Friday, October 21, 2011


This woodcut by Lynd Ward scared the crap out of me when I was a boy:

Ward (1905-1985) became known in the 1930s for his "wordless novels" comprised entirely of woodcuts.  (His first, Gods' Man, a powerful story about the corrupting influence of money, debuted the week of the great stockmarket crash in 1929).

I discovered a battered collection of Ward's books on my father's bookshelf.  This illustration-- one of my favorites-- was from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

At age five, I was already expert at drawing scary monsters.  I'd figured out that the two most important ingredients for a monster were 1.) a scary face, and 2.) great big muscles.  Yet, Ward's monster had neither.  Ward succeeded in unnerving me without showing a face at all. 

That gave me plenty of food for thought.

Today you see artists straining to draw scarier faces and bigger muscles.  They'd do well to linger for a moment over the work of Lynd Ward.

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