Saturday, January 3, 2009

The artist that defined the 1980s

While everyone I know was busy with the festivities of the new year, I revisited my old passion of painting Nagel style illustrations. Patrick Nagel, a name that escapes many, left an indelible mark on the pop art of the 1980s. Most known for his illustrations in Playboy magazine, his work became symbolic of the emerging style of the time. A balance between art deco and Japanese print, Nagel's style epitomized the emerging attitude of simple elegance in contrast to the confusing and experimental character of the 1970s.

Attempting to mimic his work, I began to appreciate the sophistication of his style, especially the illusion of depth in the eyes of his subjects. Two shades of the iris color and one or two shades for the white of the eye, but, when closely observed, they become distinct colors that are repeated elsewhere in the background.
Not every person fits Nagel style portraits. Nagel women have pronounced features (lips, nose, jaw), and the expression that is best suited for it has to be as subdued as his color schemes, in my opinion.

This first attempt is from a photo of Ghaydaa Saleem, a fellow student at A Syrian with classic middle eastern features. Seeing it now, I have decided to keep as a work-in-progress because of all the possibilities that I have yet to explore.

This next one is of Nadine Labaki, actor/producer from Lebanon. The "Nagelness" is more apparent as I am getting comfortable drawing in Photoshop and finding all the cool features in it. Nadine Nagel.

Untitled, an experiment in cloth.
And finally, Dalida, a famous singer from the 50's that captured the hearts and imagination of fans in Europe and the Middle East. A beauty with universal facial proportions that does not lend itself to any one ethnicity. Dalida Nagel
I wonder why no one has attempted animating in this style? The closest that anyone got to it was a Schweppes advertisement that Eric Goldberg animated. I am motivated to attempt animating in this style.

1-04-2009 A couple more that I did over the weekend. This fir
st one is of Kimmy Baylor, an Animation Mentor alumni who was gracious enough to let me use one of her photos for this composition

And a better rendition, I think, of Ghaydaa
I wonder why there are no Nagel men with beards. Here is an attempt, I chose Che Guevara because of his iconic profile of the time.

And then I thought why not try a self portrait? This is why not. I think Nagel was wise not to draw bearded men;

3-29-09 Taking advantage of the short semester break I made this illustration of one of my friends and classmates, Sandy. This is the first one using the new Photoshop CS3.

9-23-2009 During the break between Class 5 and 6 I was able to finish this illustration of Valerie, another fellow student. Took me a total of 15 hours. I call it "V for Valerie". I think I am getting closer to achieving the results I'm after. A darker shade of cool gray seems to enhance the eyes better. Not happy with PS CS4's stroke feature that seem to produce aliasing of the black border. A challenge to overcome in the future. Valerie Nagel
9-27-2009 A rendition of actress Irene Papas

10-2-2009 I have always discounted Ava Gardner as an actress of days far gone and never really stopped to appreciate her facial features up close. Having decided to paint her I now discovered a timeless beauty in her facial proportions when I distilled it to ink lines. I think there is much to be said about the classiness of the stars of past generations that is missing today. I do this in appreciation of the past. Ava Nagel.

10-11-2009 Sabrina with ruby necklace. The challenge was not to over crowd this elegant composition. It would have been easy for me to keep adding colors and designs, but I felt that took away from the beauty of her profile. Her neutral expression lent itself to the color choices which was also inspired by her voice when I watched her story pitch. Sabrina is yet another fellow student who was gracious enough to give me permission to use her photograph. Sabrina Nagel.

I'm on a roll today. Kimmy in black hair was started at the beginning of the year. The reference photo of Kimmy is she has red hair, which you can see one example above, but this art style, being heavily influenced by Japanese art, suits brunettes best.

10-12-2009 Title: Dylan-Nagel. My friend and class mate, Dylan Hunter, who helped me tremendously at Animation Mentor, I finally got it done. Nagel men seem to have less eye detail than the women, which separates the genders more concisely, I, however, added some eye details and diluted the color of the iris to keep some consistency. Dylan Nagel

10-19-2009 Yellow Robe is my first attempt at full body illustration. Yellow Robe Nagel.

11-09-2009 Last week I was in New York for the first time; what a place! New York truly left a positive impression on me
. The liveliness of Times Square, the contrast of the old and the new architecture, the great pizza in Brooklyn and Chinese food in Manhattan, the Empire State building, yellow cabs, friendly NYPD etc. etc.. I did this illustration that represents how I see New York, like a young fashionable girl with a glorious history behind her. Title: I love NY.

11-28-2009 Title: I LUV Blit. Just poking fun at Victor Navone's inspirational creation of his character Blit Wizbok made famous by the Alien Song short animation. The idea is that Blit is the heart throb of the green women from Star Trek. Orion Nagel
12-22-2009 Now that my animationmentor journey has concluded I found some time to draw another rendition of Valerie Scheiber, whose birthday is a day away. I added some symbolism with the flower and the absence of the eye based on a Persian poem I heard long time ago that goes something like "Does a flower need eyes to see how beautiful it is?", or something of that nature which I thought was fitting for this subject (Valerie 2)
12-26-2009 For my mentor, Nicole Herr's birthday, I did this illustration.

2-13-2010 I can't believe this is the first for the new year, a rendition of classmate animator, Jude Brownbill. A most photogenic young lady that is hard to find a picture of her without a beaming smile. I only have a few where she had a hint of a smile which is what I look for. I let loose this time with hair style and abstract additions. Its a learning experience everytime.
4-10-2010 I attended Wondercon on April 3rd in San Francisco where I met Claudia Christian, the star of the Sci-Fi series Babylon 5. She was cordial and very friendly and I immediately thought she'd make a great Nagel girl. Here is a quick rendition of one of her profile photos from her blog.
04-18-2010 Joanne Dellavella, an aspiring Canadian model in mid 1980's whom I briefly met in Toronto, is chosen for this subject: Salute to the Pan Am girls. Pan Am airways was the quintessential symbol of Americana in international air travel. They epitomized the air travel service with some of the most beautiful stewardesses at the time. Here's to bringing back excellence in air stewardship. Pan Am Nagel

8-21-2010 I was invited last July to attend AnimationMentor's graduation ceremonies for classes 15 & 16, which led me to meet with a beautiful animator Betina Tin. Betina is a Barzilian and Syrian mix with light skin and jet black hair which gave her a striking beauty. She was gracious enough to pose for me for this next exercise which I title 'Perigoso' (dangerous, in Portuguese). Betina Nagel.

9-23-2010 Margherita Premuroso, a talented character design artist and animator from Milan, Italy is featured next in my illustration. Experimented with more colors around the eyes with which I am pleased.

11-28-2010 Cinthia, a young beauty from Brazil with a Japanese/European mix, is this next illustration. Simplicity is best in this case. Cinthia Nagel.

Another iteration of Kimmy B
12-05-2010 Rendition 2 of Betina; titled "Muito Perigoso" Betina Nagel.

4-11-2011 Another rendition of Ghaydaa. I'm now avoiding the use of black and favoring dark gray instead. Ghaydaa Nagel.

7-8-2011 For Betina's birthday. The green and yellow colors are a salute to Betina's homeland, Brazil.

6-12-2012 For Betina's wedding, with her husband Michael. Betina Nagel 3

6-21-2012 Shahad, a relative of mine, on her 21st birthday

10-09-2012 Liz, dear friend and classmate from Animation Mentor. This is the second time I paint glasses but Liz' awesome pose was the main motivator, it's the first time I see her picture without a smile, which made her look cool. Liz Nagel.


  1. You have some cool Nagel-inspired images. Feel free to pop into the fan-based forum and share your images and ideas:

  2. All I have to say is, "Wow", I just love what you did here, my computer broke down so I've kinda lost all my nagel jpegs and stumbled upon your page here. You've got some absolutely awesome work here. Hope you have luck finding work, do you do freelance illustration work at all? If so you may be able to find a lot of work from Anyway, thanks for putting all these images of your work up, it's been a real inspiration to see them.

  3. WOW, these are amazing! I've grown up with Patrick Nagel's work around the house and you've done an absolutely amazing job with this.

  4. I have always adored Nagel's style. It holds a special place in my heart. I stumbled across this late at night while at work. I have several of his books on my shelf at home. I know you probably will not see this as your last post looks like a while ago, but you are incredible. I think I love you just as well. I hope you are doing these still! If so, please share :) -Cassandra

    1. Dear Cassandra, thank you very much for your kind words, I've been busy with some animation projects but the call to drawing pulled me back. I started 2 Nagel illustrations that I will share soon. Wish you all the best.


  5. Hello Dhar, your skill is not bad, which means you're not good enough to draw like Nagel!! Nobody can!!! He was one of a kind. Just like there will never be another Michael Jordan!! What you should do is create your own style & mix some of Nagel's basics with yours! Only then will you find some success. The classes you took in collage in animation has gotton you this far,you might as well take advantage & go in the opposite direction. This way people will see your skill for you, & not another copycat of Nagel. you have talent. You don't want to wind up like those zombie followers trying to draw the Manga style do you? The Japanese own that style, not the copycats. And their the only ones making all the big bucks in that style, ya' feel me? Im a fellow artist like you, & I found my style out here freelancing! I didn't want to be like everybody else blowing sunshine & blue skys up your ass. It's a tough field out there in the art world, & you needed to hear this so that you can move forward. Good luck in the future with your skill. I admire your courage!!!!

    1. Thank you very much, Roy, for your candor and advice, I am eternally grateful.