I thought I’d share some of the drawings by Osamu Tezuka that I referred to several times to try to work out doing nature with ink. All three of the main pictures I’m showing here are from his Buddha series. The one above is from Volume 8, the last one. Now, when I look at that I’d call it fairly realistic. But when you start looking at the individual parts we can see how he’s combining abstract patterns and textures to construct it.
Archive for the ‘Historical’ Category
In 1992 I was just starting graduate school in visual perception. One of the things they showed us in our first days was this painting by Salvador Dali. The professor showed it on a slide projector, and asked us what it was. Of course, we all described the woman looking through the window. With a flourish, he spun the focus on the slide projector’s lens, and we suddenly saw something else – Abraham Lincoln as seen on the U.S. $5 bill.
Today we’re used to seeing things like photomosaics that take lots of individual photographs, shrink them, and put them together to create a completely different picture. It’s the same principle at work here, but Dali did this in 1976. How did he do it without computers to do all the figuring for him? Even more, how did he do it while at the same time creating a painting that follows principles of composition, the golden section, and values to create a painting that works whether it’s blurred or not? That’s what we’ll look at in this analysis, and we’ll wrap it up with lessons that apply to all painting, not just tricks or optical illusions.
What a difficult choice! There are a lot of great illustrations in the Dover book, and it was hard to decide which one to look at for an analysis. If you’re a fan of golden age illustration, you should definitely check this one out. I chose this one in the end for a few reasons. For one, we get a clear sense of character – to me this seems like more than just your generic old woman. She’s been through a lot. Also, Rackham gives us lots of texture and line work that is fun to get lost in. The recent analysis of Dürer was an example of highly precise, controlled linework. This drawing, though, shows linework that is loose and flowing, yet still controlled. Rackham’s picture has clearly separated foreground, midground, and background elements, and it also has an effective silhouette and composition.
On November 14, 1960 federal marshals escorted Ruby Hall to her first day of kindergarten. She was the only black child to attend the school, and after entering the building she and her mother went to the principal’s office while the white parents entered the school and took their children out. Thereafter she was the only student in her class. You can read more about the story at her entry in Wikipedia.
Norman Rockwell painted this picture for Look magazine. Though J. C. Leyendecker did more covers for the Saturday Evening Post, Rockwell is best known for his long run with them. Their art direction and editorial guidelines constrained his work, however, and after his last painting for them in 1963 he moved in a more socially outspoken direction, and Look was buying. In this analysis I’ll go over what makes this very simple painting so powerful.
Last week I said that this time I’d write about something old. I hope 1498 qualifies. Thanks to a timely birthday present from my brother, I’m doing a woodcut by Albrecht Dürer, a German painter and engraver best known at the time for his highly skilled prints. At Illuxcon a couple of years ago I saw some fantastic ink work by Ian Miller, like Trees and Insects. He was kind enough to do a portfolio review for me, and during the process recommended that I start with Dürer. So, here we are.
I chose The Men’s Bath because we can clearly see the techniques Dürer used in the linework. This in a medium in which the artist and craftsmen who then cut the blocks had to be aware of and consider every line, every mark. We’ll look at examples of how Dürer handled form of the body, textures like wood and stone, and background elements like buildings and trees. He used hatching, feathering, and cross-hatching to establish values in what is basically a black and white medium. While that medium may be woodcut, the principles apply equally well to inking with brush and pen today.
Man, I love M. C. Escher’s stuff! I know I’m hardly alone in that, but I thought I’d get it out of the way right in the beginning. And Relativity is one of my favorites. A few years back the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC had a showing of Escher’s work. Something that really caught me by surprise was how much you could see on the actual pieces that doesn’t show up even in the good quality, coffee table books of Escher’s work. Sure, he’s known for the perspective tricks, tessellation, and space warping, but he’s also a darn good artist and draftsman. I love Relativity because of the wonder and imagination, but it’s also a great example of things like lighting and defining mass and form. We’ll look at all of these things in this analysis.
These days we share a defined idea of what a genie looks like. The visual language is fairly set. During the golden age of American illustration though they didn’t necessarily have those preconceptions. Below we’ll look at how Will and Frances Brundage, René Bull, Edmund Dulac, Charles Folkard, H.J. Ford, and Maxfield Parrish conceived of and presented the same scene from the Arabian Nights.
All they really had to work with was the text of the stories, and possibly the knowledge that according to Islam God created genies (djinn) from fire as he similarly created humans from the clay of the earth.
This illustration is for a story in McClure’s magazine in 1906 called “The Hanging of Mary Dyer.” There was an actual Mary Dyer who was an early Quaker martyr. She was executed for repeatedly returning to Massachusetts to preach Quakerism after having been banned from the colony. Pyle himself was Quaker, so the illustrations for this story likely had an extra dimension for him. Also, though it may not be apparent from the picture, this is the very act that led to Mary Dyer’s execution, so it’s a key moment of the story.
I suppose I’m dating myself, but I first saw a version of Le blanc-seing (The Blank Check) as the cover for the Styx album “The Grand Illusion” years before I read Understanding Comics. For this picture Magritte is playing with perception and the techniques we use all the time as illustrators. It’s a classic case of knowing the rules of perception well enough to know just how to break them. The two principles he plays with the most are occlusion and closure. (See the Leyendecker analysis for more on closure.)
Daybreak was the 20th century’s single most popular print in America. According to Alma Gilbert, the House of Art (which handled the printing) estimated that 1 out of every 4 homes in America had a copy. When I first started reading up on this painting I constantly ran across the term “Dynamic Symmetry.” It was the system that Parrish had used to lay out the composition and arrange the elements. When I looked around for a good description of it, I didn’t turn up much. However, Jay Hambidge’s book on it from 1920 was available through Amazon, so I ordered it. This is, I believe, the same book that Parrish would have read on it.
Since Dynamic Symmetry is so important to the composition, I’m going to focus on that rather than on palette or other topics.