Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Al Hirschfeld

All the cool cartoonist/bloggers are linking to the video clip below and, although I'm not much of a joiner, I enjoyed it and thought I'd post it, too. Al Hirschfeld, who died in 2003 at the age of 99, was the dean of classy caricature, particularly of the Broadway theater scene. Mr. Hirschfeld had a distinctive, instantly recognizable style that served him well for about 80 years, and the YouTube clip below shows him drawing a caricature of Paul Newman in the revival of "Our Town."

Purely from a technical standpoint, it's a treat to watch him work. I caught a couple of details. I appreciated how loosely he held his pencil during the preliminary sketch, and the construction lines he would erase later that helped him define the figure. Given how incredibly flowing and spontaneous his finished work looks--all graceful swooping lines and curls--I was surprised by how deliberately he inked. Very slow and disciplined. Many tiny scritches that melded into the one inevitable line he intended. I learned something from that. I also liked his wife's gentle nagging ("I'll stop whenever you say." "Stop.")

If you know who Hirschfeld was or appreciate the craft of cartooning, I think you'll like this seven-minute film. Keeping in mind that everybody needs to discover the techniques and tools that work best for them, it's illuminating to see what a master can accomplish with the most basic tools available: ink and nib.


shrinking indigo said...

Wow. Thank you so much for sharing this, Brian.

Watching him scritch in that NINA, man, that was amazing.


BrianFies said...

Yeah, I forgot to mention the NINA...good catch on your part. Let's see if anybody else notices. He was an amazing artist with an exemplary career and a real inspiration, I think.

TVDadJim said...

Amazing how something that looks so effortless takes such effort. Considering all the intricate thatchwork, it's a wonder Mr. H. got that much done in only eight hours.

The lady reminded me of Coleridge's "person on business from Porlock," interrupting the creation of Kubla Khan.

Sigh - thus is Xanadu lost.