Cartoonist Chester Brown stood in front of a room full of people at Comic-Con and described his sex with prostitutes.  As he went through the details, he displayed drawings from his new book, Paying For It:

Brown belongs to that class of oddballs and misfits with a fierce compulsion to share the most scatological, sexual and personal details of their lives.  After Brown showed us drawings of his penis and described how he paid women for sex because he could not obtain sex as part of a well rounded relationship,  I asked whether he considered any part of his life too personal to put in a book.  He responded, "Not as long as it makes for a good story."

The extreme candor of such artists, combined with their vantage point on the outskirts of society, sometimes makes for interesting reading (and occasionally provides insights we couldn't get from more conventional sources).

However,  I don't think Brown's large audiences are lured by his artistic talent.  Most of the time, he draws just well enough to satisfy prurient gawkers looking for unearned intimacy.  Brown is at his best when he is channeling the work of the more talented Harold Gray (in work such as Louis Riel).  

His writing is only a little better-- he manages some nice touches-- but his treatment of sex in Paying For It  has all of the depth, profundity and imagination of a 1970s Playboy Advisor column.

 If you want a sense for how truly insubstantial Brown's work is, compare his treatment of visiting prostitutes with the writings of Henry Miller or Arthur Koestler.  If you want to see vastly superior explicit drawings of the dark side of the soul, check out the work of George Grosz, R. Crumb or John Cuneo.  For me, Brown remains squalor lite.


 I have previously written about the work of Nathan Fowkes, a talented artist for DreamWorks Animation, a fine landscape artist, and an art teacher at the Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art.
I ran into Fowkes at Comic-Con, where he was demonstrating charcoal drawing for an enthusiastic audience.

I have always been impressed with how Fowkes works seamlessly between different media. He uses Photoshop to create wonderful concept, visual development and production art for state of the art CGI movies:

copyright DreamWorks
He also works in oils:

My favorites are his watercolors.  he creates light and elegant landscapes, each one a tiny gem:

At Comic-Con, he displayed his approach with charcoal:

At this point in the demonstration he is saying, "I'm desperately trying to keep it simple. You've got to keep it simple."

I think one reason Fowkes is so successful with a variety of materials is his philosophy,  "There are dozens of ways you can apply the medium. It's the principles of value (light and shadow), structure, edges and composition that really matter."


I just returned from Comic-Con in San Diego.  This week I will write about five of the artists I encountered there.

One of the best things about Comic-Con is that when 43,000 teenyboppers stampede to the far side of the convention hall for a glimpse of some teenage vampire heart throb, you might be lucky enough to grab a quiet half hour with a legend such as Seymour Chwast.

Chwast is internationally renowned as one of the great innovators of 20th century graphic design:

Together with Milton Glaser and Ed Sorel, Chwast founded the famous Push Pin Studio in 1954.

He is the author of many excellent books including the bible on the history of graphic style, which he co-authored with Steve Heller. They wrote:

[T]he new movement in illustration from the mid 1950s to the present can be summed up in one word: conceptual.  Illustration evolved from explicit and romantic realism to conceptual symbolism because the issues and themes covered in magazines were becoming more complex, more critical.  Prior to this, illustrators rejected illusion, metaphor, and symbolism in favor of explicit vignettes.  But by the late 1950s, photographers had vividly captured the surface of life, leaving the depiction of the interior, subjective world to illustrators.
As I have written before, I'm not as quick to write off art that "captures the surface of life."  I'm still a sucker for artists who express their opinions about natural forms using sensitive line, perceptive colors or an insightful composition.  As far as I am concerned, the melodies that arise from the perception of natural form can rival the most elaborate intellectual contrivances.  (I also disagree that there is such a bright line between the "surface of life" and its underlying meanings.)

Still, you could not ask for a better exemplar of the "conceptual" point of view than Chwast, who was among the earliest and most effective exponents of this trend in the US.  Here is his brilliant illustration for an article on impotence for Playboy:

Last week this blog discussed the contortions of "realistic" illustrators trying to conceal parts of human anatomy.   Chwast's illustration not only solves that problem with creative symbolism, he adds an important layer of psychological insight with the tangled cord that prevents the plug from reaching its goal. Traditional illustration offered nothing to compete with this.

I have said some unkind things on this blog about illustrators in the "I'm-so-smart-I don't-have-to-draw-well" school of illustration.  Too many of them ain't that smart, and the concepts they bring to the table turn out to be a poor substitute for a decent sense of design or an ability to draw.  But Chwast is a conceptual illustrator who does it right.  He has the same winning formula that made Saul Steinberg great: a first class mind, a spirit of playfulness that keeps him overflowing with creative ideas, and a true gift for drawing and graphic design.

Our tastes turned out to differ in several instances, but it was a privilege to spend time with him and hear his thoughts on a variety of subjects. I learned a great deal. Those who heard him at Comic-Con were fortunate indeed.

My new Tuojiangosaurus painting

Hi everyone! I thought I might share my painting here on AE with everyone. A stegosaur in his forest home. I really enjoy doing non-traditional paleoart. I try for a lot of mood and atmosphere in most of my pieces and hopefully I succeeded on some level with this one. I'm in the middle of more works and hope to have some more to share with you.

I also started a new print on demand site where my paintings will be available on canvas, prints, posters and cards. I'll be adding art as I finish it. For now I just have my steggie painting.

Anyway, thanks for looking at my work.

My best,


Guest Artist: Vasika Udurawane

Check out this wonderful paleoart from Vasika Udurawane!









Ever since civilization invented modesty, the fig leaf has created special challenges for artists.

One of Denis Zilber's typically fun solutions

The awkwardness of Durer's early efforts...

...eventually gave way to more natural looking solutions by artists such as Harold von Schmidt, Al Parker and James Avati:

But the motivations remained the same: to make the censor's prohibition seem like a mere coincidence of nature.  Each artist lies to us, suggesting that our view is being obstructed only by a random spoon or a fortuitous branch.

Art succeeds by directing our curiosity, and sometimes even by satisfying it, but never by thwarting it.  That's why artists attempt to disguise limits imposed on them by the censor.

Below, illustrator Geoffrey Biggs tried using randomly flapping clothes to satisfy his editor's restrictions.  Like most efforts to appear spontaneous, this required careful planning.  Biggs studied the text of a story in which a woman impetuously removes her outfit and  throws it at a man; he then carefully designed a solution which was technically compliant, but which still looked a little too natural for the editors of the Saturday Evening Post.  They went back to the author and demanded that he rewrite the scene to put underwear on the woman, then returned to Biggs and instructed him to change his illustration to conform to the text:     

Before                               After
The mere act of concealing something often attracts our attention.  Viewers may devote as much creative energy to imagining what is behind the fig leaf as artists devote to concealing it.  Some artists take advantage of this human reaction, deliberately playing up the fig leaf with symbolism or colors or shapes.

In the 1950s Illustrator-turned-religious-painter Harry Anderson used a lion for a fig leaf in this painting of the Garden of Eden:

Talk about attracting the viewer's attention... I don't know a single male who doesn't grow uneasy about the proximity of that lion's teeth (which certainly distracts from Anderson's original intention for the painting).

The elements of a painting don't stand still.   We cannot simply place one inert shape in front of another with no visual or psychological consequences.  Objects are imbued with significance, and this is part of what makes our world such a wonderful place.  So we should be neither surprised nor disappointed if an object we employ to conceal something strikes up a dialogue with the thing we are concealing.

ART Evolved Banner Gallery

[I'm embarrassed to say that this post is very very overdue! It was meant to coincide with the launch of our "new" banner back in February, but I've had several distractions in the interim. Please accept my apologies everyone]

Ever since the launch of ART Evolved we had never been 100% happy with the initial banner we started out with. It is seen here below, minus the Trilobites that were added to it later.

The idea had been to show the skeleton on the left inspiring and leading up to the recreations on the right. However this didn't really work. The only clear indication was the theropod in the middle, with its half being drawn in and half not. Diminishing this narrative effect was the fact the wrong ends were coloured in and not. Overall this just wasn't going to do.

Then one day an idea hit us administrators. We had a whole site full of very talented artists, why not get them to help us fix it! A multi person piece of art would do just the trick to capture the diversity and variety of palaeo-art, and as a bonus incapsulate the community nature of this site.

This Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton was sent out as the basis for the banner, and the idea was members create their own T-Rex to match up with this skeleton so we could seamlessly stitch the various pieces together easily.

This was the result we got. We are rather pleased with it!

However the individual pieces we received are rather impressive on their own, and have up until never been seen on their own (or properly credits OOPS!). So as to fully credit (and show off the talents of) the contributors here is our Banner Gallery...

The Banner is composed of parts of the following pieces by:

Trish Arnold

Craig Dylke

Mo Hassan

Peter Bond

Craig Dylke

Thank you to all these contributors!

We hope you enjoyed this mini gallery, the art contained within it, and ultimately the piece they have combined into in our banner. Hopefully the new banner captures the diversity and community themes we had always envisioned heading up this site.

Paleo: Loner

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles artist Jim Lawson is serializing Paleo, his comic about late Cretaceous dinosaurs online. Not really a paleontological rigorous comic, but the story of a group of tyrannosaurs, pretty anthropomorphized.
As Jim said, the progect Loner since
a year has sat on a shelf. So he decided to publish the comic in the internet, on a dedicated blog: http://paleo-loner.blogspot.com/

Evolved Encounters: Glendon and Craig

Another installment of the new Encounters feature here on ART Evolved. Bringing you the run ins of our very international crew. With artists spread around the globe - from Alaska to Australia, Italy to Brazil - these sorts of encounters should be rare, yet we challenge all you palaeo-artists (AE members and followers alike) if you should encounter another AE regular be sure to record evidence and send it our way (artevolved@gmail.com).

We have yet another encounter from Canada (Toronto Ontario again)...

This time between ART Evolved Administrators Craig Dylke and Glendon Mellow (here seen in the lobby of the Royal Ontario Museum with [what I believe is the holotype] Prosaurolophus).

Throughout Craig's week visit to "The Centre of the Universe" (what we Canadians call Toronto) there were several get togethers of the our two families. While the wives are missing from this photo (as Glendon's Michelle was kind enough to take this one), star of these hang outs is front row and centre. That being Glendon's rather cute offspring Calvin!

We want to know about and see when members of our community (whether proper blog members or just readers/followers of the site) run into one another. Even if you live in the same city or stumble into one another at a far flung conference or country, please record it and share it with the rest of the community!

Stay tuned next week as Craig has another encounter up his sleeve, and it is a pretty impressive one geographically ;)


Thomas Hart Benton was a serious painter whose allegorical pictures of slow country life showed skill and intellect:

Thomas Hart Benton. Persephone

So what in the world was he thinking when he tried to paint a rock n' roll party, with people dancing to "the Twist" by Chubby Checker?

The Twist (1964)

Check out those bongo drums.  Benton was so clueless, you have to laugh. 

N.C. Wyeth was an immensely talented artist.  The range and depth of his illustrations are awe-inspiring: 

But despite all his talent, he couldn't design a decent Coca-Cola ad to save his life:

Robert Fawcett was a fiercely talented draftsman who chiseled his subjects with an aggressive line.   His powerful black inkwork often overwhelmed his colors:

Robert Fawcett, detail from Big Business

So who in their right mind would select Fawcett to paint a dainty watercolor advertising women's cosmetics?

Fawcett, Palmolive ad, 1935

What on earth were these artists thinking?  Were they on drugs?  Desperate for money?   Deliberately stretching to expand their range? 

Sometimes you can tell in advance that, no matter how talented or how hard they work, an artist is just not the right person to handle a particular subject.  So when someone tells you an artist is "great," it doesn't hurt to ask yourself, "at what?"

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