Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Robert Fawcett: The Illustrator's Illustrator


     I've been a huge fan of Fawcett's stuff ever since I saw his work on David Apatoff's IllustrationArt Blog years ago. What an incredible draughtsman; I'm ecstatic that there's finally a book out on his work. Better yet, the text is by Apatoff, whose writing I've been enjoying for years. And Walt Reed, the author of The Illustrator in America books, has graced the tome with an (incredible, I'm sure) introduction.

     For the Ringling students who want to enjoy this book but can't fork over the $34.99 for it (though it's totally worth it), I've requested Kimbrough Library to buy the book for their collection. I don't have any money right now, so I hope they get it in soon, though I know I'll purchase in the future.

The library does have a book by Fawcett himself, On the Art of Drawing. It's quite a good read.

Samples if you don't know Fawcett's work and need convincing:

Many thanks to Apatoff for these samples of Fawcett's work; the last 3 were taken from the IllustrationArt blog.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Value in Composition

Read this post on Matthew Innis' blog Underpaintings on the incredible importance of value control: http://underpaintings.blogspot.com/2010/12/gray-matter.html

I've been thinking recently how important value is to a painting, or to any design. Looking at a painting earlier today by Dean Cornwell, I found myself categorizing the light shapes and shadow shapes; when simplified to their basic forms, these forms balance out. They would, of course; it's Dean Cornwell. His compositions are incredible. Here's a few examples of fantastic use of value (not all Dean):


Tom Lovell
Thomas Eakins' "The Agnew Clinic

     In the first example, the focal point is obviously the sitting man; in that, his face. Cornwell could have easily let the fact that our eyes are attracted to faces in compositions and that fact that this man is in the center of the page aid him to his goal, and be done with it. However, to really solidify this composition and to force us to never unstick our eyes from this image, he wedged his focal point directly between the brightest note and the darkest note. Now, the intensely orange leaves may not be the highest value on the page; however, their intensity and singularity of color in this particular painting give them the ranking of brightest element in the arrangement. Also consider the other ways in which he pumped up his composition: 3 of the four table edges around the sitting man point directly to him. The left edge of the cradle to the right is parallel to the edge of (his) left arm. The bottom of that cradle is the bottom of a circle, that swings up and into his right leg, up into his mass. the right edge of the table at bottom-left also leads our eye into his left arm, up and around back into his shape. And probably most importantly, the 2 edges of the bright orange leaves' contour also lead directly to the focal point, a large upside down triangle that is intersected by the triangle of the man.

     In the second example, the use of value isn't nearly as pronounced or glaring as in Cornwell's piece, but Lovell's use of it is very important for the composition. Take note first of the goal of the composition; the focal point is the tall man at left, as our eye goes straight to him. This is immediate because of his height, broadness of chest, and placement next to the brightest note in the painting. That contrast causes us to go to him straight-off. However, to keep him as our focal point, Lovell needed to keep all other elements in order so that our eye would not wander off. The man, a large, generally dark shape, is bordered on both sides by the 2 brightest shapes, the woman and the environment outside; the woman looks up at him, concerned; her whole thrust of action is towards him: her gaze, the lines of her arm, her posture, etc. Off this side of the page we cannot go. To the right, the dark shape in the curtains to the right of the man's head leads straight away; however, it is intercepted by the almost equally dark shape of the palm trees, multiple lines heading down. This leads down to another man, hunched over a table. For compositional purposes, this man and the table he is leaning over are the same visual object: they have the same general value and flow directly into one another through his arms. This combined shape purposefully borders the brightness of the day outside and leads straight to the focal point's arm, which, in turn, leads us again to his face. We have no chance to leave the page off the bottom, sides, or top.

     In the final example, value is combined with character and personality to achieve balance in the composition. Eakins used quite a simple compositional concept here. Andrew Loomis speaks of the "fulcrum-lever" principle as applied to composition in his staple book, Creative Illustration (download all 6 of his incredible books as .pdf's here: http://alexhays.com/loomis/). Basically, visual weight needs to be placed strategically on both sides of a composition in order to balance it. Now, different elements can have different visual weights for different reasons, and they all must be considered. Obviously a feather is going to have less visual weight than an anvil. However, there are other things which draw our eye: gesture, character, personality in a figure. In The Agnew Clinic, there is only one person with individuality: the proctor at left. We know of his importance immediately; he stands out, speaks to the crowd, directs his charges (students? doctors?) and breaks out of the circle the others are directly in the middle of. In addition, he is also weighed down by the fact that he is a dignified silhouette, an interesting light shape in a sea of dark bodies. Notice also how his is the only face not obfuscated in some way; the faces in the crowd are dark and obscured. The faces of the working doctors are down-turned, adorned with glasses, etc. The only other character whose face is fully hone and lit is the nurse; however, she is so unimportant to the scene that it doesn't matter.

       So, the weight is like this:
         small importance -----------------large unimportance

Very very basic way of putting it, but generally correct.

Next time you look at a piece that really strikes you, look into it, analyze it. It struck you for a reason; it is by no means an arbitrary happening.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011


A few drawings, some 2 min, some 5 min, some 10 min, some 20 min

Been looking at a lot of Euan Uglow, Andy Pankhurst, and Igor Kravtsov. Got a huge book on Uglow from the library, it's awesome.

Uglow: http://www.google.com/images?hl=en&source=imghp&biw=1280&bih=616&q=euan+uglow&gbv=2&aq=f&aqi=g6&aql=&oq=

Pankhurst: http://www.browseanddarby.co.uk/artists.aspx?action=artist&id=a8810118672045e7a67f4a4db66d3252

Kravtsov: http://www.conceptart.org/forums/showpost.php?p=2946814&postcount=43

Sunday, January 9, 2011


I'm back at school once again. Looking forward to this week of classes, mostly because of my intro to illustration class and the fact that on Friday I get to meet a living legend, George Pratt.

I know that 2011 is going to be a very productive year, and a formative one. Make yourselves better this year guys. And don't make resolutions, make goals. Making a resolution to do something is almost a surefire way to make sure that specific thing does not happen. Set your goal; then a halfway point; then a halfway point between that. Plan specifically to help you reach the goals you want to accomplish. Drifting aimlessly has never gotten anybody anywhere. Don't be mediocre, average, or complacent. Look to convenience only when convenience makes it easy to work hard.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


I really love trees. This is only strange because I rarely draw them, myself.

Trees, more than any other inanimate object it seems to me, possess a great amount of character. This is shown through age (gnarly, grizzly and scarred), through posture (leaning, hunching, gesticulating...), etc. It is of little wonder why so many cultures have chosen trees as their preferred personification in all kinds of myths and lore (besides animals, of course). Trees can be helpful guides, or dangerous obstacles. Hell, they even look like people sometimes. What really interests me, though, are the myriad depictions of trees throughout history by artists. Millions have seized this incredible opportunity to infuse an inanimate object with character and personality.

Here are a few examples of characterizations of trees that I think are particularly intriguing...

Tom Scholes

Tom Scholes
Eric Fortune

Eric Fortune

Charles Vess

Charles Vess

Arthur Rackham

Obviously there are thousands more, but its 2 in the morning. Go draw trees. Tomorrow, not now. If you do, I promise I will.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Alex Raymond in the Studio

Found an awesome picture of the great comic artist Alex Raymond in the studio, getting ready to ink some pencils for Rip Kirby.

I've been trolling around on http://www.comicartfans.com/, typing in the names of some of my favorite inkers and comic artists like Jorge Zaffino, George Pratt, Raymond, Leonard Starr, Noel Sickles, etc. There's tons of great rez reproductions of the original pages, its a goldmine.

Here's some more Alex Raymond, easily found on comicartfans: