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Showing posts from January, 2008

PEOPLE STILL TALK ABOUT KOSSIN'S ILLUSTRATIONS OF "THE BAY OF PIGS"

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It seems that no one can talk about the illustrations of Sanford Kossin for more than sixty seconds before bringing up his illustrations of the invasion of the Bay of Pigs.

This powerful collection of pictures is mentioned in the very first sentence of Kossin's biography in The Illustrator in America. It is mentioned in the second sentence of his biography on the Graphic Collectibles web site. And this week, it turned up on Leif Peng's excellent blog, Today's Inspiration. Leif posted Kossin's illustrations for a textbook:



and immediately somebody wrote in, recalling Kossin's powerful illustrations in May 1963 of the Bay of Pigs.

Kossin's work appeared in many venues over a long career, from science fiction magazines and text books to MAD magazine and paperbacks. Yet, his stunning pictures for Life Magazine of the tragic Bay of Pigs invasion stood out from all the rest:





Very different from Kossin's typical style, these pictures take their place in a great tradit…
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Nicole. 40 minute charcoal drawing on newsprint.
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THE LAST PAINTING OF GAUGUIN

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Paul Gauguin is one of my favorite illustrators.



He was also the ultimate outsider. He fought with authority figures such as police and clergy. He cursed the hypocrisy and commercialism of western civilization. He abandoned his home in France, his religion, his job, even his wife and five children.


Gauguin lived his final years on the tiny South Pacific island of Hua Oa, an island of steamy tropical jungles and volcanoes, of black sand and pink skies, of tiki gods and exotic fruit. Clouds of mist hovered around the cliff from which natives sacrificed virgins to the sea.





It would be hard to imagine a more committed rebel than Gauguin.

And yet...

when he died all alone in his hut under an alien sun, wracked with morphine addiction and the ravages of his lifestyle, they found an unfinished painting on his easel: a conventional winter landscape of a charming French country village.

Illustration is commonly criticized as "lower" art for using obvious, sentimental subject matter to app…
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I put together this demo page for this Saturday's composition workshop. We'll call it a sneak preview.

So many watercolor books show you how to create amazing techniques filled with "a free spirit" but contain little information about pictorial composition. A well designed composition will look good in any medium, even if you mess up the technique.
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ROBERT G. HARRIS (1911-2007)

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The illustrator Robert G. Harris died a few weeks ago at the age of 96. His career spanned many of the glory years of illustration.
Harris learned art at the feet of early masters such as Harvey Dunn and George Bridgman. He illustrated everything from crude pulps to refined magazines for women. (This WW II illustration of a war bride learning the fate of her soldier husband appeared in the latter).

As a successful illustrator in an era when illustrations helped to shape the national imagination, Harris could afford to build a large home and studio in fabled Westport, Connecticut with three cars in his garage and his own private sea-plane at the beach. As the illustration field grew, the top talent from around the country flocked to Westport to try their luck.  Soon, Harris found Westport was becoming too crowded. Harris' friend, the great illustrator Al Parker, explained that early illustrators such as Harris sought out Westport for its "cornfields and crickets."   Whe…

RES IPSA LOQUITUR

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I continue to receive comments scolding me for being too judgmental about certain art. I've always tried to follow the ancient advice of Seneca: "If you judge, investigate." So rather than repeating my own biased conclusions, perhaps it makes sense to share examples of "performance art" that helped to shape my views. I report, you decide.

The following are direct quotes from favorable reviews that appeared in
High Performance Magazine(one of the leading journals of performance art for 20 years).
1. La Fura dels Baus

The Spanish industrial performance art group, La Fura dels Baus is so good it makes "all other industrial performance art groups stink like a Nazi pissing on the festering ashes of the Reichstag." Here is how La Fura uses performance art to provide insight into "the shit of politics:"
Two raving maniacs burst through a cinder block wall with sledge hammers....The performers come closer and I smell the unwashed suits they wear. With …

Composition 1 day workshop and 10 week head painting course

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If you're in the LA area and want to refine your composition and painting skills, you're welcome to join me for a couple of upcoming events.

Next Saturday Jan 26th I'll be giving a workshop on pictorial composition for subjects of all kinds including landscape, figurative and entertainment design. Here's what we'll cover:
Lectures on the fundamentals of effective picture making. Discussions on the creation of mood and environment.Principles for organizing complex scenes into pleasing arrangements.Strategies for solving compositional problems quickly and effectively.Composition exploration exercises.Painting from a costumed model.Also coming soon is my 10 week head painting course. It will be held each Monday night from 7 to 10 pm starting on February 4th.

To enroll contact the Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art at 877 LA-Atelier. Their site is www.laafa.org.

Hope to see you soon.

ONE LOVELY DRAWING, part 16

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This drawing by Orson Lowell appeared as a double page spread in Life Magazine on January 28, 1909. Lowell depicts the characters waiting outside a stage door for some chanteuse to emerge after her show. The original is over 100 cm wide. In an era before television, people had fun "reading" the clues in these pictures. For example, you can tell a lot about the high class nature of the show from the posters on the wall:



Lowell gives us a psychological profile for each person in line; each has a different history and a different reason for being there.



Not everyone in line is a suitor or a chaperone. One gentleman is concealing a court summons, undoubtedly involving some lawsuit for alienation of affections.



The story is cute, but of course it takes more than cute to qualify for the famous "one lovely drawing" status. If you look closely, I think you will find some truly excellent linework here.


COLOR IN THE MID-DAY SUN

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We had fun looking at the way Frederic Remington saw vivid colors in the dark of night.

Here, on the other hand, is a different illustrator who looked at a bright mid-day scene and painted a study in gray:









An artist who feels the call to explore color will not be deterred by a dark night or a lack of electricity, just as an artist with access to all sorts of light may choose to disregard its potential for color and narrow his or her focus to black and white. Great artists often work from wherever fate placed them, without waiting for the perfect lighting or the right conditions:
Look under foot....The lure of the distant and the difficult is deceptive. The great opportunity is where you are. Do not despise your own place and hour. Every place is under the stars, every place is the center of the world.
--John BurroughsBy the way-- those elegant studies in gray are details from the often ignored center of one of the most famous Norman Rockwell paintings.





COLORS IN THE WESTERN MOONLIGHT

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Cowboy illustrator Frederic Remington seemed to find a whole rainbow of luminous colors in the night.









When other painters might reach for a dark blue, Remington reaches for greens and purples and violets.




Did Remington actually see these colors in nature? Even Cezanne, the grandaddy of abstract art, recognized that "painting from nature is not copying the object; it is realizing one's sensations."
To understand more about Remington's "sensations," look at his pictures contrasting the light from the immense night sky with the tiny, fragile light of humans.







It must have been easy to feel insignificant and defenseless camping out all alone under the huge western sky.


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Dad's orange last week; this week, Mom's flowers.
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DAVID LEVINE: MUCH IS TAKEN, MUCH ABIDES

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David Levine, whose caricatures adorned the New York Review of Books for more than 40 years, recently stepped down due to failing eyesight. “If I look at somebody’s face.... I can’t tell until the person gets within five feet of me who it is.”

After nearly 4,000 caricatures-- a solid body of work to make any artist proud-- Levine has not contributed a new drawing since he was diagnosed with macular degeneration.

But the 80 year old artist will not give up making pictures. He is trying to reinvent his style so he can carry on with poor eyesight. “It didn’t stop Degas [who had the same disease].... He went on to change his way of seeing. He just moved into a rhythm of color and bigger generalities in the way he saw things like hands or faces. … I’m open to that. I’m searching.”


Now that is an artist talking.

The ironic thing is, I was always less impressed with Levine's trademark caricatures than I was with the paintings he did on the side. I think these paintings from the 1970s are ma…
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Orange. Watercolor. . My dad is an avid gardener and grower of fruit and nut trees. Here in California the oranges ripen around Christmas time. Well, this one small tree, after a great deal of tlc produced one single orange which I memorialized in this sketch.

" NEW "

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The artist Marcel Duchamp claimed it is easier to be original in the US because Americans are so ignorant about history:
In Europe, the young men of any generation always act as the grandsons of some great man. Of Victor Hugo in France, and I suppose of Shakespeare in England. They can't help it. Even if they don't believe it, it goes into their system and so, when they come to produce something of their own, there is a sort of traditionalism that is indestructible. This does not exist [in the US]. You don't give a damn about Shakespeare, do you? You're not his grandsons at all. So it is perfect terrain for new developments.Of course, Duchamp's insight wasn't original either. Previous generations had already complained loudly about the paralyzing effect of history. Nietzsche wrote, "the large and ever-increasing burden of the past" makes us envy the beasts grazing in the field, who are able to live for the moment.

It ain't easy to create meaningful …