Alex Raymond His Life And Art Essay

David Raymond Sedaris (born December 26, 1956)[1] is an American humorist, comedian, author, and radio contributor. He was publicly recognized in 1992 when National Public Radio broadcast his essay "SantaLand Diaries". He published his first collection of essays and short stories, Barrel Fever, in 1994. He is a brother and writing collaborator of actress Amy Sedaris.

His next five essay collections, Naked (1997), Holidays on Ice (1997), Me Talk Pretty One Day (2000), Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim (2004), and When You Are Engulfed in Flames (2008), became New York Times Best Sellers.[2] In 2010, he released a collection of stories, Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary.[3][4][5] Sedaris released a collection of essays, Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls, in 2013 and in 2017 published a collection of his 1977–2002 diaries, Theft By Finding. Also in 2013, the film adaptation of an essay from "Naked" was released as a feature-length movie, C.O.G.

Much of Sedaris' humor is ostensibly autobiographical and self-deprecating and often concerns his family life, his middle-class upbringing in the suburbs of Raleigh, North Carolina, his Greek heritage, homosexuality, jobs, education, drug use, and obsessive behaviors, and his life in France, London, and the English South Downs.

Early life[edit]

Sedaris was born in Johnson City, New York,[6] the son of Sharon Elizabeth (née Leonard) and Louis Harry "Lou" Sedaris, an IBM engineer.[7][8][9] He grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. His father is of Greek descent, while his mother was Anglo-American.[10] His mother was Protestant and his father is Greek Orthodox.[11] He was raised in his father's Greek Orthodox faith.[12][13]

Sedaris was raised in a suburb of Raleigh and is the second child of six. His siblings, from oldest to youngest, are Lisa, Gretchen, Amy,[14] Tiffany,[15] and Paul (The Rooster). Tiffany Sedaris committed suicide in May 2013.[16] In his teens and twenties, he dabbled in visual and performance art. He describes his lack of success in several of his essays.

After graduating from Jesse O. Sanderson High School in Raleigh, Sedaris briefly attended Western Carolina University[17] before transferring to and dropping out of Kent State University in 1977. He moved to Chicago in 1983 and graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1987. (He did not attend Princeton University, although he spoke fondly of doing so in "What I Learned", a comic baccalaureate address delivered at Princeton in June 2006.[18])


While working odd jobs across Raleigh, Chicago, and New York City, Sedaris was discovered in a Chicago club by radio host Ira Glass; Sedaris was reading a diary he had kept since 1977. Glass asked him to appear on his weekly local program, The Wild Room.[19] Sedaris said, "I owe everything to Ira ... My life just changed completely, like someone waved a magic wand."[20] Sedaris' success on The Wild Room led to his National Public Radio debut on December 23, 1992, when he read a radio essay on Morning Edition titled "SantaLand Diaries", which described his purported experiences as an elf at Macy's department store during Christmas in New York.

"SantaLand Diaries" was a success with listeners,[21] and made Sedaris what The New York Times called "a minor phenomenon".[19] He began recording a monthly segment for NPR based on his diary entries, edited and produced by Glass, and signed a two-book deal with Little, Brown and Company.[19] In 1993, Sedaris told The New York Times he was publishing his first book, a collection of stories and essays, and had 70 pages written of his second book, a novel "about a man who keeps a diary and whom Mr. Sedaris described as 'not me, but a lot like me'".[19]

Collections and mainstream success[edit]

In 1994, Sedaris published Barrel Fever, a collection of stories and essays. He became a frequent contributor when Ira Glass began a weekly hour-long PRI/Chicago Public Radio show, This American Life, in 1995. Sedaris began writing essays for Esquire and The New Yorker. In 1997, he published another collection of essays, Naked, which won the Randy Shilts Award for Gay Non-Fiction from Publishing Triangle in 1998.[22]

He wrote his next book, Me Talk Pretty One Day, mostly in France over seven months and published it in 2000 to "practically unanimous rave reviews".[23] For that book, Sedaris won the 2001 Thurber Prize for American Humor.[24]

In April 2001, Variety reported Sedaris had sold the Me Talk Pretty One Day film rights to director Wayne Wang, who was adapting four stories from the book for Columbia Pictures.[14][25] Wang had completed the script and begun casting when Sedaris asked to "get out of it", after he and his sister worried how their family might be portrayed. He wrote about the conversation and its aftermath in the essay "Repeat After Me". Sedaris recounted that Wang was "a real prince ... I didn't want him to be mad at me, but he was so grown up about it. I never saw how it could be turned into a movie anyway."[26]

In 2004, Sedaris published Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, which reached number 1 on The New York Times Nonfiction Best Seller List in June of that year.[27] The audiobook of Dress Your Family, read by Sedaris, was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album; the same year, Sedaris was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album for his recording Live at Carnegie Hall. In March 2006, Ira Glass said that Sedaris' next book would be a collection of animal fables;[28] that year, Sedaris included several animal fables in his US book tour, and three of his fables were broadcast on This American Life.[29][30][31]

In September 2007, a new Sedaris collection was announced for publication the following year.[4] The collection's working title was All the Beauty You Will Ever Need, but Sedaris retitled it Indefinite Leave to Remain and finally settled on the title When You Are Engulfed in Flames.[3][32] Although at least one news source assumed the book would be fables,[4] Sedaris said in October 2007 that the collection might include a "surprisingly brief story about [his] decision to quit smoking ... along with stories about a Polish crybaby, throwing shit in a paraplegic's yard, chimpanzees at a typing school, and people visiting [him] in France."[3]

In December 2008, Sedaris received an honorary doctorate from Binghamton University.[33]

In April 2010, BBC Radio 4 aired Meet David Sedaris, a four-part series of essays which Sedaris read before a live audience.[34] A second series of six programmes began airing on BBC Radio 4 Extra in June 2011, with third series beginning in September 2012.[35] As of 2016 five series have aired. In July 2017, the sixth series is being aired on BBC Radio 4 Extra.

Sedaris released Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary, a collection of fables "detailing animals in strange adult situations", in September 2010.[3][4][5]

In July 2011, Sedaris' essay "Chicken Toenails, Anyone?", published in The Guardian,[36] garnered some criticism over concerns that it was insensitive towards China and Chinese culture.[37][38]

A frequent guest of late-night US talk show host Craig Ferguson, in April 2012, Sedaris joined Ferguson and the cast of CBS's The Late, Late Show in Scotland for a theme week in and around Ferguson's hometown between Glasgow and Edinburgh. The five weeknight episodes aired in May 2012, during the high-profile rating sweeps.[citation needed]

Sedaris' ninth book, Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls, was released in April 2013.

In 2014, he participated in Do I Sound Gay?, a documentary film by David Thorpe about stereotypes of gay men's speech patterns.[39]

He appeared along with his sister Amy as special guest judges on season 8 episode 8 of RuPaul's Drag Race.[40]

Veracity of nonfiction work[edit]

In 2007, in an article in The New Republic, Alexander S. Heard stated that much of Sedaris' work is insufficiently factual to justify being marketed as nonfiction.[41] Several published responses to Heard's article argued that Sedaris' readers are aware that his descriptions and stories are intentionally exaggerated and manipulated to maximize comic effect,[42] while others used the controversy as a springboard for discussing the liberties publishers are willing to take when calling books 'nonfiction'.[43]

Subsequently, in the wake of a controversy involving Mike Daisey's dramatizing and embellishing his personal experiences at Chinese factories, during an excerpt from his theatrical monologue for This American Life, new attention has been paid to the veracity of Sedaris' nonfiction stories. NPR will label stories from Sedaris, such as "SantaLand Diaries", as fiction, while This American Life will fact check stories to the extent that memories and long-ago conversations can be checked.[44]The New Yorker already subjects nonfiction stories written for that magazine to its comprehensive fact-checking policy.[45]

The Talent Family[edit]

Sedaris is also a playwright, having written with his sister, actress Amy Sedaris, several plays under the name "The Talent Family". These include Stump the Host (1993), Stitches (1994), and The Little Frieda Mysteries (1997). All were produced and presented by Meryl Vladimer when she was the artistic director of "the CLUB" at La MaMa, E.T.C., and The Book of Liz (2002) was produced by Ania A. Shapiro.[citation needed]

Sedaris also co-authored Incident at Cobbler's Knob, presented and produced by David Rockwell at the Lincoln Center Festival. Sets for those performances were designed by Sedaris' longtime boyfriend, Hugh Hamrick, who also directed two of them, The Book of Liz and Incident at Cobbler's Knob.[citation needed]

Sedaris and his sister Amy shared "The Talent Family" credit on the latter's short-lived sketch comedy show Exit 57, while David was a contributing writer.[citation needed]

The New Yorker[edit]

Sedaris has contributed over 40 essays to The New Yorker magazine and blog.[46]

Personal life[edit]

Sedaris currently lives in the Horsham District of West Sussex, England, with his boyfriend Hugh Hamrick, whom Sedaris mentions in a number of his stories.[47] Sedaris describes them as the "sort of couple who wouldn't get married".[48][49] He enjoys collecting litter in the local area, where he is known as "Pig Pen", and has a garbage truck named after him.[50][51]


This list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it.

Story and essay collections[edit]


  • The Book of Liz: A Play by David Sedaris and Amy Sedaris (2002)


  • "Old Faithful"[52]
  • "What I Learned"[53] (delivered at Princeton in June 2006), a comic baccalaureate address
  • "Dentists Without Borders",[54] a humorous essay on socialized medicine in France
  • "I Brake for Traditional Marriage" (2010), a heterosexual perspective of California's repeal of Proposition 8[55]
  • "The Poo Corner" (2005), a piece addressing public defecation in department stores, hotels, and college dorm washing machines[56]
  • Sedaris, David (April 1, 2013). "Long way home : a journey made more difficult". Reflections. The New Yorker. 89 (7): 28–31. Retrieved 2016-01-01. 
  • — (June 3, 2013). "Company man : guest-room gambits". Personal History. The New Yorker. 89 (16): 28–30. 
  • — (October 28, 2013). "Now we are five : a big family at the beach". Reflections. The New Yorker. 89 (34): 26–30. 

Audio recordings[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^
    • "Best Sellers: April 6, 1997", The New York Times, April 6, 1997. Retrieved October 7, 2007.
    • "Paperback Best Sellers: December 22, 2002", The New York Times, December 22, 2002. Retrieved October 7, 2007.
    • "Best Sellers: June 11, 2000", The New York Times, June 11, 2000. Retrieved October 7, 2007.
    • "Best Sellers: June 20, 2004", The New York Times, June 20, 2004. Retrieved October 7, 2007.
    • "Best Sellers: July 6, 2008", The New York Times, July 6, 2008. Retrieved July 1, 2008.
  3. ^ abcdHambrick, Greg. "David Sedaris is Taking Notes", Charleston City Paper, October 3, 2007. Retrieved October 7, 2007.
  4. ^ abcdIsaac, Mike. "David Sedaris announces new book release"Archived October 20, 2007, at the Wayback Machine., Paste, September 20, 2007. Retrieved January 8, 2007.
  5. ^ abReleases worth a bookmark. September 8, 2010. Retrieved August 9, 2010.
  6. ^PBS-Finding Your Roots Episode 9
  7. ^Sedaris, David (2006). "'Dix Hill', p. 90". Naked (1 ed.). London: Abacus. 
  8. ^"TNR". 
  9. ^"TNR". 
  10. ^Stated on Finding Your Roots, PBS, November 18, 2014
  11. ^"Me Talk Pretty One Day: Books: David Sedaris". 
  12. ^Sedaris, David (June 5, 2001). "Me Talk Pretty One Day". Back Bay Books – via Amazon. 
  13. ^"Amy Sedaris Interview". 
  14. ^ abLafreniere, and Steve "Amy and David Sedaris", Index Magazine, 2001. Retrieved October 9, 2007.
  15. ^Moore, Jina (August 15, 2004). "Sister in a Glass House", The Boston Globe. Retrieved March 24, 2009.
  16. ^Sedaris, David (October 28, 2013). "Now We Are Five: A big family, at the beach", The New Yorker. Retrieved October 28, 2013.
  17. ^Video on YouTube[dead link]
  18. ^Sedaris, David (June 26, 2006). "What I Learned". The New Yorker. Retrieved December 4, 2013. 
  19. ^ abcdMarchese, John. "He Does Radio And Windows", The New York Times, July 4, 1993. Retrieved October 7, 2007.
  20. ^St. John, Warren. "Turning Sour Grapes Into a Silk Purse", The New York Times, June 6, 2004. Retrieved October 7, 2007.
  21. ^"Sedaris and Crumpet the Elf: A Holiday Tradition", Retrieved October 8, 2007.
  22. ^"awards". The Publishing Triangle. Retrieved May 15, 2014. 
  23. ^Richards, Linda. "David Sedaris", January Magazine, June 2000. Retrieved October 9, 2007.
  24. ^"Past Thurber Prize Winners". Thurber House. Retrieved May 15, 2014. 
  25. ^Fleming, Michael. "'Wave' duo pilot cable; Wang's 'Pretty' deal", Variety, April 5, 2001. Retrieved October 7, 2007.
  26. ^Tyrangiel, Josh. "10 Questions For David Sedaris", Time, June 21, 2004. Retrieved October 7, 2007.
  27. ^"Best Sellers: June 20, 2004", The New York Times, June 20, 2004. Retrieved October 7, 2007.
  28. ^Glass, Ira. Chicago Public Radio pledge drive, March 24, 2006.
  29. ^Sedaris, David (23 Dec 2005). "An Animal Farm Christmas". This American Life. Episode 305. WBEZ. Retrieved 2016-01-31. 
  30. ^Sedaris, David (10 Feb 2006). "So A Squirrel And A Chipmunk Walk Into A Bar". This American Life. Episode 308. WBEZ. Retrieved 2016-01-31. 
  31. ^Sedaris, David (24 Feb 2006). "Hello Kitty". This American Life. Episode 309. WBEZ. Retrieved 2016-01-31. 
  32. ^Why Does David Sedaris Keep Changing the Title of His Book? The Man Himself ExplainsArchived October 10, 2008, at the Wayback Machine. New York Observer. February 21, 2008. Retrieved October 17, 2008.
  33. ^"Binghamton University to hold second Fall commencement" (Press release). Binghamton University. December 8, 2008. Retrieved December 4, 2013. 
  34. ^"Meet David Sedaris". Radio 4. BBC. 
  35. ^"Meet David Sedaris". Radio 4 Extra. BBC. 
  36. ^"David Sedaris: Chicken toenails, anyone?", The Guardian, July 15, 2011. Retrieved July 30, 2011.
  37. ^Yang, Jeff (July 29, 2011). "David Sedaris Talks Ugly About China", San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved July 30, 2011.
  38. ^O'Connell, Joe (July 23, 2011). "Your letters: Tell us what you think". The Guardian. London. Retrieved January 21, 2012. 
  39. ^"'Do I Sound Gay?': Toronto Review". The Hollywood Reporter, September 8, 2014.
  40. ^"Drag Race's Book Ball showcases the strength of season 8". AV Club. 25 April 2016. Retrieved 26 April 2016. 
  41. ^Heard, Alex. "This American Lie: A midget guitar teacher, a Macy's elf, and the truth about David Sedaris", The New Republic, March 19, 2007. Retrieved June 15, 20085.
  42. ^Balk, Alex. "David Sedaris May Sometimes Exaggerate For Effect!"Archived August 11, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.,, March 14, 2007. Retrieved August 7, 2007.
  43. ^Villalon, Oscar. "Public's taste for nonfiction has publishers playing fast and loose with labels", San Francisco Chronicle, April 3, 2007. Retrieved August 7, 2007.
  44. ^Farhi, Paul (May 14, 2012). "Style". The Washington Post. 
  45. ^Lyall, Sarah (June 8, 2008). "What You Read Is What He Is, Sort Of". The New York Times. 
  46. ^"Contributors – David Sedaris". The New Yorker. Retrieved March 9, 2011. 
  47. ^David Spera, Steven M. Birkland and Todd Hanlon Bright Ideas Design. "David Sedaris – Gay and Lesbian Travel". Archived from the original on October 19, 2013. Retrieved December 4, 2013. 
  48. ^Schrobsdorff, Susanna (May 29, 2008). "David Sedaris on Writing, Reading and Gay Marriage – Newsweek and The Daily Beast". Retrieved September 12, 2015. 
  49. ^"BBC Radio 4 – Ramblings, Series 23, David Sedaris". BBC. March 9, 2013. Retrieved December 4, 2013. 
  50. ^"South Downs litter picker has truck named after him". West Sussex County Times. Horsham. July 28, 2014. Retrieved July 28, 2014. 
  51. ^Tim Dowling (31 July 2014). "David Sedaris? Who? Oh, you mean the local litter-picker". Guardian newspapers. Retrieved 31 July 2014. 
  52. ^Sedaris, David (November 29, 2004). "Reflections: Old Faithful". The New Yorker. Retrieved June 28, 2014. 
  53. ^Sedaris, David (June 26, 2006). "Annals of Commencement: What I Learned". The New Yorker. Retrieved June 28, 2014. 
  54. ^Sedaris, David (April 2, 2012). "Socialized Medicine in Old Europe". The New Yorker. Retrieved June 28, 2014. 
  55. ^Liz McAvoy (October 6, 2010). "Author, humorist David Sedaris enlivens Landmark Theater". The Collegian. University of Richmond (Virginia). Archived from the original on May 17, 2014. Retrieved May 15, 2014. 
  56. ^David Sedaris (December 2, 2005). "David and Goliath". This American Life. WBEZ. Retrieved May 15, 2014. 

External links[edit]

#7: A Vision of Peace, by Alex Raymond

by Alex Raymond, 1942
Published in Look magazine
This analysis copyright Scott McDaniel, 2009.

The Image

This is the last page of a 3 page article published in Look magazine in 1942 called “The Creator of Flash Gordon Envisions the World’s End.” Until just a few years prior to this Alex Raymond had worked mostly in comics with ink and line. He’d begun working in color, though, and delved into it in full force during World War II. A year or so after this image he joined the Marines and produced a number of works for them. This image, though, shows a blend of both his comics experience and an illustration style influenced by the likes of J. C. Leyendecker.

A Vision of Peace is a piece of war propaganda. Based on the text in the book Alex Raymond – His Life and Art by Tom Roberts (the source of this scan), I have every reason to think that Raymond fully believed in the war and its cause. Whether we agree with it or not, we should meet every piece of propaganda with critical thinking. In this case, we’ll look at how this image works both as an illustration and as propaganda. The text at the bottom of the image says,

FLASH GORDON … continued

Alex Raymond, creator of Flash Gordon, pictures how peace will come after war

In this painting, which represents Raymond’s more serious work, he suggests that a new civilization, holding the torch of freedom, will be raised up from the war ruins (above) by the hands of the soldiers and civilians who have lost their lives.


The first two pages of the article show scenes of the war (both battle scenes and the home front), as well as an interesting page where airplanes of his own design bomb the “head of the Axis octopus.” This painting then, was to communicate what we were fighting for. It’s quite symbolic and quite idealistic – a 1940’s American’s version of Utopia.

Composition and Influences
In the analysis of the Leyendecker piece, I said this about its composition, “In all three of the previous analyses I’ve drawn arrows showing how background elements guide your eye to the central focus. But here, there is no background. The closest thing I see to that is the tassel that leads the eye down to the woman. Rather than many different things pointing to her and, secondarily to him, the technique that brings our eye to the right place is the curve in the picture above.”

In this case we do have a limited background, but a simple, elegant curve is the basis of the composition yet again. In the picture below I’ve shown the main curve that the eye follows in yellow and a secondary curve in green. The secondary curve supports and frames the main eyeline.

To show the frame more clearly, here are the main bright and dark areas of the painting:

The lesson I take from this is that one way to control the viewer’s eye is to eliminate almost all background detail and make the focus of the image a pleasing, high-contrast shape. Detail work inside that shape is fine but still shouldn’t go overboard. Finally, let’s look at the grid of golden sections applied to the image.

See how the right vertical line goes right through the woman? The S-curve of the composition weaves right through the center section and ends up at the torch at the top, which is nearly on that line as well. The background city takes up the upper left rectangle. While not as bright as the clouds and figures, it is on the lighter side, which balances darker war ruins in the lower right.

Symbol and Message
As propaganda, if this painting is to work it must both persuade the undecided and motivate the already converted. It does this by setting up an ideal image of what we were fighting for. Like most propaganda it’s heavy on mood and symbolism but light on details or specifics. Too many details in the image would interfere with the basic communication. Here’s a detail of the war-torn landscape at the lower left.

You can see blasted out buildings and general wreckage. This is the area of the painting that has the most actual drawing in it, with hints of detail and perspective. But look at how low contrast it is. It’s not supposed to be noticed first, second, or even fifth. So why is it there at all? For two reasons. First, it’s a reminder that no matter how we feel right now, how grim the situation, we’re building towards something better. Second, it’s a reminder of the sacrifice. It’s where that column of the hands of the dead originates. We must endure it if we are to ascend to the heavens. Without that reminder in the image, it loses a level of symbolic meaning.

So if the wreckage indicates where we are now, what about the city in the upper left?

The city is the bright counterpoint to the wreckage. As such it’s brighter than the background, though notice that Raymond is careful not to make it bright enough to compete with the main focus of the painting. As the creator of Flash Gordon, Raymond was one of those who created our visual language for the “futuristic city.” From my perspective in 2009, this looks like a generic utopian city from the golden age of illustration. Then, it was a fresh image. What it’s like is left vague – that’s in keeping with the propaganda nature of the painting. But we see the symbol of light and advancement and fill in our own details.

Let’s look at a couple of other things. The torch of freedom is at the very top of the image – the place of supreme importance. It’s supported by the ideal man, who is himself supported by the ideal woman. He is primary and higher up in the image, while she is looking up at him and the torch. She’s helping him hold it (see her hand at his wrist), but he is also protecting her (see his hand at her wrist). There’s obvious sexism in this, though I’m going to skip a discussion of that here.

The ideal man and woman, as good as they are, can’t lift the torch high enough on their own. They are supported by a weird tower of hands emerging from hands. Knowing from the caption that they’re the hands of the dead makes this whole thing more than a little creepy. Their desaturated yellow and green contrasts with the healthy pink of the figures. I believe this symbol is to comfort those of us who have already sacrificed and to assure us that the sacrifice is to a good purpose. The last two symbols I’ll mention are the clouds and the city. A city in the clouds evokes heaven. So what we’ve got is the sacrifice of the dead lifting the ideal man and woman (Adam and Eve) back to heaven and the light of freedom.

Color and Palette
One of the first things I noticed about the color in this painting is how desaturated it is. There’s quite a range of values, but none of the color is all that intense. I’m not sure exactly why, but I think it may be a combination of several things:

  • The quality of the reproduction may have an impact. This scan is from a 1942 magazine. You can see in the image some of the print bleeding through from the other side of the page. Look magazine was the major competitor to Life magazine, so though I suspect the production values were decent it’s hard to know how well it’s aged.
  • Raymond was relatively new to color and may have been conservative in his use of high saturation. The other two pages have similar saturation levels.
  • The mood of the piece and the time did not necessarily call for bright, happy colors. Despite the hope this piece is to communicate, it was still being done in a time of hardship – both war and the recent Depression.

The second thing I notices was how Raymond used warm colors in the figures and cool colors in the column of hands. The hands are a yellowish green. Since warm colors tend to come forward while cool colors recede, we have the figures as the brightest, closest element while the column of hands recedes back into the clouds. The shading on the clouds is mostly neutral but tends slightly to purples, especially toward the bottom of the picture.

Lines and Form
Raymond was moving from ink work in comics to painted illustrations during this time, and we see a little bit of both in this image. The hands, the figures, and the city have linework while the rest does not. For the figures, the lines are just there for contour. They’re thin, and Raymond uses lighting to provide the form and the mass. The hands are similar with the exception of the nails and a few creases between finger segments.

Unlike the figures and the hands, the city uses lines both for contour and to suggest detail. The dome on the left side, for instance, uses line just as much as shading to suggest roundness. Those arches wrapping around the cylinder do just as much to indicate roundness as the shading itself. It’s almost as if Raymond couldn’t quite convince himself that he could do without the lines. Within a year or two he would – his later paintings don’t use them.

Tom Roberts’ book also includes a preparatory sketch for this painting. It’s neat to see the intermediate step.

As a fairly new artist, it’s good for me to stop and remember that these images don’t just spring unbidden from the artist’s brush. Raymond obviously spent a fair amount of time on this sketch to work things out before he began painting, and I’m sure this wasn’t the first study he did for it.

I see that he’d worked out the lighting patterns for the hands and people but hadn’t settled on the final values. You can also really see those lines in the column of hands.

The Elements
Lee Moyer’s essay Elements of a Successful Illustration provides us with a framework to look at this vision of peace.

Focus: The clear focus are the man and the woman. They’re framed by the curve of the clouds and they sit on the right vertical line of the golden section grid.

Composition and Design: The clouds form a frame of brightness. The rhythm of the design is dark to light to dark as you go from upper left to lower right. The figures and column of hands form a rhythm with their S curve.

Palette: Desaturated, with the focal figures being a warm color and most everything else a cool color. The saturation suggests to me a serious image to match serious times.

Value: There is near white in the figures and the torch and near black in the background elements. Values are also essential in providing the form and mass of the two figures.

Mass: Communicated mostly through values. The linework is thin enough that it contributes only a little to the perception of mass, and that mainly in the background city.

Texture: Texture is not emphasized, though the scan itself provides some interesting texture in the clouds. (The scan, in this case, that was used in the book.)

Symbolism: Since this is propaganda, there are many symbols and they’re fairly obvious. Propaganda doesn’t work through subtlety.

Micro/Macro: The most complete detail work is the blasted landscape in the lower right, which is quite low contrast. Some of the linework in the city suggests detail without actually providing much of it.

Ornament: The caption itself is a type of ornament in the image. There is also some in the city.

Narrative: The narrative is secondary to the symbolism. All we really know is that a couple has been lifted to the heavens from desolation, holding a torch. I’d kind of like to know how that column of hands came together. What did this scene look like 10 seconds ago?

Juxtaposition: Living people vs. dead hands. Bright, shining city vs. war-torn battlefields. The light of freedom vs. the darkness below.

Stylization: The style incorporates elements from painting and from the tradition of ink comics. It’s a snapshot of a person in transition between the two.

Character: The two figures do not stand out as specific individuals, nor are they meant to.

Tension: I’d say this picture is more about the resolution of tension than the tension itself. That came on the previous pages of the article. There is a disquieting tension, though, between the living and the dead. Or maybe that’s just me.

Line: Raymond uses line to support and emphasize his key elements: the figures, the hands, and the city. He does not use it to define mass.

Research/Reference: See the preparatory sketch above.

Vignette: The hands and the people are figure, while everything else is ground. Raymond uses the clouds both to frame them and as something to give them contrast.

Perspective: There’s some perspective in the city, but it’s not integral to the painting overall.

Fun: I don’t know that I’d say this image communicates a sense of fun. I don’t know that Raymond had a great deal of fun painting it. However, I do think he felt a sense of satisfaction and earnestness.

There we go. All this time I’ve been using Lee Moyer’s essay to wrap up these critiques. Next week I’ll take apart some of Lee’s work on the new release of Starstruck. It will focus on how color adds to and defines linework.

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