Tuesday, December 14, 2010
"X" Marks The Spot
I want to thank the fine folks at Fine Art Views for taking an old blog of mine about what I learned from studying the technique of Norman Rockwell and posting it to their site. (Go here to read it. It's great!) And while you're there, I think it would be fun if all of you who read this blog were to write a little comment with a secret phrase that only we know. How about, "This is the best blog ever!"
You know, writing and posting a blog by yourself can be something like singing "Happy Birthday To Me" alone. With a bottle of vodka. And no glass. But having someone else take your blog and post it is like being invited to a party! By someone who knows your name! And having nice people take the time to write a comment is like having a group of folks gather around the piano and sing, "For He's A Jolly Good Fellow!" It's a wonderful thing.
I have great admiration for Norman Rockwell, and a lot of the other great illustrators of days gone by. The more I see the works of guys like Rockwell, or N.C. Wyeth, Howard Pyle and even Tom Lovell, I think that studying them can be helpful to all of us. Of course, an illustration without the context of the story it represents leaves us with a picture that makes us scratch our heads and say, "huh?" But I think the best thing we can learn from them is design.
Here's a "Huh?" by N.C.Wyeth. It's from the book Treasure Island.
What is this guy doing? If you read the story maybe you'd know. But anyway, just look at the design, and how everything leads you into the painting. The hat lying on the ground with the shadow running through it connects to the figure. The extended walking stick runs a diagonal line up to the roof top in the upper right hand corner. The hand starts a line down to the hat , combining to make a big X through the scene. Might be neat to incorporate that design into a landscape somehow.
Next is a Tom Lovell. I love this guy. Wyeth's work is romanticised, while Lovell's is straight-on accurate history. Here's a depiction of General Knox bringing artillery through the snow during the Revolutionary War.
What I think is interesting is that it's another design with an X for a composition. And if you super-impose Wyeth's old Blind Pew (the painting above) on this scene, the lines are the same. Both of these guys bring you into the picture and create movement by the placement of their figures. There is nothing horizontal, nothing stagnant. I think I could swap out the artillerymen for more trees, and it would be a good composition for a landscape.
Lastly is the Dean of American Illustrators, Howard Pyle. N.C. studied under him, and Lovell studied under an artist who learned from Pyle as well.
Remember, I'm a history buff. OK, so look at this design. See the X? And again, notice how your eye goes into the picture? Substitute a dirt road for the English soldiers charging up Bunker Hill, and it's a William Merrit Chase-style landscape. I don't think I ever want to paint another horizontal painting again! I could go on about the handling of values, and the brushwork by these superb artists. My point is that we can learn from them about how to interest the viewer by using design and composition, and try to do that with our paintings.
Next subject: How Synchronised Swimming can help us with our brushstrokes...