we tour the studio we stop at a red door, an antique English door with
a stained glass window, that leads up a small staircase to his inner
sanctum. While Windsor-Smith maintains a home elsewhere, he also keeps
an apartment at the studio. Along the staircase are the fabulous Moon
and Stars series of Alphonse Mucha prints, and at the top one enters
a large open attic refurbished to be a delightful and modern aerie. We
discuss the Mucha prints. “These
were prints. Not posters; posters are advertising. These pictures existed
for their own sake.”
set is beautiful, much more muted than the posters he did, all mauve
and slate. They are actual size. “The thing you’ve
got to know about Alphonse Mucha,” says
Windsor-Smith, “which most people don’t understand
is that he was probably one of the greatest pencil artists of all time,
and more than that he could draw backwards. I’ll do a drawing,
and if I think something’s wrong with it, but I can’t figure
what the hell it is, I’ll turn it upside down, or look at it
in a mirror, or hold it up to a lamp and look at it backwards, flopped.
And I’ll realize, omigod, of course, the eye’s all wrong!
You can’t do that with Mucha because his drawings work
both ways. He’d transfer his design with a grease pencil onto
the printing stone and he’d be recreating the drawing backwards,
so that when it’s printed it comes out the right way. It’s
just boggling to me that he had such knowledge and facility.”
in the privacy of Windsor-Smith’s loft, he is most relaxed, talking
about artists and music. “Mucha was the greatest of all.
People of his period and after, like Klimt, they were all academically
trained, and then they went out into the world and broke every rule
they could lay their hands on. I
went to art school in the late
1960s, and I was extremely lucky to have such fine teachers.
taught me how to draw and how to think. I’ve been offered teaching
positions myself, but I don’t want a desk job while I’m
still able to fight in the field.”
are sprawled on long leather sofas upon which several beautiful fabrics
have been draped. It is growing dark, apparent from the many skylights.
I cannot imagine Windsor-Smith as a teacher when he has so much creative
fire left. “Leave teaching to Joe Kubert. But the fact
is that Joe’s teaching cartooning, not art or art theory. Making
a comic is mostly cartooning, telling a story. It’s not drawing.”
is the difference?” I ask.
not invention. Cartooning is, by and large, sheer creativity that can,
but does not have to, adhere to any set-in-stone tenets of academic
drawing. To be able to draw is to be able to see and to translate what
you see to paper. It’s not easy, by any means, but the fact is
that anybody with two eyes, a brain and a limb can be taught to draw.
Drawing is like meditation, you just have to know how to control the
brain by way of your mind. Cartooning, though, can be an unbounded
freedom of expression. However much drawing one cares to put into it
is entirely subjective and dependent upon the cartoonist’s needs
to communicate with recognizable symbols. The fact is that comics could
be our finest form of communication. In film, especially commercial
movies, there are hundreds of personalities involved in the production
and every one of them is just another chance to subvert a singular
artistic vision. The words and pictures of comics could, can, might
be the only unsullied, uncrowded platform of expression we have that
has almost never been employed to its fullest, most far reaching extent
of personal expression.”