Friday, July 19, 2024


 I've previously written about the great Australian illustrator and war artist, Ivor Hele.

A veteran of many bloody battles, Hele's figure studies frequently turned out to be "death" drawings rather than life drawings.  

However, when he returned home to his wife Jean,  Hele drew her in all sorts of domestic situations (some are NSFW):

Putting on her stockings in the morning:

Reading a book:

Reading a book wearing nothing but shoes and socks:


Hele was unambiguous about his interests:

But those interests never eroded his high standards or stopped him from excellent figure drawiung.

Saturday, July 13, 2024


 Not every artist can afford to hire professional models to pose on a model stand in a spacious studio. 

Living in a small apartment, sharing space with relatives (particularly during years of war rationing) artists may still feel the same burning need to record life, and still respond to that need with insightful, excellent drawings. 

I admire the work of English illustrator Raymond Sheppard (1913-1958) who justly earned fame for his illustrations of animals.  He did much of his professional work at the zoo, but when the zoo was closed Sheppard drew his family at home, reading, knitting, napping or even posing.

Sheppard used these life drawings to create genuine challenges for himself.  Note how he draws these family members from difficult angles, testing his powers of observation. 

Unlike professional models, children don't always sit still, so Sheppard had to be prepared to capture his subject quickly:

Sheppard paid a high price for these drawings; he was diagnosed with cancer at age 33 and spent much of his remaining years in pain.  Yet, rather than languish he found it meaningful to devote the rest of his life to making careful, patient drawings such as these life drawings.

Sheppard's self portrait

Tuesday, July 09, 2024


At the height of his career, illustrator Robert Fawcett continued to practice drawing from the model every week.  

He'd have a model come to his studio and at the end of every session he'd lift the lid on the model platform and toss in his drawings for the day.  When he died, there were hundreds and hundreds of life drawings which his widow handed out to his friends and admirers. 

This is a life drawing from Fawcett's days as a teenage student at the Slade School in London, complete with comments from his instructor.  

Here is a sampling of drawings from Fawcett's model platform:


Fawcett's familiarity with the human form helped him block out figures in preliminary layouts for illustrations:

While a student at the Slade School, Fawcett used to complain bitterly about their incessant focus on drawing from the model. Thirty years later, at the top of his profession, he saw new value in the process.

Post script: Fawcett had disdain for artists who spent their time "noodling and polishing simple figure studies."  He said that such studies "might now be blinding in their degree of finish, dazzling in their virtuosity, but we ourselves would be neatly trapped in that comfortable corner from which so many students fail to find the exit."  The following two studies (one version in charcoal, the other in ink) were done for propaedeutic purposes but the third study, more purposeful and strong, seemed closer to Fawcett's natural preferences. 

Wednesday, July 03, 2024



A large percentage of fine drawings by illustrators never see the light of day.  

Professional illustrators, many at the very peak of their profession and working under tight deadlines for other assignments, continued to set aside time for figure studies from the model.  These were solely for the personal benefit of the artist, who felt they were important for continued artistic growth. 

Often piles of drawings were stashed in boxes or discarded.  When the artist passed away, many of these drawings were left behind in their studios.  But I think these studies deserve a wider audience.  

Today's installment is life drawings by Daniel Schwartz.

Friday, June 28, 2024


In the 1950s and 60s, many illustrated magazines went out of business and traditional opportunities for illustrators began to dry up.  Illustrators searched doggedly for new outlets.  

Few artists had ever considered illustrating corporate annual reports containing financial results for shareholders. There seemed to be little potential for creativity there:

But in the hands of imaginative artists, corporate reports turned out to offer surprising opportunities.  Great illustrators such as Daniel Schwartz transformed annual reports, inserting poetry between consolidated balance sheets.  

For example, the Board of Directors of United Foods bragged to its consumers and stockholders that it had hired "noted painter and sculptor" Daniel Schwartz to decorate the United Foods report especially for them:

Schwartz's landscape for the cover for the Amfac Corporate report... 


...was as loose and free as a Degas monoprint (except for the tiny Amfac truck Schwartz added in the corner):


Schwartz brought the aesthetic of a fine artist and gallery painter to a corporate report:

detail from Schwartz's Amfac cover

With a little imagination, Schwartz was able to find as much latitude illustrating corporate reports as artists previously found illustrating fiction for popular magazines.

Ever since the 1960s each generation of illustrators seems to have fresh reasons to fear obsolescence.  New technologies, economic downturns and evolving taste all cut into historical markets.  Yet, the resourcefulness of talented artists has repeatedly been a source of inspiration.  Often the paths they chart seem obvious in hindsight.  

Craig Mullins, who came along after Schwartz,  dabbled with Photoshop during his lunch hour and became one of the first to see the great potential of digital painting for video games, creating a gold rush for illustrators.

Nathan Fowkes, who I think is one of the most talented and genuine illustrators working today, gave an excellent lecture on how artists might continue to "stay relevant" by finding new ways to add value in the face of alarming new technological changes, such as artificial intelligence.  That talk is available on You tube.