Saturday, September 05, 2015


I am a big fan of the artist Jorge Gonzalez.   I think his graphic novels are beautifully drawn, in a rich and inventive style.



Gonzalez lives in Spain and works in traditional black pencil.  He colors and enhances his drawings digitally to give them those sepia tones.  His works include FueyeDear Patagonia and The Great Surubí.

I particularly like his strong compositions:



I admire his linework and his imaginative forms.  For example, look at his variety of treatments of an obese character in his graphic novel, Fueye:


Here, playing the accordion:

As I have repeatedly (and loudly) said on this forum, I think many of today's most prestigious graphic novels are poorly drawn.  They may win a Pulitzer prize or a National Book Critics Circle finalist award; they may be Time Magazine's #1 book of the year or win a MacArthur foundation "genius" award, but these honors are bestowed by literary types and cultural gatekeepers who apparently have very little understanding of visual art.  In my view, the drawings in these books often fail to hold up their half of the bargain.

To be clear, when I say that many graphic novels today are "poorly drawn" I'm not talking about technical facility or realism or mastery of traditional media.  I'm  more concerned with a lack of profundity, spirit, ability, sensitivity and visual imagination. 

Gonzalez' work reminds me that for the right artist, there is still a big role for creativity on the visual side of graphic novels.


Priya said...

I've been a long time fan of Jorge Gonzalez's work and I am glad to see him featured here. The examples you have given of his work are very apt and beautifully drawn and composed. What you have articulated in this post is something I've always suspected at the back of my mind. Those reasons are probably why there are very few graphic novels that I am drawn to actually read. Most seem to exist because of a fashion or a trend.

chris bennett said...

These are absolutely fantastic! Never heard of this guy, so many, many thanks David for drawing my attention to him.

MORAN said...

I just ordered his book. He makes Spiegelman look sick.

Laurence John said...

great stuff. immediately reminded me of Nicolas de Crecy.

john cuneo said...

Am with the above - this stuff is phenomenal.
I too am getting hints of de Crecy, with some rounded Carlos Nine tannins,
and a subtle Gipi finish. It should age well.

Jorge González said...

Thanks for your comments.

kev ferrara said...

I like the humanity of these drawings, and the way he engages our imaginations without being overly vague. A tough line to hold.

Untitled said...

Brilliant. Thank you David for exposing me to this work. Amazing what beauty these drawings have. I will share this on my FB?


Donald Pittenger said...

The time frame of the content in the posted images seems to be 1920s, and the sepia tint should help put readers/viewers further into a times-past mood. Sepia itself doesn't strike me as being 1920s; seems previous to me. Yet I have some old family snapshots from around then that were either sepia to begin with or else aged in that direction.

So there is more to Gonzalez than just the drawing.

David Apatoff said...

Priya-- Thanks for writing. Yes, if there's a reason for graphic novels to be "graphic" rather than just plain novels, it must be because the images enhance the words. In my view, Gonzalez succeeds at that-- his images make important contributions that words could not. It's amazing how so many graphic novels fail that test. The images are more a rudimentary crutch for illiterate people who need visual aids to help them digest big words.

Chris Bennett-- I'm delighted that you see what I see in them.

MORAN-- I agree. I hope you enjoy his books. They are currently only in Spanish, but perhaps we can do something about that.

David Apatoff said...

Laurence John and John Cuneo-- yes, I see some of those influences, although I'm not sure who influenced who first. I attribute some of the overlap to a common medium in a common era with a common culture, but all of them are first class artists.

Kev Ferrara-- Glad you like them, I know you're a tough audience.

Jorge Gonzalez-- Thanks for stopping by, it's an honor to have you visit.

David Apatoff said...

Amitabh-- I think it would be a good thing to spread the word about Gonzalez, via FB or any other means.

Donald Pittenger-- I agree. There a re a number of nice old touches that contribute to the charm of these drawings.

Li-An said...

There is some Mattoti too. There is no doubt that Gonzales "comes after" de Creçy looking at the date they published their first books.
I don't know what to think about his work: it's very interesting but I hesistated to buy his "Dear Patagonia" comics that was too "artistic" for my taste. Maybe I will change my mind after reading it but it's too expensive for me for the moment. And too much echoes from other artists I like very much.

Li-An said...

And I agree with your opinion about graphic novels. I have a rough sentence about them: "graphic novels are usually made by people who do not know how to draw a comic and don't know how to write a novel". But there are some graphic novels I like very much :-)

john cuneo said...

Hope I didn't indicate that my enthusiasm for Mr. Gonzalez's work is in any way diluted by suggesting (possible) influences, David. (Me, of all people - a guy who dresses in layers so he can wear his influences on multiple sleeves.)
I just think this stuff is terrific. And my copy of Fueye is due any day.

David Apatoff said...

Li-Ann-- I am an admirer of Nicolas de Crecy's work, although I confess I don't know as much about it as I should. One of the things that distinguishes Gonzalez from de Crecy for me is that Gonzalez has moments of great simplification, where he puts aside all the fancy draftsmanship and takes a full page, or sometimes a double page spread, and reduces them to their most basic essence to convey a mood or a design. For example, the last image on my blog post (of the two ships) has only a few selective lines with broad expanses of tone. Another example is the fourth picture from the bottom, of the obese man with the accordion, where 80% of the page is blank. I think both pages are far more effective than they would be with de Crecy level details. There are several such moments in Gonzalez's books, and they are among my favorite pages. I have never seen de Crecy constrain his considerable draftsmanship skills that way (although he may have-- I just don't know).

It's a fine thing to have the power of draftsmanship, but I think it is even finer to have the power to restrain your draftsmanship. The Gonzalez pages I like may be what you describe as "too artistic" for your taste. We probably just have a difference in taste on this.

John Cuneo-- I understood exactly what you meant. Those are all substantial artists who we can use as points on a compass to place another substantial artist.

Li-An said...

@David: well, for the moment I'm not sure I see the "real" Gonzales, the work that will make him unique. He is a over talented artist and I feel he needs some more time to become a true original artist.
But I may change my mind in two monthes :-) I'm a very versatile person - or I can see when I'm wrong.

Anthony Z said...

Whoa! I just saw this. Fantastic! I, too, am a huge fan of Nicolas de Crecy's sketchbook work and - especially - Gipi's comic format work and this amazes me in much the same way. Those panel compositions you've shown here are really really inspiring. It's also nice that his work seems to find an organic mix between traditional media and digital media (I love the comparisons between the finished work and the original pencil work shown here on his web site). I just ordered Fueye and anxiously await its arrival - thank you David!


Ann Telnaes said...

Just stunning. I especially like the use of positive/negative space. Thanks for posting this, David.