David Apatoff – Illustration Art

This is my dream, guys, just to be David Apatoff. This man spews Illustrative knowledge like an infant churning up half eaten blades of grass and buttons (ie: constantly and easily. I need to get a better handle on my analogies….) I went to his website to try and find his excerpt that he wrote for the introduction in Sterling Hundley’s book Blue Collar White Collar which came out in 2011. His blurb is one of the most beautiful and spot on descriptions of the art world today, and really  touches a soft spot in me and what I hope to accomplish with blankspace, so I need to spread this monologue. However, upon reaching his webpage, I find that literally every single post is that poignant and intelligent – my mind is freaking blowing with knowledge and insight over here.

For the love of God ……. Me………..Art check it out:


And here is the excerpt from his introduction for Sterling Hundley, whose book I HIGHLY suggest you buy:


In this book, Sterling Hundley writes about combining a blue collar work ethic with a white collar aesthetic. But as his career demonstrates, sometimes it’s the backbone within that collar that matters the most.

The field of illustration had been on a volatile path for many years. The digital revolution radically transformed the role of the illustrator, as well as the market for illustration. Clients have changed their expectations ; editors interject themselves into decisions once made by artists, “tweaking” artwork with Photoshop to satisfy the whims of corporate sponsors or bookstore chains. Even before computers, television siphoned off the advertising revenue that had previously fueled an entire century of beautiful picture magazines.  Publications such as Colliers, The Saturday Evening Post, and Life , which employed illustrators such as Norman Rockwell, N.C. Wyeth and Maxfield Parrish, are all gone today. Much of the print journalism and book market are headed in the same direction. Photography has taken many of the remaining assignments previously performed by illustrators.

So how does a genuine artist adapt to this evolving world?

Many illustrators have wobbled in their search for a new identity. Some became caught in the gravitational pull of photography, and are now doomed to orbit the photographic process with photorealistic pictures or computer manipulated photographs (what Time magazine euphemistically refers to as “photo illustration”). Other illustrators intentionally moved in the opposite direction, disavowing photorealism but in the process throwing out skill, technique or anything else that might hint they were competing with a camera. Some illustrators sought refuge in childish or willfully ugly images, or inflated the prominence of personal opinion and editorial concepts (many of which were barely worthwhile in the first place).

I admire the fact that Hundley has a center of gravity which enables him to face this changing world with artistic integrity. He was not one of those quickly spooked into believing that the value of a good drawing was extinguished by some invention. He understood that good taste and fundamental skills are not obsolete.

Hundley thoughtfully selects what he find relevant and appropriate from both the old and new worlds. Some older illustrators might tend to create lovely, polished images with no thought for the philosophical content of the subject. Some newer illustrators might prefer to focus on content or depict gritty, “relevant” ideas complete with warts and scars. (This is sometimes known as the “I’m so smart I don’t have to draw well” school.)

Hundley’s work embodies his belief that you can have both – you don’t need to throw out classical concerns with design, balance, harmony, anatomy, or the other qualities important to image making in order to make thoughtful and relevant philosophical statements. Hundley’s pictures don’t move, blink, or explode. They don’t require a digital soundtrack or 3D glasses. Instead, they come from the tradition were the picture holds still and your brain moves. Such art sometimes seems to be in short supply these days.

In the following book, you will see how Hundley incorporates words directly into the design of an image (as with My Lady of Richmond on pages 36 & 37 or Hair on page 42), or by working with symbols and double entrendres (as with God Eyes on page 9). But mostly, he uses imagery to achieve content, as with his award winning Death of a Salesman on page 26. Here he depicts Arthur Miller’s tragic hero as nothing more than an empty suit, someone whose only value to society was his handshake and his clean tie for selling merchandise.  Willy Loman’s secret personal self is hidden away behind that “Do Not Disturb” sign; his mind, his face, his individual personality were of no concern to society, and once he was used up he was simply hung up on a rack out of the way. Norman Rockwell and Maxfield Parrish never had to incorporate their opinions into their work in this fashion. Their world of illustration was something very different.

But Hundley doesn’t limit himself to servicing the field of illustration as it is currently configured. He questions and explored, working on “personal” art which he displays in gallery exhibitions; he works on digital variations of the popular “graphic novel” medium; he is an educator and a critic and a writer.  He creatively explores these venues simultaneously, so that his work is not confined to the current version of the illustration market. That market will continue to evolve, and tomorrow may look nothing like it does today. As an artist of substance, Hundley does not let himself be defined by the market.  He takes the initiative and develops his art around his broader taste and judgement.

Returning to the vertebrae inside that white collar / blue collar, Hundley is an artist who sticks his neck out to be protective of his own talent so that he can do his best.  He sticks his neck out to help and defend young art students. He lifts his neck up to survey the larger landscape of art, rather than simply following the tail of the pack mule ahead of him on the trail. And he is stiff necked and determined about growing his talent.

Whether his collar is blue or white at the time he paints any particular work, this is artwork to be enjoyed.


Many thanks to David Apatoff for his dedicated belief in illustration. Again, check out his blog at: http://illustrationart.blogspot.no/


One thought on “David Apatoff – Illustration Art

  1. Pingback: David Apatoff – Interview | blankspace BLOG

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