Tuesday, July 5, 2011

"Bad drawing"

We're having a discussion on Leif Peng's blog about the merits of "bad drawing" and when that started to be acceptable. Leif suggested Ben Shahn was the igniter. I have argued that sloppy drawing was in vogue in left-leaning circles going back to Daumier. To support my case, here are three cartoons from the New Yorker from the 1920s. I concede these are cartoons and so the artists had more leeway to break  rules; Shahn certainly managed to get it into "respectable" illustration.


David Apatoff said...

Jaleen, I submit that the first of your three examples is really a good drawing, while the second and third are "bad" drawings in both senses of the word (with and without quotes).

I think the Barton drawing does something very effective and imaginative with the yoke of those shoulders and the lowered head-- not an obvious visual solution by any means. Those oversized, autoplastic arms convey just the right brutish effect. The simplification of the forms of the legs leaves Barton with an excellent design. The staging of the composition to convey a foreshortened alley behind Manhattan apartments seems to me to be very effective use of limited space. So it may appear naive or simplistic or "bad" in an academic sense, but I'd say it is really a sophisticated and well done drawing. The other two seem just plain bad.

PS-- Is that really Peter Arno? My, my. Any idea from what year?

Roger Reed said...

I propose there are two separate categories of bad drawing: 1) artists who are reacting against a prevailing culture of overly slick or elaborate drawing, but are still articulating a style consistent with their message -- Gropper and Richter come to mind. Thurber might be the best example. Sometimes, the cruder, the more powerful.
2) artists who can't draw, so everything they do looks inarticulate. I won't name names, but a lot of graphic novels I saw at the Brooklyn Comics Festival recently seem to take inordinate pride in their inability to communicate visually.
The difficulty is that sometimes these two categories overlap a bit. Spain can't draw, but his style is consistent with his message. [I just can't stand it]
I agree with David: I call the Barton drawing a very good drawing. That Arno might be Ed Arno?