Sunday, June 10, 2012

Realistic Vs Cartoony

At 18 or 19 years old, inspired heavily by the works of Norman Rockwell, I focused heavily on drawing photo-realistic artwork.  It used to fascinate me that a human being could draw another human being so accurately.  But once I figured out the technique(and believe me it's a technique, not a talent) I got bored very quickly.  The end result may look amazing, but the process made me feel like a human xerox machine, except less accurate.  It's like copying pixels one by one, for hours at a time, one dot at a time, like a machine.  Really, that's all it is.  Sound like fun?  It's not.  Here's a pencil sketch from when I was about twenty years old:

I learned that photo-realistic artwork requires very little skill, very little thought, just TREMENDOUS PATIENCE.  It's more about pleasing the crowds, less about self accomplishment.  Once I figured that out, whatever mystique Norman Rockwell used to have disappeared immediately. I later found out that he used a projector to shoot photos onto his canvas so that he could literally copy the image.  Lame Norman, very lame.  Ever see a painting of Rockwell's that wasn't photo referenced? Of course, in his day, photography was still a relatively new technology, and realistic drawings at that level of accuracy was a highly celebrated novelty.  Today it's a parlor trick and nobody cares.  At least I don't. 

Since then, I've focused on drawing from my imagination, only studying real life to better my ability to draw from scratch.  To me, art is about expression, about creation.  The process is far more satisfying than the end result.  Sure, a photo-realistic drawing may wow the crowds, but there's nothing quite like the feeling of having built something totally and completely by myself, without the use of drawing aids or parlor tricks, no matter how crappy the end result may be.  I'm prouder of my crappy lunch break napkin sketches than any of the other drawings I did during my Norman Rockwell wannabe phase:
That's why comic book artists like Alex Ross, and to a lesser extent, Adam Hughes never really appealed to me.  I mean, I love their work.  How can anyone say it doesn't look fantastic?  But to me, deep down, I know that all they're really doing is copying photos.


Will Rosado said...

first off, perspective never lies and all those perspective sketches look great. nice work on those.

I was and still am a Rockwell fan. He was a good storyteller and always tried to show the good in people in his illustrations. I think that being an illustrator is hard work especially being as famous and in demand as he was. Back then all those illustrators were household names. People waiting every week or every month to see what these artist would paint next. A lot of these illustrators were trendsetters. Charles Dana Gibson had the Gibson girl. Harrison Fisher had the Fisher girl. Flagg had his girl and so on... Before the full color photo spreads these guys were it.

Rockwell's problem was that once he established himself as a photoreal illustrator that's what the Art Directors and public wanted. I'm sure he was interested in other ways to express himself, but he was trapped. it was a good kind of trap i guess since he was in such demand and worked till the early mid 1970's. his last pieces might have been in 76 or 77...

There were only a handful of guys in the golden age of illustration who were stylist. Check out JC Leyendecker. or Al parker. Coby Whitmore... any of the late 50's to mid 60's illustrators. A lot of those guys did work for womens magazines and painted the pretty girls.

Don't know if you've been to this blog
lot of good stuff there.

here's his flickr collection with tons of illustration.

it's all old stuff and some people might dismiss it but those guys could really compose a picture and made the women look great. Maybe you'll like it, maybe you wont.

darthfurby said...

I'm still a big fan of the classic illustrators.

And I probably shouldn't give Rockwell such a hard time. His work looks great, and he had deadlines to meet, and money to make.

And he made a lot of money.

But producing work the way he did would've suffocated me. And yet for the right money, maybe I could do with a little suffocating. Perhaps it's a necessary evil for certain professionals, but usually you can see the life die out of their work.

I never saw the life die out of Norman's work, but I still found his process horrifying.

Great link by the way, thanks.