Monday, September 04, 2006


The world offers unlimited numbers of cool things to draw. Yet, artists seem to have special affection for drawing folds in fabric.

Folds dominate so many pictures, it is clear that artists are fascinated by them. Their complexity, their movement and their abstract quality give artists a lot to play with. Sometimes folds are such fun to draw that artists go a little overboard:

Although folds in cloth have remained basically unchanged through the ages, the artist’s treatment of them has changed dramatically. Folds in medieval art were generally angular, while folds in Renaissance art were rounded. For a contrast between two different cultures, compare the carefully controlled, tightly rendered folds drawn by the great illustrator Durer in 16th century Germany...

...with the lush, spontaneous lines of another great illustrator, Bernie Fuchs, in the U.S. in the 1970s:

Today, Christo brings the artist's obsession with folds into the modern era with his brilliant wrapped works...

...or his running fence, where fabric stretched and flapped in the breeze:

When Christo wrapped the Reichstag building in Germany, he said:

From the most ancient times to the present, fabric forming folds, pleats and draperies is a significant part of paintings, frescoes, reliefs and sculptures made of wood, stone and bronze. The use of fabric on the Reichstag follows the classical tradition.

By my calculation, there are 8,743,921 absolutely great drawings of folds. When I woke up this morning, the following six were foremost in my mind:

Leonard Starr stoically insisted that writing and drawing his daily comic strip On Stage was "a business" but his pleasure in painting these folds is almost palpable.

Here, Austin Briggs' folds of cloth dominate the outline of the figure.

Any fan of the Godfather knows what Mort Drucker has concealed under these well rendered sheets

Kyle Baker takes a more restrained but very interesting approach to folds

Alex Raymond's bold treatment of the folds in this smoking jacket elbows everything else out of the picture

Finally, one more (very different) approach by Mort Drucker where the folds ran away with the drawing. Talk about a knock out ending!


leifpeng said...

A subject close to my heart - and in the front of my mind these days, David, as I have been working on a comicbook project involving only "regular" people in street clothes for twenty pages. Close at hand, I have kept José Luis Garcia Lopez, Alex Toth, John Romita Sr.'s DC romance comics - and Stan Drake's Juliet Jones. I never tire of trying to figuring out how fold originate in the crooks of elbows and behind the knee, and the classic comic artists make the rendering of folds look easy - but its not. Nope.

If you do a part two on this topic, I would love to hear your thoughts on the stylized approach to folds and drapery that Burne Hogarth describes in his "Dynamic Wrinkles and Drapery" book.

David Apatoff said...

Leif, I'm a big fan of artists like Toth and Drake. I would certainly keep both of them close at hand on a project such as yours. On the other hand, I confess that I am not such a fan of Burne Hogarth. I read his Dynamic Anatomy book and found it, like his drawing, technically accurate but completely uninspiring. George Bridgeman, on the other hand, could teach you about clavicles using examples of excellent draftsmanship. Therefore, when Hogarth's Dynamic Wrinkles and Drapery book came out, I skimmed it but passed it by. Should I go back and take another look?

David Apatoff said...

Painter X, if you enjoy Bridgeman's work you might want to take a look at Norman Rockwell's autobiography, My Adventures As An Illustrator. He devotes a chapter to taking life drawing classes from Bridgeman. He writes that Bridgeman never showed up sober for class once, but he also writes that Bridgeman taught him "the most important part" of what Rockwell knows about art.

As for artists who use photographs for reference, I made my peace with that practice years ago when I learned that so many of the artists I respected-- Lautrec, Degas, Alphonse Mucha, Thomas Eakins, Norman Rockwell, Edward Hopper, etc.-- used photographs regularly. I don't think the problem is with the tool of photography so much as with the artists using the tool.

The way I see it, Photography, like digital art today, made it easier for artists with less talent to achieve a minimum level of quality. Since technical aids made it easier to mimic Durer's meticulous realism, more artists moved to the emotive and expressionistic and conceptual side of the spectrum.

leifpeng said...

"when Hogarth's Dynamic Wrinkles and Drapery book came out, I skimmed it but passed it by. Should I go back and take another look?"

Only in the sense that I find it interesting to compare the two approaches to drawing: the analytical vs the observational. Of course all artists employ some thinking from both but there are those whom I find embody the philosophy of one or the other - Hogarth being the most extreme example of the analytical school I can imagine!

In regard to painter x's comment about photo reference: I work from photos all the time as do many of my friends. Like all tools available to the artist, photos allow the avid student to learn from observation so that drawing from the head becomes more accurate. I try to apply what I've learned about folds and drapery in a reference photo to other drawings later on that I'm drawing from my head.

spacejack said...

David, I think the whole topic of using photos vs drawing from life vs drawing from the mind would be an interesting topic if you can figure out how to work it into a post.

I usually use photos admittedly because of convenience, but also because of their ability to stop time. The problem I have with drawing from life is that people often look posed. Still, I think all 3 skills are useful to develop.

I also think we shouldn't look too cynically at tools like the camera or the computer, because what I find them most effective at is reducing the purely mechanical, often tedious work. I think that classical art skills should survive because they are superior to technological aids, not because they simply require skill. Conversely, over-reliance on technology is usually obvious in the work.

Anonymous said...

Artistic and literary reputations are a bit like the stock market--they go up and down, and Hogarth's seems to be falling fast lately.

Besides Bridgeman and Hogath, check out the book by the late illustrator and watercolorist Mario Cooper: The Art of Drapery. Some nice examples therein, from Bernini to Edwin Austen Abbey's "King Lear's Daughters."

Cooper also reminds us not to forget the Japanese ukiyoe artists.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful place you have. I found you last night by googling Robert Heindel. It's 8:30 am now and I've been here reading and oogling ever since. I'm truly hooked.

Your comments about Bob very moving. He has always been a favorite artist/illustrator of mine... since way back in the 60's.

I consider myself blessed to have met him and Rose and their 3 sons... and I cherish wonderful memories of time spent at their beautiful home in Easton. Such a wonderful family with so much talent and love.

Rest in Peace, Dear Bob and Darling Toby.

Anonymous said...

I especially love your "Artists in Love"... you have a much better way with words and presenting the pictures than any biographies I've read about Parrish and/or other artists.

Like you, I have a very soft spot in my heart for illustration and illustrators.

I was lucky to have met Walt Reed when his Illustration House was still in South Norwalk, a small, fairly unknown "gallery". I happened upon it by chance and fell madly in love with the place.

He was always so kind and so eager to stop whatever he was doing to show me his collection of "old" illustrations and I'd spend hours there, being entertained... listening to his stories and viewing the best collection of original illustration in the world.

Anonymous said...

You mentioned Al Dorne cutting school as a young boy and educating himself at the MET. The Met is a wonderful place to spend an entire day... my grown children and I have have been going there since before they were born.

I saw Vincent Van Gogh's Drawings Show there and it was marvelous! It was mentioned here that Rembrandt's drawings are more enchanting than his paintings. I feel the same about Van Gough's work.

My only criticism about the Met is that they don't place their illustrations, by some of the best artists ever born, in a more significant area.

I love the American Impressionists and feel there should be a huge, well lit area close by... instead of the dark aisles hidden in glass cases, in the back of the museum.

BTW ~ I'd love to learn more about you and your history, David, if I may.

Anonymous said...

Well... I read earlier that you are actually an attorney. I couldn't wait any longer so I googled your name.

No wonder I'm so in awe of your blog.

Your other accomplishments are just as, if not more, impressive.

You really are one amazing, brillant and compassionate hunk, my Dear. No. I mean really!

Hilus Anendorf said...

Vermeer, Vermeer, Vermeer...
His incredible drapery, made with an eye so "modern" that seems like abstract painting...

David Apatoff said...

Anendorf, yes! yes! yes! You could not ask for better evidence than the fact that Frank Gehry, the famous avant garde architect, finds inspiration for his crumpled, abstract looking structures in Vermeer's drapery.

David Apatoff said...

Isadora, ummmm... I'm not exactly sure how to respond to your last comment since it is unique in the history of my blog. As my bio says, I'm just a guy who really likes great pictures. But I thank you very much for your kind attention to my blog, which I surely do appreciate, and-- with respect to your last comment-- for your low standards as well.


David Apatoff said...

Isadora, Rose Heindel was very touched by your comments about Bob. Thanks very much for sending them along.

lotusgreen said...

i want to thank you, david, for doing again what you have done for other subjects before; you have made me extremely conscious of folds, thereby adding pleasure to everything i see with folds on it.

Jason said...

I'm well pleased with myself for stumbling upon this blog. Some excellent reading (and looking) to be had. The Bernie Fuchs drawing reminds me of Victor Ambrus, an accomplished draughtsman, with a unique way of colouring his drawings, alsmost hatching with coloured inks. I have Robin Hood illustrated by him, and Moby Dick. Awesome. Another person's penmanship I really admire is Paul Callé, although Googling doesn't return too many results on either.

Apologies, I've wandered off the nature of folds and how cool it is to see them drawn well.
I'll be back to peruse the past entries!

Mattias Adolfsson said...

Wonderful blog, thought I put in a comment but when I saw the length of the comment I hesitated, full of interesting topics.

David Apatoff said...

Mattias, I hope you will reconsider because I am very much interested in hearing from and learning from the people out there who are drawn to this field.

For other commenters, in the past few weeks I have received a handful of comments in my in box which never showed up in the comments section here as was intended. I have no way of getting in touch with these commenters, but I wanted you to know that I do not delete any comments-- I let the good, the bad and the ugly stay up. So if you don't see your comment here, it's only because blogger had some kind of glitch, and I urge you to re-send it. I believe in a full dialogue.

Anonymous said...

what up?