Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Secret Sketchbook, part two

There are so many great blogs that just publish great artwork that I never wanted to be one of those...I always wanted to force myself to analyze what makes great artwork so great. But the great response to Searle's "Secret Sketchbook" compels me to add more scans for you to check out. I don't have anything in particular to say about it and I'm pressed for time so....just enjoy. The pages of the book are rather small but I scanned them at a big resolution. Sorry about the gap between the pages but the book has a strange binding and it doesn't quite lay flat. Click them to see them bigger.

Amid pointed out that there's a great tribute to Searle at RonaldSearleTribute. There are lots of great rare Searle pieces there. The blogger responsible, Matt Jones, does some great analysis of Searle's method as well. I only saw a couple of pages from "The Secret Sketchbook" so I don't think these scans of mine are redundant.

Check out the street signs...apparently "Tabu" means about the same in each language. Also one of the night clubs appears to be advertising the fact that they sell Coke. The Coca Cola company must be very proud.

It's amazing how much form and sense of volume Searle gets on the paper even though he is mostly just drawing the outside contours of the figures. He's a master at drawing the outsides of the forms just right so that they really suggest the forms in the right way. That's so hard to do - every line has to be in exactly the right place to feel right. And each interior line is placed carefully so that it suggests form and volume.

That's the fascinating thing about these nude ladies: the spare use of interior lines gives them a lot of blank negative space inside their forms and makes them feel really naked! The empty blank space suggests unclothed flesh better than a lot of interior lines and shading might (One thing that would be interesting to heighten that effect would be to put black tone around the outside of one of the naked forms; then the contrast between outside and inside the form is more defined and also the black exterior would make the white interior look even paler and more fleshy by contrast). Obviously he was sketching fast so he didn't take the time to do a lot of interior lines anyway, but in general Searle does that better than anybody: he draws outside contours that look simple, but the thick and thin of the line and the careful placement of the line describe form beautifully.

He also seems to be conscious of drawing textures. He takes the care to make each texture on the nude girls very carefully - hair, stockings, etc. - so that the busy areas of texture contrast with the open, unclothed areas and emphasize how empty and nude the girl's bodies are.

Also he is masterful about overlapping shapes - there are always forms in front of other forms to show that these are forms stacked up in space, moving away from us.

Oops, my apologies, I guess I did have some things to say about these...more to come.


Matt J said...

Excellent analysis Mark & thanks for the plug! 'Secret Sketchbook' was published in 1969 & in the same year Searle released 'The Second Coming of Toulouse Lautrec'. It's interesting to see how the ladies observed in Hamburg's red light district form the basis for the prostitutes in the Lautrec book. I'll post some images on the Searle blog next.

Dave said...

Thanks so much for all of this!

Newsquirt said...

man, so amazing to see these, thanks a ton for posting them.

TS said...

I dig Searle! the first time I had actually heard of him was through a recomendation that Shane Glines had made several years ago.

I actually tried to design a commercial recently that I wanted to animate in a style like this. Once I got the cleanups back it became obvious that I approached the style totally wrong and now I'm stuck with a lemon. Oh well - the client seems to be happy with it even if I'm not.

If I ever try it again I think I'll do it more or less straight ahead with a technical pen.

Thanks for the observations!

James Boyle said...

i just wanted to say i love this series on sketchbooks. the pen that i use for my sketchbook is a PITT Artist Brush Pen, made by Faber-Castell. if you have never used one, you should give it a try. the line and stroke variety you can get out of it is amazing. you can go from a fine line, to a big juicy stroke, which is great for blocking in simple shadow areas on those quick life drawings.

this is such a great blog, ive learned a ton from you, and im still going back into the archives to find more golden insights. thank you!

eun-joo jang said...

Thank you so much for letting me know a great artist Searle. I love his works. He really captured what he's seen everything around him like people, architecture, mood and so forth. He's an amazing sketcher. Great observations Mark! I like "more to come" at the end. :)

Adrian Hogan said...

You can really learn a lot by taking the time to analyse someone else's sketchbook. I love the sense of character his figures have. I think that's a great observation you made about how Searle contrasts texture with flesh to make the figures appear more naked. You've certainly given me another thing to think about the next time I'm drawing.


Minini said...

I love to read blogs like yours that just makes me want to draw more! I still have a lot of reading to do here, but up to now it was so worth it! Thanks for taking the time to write all this!

Anonymous said...

mark, thanks for the 2nd part of the article,very interesting. I'm also trying to contact you regarding felix the cat original art by pat sullivan, please write back at cibermito@yahoo.com

Yeti said...

You've inspired me to get a sketchbook and get busy! I haven't sketchbooked since CalArts. Thank you.