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.

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