|By George Cruikshank via http://tomsarmo.blogspot.com/|
From A Comic Alphabet by George Cruikshank
I love character illustrations and character design, especially those that seem, like Cruikshank's, as unaffected and unpretentious as a sketch. I don't know much about his work process, but the figures seem drawn more from imagination than a reliance on resources.
Now I am all for using resources and do it all the time. It's an essential part of illustration. But there is something about work that springs direct from the artist's brain. Somehow, it reads Genuine.
I've always been intrigued by that, and also ambivalent--I mean, research and resources help make an illustration more convincing, right? Still, this quote by the great illustrator Larry MacDougall resonates:
"What I like best is when the artist is making it all up straight out of his head, without the aid of reference or photographs. Drawings done in this way are the real thing, clear windows into the spirit and character of the illustrator."
(From the book Witching Hour: The Art of Larry MacDougall
I think that's why I love to sketch, and why other artist's sketchbooks fascinate way beyond their finished paintings. For me, it is during the sketching process that the internal critic is silenced--when it's not about what an imaginary (or real) someone might like or dislike or criticize.
But I digress. This post is mostly about a fellow who managed to make characters that seem to be "clear windows" into authenticity. I know these aren't Cruikshank's sketches--they are engravings made from his drawings--and that his original drawings were given over to the engraver for printing. But somehow they still retain the freshness of sketches direct from the head.
A figure from The Streets
It is oft written that Cruikshank did not have much knowledge of anatomy, or even how bodies were put together. Maybe that's the reason his works seem so unpretentious.
Detail of an illustration from Oliver Twist
Look at the stance of Oliver! It's got no trace of formula--doesn't need it.
Fagin in His Cell, from Oliver Twist
Probably my favorite Cruikshank. Perfect in every way.
Check out more of Cruikshank's work here http://www.victorianweb.org/art/illustration/cruikshank/
and check out the work of Larry MacDougall, too. Here's a link to his blog:
Thanks for reading!