Monday, December 22, 2014


I like this sketch by illustrator and character designer Peter de Seve.

While lesser artists strive to get symmetrical features correct, you can tell de Seve views "symmetry" as the waste of an opportunity to squeeze more character into a drawing.

For example, there is nothing uniform about these two wings:

 Or the two sides of this hat:

Or these two feet:

Note how one foot is large and defined while the other is small and feeble and dribbles away, just ike the man's life.

And certainly there's no symmetry in those marvelous teeth:

Essentially de Seve has drawn each side anew; there are no mirror images here. That means twice the drawing work, but also twice the opportunity.

Or, note the tail on the creature.  Where de Seve doesn't require a tail, he doesn't even bother to complete the outline, but where he really wants one (that curl at the end) he comes back to emphasize it with some of the thickest, darkest marks in the entire drawing.

As another example of good drawing priorities, look at how the fingers below are just a clenched jumble of lines (how many fingers can you count?) yet the knife which commands our attention contains descriptive details such as a that blood groove or the shading along the underside. 

De Seve doesn't waste these sketches; there's a lot of thinking going on here about what the picture really requires and what it can do without.  And once he forms conclusions, de Seve is one artist with the technical ability to implement them.


MORAN said...

Another awesome drawing.

Cory Hinman said...

Love it, reminds me of Daumier's scribbly sketchiness. Kley and he are personal faves.

Joel Brinkerhoff said...

A brilliant, brilliant artist. Good call on the Heinrich Kley comparison. Merry Christmas!

Anonymous said...

Love it. You're always writing about how sketches are as good as the finished work. How do you think Seve's sketches compare to his New Yorker covers?


David Apatoff said...

MORAN-- Glad you like it.

Cory Hinman-- Daumier is certainly a good reference point, and I know de Seve is a fan of Kley.

Joel Brinkerhoff-- Agreed. And merry Christmas to you as well.

Jesse Hamm said...

Great stuff! What paper was this drawn on? Is that translucent vellum?

Anonymous said...

Great sketch! It looks like wax crayon on vellum (Denril)

David Apatoff said...

JSL-- Tastes differ on this, but I admit that I'm a sucker for sketches. So much effort goes into polishing and refining the finished version of an image, often at the expense of the original vigor, spontaneity and intuition of the sketch, that I often find the sketch is, pound for pound, a more interesting and appealing statement. A sketch contains more mistakes, true, but I'm usually glad to accept them in exchange for the increased veracity of the work. For those interested in the DNA of an artist, a sketch offer fewer hiding places. You have to be good.

I like de Seve's New Yorker covers but if I wanted to understand his drawing ability undiluted by successive iterations and the moderating opinions of the New Yorker editorial staff, I would probably choose one of his loose drawings. (I notice, for example, that the only other time I used a de Seve drawing in my "One Lovely Drawing" series happened to be another loose pencil drawing:

I'd say the same thing about New Yorker cover artist John Cuneo. His sketches are closer to the marrow than h is finished covers, and that's the part that interests me most.

I'd say the same thing about the sketches of Richard Thompson, who was not a NYer cover artist but did internal illustrations for them for years. For his very first assignment, he sent the NYer a rough sketch of Ross Perot. To their credit, the NYer said "Don't finish it, don't "fix" it, don't touch it, just sign the sketch and send it to us. (That story is one of many in the new book, The Art of Richard Thompson.)

David Apatoff said...

Jesse Hamm and Anonymous-- I am constantly amazed by the sharp eyes and expertise of the people who congregate here.

For much of his career, de Seve worked with traditional tracing paper (pseudo vellum) but a few years ago he began working on the much sturdier plasticized vellum (could very well be Denril)because he was able to smear it when he wanted and it took his special kind of pencil well. The illustration in this posting was done on that.

chris bennett said...

Thanks David for a very fine drawing.

With all great draughtsmen, we witness a line that seeks and chooses. It never conquers.

MORAN said...

You don't know what the New Yorker wants. They may like that tight style and de Seve doesn't have any choice. Do you know? Remember what you wrote about the New Yorker and heads made out of circles.