Monday, October 21, 2013


Vacationing in Italy, illustrator Bernie Fuchs was struck by these shadows on the wall of a building.  He took this photograph...

...which he later used as reference for this painting:

Fuchs squeezed colors into the painting that were nowhere in the original photograph:

The photo preserved important information, yet the special quality that Fuchs saw in the Italian light, and the hidden forms it revealed, did not come from a camera.  They only emerged after Fuchs digested the photographic information and began his painting. 

Fuchs was trained in traditional drawing and painting skills, without photographs. However, when he worked in a Detroit commercial art studio in the 1950s, he was visited by an illustrator from the famed Cooper Studios in New York who urged him to make more use of photography.  The illustrator explained that all the top illustrators in New York were now relying on photo reference to satisfy modern client demands.  He told Fuchs: "It makes no sense to paint the way you are doing it.  You'll never be able to keep up with the competition."  From that point on, Fuchs used his camera as a reference tool, especially in situations where he had no time to sketch or paint details:

Fuchs photographing President Kennedy in the oval office

Fuchs photographing the action at a sports events for Sports Illustrated
My work on the upcoming book on Fuchs has heightened my appreciation for how Fuchs used photo reference.  The parts of his paintings that mattered came from the artist, not the camera.

Note how Fuchs subsequently pushed those Italian shadows even further.  He uses them as a vehicle for meditations on color, value and design. 

In this final painting, the last residue of the photograph has been stretched and distorted.  The shadows on the building have been completely stylized. 

The old man hobbling off into the distance is Fuchs' invention.

Thursday, October 10, 2013


L. J. Jordaan (1885-1980) was a powerful graphic artist and political cartoonist in Amsterdam for the magazine, Green.  He drew a biting series of anti-Nazi cartoons during the 1930s.  After the Nazis invaded the Netherlands, they promptly shut down his magazine but Jordaan continued working underground and for alternative publications.



Dictating to the newspapers (wearing handcuffs) about what they can print.
Ridiculing Nazi efforts to portray Amsterdam painter Rembrandt as part of the Aryan tradition
Stealing into the Netherlands by the back door...

As the tide turned against the Nazis later in the war,  Jordaan gleefully recorded their misfortunes:

In the end, Germany lay in ruins and Green published the following illustration of "the hangover of Brunhilde," the German valkyrie who had become drunk on Nazi lies.  The collar on the cat in the window says "retribution. "

Note the graves on the hill.

In addition to his job as a political cartoonist, Jordaan was a journalist and a musician.  After the war he changed careers and became a well known film critic.

I think his images, drawn in the face of political opposition, were strong and evocative.  His work deserves a broader audience than it has had. 

Thursday, October 03, 2013


No backgrounds.

No clothes.


 No photo reference


No fingernails or eyelashes.


No light source.


No facial expressions

No laws of anatomy that can't be compromised in the name of design.

No place to hide.

Rodin's watercolors: Absolutely marvelous.