The true skill of an artist is revealed by the bare lines of their drawing. It might be a finished pencil piece, a working sketch for painting, or the pencils for a comic book, waiting for the inker to carve their black definitions and the colourist to splash the tones. A decent artist’s talents lie naked amongst the interplay between line and texture.
Barry Windsor Smith (BWS) is rather more than a decent artist.
To demonstrate the power and eloquence of his art I’m showing here a preliminary sketch for 1978’s Fate Sowing the Stars (I came across it on comicartfans website, thank you!), and a sketch for Icarus (1981). It’s easy to admire the sensitivity and grace of the line, the energy of the overall form. As interesting is to compare it with two fine art masters: Leonardo da Vinci, that pinnacle of High Renaissance, and the Victorian delicacy of John Millais who flirted with Pre-Raphaelite styles for his subject matter and painting techniques but was, ultimately, a superb creator of form and expression. All artists, whether da Vinci, Millais, Picasso or Dali are prisoners of their generation, sometimes ‘building on the shoulders of giants’, sometimes rejecting them; BWS explores ancient symbols, using mythological subjects, ancient muses and cosmic concepts, addressing his subject-matter with a modern sensibility.
So, in order, here are the sketches for Barry Windsor Smith’s Fate Sowing the Stars and Icarus, Leonardo da Vinci’s charcoal and chalk ‘cartoon’ The Virgin and Child with St Anne and St John the Baptist (c. 1506) and John Everett Millais’s pencil study for Mariana (c.1851). Finished and related paintings, based on these sketches can be found on this Pinterest Board.