The Daily Heller: The Male Figure by a Figurative Maestro

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I usually do not give testimonials for books because it inhibits my ability to review said books. But in the case of the recently published Hello World: The Body Speaks in the Drawings of Men by James McMullan (Pointed Leaf Press), I made an exception. Viewing a preview PDF, which is what most blurbsters receive, is never the same as holding the real book—especially a visual one. The other day when McMullan’s real thing appeared, it was indeed more impressive than the PDF, and calls for a longer disquisition than my blurb allowed.

First of all, with the exception of the obligatory copyright and ISBN text, there is not a single word of type used in this book. All the texts, mostly brief call and response, of inner thoughts and explanation of technique (as well as the dedication, introduction and contents) are handlettered in a loose script that defines McMullan’s theater posters and highlights his mastery of pen and brush.

Hello World is neither strictly an art monograph nor instruction book, although it shares the attributes of both. Representational abstraction, simple brush strokes that give the suggestion of human forms, magically produce the perfect outline of man. It is accompanied by a notation that states: “The elegance of your body needs lines moving through air.” In this is painted the picture of McMullan’s art, which at its best is unpacking all the abstraction inherent in the male body and repackaging them into the ultimate figure.

He writes as the prefatory note: “What is his body saying?” “What am I thinking?” Which explains the concept. Rather than an instructional, this book is a dialog between the men on the page and the artist. If not a dialog, then two monologues. But together, they tell the reader exactly what McMullan is trying to attain through gesture and nuance, and what the result triggers in the artist.

McMullan embodies many different kinds of artists. Not only does he draw abstractions, at the same time his work is representation personified. Many of the figures are fully realized in an impressionistic sense, too. Each drawing in the book is accompanied by thoughts rather than declarative statements. One such of a wide-eyed man in a muscle shirt reads, “I’m remembering something far away,” as though the figure is thinking it. On the same page McMullan makes an overall observation: “The negative of the white undershirt increases your presence.”