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...
|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.