Encyclopedic volumes could be written about style in art (and probably have been). This post will be scaled down somewhat, so don’t worry. Think of it as one verse in an epic poem… except way less… epic.
An artist’s style usually develops over time. Some artists have a single, consistent, recognizable style that encompasses all that they do. Many artists have multiple styles they may work in at any given time. Some they outgrow, and others they grow into.
I am a person who works in a few distinct styles. The one that is featured in today’s picture I refer to as silhouette.
The origins of the silhouette style came from a single print that a teacher gave me at Interlochen Arts Camp in 1992. It was a woodblock print in a style that struck me as vaguely informed by Inuit art. The image was of three fish. They were printed in black ink on thin, oatmeal colored paper. Some of the other prints also had some orange on them or bits of gold leaf. There was one print of a figure that I wanted so badly. I may have begged. I had very little pride in those days.
The image is carved so clearly in mind, to this day. A sketch of it is below. I liked the lozenge shape of the guy’s body, and the simple strength of the composition.
Sketchbooks at the time immediately show attempts to emulate this style, but the influence of comics books quickly overtook these sketches. However, the impact of the prints stayed lodged in my brain and mingled with the rest. College brought exposure to masters of line drawing like Egon Scheile, and creators of disturbingly prosaic images like Stanley Donwood who did most of the visuals for Radiohead from their album “The Bends” on ward.
These strains, and my own ‘innovations’ in my comic book drawing merged into a somewhat consistent approach to drawing, which I applied repeatedly to a host of images: Coffee mugs, lit candles, mermaids, and animals. But mainly figures.
Images in this style are usually drawn with a continuous line with no pre-sketching and little or no erasing. No backgrounds or “ornamentation” accompany the images, though sometimes they’re boxed in by a close-cropped line that acts as a frame. Sometimes the figures are filled in as actual silhouettes, while often they are just bold line drawings.
“The Punch” is a drawing in this style. It was created it for a sketchbook project that I joined through the Brooklyn Art Library (more on that in coming weeks). This was the only drawing that made it in to the final booklet, though, the rest of which is made up of collages.
On the right is the original pencil drawing which I filled in. That seemed unsatisfying, though, so I went back in with a fountain-style pen outline, and then erased the graphite.
What do you think it’s about? What is your initial reaction?
Keep your eyes on this blog in the next few weeks, when I’ll be posting this image in the context of the rest of the sketchbook.