Two Books on Joseph Clement Coll
When looking back on influences for his work on Frankenstein, Bernie Wrightson cited the work of Joseph Clement Coll alongside that of Franklin Booth. For years, I couldn’t see anything but Booth in Wrightson’s elaborate drawings; they had Wrightson’s hand with Booth’s finish. And Coll was nowhere to be found.
I had always preferred Booth, maybe because there was something inhuman about his results. He and Coll were contemporaries, and between them, their techniques were worlds apart. Franklin Booth’s carefully constructed web of forms was like something put together from blueprints, and they were exquisitely executed by a machine.
Flesk Publications came out with two books on Coll’s career. Until reading these two books, I wouldn’t have known how to describe Coll’s work. Now, I see that Coll had a variety of tension in his line work that was all his own. His style incorporated a weave of diversity that relinquished textures, speeds, and densities that invited you to read more in the drawing. And absorbing his drawings is a lot like reading because much of the detail work is hidden in the crosshatching – you can’t get the whole picture until you study it a little.
His line work revealed a sense that he did little planning for his drawings, maybe using nothing more than minimal pencils before getting into it with ink. There’s a “fly off the seat of your pants” feeling to his finished drawings, as if he were making up half of it as he was going along, compelling me to look at Wrightson again to see if I can catch some of this spirit of enchanting the viewer. Coll’s images invite you to trek through his paths, to seek, to find fun along the way. And seeking is what drawing was always about.