Wild Man Berger

A closeup of a wild-eyed-man's face, surrounded by a tangle of tousled hair.

A closeup of a wild-eyed-man's face, surrounded by a tangle of tousled hair.

Instagram is a glorious thing for artists — both as a forum in which to share our work, and as a source of inspiration and reference photos.

Yesterday, after finishing an illustration I spent several days working on, I found myself perusing my Instagram feed while also feeling like I should make better use of what was left of the day than just screwing around on my phone. Then I saw this photo of Alfie Berger. It made me laugh, and like most things that make me laugh, it also made me want to draw it.

I figured I’d give a new technique a try, so I got out on my Pilot Hi-Tec-C .3mm gel pens and scribbled out the basic drawing. Then I grabbed a fine-tipped Pentel Aquash water brush pen and pushed the ink around on the paper as the water caused it to run. I really love the effect this has, and I think it’ll be even more fun once I get the hang of it.

You can see for yourself that my reproduction of the image missed it by a mile. In the photo Alfie looks handsomely tousled, whereas in my sketch he looks like a wild man. On the other hand, I tried hard to make this a recognizable portrait, and it comes closer than I thought it would. I also didn’t bother with a pencil underdrawing — I just dived right in with ink and had at, leaving myself no room for corrections. Yes, the proportions are all wrong, and yes, it has that slightly creepy look that most amateurish portraits share. But all things considered, not bad.

I should point out that Alfie Berger is a freaking amazing artist, which is how I found him on Instagram to begin with. It was a little crazy of me to try to draw someone who actually knows how to draw for realsies, and then to post the results. But I did, half expecting Mr. Berger to ask me to take it down and probably to give up drawing while I was at it. Instead, he responded with “Although @akirebubar didn’t think I would thank them for some reason, I think it’s awesome you drew me and it looks great! You should draw me every day till you are perfect at faces and feel like a pro at them! I’ve drawn my wife’s face about 20 times so far and she still comes out looking like she has a congenital birth defect.”

Wow. What a great guy!

This is why I love the internet, and Instagram in particular. Yes, there are jerks out there. But I’ve met mostly kind, generous, talented people, and I never cease to be amazed and humbled by how friendly and downright supportive folks are.

Hop on over to Alfie Berger’s Instagram feed and look at his work. In particular, you should really look at this process video he posted of one of his works involving a woman, a kitten, a pair of underpants, and a toilet — it’s both utterly delightful, and a great insight into how he works. Don’t forget to follow him while you’re at it! You can also see the three-minute version on YouTube if you want to see what he’s doing at an easier-to-digest speed. He also tweets a lot of his artwork — find him on Twitter at @AlfieBerger.

At the start of this post, I mentioned that Instagram is a good source of reference photos. Please keep in mind that images there are NOT communal property. In most cases, they are the property of the person in whose feed they appear, and should be treated like any copyrighted material. Artworks created using someone else’s photo as a reference are murky territory where copyright issues are concerned, but in general can be considered an infringement of copyright when used for commercial purposes. Keep this in mind when sketching, folks!

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If you enjoyed this and want to be sure you don’t miss upcoming posts, enter your email address and hit “FOLLOW” below. If you want the most current, up-to-the minute look at whatever I’m drawing, follow me on Instagram — almost everything I draw ends up there, including works-in-progress for all my fellow process junkies.

2 thoughts on “Wild Man Berger

  1. Huge likeness to the original/model Akire! When I first saw the rendering I thought, “the startled look on his face usually happens when we draw selfies from looking up at ourselves at the mirror”, and I had *not* yet seen the template/photo. To my delight, the photo itself was a selfie, probably taken in front of a mirror, which translates into: your capture nailed the mood, the aura in that shot, perfectly! And that is what makes a great work imho. The spirit in his expression was all there, almost charicature-like, which IS a great thing girl! Way to go. Hyperrealism is not everything in art. Emotion beats it most times!
    New Yorker from the Hudson school, the glorious George Inness (whose work I love_ I saw a guache by him at the Parthenon, Nashie, Tennessee and got on my knees right under it with emotion!) once said: “The purpose of the painter is simply to reproduce in other minds the impression which a scene has made upon him. A work of art does not appeal to the intellect. It does not appeal to the moral sense. Its aim is not to instruct, not to edify, but to awaken an emotion.” This is my All Time favorite art quote, EVER. I used it when I put together the very first exhibit of those dreamscapes in oils, shown at the Universalist Church of Long Beach, on Atherton, near CSULB.
    George Inness’ input for the philosophical betterment of art as an expression of our existence is gloriously spiritual to me. Thanks for sharing the piece!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Luna! I think art can be a lot of things, and that there are some artists who’ve used it very well to appeal to a moral sense – but the reason it works, in those cases, isn’t because of any kind of “preaching” for lack of a better word – it’s because the awakening of emotion reveals its own irrefutable truth. Political cartoons can instruct in that they can make a point very succinctly and entertainingly that would take a whole long essay to make otherwise – but again, that works because the artist has made something that the viewer recognizes instantly. I’m not sure what to call it – “spark of recognition” is what I usually say, but it might be clearer to say “empathy” or “understanding” – and those all have an emotional aspect too.

      I keep remembering what Toe said over the summer when I asked him about something – he said, “our job as artists is not to copy the world, it’s to interpret it.” I think of that all the time.

      What matters to me most in art is whether or not it is compelling in that it evokes an emotional reaction, or deep curiosity, or recognition – something truly felt. Realism I could take or leave. I have a *huge* amount of respect for artists with the skill for photorealism, and it’s indicative of a very carefully honed ability to see and to translate – skills any artist would treasure! But I see so much of it on Instagram that it’s less remarkable to me than it used to be, and a lot of it is very cold and emotionless. I think it can be gimmicky, in a way – it appeals to a sense of illusion that fascinates some people – “wow, that looks so *real!*” I get that – but by itself, without something to communicate, it’s just technique, not art – at least to my eye. I tend to be drawn to art that is much simpler, but more evocative – what wows me is how powerful something simply done can be, if done well. How much can be said with just a few lines.

      Thank you so much for looking, and reading, and taking the time to respond! I always truly love talking about these things with you!


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