Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Hurst: A Simple Painting (Over)Analyzed

One of my continuing themes here has been that often when we look at a drawing (or painting or character design, etc.) we have the reaction of "Wow! What a great drawing!" and then we move off to look at something else without bothering to ask ourselves what makes it great and why it inspired us to react to it so strongly.

So in casting about for a new post to write I thought I would find something on the internet and just analyze it a bit. In this case, a painting by Earl Oliver Hurst.

I started writing and then I just kept going....I could keep going on and on but at some point I just have to stop myself and post all of this stuff....hopefully I wrote it out in a clear way, let me know if it's confusing.

A lot of what makes this simple drawing work like gangbusters is how Hurst exploits CONTRASTS to make it interesting like simple areas vs. complex ones and tilts and twists in the forms, among other stuff - you can see that I started with the contrasts and then got more and more into details and surface forms.

But this is proof that in a very simple-looking piece there can be a lot of good stuff going on. The simpler the drawing (or painting) the more each piece has to add to the effect of the whole. And any line that's in the wrong place or doesn't describe the form can be detrimental to the whole thing working.

One more great shape that wraps around the forms well is the lower lip - as it curves around out of sight it describes the form of the area between the lower teeth and the chin well. Also the curve of the lower lip contrast well with the straight of the upper lip...but I have to stop somewhere so I'll end it there.


Bill Robinson said...

Terrific post, Mark! I love Hurst and it was very interesting to read your analysis.

Cesare Asaro said...

Thanks for taking the time to share info, thoughts and analysis. The MORE you know the better the work. Every post helps. Thanks.

Stephen said...

This was a great post, Mark. Thanks for taking the time to analyze it - just like you said, it's a deceptively simple drawing. When you look closely, there's a lot going on. Thanks for the guided tour, hopefully the first of many.

THE SIR, James Suhr said...

hey this is just great, thanks for this.

ross said...

Great stuff! Thanks
I've been recommending your site to friends for awhile now-- though I keep thinking it's twelve camels instead of seven... hopefully they still found it :)

David Cousens said...

Great post, I really like it when people write on the actual image to show what they're talking about. It really quickly illustrates your point (no pun intended)

more like this please :)

Ignacio Ochoa said...

Hi Mark. Great Post!!

Here , on ASIFA Hollywood blog, you can find sketches from this cover.


Jack Ruttan said...

Yeah, but just try drawing something like that while thinking about all of it. You have to know it somewhere, but just do it.

Thanks! Great post!

Joakim Gunnarsson said...

One of Hurst's really classic covers. I cot a copy of it framed on my wall just because it's so great in every way. :)

There's a piece on Hurst in "Forty illustrators and how they work" by Ernest W. Watson from 1946 where Hurst himself writes about how he work and he discuss some specific illustrations.
7 pages including two photos of him working in his studio. I don't know if it's available on the net?
If not I could scan and put them on my blog. Just let me know! :)

Jack G. said...

Always appreciate a good analysis. It's good to "see" what others are noticing about a composition.

Anonymous said...

The twists in the torso are indicated with arrows.

When I saw the different directions I realised Ive been tryng to do that with arms in a walk cycle. Have the elbow point in a different direction then the wrist.

If you check out Some of the statues made by davinci you see he does the very thing same "trick". And he makes it look very good indeed.

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