My Idol, Al

24 Feb

It’s about time I talked about my artistic idol, Al Hirschfeld, pictured below in one of his self-portraits. I discovered him a short while after I had developed my illustration style, and his artistic philosophy resonated with me. He pretty much epitomizes what I hope to be as an artist. On the surface, many of his drawings are quite simple—often black pen on white paper with minimal if any shading and occasional use of spot color. His fundamental aesthetic is said to have been respect for absolute simplicity.

He is a true master of line. A few of his pen strokes convey much more than layers of brush strokes, color, and crosshatching by other artists. It’s this absence of extraneous visual clutter that make his drawings so powerful.

He said, “When I’m rushed I do a complicated drawing. When I have the time, I do a simple one.”

One of the things I most admire is that while he was a caricaturist who distorted and emphasized a subject’s physical features, he was considered to be a nice caricaturist and being drawn by him was an honor instead of an insult.


He drew Broadway actors, casts of television shows, movie actors, musicians, dancers, journalists, politicians, and many others.

In spite of this simplicity he was able to capture true likenesses of his subjects. His drawings are fun, quirky, and continually awe-inspiring.



The drawings shown are just a miniscule sample of his work. Visit his website to see a larger collection or buy one of his books. Hirschfeld On Line is a fantastic one.

All images courtesy of AlHirschfeld.com.

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One Response to “My Idol, Al”

  1. Hannah B. March 7, 2011 at 1:23 pm #

    Oh, I *love* his work too! You’re so right… each stroke says so much more than all of the color-filled crosshatchings of others.

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