Sunday, November 18, 2007


I have irritated some readers by criticizing popular illustrators such as Bama, Boris, Rowena or Vargas. These artists have good technical skills; they can paint realistically but they lack something far more important: a good design sense.

"What exactly is this design element you keep yapping about, and how can you claim to know which pictures have it and which don't?"

Like most glorious things, design eludes definition. It can be found in an infinite number of forms. But for those who want to observe it in action, I know of no more lucid distillation than in Japanese woodblock prints.

Look at the marvelous arrangement of shapes and patterns in the picture above, the artful negative space-- this is what I mean when I talk about design.

The great Japanese woodblock artists understood what Peter Behrens called "the fundamental principles of all form creating work."