Thursday, August 8, 2013

A Classic to Learn From

Illustration by Frank C. Pape, 1911.

Was talking with an artist friend yesterday about folks who trace from photos--a practice many use regularly for their paintings. It's a methodology that would not only bore me to death, but is unethical--sort of the artist-as-snake-oil-salesman--and has little to do with skill or learning. They might make a sale to an uneducated buyer, but they lose so much in real artistic potential. Thus, not my idea of being an artist.
And that's why I much admire and learn from painters who can create compositions from their imagination.

Found Pape's entire watercolor illustration pretty fascinating. Not for the subject matter, but for the unconventional composition approach that works so well. Pape chose to frame the point of interest in heavily outlined, brightly colored, very detailed foliage and flowers.

They are gorgeous, and in many cases, that detailed beauty might catch and hold the eye, becoming the area of highest interest. That almost happens here--but it doesn't! 
In this instance, the flowers lead the eye to the figures--the young girl becoming the point of interest mostly due to the contrast and movement of her hair and dress against the light of the moon.

She still attracts my eye, even though she is less detailed than the bearded Man in the Moon, and this is primarily due to his lack of contrasting values. He's standing against bright back-lighting, yet Pape chose not to dark-silhouette his figure at all--even though in a real-light (and photographed) situation this would probably be the case.
Using real art knowledge to bend/break convention and come up with an amazing artwork--you can't get that from tracing a photo and filling it in. That's why this is an honest and genius work--something to truly learn from.

Thanks for the visit!


  1. Hi Tom,

    I've seen a lot of his work, but nothing like this illustration. I've just learned it is from At the Back of the North Wind, and I'm hoping to find more of the illustrations. Thank you for featuring it, and I enjoyed your discussion of the composition.

    1. His work is amazing--I find much of it (not this one) slightly disturbing at a sub-surface level, unlike the work of many of his contemporaries. Thank you for your comment and for your posts--they are always illuminating.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...