Friday, 20 July 2012

Picasso vs Rockwell

Saturday Evening Post covers
by Norman Rockwell
DAVE SIM:
(from notes on Form & Void, Cerebus #253, April 2000)
Let's say someone is holding a gun to your head and he tells you that you have to do an exact copy of one of these paintings in a week. And one of the paintings is a Norman Rockwell Saturday Evening Post cover and one of the paintings is a Picasso. It doesn't matter which one, as long as the Picasso is one of the ones that is just a geometric patchwork of painted shapes. So, any Picasso from Cubism onward. The Rockwell can be any Saturday Evening Post cover. Now, with a gun at your head and your life on the line, which one are you going to copy? Exactly. Because pretty much anyone can do it. It takes no talent. It is the Emperor's New Clothes.

...I have no problem with people who like what Picasso did and who call them paintings or art with a straight face. Some people eat peanut butter on pizza. What I do have a problem with is equating what Picasso did with what (as a fine example) Norman Rockwell did, since what one did was easy and stupid and what the other did was difficult and admirable.

...I have an even bigger problem with those people who try to equate Norman Rockwell with Picasso-from-Cubism-onward as if there is any foundation for discussion for anyone with two eyes to see; a still bigger problem with those people who take the concession that Picasso-from-Cubism-onwards might be creativity as well (albeit on a much lower plane of creativity) and who then reciprocate by claiming that Rockwell was a "mere commercial illustrator" and who attempt to elevate whatever it is that Picasso did not only above its sensible place in the artistic pecking order, but also and as well above Norman Rockwell; and a still even yet bigger problem with those who attempt to elevate a floor-to-ceiling canvas consisting of nothing but a giant orange rectangle with a white dot in the middle also as well above Norman Rockwell's pictures. To me, anyone who is that stupid is not worth discussing art or Art with. When you are willing to talk sensibly... about the finer distinctions between the British Academy's idea in the Victorian era of what constituted a good painting and how they were foolish to reject the Impressionists' paintings out of hand as "unfinished colour sketches" and "ideas for paintings" and to discuss Ruskin's "libel" or libel or Libel in accusing Whistler with his Nocturnes of "flinging a paint pot in the face of the public", then I am willing to see where and what you place higher or lower than I do as to what constitutes art and what constitutes Art in the world of painting. However, if you want to talk to me about Cubism and floor-to-ceiling canvasses that are one big orange rectangle with a white dot in the middle of it, then, excuse me, but all I can do is laugh and turn away after telling you to go and waste someone else's time, because, to me, you are like a drunk in a bar or a feminist: "It is not that I do not understand what you are saying. I understand what you are saying. But I think you are wrong and I will continue to think you are wrong no matter how many times you repeat the same stupid things that you keep repeating."

3 comments:

adampasz said...

I was never a Picasso fan. But replace Picasso with Kandinsky, and you might get a debate out of me.

To me, Picasso belongs in the same category as Warhol. Their genius was expressed through new ways of looking at things, not in raw technical skill.

Mas (alekesam@hotmail.com) said...

"Let's say someone is holding a gun to your head and he tells you that you have to do an exact copy of one of these paintings in a week. And one of the paintings is a Norman Rockwell Saturday Evening Post cover and one of the paintings is a Picasso. It doesn't matter which one, as long as the "Picasso is one of the ones that is just a geometric patchwork of painted shapes. So, any Picasso from Cubism onward. The Rockwell can be any Saturday Evening Post cover. Now, with a gun at your head and your life on the line, which one are you going to copy? Exactly. Because pretty much anyone can do it. It takes no talent. It is the Emperor's New Clothes."

I don't know about that. Just because it's supposedly easier to do doesn't necessarily mean it takes no talent to do. Depends on the artist doing the copying I would think.

Honestly, I'd pick Rockwell (not that Rockwell would be ultra easy because it's nowhere near easy, especially if I had to do it exactly the way he did some of his paintings). But for me, trying to do Picasso is a whole different mindframe to be trying to emulate.

For example, if you put a gun to my head and asked me to pick between copying Travis Charest/BWS and Charles M. Schultz/Jeff Smith/Scott Adams and I'd probably roll the dice and pick Charest/BWS. It'd take a lot (lot) longer to do but mentally it's easier (for me). That's not because I can't do cartoons (I can and love exaggerating) but because doing someone's else cartoon character is tough. The line weight, the proportions, that subtle thing that each of them do on their characters are hard to emulate because that's their personal style. If I'm doing Dilbert, I'd fight too much trying not draw him like I'D draw him (longer limbs, heavier lines at parts, etc). Same with trying to draw Charlie Brown or one of the Bone's. It's hard to draw that stripped down and you have to get that line weight exactly right or else, it doesn't look like them.

But with Charest/BWS, it's more a matter of getting the brushstrokes, line weight, hatchings right and applying them correctly, shadow and all.

Folks try (and think they're doing) Frank Miller because it looks simple to do (add heavy shadow here, erase/don't do the lines where the light hits...a-haa! Frank Miller). But most of the folks doing it can't do that style while still doing the light source correctly, keeping the form of all the subjects in the pic separate and identifiable, maintaining a strong composition and sense of depth through negative space, AND while doing all of that, still be able to convey a sense of movement while storytelling in sequence without needing words to understand what's going on at the same time.

All that's to say, I just think it depends on the artist and just because it looks simple, doesn't mean it is. It takes thought to draw/paint something that stripped down.

(NOte: Why am I having trouble using the Google Account? :))

Mas (alekesam@hotmail.com) said...

*ADD ON*
" If I'm doing Dilbert, I'd fight too much trying not draw him like I'D draw him (longer limbs, heavier lines at parts, etc). Same with trying to draw Charlie Brown or one of the Bone's. It's hard to draw that stripped down and you have to get that line weight exactly right or else, it doesn't look like them."

With Picasso, it's the same thing, I'd fight to much to the painting, cubism or not, my way and it'll ultimately end up not looking like Picasso's painting.