Monday, July 15, 2013

A Cannonball from Zim

Pirate sketch via
 This little fellow was inspired by a new issue of an old book by Eugene Zimmerman--the great comic artist.
If you've followed my blog, you know that the "little guys" feature prominently here and in my art. This book is not only full of those fellows, it is packed with fascinating writing and helpful advice for artists.

From Picture This Press, the Lost Art Books series "collects and preserves the works of illustrators and cartoonists from the first half of the 20th century". Definitely a publisher worth supporting.
Spent the weekend reading and learning from Zimmerman's humor, philosophy, and art tips. Like Loomis' Fun with a Pencil, this book is full of powerful stuff cloaked in humor. It might seem quaint in delivery, but Zimmerman's wisdom-waters run deep and refreshing.

  And the little guys he drew are some of the best!

Thanks for the visit--hope you found it interesting

Friday, July 12, 2013

Lantern Fascination

Lantern sketch via
Lantern sketch. Brush and ink, watercolor.
I notice recurring motifs in artist's works--Heath Robinson drew lots of patches and pitchers; Rackham had his pollard oaks.
Not putting myself on their level, but I noticed lanterns show up frequently--not really consciously--in my pictures.
So I dragged all my sketchbooks to the couch--even ones from my youth--and proved that beyond a doubt. There are a lot of them.

 Maybe the fascination comes from this one:
Great Grandpa's signal lantern from when he worked on the railroad. He gave it to me before he died--I loved him and treasure it. Not sure that's enough of a reason to include them so often though.
At any rate, I've posted some lantern sketches before, as prelims for a project, but here are a few more, past and present:

 One from art school years.

One from my younger days.

In thinking about the symbolism of lanterns in literature and art, I figure they most likely represent truth, or the light of God, or wisdom. But I'm guessing. Most of mine were drawn without really thinking, and without resource.

From a older watercolor illustration (unpublished).

From a random sketchbook page.

Gave in and googled "Tarot symbology of lanterns". This from the Tarot Reading Psychic:
"Power of intuition, truth and courage; hope, healing and the quest for new found enlightenment through spiritual wisdom; new found awareness; a reminder that every dark path has a light" (Really?)
Another simple oldie

Can't remember the title of this one. From the 90's--this pic came from the 
catalog I think. I remember working hard to come up with the face on the lamp.

 Always liked this pen and ink sketch.

Detail from a watercolor done about three years ago.

A sketch fragment

Detail from One-Eyed Wizard via
From a sketch done this week. Lanterns lend themselves to the anthropomorphic pretty well--this one's from a Welsh miner's lamp in my collection.

I've never been much for analyzing my works and the motifs that recur, but I think it's a pretty safe bet that the lantern fascination goes hand in hand with my admiration of the past, and the feeling of being born into the wrong century (or nostalgia for a past life?).

Leaving you with a quote by W.B Yeats:

 “People think  I am merely trying to bring back a little of the old dead beautiful world of romance into this century of great engines and spinning Jinnies. Surely the hum of wheels and clatter of presses, let alone the lecturers with their black coats and tumblers of water, have driven away the goblin kingdom and made silent the feet of the little dancers.”

I can relate. Nothing wrong with shutting off the glare of a computer screen and letting a bit of soft lantern light and a couple of goblins into the room, is there?

As always, thanks for the visit.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Cruikshank Characters: Real and Refreshing

By George Cruikshank via
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 
and check out the work of Larry MacDougall, too.  Here's a link to his blog:

Thanks for reading!

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