Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Agony of da Feet

A posting at Charles' blog reminded me of something...

Jeff Jones hates feet.

I have been a big fan of Jeff Jones' work for decades, since he first became the go-to guy for paperback companies who couldn't afford to hire Frank Frazetta to paint a cover. While Jones' work lacked the fine detail that was a hallmark of Frazetta's paintings, it had the moodiness and the sense of light and dark that made Frazetta's work so striking. And, similar to Frazetta, Jones also had an ability to present the lithe, sinuous (and often sensuous) human form.

But he apparently had no idea what to do with feet.

The cover for Kothar and the Conjurer's Curse is a great example; notice how the main figure's feet simply vanish into an obscuring mist. What is this mist? Why is it there? If the smoke from the nearby censer is rising, why isn't the mist rising? I have no idea, and neither does Jeff Jones, I'll bet; the mist is an artistic tool that allows him to avoid painting feet.

Here's another painting, from the superlative and underrated Peter Saxon Guardians series; again, the figure dissolves at about ankle-level, with no feet anywhere to be seen.

Jones isn't alone in this; a lot of artists, both paperback illustrators and comic book artists, go out of their way to avoid drawing feet. (Rob Liefeld will actually depict the curvature of the Earth in order to obscure the feet of his running characters.) Apparently, there is something about the tarsals that is either unattractive or incomprehensible to many artists.

But it always struck me as odd that Jones, who seemed to have such artistic mastery of the human form, was flummoxed by feet.

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