The Sculptor of Images

Originally published on February 11, 2013

 
 

Self-Portrait. Yousuf Karsh (1908-2002)

 
 

“On the stormy New Year’s Eve of 1925, the liner Versailles reached Halifax from Beirut. After a voyage of twenty-nine days, her most excited passenger in the steerage class must have been a seventeen-year-old Armenian boy who spoke little French, and less English. I was that boy.

My first glimpse of the New World on a steely cold, sunny winter day was the Halifax wharf, covered with snow. I could not yet begin to imagine the infinite promise of this new land. For the moment, it was enough to find myself safe, the massacres, torture, and heartbreak of Armenia behind me. I had no money and little schooling, but I had an uncle, my mother’s brother, who was waiting for me and recognized me from a crude family snapshot as I stepped from the gangplank. George Nakash, whom I had not seen before, sponsored me as an immigrant, guaranteed that I would not be a “public charge,” and traveled all the way from his home in Sherbrooke, Quebec, for our meeting — the first of his many great kindnesses.

We went up from the dock to the station in a taxi, the likes of which I had never seen — a sleigh-taxi drawn by horses. The bells on their harnesses never stopped jingling; the bells of the city rang joyously to mark a new year. The sparkling decorations on the windows of shops and houses, the laughing crowds — for me it was an unbelievable fantasy come true. On the two-day journey to my uncle’s home, I marveled at the vast distances. The train stalled in a deep snowdrift; we ran out of food; this situation, at least, was no novelty for me.

I was born in Mardin, Armenia, on December 23, 1908, of Armenian parents. My father could neither read nor write, but had exquisite taste. He traveled to distant lands to buy and sell rare and beautiful things — furniture, rugs, spices. My mother was an educated woman, a rarity in those days, and was extremely well read, particularly in her beloved Bible. Of their three living children, I was the eldest. My brothers Malak and Jamil, today in Canada and the United States, were born in Armenia. My youngest brother, Salim, born later in Aleppo, Syria, alone escaped the persecution soon to reach its climax in our birthplace.

It was the bitterest of ironies that Mardin, whose tiers of rising buildings were said to resemble the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, and whose succulent fruits convinced its inhabitants it was the original Garden of Eden, should have been the scene of the Turkish atrocities against the Armenians in 1915. Cruelty and torture were everywhere; nevertheless, life had to go on — albeit fearfully — all the while. Ruthless and hideous persecution and illness form part of my earliest memories: taking food parcels to two beloved uncles torn from their homes, cast into prison for no reason, and later thrown alive into a well to perish; the severe typhus epidemic in which my sister died, in spite of my mother’s gentle nursing. My recollections of those days comprise a strange mixture of blood and beauty, of persecution and peace.

I remember finding brief solace in my young cousin relating her Thousand and One Nights tales of fantastic ships and voyages and faraway people, and always, solace in the example of my mother, who taught me not to hate, even as the oppression continued.

One day, I returned from school, my forehead bleeding. I had been stoned by Turkish boys who tried to take away my only playthings, a few marbles. “Wait,” I told my mother defiantly, “from now on I am the one who will carry stones.” My mother took me in her arms and said, “My son, they do not know what they are doing. However, if you must retaliate — be sure you miss!”

My mother’s generosity, strength, and hope sustained our family. She took into our home a young Armenian girl, shared our few morsels of food with her, and encouraged her to use her hands instead of her eyes, which had been cruelly mutilated. My mother herself seemed tireless. She had to go every day to the distant mountain spring which was the one source of water for the whole community. Allowed only one small pail, she would wait patiently in line for hours to get enough water for her children. Running water, to me, is still a great blessing.

In 1922, our family was allowed to flee. We had to leave our doors open — with us we took no baggage, only our lives. And we had to flee on foot. During our month-long journey with a Bedouin and Kurdish caravan, which would have taken only two days by the forbidden train, my parents lost every valuable they had managed to save. My father’s last silver coin went to rescue me after I was caught foolishly making a sketch of piled-up human bones and skulls, the last bitter landmark of my country.

In the safety of Aleppo, Syria, my father painstakingly tried to rebuild our lives. Only those who have seen their savings and possessions of a lifetime destroyed can understand how great were the spiritual resources upon which my father must have drawn. Despite the continual struggle, day after day, he somehow found the means to send me to my Uncle Nakash, and to a continent then to me no more than a vague space on a schoolboy’s map.

Uncle Nakash was a photographer of established reputation, still a bachelor when I went to live with him, and a man of generous heart. If my first day at Sherbrooke High School proved a dilemma for the teachers—in what grade did one place a seventeen-year-old Armenian boy who spoke no English, who wanted to be a doctor, and who came armed only with good manners? — the school was for me a haven where I found my first friends. They not only played with me instead of stoning me, but allowed me to keep the marbles I had won. My formal education was over almost before it began, but the warmth of my reception made me love my adopted land.

I roamed the fields and woods around Sherbrooke every weekend with a small camera, one of my uncle’s many gifts. I developed the pictures myself and showed them to him for criticism. I am sure they had no merit, but I was learning, and Uncle Nakash was a valuable and patient critic.

It was with this camera that I scored my first photographic success. I photographed a landscape with children playing and gave it to a classmate as a Christmas gift. Secretly, he entered it in a contest. To my amazement, it won first prize, the then munificent sum of fifty dollars. I gave ten dollars to my friend and happily sent the rest to my parents in Aleppo, the first money I could send to them.

Shortly afterward my uncle arranged my apprenticeship with his friend John H. Garo of Boston, a fellow Armenian, who was recognized as the outstanding portraitist in the eastern states. Garo was a wise counselor; he encouraged me to attend evening classes in art and to study the work of the great masters, especially Rembrandt and Velázquez. Although I never learned to paint, or to make even a fair drawing, I learned about lighting, design, and composition. At the Public Library, which was my other home in Boston, I became a voracious reader in the humanities and began to appreciate the greater dimensions of photography.

My interest lay in the personalities that influenced all our lives, rather than merely in portraiture. Fostered by Garo’s teachings, I was yearning for adventure, to express myself, to experiment in photography. With all my possessions packed in two suitcases, I moved to Ottawa. In the capital of Canada, a crossroads of world travel, I hoped I would have the opportunity to photograph its leading figures and many foreign international visitors.

My life had been enriched by meeting many remarkable personalities on this photographic odyssey, the first of many, to record those men and women who leave their mark on our era. It would set a pattern of working away from my studio. Any room in the world where I could set up my portable lights and camera—from Buckingham Palace to a Zulu kraal, from miniature Zen Buddhist temples in Japan to the splendid Renaissance chambers of the Vatican — would become my studio.”

 
 

Tennessee Williams

 
 

Wystan Hugh Auden

 
 

Albert Camus

 
 

Sir George Bernard Shaw

 
 

Ernest Hemingway

 
 

Vladimir Nabokov

 
 

Sir John Buchan, Governor of Canada

 
 

Jacques Cousteau

 
 

Martin Luther King Jr.

 
 

Muhammad Ali

 
 

Nelson Mandela

 
 

Albert Einstein

 
 

Jackie & John Fitzgerald Kennedy

 
 

Queen Elizabeth II & Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

 
 

Rainier III Grimaldi, Prince of Monaco & Princess Grace Kelly

 
 

Audrey Hepburn & Mel Ferrer

 
 

Humphrey Bogart

 
 

Lauren Bacall

 
 

Audrey Hepburn

 
 

Grace Kelly

 
 

Anita Ekberg

 
 

Ana Magnani

 
 

Brigitte Bardot

 
 

Jacqueline Lee Bouvier

 
 

Elizabeth Taylor

 
 

Joan Crawford

 
 

Sophia Loren with her son Edoardo

 
 

Martha Graham

 
 

Alberto Giacometti

 
 

Max Ernst

 
 

Alexander Calder

 
 

Isamu Noguchi

 
 

Josef Albers

 
 

Henry Moore

 
 

Man Ray

 
 

Joan Miró

 
 

Andy Warhol

 
 

Georgia O´Keeffe

 
 

Pablo Picasso

 
 

Norman Rockwell

 
 

Walt Disney

 
 

Frank Lloyd Wright

 
 

Mies van der Rohe

 
 

Charles Édouard Jeanneret-Gris (Le Corbusier)

 
 

Alfred Hitchcock

 
 

Christian Dior

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Duck Universe

The first Donald Duck model sheet. Created in 1934 for the Disney cartoon The Wise Little Hen

 
 

Still from The Wise Little Hen (Wilfred Jackson, 1934)

 
 

Poster by Tom Whalen

 
 

It was his second appearance in Orphan’s Benefit (Burt Gillett, 1934) that introduced Donald as a temperamental comic foil to Mickey Mouse.

 
 

Carl Barks, best known for his comics about Donald Duck and as the creator of Scrooge McDuck. Fans dubbed him “The Duck Man” and “The Good Duck Artist”.

 
 

Drawing by Don Rosa

 
 

The Duck universe also called the Donald Duck universe, Duckburg or Scrooge McDuck universe) is a fictional universe where Disney cartoon characters Donald Duck and Scrooge McDuck live. It is a spin off of the older Mickey Mouse universe, yet has become much more extensive. “Duck universe” is a term used by fans and is not an official part of the Disney lexicon.

 
 

The New Spirit (Donald Duck), Andy Warhol, 1985

 
 

Look Mickey, Roy Lichtenstein, 1961

 
 

Daffy Duck first appeared in Porky’s Duck Hunt (Tex Avery, 1937)

 
 

The only aspects of Daffy Duck that have remained consistent through the years are his voice characterization by Mel Blanc and his black feathers with a white neck ring.

 
 

Howard the Duck is a comic book character in the Marvel Comics universe created by writer Steve Gerber and artist Val Mayerik. The character first appeared in Adventure into Fear #19 (Dec. 1973)

 
 

Paul and Linda McCartney with their daughters Heather, Stella and Mary. April 1976

 
 

Elton John. Central Park Concert, 1980

 
 

Photo by Irving Penn

 
 

Self portrait, Duane Michals

 
 

Napoleon Stereotype as Portrayed, Jean-Michel Basquiat

 
 

Portrait by Bruce Weber

 
 

Yohji Yamamoto. Fall/Winter 1984-1985. Photo: Nick Knight

 
 

Signed sketch by Jean Cocteau hanging on the wall at La Tour D’Argent.

 

Duck, especially the pressed duck, is the specialty (Canard à la presse, Caneton à la presse, Caneton Tour d’Argent). In 1890 Frederic, one of La Tour d’Argent’s owners, had the idea to enumerate each duck served at the restaurant. Edward VII ate number 328 in 1890. Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall shared number 280.101 in 1951…

 
 

Lester Bookbinder

 
 

Dick’s Ducks,installation by Richard Jackson

 
 

Backpack

 
 

Zach Galifianakis by Martin Schoeller

 
 

In 1992 a shipping container filled with rubber ducks was lost at sea. Over 28,000 rubber duckies fell overboard on their way from Japan to the United States.

 
 

Giant Rubber Duck by Florentijn Hoffman

 
 

Brooksfield logo

 
 

Mandarina Duck is an Italian fashion brand. The company name and logo come from the Mandarin duck, a breed that lives on the banks of the Ussuri River on the border of Russia and China.

 
 

Ducks Unlimited (DU) is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation of wetlands and associated upland habitats for waterfowl, other wildlife, and people. Ducks Unlimited was incorporated by Joseph Knapp, E. H. Low and Robert Winthrop on January 29, 1937, in Washington, D.C.

A Tribute To The Seventh Art

Mark Summer’s process of drawing

 

Step 1: A quick sketch to block out the final composition.

 

Step 2: The preliminary sketch
“I don’t always go to this extreme for a rough sketch- only if the piece is fairly complex or if the client needs to see some indication of where the exact light and darks will fall. I’m not sure how I wound up doing sketches in such a Byzantine fashion, but it is a quick way to determine the overall tone.
This is a simple line drawing, done with a felt tip pen. On tracing paper- I then spray mount it onto a light toned paper. The highlights are acrylic paint. Even after this step I will still tend to “fiddle.” If I feel a hand is too small, or a figure too large I photocopy it to the proper size and just paste it in.”

 

Step 3: The finished black and white.
“Each drawing begins as a black square. After this, using a knife, I scratch white lines into the surface. I try to discourage clients from asking to see “the work in progress,” as at any time there will be an entirely finished head here, a hand there, all floating in a sea of black.
I tend to work size-as (this drawing is 12” high- each face being approximately 2” high.) In a drawing such as this, I find it takes a full day to finish each figure. I then have the finished work scanned and printed onto photographic paper.”

 

Step 4: Finished color.
“A fast process, as the black and white drawing already defines the modeling. Simple flat tones of color are all that are really needed. I paint details with watercolor and then everything else with oil glazes. Sometimes I go in and smooth things out with airbrush. The final step is to paint in highlights with acrylic.

The coloring of this piece took about three hours.”

 
 

Orson Welles (as Charles Foster Kane), hominid (from Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Oddyssey), Peter O’Toole (as Lawrence of Araby), Alfred Hitchcock, Marlon Brando (as Vito Corleone), Judy Garland (as Dorothy), James Stewart, Humphrey Bogart (as Rick Blaine) and Vivian Leigh (as Scarlett O’Hara).