Sorel in addition to Goodrich, although I think their strengths are often more on the conceptual /intellectual side than on the execution side. I also agree with you about the unpretentious nature of the comments by Chwast and Sorel-- it speaks well for both of them (although I have had the opportunity to ask Mr. Sorel a few questions and in my experience he maintained some pretty stiff class distinctions between high art and low.) I think Kev Ferrara's expression, "meat camera" is a keeper.

MORAN-- These particular pieces are a combination of watercolor and pencil.

Donald Pittenger-- One reason I included that Russian bear example was that I felt we could tell, just by looking at the anatomical structure of that fore arm, its shading and its color, that Goodrich is perfectly capable of depicting 3D objects quite realistically whenever he wants to.

5/06/2014 2:53 AM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

David: "...and in my experience he maintained some pretty stiff class distinctions between high art and low"

sometimes i think that maintaining a distinction between the two is the best approach. there are all kinds of criteria which fine / gallery art is subject to which - in my opinion - simply don't apply to most illustration, and which it would be churlish to apply to an artist like Goodrich whose work is thoroughly unpretentious.

5/06/2014 5:43 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

JSL-- Goodrich's character design work for animation movies is a whole additional story, perhaps for another blog post. There is a special place in the firmament for artists who span both the oldest and the newest technologies.

www.32Pages.ca-- I especially like his book, "A Creature Was Stirring."

Kev Ferrara-- Amen.

5/06/2014 8:37 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Laurence John-- " there are all kinds of criteria which fine / gallery art is subject to which - in my opinion - simply don't apply to most illustration."

I think the issue you pose is one of the key issues confronting this blog over the years. You could easily make the same point within the confines of the fine art world: there are criteria relevant to surrealism or abstract expressionism which simply don't apply to performance art or pop art. If we respect all these boundaries we could quickly end up with art in a series of silos, where etchings could not talk to paintings, western art could never be compared to Asian art, and impressionism could not be tied to 20th century art.

Some of these distinctions are legitimate (meaning related to genuine aesthetic qualities of the work), but in my experience a large number of them-- probably most-- are fraudulent, designed merely to preserve economic and social class distinctions, protect academic turfs, or insulate favorite artists or groups from any kind of artistic accountability. (The only reason Jeff Koons hasn't been laughed out of town is that he has successfully persuaded a wealthy, tasteless audience that he should not be judged by the criteria that have otherwise governed art since the dawn of time).

I think it requires an open mind and clear vision to decide which of these distinctions are legitimate, and which impede a true understanding and comparison of the work. That's what we strive for around here. Illustration can be ground zero for this fight because so many of the barricades between high art and low are base on pretentiousness and marketing schemes.

In my view, if you strip the art of its regal trappings and publicity agents and compare it on a level playing field, you find that Carter Goodrich has twice the quality and intelligence of a Tracey Emin, and contributes more to the good of humanity (unless you consider siphoning money off of investment bankers and petro-billionaires a public service because it imposes a luxury tax on antisocial behavior).

In the case of Ed Sorel, I was pleased to see his work cross the high art / low art moat in an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, but was disappointed to hear him try to distance himself from "lower class" illustration in the talk he gave there. With his nose in the air, he dismissed the art in Mad Magazine as "vulgar." He seemed to feel that his own work for the New Yorker or Atlantic was sufficiently more prestigious that it was a good time to pull the ladder up after him.

5/06/2014 9:36 AM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

David, my point is that it's precisely the lack of 'pretentiousness and marketing schemes' that makes illustration distinct.

(modern) art world air seems to have a strange effect on the brains of many 'fine' artists and can lead them to justify all kinds appallingly bad work, and to start believing their own hype.
illustrators, on the other hand, tend to be a more down to earth bunch, with much more humble intentions.

the distinction, as i see it, is usually a perceptual one in the mind of the artist, to do with the perceived intentions and importance of their own work.

that illustration is sheltered to a large degree from the distorting effects of 'regal trappings and publicity agents' etc. is a good thing in my mind.

5/06/2014 10:35 AM  
Anonymous Brian Bowes said...

Thank you for posting this. I am a fan of Carter Goodrich, as well as folks like Peter DeSeve.

To Mr. Prittenger's comment towards drawing realism, I think Carter drawings show that he has a deep grasp and understanding of his craft to be able to exaggerate and emphasize forms to their greatest comedic effect.

It would be really great to actually get Carter's response to this, or another blog post about his work.

By the way, the phrase "meat camera" and the comments about Jeff Koons pretty much made my morning. Thank you!

5/06/2014 10:38 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5/06/2014 11:38 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

Donald > "Do you (or any reader of this post) know of examples of his work where the element of caricature isn't present -- where he shows his stuff depicting reality. To me, that could pin down what you stated regarding drawing skill. In other words, Does Goodrich have the "full package" ... or is he basically a very talented caricaturist."

I think you're confusing styles often associated with realism for realism itself.

On your blog you recently posted this painting by Favretto.

I'd argue there is just as much realism, if not more, in this illustration by Goodrich.

The only difference is that the elements of style in the Favretto have entered the "realist" cannon. They are not, in and of themselves, realism though. True realism is hyper-realism, and hyper-realism is garbage. The fact that Goodrich pushes elements of style not generally associated with "realist" work, shouldn't disqualify that work from seriousness.

5/06/2014 12:27 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5/06/2014 3:01 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Laurence John wrote: "my point is that it's precisely the lack of 'pretentiousness and marketing schemes' that makes illustration distinct."

I agree that is one important ingredient. Another is that illustration by definition has to communicate to an audience, which keeps illustrators tethered to reality. One of the sicknesses which has afflicted "fine" art of the last 50 years is that much of it has become so introspective and self-obsessed that it is irrelevant and meaningless to the world at large. Much of "fine art" would be improved if the artist was answerable to some client with a foul smelling cigar who could demand, "do it over."

Lastly, I think fairness requires us to note that the advantage of illustration can also, at the opposite extreme, be a disadvantage. Often an illustrator is compelled to make bad compromises because of the demands of a client or art director.

Brian Bowes-- I agree with you, I think that Goodrich and de Seve are the twin pillars of character design for digital animation these days. They are both terrific.

I love "meat camera" too. Kev Ferrara, if you didn't invent it, do you know where it came from?

Richard and Kev Ferrara-- I am not the type of person to come up with a comprehensive and definitive definition of "realistic" (or "representational" or "true realism" or even "how reality looks.") I have an understanding of what these words mean sufficient to use them in a sentence that would pass muster with Wittgenstein, or to use them to sharpen understanding in debate, but because art is not a rule defined enterprise (such as tennis) I always feel that attempted definitions would defeat me sooner or later.

I think Kev's proposed definition of cartoon casts a wide net, catching not just Goodrich but Picasso as well, and probably Matisse and half the art that has been produced in the 20th century.

5/06/2014 4:15 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

d >I think Kev's proposed definition of cartoon casts a wide net, catching not just Goodrich but Picasso as well, and probably Matisse and half the art that has been produced in the 20th century.

Kev has said as much himself as I recall.

I'm just positing further that the Favretto, and probably a number of the artists Donald would consider "depicting reality" are cartoon-ish in their own, more established, rights -- if not in pushing the form, at least in their pushing of the light, atmosphere, color, abstraction away of detail, loss of texture and surface, etc. not to mention the inescapable limits of the media themselves.

I don't see any reason to believe that the ways Favretto is involved in visual poesis are categorically different from the ways Goodrich is, other than their style and which elements they decide to make particularly unrealistic.

If you asked 10 children which picture looked more like real life, 9/10 of them would say the Goodrich. They're not blinded by decades of culture endlessly associating this specific Western tradition, and it's peculiarities of poesis, with "reality".

5/06/2014 5:05 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

On second thought, lets not show the Goodrich to children.

5/06/2014 5:07 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5/06/2014 8:58 PM  
Blogger Bryan Tipton said...

Great post. I once had an art instructor tell me that style was "simply a consistent way of doing something wrong." It's an interesting take that has some truth.

5/06/2014 9:41 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

On "Meat Camera:"

I was introduced to the phrase by illustrator Tristan Elwell who just told me he got it from Stapleton Kearns' blog, where it was first used in 2009.

If Stape didn't coin it (and he's a funny, smart guy, quite capable of doing so), then he at least gets credit for putting it on the net.

5/06/2014 11:06 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

style is the result of what you omit, and how you describe what's left.

5/07/2014 4:04 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Kev Ferrara-- Forgive me, but I'm having trouble understanding the stakes in this debate about whether Goodrich and Picasso are "cartoonists."

There are several equally plausible definitions of cartoonist. Goodrich is one of the world's top character designers for animated cartoons, so in that sense he is indisputably a cartoonist. A cartoon is also a large preparatory drawing for a painting (Michelangelo was a frequent cartoonist, carta = paper and tone = large) so in that sense Goodrich is likely a cartoonist as well. You have offered us a third definition and I have no quarrel with that definition, but I'm not sure where it takes us. You seem to attach a great deal of significance to that category, positing a scale of realism where poeticizing realism is not cartooning but when "poesis starts courting exaggeration" it crosses the line into cartooning. Assuming that one could locate such a line (which strikes me as a moving target at best), what are the consequences of being on one side or the other?

And looking at Goodrich's drawings here, do you have any doubt that he is fully capable of working on either side of that line? Wouldn't it be more accurate to say that a particular drawing is a cartoon, than that a particular person is a cartoonist?

Bryan Tipton-- I agree, especially if by "something wrong" we mean "something that deviates from realism."

5/07/2014 11:44 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5/07/2014 1:39 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

k >The stakes are about education. The value of clarity as a good, in and of itself.

I don't want to steal the term 'Realism', with a capital 'R', a valuable historical term.

Instead, I'm suggesting we remain wary of implications about Realism's relationship to reality. Implications present in Donald's comment, and, for that matter, in David's most recent comment as well.

The very fact that Realism was spelled with a lower-case "r" is absolutely essential to the point I am making -- people seem to think they're talking about something more than historical.

It is this notion that I deny vehemently.

A lower-case "r" realism is that which attempts to look most like reality, that is to say, hyper-realism.

When David said "I agree [that style is a consistent way of doing something wrong], especially if by 'something wrong' we mean 'something that deviates from realism.' " he would have been more accurate to say "[something that] deviates from reality".

Favretto is as much, if not more, divorced from reality in his own way. He's lost all solidity. He has given us a mere impression of a scene. At least Goodrich's figures look solid (if only made of a soft substance).

We've come to associate Realism with reality, but it is equally (albeit differently) stylized -- so I agree the stakes are about education, but we disagree about who is distorting things.

5/07/2014 2:06 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5/07/2014 2:28 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

>and drawing, the latter of which includes shapes, proportion, and edges

Oh, is that all drawing is? Because then you're absolutely right.

No; texture, and general material surface phenomena, both of which Goodrich deals with much more realistically, are paramount in the recognizability of a subject.

As are color contrast, modelling, and the rest.

To simplify the important aspects of drawing to 'shapes, proportion, and edges' is predictably 1970s comic-book thinking, but just because that's what matters to the sort of art you make doesn't mean that is all that matters in drawing, or visual representation itself.

5/07/2014 3:17 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5/07/2014 4:08 PM  
Anonymous MORAN said...

Kev,

This is about Carter's art not what you say. Carter is an artist period. Why don't you talk about his work instead, he is a genius IMO.

5/07/2014 4:20 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Moran,

I think his art is really joyful and smart.

Let me know what else you want me to say about it, okay.

If you read back, I didn't bring in the questions I am now responding to. I had planned to sit this one out as deadlines are pressing.

5/07/2014 4:32 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

>And stick your childish ad hom attempts where the sun don't shine.

You seem like a smart guy, so I'm surprised you've lost the irony of that coming from you. Ad hominem is your bread and butter.

Anyway, my suggestion wasn't an attempt at an ad hominem, I genuinely believe that your perceptual hierarchy is the product of your own visual personality and the history that built it, as is exemplified by the sort of work you make -- work which looks primarily inspired by the visual systems of 1970s American comic books. 1970s American comic books routinely focus on shapes, proportion, and edges at the expense of other aspects of rendering. Wherein lies the insult?

You're right that the elements of the hierarchy you provided are essential to human visual perception, but as are any number of other elements of rendering -- like those a provided, although that's obviously not an exhaustive list.

5/07/2014 4:45 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

>Stop trying to snow people who know more than you.

I'm not familiar with that idiom so I can't even begin to stop.

5/07/2014 4:51 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

Richard,

Kev's referring to Matisse and Picasso as cartoonists is, in my opinion, quite insightful and conceptually informative. It's a far more sensible attempt to catergorize them than other approaches I've seen. Favretto, for stylistic comparison, I'd say, was the Italian version of contemporaneous Bastien-Lepage naturalism.

5/07/2014 5:16 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Thank you Mr. Etc.

My guess is you probably also understand the comments I made about values and drawing as the most essential predicates of "realistic" rendering. And the relationship of edges to the effective expression of texture.

5/07/2014 5:22 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

Kev,

Of course; those are pretty much the fundamentals and focus of most every solid realism training curriculum in a nutshell.

5/07/2014 5:47 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Thank you Mr. Etc.

5/07/2014 5:56 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5/08/2014 9:19 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

etc> "Kev's referring to Matisse and Picasso as cartoonists is, in my opinion, quite insightful and conceptually informative."

I agree, no qualms there.

5/08/2014 9:20 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5/08/2014 9:27 AM  
Anonymous Sean Farrell said...

An interesting and provocative post which makes the point that it is not tone, weight, or volume which in themselves designate realism either, though the wild characters have voluminous presence which is a type of realism.

Part of what artists were doing which led to modern art was trying to resolve the way in which things were driven back into perspective, often to sit there in an isolated manner. They were trying to resolve the tendency for eye to lock on to such isolation, or to be distracted by strong perspective which could overpower the message of a painting. Some modern solutions involved breaking up the perspective lines, which in turn brought the picture elements to the surface, (Cezanne).

They were also trying to resolve the way that color did the same, as colors separate themselves in terms of space. Both problems were a concern of the 19th and 20th century painters and led to what is being referred here as cartooning, or designing, the eventual bringing of all things to the surface of the picture.

Some of the devices for unifying depth to the picture surface, or the image overall preexisted a wide acknowledgement, but things like the relationship of color to shape were new as subjects to examine. Some of the things Degas did to unify a three dimensional space to the picture plane may never be fully understood.

5/09/2014 11:52 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Cartooning is the result of expressive distortion or exaggeration. Realism is understood as representation with a minimum of distortion. Thus cartooning, to whatever extent it is brought to bear on the pictorial problem or narrative elements, necessarily diminishes the amount of realism.

Style equals concerns minus elisions times personality.

In the strictest realism, personality would not be a factor. Only mimesis. Thus style would equal zero.

Sean, you need to disentangle the various histories of; cartooning for fun, cartooning for meaning, cartooning for provocation, and cartooning for stylistic development.

5/09/2014 1:05 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

Sean said
"An interesting and provocative post which makes the point that it is not tone, weight, or volume which in themselves designate realism either, though the wild characters have voluminous presence which is a type of realism."

 I think that was Richard's point about reality. Different cultures as well as different artist have different idea's about what constitutes reality, or what are the important aspects of reality, what one group or one individual values. Emphasizing the sodality of things over the appearance of things is a good example  what one can choose to value. Emphasis is an outlook on reality.

Would medieval art be a cartoon? 

5/09/2014 1:23 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

Sean
 Where modern artist really trying to resolve a problem of perspective and the picture plane or did they  just have something new to say. An artist who has something to say about depth might use perspective and artist who has something to say about the flat picture plane might ignore perspective.  But I don't think there is a problem there that needs fixing.  Art is something to be used not solved.  If I am reading you right.

5/09/2014 1:26 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Realism refers to mimesis in representation. If you change the meaning of realism to be "philosophy of reality" or "how things feel rather than look" then the discussion loses its foundation and we end up in Richard-ville.

The aztecs didn't look at each other in life as distorted cartoons. What you believe doesn't distort your vision unless you go mad or take drugs.

In almost any field of endeavor you can think of, problems are solved before, during, and after they are first noticed to be problems. Art itself may not be something to be solved to you, Tom, but it is constituted of nothing but solutions to problems.

5/09/2014 1:42 PM  
Anonymous sean Farrell said...

I was pointing out that cartooning was how modern art was described here, as on this page of comments, sorry.

David's choice of Goodrich is provocative because it forces us to eliminate tone, weight and volume as that which defines realism and arrive at a certain respect for reality, as elaborated upon in a philosophy, or treatise.

Thus, the great questions:
What you believe doesn't distort your vision unless you go mad or take drugs.

Tom, a good many things can be said about depth aside from perspective lines and such was a major topic of modern art. An example is here:
http://composingpictures.tumblr.com/post/25958595859/paul-cezanne-french-1839-1906-railway-line-near

5/09/2014 2:27 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

So, I would like to clarify that, at least as far as I was arguing, this sort of "realism" that is being discussed now was not in line with what I was discussing.

>If you change the meaning of realism to be "philosophy of reality" or "how things feel rather than look" then the discussion loses its foundation

I think you are absolutely right. This is not at all what I was arguing.

Instead, I was arguing that the elements of rendering involved in the Goodrich pictures are absolutely part of "realism", and that we need to be careful about weighing one type of rendering over another.

I in no way was meaning to suggest that Cezanne or medieval artists were doing anything akin to a lower-case "realism" -- their intentions were not about rendering with some amount of poetry.

>In the strictest realism, personality would not be a factor. Only mimesis. Thus style would equal zero.

I agree entirely, if you indeed intend to use a small r "realism" here. This was my point towards true lower-case r "realism" being hyper-realism (ignoring problems of the mono-lense for the time being).

5/09/2014 2:38 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

>"(ignoring problems of the mono-lense for the time being)"

Although I will say this, there are elements of "cartooning", as Kev would deem it I believe, that can circumvent problems of the mono-lense, making a picture that is altered feel more tangibly real than a simple photograph.

An obvious one is an exaggeration of the elements of the face, and almost theatrical exaggeration of the body (not just in pose, but in anatomy), that can provide additional vigor to a 2 dimensional image that can make it feel, in fact, more tangible than an image rendered "realistically". Those elements may be affected by culture; I am unsure.

5/09/2014 3:41 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

>Some modern solutions involved breaking up the perspective lines, which in turn brought the picture elements to the surface, (Cezanne).

Actually, after some thought, I can see your line of argument there. In reality we can move, and thus can look at multiple subjects in a short period of time. I think others would argue that pictures should only show a single moment, and to show multiple objects from different directions suggests at a temporality alien to a single image. I wouldn't take a position either way, that's beyond the scope of art as far as I appreciate it.

5/09/2014 3:49 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

Richard,

i think that cartoony exaggeration can feel more 'real' than realism because it's actually closer to how the human brain remembers things.

we exaggerate pictorial features in our memory in order to remember features (and feelings) more clearly, therefore an exaggerated image can hit that 'yes!' button much more forcefully than a straight realistic image can.


p.s. this comment section is becoming far too obsessed with definitions.

5/09/2014 3:55 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

p.p.s

i don't think that labelling Picasso and Matisse as 'cartoonists' is helpful because they weren't exaggerating for effect in the same way that i just described above.
they were simplifying / breaking the image down for more formal-graphic-experimental-for-the-hell-of-it reasons, not to create a heightened recognisable 'narrative' effect.

5/09/2014 4:15 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

Laurence, you're absolutely right, the "cartoon", or at least one type of it, can have that effect. I'm not sure if the memory is "real" enough to be considered lowercase "realism" though. It's the making of an interesting debate (for people smarter than I).


Laurence sez >"i don't think that labeling Picasso and Matisse as 'cartoonists' is helpful because they weren't exaggerating for effect in the same way that i just described above."

What the general public means when they say 'cartoon' encompasses both of those artistic/design processes, so discussions of definition are absolutely essential if we intend to know what we're talking about.

5/09/2014 5:03 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

Richard,

as mentioned in previous comment sections ... i view 'cartoony' and 'realism' as part of a visual continuum.

you could create a hundred thousand definitions along that continuum to define various sub categories of cartooniness or realism if you're so inclined, but that's what academics do, not artists.

artists just get on with it.

5/09/2014 5:30 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

Computers Match Humans in Understanding Art

5/09/2014 5:33 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

Alright, everyone pack up, time to go home, shows over.

5/09/2014 5:39 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

etc, etc,

when computers can give me their opinion of a piece of art i'll sit up and take notice.

5/09/2014 5:44 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

Was curious. Can confirm. Computers not yet good at talking about Art--

Cleverbot: How much memory do you have?

User: What is art?

Cleverbot: Hard Drive Space?

User: You don't know what Art is?

Cleverbot: No, sorry.

User: Are you familiar with aesthetics?

Cleverbot: Yes.

User: Could you give me a primer on your thoughts on aesthetics?

Cleverbot: Advice for what?

User: Advice for artists, or viewers, up to you.

Cleverbot: Oh, okay. Pray, eat, and Love.

5/09/2014 6:13 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

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5/09/2014 6:35 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

i don't think that labelling Picasso and Matisse as 'cartoonists' is helpful because they weren't exaggerating for effect in the same way that i just described above.
they were simplifying / breaking the image down for more formal-graphic-experimental-for-the-hell-of-it reasons, not to create a heightened recognisable 'narrative' effect.


All cartoonists create subjective exaggerations and it would be impossible to disentangle the one that are just making it up from the ones who are trying to capture some feeling they've experienced in exaggerated expressive form.

Regardless, there are lots of different ways of cartooning. You can cartoon for ideas, for movement, for emotion, for character, for decorative design, etc.

The cartoons of some modernists may be different from some cartoons of the funny pages, but they're all still cartooning.

5/09/2014 6:40 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Computers Match Humans in Understanding Art

If "understanding" means recognizing the shallow design features on one flat surface as similar to some designs on another, which are distinct from still others, then all is lost.

5/09/2014 6:43 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

You guys aren't impressed that a computer can do basic stylistic analysis and categorization? Tough crowd.

5/09/2014 8:06 PM  
Blogger Olivia Kiernan said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5/09/2014 10:48 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

etc > "Tough crowd."

Haha, I for one think it's fantastically exciting, thanks for sharing.

Interestingly, when you fill out the number captchas on this website you're actually training computers for just this sort of visual processing algorithm.

The black & white number captcha is there to distinguish you from a bot. They know what that number is before you type it in. The photograph captcha, on the other hand, their systems don't actually know what the captcha contains, and our filling it out is training algorithms for visual analysis!

5/09/2014 10:49 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

Kev: "All cartoonists create subjective exaggerations and it would be impossible to disentangle the ones that are just making it up from the ones who are trying to capture some feeling they've experienced in exaggerated expressive form."

i see a pretty clear distinction between Picasso (or Matisse) and cartoonists such as Kley, Sullivant or Goodrich, who exaggerate form for comic-expressive effect.
i see Picasso as someone who is interested in deconstructing form into abstract design purely for the sake of it. his images don't communicate instantly the way 'cartoony' images do, nor do they have a comedic 'point' the way 'cartoony' images do.

5/10/2014 7:19 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

Kley a cartoonist?

How do you figure that?

5/10/2014 8:55 AM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

see ? discussions about definition just go on and on and on...

you don't see anything cartoony in Kley ? have another look at his ice-skating elephants.
'cartoony' can get very close to 'realistic' and still be cartoony. isn't that what you were arguing RE Goodrich ?
Leyendecker could be very cartoony too, while still painting believably 'real' form, colours, values etc.

5/10/2014 9:15 AM  
Blogger Tom said...

"Leyendecker could be very cartoony too, while still painting believably 'real' form, colours, values etc."

I have always thought that too. Some of his kids look like little Hummel figures.

Leo Steinberg did a piece on the sexuality of Christ on how by the end of the 19th century he had been reduced in art, to basically a non threatening Disney character.

5/10/2014 10:27 AM  
Blogger Tom said...

"Tom, a good many things can be said about depth aside from perspective lines and such was a major topic of modern art."

Yes I know. I used perspective as an example because you used perspective lines as a problem modern art was trying to resolve.   I  was just trying to say it is better to know what you want to say as an artist then it is to fix the problems one perceives  in other artists work. As if art has some destination it is trying to reach.   Puvis de Chavannes was  able to handle the flat wall and the depth of things because he was clear in his intentions as an artist.

   I could  not get your links to work .

5/10/2014 10:33 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Laurence,

You aren't poking holes in the basic idea of expressive distortion by pointing out that there are different kinds of distortion for different kinds of expression. I had already pointed that out myself. Nor does the reading speed affect the question.

I don't think, overall, anybody is disputing that an otherwise realistic rendering can have some aspects where expressive distortion is brought to bear. There are Leyendecker pictures I would consider cartoons. But most of his good work has a great deal of mimetic integrity to it.

Again, most good work is going to fall somewhere in the middle of these poles. The nearer a work gets to one pole or another, the more it can be said, "yes, that is a cartoon" or "yes that is Realism."

Works by Kley and Sullivant often have so much sensitive drawing that they start to push toward the realistic side of things. But I really think that shape and color/value are the most defining aspect of cartooning, as people understand cartooning. Even if the drawing is super sensitive. So where they really push the plasticity of shape, that's where they are most cartoony.

Essentially cartooning puts design before mimesis, regardless of the meaning of the design. So the crafting of a cartoon is an integration of the mimetic elements into the pre-established design.

Interestingly, much good composition works like this, even if all the elements are very realistic. Which brings me to observe that the triangular gamut of aesthetic identification (TGAI) which has the three poles of Realism (Mimesis), Expressive Distortion, and Codified Text-Like Symbol is not a way of analyzing good works of art, but only a way of talking about it. A work of art may be a hodgepodge of elements which appear in different locations on the TGAI.

5/10/2014 10:47 AM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

see ? discussions about definition just go on and on and on...

Personally I think referring to all departures from mimesis as "cartoony" would be better served by the more commonly accepted term "mannerism", with cartoon being a specific type of mannerism.

5/10/2014 11:49 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5/10/2014 12:52 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

The problem with that is manner tends to be understood as something habitual.

Whereas, a creative graphic thinker can come up with new expressive distortions for every new piece.

I happen to think that discussions of definitions are enormously helpful, if for no other reason than to appreciate just how cloudy language is. Which is just the tip of the cloudy iceberg for how cloudy our understandings are.

5/10/2014 12:53 PM  
Anonymous marta said...

Nice post. A mastered skill brings a joy and vitality to all the pieces.

5/10/2014 1:54 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

Kev, is TGAI your own invention ?

5/10/2014 5:23 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Yeah, I was just joking about the Acronym. but the actual idea of this triangular gamut is old. I don't actually know how old however.

5/10/2014 5:47 PM  
Anonymous Sean Farrell said...

Would medieval art be a cartoon?
Tom, I will try and answer this interesting question, but will first try and address the issue of the perspective lines and the picture plane.

The problem and one famous simple solution is in Da Vinci's Last Supper, where the subject is placed upon the vanishing point, so we go to the subject and emanate out from the subject by way of the perspective lines. If the vanishing point were placed to the right of the subject or the subject placed to the right of the vanishing point, the perspective/ picture problem would become very obvious.

But more modern solutions of attaching things from the foreground, middle ground and background together, onto either diagonals to the corners, letter forms or parallel diagonals preexisted Da Vinci's Last Supper. A few examples include Robert Campin, c.1440, “Virgin and Child Before a Firescreen” and “Virgin and Child in a Landscape”, by unknown artist(s), possibly by the Master of the Embroidered Foliage, Aert van den Bossche. Also a radial “O” in the “Portinari Altarpiece” by Hugo van der Goes, 1476-1478. Degas was a master of attaching the three dimensional to the picture plane through the use of devices loyal to the picture plane, so I'm not sold that the modern claims were so modern either, since the devices he used and possibly invented derived from western art history as well as the eastern use of the horizon line. For that matter, stained glass with its thick lead outlines predated the invasion of eastern art and influence on modern artists by centuries.

But the modern claims went further with an idea said that the true shape was the one that sat on the picture plane because it remained true to the picture plane and the false shape was the one that went into space.

Matisse was into stretching shapes and colors as a particular type of inquiry which had to do with movement and also color as depth as well as how shape and color related. Another modern claim was that color in perspective art was actually too confined by delineations such as clothes etc. and such limited the nature of color. I am in agreement with Laurence that labeling Matisse a cartoonist isn't quite accurate, though his shapes were of an outline that say cartoon.

Modern art did largely develop out of this new found fascination with the picture's surface which resulted from the influence of Japanese prints, yet the destiny of this fascination was predated by insights by compositions of medieval artists and regarding compositional difficulties arising from the use of perspective lines.

I don't know why the links didn't work. Doing a search for the images should work.

5/10/2014 9:11 PM  
Anonymous Sean Farrell said...

Would Medieval art be a cartoon?
Medieval Art is too rich and valuable to the development of art to be dismissed as cartoons, but I see your point, if all is symbolism, then which symbolism is valid?

Medieval symbols dealt with the likes of the future, present and past, birth, death, eternity, infinity, consequences, agony, ecstasy, virtues, vices, the arts, education and even sports and such are applicable subjects today even if the symbols are no longer accepted as valid or have been watered down, with demons and snakes now representing the coolness of non conformity while unicorns represent wishful thinking and an elusive but undefined spirituality. So Medievalism has been rendered a cartoon by modernity, but still holds a fascination as representing something other, more, as possessing imagination.

Modern people lean on very sophisticated stuff like material science and theory, but the structures of science offer little in the way of actual structure as a refuge from itself. For example, a day of rest is almost unknown. A person in time and space means little, whereas medieval art was time in the space and structure of the church itself, the spatial architecture. The art was part of a larger inebriation in space and time. By comparison, television cannot offer us an actual space and the time it consumes is anything but contemplative. Museums offer some peace and space, but not many seats.

Parents today do a great job of raising their kids in the available structures provided for young people, but they grow up where there are fewer structures and young people often succumb to the shapelessness of space and time.

Medieval Art was a home away from home, a refuge from the known and unknowns and for the unknowns. By comparison it is not medieval art which is a cartoon, but possibly modern people who have become cartoons, reducing things to their own interests, subjugating all to themselves, then wondering why they can't maintain an interest in life.

In other words, medieval art was part of an alternative reality, an alternative state of being which is very important for people, but unlike video games it was at one with an actual reality. Therefore medieval art in my opinion was not a cartoon.

5/10/2014 10:53 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Sean,

I agree with you that the same questions we find answered in Medieval art are questions that the primitivist modernists were concerned with. But so were the "romantic symbolists"... and even Vermeer or Titian and so many other greats. There is so much good thought along the way to modernism. It is very difficult to hear credit given for these long-term investigations to a late comer like Matisse who really was so shallow in his thinking. Most of the intellectual overlay over primitivist modernist investigations is just so much pretension. "True form" is just another piece of smart marketing that says "our cartoons are real art and your realism isn't!"

Although, if I were to backtrack I would put more emphasis on the phrase "expressive distortion" rather than cartooning. Cartooning really seems to get people's backs up. Expressive Distortion is anodyne and probably more accurate as an overarching category.

5/11/2014 11:20 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Laurence John and Tom-- when I thought about Goodrich as an exemplar of "style," I mentally compared him with other illustrators who have a distinctive look, so ingrained in their DNA that you can identify their work instantly. There are several cartoonists (in the strictest sense of the word) who fall into this category-- John Held, Jr. , R.O. Blechman, Harold Gray, etc.-- who you can spot a mile away. True, the fact that their medium is "cartooning" (again in the strictest sense) gives the artist a wider license to take personal liberties with reality, but even if these artists tried to make representational pictures, their marks on paper would be instantly recognizable. They couldn't disguise their tracks if they wanted to. Putting aside cartoonists, I think it is harder to find artists who can (in your words) paint "believably 'real' form, colours, values etc." and still have enough latitude for that personal fingerprint of style. The top of my list of such artists was Leyendecker (who you both have identified). Any square inch from a Leyendecker painting is likely to reveal its creator. (Whatever Kev thinks about Leyendecker's "mimesis," his style was out front in almost every one of his brush strokes.)

Another example, to a lesser degree, is Frazetta. Like Goodrich, Frazetta's faces and figures and pictures have a trademark "look." Contrast him with many other "realistic" illustrators (such as Pyle, Wyeth, Cornwell, Rockwell, Schaeffer, etc.) who have a "look" about their work and stylistic preferences. In the end I think such painters are closer to Kev Ferrara's definition of realism as "representation with a minimum of distortion."

Kev Ferrara-- I agree with you that clarity of thought about the pictures we like and why we like them is a good, in and of itself. That's one of the founding principles behind
this little meeting place. But I found myself pausing a little too long over the right term for representational work (weighing "realistic" vs. "Realism" vs. "accurate" vs. "representational" vs. "how reality looks") and I wondered if these terminology questions weren't taking me further from a pure enjoyment of these pictures by Goodrich. There are some important underlying realities about which we should speak clearly, but there is also a point of diminishing returns in these conversations.

Bernard Wolfe provides what I thought was a useful balance: "Not all labels are to be sneered at. The ones that are transparent so they can't be used as masks, and give real names instead of aliases and real addresses you can be sent home to in case you are hit by a truck or you get clouded by amnesia, they can do something for you. Get you back where you're known and belong, should you stray. Jog your memory as to your rank and serial number if you get a little fuzzy, as everybody does at times."

I believe in precision of language (and of thought, which is often shaped by language) but if I sometimes plow forward with an uneducated use of "realistic" or "cartoon," it's usually because I have applied Wolfe's guidelines in trying to figure out just how much of my life I should be devoting to cleaning up parlance.

5/11/2014 11:22 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

The passage between enjoyment and appreciation is a tricky one, because to actually appreciate requires understanding. And true understanding is often a long road away from entertainment.

I understand this is boring to most, but I often find that clarity in one difficult thing pays dividends down the road in unexpected ways. So I've developed a faith in the investment value of rigor. But, of course, my interest goes beyond appreciation in all this.

Best wishes all.

5/11/2014 2:10 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

Although, if I were to backtrack I would put more emphasis on the phrase "expressive distortion"

Kev,

I quite like that; doesn't carry the baggage that "cartoon" or "mannerism" does.

5/11/2014 4:40 PM  
Anonymous Sean Farrell said...

Taste buds treated to endless sugar stimulation stop recognizing other tastes. When innocence is viewed as a kind of ignorance (as it is today), it disappears as a recognizable thing and is automatically dismissed.

Where then do the jaded go to replenish themselves without innocence? They attempt to find the renewal in beauty but bring their foreknowledge with them and beauty is viewed like taste buds to sugar. Thus they lack the innocence to fully experience beauty and so wind up as hungry as when they started.

Part of style is the choice of subject matter. Innocence was also a major subject of medieval art which I forgot to mention before. Perception, innocence and beauty are very closely linked.

An inseparable part of any artist is their limitations. We see only a part of the picture, no matter how much of the known one possesses. Limitations contribute to style. If one loves drawing, something else is generally going to suffer.

As an artist begins understanding their limitations, they are also freer to appreciate the art of others, just as innocence allows one to experience being and the reality of others.

The beauty of a site such as this, where people are given lots of latitude by David, is that in stumbling around, one can discover a good many things they weren't aware of previously or had never before considered.

Kev, Of course I was trying to answer Tom's interesting question why I thought Medieval Art wasn't a cartoon, which it is being viewed as by many today, but yes, the great artists after them contributed a ton of things all the way up to the Moderns. The moderns did bring new things to understanding design which I continue to learn from, but for the young artist especially, shutting oneself off to this area would be a mistake.

5/11/2014 6:34 PM  
Anonymous Sean Farrell said...

PS: I meant shutting oneself off to modern art through much of the twentieth century, but also it would be a mistake to shut oneself off from Medieval Art due to any pre conceived notion.

5/11/2014 6:39 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Speaking of "expressive distortion" and TGAI, I just looked up Scott McCloud's big triangle and found that I'm not in agreement with his formulation at all. I think his triangle is a mess. He seems to note no difference between expressive distortion and the use of known visual symbols as a kind of text form. And if an expressive distortion looks sort of "modernistic" he pushes it toward the top, even though it is actually just another form of cartooning, no different than anything else along the right side of the triangle.

So as you look right to left on his chart, he goes from realism to "cartooning" and then to text, without considering that expression is a "pole" he just skipped past.

Jeeze. I never realized the his chart makes no sense at all. That expressionless smiley face at bottom right is... oh nevermind. This is the problem with McCloud, he only grasps art to the level of his own, which is so superficial it practically isn't there.

Oh well. Another million people miseducated by a crummy art theorist.

5/11/2014 7:17 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

*Sorry "when you look left to right on his chart..."

5/11/2014 7:18 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

An inseparable part of any artist is their limitations. We see only a part of the picture, no matter how much of the known one possesses. Limitations contribute to style. If one loves drawing, something else is generally going to suffer.

Sean, this is what I meant by "elisions" up above. Elisions are the things we skip over or leave out of our work either conscious or unconsciously. Elisions are the oppositions to an artist's concerns, which will dominate his work. I kind of made up that formula as a joke, (Style = concerns minus elisions times personality) but actually it's kind of worth considering.

Part of style is the choice of subject matter.

I really can't agree with this. The great golden age illustrators tackled every subject you could imagine from landscapes to religious piety to workers strikes to urbane love stories to auto races to motherhood to war reportage. Yet, you can always tell the artist if he's a great one, regardless of the topic.

5/11/2014 7:26 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

Ahh....triadic formalism; Hegel is looking down and smiling from his abode in the aesthetic up yonder.

5/11/2014 10:37 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

'elisions' (or w'hat you omit' as i called it above) are conscious decisions about what to leave out for the simplification / clarity / focus of the image.

i took Sean's 'limitations' to mean the same thing as David's 'techincal weaknesses' rather than deliberate omissions. or they could also be strong perceptual / ideological biases... e.g. a strong preference for gaunt / spindly figures which pulls everything else into its orbit.

(Ronald Searle is the perfect example of someone who turned his drawing limitations into stylistic advantage).

so the formula for style could now read ' concerns + omissions + technical weakness x personality = style'

5/12/2014 5:56 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

The word elision does not specify whether the omissions are conscious or unconscious. I think that is a crucial point to understanding how style comes about.

If you consider what it means to have technical weaknesses, it either results in new concerns being brought to bear on the work, or the dropping/omission of insurmountable problems. Style implies that the technical weakness have been dealt with in one way or another and a consistency in output has been achieved. Struggle has been quelled. Style, one might say, is the result of the quelling of struggle, by hook or crook.

I have trouble with the idea that we are adding in the elisions of an artist. Even if, by that, you mean that omissions already has a negative sign. So, I still think concerns - elisions x personality is the better formulation.

Etc, C.S. Peirce's obsessions with triadic relations are even more pronounced than Hegel.

5/12/2014 7:13 AM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

"So, I still think concerns - elisions x personality is the better formulation. "

'minus elisions' is a double negative.

i'll stick with my formulation thanks. ;-)

5/12/2014 7:38 AM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

Sean; "... I was trying to answer Tom's interesting question why I thought Medieval Art wasn't a cartoon ..."

according to the TGAI, much Medieval art would indeed have to be classified as somewhere between cartoon and graphic symbol, but that's the problem with definitions: they can be reductive, pejorative-laden, and miss the uniqueness of the thing in question.

5/12/2014 9:10 AM  
Anonymous Sean Farrell said...

I think each of you are saying true things.
Elisions, what a great word, which broadly covers everything, as anything that is in an artist's work implies what was left out. Yes, the word does broadly explain style.

Goodrich has an attraction to drawing voluminous women and it's pretty easy to see in his work. Part of his style then is entwined with what he is attracted to and how he likes rendering it. Peter Helck was an artist who was attracted to the machinery of construction and cars. John La Gatta was another artist who loved drawing women but loved a particular kind of woman and that love also comes through. Often an artist of less skill can excel because of their love and knowledge of a particular subject matter.

Certainly there are artists who have the facility to handle anything, but artists generally become known for something unique they bring to a specific subject matter and that involves a strong affinity to and knowledge of their subject.

The attraction to subject matter is part of personality. A heavy or light hand, patience or impulsiveness and many other factors are attributed to personality too. A jaded person can bring a particular insightfulness to editorial illustration and such is true of the spectrum of emotions and dispositions towards life and may be where an artist winds up finding their hand.

I was thinking of the limited nature of any picture, how each image is but a tiny window onto the world and how blind artists are by their humanity to a multitude of things which can't be seen, but which are present in every moment.

Such leaves the artist little choice but to find their way by intimacy with their subject.

5/12/2014 10:57 AM  
Anonymous Sean Farrell said...

Laurence John,
Thank you for the wildly interesting image. According to the image, I would agree that it is somewhere between cartooning and symbolism, or is symbolism in a graphic context.

There are middle areas which defy simple definitions and I agree, definitions can be tedious, but they really are very helpful if for nothing else, as a catalyst to many counter and periphery thoughts.

The  “Portinari Altarpiece” by Hugo van der Goes, 1476-1478 certainly uses a series of symbols similar to the interesting graphic piece you sent and this is why Tom's question is challenging. Making it no less challenging is that our being predisposed to fact makes reading or taking the symbols seriously all the more difficult and such refers back to the thoughts that Richard and earlier David suggested, that the audience (or larger culture) makes the art, or at least the art market.

The design of the Portinari Altarpiece is identical to the Arp piece in the previous post, though it isn't commenting on what is in the shape (active) in relation to that outside the shape (passive), nor to the clockwise way one reads the Arp. But the altarpiece is more sophisticated in how it unites the depth of field to the picture plane which seemed suddenly unimportant to modern art as it moved onto new thoughts.

I also find medieval art to be multi-dimensional and evocative of a way to see; that the virtues such as innocence combine with visual beauty as a message about beauty itself, as a way of being. Imagining oneself as a medieval person setting their eyes on a painting like the Portinari Altarpiece for the first time is also something to consider in how to look at Medieval Art and the kind of leisure and time it must have been observed. How ordinary it all seems today and how much there is to know can get lost in it all. It almost seems natural to categorize it all into a few manageable areas and file it away as dead and gone....as known and no longer living.

5/12/2014 12:41 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Goodrich has an attraction to drawing voluminous women and it's pretty easy to see in his work. Part of his style then is entwined with what he is attracted to and how he likes rendering it.

Sean,

Goodrich brings as much voluminousness to his his hockey players as he does his women. Which perfectly illustrates my point.

Many artists find their "kind of women" to be like another man's. You can find LaGatta, McGinnis, or Frazetta girls created by other artists throughout the history of illustration. But you don't remember them. And for good reason. I once thought I was interested in fantasy art because of my love of Frazetta's paintings. After a while I realized that wasn't the case at all. I had just been fooled by his subject because I didn't understand art.

You can also find machinery or racing cars illustrated by the boat load, but only one Peter Helck.

5/12/2014 2:26 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5/12/2014 2:36 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Expressive Distortion is now the preferred term here at the bureau


The three corners are:

Expressive Distortion

Mimesis

Graphic Symbol


I want to reemphasize that this thing is only good for discussing particular elements of a composition. A composition can be all over the place on this chart and still work as an image, in all probability.

5/12/2014 2:37 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

In case you are wondering how a photographic representation segues to a graphic symbol in TGAI, look at the "change" poster of Obama's face by Fairey.

5/12/2014 2:50 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Another point of interest; the movement toward any of the three poles is a movement away from the other two poles. Which is really a diagram of the movement toward a concern and away from elisions.

As an example, the elisions of both realism and expressivity by Chris Ware wind him up in the realm of Graphic Symbol, which is exactly where he belongs. So the triad seems to have some smarts to it.

5/12/2014 3:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kev,

So I think to clarify my point earlier about 'reality' vs 'Realism', it's important to note that what makes for an easily identifiable figure, does not necessarily translate to a real looking figure.

To bring home my point about the perceptions of reality of children; compare a strongly rendered frame from Antz to an incredibly accurate <a href="http://www.sulisfineart.com/media/catalog/product/cache/1/image/1400x/040ec09b1e35df139433887a97daa66f/l/z/lz275.jpg>line drawing</a>. If one were to ask a child which looked more real, they'd say the picture from Antz 999 times out of 1,000. The reason for this is, while accurate line can make something identifiable, other elements of rendering build up what we mean when we say something feels "real".

-Richard

5/12/2014 3:16 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

Kev,

i trust that at the TGAI institute there will be an enormous triangular interactive-diagram (presided over by you in white lab coat) where visitors can pin-point the exact location of any artist from history within the triangular gamut ?

5/12/2014 3:55 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Laurence,

Actually, the building itself will be triangular in accordance with TGAI. And people will be able to walk around inside the diagram interactively when inside. The whole institute is a diagram. The entrance will be at "mimesis." And then as the attendees walk into the diagram and around it, their physiognomy will change depending on the direction they walk. If they walk all the way toward the "expressive distortion" corner they end up either in a Roger Rabbit cartoon or something by F. W. Murnau. If they walk into the Graphic Symbol corner, the end up a road sign.

5/12/2014 4:24 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5/12/2014 4:27 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

Kev: "And then as the attendees walk into the diagram and around it, their physiognomy will change depending on the direction they walk."

i like it .... and presumably when they walk in the direction of the toilets they start to resemble a Jeff Koons.

5/12/2014 4:39 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

i like it .... and presumably when they walk in the direction of the toilets they start to resemble a Jeff Koons.

!!! (laughing) !!!

5/12/2014 5:19 PM  
Anonymous Sean Farrell said...

Yes, Kev, but neither is what I said contradicted by Goodrich's hockey player, nor the little girl on the beach with the conch shell.

A style isn't limited to a particular subject, but it is often shaped by the relationship an artist develops with particular forms and shapes which are more prevalent in one subject than another.

That at least is often the case. If someone draws expressions or comes up drawing political cartoons, or has a particular kind of friend they draw, no matter how much they understand art, they aren't going to be able to switch to drawing competitively in some other discipline with a different set of shapes and language. To do so would require an instantaneous familiarity with the nature and movement of forms they aren't familiar or fluid with in wrist and practice, not to mention the specific language native to each area or style.

The women of Frazetta, McGinnis and La Gatta are all well drawn, but one may be attracted to all, some or none of them. Particular likes and dislikes of subject matter do affect one's relationship with a subject matter and consequently, the kinds of shapes and forms which most naturally develop and flow from one's hands. Such is especially true of artists who work from imagination and Goodrich appears to be one of this kind, or so his style lends itself.

Yes there are principles of art, but a person never stops learning about art, exactly at what point does one understand art?

5/12/2014 5:30 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

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5/12/2014 10:07 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

Kev,

i think we can agree that good artists imbue forms with an imaginative / poetic quality which moves the viewer. but - in narrative art - form describes content. you can't separate the two as neatly as you suggest.

if you think that form is doing all the work then we're back to asking "would the Cornwell painting (from David's last post) move us if the human-form-content could be scrambled ?"


5/13/2014 5:21 AM  
Blogger Tom said...

David and Sean 

"They couldn't disguise their tracks if they wanted to." David

"in other words, medieval art was part of an alternative reality, an alternative state of being which is very important for people,...". Sean

     I misunderstood Richard, but I think the point he made as I understood it, about Goodrich and Favretto  is a good one.  That different artist will emphasis different aspects of  reality and to say one is more real then another is often a case of not seeing or understanding what is being communicated. That is why I used the word emphasize.  There are lots of different aspects of reality, I know I am not talking about mimesis.

You can see an artist conception of reality  in what types of forms  or enclosures he uses and how he ties them together. Some will use ovoids other's will choose blocks. The language of form that an artist conceives is the most vital and living part of his work.   The modern conception of contour drawing or tracing avoids addressing the whole issue of what constitutes the real.   As most cartoonist draw from their imagination, they have to come to some conclusions about what underlies the appearance of all forms.  Which in many ways ties them to older pre photographic art where a language of form had to be developed in order to say anything at all.

The language that constitutes reality for Goodrich is his massive ovoid volumes which were used by baroque painters like Rubens and Tiepolo.Two other artists who have managed and "absolute distinctive look.". The volumes reflect the over spilling abundance of life itself.  The highlights he places on the hockey players buttocks makes me feel like I am looking at two large eyes or breasts as well as his ass.  I also  like the way he turned the goalie's mask into the face of worry.  The contrast between the voluptuous volumes reflecting the  ego's gluttonousness desire in the two females figures and their tiny, small minded, petty hands is hilarious.

5/13/2014 9:27 AM  
Blogger Tom said...

“Yes there are principles of art, but a person never stops learning about art, exactly at what point does one understand art? “ Sean


That is general what I was trying to say earlier when I wrote, “ But I don't think there is a problem there that needs fixing. Art is something to be used not solved.” All I meant is we do not fix or improve art, it (Art) responds to what we want to use it for, what we want to give expression too. Our ideas, feelings and intuitions like Sean wrote we use its principles.

I just saw this TED talk by David Byrne, on architecture and music. It kinda drives the point home. It is all about how music response to its environment. Nice little ending about bird song and environment.

http://www.ted.com/talks/david_byrne_how_architecture_helped_music_evolve

5/13/2014 9:51 AM  
Blogger Tom said...

Sean said
"But the modern claims went further with an idea said that the true shape was the one that sat on the picture plane because it remained true to the picture plane and the false shape was the one that went into space. " 


Exactly, modern art in the America became so obsessed with the picture plane because they believe it was the definitive defining characteristic of what painting was.  The elimination of illusionary space. This to goes back to my earlier point that the principals of art are to be used not solved.

Influence is a two way street.  Lots of Japanese artist came under the influence of perspective. Hokusai (I think) did a print where the viewer is looking at a distance house, thorough a group of horses.  He places the horizon at the mid level of the horses legs. So one feels like you are looking through a group of trees. Just like Indian art came under the influence of classical art as Alexander the great moved east.

5/13/2014 10:02 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

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5/13/2014 10:22 AM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

Kev : "part of the problem with how you are currently thinking about the Cornwell, is that you are thinking of the two men and the lady as people."

... which is the intention of the painting. the meaning of that particular painting is conveyed through body language or 'acting'.

Kev: " They are just sensations being signalled to us by plastic form. "

if you're talking about the fact they're just painterly abstractions (which you've mentioned many times before) then you're simply stating the obvious.

5/13/2014 11:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

kev >"You are talking about a lazy, weak artist here. A great artist is continually pushing their vocabulary and interests."


It would seem to me, that the best artists are those who artificially limit their visual nouns, but continue to expand their visual adjectives and verbs regarding those nouns.

An artist constantly pushing the amount of nouns they can speak about may have a vast vocabulary, but they'll rarely say anything interesting about those nouns in individuality, only those nouns in the context of each other, which is ultimately a project of novelty not content.

-Richard

5/13/2014 12:23 PM  
Anonymous Sean Farrell said...

Thank you Kev. I mentioned form because I knew you were getting at form. The style we associate with Rubens has to do with a choice of forms, yes, but there is more, a choice of female form verses tree trunks, thus a choice of subject matter rather than forms for the sake of forms. The forms expressed opulence as Tom pointed out, an expressiveness of abundance implied in the forms of Rubens and Tiepolo. Lucian Freud also chose some similar forms but his subject matter is quite different, though he painted large naked females too.

Certainly different artists share similar forms, but the interior form is not alone in distinguishing them. Each form was painted and dressed with visual elements which are also part of visual form, yet so further distinguish subject matter.

All art is a simplification of the reality it represents. Then there is technique which very facile artists often impose upon all their subjects and I've heard people accuse the Impressionists of such, but by no means would they have been alone if the claim is valid. Style does develop in lazy or limited artists too.

Tom, the Ted Talk with David Byrne was a treat. Though he's talking music, David Byrne's talk addresses several things discussed on this page which expand beyond the limits of the picture frame including audience behavior. Art is not an isolated event, nor is form. Nothing is one dimensional and herein lies the real clumsiness of modern art which insists that each piece of art is only its own end related to a lineage in art history. It enriches how one sees elements of art, the forms of art, but such isolation is part of a type of modern alienation.

I think artists long for an art that expands out to be apart of the world in a meaningful way. That was its original intention in medieval art, to become part of the viewer, affecting behavior, mitigating fear and renewing an ability to see things anew, not just in one dimensionality, but across a range of thoughtfulness. Other art has attempted the same, I just mentioned the medieval again as it was a question on the post and briefly part of the David Byrne talk.

5/13/2014 12:35 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

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5/13/2014 12:37 PM  
Anonymous Florencia Ojeda said...

Great post! and I loved all of the drawings

5/13/2014 12:55 PM  
Anonymous Sean Farrell said...

Two images with the same form may capture identical moods as many movies in the last thirty years use the same plots, scripts and moods over and over again, so in a simple sense, there's no disagreement. They use the same characters over and over again too dressed only slightly differently.

All such proves is that art (visual drama) can become as exhausted, hackneyed or re-appropriated as other art forms like theater, music, movies and books have been duplicated as thinly disguised plagiarism for anyone noticing. Not just broad visual forms, but the entire array of ingredients can be plagiarized.

What about consequence? Is consequence a sensation? Is time not real because it is but a measurement of some former state against a change? So the moderns say. If so, then why is anyone complaining about modernism?

5/13/2014 1:18 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

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5/13/2014 1:29 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

Kev: "The body language and "acting" is form"

... and form describes content. around we go.

"What is called "content" is actually reference"

ok, form describes 'reference'. it doesn't slip so easily off the tongue, but great, call it that if you like.

"same color areas, same meaning"

i'd have to see the pictures in question before i could comment. what you suggest certainly sounds plausible, and not unexpected either.

5/13/2014 2:13 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

At several occasions Peirce mentions that he considers himself ill informed, even incompetent, with regards to esthetic matters.

5/13/2014 2:21 PM  
Anonymous Sean Farrell said...

Kev, Everything in a picture is part of form, then what is subject matter? Since it is part of the picture it is also part of form. A dog looking at an image of its owner on the edge of a cliff won't bark to warn him because the dog senses the picture is not three dimensional, real, at least I don't suspect a dog would mistake the painting for its owner.

The dog would warn his owner if his house was on fire though. A person though understands what the form represents and so they allow themselves to experience the man on a cliff as in danger, as in danger of consequence, though it is all artifice, forms on a flat surface.

If the same image were reduced to linear shapes on a canvas with similar mood created by lighting, the same effect might be created, but as the shapes representing the person on the cliff broke down to something indiscernible, the drama would be greatly lessened, possibly to a yawn.

So if a baby is floating around with wings. The viewer doesn't allow themselves to be traumatized by the prospect of circumstance, because there is acceptance that the baby is okay. But if the baby is resting in a bird's nest and a giant python is about to snatch it, the viewer might allow the danger of consequence to result as an experience of fear.
If we are looking at the tension of two forms of shape, which don't identically represent anything, the viewer is probably not going to allow themselves to experience the threat of consequence the same way, even though the setting is all present and we see the actual tension of and between the two shapes.

Though expressed through forms, the willingness to experience the threat of consequence is allowed or disallowed by the viewer. Consequence then is external to the actual picture and in the mind of the viewer, it is not in the actual form, but the translation. Yes, I know you understand that.

Okay, but the mind doesn't relate to pure formalism as real consequence, but only allows itself to experience or relate to consequence when the form becomes subject matter. Subject matter allows the viewer to experience the form and the consequence, but without the form as subject, the sense of consequence is lost. Really violent formal modern art may appear as a wall that needs a new coat of paint, but to experience it as form alone still requires an allowance to indulge in it as form.

Believability then requires that form be subject matter as well as form.

5/13/2014 2:39 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

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5/13/2014 3:06 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

Sean, you're the first person who seems to have comprehended the question i posed with regard to the Cornwell picture (and your conclusion is the same as mine).

5/13/2014 3:07 PM  
Anonymous Sean Farrell said...

Thank you Laurence, but Kev deserves credit for driving the issue. I've learned plenty from him in this area.

5/13/2014 3:32 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

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5/13/2014 3:40 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5/13/2014 3:42 PM  
Anonymous Sean Farrell said...

Thank you Kev. I appreciate what you have written. Form and function, very nice and you have made your points increasingly clearer as you continue to write about them. Giving you a run for your money is part of what you get for introducing something new. But it strikes me that your audience is sincerely trying to understand you.

The dog, the fire, the flying baby, the snake, our allowing ourselves to experience fear, were just props to distinguish in the end, form from subject matter and form as subject matter. A stretch of bumbling which would never have happened had the issue not been forced/stimulated by yourself. Every now and then some words land as a sentence that makes some sense.

5/13/2014 4:48 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

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5/13/2014 5:33 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

Sean, Kev, and Laurence,

Aren't all three of you basically in agreement that form cannot be separated from matter to any meaningful degree?

5/13/2014 5:37 PM  
Anonymous Sean Farrell said...

etc. etc.
Form is on the surface of the picture as is subject matter. Subject matter is form on the surface, but form doesn't have to be subject matter, though to lend itself to believability it must be both. That is what was established.

The work of Degas is teeming with form which isn't subject matter and is form only by invisible lines established between points. Something very similar is at work in the beautiful rhythmic lines in the Gannam watercolor advertisements for St. Mary's Blankets and earlier examples of Gannam's work on this site. Here is one from Inspiration for the Day.

The invisible lines have a characteristic of being virtual which is quite different than the materials they flow over and the lines as established in the form of the blankets, etc. flow beyond their initial material boundaries and then through other materials. At certain times, the lines can share both virtual and material characteristics.

So my answer is no, forms can be quite distinct from matter, even if as invisible lines they may be established by as little as two small dots, or short accents. Such are just examples. Formal devices may also be established in the form of the subject matter as they are in the folds of the Gannam, but they not readily noticeable to the viewer and extend beyond themselves across space, etc. Such formal devices can possess pictorial strength which exceeds the material strength of elements in the picture.

5/13/2014 8:15 PM  
Anonymous Sean Farrell said...

sorry: but they are not readily noticeable

5/13/2014 8:19 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

Sean,

O.k. Thanks for clarifying. By the way what you are describing in the second paragraph above is actually a centuries old design principle, going back even to Greek vases, and was referred to as linee occulte by Sebastiano Serlio in his architectural treatises.

5/13/2014 9:31 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5/13/2014 9:47 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5/13/2014 9:53 PM  
Anonymous Sean Farrell said...

etc., etc.
Thanks, I appreciate the reference very much.

There are numerous formal things artists do afterwards to adjust their paintings and drawings which don't actually relate to the form of the subject matter. Little things like adjusting some tone in a shape of wall which otherwise might be popping too much. The pulling together of a picture often involves a fair amount of adjusting of this nature.

I can only guess Degas added devices afterwards and other times saw opportunities as he was going along and still on some occasions, saw an entire premise he may have discovered there for the development at the outset. There's no way to know when and how he applied various devices, but it's probably fair to conclude he didn't apply them as he was doing life drawings and studying scenes and character poses, because by their nature they required full attention and the devises addressed the overall picture, the linkage of things, etc. possibly in relation to a preliminary sketch based of an existing scene, or existing parts of a scene.

5/13/2014 10:01 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

There are numerous formal things artists do afterwards to adjust their paintings and drawings which don't actually relate to the form of the subject matter..

Sean,

Yes, and in much Italian Baroque/Rococo the "formal things" can take precedence over the subject matter; to combine Kev's "expressive distortion" and a Spinal Tap reference, their amps went to 11.

5/13/2014 10:14 PM  
Anonymous Sean Farrell said...

etc. etc.
That's funny, but also the devices certainly helped where extensive planning was valuable, such as Michelangelo's Pieta, 1498.

What made Degas so interesting is that he was perhaps the culmination of such Italian devices and applied them in such ingenious ways as part of the western solutions to the eastern picture, Cezanne's graphic solutions to the eastern picture were embraced and the ball just rolled onward from there as if the horizon line and many formal devices for bringing the representational image to the picture plane never happened.

Existing schools of thought seem to have gotten dismissed along with Degas. As Degas' solution to the eastern image was revived in mid-century illustration, it returned largely without the complex formalist mechanisms which characterized his most ambitious compositions.

But, it would be hard to say that Degas's use of such devises were integral to a subject's form because because Degas often decorated the surfaces of his subjects to accommodate the devices. In other words, they were not always placed according to something of the figure's substance, but did so as either to stabilize or create movement through attachments. Yet they were very effective to his intentions.

5/14/2014 12:18 AM  
Anonymous Sean Farrell said...

etc. etc.
PS: As invisible as such devices usually were, they did have an effect on what people came to understand as the style of Degas. His art in much of this was truly hidden.

5/14/2014 12:23 AM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

Sean,

I don't think Degas employed Italian devices nearly as much as the Italians themselves did; but obviously his work was informed by photography and more modern looking, and much in his subject matter that would appeal to a romantic spirit such as yours.

5/14/2014 8:15 AM  
Anonymous SeanFarrell said...

etc. etc.,
Yes, but Degas was far more complicated than meets the eye. Wonder on the highlights on the Dancers in Entrance of the Masked Dancers.

Artists did continue, after Degas, to set their paintings up on grids and use multiple diagonals and other devices to connect, stabilize or create / assist movement, but only far less so and with less complexity. Such was replaced with simpler things like the golden rectangle and other sophisticated stuff, but the problems in the newer pictures weren't spatial, but were more to do with graphic solutions to the picture plane for basically graphic images.

Norman Rockwell was one those who continued to set his images up with designs to resolve spatial pictures on the picture plane. He wasn't alone, but the number of people making ambitious spatial pictures dropped rapidly as the century bustled along. By the 1970s, almost everything was being designed as a graphic image, (and traced).

So when young artists in the 1980s were dropping the photos and started to draw out of their heads, many of whom were doing cartoons and stuff like Goodrich, it was very refreshing. It also meant it might be time to go back to the beginning and figure out some of the stuff that got lost, because the cartoons could only reproduce themselves and they still are after thirty years.

5/14/2014 9:29 AM  
Anonymous SeanFarrell said...

etc. etc.,
Yes, but Degas was far more complicated than meets the eye. Wonder on the highlights on the Dancers in Entrance of the Masked Dancers.

Artists did continue, after Degas, to set their paintings up on grids and use multiple diagonals and other devices to connect, stabilize or create / assist movement, but only far less so and with less complexity. Such was replaced with simpler things like the golden rectangle and other sophisticated stuff, but the problems in the newer pictures weren't spatial, but were more to do with graphic solutions to the picture plane for basically graphic images.

Norman Rockwell was one those who continued to set his images up with designs to resolve spatial pictures on the picture plane. He wasn't alone, but the number of people making ambitious spatial pictures dropped rapidly as the century bustled along. By the 1970s, almost everything was being designed as a graphic image, (and traced).

So when young artists in the 1980s were dropping the photos and started to draw out of their heads, many of whom were doing cartoons and stuff like Goodrich, it was completely refreshing. It also meant it might be time to go back to the beginning and figure out some of the stuff that got lost, because the cartoons could only reproduce themselves and still are after thirty years.

5/14/2014 9:32 AM  
Anonymous SeanFarrell said...

etc. etc.,
Yes, but Degas was far more complicated than meets the eye. Wonder on the highlights on the Dancers in Entrance of the Masked Dancers.

Artists did continue, after Degas, to set their paintings up on grids and use multiple diagonals and other devices to connect, stabilize or create / assist movement, but only far less so and with less complexity. Such was replaced with simpler things like the golden rectangle and other sophisticated stuff, but the problems in the newer pictures weren't spatial, but were more to do with graphic solutions to the picture plane for basically graphic images.

Norman Rockwell was one those who continued to set his images up with designs to resolve spatial pictures on the picture plane. He wasn't alone, but the number of people making ambitious spatial pictures dropped rapidly as the century bustled along. By the 1970s, almost everything was being designed as a graphic image, (and traced).

So when young artists in the 1980s were dropping the photos and started to draw out of their heads, many of whom were doing cartoons and stuff like Goodrich, it was completely refreshing. It also meant it might be time to go back to the beginning and figure out some of the stuff that got lost, because the cartoons could only reproduce themselves and still are after thirty years.

5/14/2014 9:32 AM  
Anonymous sean farrell said...

sorry about that

5/14/2014 9:34 AM  
Blogger Liimlsan said...

Oh god, Carter Goodrich is an inspiration. He drew my father's book covers, and I grew up with the originals of these two paintings hanging in my dining room.

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-ksbEJCEPPX8/TiVP3fYNG0I/AAAAAAAAAuQ/WMqjB6CXfIg/s1600/Once%2BUpon%2Ba%2BMore%2BEnlightened%2BTime.bmp https://chaoglobal.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/120720102293-001.jpg
I spent many a childhood staring at these paintings trying to figure out... well, drawings, the colored chalk... how he built these up? You can't see it in the reproduction very well, but the original Sleeping Beauty, the shaft of light and its powerful streak across the image, the gorgeous neutralized hatchings on the cloth, the panoply of colors in the characters' fur!
(The Frog Prince is a caricature of my dad, fun fact.)

I thought you'd enjoy this. Someday, when I gain skill with an art camera, I intend to take them out of reflective frame and try to capture the light and joy I saw as a kid looking at an original Goodrich. But I can testify, Goodrich's anatomy is pure caricature, and it feels right at a visceral level. <3

5/24/2014 10:08 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Liimlsan-- Thanks for sharing these, I hadn't seen them. Looks like you picked a good house to grow up in.

5/26/2014 8:20 AM  

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