Saturday, June 21, 2014


This Calvin & Hobbes comic strip-- one of my favorites-- is taped above my desk to remind me of Thoreau's important maxim: "Simplify, simplify."

The strip contains only one word which is repeated once in each panel.  The word never changes but its meaning does.

I am so inspired by the crystalline perfection of this structure, and so filled with admiration for its simple beauty, that I am going to skip my customary bloviation and shut up right here.

Monday, June 16, 2014


When the very first art teacher commanded the very first art student to learn anatomy, it began a long, long search for shortcuts. 

Anatomical study from George Bridgman's life drawing class, 1911

Thousands of years later, art history is still littered with failed attempts at shortcuts on anatomy.   Artists have tried concealing their ignorance by using heavy shadows or excessive random lines or a soft focus.  They have tried concealing hands in pockets, or cropping pictures to exclude difficult parts, but their weakness shows through.

Yet, consider the drawings of Jack Kirby:

Kirby invented his own version of anatomy, and while it is often inaccurate, it seems just as persuasive as the genuine anatomy found in Bridgman, Vesalius or Muybridge.    

Contrast the following study of deltoid, bicep and elbow from George Bridgman's life drawing class...


....with the same body parts in Kirby's drawing:

Kirby's muscles don't connect properly-- he confuses the deltoids and the pectorals, his elbow wouldn't function, and his squiggly lines don't describe any known anatomical purpose.  Yet, this remains a powerfully convincing drawing.

And that's the way it is with Kirby; there is a confidence and virility to his figure drawing that repeatedly powers him through awkward anatomical questions.

Of course, bluffing as often as Kirby did, sometimes his bluffs failed spectacularly:

The fine lines of inker Vince Colletta betrayed structural weaknesses more than bold brush strokes did

I don't know whether Kirby actually understood human muscles, bones and tendons, but his work reminds us that the right attitude can enable artists to get away with expressive liberties that other artists cannot.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


Regular readers know that I am a big fan of the brilliant Richard Thompson.   I recently had the pleasure of working with five other fans to compile a book on the Art of Richard Thompson, available from Andrews McMeel on Amazon this fall:

As we get closer to the release date,  I will tell you about the book and its beautiful full color paintings and elaborate illustrations.  But today I'd like to focus instead on the preliminary sketches and doodles that we found littering the floor of Richard's studio like used Kleenex.  

You'll never get closer to Richard's happy genius than in these sketches, often discovered with footprints on them or crumpled and folded from being jammed into old boxes.

The following two sketches were for an illustrated version of Candide that never saw the light of day:

I am generally not a friend of cross hatching, but I have never seen anyone fling cross hatching onto the page with such  audacity. 

Whether a face has been caricatured a million times or never,  Richard's sketches seek out the most fundamental forms and designs from scratch: 

Making even white porcelain look dynamic...

…or a book on the floor look funny

Many a timeless truth was drawn on paper that would have to be upped 3 or 4 grades to satisfy federal standards for toilet paper:

Love comes 

Love goes

There will be time later to focus on Richard's large, finished works but I always feel closer to the DNA in drawings such as these.