Monday, December 28, 2009

On my walls

It's taken me a little longer than usual to post any new drawings due to the fact that most of what I am doing these days is for feature animation and cannot be shared without terrible retribution from on high. So apart from the random drawing (see above), I am constrained to talking about work created by people other than myself, as difficult for me as that may be.
I've been wondering about exactly how to go about it though. After all, there are a LOT of people, dead and alive, whose work I love.
So I've decided to start with artists whose work I own. My goal, apart from the obvious one of showing off my collection, is to hopefully introduce some of you out there to work by artists you may not have heard about until now. I remember the first time I encountered some of this work and each one these artists opened up a new door for me.
I hope one or two of these will do the same for you.

This is a lovely watercolor by Harry Rountree, an illustrator from New Zealand, who had an uncanny gift for anthropomorphising animals. His talent, beyond his incredibly deft hand with the watercolor brush, was his ability to preserve the essence of the animal while still imbuing it with a truly human personality. It's one thing to draw funny animals, but something else entirely to really understand the creature you are exaggerating. Rountree was a naturalist with a sense of humor.

Heinrich Kley. There are very few illustrators I know who don't own the two Dover paperback collections of his work. They are like bibles to me and are so dogeared and tattered, I've had to buy backups. I became aware of Kley's work when some overzealous fan in my high school print shop (I know, what the hell is a print shop?) printed up a huge montage of his drawings on one big yellow sheet. I had the thing hanging over my headboard until I left home to go to college. I've often wondered if that poster functioned in the same way people used to think that if going to bed while listening to a recording of French lessons one could learn fluency in his sleep. All I know is that to this day, I will find myself drawing a familiar figure and flash back to one of the vignettes on that poster.
The drawing above was one of them.

Here is another Kley I picked up a few years ago. My favorite section is the women waving their sashes,
a gem in itself.

And then there is the genius, Winsor McCay. Not the inventor of animation per se, but the guy that showed us what was in store. I see him as one of those freakily gifted humans who pop up every now and then, like Einstein or DaVinci, to give us an evolutionary kick in our pants. This little ink drawing, done on a small yellowed piece of paper, is of Gertie the Dinosaur, and is one of four thousand that McCay drew to create the film. Gertie the Dinosaur represents a major milestone in the history of animation.

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.