Friday, April 20, 2007


All the magic of the internet-- the movies, music, youtube animation, color pictures-- comes to you through a series of simple binary choices. Your computer has only two digits (0 or 1) to choose between in processing all that information. The electronic signal is either off (represented by a zero), or on (represented by a one).

Similarly, a line drawing is just a series of binary choices: it is either black or white.

Unlike a painting, which presents a rich variety of layered choices and half-choices, a drawing is a commitment: either line or not line. Look at the bold, black-or-white choices in this stunning set of illustrations by the great Harold Von Schmidt in 1929 for Death Comes For The Archbishop:

The following full page illustration demonstrates the same kind of restraint and care that abstract expressionist Barnett Newman used in selecting the perfect location for a zen stripe on a huge blank canvas.

I admit that I prefer drawings to paintings, sculpture, movies or other art forms. Through a series of binary decisions, an artist can evoke the most extraordinary effects.

These are strong, wonderful drawings worth revisiting by any fan of illustration.