My peripatetic education in ten schools and four countries (China, Canada, India, and the U.S.), as broken up as it was, nevertheless managed to instill in me a respect for writing coherent sentences and paragraphs. This was mainly due to the British orientation of six of the schools I went to and their emphasis on grammar and essay writing. Expressing myself in words was also a way for me to ruminate on events in my life, to look back over “what happened,” so it was natural for me to indulge that impulse in explaining in words the background of my thinking in my illustrative work. My four books on my illustrations and posters, beginning with Revealing Illustrations, all retrospectively examine my responses to the commissions, including the false starts, the connections to my own biases and enthusiasms and how particular real-world information got manipulated to tell the story.
The two books of my posters had an additional element beyond the description of my esthetic thinking and that was to describe how I maneuvered within the approval process of the theater, often successfully. These struggles to work within the forest of opinions and egos matured me as a person and have opened me up to rich relationships that would never have happened had it not been for the give and take of defending my art.
High Focus Drawing, a book that I wrote after teaching drawing for fifteen years at the School of Visual Arts, attempts to explain the underlying philosophy and practical guidance that I gave my students in those many classes. Although no book could match the effectiveness of face-to-face teaching, I think it helped that minority of readers that were willing to spend time with its fairly dense text and illustrations. My New York Times blog, Line by Line, offers a much-simplified tutorial on drawing but it didn’t attempt to go as deeply into drawing the figure
James McMullan, Artist & Illustrator | Writing | Print Magazine March/April 1989©