Sunday, December 6, 2009
A Sketchy Past reviewed in the New York Times Book Review!
Below is a review of my book, A Sketchy Past, The Art of Peter de Seve, written by Steven Heller, the former art editor of The New York Times Book Review and highly prolific author and editor of countless books on illustration, graphic design and popular culture.
Peter de Sève is much better known than kamishibai artists [a reference from the first section of the article, not shown here] , but he does the same job of telling stories. His numerous covers for The New Yorker tell ironic tales of the city. “Panhandler,” a fanciful drawing of the mythical half man, half goat Pan playing his proverbial pipes on a New York street corner, is as farcical as it is evocative of the real talents who busk for loose change. De Sève’s “Through the Wringer,” showing a flabby naked man walking through an airport metal detector (ignored by all the passers- by), captures the way many people actually feel when going through the ordeal. These and many more illustrations are collected in a gorgeously designed coffee-table book, A SKETCHY PAST: The Art of Peter de Sève (Akileos, $54.95).
The sketches implied in the title are probably the best part. De Sève’s finished pieces are very fluid and impressionistic while totally representational, with hints of caricature at every turn. But his looser sketches are the real masterpieces of visual erudition. He depicts character and expression so completely with only a few well-composed lines and shades. And among the most delightful, in a book that will doubtless serve as a textbook for today’s aspiring artists, are production sketches for the animated “Ice Age” films, for which he designed the amazing characters (under the supervision of the director Chris Wedge, who wrote the book’s foreword). Although de Sève is certainly a people person, drawingwise, I haven’t seen such a master with animals since John James Audubon, if Audubon had done caricatures of prehistoric creatures, that is.