01.02.2012 /

The very versatile Eric. I’ve always found his work astounding. You’ve got to be such a fantastic draughtsman to pull off a sloppy technique like this. His strong brushwork may sometimes have strayed into awkward territory but it’s never ever ham-fisted. His paintings are tough, beautiful and (should be) very modern. Unfortunately we don’t seem to value this aesthetic any more. Oh, well. This fabulous young lady appeared on the cover of Vogue (1936).

There’s a twist too. This stuff may look like it was bashed out in a couple of minutes but Eric was known to labour over his work for hours (and no doubt put his models through hell in the process).

Antonio Lopez

02.01.2012 /

Even Antonio’s quieter sketches are showy and flamboyant but for this drawing of Kuniyashi Hashimoto he seems to have turned down the volume a little.
Eh? Who am I kidding? That hair is as full of action as a Hollywood car chase and in fact the more you look, it’s all about the hair: quiff, eyebrows, sideburns and mullet, even a little “soul” patch. Then there’s the wonderfully quiet modeling of the face to balance all that out. A kind of loud/soft effect. Whatever, he’s managed to keep it really fresh without overworking the detail.

This is from Paul Caranicas’ book “Antonio’s People” (2004).


03.12.2011 /

Here lies Austin Seeley Jr. who died in Arlington, U.S.A. in 1796. That’s him with wings in the centre. The heart symbol on his chest represents his soul and the birds represent its flight from the body. Those two hands show the soul’s ultimate destination and usually point upwards. But in Jr.’s case it looks like he’s staying put. Perhaps the cutter imagined he would want to haunt the local townsfolk, or maybe he had unfinished business…

This gravestone is so playful, the imagery could be straight off a greetings card from the 1950′s or the present day.


Virgil O. Finlay

03.11.2011 /

This from “Fantastic Novels” Abraham Merritt’s supernatural story magazine of the 1940′s. Virgil Finlay illustrated this, “The Snake Mother” (1940) and many of his other stories of that era. Famous for his cross-hatched, stippled, pen and ink work, this is a particularly fine example. Somehow it anticipates the atmosphere of a later era and TV shows like “The Outer Limits”.

Alex Katz

03.10.2011 /

It’s a neat trick. At first glance, Katz’s work is bland and unengaged. “Joan” (1974) here, is as cool and smooth as a mint julep. And yet somehow she manages to live and breathe, despite finding herself in a world without so much as a leaf out of place.

The blankness does draw you in, and although Katz’s territory is still very empty, you begin to see how clever he is at editing. Compositions are distilled to the bare minimum. He exorcises any artistry, or virtuosity. There’s nothing that can add fire to an image that has already been so carefully and diligently smoothed away. Occasionally  he will leave enough form or detail for the viewer to latch on to. Then that little detail becomes significant. For most portraits it’s their eyelashes. In fact, he’s made them his own, like Hockney and his swimming pools. No one paints eyelashes like Alex Katz.

His 1970′s pictures are populated by characters straight out of “The Ice Storm”. Perhaps with lives as full of infidelity, tension and cruelty as their fictional counterparts. Maybe not. But how do these “barely there” depictions create such a strong feeling? The evil of banality perhaps?


Hi-Fi Fo-Fum

12.09.2011 /

Hideton Finster Forbush Fum!

Since 1955 he’s been the logo for a Hi-Fi Shop in Milwaukee. A great shape (all ears) and nice use of musical notation to fill in the necessary details without going overboard. Pretty much perfect I’d say.

Edouard Vuillard

02.08.2011 /

You see, David Bowie wasn’t the first to have a lightning flash across his forehead (never mind Harry Potter). Yellow hair, orange beard and a jigsaw puzzle of a face. This fantastic little painting on cardboard anticipates the Fauves by a good fifteen years. The mood is sunny and upbeat but not cute and because it’s rendered in an completely direct way, free of cliche. Astonishing.

“Self Portrait” (1892).


Ernst Fuchs

11.07.2011 /

Painter, Sculptor, Architect, Composer, Poet, Singer ….Fuchs is a real all-rounder. While his work is often dense, psychedelic and deeply spiritual, some are quiet and reflective. His sculptures are particularly fine, possessing an earthy quality equal to the best primitive art.

So then, a supreme draughtsman who can get down and dirty with the best of them. His imagery really resonates with me, I can see Rodin, Richard Dadd, Axel Salto, H.R. Geiger, Mati Klarwein, and that’s a heady brew!

This is “Das Wesen des Elements” (1970).

Hand Lettering

04.06.2011 /

Can anyone really do this anymore? These photos come from a time when this kind of skill was fairly commonplace, a whole different era with its own requirements. But times change and the beautiful art of signwriting and hand lettering has gone.

Should we mourn it? There are so many new fonts being created now that are exciting, often unfathomably complex but so inventive that the appreciation of a certain dexterity with a brush seems decidedly one-note. It’s as if the chasm between analogue and digital has grown ever wider: just look at what we can do now!

But check the finished art in the last panel of the photograph. Those letters have a life and energy, yet they’ve been tamed and made to tow a line, almost like Action Painting brought to heel. That’s tough to get right and not kill the flow. “Beneath the Surface of a quiet Pond” indeed.

Jan Balet

10.05.2011 /

These drawings fit so perfectly within the shape of the vase and I love the little shoe borders. Jan Balet always managed to make his illustrations simple yet full of detail and this is a great example of that. He was one of those rare illustrators who could draw anything: horses, mansions, cars and they would fit perfectly into his world without looking borrowed or referenced from anywhere.

A supreme stylist and a major influence on my work. This from an ad for Columbia Broadcasting System is entitled “A Spartan Sells Shoes In Carolina” (1946).

Warne’s Royal Natural History

23.04.2011 /

I really wasn’t expecting this. Leafing through a Victorian encyclopedia, “The Royal Natural History” (1893), it halted me there and then. The poignancy of it is quite shocking and very moving.

The illustrator “G.H.” isn’t listed in the credits but a supplement states that many of the drawings were done “from the life”. Could this have originated as a sketch made from a visit to the Monkey House at London Zoo?

Peter Saul

06.03.2011 /

“It’s the intellectual dignity of modern art that upsets me, excites me to paint as I do.”

So says Peter Saul, and this is his “Man Looking For A Bathroom” (2000), a wonderful painting that excited ME when I first laid eyes upon it. Who else would or could, express so vividly the sensation of needing the toilet? Let’s just take a look at what’s happening here: sprouting from the centre parting of his toupeé, a fountain of pee has displaced this man’s features, moving his nose to one side as it floods down the steps of his face. Followed by his eyes, of course. Genius!