Saturday, 23 July 2016

Carson Grubaugh: Photorealist Tryout

...continued from Carson Grubaugh's Photorealist Tryout Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3:

(via email)
...Here are the finished versions of the pages to wrap up my Strange Death Of Alex Raymond tryout. I already sent them to Sandeep to show to Dave in case Dave does use them but doesn't want pages from the book floating around. Dave gave me a call today. He sounded positive about the work and gave a few minor criticisms. Not sure if he is going to use them or not, but I had a lot of fun doing them. Dave said it is fine to post them. Given that this has played out through the AMOC blog it seems like a good idea to show how they came out...


crazyyears said...

I really like these pages. I mean I appreciate the talent and skill it obviously took to produce them, but beyond that, I've had a visceral, emotional response to them at each stage. Page 2 especially, looking at the interior of the shop through the window, is impressive, and really creates a mood.
I wonder if that is more or less difficult to draw than page 3 from a technical standpoint. It seems to me that the sort of realistic softening of details through the glass would be more difficult to pull off.
Anyway. Lovely and oddly moving stuff.

--- Michael Hunt

al roney said...

Outstanding! Really good stuff!

Lee Thacker said...

Incredibly impressive stuff!

Barry Deutsch said...

This is such beautiful work - thanks for posting it.

Ray Cornwall said...


Jason Winter said...


Carson Grubaugh said...

Thanks for the kind words, everyone.


The window question is a really interesting one to me and something I thought about a lot while working on these pages, so please excuse me for being excited to have a reason to ramble on about it.

Windows essentially give you a flat screen to work with. As long as you get the right shape in the right place on the flat plane and shaded to the right value the image will look "realistic". When I teach drawing and painting this is where I start students, with what I call "Flat-Screen" perception. It is a lot easier in the sense that it allows you to simplify a complicated whole to a series of small, very manageable shapes, usually rectangles, triangles and circles. When you are tracing from a photo in the first place, as I was here, you are not dealing with any issues of placement and proportion. It is pretty impossible to mess up. The only real struggle is keeping track of where you are in the field of shapes if there is a lot of information present.

True photo-real art, especially painting, takes this Flat-Screen approach to perception. Photographs are flat images, after all. It is the easiest to impress people with. It is also infinitely easier than true realism, where the goal is to make a flat surface feel present in the third dimension. I can get most students well on their way to good photo-real painting within a couple of weeks. Realism, well... that is a life-long struggle.

The trompe l'oeil painter, Anthony Waichulis, is the absolute best that has ever held a brush when it comes to work that shows the difference between photorealism vs realism. He will do both in a single image, with lots of clever sleights-of-hand that show the audience the difference. If you can ever see one in person it will blow your mind.

With pen and ink there is a really weird thing that happen; the advice you would give a painter to make their work more realistic, "No outlines. Edges are only to be implied by abrupt shifts in value," reverses itself. When working with line only the lack of edges homogenizes a surface and makes it feel flatter, mere areas of value on a flat plane. Notice any contour lines in any of the shots through the window on these pages really just represent thin shadows. As soon as I move past the window everything gets contour lines. Hopefully this separates the objects out and adds a sense of space to the images.

I have been seeing a lot of this in my re-read of Cerebus as well. Gerhard really struggles to make anything other than buildings feel alive and present because he uses stiff, continuous, single weight outlines around everything and then relies on value changes to "color in," almost like a coloring book. Dave uses flowing, broken up contour lines that change in line weight and his images feel much more alive. It is most apparent in Going Home, where we see a lot of really stiff, clone-stamp drawings of flowers and corn by Gerhard. You can REALLY see the difference between the two artists when they start sharing duties on the animals in the Hemingway sequences.

Working in stark black and white and trying not to use contour lines in any of the information past the window made it harder to keep the "hierarchies of information" that people were talking about in criticism of the "pencils." That was a challenge particular to "photo-realism" in pen and ink that would not be a problem in painting, or probably even in gray-tone ink washes.

Dave Kopperman said...

Yep, that's the stuff. Great job.

crazyyears said...


Thanks for the detailed reply to my question.
Some of what you wrote is, I admit, beyond my understanding, but the text as it applied specifically to my question contained revelation. I discovered I did not heretofore understand what photo-realism actually was! Embarrassing but true.
I took a look online for Anthony Waichulis' work and I think I see what you mean. They are remarkable. I fired up the big screen and spent a lazy lunch checking them out. I especially enjoyed the shadowbox paintings.
Again, thank you for taking the time to reply. You made me think (ouchie!) and exposed me to an artist I would perhaps otherwise never have known existed.
--- Michael Hunt

Kit said...

You can REALLY see the difference between the two artists when they start sharing duties on the animals in the Hemingway sequences.

The dog in the subsequent Cerebus-as-shepherd issue is thrillingly full of life, though - I excitedly described this to people at the time as "the first character Gerhard's ever drawn!"

Dave Sim said...

Carson! I'm actually leaning in the direction of expanding this transition section now that you've gotten it -- I mean, REALLY GOTTEN IT! I think we're going to move LOCAL HEROES to Kitchener (since we're playing fast and loose with Literal Reality already) which would certainly explain the snow in a way that would be too much of an event in Norfolk. Of course, we'll make sure to plug the ACTUAL store in the book!

What I want to do is to make these transition pages resonate with the Core Point of STRANGE DEATH and I'm still working on how exactly to do that. But I've got the three printed out copies of these pages right next to me while I'm doing my RIP KIRBY Commentaries (I'm up to 4/7/50 at this point) and I should have something more for you before too much longer.

Leave me a phone message if you get the chance telling me when's the best time to call you. Thanks!