Hey folks! A couple of months back, I saw a couple of critical comments about my work over at the Broadway.com Facebook page. Please know I'm taking it with a grain of salt, but I'm still intrigued by the question it brings up. See the screen capture below and look at the last two comments. What do you think?
I'm indeed a huge fan of Al Hirschfeld. The blurb this commenter quoted is true. I am deeply reverent of that which came before me. But I'm also confident enough in my work to know that I have my own unique angle on the style and I would never be successful at stealing the Hirschfeld style because it is his style. My work is definitely an homage to a great artist, but it's my homage.
This is something artists will always face. The idea of borrowing or stealing style. Ken Fallin began his career lovingly spoofing Hirschfeld in the posters for Forbidden Broadway, and even though he has developed his own take, I'm sure he still runs into people who make the comparison. Sam Norkin was a contemporary of Al and his work was in the same vein, and I know he was occasionally referred to as "the other Hirschfeld." And it's very likely that a young Albert Hirschfeld was compared to predecessors and contemporaries too.
What makes an artist unique is his or her perspective. Why do I make this person bigger in a sketch than another person? Why do the lines of these other two folks intersect? How do I decide to make the illustration visually flow in the direction it does? Why did I make a point of including that locket? How did I come to use this particular color palette? I could steal all of the bits of Al's visual language but it wouldn't mean a thing without intent. Mr. Hirschfeld wasn't just doing visual schtick. He was serving the subject and their stories and personalities. Every time I pick up a pen I try my best to do the same thing in my own way. I will never be the wonderful Al Hirschfeld. There will never be another Al Hirschfeld. But then there also will never be another me, and I look forward to being me for a long time to come. So far so good.