The great Mort Drucker
is famous for drawing funny, not sexy. Yet, if you look back at his
stories for MAD Magazine, you'll see they were often packed with
At the recent annual conference of the National cartoonist Society, Drucker was awarded the first NCS Medal of Honor
for his lifetime achievement. I had the good fortune to interview him
before the ceremony and he remarked that beautiful women were the most difficult subject
for him to draw. Classically beautiful women lack
distinctive features for caricaturists to exploit. Their faces are smoother
and softer than men's, which makes them more difficult to capture with
a hard ink line. Their features are more delicate, their shapes rounder and
subtler. This requires restraint-- the enemy of a caricaturist.
Still, I was surprised by Drucker's comment because he managed to bedeck his stories with gorgeous females and made it look
effortless. Note the array of facial expressions, hair styles, body language and attitudes in his crowd scenes above.
And even though Drucker drew in a humorous style, it was plain to everyone that he was able to draw serious "sultry" any time he wanted:
Nobody would ever think of Drucker as a pin-up artist; he was so damn good
at drawing other things, few people ever got far enough down his list of accomplishments to pay attention to his beautiful women. So I've isolated a few high rez examples for your attention:
Think about the "serious" illustrators who've become famous specializing in nothing but beautiful women. Typically you'll see wooden postures and vapid faces (or even worse, faces wearing an adolescent notion of "desire.") I find pictures such as these inferior to Drucker's casual drawings of women that you find sprinkled around his panels as background jokes.
In addition, there are some highly skilled pen and ink artists today who specialize in drawing hot babes, yet their careful linework often strikes me as flat and uninspired when contrasted with Drucker's energetic, descriptive line.
One of Drucker's advantages is that his complete mastery of facial expressions enables him to give his women characters personality and depth that was largely absent from traditional good girl art. Unlike a traditional pin up standing
alone in a suggestive pose, his women are integrated into a story.
|How often do you see a thoughtful expression on a drawing of a gorgeous woman?|
scene from the film Cool Hand Luke, where a young woman decides to
torment a prison work gang by washing her car in front of them.
Drucker was able to put extreme facial expressions on lovely
women-- a delicate balance.|
|The face of ennui in an 18th century English bath tub|
Of course, this entire discussion ignores obvious questions about idealized beauty. I'm happy to say that, unlike most artists (from Vargas and Petty to Elvgren and Olivia) who built their skills around conventional looks, Drucker had a far broader, more humanistic notion of beauty. Over the years he drew thousands of cute girls with freckles or eye glasses or pot bellies, who could never be seen in Playboy.
You could tell he recognized-- and conveyed-- the beauty in them as well. But that discussion is for another day.