May 31, 2012

What makes a "Good" drawing?

Fantastic quirky tote bags by Mogu Takahashi via Japanistic
(The cat is asking [Who are you~?] or [huu ah yuuu?]
Shinzi Katoh

What does it mean to "draw well"?

As Shakespeare says "There neither good nor bad, only thinking makes it so."  

When I was a young art student at SVA, I would've probably condescended to art like this.  My opinion at the time that they would have been "Nice but not that good."  

I was into very illustrative, anatomically correct artists, like Arthur Rackham, Windsor McCay, Ryoichi Ikegami, Titian, Rembrandt and Jacques Louis-Davide.

Isn't it amazing how your tastes can change 180deg?  Lately I'm obsessed with artwork made up of simple line, simple graphics, and clean design.

Recently I'm into the work of Dave Shrigley and James Victore (I regret never taking a class with him at SVA! RGH!) - examples:

Dave Shrigley

James Victore

one of my fav comics "In Me Own Words by Bigfoot" by Graham Romieu

I think in the limitation, the artist can do more.  Limitation of color, line, space - I think it makes the image better, more focused.

And it's not as easy as it looks to draw like Shinzi Katoh.  You can tell these were drawn by adults and not children: there is a confidence to it; there were probably many trial and error sketches to get these characters right.

It's all about the idea.

If the idea is good, how you execute it is just icing on the cupcake.

Many artists strive to make themselves technically good but can't cultivate a strong idea.

I'm one of these people.

I've never been clever enough for illustration, but I'm workin' on it.


  1. These are fantastic! And so very clever too:)

  2. Yes, it's a bit of a shock when you realize that being able to make beautifully-rendered drawings does not, in fact, get you very far. The grand delusions of my high school years perished in flames and I found that not only was I not going to be the greatest painter of all time, I wasn't even going to be a great illustrator (at least not if it meant conceptualizing things in single images). But there's still hope for me in comics!

    1. PS, Graham Romieu rocks. He has a million awesome cartoons on his site,

    2. Don't be silly you are a great illustrator!

    3. Thanks! But single images are not my strength and may never be, so any greatness I may have as an illustrator rests on my abilities with sequential visual narrative.

  3. I love simplistic art, but it comes from my love from sunday comics, new york magazine, and graphic design. I love simple art when it comes from the heart and is NOT trying to mirror the flavor of the week, in this case Adventure Time :T

  4. What an inspiring post! I have to admit I'm the type of person who tends to draw too much and not know when to stop. Which is why I always admired smart simplistic drawings. I've been reading you blog for a while and I think you're an amazing illustrator!