Al Dorne on "The Satisfaction of Compromise"

Hello - and welcome back! Happy New Year! I spent a lot of time over the last couple of weeks thinking about how I'd like to start this year of Today's Inspiration. In the end I decided to share with you this thought provoking article by Albert Dorne from the December 1950 issue of American Artist magazine.

I love the graphic innovation of Al Parker... and have the greatest respect the impeccable draftsmanship of Robert Fawcett... but the 20th century illustrator I most admire is Al Dorne. If you are unfamiliar with the remarkable story of Dorne's triumph over adversity to become one of the titans of the commercial art business, I have written about it previously: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4. But this week we'll focus on Al Dorne's personal philosophy of what it means to be an illustrator - a philosophy I whole heartedly agree with. As with everything we learn about on Today's Inspiration, the wisdom Dorne shared with readers of American Artist more than half a century ago is just a relevant today...


"That knucklehead art director, he doesn't know enough to come in out of the rain when it comes to art - and he's telling me how to make a picture. He completely ties me hand and foot and then expects me to do my good stuff..."

Ever heard that gripe? Well I have news for you, friend. That art director probably knows as much about art as you do, and what is more, he certainly knows more than you about his client's problems - about the total advertising effort for which you are making that picture and for which, incidentally, you are being paid a fairly good fee. Actually, he hasn't been telling you how to make a picture at all. He has simply told you what elements the picture requires, and he hopes you will fuse these elements into a good picture and satisfy the purpose for which the ad was originally conceived.


As a professional artist, your function is to accept the editorial restrictions in a picture problem, whether for an ad or an illustration, and to make a good picture within those editorial limits. Instead of fighting and resenting this humiliation to your fancied artistic integrity, how about doing a good picture within those specified limits? There is considerable to be said for the integrity of delivering - full value received.


If "artistic integrity" means that the artist expresses only what he feels without regard to the world around him or to the effect of his feelings on his audience, then, in fact, "artistic integrity" in advertising is a contradiction in terms. Advertising which includes copy as well as art has a function. That function is to sell the goods and services of the advertiser and not those of the artist or copywriter.


So subordination of "artistic integrity", if one insists on calling it that, is something I prefer to call...


... the "satisfaction of compromise."

* My Al Dorne Flickr set.

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