Tuesday, March 22, 2016


I really like this drawing from the 1960s by illustrator Andy Virgil


Just when it seems that every possible subject has been drawn every possible way, and that there's nothing new under the sun, somebody comes along and says, "Hey, how about if I put this car on the ceiling rather than the floor, and crop off the driver's head, and then fill in a couple of these shapes with brand new Dayglo fluorescent colors,  and then run the car right off the edges of the page?

That's what was happening in the 60s, a decade of rampant experimentation.  And in the next era of innovation some enterprising artist will surely come along and draw something in a totally new style.

The pencil line in this drawing adds energy to flat, lifeless colors such as the color of car tires:

 And the lines describing the contours of the car are sensitive but restrained.  They are, for the most part, outlines.

This drawing is more about composition than it is about line.  But it is, in my opinion, one slam bang drawing.


John Shipman said...

Agreed! I have always loved his work.

MORAN said...

I haven't heard of him. Was he one of the "car painters"?

Richard said...

I've heard traditional painters complain about the decline in traditional media, the decline in quality of media, and so on. They say it detracts from something.

I don't know if they're right.

However, I know that I have more fun playing with terribly cheap materials -- my son's crayons, watercolors, Crayola markers, what have you, than any serious material.

Lately I've taken to drawing directly with Ikea kid's acrylic tubes directly on garbage canvas. It's just about the worst paint you could buy, and the most incorrect way to apply it, but it feels great. (http://imgur.com/YVSNCC1, http://imgur.com/RsbXblK)

chemistry lab homework help said...

This car looks interesting. Though I've never heard about this artist before.
I'd like to agree with the previous comment that working with child materials can be a great fan.

chris bennett said...

Nice post David. I particularly like your observation about energising the dead grey of the tyres with the pencil shading - gives a subliminal sense of motion to them as well.

Li-An said...

Well, drawing/painting is not only about quality rendering but also construction, energy and colors. Nice choice - even if cars are boring me :-)

David Apatoff said...

John Shipman-- Yes, Virgil was a talented artist who entered the illustration market at exactly the wrong time. Leif Peng featured a heart rending series of articles about Virgil's career and fate on Leif's excellent "Today's Inspiration" blog (http://todaysinspiration-andyvirgil.blogspot.com/ ). I recommend it highly.

MORAN-- No. There were a lot of great car painters including Austin Briggs, Robert Fawcett, Fred Ludekens and Bernie Fuchs. Their years of indentured servitude to Detroit seems to have served them all well, leaving them with a fine set of technical skills. But Virgil was not among them.

Richard-- I suspect that even the cheapest acrylics will biodegrade slower than the most finely ground oil pigments. Your second painting reminds me of Picasso's carnival poster at Nice (https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/8c/12/ce/8c12cef8f418c1bbe84cd565c5f518e0.jpg ). Perhaps he copied your technique?

David Apatoff said...

Chris Bennett-- Thanks, I think that kind of scribbled pencil technique was made popular in the 1960s by Bernie Fuchs and Bob Peak. They found a way to make even a flat, solid surface churn and seethe with energy. As far as I can tell, this effect really dates back to Lautrec who painted some of his solid colors using a lot of fast, choppy brush strokes with slight variations on the colors. In a subliminal way, it made his whole painting crackle with energy.

Li-An--I'm not a big car enthusiast either, but even if this were an abstract painting I would think it's design is swell.

Li-An said...

"Richard-- I suspect that even the cheapest acrylics will biodegrade slower than the most finely ground oil pigments."

I'm not sure about quality of acrylics on a long time duration. I know somebody who works in museums and the worst medium for quality conservation for her (it's a lady) is acrylic.

Joss said...

I think Andy Virgil is excellent and this drawing/painting/piece of design is one of my favorites. Thank you for giving it it's very own post. I have Leif Peng to thank for the introduction. Virgil's portraits remind me of Joe Bowler's, but more personal, raw like an Andrew Wyeth. What I always find interesting about this style is how dependent it is on the photograph, yet that is seldom acknowledged. There is something about tracing that is like Jazz. A great artist like Virgil who's power of observation and realism is so solid, with this technique is unchained and almost unhinged to create something sublime and psychedelic. Perhaps more mechanistic a little less human in a way but i wouldn't want it any other way.

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