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Showing posts from July, 2006

THE ANVIL OF ART

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Young Norman Rockwell dreamed of the day he would paint as well as his idol, the great illustrator J.C. Leyendecker. Rockwell spied on Leyendecker, trying to discover the secret of his genius:
I'd followed him around town just to see how he acted....I'd ask the models what Mr. Leyendecker did when he was painting. Did he stand up or sit down? Did he talk to the models? What kind of brushes did he use? Did he use Winsor & Newton paints?But Leyendecker's secret had nothing to do with his brand of brushes. A few years later, Rockwell visited Leyendecker in his studio and observed Leyendecker working on the painting above. He recalled:
New Rochelle published a brochure illustrated with reproductions of paintings by all the famous artists who lived in the town. Joe worked on his painting for months and months, starting it over five or six times. I thought he'd never finish it.The painting was beautiful, with many fine touches.







It was nearly finished, and the client would h…
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The previous charcoal and this watercolor sketch are of a sculpture at the Hunnington Gardens in San Marino Ca.
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Thumbnail of Pasadena City Hall. I had just been excused from Jury service, so I sat out on the lawn with my sketchbook while security watched me suspiciously.
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Thumbnail of the hills near Coalinga Ca (where I grew up).

ARTISTS IN LOVE, part four

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Last year I described the life of Ivor Hele, the great Australian war illustrator. Hele painted front line combat in Africa, the Middle East, Korea and the South Pacific during World War II and the Korean War. In the jungles of New Guinea he was injured and lay unconscious for two days.



After a career filled with death and carnage, Hele withdrew from the world. He and his wife lived a life of isolation in a remote cottage by the ocean. Hele rarely spoke about what he had witnessed. He avoided the public and refused to have his picture taken. The local newspaper noted upon his death that "very few people have ever been inside their home." One young niece who visited the cottage recalled "Ivor really detested children."

But Hele never stopped drawing. Instead of drawing armies clashing on a battlefield, he began drawing intimate pictures of his wife around the house. He drew her putting on her stockings, he drew her sewing, he drew her wearing a funny hat made from a f…
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This and the two previous posts are pages from my travel sketchbook. (Watercolor with white gouache)
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White cow. A page in my watercolor sketchbook
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A drawing of Clark Allen I did over at the Art Academy.
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Sketching in Los Gatos canyon . .
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A page out of my sketchbook from the Natural History Museum.
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HOW MANY LINES DOES IT TAKE TO DRAW A BLUE SKY?

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How would you draw the sky if your only tool was a black line? Outline a few fluffy clouds perhaps? Add some cross hatching at the horizon? Well that's why you're not Rembrandt, buddy.

The vast majority of this picture is vacant air, but Rembrandt has filled it with lines so free and abstract that they put Jackson Pollock to shame.








It takes courage to etch even a single line in an open space like that. Look closely at Rembrandt's mad, gorgeous dithyramb across the sky and be proud of your humanity!







I'll return to more recent illustrators with my next posting, but I just couldn't resist squeezing in one more Rembrandt. This picture gives me goose bumps and I hope it has the same effect on you.

I JUST COULDN'T HELP IT

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I usually try to limit myself to updating this blog once a week. However, I could not let the 400th birthday of Rembrandt-- one of my favorite illustrators of all time-- go by without a gesture of respect.

Rembrandt illustrated stories from the Bible, Faust and other sources. Just like today's illustrators, he designed pictures for reproduction and popular consumption (using etchings, the most advanced technology of the day). Like today's illustrators, he was often frustrated by his tasteless and unreasonable clients. (At the height of the "tulip craze" in Amsterdam, a single tulip bulb sold for three times as much as Rembrandt's masterpiece, The Nightwatch.) And just like today's illustrators, he died broke.

But 400 years later, all the money squabbles and heartbreak and exasperation have faded into background noise, along with the names of all the investment bankers and merchants who were once such big shots in Amsterdam. All that's left is the sublime p…

ALBERT DORNE

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Albert Dorne had a wretched childhood. He was born in the slums of New York and grew up in poverty, suffering from tuberculosis, malnutrition and heart disease. Fatherless, he quit school after 7th grade to support his mother, two sisters and younger brother. He tried everything to feed his family, from selling newspapers on a street corner to prize fighting to working on a shipping dock.



One of the things I like about Dorne is that he had all the credentials for life as a thug, yet the siren song of art was stronger and pulled him through.



At age 10 Dorne began cutting school 3 or 4 days a week to sneak off to the Metropolitan Museum of Art where he taught himself to draw by copying almost every work of art in the place. The determined little boy soon became well known around the museum. Dorne lived in constant fear that his school would catch him, and he went to great lengths to cover his tracks. He later discovered that his teachers already knew what he was up to and had agreed not t…

ARTISTS IN LOVE, part three

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Eugene von Bruenchenhein (1910-1983) was a small, quiet man who worked the night shift at a bakery near Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He and his wife Marie lived a humble life in a tiny home where Eugene painted and wrote poetry.



Eugene and Marie mostly kept to themselves. The neighbors never guessed that inside their meager shack, Eugene and Marie lived as a god and goddess.



The couple adored each other and during their forty year marriage enjoyed a rich fantasy life together. Eugene made crowns and elaborate jewelry for Marie out of clay which he dug himself. He used the bakery oven as a kiln to fire his creations late at night when no one was watching. He also made tiny thrones out of chicken bones painted gold.



Eugene's paintings and sculptures were pretty mediocre, and his poetry was no better. His real art was his several thousand pictures of Marie as his queen, muse, glamour girl, goddess, siren. He scavenged floral print wallpaper or scraps of fabric to create exotic backdrops for he…