Monday, November 26, 2018


George Lichty is an important data point for those trying to chart the line between loose drawing and drawing like a careless slob.

Not everyone cares about that line. This may be due to the Great Acceleration: internet audiences with unlimited content and shorter attention spans, less patience for pictures that don't move, a coarsening of taste. It may also be due to a lack of interest in the kinds of pleasures that excellent drawing can provide.

Or, it could be the result of increasing shamelessness on the part of certain artists.  Andy Warhol was not much of a draftsman but said that "art has to transcend mere drawing" and replaced it with photomechanical reproduction.  This week Holland Carter of the New York Times pronounced Warhol  "the most important American artist of the second half of the 20th century."

Whatever the reason, many artists, illustrators and cartoonists don't seem to take drawing seriously, and settle for rudimentary linework.

George Lichty's style was famously loose and slapdash, yet maintained genuine quality.

Yet, if you take a close look you can see there's a whole lot of shrewd observation in those hasty lines.  Just look at Lichty's assortment of descriptive hands holding cigars, holding note pads, or clasped in natural poses.

These hands have the ease of random squiggles, but they are not.

Beautiful brushwork, like a zen master.

Lichty knew exactly how to draw a hand clasping a cigar before he reverted to this shorthand version.
Other telltale signs of quality in his drawing: note how the pipes and cigars set to the side in those mouths and the character of the smoke.

Here's a book with character

And a lumpy tree with sparse, scraggly leaves-- just enough for background atmosphere, and no more.

Lichty is a good reminder that drawing can be light and breezy, yet still be a vehicle for imagination and intelligence.