Tagged: sketchbooks

I’ve been thinking about derivative images lately as I’ve been working on some commissioned illustrations based on prior work and concepts. Often times I tell students to whom I show my sketchbook drawings and concepts,( a practiced that used to be quite guarded and still horrifies some of my artist buddies), to steal whatever they choose. As long as they steal it rather than borrow implying a transformation of concept or design or technique wherein their personality and temperament stomps all over it. I use the example of how Hendrix takes Dylan’s song All Along The Watch Tower and lights it up! Even Bob Dylan said Hendrix heard and found stuff in the song that no one else did. Now there are artist and those in the poetry community that embrace literal appropriation and one poet teaching a class on creative plagiarism at Penn. Many roads to Rome.

So the above page is a collage (in a repurposed diary from 1931) from 25 years ago and is a reference to an image that has cropped up over the centuries. Below are some of it’s predesessors.


Of the three preceding images, the first two are by Luca Signorelli who had many like images of demons carrying away sinners to be inspired by. What I love about Michelangelo Buonarotti’s version from the Last Judgement that I’ve copied above in ink is how he rotates the sinner further disorienting the poor soul not to mention has the wretched person’s nose directly above what would have to be the demon’s sulfurously flatulent hind quarters.

So above are more meat sketches drawn during the same period as the top image of the brawny man lifting the pig carcass.. While I have drawn from photos, I also drew from the butcher stalls in he Reading Terminal Market located in the heart of downtown Philadelphia.

Following are sketchers where my varied influences are evident. In the first, clearly Georges Remi’s valiant hero Tin Tin is obvious from the book Red Sea Sharks. A direct lift of Tin Tin yielding an AK47 tho I’ve given him more of a tuft of locks on top. Drawn with a fountain pen, it is faithful to G. Remi’s clean, uniform line with just enough detail and forms that while they are slightly simplified and generalize, also are telling of specific objects and still manage to show the effects of weight and pressure on the forms. With good reason, he was influential of generations of artists. My enamourment began in 1966 and continues today.

Next at up is a drawing wherein I appropriate a figure from the brilliant illustrations in Brer Rabbit by Arthur Burdett Frost, and install him as an exhausted logger atop his challenge. Ballpoint in the same ledger book/ journal as above. A relic from 1936 that took ink like a champ. I always loved ballpoint for it’s wet line, slightly weird ink of odd blues that when layered on sufficiently dense, appeared to have an iridescent sheen on top. I looked for the broadest, and most gooey points I could find. If they blobbed and bled, so much the better. Notice that I have started smudging and smearing the ink while it is still moist to enhance the mediums atmospheric character.

Okay, the pig in shorts is a tribute to the great, great drawings by the cast of superb animators at Walt Disney Studios. Most notably, The Nine Old Men, wh gave us amoung other gems, Fantasia, in which is the lovely dance routine of the hippos. Easy to see the influence.

The two drawings that follow are based on the work of pioneer Milt Caniff of Terry And The Pirates & Steve Canyon fame, and the under appreciated George Wunder who took over the strip Terry And The Pirates after Caniff left. Both combines pen and brush work and let the ink flow, capturing film noir drama with dense, abundant shadows.

The next 2 images are examples of how I’ve pushed to get a better balance between light and dark, having been swayed by the work of  the above mention duo Caniff & Wunder plus the powerful work in Dick Tracy by Chester Gould. The top image of the street tiffs is not ink but scratchboard and the following image of the wood cutter is an ink rich linoleum cut print. It was in looking at wood cuts and the bold line work of so much graphic work and reductive prints that I put the ballpoint down for fountain pens and  the broad swath of brush work.



Now we come to a sketch for a scratchboard drawing I completed that owes so much to that expressionist granddaddy to artist likeCharles Burns and Frank Miller and scores and scores more,  the great Chester Gould.

The small drawing may suggest any number of sources but it comes from the suit of The Flight From Egypt etchings by D. Tiepolo, Giambattist’s equally talented son who languished in many historians minds under the shadow of his father’s genius. I love ’em both.

For me, I have needed to resolve many of the characteristics of scores of influences from 19th century French, Sears and Roebuck illustrations and technical drawings to Pan Asian greats, to mid-20th century American illustrators, comic books and funny pages, graphic work, contemporary trends and folk art.

For so many years as a kid and even after getting into art school in college, I rarely turned off the lights and let the inky dark flow. Some examples of charging the page with heavy values are:

As a youngster, conture and getting shapes correct was an obsession, and I’m not sure if it was because I was such a skinny kid that linearity obsessed me, but I loved line. That flow, that running, snaking, twisting, smooth, quick, nervous, steady, writhing stream of ink and consciousness that held me in it’s tensile grip. And maybe, it was later, as I gained some muscle and mass as much as impatience and an urgency to capture the idea, that I bulked up the line weight. Ir remember how enthralled I was with Chester Gould’s orchestra of marks and how he bathed the page in darks and then adjacent to those black scars, sliced the light to reveal a wisp of the darkness within. It was years before I would violate the luminosity of the sheet.





Left the Bay area and trained it up to Eugene for a week. Wasn’t the most productive time but I did make up for that lull with drawings on the train ride back to Chicago.


I generally try to draw what’s going on around me and make the best of being in a dynamic environment where things change moment to moment. But I’m not opposed to a little creativity. The two women on the right of the drawing above right, hail from China and are touring the USA together. I had drawn the 3 figures seated to the left, the woman with her hair pulled back, the man with sunglasses and ball cap taking a snooze, and the woman with the short hair cut, but kept missing my opportunity to sketch the woman on the far right as she snapped photos of her friend. At one point the lady with the shorter hair got up and noticing me sketching, came over to see my drawing. After a very nice conversation, I told her how I had missed several chances to draw her friend as she took pictures of her. So, they agreed to hold the pose above. I drew the photographer and added the 2 fingers held up as a “V”. My girlfriend who is an ESL teacher informed me that her Asian students said that could symbolize more than the usual “peace” Americans usually imply. I’ll try and find out what all that could be.




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