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Showing posts from January, 2010
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Gouache quick studies, about 5"x 7" each.
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WILLIAM COTTON (1880-1958)

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William Cotton trained as a fine artist at the Academie Julien in Paris. He exhibited at the Luxembourg Museum and other esteemed institutions, such as the Corcoran Art Gallery in Washington and the Art Institute of Chicago.

But Cotton's gallery paintings-- consistent with the fashion of his day-- often looked like sappy Victorian Valentines. They are mercifully forgotten today.



In the 1930s, Cotton turned from gallery painting to illustration and began doing caricatures of Broadway stars, writers and politicians for Vanity Fair and the New Yorker. For the first time, Cotton was forced to accept the subjects that editors assigned to him. He was forced to work on deadline. He no longer had the luxury of unlimited space to paint fancy lace collars and detailed fabric. Instead, he was forced to cut to the essentials, and simplify his images for reproduction on a small magazine page. The result was a long series of really neat, beautifully colored caricatures:









Cotton quickly became one o…
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A little different approach here than my usual compressed charcoal. This is a Berol wide lead charcoal pencil on Strathmore charcoal paper. The pencils haven't been available for a decade now but I was clever enough to stock up at the time.
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ART vs. LIFE

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Art is a double edged sword. It enhances our experience of life, but also obstructs and diminishes it.

We spend most of our time here at the good ol' Illustration Art blog focusing on that enhancement part, but today as a special public service we offer some thoughts on that dark side of art-- the part they never mentioned in your Art Appreciation class.

Goethe believed the arts make us more sensitive. In The Sorrows of Young Werther he described a cultured young couple in love:
We went to the window. It was still thundering at a distance: a soft rain was pouring down over the country, and filled the air around us with delicious odours. Charlotte leaned forward on her arm; her eyes wandered over the scene; she raised them to the sky, and then turned them upon me; they were moistened with tears; she placed her hand on mine and said, “Klopstock!”The mere mention of the poet Friedrich Gottfried Klopstock (1724-1803) caused our hero to quiver with emotion:
At once I remembered the magni…
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Night Heron. Watercolor on hot press illustration board.
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FRANK BRANGWYN (1867-1956)

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Frank Brangwyn had a special talent for depicting grand structures such as cathedrals, bridges and ships.





He drew individual human beings the same way, as if they were monumental structures. He posed and rendered them with the kind of weight, grandeur and dignity he would have applied to a cathedral:









Brangwyn had an excellent eye for the glories of the secular world; he was able to show the magnificence-- and even the divinity-- of laborers working in a shipyard. That's part of what made his work so appealing to the public. However, he did not lead a particularly religious life.

Then, while he was still at he peak of his powers, Brangwyn became more interested in formal religion, and from the 1930's on, "devoted himself to religious art."

Biographer Libby Horner offered one explanation for Brangwyn's transformation: As the artist grew older and faced mortality he produced more religious works in which he frequently included his own image as if he feared retribition f…

Charcoal Demo

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Anya. Compressed charcoal on rives paper.



1) Construction drawing. Being careful here allows for a confident stroke when I start using the compressed charcoal stick.


2) Establishing landmarks so as to not loose the drawing as the charcoal gets pushed around in later stages.


3) Value block in.


4) Smoothing values and touching up the drawing with the corner of the charcoal stick.


Wow, what a mess. This is one of the reasons I don't specifically encourage my technique. There are dozens of ways you can apply the medium. It's the principles of value (light and shadow), structure, edges and composition that really matter.


5) Final touch up with a kneaded eraser and charcoal stick.

EVERY TRIANGLE HAS A THOUSAND ANGLES

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Civilizations can be judged by how their illustrators portray the story of St. George and the Dragon.

The basic facts of the eternal triangle between man, woman and dragon are well known. But while the facts don't change, the artist's interpretation changes dramatically through the ages. Contrast these four wonderful pictures of St. George and the dragon:

First is a breathtakingly beautiful painting created circa 1438 by the Catalan master Bernardo Martorell:



This painting was created in an age of unshakeable faith in right and wrong, a world of absolutes-- the virginal purity of the damsel, the evil of the dragon and the virtue of the knight. You will also note that the picture doesn't contain a whole lot of perspective (both literally and metaphorically):


I ask you: what dragon-- or knight-- could possibly resist such an esculent little tea cake?

500 years later, when the days of religious certainty and absolute principles had subsided a bit, Al Williamson offered a very diff…