You guys have made some very kind comments about my artwork. I’m grateful. I thrive with your support. And I wish you all as much good and as much support for your own creative spirits as you’ve given me and mine.
But when it comes to talk of art talent, I take all praise with a large shaker of salt. Let me show you why. These are a few of the works of Bernie Fuchs — to my mind, the greatest illustrator of the twentieth century (a time that produced great illustration on a large scale). This was a man who performed miracles with color and light and who could both draw and design like nobody’s business.
Okay, it may not be reasonable to plant my amateur self next to the youngest person ever v*ted into the Illustrators Hall of Fame (bet you didn’t even know there was such a thing). Still, Bernie Fuchs is my illustrator idol, even though merely looking at the least of his works discourages the hell out of me.
He did some audaciously odd things, like when he painted John Kennedy and put the emphasis, of all places, on his shirt collar and cuffs (the brassy use of white is one of the things that’s always struck me most about Fuchs’ work).
The Kennedy family loved his portraits, though, and JFK siblings owned several Fuchs works. The man was even more amazing in that he had very little training and was missing three fingers on his right hand (though come to think of it, I’m not sure whether he was right- or left-handed).
In looking at another of his Kennedy portraits I not only see why the family loved them (oh, that false image of JFK as the healthy, vigorous, athletic King of Camelot!). I noticed something odd. Look at JFK’s left arm and the hand supporting his weight. Arms … do not bend that way. His hand could only be so far out from his arm if his wrist was broken, and in that case I don’t think he’d be putting all that weight on it!
So the first temptation is to say, “Hey, look! Great artists screw up, too.” And of course, they do. Renoir was mostly a fairly crappy draftsman. Toulouse-Lautrec couldn’t capture a likeness. Many a great artist set an eye or a nose slightly off-kilter even before cubism and fauvism and other good excuses for off-kilter features came along.
But I look at that “misplaced” hand on John Kennedy and I’m 99% sure Bernie Fuchs placed it that way exactly on purpose. He knew what was right for his painting. He needed the arm angled exactly as it was. He needed exactly that much of that hand showing for best artistic effect. So I’m hearing him say to himself, “Never mind that it makes the wrist an inch longer than it actually is in real life. I’m choosing to do it that way.”
And that, my dear and supportive friends, is TALENT.