Monday, January 19, 2009

Robert Fawcett: "We are always students"

This past weekend I had the great fortune to stumble upon an original 1958 hardcover edition of Robert Fawcett's book, "On the Art of Drawing". Only 9 bucks! Woo! I love a bargain! (There are a few copies available for cheap right now on Amazon if you are so inclined)

This book is so chock-full of goodness I had to get right to sharing some excerpts from it.

Oh, I don't mean the drawings (although I might scan a few later this week)... I mean the words. You can crack open this book and start reading just about anywhere. You're sure to find something thoughtful, thought-provoking, challenging, amusing, irritating, and... profound.

As if I didn't already have enough respect for "the illustrator's illustrator", this book might just become my new bible. I wish I'd owned it years ago.

From the Foreward:

"...the only formal training [I had in art] was a two year period at the Slade School in London. The hours were long each day, the materials restricted to pencil and paper. During that whole time it could be questioned if I ever produced a drawing worth looking at twice."

"At the time it did not seem that anything but drawing was necessary. Picturemaking or painting was something we believed would come by self-searching - by trial and error..."

"We believed that only by drawing would we begin to experience form in the most direct way, and that form was the basis of all we would do later."

"I do not mean to make it sound easy. For a time I considered calling this volume "Drawing Made Difficult," to try to counteract the influence of the many books I have seen which promise the reverse."

"The term 'student' which is used throughout is to be understood in its broadest sense - that is, that we are always students, even those of us who occasionally stand up and pontificate."

My Robert Fawcett Flickr set.

* Most of this week's scans will be from those generously contributed by various TI list members - my thanks to Harold Henriksen and Charlie Allen for today's images.

* An in-print paperback version of Fawcett's "On the Art of Drawing" is available from
Dover Books at


  1. i can't believe i forgot to order this book!

    as always, thank you (and the contributors) for the scans- every one is a marvel to study.

  2. Robert Fawcett was a "no frills illustrator". His illustrations were not tricky, overly clever or possessed great flair nor inventive technique, so why was his work so admired and respected by other top illustrators? IMO, there are 3 ingredients that he applied better than the vast majority of illustrators, and he applied them consistently: Confident skilled draftsmanship, intelligent effective lighting and an understanding of how to attract the viewer through highly developed compositions.
    Fawcett, at his best, was much like Dean Cornwell, simply the appidemy of excellence at his craft.

    Tom Watson

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  4. Anonymous6:32 AM

    great stuff, the way...i heard that manuel auad (who did those alex toth books) is working on a robert fawcett monograph!....i hope its true!,brian

  5. Anonymous3:24 PM

    Great to see a number of pieces here that, with all my thousands of tearsheets, I've not seen before.

    Fawcett is one of my illustration gods--a phenomenal draftsman and picture maker, who truly transformed the concept of the "contrived picture--" to paraphrase Fawcett himself--into an operatic drama, while still maintaining a brilliant detachment and reserve.

    As I type, I look up and see a Fawcett on my wall over the desk--not one of his masterpieces--those are elsewhere in the house--but a terrific painting nonetheless--in which his interest in the abstract is put to the service of figurative illustration, as in so many of his pieces.

    It's significant that Tom references Cornwell here, since at core, their basic drawing styles, underneath the varied finishing media, were very similar--both showing the influence of industrial design--and not, as later men would, photography.

    It's wonderful to see new eyes discovering this consummate master--who, I believe, had he found himself living in this day and age, when illustration of his kind has disappeared, might very well have ended up in comics.

  6. Anonymous10:56 AM

    leif... i contacted manuel auad,and there will be a robert fawcett book later this year!,brian....

  7. that's fantastic news, brian!