Saturday, December 02, 2017

TOMER HANUKA'S PRELIMINARY SKETCHES

This week the Metropolitan Museum of Art opened a major new retrospective of the work of David Hockney,  described as "one of the most notable painters of the 20th century."  The BBC tells us that Hockney's "greatest subject [was] private swimming pools," where he captures "something as impossible to fix as light on water."


Personally, I think illustrator Tomer Hanuka did a better job of capturing light on a swimming pool in this preliminary sketch for a movie poster:


Note how Hanuka's loose, quicksilver line suggests the essence of his subject:


Until the Metropolitan Museum of Art announces its major retrospective of Hanuka's work, I'll use this space to share a few things.

At the recent CTN animation expo in Los Angeles, I had the pleasure of meeting Hanuka and hearing his excellent talk about his series of posters for classic movies.  For example, he re-invented the poster for Hitchcock's Psycho...


...with this powerful composition:


As stark as this composition is, it contains numerous subtle touches that contribute to its potency.  For example, Hanuka's keen eye picked up on the dripping tile wall, still wet from the interrupted shower.


Other smart touches include the keyhole perspective, the shower curtain tangled around the woman's ankles, and the confined space, all of which give the poster a chilling intimacy.  Compare its eroticism to the original poster, where a plain photo of Janet Leigh in a bra once passed for titillation.  What a difference good design can make!

Here is the final version:


Hanuka reinvented the poster for Dr. Strangelove, from this:


... to this:


Here is an interim version...





and here's the final:



In many of these pictures, I prefer Hanuka's preliminary sketches to the final versions.  They show off the muscle power and the sparkle of the original ideas, before he tightens them up and begins to layer them with complex shapes, details and afterthoughts.  The great illustrator Robert Fawcett wrote, "A design started tentatively rarely gains in vigor later.  In anticipation of the dilution which I knew would later take place, the first draft was put down with an almost savage intensity...."

Hanuka's preliminary sketches are so strong, they help glue together final images that could easily fragment.

Preliminary

Final


Preliminary

Final

It was a treat to see these earlier drafts at the CTN expo and hear Hanuka discuss his approach.





49 comments:

MORAN said...

Thanks for posting. Hanuka does the sexiest work today. It's good to see what his preliminaries look like.

Donald Pittenger said...

Insightful quote from Fawcett. Distills a whole array of things that I (someone "trained" in commercial art, but who never practiced it) might have been vaguely aware of, but never pulled together in my own mind.

chris bennett said...

Thanks David for another engaging post. Although I do not agree that Hanuka's take on the Strangelove is an improvement on the original (I find it visually confusing and what compositional organisation it does have fails to express its theme), I do however, believe his Psycho poster is far superior to the shallow photo-paste job, for all the reasons you have mentioned and a few more besides.

Anonymous said...

I like that Strangelove drawing with the yellow background best, before Hanuka applied all that the color. The simpler version shows off his draftsmanship. Beautiful, sensuous line!

JSL

Anonymous said...

PS-- hilarious point about Hockney, I agree.

JSL

Matt Dicke said...

Great to see Tomer showcased. He is a modern master for sure- and one of the nicest guys too.

Alberto Gomez said...

What an unfortunate comparison you did with that first example you gave. I'll help you with the research: https://www.pinterest.es/larand49/david-hockney-pool-pictures/?lp=true

David Apatoff said...

MORAN-- I agree, Hanuka does seem to have a flair for sultry drawing that stands out today when so much of illustration and comic art seems to have a high school boy's view of sexuality. As far as the eye can see, there is a wasteland of corseted barbarian women and spandex heroines with tiny waists and balloon breasts. I find popular illustrators such as Olivia laughably adolescent. But you can almost see the steam rising off of some of Hanuka's pictures.

Donald Pittenger-- Thanks, I'm glad you find Fawcett's point helpful. That maxim is just one of his many insights that have served me well over the years.

Chris Bennett-- I understand what you mean about the Dr. Strangelove poster; like other work by Hanuka, it gets harder to read as it gets more complicated, and Hanuka does have a fondness for details. (One of my favorite works is his simpler NYer cover where he exercises more restraint: http://meathaus.com/wp-content/uploads/tomer-hanuka-storm-print.jpg ) But in fairness, I think the small image on my blog makes it more difficult to decipher. Also, while the reason for the woman straddling the bomb may not be readily apparent, Hanuka's discussion included stills from the movie of Tracy Reed who played the secretary to George C. Scott's General Buck Turgidson. Kubrick's film was commenting on the primitive macho motivations behind the nuclear standoff and he had Reed prancing around in a skimpy bikini for the generals who thumped their chests all bespangled with medals. In that sense, I think Hanuka's poster was more true to Kubrick's intent than the original poster.


Laurence John said...

i can't work out what on earth is going on with the woman's anatomy in the Psycho poster.

David Apatoff said...

Laurence John-- Actually, the anatomy was one of the things I liked most about the Psycho poster. Unlike the Strangelove poster, where the figures were complete and crisp and tightly rendered, the Psycho poster gives us a partial glimpse-- one we weren't supposed to get-- through a half-opened door.

The killer is almost a silhouette, a dark, faceless form going about the manual labor of hoisting the dead woman's body. By contrast the woman, lying on her back, is pale, naked and helpless-- a real yin and yang dichotomy. The features that you find confusing may be the very same features that convince me she is dead; her arm splayed back at that uncomfortable angle, the highly uncomfortable bend in her back as he tries to lift her like a sack of potatoes-- if there were any life left in her, her muscles would rebel at such treatment. But to me it looks like Hanuka has succeeded in turning her into a jumble of lifeless limbs, and then partially obscured those limbs with the door. Personally, I wish he would use that oblique approach more often. He has the technical skill and the knowledge of anatomy to render full, realistic figures (as in the Strangelove poster) but I think his work is more powerful when he merely suggests key elements, as in this case. I'm sure people here are tired of me quoting Walt Whitman: "I swear I see what is better than to tell the best, It is always to leave the best untold." At least, that's my personal taste.

David Apatoff said...

JSL-- I agree, I actually like that version most, where Hanuka's line isn't competing with those colors.

Matt Dicke-- Yes, I was very impressed by what a nice guy Hanuka turned out to be. One can never tell...

Alberto Gomez-- I agree that the example of Hockney I used was not charitable. However, I stand by my original point. None of the examples at the link you supplied (including the many that were not actually by Hockney) changed my view. I'm a big fan of Hockney's earlier work, and I found his first impressions of sunny California, contrasted with his upbringing in England, quite striking. But I fear that too many decades as a celebrity has had an adverse impact on his work. (Irving Stone wrote that "When an artist's stomach becomes too full, he starts to create at the wrong end.") It seems to me that each new iteration from Hockney became smaller and less important, while simultaneously becoming a safer investment for the wealthy collectors, whose money was slowly poisoning him. I found his collages of polaroid photographs to be minor, and his book about Vermeer and the camera obscura to be tiresome, a waste of energy that would have been better spent getting back up on the horse and making important art. He checked into the retirement home of art way too early. His most recent work in pastel colors reminds me of patterns I've seen on shirts sold in tourist shops in Bermuda.

I like some of his swimming pool paintings better than others, but as a general matter I find them heavy footed and labored compared to that nimble, spontaneous line that Hanuka used to capture light on water.

Tom said...

Hi David

Totally off topic but have you seen the these war paintings by Mathurin Mehert? He also did wonderful paintings of the people of Brittany. I really like the color and the quality of light.

https://www.google.com/search?q=mathurin+meheut+war+paintings&client=safari&rls=en&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiOiKu7ivjXAhUHMd8KHZjtDDgQ_AUICigB&biw=1440&bih=723#imgrc=3r_aNs0OuaRxIM:

https://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&biw=1440&bih=723&tbm=isch&sa=1&ei=PUwpWtPeF83E_QaQuZGADA&q=mathurin+meheut+brittany&oq=mathurin+meheut+brittany&gs_l=psy-ab.3...297739.304619.0.305160.21.21.0.0.0.0.163.1314.19j2.21.0....0...1c.1.64.psy-ab..0.1.102...0i30k1j0i24k1.0.KRje92QjWhE

Tom said...

Here's one more link from a blog post the tells you a little about him.

http://andreasdeja.blogspot.com/2013/02/mathurin-meheut.html

Li-An said...

I like Hanuka’s work but I think he missed completely the subject for Psycho. As everybody knows the movie in our day, showing this part has no interest. Suggesting an outside viewer is irrelevant if you know what it is about here. The original poster has little interest but I saw better hommage to Psycho. It’s like Hanuka did not understand the movie. Good composition is not enough.

MORAN said...

The Psycho poster is awesome. You're missing the whole point. We re all outside viewers who see something horrible we weren't supposed to see. Hanuka got the movie perfect. That first poster is a waste, just a girl in a bra.

kev ferrara said...
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David Apatoff said...

Kev Ferrara-- If I understand your description, what you are calling "the big round protrusion of her pelvic bone, in particular, sticking out of the stomach," is really her rib cage which projects upward because her latissimus dorsi is folded over the murderer's hand. Unlike you, I was impressed by the drawing; Hanuka chose a pose with extreme foreshortening; the body is mostly obscured so there are only selected glimpses of limbs peeking out from behind the door, the killer and the bathtub. Moreover, the body has to convey limp lifelessness, so it's in an unnatural, peculiar pose; and because Hanuka chose to conceal the faces for dramatic effect, he relinquished the most obvious guideposts that a less talented artist would employ to explain the pose. "Tough going" indeed, but that's the challenge Hanuka chose for himself. I wish others today would choose similarly ambitious challenges, but I doubt many could pull it off as well.

kev ferrara said...
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David Apatoff said...

Kev Ferrara-- As I read your exegesis on Gray's anatomy, my mind kept drifting back to the comments of a very wise man who once explained why it didn't matter that Frazetta's anatomy didn't make sense. He claimed that anatomical precision could be compromised to aid a composition, or for effects that make the picture "go." His exact words, as I recall them, were: "Art has its own physics; aesthetic symbolism. Aesthetic symbolism determines appearance in art, not physics. If you want actual visual accuracy, get your vision checked then take a walk with your eyes open."

I can't for the life of me remember who said that. Can you help me recall?

Anonymous said...

Weird examples to choose. I like a lot of Hanuka's other stuff but the yellow Dr. Strangelove and maybe the preliminary for the MIT magazine are the only things I like in this post. Janet Leigh looks like she's made out of play-dough and the Graduate has composition and perspective issues that he addressed in the final poster. The Hockney seems cherry picked; the painting only makes sense as a study of pattern within the context of his larger body of work. Portrait of an Artist or John St Clair Swimming would make more sense. Maybe it would be better to write about what he said in his talk, rather than starting off with a distracting jab against Hockney. If you're serious about comparing how they do water, maybe do a post about just that. Or compare some of Hockney's digital work to Hanuka's digital work.

chris bennett said...

David, I have to agree with Kev about the Psychopotatoes (along with his point that it does give the plot's game away). Although the fact I liked the poster as a whole does seem to endorse what you have just said about art's inner self-consistency, in this particular instance it is a case of me being prepared to put up with it rather than suspend my disbelief.

David Apatoff said...

Anonymous-- On the subject of Hockney, I have already explained why I think Hockney's swimming pool pictures became increasingly lazy and minor as the decades rolled on (see my response to Alberto Gomez, above). In my view, once Hockney was certified a Genius, contemporary art buyers could stop really looking, and could reflexively quiver in ecstasy over each new iteration. It's fine with me that you can identify one or two better examples from Hockney's hundreds of swimming pool drawings and paintings. I understand why you would prefer that I use "John St. Clair Swimming" from 1972. But from my perspective there are far more uninspired, lifeless, overvalued examples that were more representative (Peter Getting Out of Nick’s Pool, Picture of a Hollywood Swimming Pool).

Why start off with a "distracting jab against Hockney"? Because I was watching Hanuka's slide presentation and was impressed by the way he'd captured light reflecting off a swimming pool with rapid gestures on a preliminary study that no one was supposed to see. He was banging out sketches on a deadline for yeoman's pay, yet he came up with a solution that was not stereotypical, one that I found highly observant, and one that-- to his credit-- was reduced to its simplest ingredients. I began thinking about other artistic treatments of water and of swimming pools, and of course I immediately thought about Hockney, who spent so many decades painting swimming pools for which he got paid a king's ransom and was awarded a Metropolitan retrospective (One art critic coos: "There’s no one who can capture water quite like Hockney. Tantalising and hypnotic, and oh so refreshing!") I thought, "well, here's an unjust imbalance in the universe" and decided to say so out loud. It may well be that Hockney was playing sophisticated internal mind games with his swimming pools; my point is that he stopped looking outward and mostly produced what, for all external purposes are merely decorative pieces, not as observant or as clever as Hanuka's sketch.

Chris Bennett: If it will make you feel better about Hanuka giving away the plot, he said in his presentation that these were commemorative posters about classical movies where everyone already knew the plot. His client was not worried about "spoiler alerts" regarding the surprise ending of a famous movie more than 50 years old.

Sidharth Chaturvedi said...

Agreed about the weird anatomy as well. I couldn't see it at all even after reading Kev's comment explaining what was going on there. Only got it after looking at the prelim sketch again.

David, Frazetta's anatomy almost always communicated what was happening in the first glance- pose, structure, tension, movement, mood, all hit you with crystal clarity before a vivisection reveals the little ways he's drawn something 'wrong' to make it work. If the first (and second, and third...) reaction is confusion, then the composition wasn't aided by compromising the drawing.

David Apatoff said...

Sidharth Chaturvedi-- Wow, this is going to be a mistake. I'm not afraid to antagonize Hockney fans, but when I antagonize Frazetta fans....

I agree with what you write about Frazetta's anatomy communicating what is happening in the first glance. That's, I think, because Frazetta was the master of the primordial thrust and the singular priapic monolith. His specialty was muscular figures with their swords raised to the sky. You would never see him attempt the kind of problem that Hanuka created for himself in that Psycho poster: a twisted pose viewed in extreme foreshortening from above, mostly obscured so there are only selected glimpses of limbs peeking out from behind the door, the killer and the bathtub, with faces concealed for dramatic effect. That kind of restraint was alien to Frazetta. If you suggested that he do such a picture, he'd say, "Why would I want to do that?"

Perhaps you agree with him. But I'd ask you to consider whether Hanuka's more complex and oblique treatment doesn't display different but nevertheless valuable artistic talents. Consider, for example, Hanuka's highlight on the wet shower tiles in the background. Hanuka's rapid vertical strokes economically create the impression of water rivlets on the wall, interrupted only by the horizontal highlights reflected on the tile. That tells us about the steamy condition of the room. Can you imagine Frazetta trying to deliver that kind of information with that kind of economy? He would employ his typical overworked cross hatched background, supplemented with cartoon clouds of steam. He would deliver far less atmosphere with considerably more effort.

Or when it comes to the figures themselves, Frazetta would have depicted them in full thrust, with the weapon prominently raised, or perhaps the blood spurting on the downstroke, with Janet Leigh flying through the air. We've all seen it a dozen times. Hanuka chose a quieter, and more ominous, moment afterward. It is subtler and deliberately harder to read. You may think that's a mistake. I kind of like it.

Bottom line, I think Frazetta and Hanuka both took artistic liberties, slightly distorting figures on behalf of different missions. I think artists have to earn the right to take such liberties, and I think both Frazetta and Hanuka did.

Sidharth Chaturvedi said...

David, you seem to think I was saying that every picture should be handled like a Frazetta. While I disagree about Frazetta's ability to pull off subtlety, I only brought him up as a point of comparison because you did (and by the way, I ain't mad ;)). I'd make the same case for any artist that took liberties with drawing to make a strong, clear effect. And I don't mean that the full figure needs to be presented in profile so that we're completely unchallenged and wander off, bored- only catching glimpses of a limb here and there, the edge of a concealed face, a foreshortened torso, the hints about the steamy room, can all add up to a powerful image that's engaging because you have to fill in those gaps yourself. What's left out is what gives it that mystery, not being confused by what's actually been drawn. Which is trouble I have with the Psycho poster- it's not that there's anything wrong with the framing and mystery, but that the overall effect is compromised because we land on the key figure and get sucked in by the confusion. To further that point, I think the sketch works much better than the final because of all the things you like about it, and because some key hints about the anatomy along her back make what're looking at clearer.

David Apatoff said...

Sidharth Chaturvedi-- I'm glad to hear that you're not one of those Frazetta grudge holders. I've had my full allotment of death threats for 2017.

Sorry if I gave the impression that I believe you want every picture to be handled like a Frazetta-- I was only trying to say that Frazetta's compromises in anatomy tell us "in the first glance" what's happening because that's Frazetta's goal. He wants what you've called "a strong clear effect" and he achieves it. On the list of the top 500 adjectives describing Frazetta's work, you would not find the word "ambiguous." But as you note,ambiguity can be a source of great power and mystery for other artists.

When you talk about being "sucked in by the confusion," do you think-- subliminally-- that we get nervous about how much time it takes us to sort out that jumble of limbs because we the viewer has stumbled across a scene he or she is not supposed to see, and if we linger too long trying to sort it out, that dark figure might just look up and see us standing in the doorway?

Tom said...

I have to agree with Kev, Chris and Laurence on the anatomy issue. Anatomy should help define and clarify what a body is doing. If the viewer starts trying to figure out what they are seeing you have already lost them. That is one of Thomas Aquinas three criteria of art, "claritas" The movie posters make more sense now that you told us they are commemorative posters. Without having seen or heard of the movies they would be even more opaque.

I also agree with Kev, the drawing of Sellers is great, it is truly the one thing that caught and held my eye when looking at the images in the post.

kev ferrara said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom said...

"The artistic worth is in the synthesis, which comes from a talent more profound than creativity."

Wow that's good!

David Apatoff said...

Kev Ferrara-- Ahhh the indignant Frazetta fan base has awoken from its "dreamlike state."

I agree that there is "a fundamental difference here in the talents involved," but not in the way you suggest. Any honest comparison of the two talents would require a level playing field, but it's difficult to find one because the artists have such different strengths. The disconnect is apparent from the very different questions you propose for testing Hanuka and Frazetta. You raise all kinds of bogus questions for Hanuka's poster ("the body seems too thick to be Norman Bates, who was really skinny. Well, I guess it must be a poster for the new cable series or something...") which are irrelevant to the Frazetta, or to the artistic considerations we are discussing. If you really want to compare apples to apples, raise the same kinds of questions about Frazetta's horrible poster for the Clint Eastwood movie, The Gauntlet. Do you consider that a good likeness of Clint Eastwood?

It's difficult to settle on a common testing ground because I can't recall Frazetta ever attempting a picture as complex as Hanuka's Psycho poster, or even a pose as difficult as Janet Leigh's body in Hanuka's poster. I love Frazetta's work but let's face it, his trademark picture is a single vertical phallic column, preferably in the center of the composition ( such as https://static01.nyt.com/images/2010/05/11/arts/11frazetta_CA0/11frazetta_CA0-popup.jpg and
https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0894/8394/products/Frazetta-Fine-art-prints-023_large.jpg?v=1501270665 and http://frankfrazetta.org/images/frank_frazetta_sungoddess.jpg and dozens of his other most popular pictures. When he deviates from his vertical column, his pictures often begin to go flaccid. For example, if you want to talk about work that is "bolted together piecemeal," Frazetta's few complicated compositions are bolted together at least as conspicuously as Hanuka's ( https://pmcdeadline2.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/frank_frazetta_kaneonthegoldensea.jpg?w=235&h=300 ; and https://i.pinimg.com/originals/be/2b/1a/be2b1a6293e569bb8c563ced757de1ae.jpg . If you believe "artistic worth is in the synthesis," how do those Frazetta pictures fit in your "cauldron of synthesizing feeling and knowledge"?

Frazetta's idea of a psychologically complex picture was two monsters fighting in front of a huge brain. Frazetta's idea of erotic art is people having sex. Hanuka's work is more layered and less obvious. There is a primal simplicity to Frazetta's work which I agree can be very powerful, and is instinctively brilliant, but I don't think his work is smart or ambitious in the same way that Hanuka's is.




kev ferrara said...
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kev ferrara said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kev ferrara said...

... oh, and Happy Hanukkah!

chris bennett said...

*** # ***
*** ^ ***
** ^^^ **
* ^^^^^ *
---VVV---

David Apatoff said...

Kev Ferrara: On the subject of Hockney, I could easily have offered several swimming pool paintings equally bad. A syndicated cartoonist once told me, "You're only as good as the worst work that you're willing to let go out the door." Unlike that cartoonist, Hockney had no daily deadlines to satisfy. Unlike that cartoonist, Hockney didn't need the money. If he wanted to be more selective he could've released one masterpiece per year. I'm glad Hockney is enjoying his life in southern California but I fear he has become a lotus eater.

On the subject of Frazetta: Yes, I'm certain you "could write a post a week for six years on Frazetta's merits and would never get to [his clinkers]," but averting your eyes from his clinkers will eventually impair your critical faculties. Before long, you might find yourself accusing other artists of "bolting pictures together piecemeal" while ignoring the very same behavior from your personal gods. (Is it true that the golden pigment in Kane's "golden sea" comes from the rust flaking off Frazetta's industrial sized bolts?) You might also find yourself harshly judging artists who attempt difficult and complex poses, while excusing anatomical weaknesses in less ambitious poses from your hero. (You'd think Frazetta would've learned from his sad efforts to tilt a face backward in Conan the Warrior or in his first iteration of Conan the Buccaneer that he shouldn't attempt it again. When he revisited that angle in the Kane painting he had the good sense to make the figure look away to hide his nostrils, but it still wasn't enough to conceal the strucural weaknesses). But the greatest risk from writing for six years without ever confronting Frazetta's weaknesses is that the fogged lenses of your "aesthetic reverie" will eventually narrow your range of artistic qualities. Remember the wise words of Seneca: "If you would judge, investigate."

Hanuka and Frazetta are attempting very different things. Hanuka has a steamy, sultry, psychological dark style. Frazetta's figures are 50% vertebrae, 48% muscle, and 2% brains. Hanuka puts figures in complex, unusual, obscured positions of which Frazetta could never conceive. Rather than assert that Frazetta is "better" with anatomy, how about if we just accept that the two are excellent in their own ways?

On the subject of Hanuka: the pictures that I've shown here aren't my "personal exemplars," they're the images Hanuka employed in his recent lecture at CTN. I felt they were worth promoting here because they show his interesting thinking process in preliminary sketches that the public would never otherwise see. I understand your feelings about the dangers of digital tools-- I've voiced many of them here myself over the years. But if you keep your eyes open, I think you'll find that over the years the medium has matured. In my opinion talented artists-- such as Hanuka or the brilliant Nathan Fowkes or Tom Fluharty-- have learned to use those tools to achieve remarkable results. And in my view, a final image is self-legitimizing-- regardless of whether the artist used photo reference, or digital tools, or magic spells to get there.

On the subject of monkeys: You might let a few of them out of their cage from time to time. They are a marvelous antidote for the rigidly methodical mind.

David Apatoff said...

Kev Ferrara-- After I sent the above response, I noted that you'd taken down your message to which it responds. Sorry to be slow in replying, the practice of law has absorbed all my free time recently. If you don't think this line is worth pursuing, I'll take my reply down too.

kev ferrara said...

..figures in complex, unusual, obscured positions of which Frazetta could never conceive.

I'm pretty sure you mean that you, David, could never conceive of such figures, right? I mean, you're not seriously claiming to know the limits of Frazetta's imagination, are you? Because, wouldn't that be tantamount to claiming an equivalent imagination to him?

Regarding the wielding of that Seneca quote, beware; many weapons of the tongue are all sword and no hilt.

We're too far apart to find common ground on the matter at hand. However, picking through the blast field, four erroneous presumptions about me are worth correcting... 1. I've been using photoshop for 20 years, and I know digital workflow intimately. 2. I'm a fan of both Fluharty and Fowkes. 3. I'm not representative of the Frazetta fanbase you have in your head. 4. I like Hanuka's style.

fyi, I deleted my prior posts because I don't like criticizing living artists in a permanent way. I'd rather such critical discussions be for a small audience, and as ephemeral as a normal conversation in life. (Critiques of the "fine art world" are exceptions.)

Tom said...

David said
“I'm glad Hockney is enjoying his life in southern California but I fear he has become a lotus eater”

He has actually return to England, and is now a country squire, taking walks, wearing tweed and drinking in the pub.

David Apatoff said...

Kev Ferrara-- Well, let's put it this way: if Frazetta ever conceived of a comparably complex pose at a comparably difficult angle, he never chose to attempt it, as far as I can tell. Perhaps he conceived of one, but didn't think such poses were suitable for his brand of picture. Perhaps he didn't have the talent to pull it off. The only reason for invoking Frazetta was to demonstrate what I thought was a double standard: if we're going to criticize Hanuka's drawing for omitting a latissimus dorsi fold, then we'd better apply the same harsh standard to the beloved Frazetta who had his own problems with anatomy despite the fact that he trafficked in much more straightforward poses. If we're going to criticize Hanuka for his fealty to a movie, then we'd better select a movie poster example for Frazetta too. A little consistency, please.

Didn't mean to focus so much on Frazetta, I only chose him because you've said you respect his work. Perhaps next time we can use Dunn or Sorolla as the comparison.

As for not criticizing living artists, I have a different view. I'm certainly opposed to gratuitous cruelty, and I would never make fun of students or unsuccessful artists. But on the other hand, I'm not playing the role of a calming goat here.

I think we've witnessed a decline in the general quality of drawing and painting. There are many possible explanations: the ignorance of a distracted audience, the audacity and resourcefulness of shameless artistic impresarios, the lure of dazzling new technological media, the lack of standards in the wake of several generations of de-definition of art, or even the zodiac or climate change.

But whatever the reason, I think it has been facilitated by today's "I'm OK, you're OK" attitude toward art. (Compare that with the early Society of Illustrators annuals when juries were openly critical of themselves and each other.) I think we can be open minded and tolerant of the great variety in art without abandoning standards altogether. I think it makes for better art when we can say out loud that we think the emperor has no clothes (even if the New Yorker fawns over his wardrobe). The trick is explaining your views and making them stick.

Tom-- That's very interesting because his most recent work on his website ( http://www.davidhockney.co/works/paintings/10s ) is all tropical pastels and Bermuda foliage. Do you know why he moved back? This reminds me of how Gauguin, as he died on his south pacific island, was working of a painting of the French countryside.








Tom said...

Here is a recent article on Hockney in the Guardian, lots more articles there.

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2012/jan/16/david-hockney-landscapes

I think he is painting and living in Yorkshire.

David wrote

"And in my view, a final image is self-legitimizing-- regardless of whether the artist used photo reference, or digital tools, or magic spells to get there."

It's interesting how older artist choose simpler and less charged, "subjects," to express what are in fact simpler ideas about reality but in fact demand greater artistic skill and conceptual strength to execute.

and you wrote,
"I think we've witnessed a decline in the general quality of drawing and painting. There are many possible explanations:"

Maybe if artists where more interested in the "why" of beauty, the demands of such a question might change how they think about making art. It would be a totally different demand from our current marketplace.

Still interested in what you think of Mathurin Mehert. He did some drawings of the front in WW 1.




kev ferrara said...
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Laurence John said...

Kev: "Hanuka's Akira poster style is, to me, his metier. It's fingerpainted and agglomerated…”

doesn’t help that you keep deleting your comments, but i’m not sure what you’re getting at with the term ‘finger painted’

David Apatoff said...

Tom-- Thanks for an interesting article about Hockney. I'd note that the art in the article is circa 2012, while the tropical print work on his web site is circa 2016, so it's hard to guess what mode he is in now.

I regret to say that the art featured in the Guardian article, like the recent art on the web site, doesn't impress me much. When I'd learned he'd returned to cold and rainy England I thought he might have turned a corner artistically, but apparently not. The Guardian claims Hockney "can draw like Ingres" but I've seen no evidence of that. The Guardian says he has reinvented himself as a full blooded landscape artist, "cruising quiet lanes in a van bedecked with video cameras," but I find his later work to be the kind of agreeable, mild stuff you'd find at a neighborhood amateur art fair. (see for example http://www.davidhockney.co/works/paintings/10s) . The fact that people write about Hockney with flowery prose like, "He eschews the misty elegiac pastoral mode" simply persuades me that someone with a contrary opinion should speak up (despite Kev Ferrara's admittedly more benign view that he doesn't like "criticizing living artists").

I looked into Mathurin Meheut when you first suggested him; I had been unfamiliar with his work, thanks. He covers a range of styles, but I'd say the work I like best is his simplified drawings, those bold charcoal pictures that remind me of Noel Sickles. Sometimes they have a little color added but the designs are always strong. His corresponding paintings are kind of flat and graphic, which appeals to me as I am always a sucker for good design. The more he molds and develops the pictures into more realistic images, the more my interest wains. But I think he is an interesting addition and I will spend more time learning about his work.

Kev Ferrara-- I don't think it's surprising that Frazetta should be used as a milestone for judging other artists. But in this case, he got dragged in because I thought you previously seemed willing to wink and disregard Frazetta' s flaws and inconsistencies (http://illustrationart.blogspot.com/2015/08/frazettas-unrealistic-realism.html) yet you wanted to hold Hanuka to the anatomical veracity of a medical school class. If Frazetta can stray from photographic accuracy for the sake of a picture's mood, so can Hanuka. And in case I didn't make it clear, in my personal opinion the mood of that Psycho poster is top notch-- dark, imaginative, scary and beautifully designed. But once again, these are not my "favorite Hanuka images," they are his preliminary sketches and I applaud him for sharing them with the public.

Toth is an interesting comparison with Hanuka. I can see a little bit of it in the flat blacks and whites of the Psycho poster, but for the most part, I think of Hanuka's line as sensuous and sensitive, a line that is willing to exaggerate nature's curls and forms (as in that Strangelove poster) while Toth seems much blunter, a no-nonsense draftsman. Can you share more?

Laurence John-- I'm not sure deleting his comments makes much of a difference. I read Kev's point about "finger painting" three times before he took it down, because I take him very seriously, but I still couldn't figure out what he meant.

kev ferrara said...
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Tom said...

You where right David. I google it:

"In November 2015 Hockney sold his house in Bridlington, a five-bedroomed former guesthouse, for £625,000, cutting all his remaining ties with the town. He retains a studio in London and a house in Malibu, California. "

The only time i come across his name is when reading the Guardian!

Laurence John said...

Kev, i get now what you mean by finger painted, and it probably goes some way to explaining the process behind the Akira poster.

for me, the poster communicates virtually nil on any level, except i can get that it’s a psychedelic sci-fi film, that (probably) includes much violence and chaos. but as a composition it’s just confusion.

kev ferrara said...
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kev ferrara said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Frank might have benefitted from a lesson with Gil Kane on the Nostril Shot .