Edward Sorel, one of the founders of the Push Pin Studio (along with Milton Glaser and Seymour Chwast), is one of our modern illustration ink-masters. Over the past 50 years, Sorel has been regularly slinging ink in the pages and on the covers of most of the major publications, including the Atlantic, the New Yorker, Fortune, Forbes, the New York Times Magazine, the Village Voice, and the Nation. Sorel has long been noted for his wonderful caricature abilities, his biting satirical wit, and that beautiful, juicy, gestural, and lively pen line.
Earlier in Edward Sorel’s career, his line showed a great deal of movement, yet the drawings maintained a more formal structure about them. Take this 1970 drawing of Dr. Joseph Ignace Guillotin, for instance. Guillotin, who is apparently taking his invention out for a spin, has almost an early British engraving feel about him, with strong parallel lines making up the hatching and cross-hatching. In the face and body, Sorel maintains a liveliness, but it is done with smaller straight lines, adding to the planer structure of the figure. This image is from Word People, authored by Sorel’s wife, Nancy Caldwell Sorel, and later appeared in Superpen, the first book collection of Sorel’s work.
Fast-forward just seven years, and you see a different kind of illustration from Sorel:
Appearing in the May 16, 1977 issue of the Village Voice, Male Imperialist Pig shows Sorel at his ink-slinging best. Just look at the line work in the first two panels above, as Uncle Sam informs Lady Liberty that he’s out of shirts. When Lady Liberty responds, we see that surprised look on Sam’s face, but check out that loose, scribbled hatching and cross-hatching. When Sorel is on, and he most certainly was during this cartoon-illustration, he makes the pen work look effortless.
By the time the second tier rolls around, the pen work starts to take on the attitude of the figures:
The loseness of the line remains, but by closing-in on the figures, the expressiveness of the line becomes more noticeable, enhanced by the bold movement of Sorel’s lettering. Just look at Lady Liberty’s face from panel three to panel form. She goes from a loose scribble to line work conveying a molten heat.
Panel five zooms into Sam’s face, and Sorel plays a series of straighter lines on the character’s face, against the looser, more organic lines of the space. Straight vs. diagonals. In a limited space, he creates and angsty movement. In the final panel, Sorel zooms the camera back out, and we see Sam seething as he cleans his own shirt on an old washboard. The line is a bit more controlled in this panel compared to the first two, as if Sam has gained control of himself, at least for now.
Here is the full piece in all of it’s biting glory. The master showing the rest of us mortals how it’s done.
Until next time! Yers, in ink-slinging goodness.