Tuesday, November 03, 2015

FRAZETTA'S UNREALISTIC REALISM

Frank Frazetta's painting of the Egyptian Queen...


...inspired the famous Princess Leia slave costume from Star Wars:


The costume designers originally specified 25 yards of fabric to create a long, flowing harem skirt similar to the one in Frazetta's painting.


Costume designed by Aggie Guerard Rodgers and Nilo Rodis-Jamero
However, they quickly found that Frazetta's concept made no sense.  That long blue drape looks great in the painting but in real life "the costume department could not make the concept work."   You don't realize how ridiculous it is until you try to translate it from image to reality.

In this next picture, Frazetta paints a demon about to strike a blow...


...except the blow could never land because his horns are blocking the way.  Part of Frazetta's brilliance was that he was able to portray imaginary characters as solid, muscular beings who lived in a real world governed by laws of physics.  But Frazetta often broke those laws for visual effect.

In this third example,  note that Frazetta has planted the archer's foot firmly on thin air.

 

This was not a mistake.  The painting would not have looked nearly as powerful if Frazetta had changed that stance to place the foot on something solid.

Such liberties are not uncommon in Frazetta's paintings, but somehow they don't keep his work from looking realistic.  In fact, his paintings are far more convincing than the work of his imitators who meticulously follow the laws of gravity, lighting, anatomy, etc.

Part of Frazetta's art was that he understood when the laws of appearances take priority over the laws of physics. 



84 comments:

Anonymous said...

The demon with the retractable horns is one of a number of illustrations which convinced me that this was an artist whose other talents did not compensate for the absurdity of his conceptions. I have always found him risible, despite the evident facility of his drawings.

Anonymous said...

Who are some illustrators you do not find risible ?

chris bennett said...

Might have been better titled: "Realistic unrealism". :)

Anonymous said...

I recall buying the mag with the brain demon in my early teens ; years passed before I had the revelation " hey - his horns are in the way ! " David - if you can recall , did you think of that upon seeing that painting for the first time , or was there a gap before critical observation kicked in ?

Al McLuckie

ps - In talking about the Egyptian Queen oil with Ellie Frazetta , she mentioned Frank used the imported Italian marble on one of their tables as a guide for the pillar .

Aleš said...

David wrote: "The painting would not have looked nearly as powerful if Frazetta had changed that stance to place the foot on something solid."

Yes, that stance is a part of harmonic organization of the whole. But I'm not sure whether it's a factual liberty. Perspective and female in the front hide whatever the archer is sitting on. Couldn't we imagine that there is some sort of saddle with leg holders or something there? And even if there isn't, the weight of the archer is in such a position that his leg could be in the air, as a result of hero's quick gesture or if that lizard is swinging left and right (which isn't really indicated by the lizards straight posture, I know).

That demon image on the other hand always bothered me, the visual effect is nice as you said, but a moment later those horns sadly prevent me from believing the scene, from immersing fully into narrative. I agree with your point tho David that facts won't necessarily make an image appear more believable. But there's a limit I guess to how much can a realistic scene bend the logic of what it portrays.

Donald Pittenger said...

The gap between illustration and functional reality has been around for many years. As David points out, reality has to be compromised for these Frazetta images to work well.

The other side of the coin is the case of drawings or sketches intended to portray proposed industrial objects being so distorted that an object could not come close to matching the drawing -- something like the Star Wars costume cited in the post.

Larger-scale examples include the famous Sant'Elia renderings of fanciful cities of the future made around 1914. Closer to my heart are automobile styling sketches that are usually gross distortions of what a functioning car might be. At their best, they present an emotionalized concept that needs to be tamed step-by-step to yield something practical. Yet often enough, like San'Elia's buildings, they can't be built or, if built, the romantic character of the sketch or rendering is lost.

Chris James said...

First time I noticed the horns in relation to the arms. But I've never cared for pedantry in art. Stimulation comes before facts or plausibility, in my eyes, design before immersion. Ingres had arms coming out of sides of torsos. He was the most interesting of the Neo-classists. I'd take Hokusai over any academic realist.

Laurence John said...

artists have always bent the laws of nature / optics in order to make a painting (or just a passage in a painting) 'work' more convincingly, to make the fiction more effective.

the 'horns' example though is really a 'clanger', an error; if something in a painting stops the viewer and makes them ask "how would that work ?" then it's a narrative problem and has broken the spell. it seems impossible that Frazetta wouldn't have noticed the problem during the time it took to do the painting and was unable to stop and come up with a better solution.

chris bennett said...

I agree with Ales; the archer painting is not a bother, but those horns pluck me right out of any emotional involvement with the scene.

Which means I am in disagreement with Chris James: The stimulation provided by an arresting design is only part of the show - as far as I am concerned it only excites in the way looking at a well slung sports car does. In other words the stimulation is surface orientated rather than a deeper, personal resonance caused by its realisation of experience.

kev ferrara said...

The Demon's horns are holographic. So the arms easily pass through them, you bunch of stick-in-the-muds. Or, if one must insist on the solidity of the horns, the Demon just bends his arms at the elbow as he swings past them up or down. One assumes the demon has gotten quite good at this over the years.

The story is that the horns were a very-last minute addition by Frazetta at the end of his deadline. Without them the composition isn't as interesting or balanced, Telly Savalas wants royalties, and the mood of fantastic weirdness goes slack. Whether we believe them or not, they "go."

The archer on the lizard, by the way, is pulling back nothing. Anyone unstrung by that too?


chris bennett said...

I'm not buying that lollipop Kev. :)

Anonymous said...

Perhaps a pretty good definition of a philistine is someone who is unwilling to sacrifice reality and physics for imagination and aesthetics. The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing.

Aleš said...

Kev :D. I'm not sure if the demon can bend his arms wide enough. I think he would break his neck and fall down with his opponent having a priceless face expression. Regarding the archer pulling nothing, I think that evokes fleetness of the moment, a slim arrow being quickly pulled while sitting on a moving lizard. So I buy that. If I had to pick an aspect that appears a bit unrealistic it would be the tail. I have small lizards around the house and none of them swirls the tail like that, iguanas in our Zoo don't do that and I think crocs do it a bit while swimming under water. But a lizards tail usually swings with a kind of primitive, uncontrolled robustness If you know what I mean, while Frank's lizards tail has a bit of snake like curving going on that is useful for tree climbing. But he needed the tail up there in the air to fill the empty space and maybe as a contrast to many straight lines, so It doesn't bother me. The tail has truth to it even tho it might not belong to the type of animal.

chris bennett said...

Anonymous said... "Perhaps a pretty good definition of a philistine is someone who is unwilling to sacrifice reality and physics for imagination and aesthetics. The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing."

Yes, maybe I'm a lifeless, though fleshly, unspiritual pedantic nerd. Or maybe it's just that I as far as imagination is concerned I'm choosy about quality.

kev ferrara said...

Perhaps a pretty good definition of a philistine is someone who is unwilling to sacrifice reality and physics for imagination and aesthetics. The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing.

I like how this maps to that famous definition of a cynic: "One who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing."

Aleš said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aleš said...

Oh, Kev was making fun. I needed Chris's comment to recognize it and now it seems obvious. I don't know why am I so stupid. :)

Tom said...

"he painting would not have looked nearly as powerful if Frazetta had changed that stance to place the foot on something solid."

I don't know about that David, as a solid footing or foundation allows great power to express itself and act. I remember the first time I saw Mt Victoire it looked almost weightless after seeing Cezanne's paintings of it for so many years.

"Part of Frazetta's art was that he understood when the laws of appearances take priority over the laws of physics."

Dosen't the laws of physics created the appearance of things? If you understand the law of physics you can easily find ways to express the opposite feeling of gravity. I don't see a conflict between the appearance and physics. It is much harder to express gravity as it demands bringing understanding to what you are seeing but once understood the appearance of things gains substantial strength and conviction.


The figure with the sword, his arms look so far pull back behind his back and stretched straight with little or no bend at the elbow, almost like he is on a torture rack to have any real power.

kev ferrara said...

I don't see a conflict between the appearance and physics.

Art has its own physics; aesthetic symbolism. Aesthetic symbolism determines appearance in art, not physics. If you want actual visual accuracy, get your vision checked then take a walk with your eyes open.

Tom said...

If you are going to draw a symbol you still need to relate the horizontal and the vertical axis ( or you can choose not too, but the relation will still be there) as Corbusier said, "the right angle makes culture possible."

kev ferrara said...

I can't see how what you're saying relates to what I was saying. Maybe you didn't get my meaning?

Also, the Corbusier quote is utterly absurd reductionism and without merit as far as I can tell.

Tom said...

Maybe it's my writing. Physics for the artist I believe relates to our sense of mechanical balance. David just used the word appearance which makes me think of how everything looks, in pictures and the world. And if there are any laws to appearance it seems to me that the physics of mechanical balance would be such a law. As it is much more difficult to make something look grounded then it is to make things look ungrounded.

I wasn't talking about visual accuracy. I was talking about the great fact of gravity. Everything balances to the unseen vertical line of gravity. No one gets visual accuracy from looking, they get a sense of spirit from understanding or being in harmony with the physics (or the nature of things).

The Corbusier quote is part of a much larger quote. And I probably misquoted him but that is the nature of what he said. The right angle is the relation between man and the ground he stands on. It is the whole foundation of western perspective, the way he thinks of space.

kev ferrara said...

Tom,

Objects can feel "grounded" in a picture in several ways. Balance though is actually not one of them. Floating objects, in fact, can feel balanced just as well as grounded ones. It's a weird language, and a vast one and it would be impossible to even begin to get into it here. (Tension is the actual answer to grounding objects, btw.) There are many different kinds of "balance" too. Some qualities called balance are actually stabilizations rather than equivalencies. Think tensegrity instead of the scales of justice. Also, very rarely does a picture have a balance or stabilization that doesn't consider the narrative weights of things, rather than just the abstract weights. And that introduces a whole other order of complexity to the matter. And even if you could accurately gauge abstract weights against one another, what does the fulcrum look like? Is it a point, a line, a shape? (Could be any one of those.) Must the fulcrum be dead center? (Nope.) Can the balance point be a color, value, or direction too? (Sure can) And then there is the truism from Harvey Dunn, who said "A complete statement is always well balanced." (That took me ten years to figure out.) All to say, please trust me when I suggest it can all get pretty tangled and in surprising ways. Art's physics is very much its own.

I find Le Corbusier's buildings spiritually dead, antiseptic. I don't particularly enjoy being in them. Sure he was a fine designer, but he preached a lot of dogma and said a bunch of pretentious things. It's really hard to take him seriously as a philosopher of the arts. I mean, I wouldn't consider perspective to be the thing that "makes culture possible." And there are obviously many relations between "man and the ground he stands on" besides the right angle. His reductionist thoughts are exactly the kind of thoughts you'd expect designers to have. That's why designs are so pleasing, because they are simple and clear and free of any deep meaning. Which is just why his commentary just doesn't fit with what I understand of aesthetics.

Tom said...

Of course objects can feel grounded in many ways. But the best way to ground something is to draw the solid level plane of the ground in perspective and drive, let's say a vertical solid cylinder, that will represents a tree thorough that ground. If the artist can't address this primal fact everything becomes like tricks. The artist has to believe the flat sheet of paper is actual space. The best pictures make the best ground plans. A really will thought out composition can be always be conceived or drawn as a ground plan.

I didn't say floating objects could not feel balance. Baroque painters had no problem making floating objects look balance. But they could draw floating so well because they could draw grounded ones so well. What I was trying to say is there are no laws to appearance that are not cause by physical facts like gravity.

Of course there are many different types of balance, but there all still balance. Of course a tiny person far away in the landscape can draw huge attention because of it's narrative content, but you are still dealing with balance. Its the artist job to resolve the balancing of the picture whether the weight is "abstract," or if the weight is cause by a narrative.

The fulcrum could look like anything I would consider the focal point in my picture as the fulcrum, as in the movies everything revokes around the star. I didn't say anything about the fulcrum being in dead center, balance isn't a dead thing, you balnce in a interesting way like the rule of 3rds.

Of course a balance point can be a value contrast or a color. I don't understand what you mean by direction. But in representational painting value and color are attached to a form. A man in a red shirt in a green field, the red is still depended on the drawing of the form of the shirt.

And I didn't even mention a fulcrum. I was thinking about how an arranges itself to the line of gravity. The way a tree trunk will rhythmical move itself in one direction and counter back in the opposite direction to stay "balanced." Or the way the human body counter balances its masses when one leg carries more weight then another. Even tensegrity starts and depends on the ground. I am thinking of the tension wires the Italians use between the trunk of their pine trees and and its branches.

No-thing is it's "own," and "who" owns it. If it is so tangled and complicated how are people able to do it?

Perspective is just one example, if you ever built a house a house you see the power of the right angle. An what about geometry? What about the right angle relation of our alphabet? Or musical scores? The shape of our canvas? Our ability to measure distance? Classical architecture? The shape of the fields we play our sporting events on? There are many relationships besides the right angle, there are 360, which in away brings you back to the right angle.

What is deep meaning? A vertical measuring stick? Who is to say if his buildings do or don't have deep meaning? I don't know.

kev ferrara said...

But the best way to ground something is to draw the solid level plane of the ground in perspective and drive, let's say a vertical solid cylinder, that will represents a tree thorough that ground.

You aren't thinking through the question and you aren't testing your assumptions. What do you mean by "solid" when you say "solid" level plane or "solid" cylinder. How do you achieve that solidity? How do you know a "solid cylinder" is going "through" that ground plane and not just resting on top of it or floating above it? How do you know that two lines that converge to a point represents perspective and not a pyramid? Etc. When you actually start investigating this stuff scientifically you will see why the answer I've already given you is correct. And it is correct as a principle, not just for a particular instance.

You originally wrote above that the physics of art stems from mechanical balance. This very much isn't so. Mechanical balance is a very tiny part of the language. It seems I've backed you off that contention and now you are saying that any way that a picture managed to attain some measure of poise is "balance." Well, you've just ignored what I said about tensegrity versus weighing scales entirely. Tensegrity isn't balance. Its tensegrity; its own thing You've also ignored the Dunn quote; in what sense is completeness the same thing as balance? You see; "balance" is a misnomer, a lazy word that people use to describe a picture which attains, for lack of a better word, poise. Which misleads us if we actually try to figure out how art works. And, again, balance is just a miniscule fraction of the total language. It isn't the sum total of art's physics by any stretch, which was your original assertion.

If it is so tangled and complicated how are people able to do it?

The answer is that our imaginative intuition, if it is functioning, is able to deal with enormous complexity automatically, while our intellects are dedicated to running codes which are linear sequences of information. More talented people are better able to access their imaginative intuition for the purpose of creative work, and they seem to have more imaginative capacity. Over a lifetime imaginative people will try to teach their intellects to understand the complexity of what is going on unconsciously so their intellects can assist rather than block creative thinking.

Even tensegrity starts and depends on the ground.

Hulls of sea vessels and spacecraft have already been designed using tensegrity principles. If we stretch, we can see that the chest cavity of a bird can also be said to be in a state of tensegrity. So, no, tensegrity does not depend on the ground. So again, you are making assertions without thinking through them.

Perspective is just one example, if you ever built a house a house you see the power of the right angle. An what about geometry? What about the right angle relation of our alphabet? Or musical scores? The shape of our canvas? Our ability to measure distance? Classical architecture? The shape of the fields we play our sporting events on? There are many relationships besides the right angle, there are 360, which in away brings you back to the right angle.

I wasn't disputing any of this. Yes, the right angle is powerful and widely used. I was disputing the reductive assertion that the "right angle makes culture possible." I can easily argue that it is flat blank surfaces that make culture possible. Or mark-making instruments. Or the human imagination. Or opposable thumbs. Etc.

Tom said...

Kec

I am not worried about my assumptions, I worry about drawing with conviction.

A mass, a volume a block, a cylinder is a volume. The volume emerges through the ground like a rocket. You achieve solidity by drawing three D like when you where a kid a drew letters as blocks. Your scientific answers are to "vague," perspective works that is why I like it.

Why isn't tensegrity balanced? Is completes and equilibrium, a resting point? Balance is just a 'Word" but as you know drawing is not words, it is much more specific. Are you going to take my language away from because you feel it is lazy. Art is a viewpoint and outlook. I don't "know" how art works, but I do know what helps me make a picture.

Sorry Kev I have to stop there, as I am work.

kev ferrara said...

Tom, you keep changing your answers, pretending you didn't write things you evidently did, and trying to shift meanings of the words you've used. That's the kind of stuff people do when they cannot tolerate admitting an error and it makes it very tough to discuss anything. Also I'm pretty sure it wasn't long ago that you said on this blog that you were not an artist. Are you a different Tom?

Anonymous said...

For those interested , Doc Dave's Frazetta blog has some explicit erotic art of Franks posted for the next 3 days .

Tom said...

Kev
I was trying to clarify what I wrote before. I am not pretending that I did not write something before. Can't you tell by the way I left out words and my misspelling that I am the same Tom. And no I told you I draw and paint and that is why I come to this blog.

"Hulls of sea vessels and spacecraft have already been designed using tensegrity principles. If we stretch, we can see that the chest cavity of a bird can also be said to be in a state of tensegrity. So, no, tensegrity does not depend on the ground. So again, you are making assertions without thinking through them."

As it sounds like you are describing tensegrity it is the internal construction of a thing, like ribs pulled round a spine which is just like the frame is pulled around kneel in the construction of a hull of a boat. But that is the internal construction or frame of a mass. That either is part of a larger whole that walks on the ground or floats in the sea. All forms that are constructed on a central axis and have a symmetrical balance.


"You aren't thinking through the question and you aren't testing your assumptions. What do you mean by "solid" when you say "solid" level plane or "solid" cylinder. How do you achieve that solidity? How do you know a "solid cylinder" is going "through" that ground plane and not just resting on top of it or floating above it? How do you know that two lines that converge to a point represents perspective and not a pyramid?"

Have you never drawn a picture of a cylinder?

Just look at the Harold Von Schmidt drawing of the dog David posted in September 30th it will give all the answers to your questions. I wasn't saying anything complicated.

chris bennett said...

Tom said: "Can't you tell by the way I left out words and my misspelling that I am the same Tom."

I wondered why you called him 'Kec' - I thought it was a very oblique ironic reference to that all-seeing telescope array on top of the mountain. But looking no further than the keyboard in front of me I notice that the 'c' is right next to the 'v'. :)

kev ferrara said...

...All forms that are constructed on a central axis and have a symmetrical balance.

There is no necessity for a structure held in tensegrity to be symmetrically balanced around a central axis. The forces just need to be balanced to hold the structure. The symmetrical balance in the examples I offered were due to fluid-dynamics.

Just look at the Harold Von Schmidt drawing of the dog David posted in September 30th it will give all the answers to your questions.

You are mistaking the text-like symbols that artists use to map out planar structures and how those planar structures indicate volumes with actual aesthetic solidity.


Tom said...

LOL Chris!

Kev
I was just using your examples. I guess there is no similarities only differences.

"You are mistaking the text-like symbols that artists use to map out planar structures and how those planar structures indicate volumes with actual aesthetic solidity."

Ok let's call them text like symbols. How is actual aesthetic solidity separate from the planar structures that indicate volumes? Even though I always find volumes precede the planes.



Aleš said...

Tom, can you show something that you painted/drew, at least a study or sketch? Seeing that always gives an extra dimension to the knowing of people I have through their comments.

Aleš said...

Regarding the solidity and structures that indicate volumes - I'd say that you can sense the difference if you compare a great painting and a beginner's studies. Everyone achieves volume by drawing flat planes in perspective, but none of those drawn objects necessarily express the solidity, the “hard”, compact integrity that you feel when looking at Sargeant for example. I don’t know what exactly causes that, maybe the right placing of tensions and constructional integrity that Kev speaks about. But it does feel different, solidity is a richer experience, compared to unsolid volume it seems relaxing.

Aleš said...

Maybe relaxing is not the right word. It feels like loosing a burden from your senses but retaining the clarity for richness of constructed form.

Laurence John said...

it's called good drawing.

chris bennett said...

Ales, I believe this 'relaxing' or richer experience' as you call it to be produced by the connectedness between all the elements making up the work. As we sense this we fall into a trust with its author and bond with the work allowing ourselves to be swept away by it. It feels like flying don't it? Transfiguring is the posh word. :)

Aleš said...

Chris, hmm, when you used the word "flying" that didn't fit with my feeling of what I was trying to say. Look at the Sargent boat or an ox:

http://artsdot.com/A55A04/w.nsf/OPRA/BRUE-8BWSX4/$File/JOHN-SINGER-SARGENT-FLOTSAM-AND-JETSAM.JPG

http://uploads7.wikiart.org/images/john-singer-sargent/white-ox-at-siena.jpg

and this drawing of houses:

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-TscTM2sGA0w/U4iz_xQeUII/AAAAAAAAAew/JFoviuQBCeM/s1600/06_perspective.jpg

I think that even If I imagine the backgrounds away, the boat feels solid, there is authority in its construction, compactness, it feels concrete, calmly stable. I couldn't say that for the houses, they look volumetric but they don't feel as solid as Sargents objects. And when I look at his paintings these objects don't evoke a sense of flying, they remove some sort of tension (bad drawings usually evoke/amplify this unpleasant tension inside you when stuff doesn't feel grounded and solid) and you feel relaxed but at the same time very appreciative of the fluidness, organicness of the weight, volume and solidity of an object.

Can you tell me what I'm talking about? Am I using the word solid in a wrong way?

chris bennett said...

Ah, slight misunderstanding going on, mostly my fault:
I used the word flying to generally describe the transfiguring sensation that happens when we are touched by Art.

But I now understand better what you are driving at regarding 'solidity': Sargent's 'Bull' is painted in transparent, fluid strokes and yet feels more solid than the blocky drawing of houses. No doubt you are wondering if this is because the drawing of houses is a 'wire frame' construction and therefore one has the sensation of looking through it more than one has with looking through the transparent washes of the Sargent. Or something like that.
A better comparison would be two similarly rendered drawings of heads; one by Sargent and one by Waterhouse:

http://www.jssgallery.org/Paintings/Mugs/10191.html

http://cultured.com/image/9345/John_William_Waterhouse_Head_of_a_girl/#.Vj3A3P88bVg

The difference in solidity is found in the hair.
In the Sergeant notice how the connectivity between the marks is slack, passive almost to the point of indifference and randomness.
In the Waterhouse, even where the marks are more wayward and sketchy, the competiveness between them is taut, vital and alive.
And this, I believe, is why even a floaty, ethereal thing like hair, can appear more 'solid'.
In other words; more believable without the deadening polish of 'naturalism'.

chris bennett said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
chris bennett said...

Actually Ales, I think a better word than 'solidity' would be 'grounded'. And grounded in the sense of the elements, when seen in relationship to each other, evidencing a deeper, ultimately unifying set of hidden forces behind them.

chris bennett said...

And the action of those forces are what I think Kev means by his strange word; 'tensegrity'.
I could be wrong of course.

Tom said...

Ales said
"I think that even If I imagine the backgrounds away, the boat feels solid, there is authority in its construction, compactness, it feels concrete, calmly stable. I couldn't say that for the houses, they look volumetric but they don't feel as solid as Sargents objects. And when I look at his paintings these objects don't evoke a sense of flying, they remove some sort of tension (bad drawings usually evoke/amplify this unpleasant tension inside you when stuff doesn't feel grounded and solid) and you feel relaxed but at the same time very appreciative of the fluidness, organicness of the weight, volume and solidity of an object."

Well said Ales. If your mass is well conceived your brush, charcoal, pencil is free to ride and caress the volume you have created. Just the way your hand can glide across a surface of an object when you touch it.

Sargent was at the very top of his perspective class in Paris which was considered an anomaly at the time as he was not French. And here is what he has to say about the vertical

"Sargent said that the plumb line (basically a weight dangling at the end of a string) was essential:
"When drawing from the model, never be without the plumb line in the left hand. Everyone has a bias, either to the right hand or the left of the vertical. The use of the plumb line rectifies this error and develops a keen appreciation of the vertical.""

Check out some Peter Helck drawings on line to see the same solidity.

Aleš said...

Chris, yes those Waterhouse hair seem more solid than Sargents. Waterhouses hairs feel more sharply/precisely placed, not in terms of mimetic accuracy but in terms of a bit better tension among them, they feel a bit "heavier", more stable in it's presence. (I fear every time I try to use a different word to describe a feeling of solidity I muddle the waters). But as far as faces/heads go, Sargent's head feels a little bit more solid to me.

Actually Ales, I think a better word than 'solidity' would be 'grounded'. And grounded in the sense of the elements, when seen in relationship to each other, evidencing a deeper, ultimately unifying set of hidden forces behind them.

Grounded is a good word too, but it bothers me that it implies some sort of fixation to something outside of itself. Here is the thing - sometimes when you draw there is a moment when your line falls into right place, like a locomotive in a railway track, it feels that at that point your line just began to make all kinds of senses/meanings. The volumetricity gets nicely evoked, the mass, the heaviness of an object, it's presence here and now feels firmly placed, even tho you haven't finished the linework yet you can sense that your pencil is running on the perfect railway. You can feel the presence of the other sides of the form that you haven't even drawn yet. For me personally its almost impossible to finish a drawing in that state because I get excited and scared and I loose focus soon after I sense that railway. But great artists like Sargeant obviously have the balls, authority and focus to ride on it like a boss.

Now, this sort of jumping on the railway evokes a sense of solidity of a not-yet-realised-form too so I'm wondering whether the drawn object needs to be grounded? You could be drawing something in the air, you do need a narrative weight tho, I think. I'm not sure about "grounded", but your "deeper, ultimately unifying set of hidden forces behind them" makes a lot of sense to me. But more in terms of internal forces of the form, like if all the lines that construct the form stabilize each other in a way that the form consequently evokes solidity. Kev's tensional integrity somehow makes sense to me. (I bet Kev is eating popcorn now with his feet on the table)

chris bennett said...

" - sometimes when you draw there is a moment when your line falls into right place, like a locomotive in a railway track, it feels that at that point your line just began to make all kinds of senses/meanings. The volumetricity gets nicely evoked, the mass, the heaviness of an object, it's presence here and now feels firmly placed, even tho you haven't finished the linework yet you can sense that your pencil is running on the perfect railway. You can feel the presence of the other sides of the form that you haven't even drawn yet....

...But more in terms of internal forces of the form, like if all the lines that construct the form stabilize each other in a way that the form consequently evokes solidity."


Very nicely put - that's exactly what I'm getting at Ales.
Kev's reference to tension with 'tensegrity' is very much on the money regarding the comprehensiveness of the means by which pictures (or any works of art for that matter) are held together in all manner of ways.
Whether Kev eats popcorn I wouldn't know. But I do know he rarely has to eat his own words... though I'm sure he heats something like Tensegrity for breakfast. :)

chris bennett said...

Ooops, 'heats' should be 'eats'. He prefers it cold.

Tom said...

Ales

That's why you conceive in terms of volumes, so your lines can fall in the right place.

bill said...

Wow, want to spice up a Saturday morning just come here. And Kev you are obviously incorrect. The horns certainly can't be holographic (no room for the mechanism) hence they are rubber. The old rubber horn trick.

Aleš said...

Thanks Chris.

Tom, thanks for Peter Helck.
So since you understand all this I was wondering what kind of answer were you looking for here:

How is actual aesthetic solidity separate from the planar structures that indicate volumes?

I mean indicating volume isn't really a big deal, as Kev said you can use text-like symbols, Donald Hoffman writes about the way our visual intelligence constructs curved shapes with convexities and saddles when we view silhouettes like Picasso's Rites of spring ( http://shrani.si/f/3/ub/1sCUlEh2/indexd.jpg ). Evoking a solidity on the other hand is much tougher, there is no method to do it probably, it takes some sort of aesthetic comprehension of truths to achieve it. That Harold Von Schmidt drawing you mentioned ( http://illustrationart.blogspot.si/2014/09/step-by-step.html ) has a nice volume, but I don't feel it's really solid. Similarly this Helck's drawing - http://shrani.si/f/39/FV/4JFpthEB/1/imagesd.jpg . There is something methodical about them, there is some sort of blankness where the solidity is supposed to be. Would you agree with that?

Sean Farrell said...

Used as an analogy, the term tensegrity represents the interplay of many elements from different visual areas which are not in the same visual family, such as placement, tone, tonal accents, light, direction, color, color accents, objects and subjects, or subject matter, all working together appropriately, (affecting each other) for the good of the subject/story. The image of tensegrity allows one to think of these different elements acting by artistic principles rather than mechanical ones, as if they defied gravity yet remaining linked up as such often appears in sculptures based on tensegrity.

Everything being discussed here is very interesting and since Tom brought up Peter Helck, one of his paintings illustrates this notion of tensegrity in this analogous visual sense, (rather than the mechanics of its scientific principles). Notice the placements of the men in this duotone image of a train and its trainmen, (url below). The front of the locomotive in the background is one accent and the front of the smaller locomotive is another, along with the larger man in the foreground. The three elements form a triangle both on the picture plane and a triangular relationship in space. Then there are three trainmen within this larger pyramid. There are a host of other things describing the trainmen and the train as well, such as the accents of lights and darks against faces which have little to do with any actual reality. So all of these things are working under their own principles, adjustable for the purpose of subject. The shadow under the locomotive in front is lighter than the accents on the men's pants and looking closer at dark and light accents through the image, they appear more in support of the story than to the solidity or principles of individual objects to their own end.

http://www.vanderbiltcupraces.com/blog/article/verifying_an_original_peter_helck_painting

It's possible there was no need to ground the arrow shooting hero in the Frazetta image as he was in the upper part of the image, which is already visually an area with less grounding.

Everyone makes mistakes. The trick is understanding that there is an out and when possible allowing someone a saving face out and avoiding the unnecessary mortification and torture of personalizing everything.

Sean Farrell said...

PS: The three interior men and the three major elements mentioned, (the accents on the front of the locomotives and the large man in the foreground) are also interacting with each other as in a manner similar to the configurations of tensegrity sculptures. The analogy is an interesting and helpful one.

Nick Jainschigg said...

There's also the classic sleigh drawn by polar bears pulling on....nothing? He commented on that in the American Artist article on him, that basically it would have just gotten in the way of the point. http://i.imgur.com/iNa71.jpg

Nick Jainschigg said...

Y'know, if you try to imagine God moving toward Adam in the Michelangelo ceiling (which he'd have to since Adam is lying down and God is sort of zooming/flying), the resultant image is a truly hilarious tangle of deity, putti, falling cloth and deflating illusions. Paintings aren't stills from a movie. They're paintings, and Frazetta knew that, Michelangelo knew that (avant la lettre) and far too few contemporary painters do.

Aleš said...

Nick, that polar bear image still makes sense because of the angle. The ropes are attached beneath the standing platform, hidden behind bears, and the straps on bears got lost in thick fur. Look at this photo:
http://pixdaus.com/files/items/pics/0/51/315051_c303275f3a7ab7926ebdc557a5739451_mdsq.jpg
If you remove that chain in the middle that prevents both rows of dogs to run in opposite ways you get a photo of dogs pulling on nothing.

chris bennett said...

Bill: "The horns certainly can't be holographic (no room for the mechanism) hence they are rubber. The old rubber horn trick."

:)
But what's the point (har har) of a bad ass demon having rubber horns? I suppose they would make sense if his arms were in front of them and he was pressing back against their elasticity for some sort of catapult effect.
Actually, I think he has an assistant, a sort of Demon's page, who removes the helmet just at the right moment...

Anonymous said...

You're all off base - the demon is setting up his opponent by seeming to be prepared to cut down - [ note the horizontal defense position of defender ] with a double grip - while in fact , in the unseen painting Frazetta spilled coffee on , it clearly shows the left hand releasing as the right hand slashes down , avoiding the horns , cutting the right side of defender with a waist level backhand .

Al McLuckie

kev ferrara said...

Everybody who has ever commented on this blog since it began is completely wrong about everything.

It's The Brain!

That huge weird brain is obviously completely zonked on psychedelic mold and is hallucinating the whole demonic battle scene!

Aleš said...

At least he painted the horns pointing upward.

I have a question Chris. What do you think about horns on a helm that are pointing down? They are rare but I do see them every now and then. Sometimes I feel like they're a product of an inconsiderate wish to introduce something new, to play with designs. I can't find any such illustrations now but here is a character from some game:
http://shrani.si/f/3T/pj/2b6DjSJP/5dxc7osy.jpg

The ones I have in mind are drawn more like this:
http://shrani.si/f/2j/Sw/1VeymSIy/horns.jpg


All these horns are physically possible in real world but they still feel wrong. I'd say there are two aspects that are in play, the symbolic and evolutionary on animals. Humans have close relationship with horns throughout history, through the strength and reproductive efficiency of horned animals they became symbols of power and fertility. Hunters believed animal's strength came from their horns, farmers used it to plough which had symbolic aspect of impregnation of mother earth, the shape of a horn represented sunbeam (source of fertility) and crescent (rebirth), and as Jung said It's penetrating shape acts manly, phallically, actively, energically. Consequently many gods and supernatural creatures across all cultures and mythologies expressed strength and elevation through the horned imagery and also important people on earth from indian chiefs and african shamans to celtic kings and even Alexander the great on coins were using horns to express empowerment from the supernatural. Alexander, Julius, Confucius and Genghis khan were even said to come close and ride/subordinate the untameable unicorns. One of the danish kings had a throne made of narwhal horns. Proud families had horns mentioned in their last names and in some languages the word for strength and a horn or sexual desire and horn is the same/similar. In asian countries they still sell dusted horns as aphrodisiacs and in some places there are ceremonies and festivals with fighting horned animals.

Horned helmets are usually portrayed in ancient fantasy narratives so I suppose It should make sense to reflect the primitive believe systems of real past cultures? Imaginary ancient narratives probably can't make everything up because we substitute/understand stuff through our human histories. And even if one is not aware of what I wrote above I think those helmets with horns pointing down still simply feel wrong, there is just lack of power about them, there is something limp, weak, silly about a horn dangling down from a helmet which is a fighting tool. Jung said that our most widespread accepted symbol of libido is an image of a man as a hero, where his destined life represents a fusion of historical and symbolic. And as JE Circlot wrote, its not only about physical strength, we value heroes because of their virtues, spiritual strengths to resist various temptations (egyptians used different types of horns to express various spiritual paths).

Even tho horns maybe do not function as a weapon in a fight against giant apes and two headed dragons, we want them because they evoke dangerousness. If they're pointing in the right direction. (in real life horns/adornments were attached in a way so they could break off very easely, or mostly leaders rather switched to unhorned helmets when it was time to fight). Heroes have women desirously laying under their feet, bartenders in taverns give them free wine, villagers respect them on the streets, enemies fear their presence, and horns imo have to be in the right position for these scenes to work.

Aleš said...

But the thing is sometimes horns work on a helmet even when pointing down. It's not actually about the position of the edge, Its about the whole structure and function on animals I guess. Thinking about It I realized that maybe I simply can't view horns in a way that deviates from my animal experiences. Horns have a function to hurt the enemy and to protect the skull (and to impress females and to cool the body as a kind of radiator, male goats scratch their asses too with them). So the useful/necessary part of a horn is the one that sticks above the level of the skull - when a horn grows from the side, its point has to go above/ahead the skull and when the horn grows on top of the skull, it's point can go anywhere, because the skull is already protected (the base of horns represents a honeycomb like structure that absorbs shock).

If you draw horns from the side of the helmet with a point also going down you create something that feels very wrong to me. I wonder why these rare artists choose an upside down horn. Years ago when I bought Color and light I mailed Gurney with a similarly long question about his painting of such horned helmet in his book, but he never answered. He maybe found the question silly. So, do you feel that horns on fantasy helmets simply have to reflect the way animals and cultures use them in reality? Is my approach too pedantic and unimaginative?

chris bennett said...

Well Ales, I'm no expert on horns, but I think that the when these kind of things feel 'right' to us it is because they are in agreement with our animal survival hard wiring. For example, we are sensitive to many shades of green possibly because our earliest survival (differentiating predators from foliage) in the rain forest depended on it.
In fact, the whole sensual language with which Art is written only finds its consensus in this commonality of human beings' deep hard wiring. The whole grammar of it is built up from that point; which would include a phenomenon like pointing up horns, through a smile-shape, right up to the subtle crescent shadow of a dimple on a cheek.
And it was Kev Ferrara who helped me to see that.

kev ferrara said...

which would include a phenomenon like pointing up horns, through a smile-shape, right up to the subtle crescent shadow of a dimple on a cheek.

Your fixation on the horns is causing you to overemphasize it, which is causing you to read the emotion of the figure incorrectly. Let down your assumptions and squint at the image again. You will see that the upturned horn-shape pretty much disappears.

chris bennett said...

I wasn't really talking about the Frazetta here Kev, I was making a general point and throwing in horns as they were currently on the menu.

chris bennett said...

A general point about Art, that is.

kev ferrara said...

This place is lousy with mercury kittens.

Aleš said...

Chris, that makes sense, yes, because otherwise art wouldn't be able to retain meaningfulness through time and place. Still it makes me think because Its such a concrete thing, I mean why doesn't the hero's neck bother me since all horns we see in nature are attached to very powerful necks. Maybe the fact that horns are not being physically used on a fantasy helmet doesn't evoke that problem. I do like and trust what feels right to me yes, It has a more restorative aspect to it that evokes a sense of belonging, that's how I think I recognize it, but I still fear that some types of knowledge might make me loose some sort of innocent, spontaneous approach to creating. (sometimes I think about you Kev whether you fear that all your constructive knowledge about atoms of artmaking might stand in a way)

kev ferrara said...

Intellection or theory as a starting point never works. Its too dry and too linear. Art comes from personal vigor and an insatiable desire to express one's feelings and one's ideas in visual form. If those factors are present, the imagination will produce and nothing can stop art from being made. Pyle said, "Art must be made from inspiration. The rules are only useful to correct by."

In times when I'm feeling tired or sick or sluggish, I might reach for knowledge to provide a leg up to getting work done. This never works. It will work fine for doing commercial design stuff, however. That and coffee.

chris bennett said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
chris bennett said...

The whole point about getting to the bottom of the subject is so that these 'atoms or artmaking' are allies in realising your instinctive imaginings as works of Art rather than having them insidiously irradiating your intelligence and fluency of ability with half-understood misconceptions. At a certain age (around 9 I'd guess) the benefits gained by our intellect start to interfere more negatively with our instincts. But the journey has began whether we like it or not.

Some choose to get by with hand-wavy notions of such things as muses and the 'unknowable mystery of creativity', some find comfort and justification by embracing a wholesale belief in something close to magic, while others sign up for the Post Modern Subjectivity Dogma.

But some chose to press on. The fear is that one will question oneself and what one does to the point of despair. And that is a very real and formidable foe that grows stronger with every step one takes further into what one hopes is the Promised Land. And I've stood at the spot where I'm surprised to discover the tree I've spent my life watering, and by extension, my life, has lost its leaves, for ever. So I know.
Maybe, for some, the only way to know the secret of summer's fruits is to finally arrive at that terrible place. Because the only way you can take a single step from it that is not running away, is to know the truth. And the beauty of this is not only that it gives you the strength to leave the dead tree behind, but that you never have to look back to know that it is in blossom again.

Aleš said...

Kev, yes, trying to create an image purely out of textbook rules will bring dead and stiff art and as Vangogh's letters prove, or as Dewey said "...the idea that the artist does not think as intently and penetratingly as a scientific inquirer is absurd." But the reality is that artists can loose the aspect of rawness and spontaneity in their art and their work begins to look somehow methodical, correct and overworked. Not long ago I've seen some filmmaker express that fear in an interview, probably Tarantino when talking about retiring. Why do you think that happens? Thinking about your Pyle quote, could the answer lie in inspiration? Does their passionate excitement that still continues in their later years begins to lack some sort of ingredient that otherwise makes inspiration connected to deeper truths? Sometimes it seems as if rawness, sincerity in their earlier works was present where they didn't have the burden of long working experiences to over knead things. Rembrandt or Sargent got better with age though.

Aleš said...

Chris, your second paragraph rings so true, especially "unknowable mystery of creativity", It seems these kinds of people are the only ones I meet. Ironically a lot of the times they are very passionate at enforcing their opinion and they can make you doubt your need for precise understanding.
I've read your beautifully written last paragraph many times and I hope I got it. Thanks. It does make me melancholic to think that one has to accept the fact that the tree stopped growing.

Laurence John said...

re the 'unknowable mystery of creativity'... while a lot of charlatans hide behind cloak swishing and poetic obfuscation, i do think that what makes a great work of art 'great' is ultimately indefinable.

we like to analyse the techniques of great art, and and often this can go a long way to explaining how something was achieved. but the point of good technique is simply to equip an artist with the means of having a successful chance of creating a 'meaningful fiction' (which we could also call a 'narrative moment' in the case of a still image like a painting).

so i think 'technique' is actually the easy bit. the tricky bit is deciding what to paint pictures of, and what approach to use toward narrative in pictures, especially at this particular time within western art's history.

kev ferrara said...

Actually, I think what makes great art great is definable. But practically impossible to accomplish. In other words, once you learn enough about how art is composed, it is both enjoyable and heady to go in, after the fact, and see how everything is working together to make the work great. But any belief that being able to perceive that is even close to being able to do that is wildly presumptuous, pure arrgghnorance (ignorance + arrogance). Every painting is its own unique problem with its own unique formula.

What's far more mysterious and untouchable, I believe, is the talent, drive, and energy that leads to great art. That's what can't be given or taught. It must come from within the individual. And it can easily flicker out. As one artist put it, "It is easy to be talented when you are 20. Very hard when you are 50."

kev ferrara said...

Correction: "Everyone has talent at 25. The difficulty is to have it at 50.” - Edgar Degas

Aleš said...

Laurence said "but the point of good technique is simply to equip an artist with the means of having a successful chance of creating a 'meaningful fiction'"

I agree with that. But doesn't the goodness of technique rise from the fact when a painted content establishes itself as a well realized unity? There are so many artists who want to show their technical proficiency while it's noticeable that in the context of their art it simply doesn't help. What they're showing us is just an adequate use of certain conventions or accurate copying of styles. Technique is a product of artist's characteristics too like ingenuity, determination, temperament, good technique demands selfawareness, individuality, cleverness, maybe there is even more concrete philosophy behind the economical use of lines for example.
I'm not saying that you implied the lack of that, but that "'technique' is actually the easy bit" stopped me for a moment. Good technique resides in good artworks because every new experience needs a new technique. I think developing a good technique is just as hard as any other stuff.

chris bennett said...

Thanks Ales, that's very kind of you.

Laurence: "...so i think 'technique' is actually the easy bit. The tricky bit is deciding what to paint pictures of, and what approach to use toward narrative in pictures, especially at this particular time within western art's history."

Although I do not agree that the technical side is easy (even with oodles of talent), I certainly agree with the second part of that statement Laurence. If you are not content, and by that I mean thoroughly absorbed by, painting decorative still lifes, landscapes, street scenes and thereby genuinely happy in designing wall decorations to be sold on spec, then you have a financial problem if the intentions expressed by your work do not naturally exhibit the current trends in fashion.

Having said that, when one's work is deeply felt and this is successfully expressed others generally catch onto this, despite fashion, and it sells. One could say that what the public are actually buying are objects that evidence belief. And this goes for superficial work too, in which case we are talking about a species of belief called confidence. The problem for the artist who wants to express the deepest things in what they do is that the bar they have set in order to maintain belief until the work is done is so much higher. A serious artist who deliberately sets the bar low because it seems easier creates a different problem for themselves because they never achieves the authenticity of confidence (belief in what they are doing) that the superficial temperaments will automatically find in their natural shallow element.

Laurence John said...

when i said 'technique is the easy bit' i was meaning brush and paint 'technique'... the part we can most easily work out when analysing a painting. the bit that would be easiest to duplicate the quality of, for a talented person.

what is harder to work out is what we might call 'narrative tone' which is how an artist tells a story via a still image. here we get into things such as composition, lighting, staging, acting (body language and facial expression), colour palette etc. which contribute to subtle things like 'mood' or 'emotional tone'. i see this as a separate thing from technique. for example, Edward Hopper excelled in the 'narrative tone' department even though his technique was merely adequate, sometimes poor.

thirdly, there would be 'narrative meaning' ... what is the painting about ? what does it allude to ? what does it symbolise (if anything) ?.

so, i think the 'greatness' of a painting is a result of all of those separate elements working together, but is not definable as one element in particular. which is why i maintain that the true 'greatness' bit remains indefinable.

kev ferrara said...

Laurence,

I think I understand what you're getting at now. But I think what Harvey Dunn said holds, that "A work of art defines itself." In other words, we can analyze the thing until we are blue in the face, but the only instance in all of history where it all comes together into one synthetic whole is the actual work of art itself. And this is a question of unity. How is the work holding together - narratively, graphically, imagistically, symbolically? And these question can be answered, but not in English. We can only offer a very poor approximation of what is actually holding together a unified work of art by translating that into text. So in that sense, yes, what makes a work of art great can't really be defined. But that doesn't mean that we can't have that understanding in our imaginative consciousness.

With works that aren't very good, they tend not to hold together very well, so they are more easily looked at as a collection of discrete units.



http://essay-writer.club/ said...

Though I have an art education I'm reading about Frazzetta for the first time. His paintings are impressive as for me only in the way how anatomically right he draws people. And of course I got new for the first time that princess costume was made inspired by his painting. Thanks for posting that was very interesting to know.

Sea Farrell said...

The creative imagination is itself half asleep when it works, shaping arrangements of things hardly in some magical way, but in accordance with its beginnings. It's a type of conversation between what exists. From some kind of given, something is started and the visual discussion begins. One can see this on pages of doodles, where each image finds its own empty space and figures get smaller and smaller, or overlaps something in order to feel comfortable. It's almost impossible to remove parts or favorites from pages of doodles and arrange them in a more sensible way without some loss of whatever was happening in the previous conversation of rhythms and elements which one may not have been aware of until they were removed.

Creative work is a collection of such visual conversations and as more elements are introduced, the conversation can become more demanding of coherence, but is anyone actually arguing against spontaneity, or imaginative consciousness, or the collective acts participating in the whole picture when they describe individual elements? Sometimes they might be, but the use of conventions really has taken place and knowing them can be beneficial. Certainly conventions have characterized eras which is how they become known as conventions, because one thing works for a particular purpose and it becomes a solution for a certain pictorial demand of the era. If one is fitting an image into a design solution, then yes it's going to be stunted, but unfortunately there's no way to talk about these things but after the fact, giving them an appearance that they happened as a premise rather than a solution or as part of a development of relationships.

Phil Guzzo said...

Yes of course you stylize your illustration, otherwise it's just looks boring if you slavishly adhere to real physics. I blame digital tools. I love em but it's really easy to get caught in the perfectionism that is so easy to fall prey to when you can fix everything all the way until you have to deliver your final.

Unknown said...

You guys are wearing me out. Just take art for art's sake and STOP! Most of you can't draw a straight line with a ruler.












Bruce Herron said...

Yes, people who sign their comments anonymously often find others who actually have great talent risible.

kev ferrara said...

Dear Unknown,

Your crib has no bars.

Which is to say, this is the internet; EXITS are available in every imaginable direction.

Take any egress at all, any off-ramp you can possibly navigate to escape the awful entrapment of this comments page. And your pathetic, narcissistic prayers for deliverance are magically answered! Ta-Da!

Otherwise, either contribute actual substance to the conversation, or be merciful and keep sucking on your pacifier in silence.

Conquerat said...

This may be beating a dead horse, BUT: Nitpickers need to know one thing: Frazetta painted in a room in his house with the windows closed and CHEAP turps. Why? I dunno. That's what sent his thyroid askew. Cheap turps have fumes that kill brain cells, that's why you paint in a well ventilated room or outdoors. Unless you've read all his books & interviews & biographies, you might not know that Frank was fond of whiskey and cigars. Thus, his sense of smell and taste were diminished. The point being, Frank unwittingly poisoned himself and GOT HIGH ON FUMES. So he painted stuff that makes no sense. He was a procrastinator who painted everything in one go, the night before it was due. And he was drunk & high when he did it. So the demon horns make no sense. He probably noticed it himself when he sobered up, but he didnt care, so why should we? RIP Frank, thanks for everything