Wednesday, March 12, 2008

John Ruge: an "unbridled enthusiasm for good drawing"

"I was a late comer to your wonderful blog," writes Larry Roibal, "and while I love getting the daily inspirations I occasionally have free time to go back over old posts. Today I saw your interest in John (Jack) Ruge."

"Jack was one of my drawing teacher at Parsons School of Design in the late seventies early eighties. He was an excellent draftsman and genuinely nice guy. He always came prepared for class with a whole portfolio of drawings, both anatomical and artistic as well as gags he'd worked on."

"He'd arrive early to class (I think punctuality was important to him based on the number of watches he wore, one or two on each wrist) pin his drawings on the wall and we would talk about them during the model breaks."

"He had a very respectful way of teaching. He would walk around the class with tracing paper and if he saw an issue he wanted to address he would never draw on your drawing. I loved to watch the master draftsman know just what line was out of place and confidently demonstrate with tracing paper where your drawing had veered off coarse....and if you did a good drawing, he couldn't contain his enthusiasm, "Wow! thats a bute!"

"Among his own drawings that he brought to class were large newsprint drawings discussing the anatomy of hands or other lessons with beautifully drawn figures. He would allow the students to put their initials on the corner to claim them. I had a few of these drawings."

"In the more than twenty five years since I was his student, I've moved a few times, but I always brought those drawings with me and looked at them often. One was a whole page of women's hands doing a range of tasks like holding a fan or piece of chalk. The other was figures lifting heavy loads. A man loaded down with two pieces of heavy luggage and an analysis of what that did to his posture and his gate. in comparison, an asian woman carrying a heavy load on a flexible pole. The pole would bounce lifting the weight enabling her to step instead of shuffle. I've never tested the theory, subway doors and crowded sidewalks prohibit me from doing so, but his draftsmanship made you believe the weight on the guy and the lack thereof on the girl."

"He would bring in his gag illustrations and pin them up along with the instructional newsprint drawings. It was a real treat to see that as a student because it was a practical application for good draftsmanship. His gag cartoons were not cartoony, they were beautiful studies in draftsmanship and anatomy that just happened to be funny, (take a close look at his hands) ...and although he was most remembered for his beautiful women (because of the publications he worked for) he could do a biting unflattering drawing as well. Ronald Reagan was president then and I remember a marvelous watercolor he pinned on the wall of Reagan, his head was an open crimson wound that tapered down in gathered pleats of flesh tucked into his collar."

"The thing I remember most about Jack was his unbridled enthusiasm for good drawing, his respectful manner of teaching with tracing paper and his great skill as a draftsman.. He was very generous to the students and in return they loved him."

"...Thanks for bringing back the memory of a great artist and wonderful teacher, Jack Ruge."

My thanks to Larry for sharing his fond memories of Jack Ruge with us. Larry has promised to send along those classroom drawings of Ruge's next time he can get at them -- we'll look forward to seeing them!

My John Ruge Flickr set.



    Ah, memories of dad's Playboys.
    Leif, The Art of Playboy would be a cool topic. Remember Little Annie Fanny?

  2. You bet, Mark - I sure do remember. I will probably dip into Playboy very occassionally as I did today and during 'Avant-garde week' ... but a lot of Playboy cartoonists are well documented elsewhere so I'll probably only ever feature the more obscure ( but worthy ) artists. :-)

  3. Thanks for the post. Ruge is one of my all-time favorites!

  4. I love John Ruges illustrations. This is a great example of the importance of learning good draftsmanship... not necessarily so that you can draw realistically, but so that you can draw any way you choose, and it will still be well drawn. When I started art school in the late 50's, good draftsmanship, particularly in illustration classes, was a must. And years later, art classes got watered down, and academic drawing was eclipse by "computer mania". Renderings began to look like rendered slides... traced and painted. That's the beauty of Ruges illustrations, they have character. He simplifies and leaves out what is not important, and emphasizes what is. He makes it a charming personal statement, because he understands the importance of good draftsmanship.

    I never understood how someone who calls themselves an illustrator, figure or portrait painter, doesn't get excited about draftsmanship, and the process of getting it right! It is the underlying foundation of all great illustrators and painters... even Picasso. A structure is only as stable as its foundation and framing... and Ruges delightful illustrations are rock solid.

    Tom Watson

  5. Another excellent post! Wow, those are well-drawn cartoons... humbling stuff.

  6. Not only gorgeous cartoons, but funny as well. I always appreciate the sophistication of those dames and
    their off the cuff sayings. But honestly, the one with the director
    advising the amply endowed miss to
    "let the dress" do the acting is just priceless. Marvelous stuff. Was away on vacation last week, and am now playing catch up.

  7. Great observations, Ron - its nice to have you and your astute comments back! :-)