Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Let's face it-- artists love to draw faces. Penetrating eyes, distinctive noses, expressive mouths-- these are often an artist's richest lode.

But when that face turns away and the artist no longer has facial features with all their emotion and meaning-- what does that leave? Just the simple line of a human cheek. What can an artist possibly make of that?

Well, my friends, that depends on the artist.

Look at the knowledge that Alex Raymond conveys with this sensitive drawing. This cheek demonstrates more wisdom than most artists could convey drawing a full face.

Next, Austin Briggs applies a cruder tool and a simpler approach to the same subject, yet still manages to convey just as much information. As I said in an earlier post, I think this is a thrilling piece of draughtsmanship.

In the following detail from an illustration by Robert Fawcett, the person drawn from behind was obviously a much tougher artistic challenge than the full faces drawn from the front.

Finally, the great Mort Drucker infuses personality and vitality into a face that is not only viewed from behind, but is also obscured by layers of scuba gear.

Despite the obvious drama of the human face, it can be a far greater challenge to draw the head using just the subtle contour of a cheek. Experienced artists recognize that it is difficult to draw the head from that perspective. For many, the result ends up looking like a blob of pastry dough.

Sometimes it pays to look for artistic greatness in the simplest places. The philosopher Santayana wrote,

Miracles are so-called because they excite wonder.

In unphilosophical minds, rare or unexpected things excite wonder, while in philosophical minds the familiar excites wonder also.

Lots of artists can dazzle you with flashing eyes or a dramatic expression. But the artist who can find the miraculous potential in the humble curve of a cheek and can convey that miracle to you-- that is an artist worth watching.


Mike Bear said...

..Couldn't have been said any better. Your blog is a thing to look forward to every week. A small treat.

Honestly, it's nice to have someone so articulate writing the things I find so interesting. Never once in my Modern Art history course in college was illustration mentioned... it's importance or lack thereof. Art Nouveau was mentioned for a few minutes... I heard Tiffany's name mentioned, but not even a hint at Alphonse Mucha.

It can make one question why they are even interested in illustration, as if it's something that shouldn't be aspired to create. This never disheartened me, of course, and I was thankful to recieve the education that is required to appreciate such things as cubism and dadaism.

Dylan said...

lovely stuff, have you got any more Alex Raymond art, epsecially Rip Kirby?

Anonymous said...

Andrew Wyeth has used this device many times.

David Apatoff said...

Thanks, Mike-- that's nice of you to say

I have long given up trying to make sense of some of the traditional art curricula.

Dylan, I've shown some panels from Rip Kirby in the past, but you are right, Raymond deerves nore. I'll try to put something together.

spacejack said...

All good stuff as usual. I really enjoy looking at the large size scans of Mort Drucker's ink work.

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Anonymous said...

In answer to Mike Bear, I would be very surprised if you ever get illustration mentioned in Modern Art classes. For one thing, illustration has little to do with Cubism, Fauvism, Expressionism, Abstract Expressionism, etc, etc. You probably won't hear Modern Art mentioned in an illustration class either, I know that none of my illustration teachers mentioned it, nor do I believe were they ever inclined to do so. The concerns of illustration are not the same as "Modern Art", the head of the illustration dept. at the college I went to stated to me directly that he believed that illustrators are primarily problem solving driven whereas "fine artists" are self-driven. The problem I have in comparing illustration to fine art is contextual, more often than not illustration is done to tell a story, illuminates text, sells a product directly, etc. whereas a painting by say..Degas is not necessarily concerned with commercial interests. Neither is more valid than the other in my mind, just different. I personally love many illustrators as much as "fine artists". I think Mike Mignola is incredible, but how can you compare his work to someone like Goya? What does pictures of Hellboy bashing monsters (lovely as they are) have to do with the concerns that Rothko had? Was a guy like Edmund Dulac concerned with the same things as Vincent van Gogh when making his book illustrations? That's why you never hear illustration or fine art mentioned in the same classrooms, my illustration courses were geared to getting you ready for commercial work, not making work that was a commentary on the human condition (even though good illustrators do that at times). It would be great if more work was put into the history of illustration and courses were taught on it since when I went to school not a single class was taugh on the topic.

Frank Juarez said...

Great blog. I am new to this blog thing & was wondering how do you add photos to a blog. How do people access your blogs? Do you email the address to them? Any advise is greatly appreciated. Thanks.

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last2talk said...

love rip
thank you

art history

Wackymatt said...

I like your art- it's strange and powerful, especially the drawing about the girl being ganged raped by men. Were you visualizing this?

SarahKennedy said...

wow, these are really just amazing, i love all of them..