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Gurney Journey | category: Golden Age Illustration | (page 2 of 33)

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Gurney Journey

This daily weblog by Dinotopia creator James Gurney is for illustrators, plein-air painters, sketchers, comic artists, animators, art students, and writers. You'll find practical studio tips, insights into the making of the Dinotopia books, and first-hand reports from art schools and museums.

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Feature Article on Peter Helck

Illustrator Peter Helck (1893-1988) is featured this month in an entire single issue of Illustration Magazine.

Feature Article on Peter Helck
Photo by Alvis Upitis
Helck is best known for his paintings of the pioneers of auto racing.

Feature Article on Peter Helck

But his career encompassed a lot of other categories, including historical reconstructions, story illustrations, industrial interiors, WWII battle scenes, and gallery landscapes.

Feature Article on Peter Helck

Helck was one of the instructors from the Famous Artists School, and no one could match his ability to paint cars and trucks. 

Feature Article on Peter Helck

Many of his exemplary preliminary drawings are included in the 112 page article. (The pictures in this post are typical of what's in the article, but not necessarily the same images.) 

 Feature Article on Peter Helck

Peter Helck, This is My Birthright

The article starts with 18 pages of illustrated biography, followed by 90 pages of pictures, mostly reproduced from original art or vintage tearsheets. 

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Learn more: Visit Illustration Magazine's website to learn more about the special issue. Read my previous post about Peter Helck and check out Peter Helck's memoirs online. More on Helck's Wikipedia page.

Inside the Famous Artists School

The Famous Artists School, which was formed more than 70 years ago, was an early pioneer of remote learning. 

Some tantalizing glimpses of the correspondence course were featured in a half-hour TV program called "Operation Success." The Norman Rockwell Museum has posted the show on YouTube.

The school hired a team of professional instructors who in turn had studied with the master illustrators. It was the job of these F.A.S. instructors to read and respond to the student work and to keep their files up to date. 

The voiceover says that this instructor is creating a painted criticism, based on student efforts mailed to the school from thousands of miles away.

The instructor redraws the student's composition and paints a "better" version. The amount of care and labor that went into this process is impressive, and the company became very successful. 

But alas, it eventually fell victim to corruption and mismanagement, as David Apatoff recounts in his book on Al Dorne. 

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• Here are my previous blog posts about the Famous Artists School and its instructors. 

• It's still possible to find vintage sets of the Famous Artists Course

• The Norman Rockwell Museum produced a single book about the history of the Famous Artists School. 

• The other great source of instruction about mid-20th century illustration is Creative Illustration by Andrew Loomis.

Wyeth and More in Albany

There are four great exhibitions going on in Albany, and they're all in one museum: The Albany Institute of History and Art.

Wyeth and More in Albany

The first is The Wyeths: Three Generations: Works from the Bank of America Collection, which includes a couple dozen illustrations by N.C. Wyeth.

Wyeth and More in Albany

The show includes the cover and endpaper art of Rip Van Winkle, plus illustrations from The White Company and Drums.

Wyeth and More in Albany
 Andrew Wyeth (American, 1917-2009), On the Edge, 2001, Tempera on panel, Bank of America Collection.

There's also a big selection of works by NC Wyeth's son Andrew, his daughter Henriette, and his grandson Jamie. Because these are in the Bank of America Collection, they're not often seen except in traveling exhibitions.

Wyeth and More in Albany

Another show that's on view at the museum is a single large room filled with their famous collection of Hudson River School paintings, hung salon-style. 

Wyeth and More in Albany

Another small but impressive show is Romancing the Rails: Train Travel in the 1920s and 1930s, which focuses on the advertising art that promoted rail travel in the USA.

Wyeth and More in Albany
And there's a show called Fashionable Frocks of the 1920s which presents dresses from the flapper era, extravagant and bejeweled and made for dancing. We tend to think of the '20s in black and white, but it was a time of subtle and impressive coloration.
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The Albany Institute of History and Art also has a small collection of 19th century sculpture and a mummy. It's $10 for admission. The special exhibitions will be up for the remainder of the year.

Shooting Illustration Reference Photos

Shooting Illustration Reference Photos
Reference photo of Steve Holland

In the 1970s and '80s, many paperback covers were painted with reference to black and white photographs. Typically those photos were taken by professional photographers such as Robert Osonitsch using models like Steve Holland, who posed in a torn shirt for the "Doc Savage" covers.

The publishing client generally would pay for these sessions. Modeling sessions were expensive, so the team had to make the best use of the time. The illustration photographers had busy schedules with back-to-back appointments.

Paperback illustrator Bob Larkin recalled, "I had only an hour to shoot. Steve [Holland] first posed for what I wanted, and then what Bob [Osonitsch] suggested, then Steve did what he thought would work. Everything is going smoothly until Bob's camera shot counter tells him to put in a new roll of film. Bob opens the back of the camera to put a new roll in—and no first roll was put in! This is early in the morning. He's still not awake yet. We had a good laugh, Bob apologized, and we started all over again from the beginning with minutes to spare before the next artist had to shoot Steve. He was booked all day anyway."

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Shooting Illustration Reference Photos

Doc Savage cover by Bob Larkin

Read More:

Shooting Illustration Reference PhotosMagazine: The quote comes from the new issue of Illustration #73, which includes features on Peter Driben, Art Fitzpatrick / Van Kaufman, Zoë Mozert, Steve Holland, and Robert Osonitsch  

Books: 

Steve Holland: The Torn Shirt Sessions and Steve Holland: The World's Greatest Illustration Art Model

Fashion Illustrations of Constance Wibaut

Constance Wibaut (1920-2014) was a fashion illustrator from Holland who reported from Paris in the 1960s on the new styles by Pierre Cardin and Yves Saint Laurent. 

 Fashion Illustrations of Constance Wibaut

Constance Wibaut (1920-2014), Sketches from Paris, 1966

Her drawings are spare and direct, with bold colors, clear shapes, and strong silhouettes.

Fashion Illustrations of Constance Wibaut

According to the European Fashion Heritage Society, "She moved to New York with her husband just after the Second World War. There, In 1946, she found a job as fashion illustrator for the magazine Women’s Wear Daily. At WWD she developed her signature style, drawing ready-to-wear clothes on a hanger for the magazine." 
Fashion Illustrations of Constance Wibaut

"The need to be precise and to include all the details, from the buttons to the stitchings – as they were important for sales – would have influenced her future illustrations, which were characterized by elegance and easy legibility."

Fashion Illustrations of Constance Wibaut----

More in the book 100 Years of Fashion Illustration 

The Postcards of Rachael Robinson Elmer

In a previous post we looked at the self-education journey of an art student named Rachael Robinson Elmer (1878-1919).

The Postcards of Rachael Robinson Elmer

She had a lively career as an illustrator, doing advertisements and children's book illustrations until her untimely death from the 1918 flu pandemic.

The Postcards of Rachael Robinson Elmer

She is best known for creating a line of popular postcards depicting New York City.

The Postcards of Rachael Robinson Elmer

Her illustration work is currently being featured in an exhibition at the Rokeby Museum in Ferrisburgh, Vermont called A Modern Artist: The Commercial Art of Rachael Robinson Elmer.

The Postcards of Rachael Robinson Elmer

According to the museum's website:

"Exhibiting artistic talent at an early age, she was at first trained by her parents and then, as a teenager, enrolled in a correspondence course to further her skills." 

The Postcards of Rachael Robinson Elmer

"She later studied at Goddard College and the Art Students League of New York."

The Postcards of Rachael Robinson Elmer

"During that time she began her career as an illustrator, producing drawings for her father’s books and works for periodicals such as Forest and Stream and The Youth Companion."

The Postcards of Rachael Robinson Elmer

"From the turn of the twentieth century until her death in 1919, Rachael built a career producing commercial art for major publishers across the United States."

The Postcards of Rachael Robinson Elmer

"From children’s books and advertisements to her popular postcard series, Rachael Robinson Elmer was a modern artist navigating the expanding profession of commercial art."

The Postcards of Rachael Robinson Elmer

The exhibition A Modern Artist: The Commercial Art of Rachael Robinson Elmer will be on view through October 24th.

Thanks, Courtney Clinton and John A. Gallucci


Happy Birthday, Al Jaffee

Happy Birthday, Al Jaffee

Al Jaffee has made a lot of people happy with his "fold-in" illustrations for MAD Magazine. Let's wish him a happy 100th birthday today. He was born March 13, 1921. 

Happy Birthday, Al JaffeeHere's how he creates his fold-ins: "Jaffee starts with the finished "answer" to the Fold-In, and then spreads it apart and places a piece of tracing paper over it in order to fill in the center "throw-away" aspect of the image, which is covered up when the page is folded over, using regular pencil at this stage. Jaffee will then trace the image onto another piece of illustration board using carbon paper. At this stage he uses red or green color pencils, which are distinct from the black pencil of the original drawing, in order to discern his progress. Once the image is on the illustration board, he will then finish it by painting it. Because the illustration board is too inflexible to fold, Jaffee does not see the finished Fold-In image until it is published." --Source: Wikipedia

 Mad: Fold This Book! A Ridiculous Collection of Fold-Ins

H.M. Bateman's "The Man Who..." Illustrations

Henry Mayo Bateman (British 1887-1980) created a popular series of comic illustrations that show a man doing something socially inept and suffering the consequences.

H.M. Bateman's
Here's the reaction that happened to "The man who threw a snowball at St. Moritz."


H.M. Bateman's

Or to "The man who asked for a second helping at a city company dinner."

H.M. Bateman's
Or "The man who lit his cigar before the royal toast."

H.M. Bateman's
And finally "The man who stole the prize marrow." (What we in America would call a gourd.)
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Henry Mayo Bateman on Wikipedia

Posing for a Painting Saved a Man's Life

Illustrator Saul Tepper (New York City, 1899-1987) hunted throughout the city for amateur models to pose for his illustrations. One time, as a deadline approached for a painting of a lumberjack, he entered a cafe, where he saw "a man of the proper features, sitting alone."

Posing for a Painting Saved a Man's Life

"Saul approached him," recalled illustrator Mason Combs, "explained the situation and presented his card, telling the potential model to be at the studio at 10:00 the next morning. The man took the card without conversation. The next morning he appeared, posed, and before leaving asked when the illustration would appear."

Posing for a Painting Saved a Man's Life

"A week after the issue hit the newsstands, the man reappeared at the studio. He told Saul that he had been sitting in the cafe, having decided to put the .38 he carried to his head and end it all. He had left his wife and family in his hometown upstate, lost his job, and been on a binge when Saul arrived on the scene."

"Once the Saturday Evening Post illustration came out, everyone in the man's hometown recognized him; his job was offered back; he was reunited with his family; and he became a town celebrity. Yes, Tepper touched many people's lives."

Posing for a Painting Saved a Man's Life

This story is part of a new book on Saul Tepper produced by The Illustrated Press. The book continues the series of monographs on Golden Age masters such as Dean Cornwell and Tom Lovell. The short introductory biographical essay by Dan Zimmer covers Tepper's career and his painting methods, and then the rest of the book is devoted to high quality color reproductions, mostly from the original art.

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The Art of Saul Tepper hardback, 224 pages, $44.95

Illustration Techniques of Robert McGinnis


Robert McGinnis (born 1926) painted glamorous women and gun-toting spies for paperback covers and movie posters.  

This video by producer Paul Jilbert introduces McGinnis and his work and puts it in context. (Link to YouTube Video) Jilbert also produced a video showing the process of painting a standing semi-nude in egg tempera. 

The drawing is enlarged from photo reference on a Balopticon, similar to the one used by Norman Rockwell and Mort Kunstler. (Link to Video on YouTube

Book: The Art of Robert E. McGinnis 

Robert McGinnis on Wikipedia

Feature Article on Peter HelckInside the Famous Artists SchoolWyeth and More in AlbanyShooting Illustration Reference PhotosFashion Illustrations of Constance WibautThe Postcards of Rachael Robinson ElmerHappy Birthday, Al JaffeeH.M. Bateman's "The Man Who..." IllustrationsPosing for a Painting Saved a Man's LifeIllustration Techniques of Robert McGinnis

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