Friday, April 14, 2017

THE SEAT OF YOUR PANTS


This marvelous study of a (human?) rump is by the eagle-eyed Tom Fluharty:


Fluharty takes nothing for granted about the human butt.  There are no shortcuts here-- nothing uniform or symmetrical.   From start to finish,  this drawing is based on what he actually sees and not what we all assume we know.  Note the variety of his line, his sharp use of shadows for accents, and the active, dynamic result he has achieved.  He even indicates the stitching at the seams, not because he's one of those detail fetishists, but to add a little pepper to his drawing.


Next we have another unorthodox treatment of the folds and creases caused by the human butt:


This one, by Robert Fawcett, is powered by those strong diagonal slashes.

If you drew the seat of someone's pants without looking, you'd never imagine these folds.  Fawcett was a master of finding and strengthening the geometric shapes in nature.

Here's a third example of a master draftsman (Albert Dorne) with a sharp, incisive treatment of the relationship between the human fundament and the cloth that covers it. 


These three wonderful drawings all demonstrate the power of keen observation, hard work and great visual curiosity.   

On the other hand, there are reference books that purport to explain how folds and creases work. Famed artist Burne Hogarth wrote a book entitled Dynamic Wrinkles and Drapery: Solutions For Drawing The Clothed Figure.  It contains all kinds of drawings with little dotted lines and arrows demonstrating Hogarth's theories about kinetic forces and wrinkles.  Here he shows us how he thinks cloth folds around our butts:


I've always been baffled by Hogarth's many fans.  His drawing strikes me as decidedly third rate.  (Anyone out there want to help me see what I'm missing?)



I think this drawing is based more on Hogarth's theories than on what he actually sees.  There is more education in Fluharty's single drawing above than in an entire 142 page book on drawing wrinkles.  

52 comments:

Gerry said...

Nice examples, and I agree wholeheartedly about Hogarth. His art instruction books always baffled me, never once mentioning actually observing the human form.

kev ferrara said...

Fluharty is an amazingly insightful and sensual draftsman. I'm really grateful that you bring his work to light. He achieves things that almost nobody else even knows to try for. And of course, Fawcett is neverendingly observant and on the lookout for quirky and fresh incidentals that can be used compositionally.

I'm doubled-down on your view of Hogarth's purported teaching on drapery; I find it just brutally grotesque; ignorant, arrogant while lazy; the product of a trapped and obsessively self-serving mind. His anatomy formalisms are better. But where they are good, he is pastiching Bridgman. Where they are bad, he is shoved so far up into his own cheeseball of an ego, he doesn't have contact with oxygen. There's a youtube clip of Hogarth shoveling his will into a petrified class of students, and the robotic hauteur of his performance is unbearable. I would have been clawing at the walls.

zoe said...

Hogarth is good if you want to draw the Silver Surfer. That's about it.

Anonymous said...

I learned about Fluharty from this blog. He is always great. Hogarth always draws like shit. Remember those stupid rolling monsters he invented for Tarzan? So dumb I couldn't believe it.

JSL

Anonymous said...

Anyone read the 2 issue Hogarth interview in the comic journal with Groth ?

David Apatoff said...

Gerry-- Many thanks. I think one of the fun things about these examples is that they are all very different visions, yet they are all (it seems to me) spot on.

Kev Ferrara-- I agree with you about Fluharty and Fawcett, of course. As for Hogarth, the Society of Illustrators just announced that they have elected him to the Illustrator's Hall of Fame. I find that astonishing. Any thoughts for a poor bewildered soul on how such a thing could possibly be?

Zoe-- Even the Silver Surfer would give him trouble. I think he got the muscle groupings correct, but his Tarzan figure drawings always struck me as awkward and ungainly-- limbs out of proportion, poses stiff, line work dull.

Donald Pittenger said...

I think Hogarth's depictions of Tarzan himself were not very likable either. Stern face with evil expressions, exaggerated postures, exaggerated anatomy, etc., etc.

David Apatoff said...

Anonymous/JSL-- Ah yes, those rolling monsters were called the "Onoenoes" (https://www.lambiek.net/artists/image/h/hogarth/hogarth_tarzan3.jpg) and they were a prime example of drawing at its dumbest.

The great draftsman Noel Sickles used to say that he would stare at a complex object (such as a stagecoach) until he understood how it was constructed, and then he was able to imagine it and draw it from any angle. Understanding how it worked was key to his ability to draw it. But those ridiculous Onoenoes demonstrated how Hogarth's understanding stopped at the surface; in order to move, they would have to roll over their own faces. They never made any sense.

I never thought about it until this very moment, but perhaps the Onoenoes were the primogenitors of the "circle heads" I keep castigating here. (http://illustrationart.blogspot.com/2014/10/an-epidemic-of-circle-heads.html)

David Apatoff said...

Anonymous-- I confess I have not read the 2 issue Hogarth interview in the comic journal with Groth, and in fairness I should have (although there's only so much that words can do to repair bad drawing.) Have you read the interview? It's apparently not on line, but I would be interested in hearing from anyone who has read it.

Donald Pittenger-- OK, so I gather you won't be the one to explain to me what I'm missing in Hogarth's drawing. But he must have a lot of fans: his official web site (labeled, "Burne Hogarth Dynamic Media Worldwide"!!!) tells us that he is "one of the most respected and influential artists of the 20th century." I'm not trying to beat up on Hogarth gratuitously. Since he is one of the most respected artists of the 20th century, I wish that someone who respects him would write in and push back a little.

Paul Sullivan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Apatoff said...

Paul Sullivan-- I think you draw a worthwhile distinction between diagramming muscles as an anatomist and drawing the figure as an artist. Presumably, the number one objective of an anatomist is clarity for propaedeutic purposes-- simplifying and isolating elements so that they may be labeled and understood. That is a different mission from what Fluharty, Fawcett and Dorne are doing here, and a difference in mission should be understood and respected.

However, I have two concerns about the dichotomy you draw: first, are you sure that Hogarth views himself the way you describe? After all, as noted above his web site describes him as "one of the most respected and influential artists of the 20th century" and the Society of Illustrators has voted him into its Hall of Fame as an illustrator. These are very different from someone who makes "explanatory diagrams." His art (meaning his Tarzan strip) looks very similar to the art in his book on wrinkles (minus the dotted lines and arrows). If we are going to classify his Tarzan strip (such as the linked drawings of the Onoenoes, or Hogarth's 1972 Tarzan book)as his version of "sensitive renderings" then I guess I would stand by my original criticism.

Second, even if we view Hogarth's drawings as "explanatory diagrams," I'd say that the diagrams I included fail at their job of accurately explaining how folds work. They accurately show that gravity pulls cloth downward, but apart from that I can find no insights or revelations about wrinkles or folds. In fact, the example I included seems almost misleading. The Fluharty, Fawcett and Dorne images don't give me much information about generic wrinkles that I can use in other situations but they sure burn 3 strong ways of LOOKING at wrinkles into my consciousness.

kev ferrara said...

David is spot-on when he points out that Hogarth actually hasn't looked at folds enough to do them justice either anatomically or artistically.

And if you really look at his Tarzan work, you will also note the same thing goes for his anatomy. For all his chest puffing about physical dynamism, he actually doesn't know how any of the muscles actually function to produce force, action, or stability, or how bones and tendons figure into any of it. Forget dynamic anatomy, doesn't even know static anatomy. It's bluff from top to bottom. Tendons get untethered from bone or attach to the wrong bones, muscles do not flex nor stretch properly in shape or form for the actions he depicts, nor do they go flaccid appropriately in reciprocation... muscles, tendons, vertebrae, hip, arm and knee bones go missing, never appear, or are broken, anatomical bulk appears where it shouldn't, muscles develop where no muscles exist, stiffness clanks all over (particularly at the difficult areas of shoulders and hips), meaningless lines abound, the lighting is coming from no particular place, the shadows fall willy-nilly if at all... in short, Hogarth habitually fabricates everything in his pictures from insufficient rationalizations, particularly in the action poses he seems so keen to tout. The result is a very clear and unique, maybe even effective, style of comic art. But also a bundle of bluffery that should have never been let near a classroom.

Hogarth exhausted himself and everyone within earshot with his attempts to seem smart, yet all the intellectualization in the world couldn't get him to understand the stretch of a single tendon.

Paul Sullivan said...

This recent post is an odd presentation—supposedly about drapery and the human figure. I suppose there is an attempt at humor in relating it to the human posterior. However, some of the comments have been bitter remarks about Brune Hogarth's work, namely his instruction books on human anatomy—among them Dynamic Anatomy.

All of Hogarth's books deal with the figure as a generality—a generic human specimen—in order to explain the large forms of the body. He is not drawing from models or photos or making sensitive renderings. In fact, most of his drawings are simply explanatory diagrams. I picked up his first book, Dynamic Anatomy, over 50 years ago when it was first published. Through the years it has been an enormously successful publication. I still refer to it occasionally—even today.

Hogarth's second book dealt with the figure in action. Here again, the figures were diagrammatic and used to explain the fine points of action—how muscle groups worked, the essentials of foreshortening etc. In all cases, the figure and the action were explained in relation to three dimensional space.

Later, Hogarth produced several other books, among them the one on drawing the clothed figure which has received attention in this post. Again, most of the illustrations in the book are no more than diagrams. In this case they explain how drapery is effected by anatomy and action.

I can understand a person not agreeing with his method of teaching and explanation but there is no reason to beat the guy up. For some reason we are comparing the instruction drawings of Hogarth with the finished work of a couple of the masters of illustration.

Paul Sullivan said...

I agree. The statement regarding Horgarth's stature in 20th century art is pretty silly.

Regardless, if we are interested in comparing Hogarth's work to that of other artists, lets compare his work to that of Alex Raymond, Hal Foster or Milton Caniff. Comparing his work to Al Dorne or Bob Fawcett is ludicrous. Burne Hogarth was a comic strip artist.

If any of us believe his instruction books aren't that hot, that is no reason to use him as a punching bag. However, I imagine it doesn't make that much difference. Give us a little time and someone will veer off and start commenting on the work of James Joyce or Lefty Gomez.

kev ferrara said...

Paul,

If you care about the struggle of art students to get good information, it matters that we critique Hogarth's books and work publicly.

Also, try as I might, I can't see the relevance of James Joyce or Lefty Gomez to this conversation. Please try to stay on topic.

David Apatoff said...

Paul Sullivan-- I think you raise an important point when you talk about whether it's fair to use an artist such as Hogarth "as a punching bag." You're certainly entitled to an explanation of my philosophy on this.

In my view, we live in an era of low standards and false praise in the arts. It's hard to find pointed criticism of any artist today; a huge percentage of the audience seems incapable of distinguishing good art from bad, and those who are able to tell the difference seem either too gracious or too intimidated to say anything in public. Personally, I think that's a shame. I treasure the fact that this discriminating little corner of the blogosphere is a place where candor can still be practiced safely. People here are allowed to say tough things about an artist as long as they can make their views stick with specific examples and reasoned explanations. If they can't, their views get ignored pretty quickly.

I like the irreverence and ferocity in the discussions here, even though some of the artists I admire have taken a drubbing from readers who disagree with me. Sometimes I learn something from the comments and sometimes I remain resolute in my smugness.

Despite all the above, I don't believe any artist should be gratuitously used "as a punching bag." Here are my principles: I never attack bad art by young artists who are still developing, or by unsuccessful artists who are struggling. I select examples of bad art from highly successful / popular / wealthy artists. There are plenty of examples to choose from (e.g., Kinkade, Jim Davis, Leroy Nieman, Jeff Koons, the circle head gang from the New Yorker) without shining a spotlight on poor, untalented artists who are just scraping by. Beyond that, a successful bad artist automatically goes to the front of the line to get smacked on this blog if he or she is especially arrogant or intolerant (or if his or her fans are-- for example, I gather Chris Ware is fairly modest but I've spoken out against the cultural critics who fawn over him with moronic reviews such as, "I don't think anyone in any visual medium is making art that is more elevating.")

(CONT. IN FOLLOWING INSTALLMENT)

David Apatoff said...

(CONT.)

...Which brings us to Burne Hogarth. Personally, I don't think Hogarth is much of an artist, whether as a cartoonist or an illustrator or a fine artist. My introduction to him was his 1972 Tarzan book which I found to be so overworked, with so many fussy pointless details, and so garishly colored, and with such awful figure drawing that I couldn't make it past the first few pages. I later looked at his book on folds and found it virtually useless. As years passed I learned more about his heyday with the Tarzan comic strip. I thought the Onoenoes example (linked above) was so badly conceived and poorly drawn I nearly laughed out loud. (You suggest that Hogarth should be judged against other cartoonists such as Raymond, Caniff or Foster. I think none of those three cartoonists would be caught dead producing work like the Onoenoes. I'm happy to support that if you'd like.) Still later I learned that Hogarth was a tyrant in the classroom, yelling at students and dictating the one true approach to art. Still, none of these flaws were any of my business and I said nothing on my blog about Hogarth.

Then a few weeks ago the Society of Illustrators announced that it had elected Hogarth to its Hall of Fame. I thought this was utterly ridiculous. How could anyone with any taste or judgment or knowledge of the history of illustration vote for Hogarth as one of the greatest illustrators of all time? Suddenly, this made Hogarth newsworthy again, and an important example. Also a fitting "punching bag." I was really hoping that someone on the committee that voted for Hogarth might come forward and explain their vote, but so far no luck.

Lastly, I want to emphasize that the real focus of this and other blog posts is the shining quality work done by good artists such as Fluharty, Fawcett and Dorne. When I criticize over valued artists here, it's usually to serve as a contrast with better (often under appreciated) artists.

Anonymous said...

Anyone - any thoughts on his Dynamic Lighting book? Howzabout some of his wash portraits/studies in his Head book ?

Laurence John said...


i quite like Hogarth’s 1972 Tarzan of the Apes book. given that the story is set in the 1880s, the drawing style - which almost looks like it could have been drawn in the 1880s - seems appropriate; it owes more to Victorian Neo-classicism than direct life observation. Tarzan looks a bit like Michelangelo’s David but with black hair and a loin cloth; a kind of comic book Greek idealism rather than a grittily believable rendering of the story.

to be honest i wouldn't buy the book if i saw it now. perhaps i have a soft spot for it because it was one i looked at a lot as a 10 year old, along with other comics of varying quality.

kev ferrara said...

As for Hogarth, the Society of Illustrators just announced that they have elected him to the Illustrator's Hall of Fame. I find that astonishing. Any thoughts for a poor bewildered soul on how such a thing could possibly be?

Wow, I blew past this point first time reading through. I'm just as flabbergasted by the very notion. After all, where his work has any merit it is pastiched Foster. Where his anatomical teaching has any merit, it is pastiched Bridgman. I have a funny feeling the honor is mostly about Hogarth's role in SVA's founding and the longstanding stature of SVA in the new york illustration scene. But this I see as a lucky accident with respect to his involvement. Because a man like him builds a ship in order to command it, not to get anywhere.

Paul Sullivan said...

David— thank you. You have made your point.

Personally, I learned a lot from Hogarth's first book, "Dynamic Anatomy" and a following book on the figure in action. As I mentioned earlier, I bought the first book just after it was published in 1958. I was 19 and there were not that many good books available dealing with anatomy for the artist. Hogarth's other books were not as good and I didn't care at all for his book on the clothed figure. As far as Tarzan goes—I never followed the strip. What I've seen of it isn't that appealing but in 1936—a year before the premier of Prince Valiant—it was probably a standout.

In my initial comment, I thought I'd put in a good word for Hogarth. I simply wanted to remind you that the drawings in his instruction books were just that, instruction drawings—at times, almost diagrams. And I wanted to add that a few artists did learn a lot from his first book, myself included. I used it as a supplement to college art classes, museum classes, life drawing classes and the Famous Artists course. And I've used the book as an occasional reference during 43 years of advertising art and 16 years of fine art.

Secondly, I wanted to offer a reminder. When making comparisons, the elements compared should be of a similar or like nature. In this case that means Hogarth's work should be compared to the work of fellow cartoonists. It doesn't mean that his work would be judged as the best. It's just a logical method of making comparisons.

Finally, and most importantly, I thought I'd remind you to employ caution when offering pointed criticism. No matter how reasonable and professional the criticism, it can easily become much too ambitious. When it does, it becomes less than professional. A nasty circle.

You have stated this is your territory. I truly admire you and what you are doing to emphasize the "shining quality work done by good artists such as Fluharty, Fawcett and Dorne." Your blog and your books focus attention on work by outstanding artists. You don't have to waste your time throwing darts at Hogarth, Kinkade or Nieman. Time will take care of them. You have set you path on keeping alive the truly greats of illustration. That is a positive goal.








Donald Pittenger said...

David, your policy of targeting the big guys in these days where "standards" is a dirty word has appeal.

I've already criticized Picasso in several posts on my art blog. But now you've inspired me to draft a post where I say it loud and clear.

Working title: "Picasso was a Second-Rate Artist: Maybe Even Third-Rate"

Yes, he was creative. But was he actually good?

Sean Farrell said...

The comment by Laurence John about being attracted to Tarzan when he was ten is important because children will pass on a Prince Valiant for simpler entertainment. I agree with most of what David and Kev have said, but today's artists are doing some fantastic things and have extensive anatomical knowledge, references and photo-compositing at their fingertips, yet there's no market to sell their skills.

As a result of the shrinking market, there's a proliferation of teachers on the internet and Hogarth may have been motivated by the same economics. Affected by the same shrinking market, The Society of Illustrators might also have run out of heroes from its favored book and magazine world and had to look elsewhere. A lot of good illustrators taught at SVA and some good ones came from the same school, so yes, that's probably the reason behind the acknowledgement, but it could signal an opening of its door to recognizing illustrators from disciplines the Society has long overlooked.

David Apatoff said...

Paul Sullivan-- Thanks for your thoughtful response. I salute your "putting in a good word" for Hogarth. I think that's a healthy instinct (Thoreau said, "The only way to speak the truth is to speak lovingly") and I generally try to aspire to the positive myself. If Hogarth helped you with his first book, "Dynamic Anatomy," then you should definitely speak up. And I also agree that we should be comparing apples and apples here, unless there is something in particular to be gained from deliberately comparing apples and oranges.

In my better moments, I agree with you that, "You don't have to waste your time throwing darts at Hogarth, Kinkade or Nieman. Time will take care of them." However, every once in a while an organization such as the Society of Illustrators will run off and enshrine such artists in their Hall of Fame, which means that future generations of artists and art students will look at that list and assume that Hogarth was one of the best illustrators of all time. Rather than "taking care of him," time seems to be calcifying him in a position of honor. And that's what makes me feel compelled to speak up-- more, I suppose, as a criticism of the Society than as a criticism of Hogarth.

Donald Pittenger-- You don't aim small, do you? I can't even persuade people about Hogarth.

Laurence John-- Well, a lot of my ten year old affections are permanently embedded in me as well. I didn't learn to draw from Hogarth, but I learned to draw from copying Leonard Starr's comic strip On Stage and to this day I will tolerate no slander against him.

I don't know when you last revisited Hogarth's 1972 book, but a Hogarth fan posted a number of pages from the book (http://thevisualexegesis.blogspot.com/2010/11/tarzan-burne-hogarth.html ) and looking at them today is, for me, like a nutmeg grater on my eyes. Look at those colors which the fan praises as a "psychedelic vision of jungle ferns." I'd be interested to know if they still remind you of Victorian Neo-classicism.

David Apatoff said...

Kev Ferrara and Sean Farrell-- I love the Society of Illustrators and have great respect for its heritage and legacy. I admire many of the wonderful talents who have passed through its portals. When the Hall of Fame began, the Society elected one artist every year (artists such as Norman Rockwell or Al Parker) . In a big year, such as 1959, they might stretch to induct two (Dean Cornwell and Harold Von Schmidt). By the Bernie Fuchs era, the Society began inducting three (Fuchs, Howard Pyle and Maxfield Parrish). But gradually they kept gaining momentum and became, in my opinion, a runaway train, electing 6 or 7 illustrators every year (and NOT because there were 6 or 7 illustrators as good as Norman Rockwell that year). As I wrote at the time, the Society seemed to be awarding membership in the Hall of Fame for payment of annual dues.

I had a serious discussion with the late Murray Tinkelman about this trend. Murray was integrally involved with the voting process for the Society. I asked him what the standards were for admission, and he reported that the Society has no standards. One artist might be elected for diversity reasons. Another might be elected because he was seriously ill and his wife said it would make him feel better to be in the Hall of Fame. A third might be elected because he or she was well loved, or a cheerleader for the Society. As far as I'm concerned, there are a growing number of inductees who are indefensible. I told Murray that until the Society articulated some coherent standard, they would continue to devalue Hall of Fame membership. I regret to say that since that time, the Society has, in my opinion, repeatedly embarrassed itself with more indiscriminate choices, of which Burne Hogarth seems to be the latest.

When people in the fine arts disparage illustration as a second rate art form, I'm afraid that the Hall of Fame-- which should be the first line of defense-- is becoming exhibit A in the indictment.

Sean Farrell said...

Thank you David. I appreciate you sharing this.

Anonymous said...

I belong to the society and nobody ever asked me to vote on Hogarth. I never even saw the ballot. Who would vote for that rassclat bore?

kev ferrara said...

Part of the problem here is that there are only a handful of Rockwells, Leyendeckers, Pyles, Parrishes, and Wyeths. So, as soon as those guys go in, the Hall either ends its inductions, or goes downhill. Unless they decide to set up a Hierarchy within the Hall's ranks. Like a Mount Rushmore of Illustration, and then the Hall, then a mini-hall for people who were important to the field, like Walt Reed, or Henry Pitz. And then the "friends and relatives program." Which I think will clarify things, nicely.

There is also the sad reality that the days of the Olympians are not just bygone, but long-gone. It took a whole cultural world to produce and support the greats, a whole era. Not easy to replace. So I think the The Society clearly made a mistake by inducting too many illustrators too quickly. They've run out and are now in need of help. So, rather than pulling our hair out over the missteps, maybe the lot of us should offer, with all due humility and foolishness, some names for future consideration?

Golden Agers:
W.J. Aylward
Thornton Oakley
Walt Louderback
Frank Craig
W.H.D. Koerner
Philip R. Goodwin
Dan Smith
Frank Vincent DuMond
Victor C. Anderson
Harry Grant Dart
T.S. Sullivant

Pulp and Cheesecake:
Norman Saunders
Jerome Rozen
Rudolf Belarski
Gil Elvgren
Kelly Freas

Comic Books:
Mort Drucker
Wally Wood
Neal Adams
Berni Wrightson
Alex Toth

Importance to field:
Walt Reed
Henry Pitz
George Bridgman
Frank Reilly
George Lorimer

Damn Foreigners (a new wing):
Frank Brangwyn
W. Russel Flint
Jose Segrelles
Walter Molino
Harry Rountree
Arthur Rackham
Sidney Sime
Sanjulian
Sergio Toppi
Moebius
Coching
Dulac
W. Heath Robinson

Paul Sullivan said...

Kev Ferrara— I have to agree with you.

David Apatoff said...

Anonymous-- The Society's web site says that HoF inductees are elected by former presidents of the Society.

I should also correct my comment above that the Society "has no standards." After Murray Tinkelman told me that there were no official standards, I see that language has been added to the Society's web site saying that inductees "are chosen based on their body of work and the impact it has made on the field of illustration."

Kev Ferrara-- I am happy to report that you can remove Mort Drucker from your list of candidates. He is included in this year's batch of awardees. (Apparently the Society could only let so many years go by after the amiable Al Jaffee was inducted before somebody felt a pang of remorse that the talented Drucker had been ignored.)

That's a strong list of candidates you've put together (Coching was a new name for me; I've enjoyed looking at his work). However, now I fear that someone will find your list and next year the Society will announce 39 new inductees. If "The Society clearly made a mistake by inducting too many illustrators too quickly," isn't the solution to throttle back to one or two awardees a year? Perhaps one current and one historical? Force people to prioritize?

There are already awards to recognize collateral efforts, such as the Dean Cornwell Achievement Award or the Arthur William Brown Recognition Award or the Distinguished Educator Award (the last of which Hogarth won in 2008). Murray Tinkelman won this award as well, but the Society was not content with that and voted him into the Hall of Fame as well.

kev ferrara said...

Well if you want to me to get serious about rearranging the deck chairs, my actual short list for next year would by W.J. Aylward and Neal Adams, George Bridgman as distinguished educator, and Walt Reed for the Cornwell achievement award.

zoe said...

It would appear that those Ononoes eventually evolved beyond even the need for arms, into the charming Kashira trio in Miyazaki's Spirited Away. They roll around on their faces and it doesn't seem to slow them down any! Although they're admittedly not as intimidating fighters.

zoe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robert Cook said...

I've never liked Hogarth. I was at a comics convention in Orlando, FL in 1978 where Will Eisner was a guest of honor, (the other was Bob Clampett, of Warner Bros. cartoons and Beany and Cecil fame). This was months before Eisner's A CONTRACT WITH GOD was published, and he had tearsheets to show the fans. (This was a small, very intimate convention, so unlike the horrible cattle calls of today. I'd guess not more than a couple of hundred people or so were there in total.) In any case, after his talk, the fans gathered around Eisner to chat and ask questions. One young kid--in his teens--showed Eisner his portfolio. Eisner asked him if he studied anatomy and the kid replied he used Hogarth's books. Eisner replied, "Burne would kill me if he heard me say this, but don't use his books. Use Bridgman's books, George Bridgman, B-R-I-D-G-M-A-N." (He actually did spell it out.) That's what prompted me to buy a Bridgman book and start to teach myself anatomy. My drawing improved immediately.

Later, after I had moved to NYC and was attending life drawing classes with Gustav Rehberger at the Art Students' League, a student one day mentioned to Rehberger that he used Hogarth's books to learn anatomy. Rehberger grimaced as if he had indigestion and he told the student to dispense with Hogarth. He referred to Hogarth's anatomy as "strings." Ha! (Anyone here not familiar with Rehberger should google his art. He's a very "dynamic anatomy" kind of artist, and not to everyone's taste, but far better, to my view, than Hogarth.)

Richard said...

Studying Hogarth, if you've only done a handful of life studies, gives an amateur some simple rules to start buildinh hogarthian pictures in. You may not become fluharty, but the other kids in class will soon, and the 60s-trained hippy art teacher will be jealous and contemptuous.

It's easily consumed power.

Richard said...

Sorry, still can't type:

*other kids in class will swoon

kev ferrara said...

Robert Cook,

Thanks for those anecdotes. I have a number of friends who studied with Rehberger and they were quite struck by his anatomical knowledge during class demonstrations, that he could build up the figure layer by layer from the bone. Interesting that he characterized Hogarth's anatomy as "strings." Hogarth was a compulsively linear thinker in so many different ways.

Benno said...

I love Hogarth's work on Tarzan. I think Foster's Prince Valiant was the finest adventure strip ever created, but I prefer Hogarth's Tarzan to Foster's Tarzan. I realize that is perhaps heresy-especially here where I see a lot of folks parroting the talk of how Hogarth was second rate, but I completely disagree. Just because someone doesn't use naturalism as the foundation of their work doesn't make it any less compelling. I loved the lush foliage of Hogarth's jungle and how his characters were pushed to the limits of believability in their motion. This was cartooning for gosh sakes-part of the point was to create a heroism that went beyond the mundane reality of life. You can crap on Hogarth if you want, but I think he has a place in the hall of fame-whether is anatomy books were any good or not.

kev ferrara said...

Dear Crypto Parrot,

All art is best appreciated and critiqued by the light of what it attempts to do. Hogarth endlessly attempted to express his action ideas through figural cartooning and to justify his figural cartooning with anatomical specificity. Given this, his nonstop clunky, awkward results and incoherent anatomy, form, and lighting strongly toll against him. If he isn't second rate, then he must be third rate, because he sure ain't first rate.

Anonymous said...

I like his newspaper run on Tarzan - his early work had energy and knowledge behind it . Perhaps whatever early life drawing he may have done still had an effect on it . If , like many artists should have , he had emptied his cup periodically and done some intensive life study , it might have reviewed and reminded him of things no artist can ever master concerning the figure .

His book on Light and Shade surprised me with some of the illos he did , which looked to be done from some reference or observation . Of course he went off the deep end with terms like "decorative light" etc.

His loose line drawings have an appeal - like his Minotaur and bull sketches - that his figure diagrams lack .

Al McLuckie

Sean Farrell said...

It's funny how that word affection crops up as an awkward intercessor between knowledge and a lack of knowledge, skill and none, between first, second and third rate. What is one to do with something so useless and hypnotic? How can loose, crude and even whacky drawings without studious or delicate attention be attractive? Why can't one shake off an old lover no one else ever saw anything in? I've never been able to figure these things out.

Despite and for such I'm glad supporters of Hogarth stepped forward and expressed themselves.

kev ferrara said...

Sean,

It seems to me that we have affection for our simpler selves because our naivete allowed for profound immersion in imaginative activities. Unguarded, we require so much less allusive, suggestive, or symbolic rigor to experience so much more aesthetic wonder and lift off. Unguardedness is equally essential to the full immersion in love, that woozy, swimming feeling of infinite connection. The momentary recovery or revisitation of the unguarded state is also the goal of many religious practices, meditation, sports, risk-taking, alcohol and drug consumption, magic shows, etc.

Great art, to me, is necessarily a thing that penetrates our intellectual shielding and ushers us back to the unguarded state. But without functioning through our nostalgia for a prior self's experience. Rather it earns its participatory appreciation anew and in the moment through its unique and powerful aesthetic organization.

Sean Farrell said...

Kev, Thank you for responding. I agree with your last sentences.

We are linear by nature as we have priorities and objectives, not seeing peripherally but focusing on a narrow range. Within that range, priority filters our focus and by such, we miss a lot of things. Variations within the expected environment or repetitions, can pull on attention in such a way to have a nonlinear or even hypnotic effect. But I don't think people can be faulted for being linear anymore than a woman can be faulted for being beautiful, as it's a given. Oddly enough a woman may not think so much of beauty as she knows it's a given, though disarming to men. In the same way, our capacity for reason is a given, yet discarded to be an illusion because it can be “proven” that not everything is of reason. It's been discarded in favor of an anarchy housing endless contradictions. At least, ethics have been discarded in favor of a reason of logic alone, leaving all other areas to fend for themselves. Thus, the Hall of Fame in a culture of contradictions.

But I can't say that drawings that are loose, crude and even whacky without studious or delicate attention can't be good and engaging any more than I can say the private whisperings of a homely lover can't be as powerful as a siren disarming a party of sophisticates, because qualities are not well defined by quantity. I think it's a mistake to lob all open experiences into a type of innocence recovery program, a receptive verse active mindset, because affection exists in both areas. Affection is the lost self, the bridge between what is and how we treat what is.

Great art it's not, but I wouldn't say that Tarzan didn't have its own unique energy, power to shape something, or merit for some. After our last conversation regarding line drawing I came across a drawing by Fred Greenhill done near the end of his four decade career. I don't know if it was published but it does relate in part to the subject of Briggs. It's worth contemplating over a couple cups of coffee. Thanks.
http://digitalarchives.library.newschool.edu/index.php/Detail/objects/KA002201_OSxxx1_f05_04

kev ferrara said...

I always know an art student is in trouble if his work is seen and said to be "middling." Which is to say, it has neither enough foundation, nor enough finish; It doesn't strike, it doesn't express, it lacks specificity, consideration, emotion, reflection, evocation, information, composition, and most of all inspiration. Dull mechanical mark-making behavior in search of the energy of a point. In my experience, an artist who suffers this malady will never get out of it, because it is a symptom of something much deeper in them, which is to say, something much deeper lacking in them.

The reason focus is required of us (in order to clarify, plan for, and then go after goals), is just because our mental experience otherwise would be too undifferentiated to accomplish anything (see any given lazy mind); experience is, it does not "consist of" until we, day by day, determine it to be so. And the same goes for our minds. Our vocabularies start at zero. The reason our lexical databank accumulates new symbolisms daily over the entire course of our lifetimes is in order to increasingly delineate in order to clarify (what we perceive as worth selecting out and drilling down upon) within the otherwise undifferentiated whole of experience; specifics within specifics, and then, with wisdom, abstractions transcending abstractions. Opening, unguarded, "flow" experiences provide relief from the incessant mental tensions and physical constrictions attending the program of maturation and modern adult life.

Affections, like appreciations, can be both general and specific. In fact, the more specific an affection gets, the more it resembles or even becomes a fetish; the product of a mind doomed by compulsion to fixate.

Zero One said...
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Sean Farrell said...

Kev, I'm really not saying anything controversial. In animal terms we are predators, not prey. Our natural visual field is focused, no peripheral. We prioritize, which is of focus and such lends itself to the narrow, linear or exclusionary. Over the course of the last hundred years our language has been neutered and stripped away of its emotional and affectionate designations by a similarly neutral philosophy, which is commerce. It rejects all non-neutral language and is a devolved condition one might call linear, but it's arrived at by our nature which is itself focused, narrow or limited. So we arrive at anarchy, a belief that one is transcending the exclusionary nature of specifics by dismissing all hierarchal order or specifics. Such explains how one can have a Hall of Fame where anyone can get in.

Being narrow or limited is code for bad in the new lexicon, yet it is we who are so by our nature. But we are not trapped between openness and focus because affection is a bridge to what is. It's a third element in the twosome. Whether specific or in general, affection is both a disposition and an action. It's applicable to the entire range of human being. That people can err or be overwhelmed by some paraphilia doesn't make it less true.

Your first paragraph made sense for students. What drives an artist is an affection for what they're doing, an intimate force required to drive one beyond predetermined definitions. Briggs, Fuchs, Greenhill and I'll add here Bob Peak who all lived in an intimate world which was impenetrable to their peers. The Greenhill is chock full of stuff expressing a deep love for line. Bob Peak kept his line when everyone else had abandoned theirs and it was no small decision. He rendered his drawings graphic with wild patterns to match the weight of his heavy line. He would reorient his shapes according to his desired directions and did so against momentum when required. He was a master of movement and momentum in an intimate world of his own.

kev ferrara said...

Our natural vision field has far peripheral, mid peripheral, near peripheral, paracentral and central aspects. All are important, as we are predator, grazer, and prey, with multiple levels of awareness happening simultaneously all the time. But beyond that, the question we are after is about far more than vision. There is the equivalent of peripheral and focal aspects to all our senses, differences between emotional or intuitional sensing and intellectual detection, between abstraction and specificity. When we look at the table setting, the ambience of the room may background, but it never leaves. When we finish with the table setting, we back off, it falls back into the ambience, and so do we, waiting for the next stimulus to attract us. But, in the meantime, just being.

My first paragraph in the prior post was not about briggs, fuchs, greenhill, or peak.

Sean Farrell said...

We're not rabbits. Between predators and prey, our eyes are positioned as are predators among mammals, in front of our head. Everything you just wrote about is part of being. Being inclined to our own interests is also part of our being.

Our sense of being is challenged when over stimulated by multiple demands. Dealing with endless bureaucratic protocol is a standard example of disintegrating a person's sense of being, rendering them under the will of an indifferent force. Using a pencil is an intuitive singular act, whereas going through endless commands to draw through a machine is a far less fluid set of actions. Multiply the same division of societal actions and definitions and our natural relationship with the world starts following that of the hapless victim in an indifferent bureaucratic maze. It becomes anarchistic in a linear and undefinable way. Our capacity to handle complexity is greatly enhanced in an environment of affection, when we believe we are of some value. The value then of an artist whose presence creates such a sense may exist outside the parameters of what one might call objective standards, making it more difficult to pin down. Norman Rockwell was alluding to such when he was reminiscing about Maxfield Parrish and how massively popular and beloved his work was and yet years later, all that remained was his art, but not the reality he once created. He was reminding the listener of how inspiring the artist had been to him and beloved by the public.

I added to that, the difficulty that not everyone can see what certain artists were able to see, such as Briggs, Fuchs, Greenhill and Peak who were impenetrable to their competition and peers. That's what I'm trying to say, that we don't see all by any measure. We try our best and that's all we can do.

kev ferrara said...

Sean,

I've already stated my case well enough, and almost nothing you just wrote has any bearing on it, including your trivial point about predator eye location. In fact, the little that is relevant is more an argument for my point than yours. I guess, once again, you simply lost the thread and drifted off into that comfy purple cloud in your head.

Except for the small percentage of the excellent, most art is middling. For to be anything but middling takes, all at once, a special kind of talent, a special kind of ethic, and a special kind of intellect, each its own kind of lightning strike. Affection too is crucial, but such is not unique to the greats. The million worst artists in the world surely have as much affection for the fugue state of art making as the twenty greatest. (And, anecdotally, I have seen enough sentimentally-crafted dogshit in my life to choke Cthulu.) It is also possible that a wide variety of artists share equal amounts of exasperation and torment in their work as well.

In conclusion, congratulations. You have made me believe that Brotman's Law applies to humans as well.

chris bennett said...

The essential difference between the Fluharty and the Hogarth drawing is that the former is a unified music of connections flowing through every form from beginning to end and back again, whereas the latter is an inert shopping list of symbols dropped into a generic sack labelled 'woman' and ticked off, item by item, with a pencil. And this applies right down to the details and into their modular components as well. The difference between them is ultimately a state of mind; which is recognised instantly the two drawings are side by side, cheek to cheek as it were. The ability to draw 'drapery' well is of course a very direct expression of this.

Sean Farrell said...

Kev, I'm so sorry my ideas were of no consequence to you. That the linguists forgot human nature believing language shaped humanity and not the other way around is an idea long overdue for reconsideration. I wasn't arguing for Hogarth to get into the Hall of Fame, or in sympathy with sentimental art, but was trying to illustrate the impossibility of quantifying the ineffable which you then went on and did. It's also impossible to reach certain levels of perceptive intimacy with art, (such as with the artists I mentioned), without possessing an enduring affection for art.

kev ferrara said...

the linguists forgot human nature believing language shaped humanity and not the other way around

I don't know who you pretend to refer to. Environment, behavior, language, society, and knowledge obviously all feedback into one another.

was trying to illustrate the impossibility of quantifying the ineffable which you then went on and did.

You don't even know what you are talking about. For one thing, all experience is ineffable, and every symbol system human beings have developed (and even the very embodied symbol system that human beings are evolved to be) is inadequate to the task of accurately re-stating experience. Which is just why suggestion makes for art, and facts are most often the building blocks of fallacy.

It's also impossible to reach certain levels of perceptive intimacy with art, without possessing an enduring affection for art.

Who doesn't understand this? Who are you talking to? Who are you arguing against?