Thursday, January 31, 2008

Illustration Friday - Tales and Legends

This is a scene from the 1931 movie Dracula starring Bela Lugosi. I originally posted this last October. I have been putting in extra hours at work this week, so I was unable to create a new piece of art for this week's prompt. Charcoal on paper.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Maxfield Parrish: Wrap Up

This is my last post on Maxfield Parrish.

Although Parrish is well known for his color work, his early illustrations were in black and white and used lithographic crayon. The following illustration was for Washington Irving's History of New York by Diedrich Knickerbocker (1899). You can see all of Parrish's illustrations for History of New York in the wonderful Children's Book Illustrators Gallery at I love the beautiful, delicate range of values and shading in these illustrations. Although Parrish used lithographic crayon, I think similar results could be achieved using charcoal.

I also really like Parrish's monochromatic work. Here are two examples. The first is called Winter, and the second is called Harvest. I love the moods that Parrish creates.

In February, I plan to study N.C. Wyeth.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Maxfield Parrish and Symmetrical Balance

Prior to studying Parrish, I was under the impression that symmetrically balanced designs tend to be boring. I think Parrish shows this need not be the case. Here are a few examples where Parrish uses symmetrical balance as a design technique. Parrish apparently liked symmetrically balanced designs, since he used them frequently.

Very Little Red Riding Hood (1897)

Jello Ad (1922)

Two Pastry Cooks (1921)

Now that I am attuned to symmetrical balance, I am noticing it more often. My son Christopher loves the I Spy books. As we sat together reading the other day, I noticed that the cover of Can You See What I See? Once Upon a Time is for the most part symmetrically balanced.

I am keeping this design technique in the back of my mind. I am waiting for the right occasion to try it out.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Maxfield Parrish and the Use of Pattern

In 2008, I plan to study one illustrator or artist per month. For each artist, I will ask myself the following questions:

  • What aspects of this artist's work appeals to me?
  • What aspects don't appeal to me?
  • Does this artist use techniques that I want to use in my own artwork?

In January, I studied Maxfield Parrish (1870-1966). Parrish was a highly successful American illustrator. I read the book Maxfield Parrish by Coy Ludwig (1973), which I recommend. Wikipedia's entry on Parrish provides a good overview of Parrish's life and work and has references for further reading.

Parrish is well-known for his landscapes and unique colors. These aspects of Parrish's work appeal to me least. Instead, I am drawn to his graphic work. I particularly like his use of:

  1. Pattern in design.
  2. Symmetry in design.
  3. Lithographic crayon.
  4. Monochromatic color schemes.

Here are two examples of Parrish's use of pattern. This first illustration is called The Idiot (1910), and the second one is called Man in an Apple (1911). Both were covers for Collier’s Magazine. Notices how Parrish primarily uses pattern, rather than value, to effectively render the folds in clothing. The patterns also add a decorative element to the design.

I have already put this technique to use in my Illustration Friday entry for stitch.

I'll discuss Parrish's use of symmetry, lithographic crayon, and monochromatic color schemes in future posts.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Illustration Friday - Plain

According to my Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, Plain People are members of any of various Protestant groups (as Mennonites) esp. in the U.S. who wear distinctively plain clothes and adhere to a simple and traditional style of life excluding many conveniences of modern technology (as motorcars)

This pastel painting of an Amish woman is based on a painting I did last summer while visiting my parents in Vernon, New York. The subject is an Amish woman figurine. You can see the original painting here.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

EDM #154 - Draw or Paint a Lemon

More colored pencil practice. Prismacolor pencils on Strathmore 400 Series Drawing medium paper.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Birthday Greeting

Today is my brother's birthday. Happy Birthday, Tom!

Black Sharpie marker and Marriott black ball point pen on a Canson 5" x 7" greeting card.

Friday, January 18, 2008

First Colored Pencil Drawings

I am taking the online colored pencil course Getting Started in Colored Pencil with Bet Borgeson. This is a 7 week class, and I have just completed week 2. The class emphasizes color. These are my first colored pencil drawings. The exercise was to use color as a device to express form. Prismacolor pencils on Strathmore 400 Series Drawing medium paper (9" x 12").

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Illustration Friday - Stitch

My illustration shows Betsy Ross sewing the first American flag. Winsor and Newton watercolors on 140 lb Arches watercolor paper. 8.5" x 11".

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Work In Progress: Stitch

This is a sketch for my Illustration Friday entry this week. The prompt is "stitch". My illustration shows Betsy Ross sewing the first American flag. My web research suggests there is no evidence to back up the Betsy Ross story; it is a folktale. That is ok. It seems like a harmless fabrication, and I wouldn't want facts to get between me and my Illustration Friday entry. The purpose of this sketch is to get the outlines correct (especially on the flag) and to establish value. I used mechanical pencil on printer paper. I now wish I used good drawing paper. Lesson learned. I intend to transfer the drawing to watercolor paper and paint in watercolors, in a poster style. I'll probably stick to the real colors of the American flag, although the Andy Warhol-wannabe in me is hankering to do the flag is some bold complimentary colors like blue and orange.

I am studying Maxfield Parrish this month, and his work is influencing this piece. Parrish loved patterns on fabric and used them to indicate 3 dimensions, such as the folds of the flag. I tried to render the stars and stripes in such a way as to indicate folds. I will also use some value change to indicate the folds, but this will be minimal.

If anyone has any suggestions on improving the design, I welcome your input.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

EDM #153 - Draw Something In A Plastic Wrapper

This is a cauliflower wrapped in plastic. It is destined to be dinner tonight. We'll use it to make Cauliflower Cheese casserole from The Findhorn Family Cook Book. Basically, this is steamed cauliflower baked in a cheddar cheese sauce. I found both the cauliflower and the plastic wrapper to be very difficult to render. Mechanical pencil on 9" x 12" Strathmore 400 Series Sketch Pad paper.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Illustration Friday - 100%

100%. It is way overrated. In school, we are taught to strive for the grade 100%. At our jobs, we are encouraged to give more than 100%. It is the way to get ahead. But 100% can be a killer. So just say no to 100% and perfection. And encourage your kids to say no, too. Striving for 100% can lead to fear of failure, which leads to fear of trying, which kills creativity. Striving for 100% leads to burn out, exhaustion, and poor health. Just say no!

Watercolor and gouache on 5" x 8" Acquarello Watercolor Studio 140 lb cold pressed paper, touched up using Photoshop Elements.

Here is the original watercolor version, before the touch up. I used Photoshop Elements to alter the color of the "100".

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

EDM #152 - Draw a Nut

Wow, walnuts are amazingly complicated. I love rendering form, so I enjoyed trying to capture the shape of the walnut half. Mechanical pencil on 9" x 12" Strathmore 400 Series Sketch Pad paper.