Saturday, April 07, 2007


Some artists work hard to shed their technical skills and draw crude, child-like pictures. There is great artistic power in the pre-verbal, non-rational space where innocent children, raving lunatics and savage animals dwell.

One of my very favorite artists to tap this power is Jean Dubuffet, who illustrated a number of books and record album covers:

Illustration for La Lune Farcie

A selection of covers
Dubuffet was a prolific gallery painter and sculptor. A brilliant, erudite man and unconventional thinker, he was the first advocate for the art of the insane ("art brut"). I adore his work. Among my favorites are his pictures of cows:

...and his huge terrifying monoliths of men with beards...

...and his intense schizoid landscapes...

Dubuffet did thousands of drawings including a memorable series of "pisseurs"-- a droite, a gauche, and en face.

It is not easy to unlearn what you know and achieve this state. Lots of artists mimic sappy children's drawings, but very few can achieve the raw and disturbing effects that Dubuffet did.

Many of today's illustrators cluster around a few popular styles. You see them throughout the annual Spectrum anthology and the Hugo award nominees. Photorealistic artists interested in exploring a little terra incognita should consider artists such as Dubuffet. After all, Norman Rockwell kept a book of Dubuffet's art handy in his studio.



lotusgreen said...

way cool

niki said...

In 1977, Dubuffet did a well known drawing for an album cover for the avant-garde symphony entitled The Pillory by American composer Jasun Martz. More info at:

Nick Jainschigg said...

Thank you! Those were great!
I was familiar with the cow, but had never seen the pisseurs before. They remind me a little of Gahan Wilson's cartoons in their linear style as well as in their bizarre humor. As someone whose work has been in those Spectrum annuals, but whose personal taste runs more toward Paul Lehr and Richard Powers on the illustration side, I can only say, "From your lips to the ADs ears."

David Apatoff said...

Thanks, Nicholas-- I had not thought about the similarity to Gahan Wilson, but once you mentioned it, I knew exactly what you meant. I really enjoy Wilson's work too.

As I have said elsewhere I love the Spectrum annual. It is overflowing with talent. But when you consider the range of artistic possibilities out there in the world, the styles represented in Spectrum do seem awfully inbred. I assume that is a function of popular taste in the current market. I remember an era when every illustrator was a Frazetta clone. Fortunately we seem to have outgrown that.

Anonymous said...

Wow... great to learn about Dubuffet :)

*Who knew the internet was for learning stuff? ;)

Another thing, many people say naive or childrens art is easy to re-create...are DEAD wrong. I worked on an animated show that was a very "simple" style.. and at first i couldnt mimic it! With practise, and patience.. i got it, but it's all about learning to "un-do" what you know.

I hear you on that..

Anonymous said...

Woaw... and don't even get me started on "styles"... haha.. i can run my mouth out for hours...

BTW.. i'm on David's side on this one. With art and illustration having so many possibilties.. there DOES seem to be a growing "popular" styles out there. I guess directors know what sells! (?)