Back in the 1800’s, the image of Santa Claus was not portrayed as the round, jolly, bearded man that we know today. Throughout the latter half of the 19th century, Santa morphed through a variety of different looks. He was initially depicted as a thin elf-like man dressed in green, who was focused on protecting children and sailors. At other times, he appeared skinny and gaunt, with a scraggly beard and, while he may have worn a red coat, he sometimes wore a different colored hat, trimmed in black.
Friday and Saturday, January 15 and 16, 2021
For designers, cartoonists, and illustrators, many questions arise when creating art that takes up socially significant, sometimes controversial themes. Some choose the D.I.Y. route, working independently with a free hand, without access to the large scale distribution that comes with a recognizable masthead. Others work with leading news organizations and magazines, agreeing to collaborate in exchange for access to audiences. Popular art has always involved such choices. What are the tradeoffs? What are the rewards?
This timely symposium will explore historical and contemporary notions of freedom as well as the role of illustration as a force in shaping public perception. How has published imagery affected decision-making, public policy, and cultural understanding? Prominent authors, illustrators, and scholars will offer perspectives. Share your observations by participating in all or some of these compelling conversations.
This program is supported in part by the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation.
Food, an essential for man’s survival, is a common theme in art throughout the ages. Today, some epicureans consider food as an art form with its unique power to engage all the senses, not only vision. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, this blog looks at some of the mouthwatering imagery found in the Norman Rockwell Museum Collection.
I first met Tim Evatt three years ago. Tim greeted me in the cavernous lobby of the main building at Pixar, which is named after Apple Computer’s founder, the late Steve Jobs. We walked through the public hallways of the studio looking at the work of all the artists on staff who had contributed to the film Coco, which was in theaters at the time. We looked at storyboard art, pencil and color studies, set designs, and 3D maquettes. I was like a kid in the candy store. However, equally impressive was learning how much Tim Evatt was and is a true student of “golden age” illustrators like Norman Rockwell, J.C. Leyendecker, and Dean Cornwell. This past week, I decided to capture one of my conversations with Tim in anticipation of a virtual program that the Museum is planning to hold on Wednesday, December 2, 2020 at 7pm.
Despite the growing efficiency of cameras in the nineteenth century, photography on the battlefield was difficult due to long exposures and cumbersome equipment. Because of this, Civil War illustrator reporters like Winslow Homer, Alfred Waud and Edwin Forbes were engaged to capture events that photography at the time could not. In the twentieth century, wartime illustrators remained in demand⸺as skillful practitioners they were able to prioritize in chaotic situations and assemble compelling visual evidence that communicated to viewers in a visceral way.
How did artists like Norman Rockwell, Austin Briggs, Jon Whitcomb, and others create the believable unique faces that can tell a whole story by themselves? In a magazine cover, like those by Rockwell and Stevan Dohanos, the image, with its setting and, most of all, its characters, must convey an anecdote without any help from words. So each face must be carefully crafted to do its part in creating the drama⸺or comedy.
In How I Make a Picture by Al Parker, he wrote about his creative process for magazine story assignments. The artist’s first step was to read the manuscript while keeping the target audience in mind. As characters entered into the tale, he jotted down their descriptions – hair color, eyes, age, type of clothing, disposition, etc. He also searched the narrative for a passage that would catch the reader’s attention; he termed this the “stopper”. Parker’s final tip on successful illustrations was understanding the mood of the piece. Is it romantic, humorous, suspenseful, or tragic?
If you want to observe an artist at work, a good place to start is with his or her sketchbooks. Here are ideas, techniques, observations, memories – all the underpinnings of the finished work. Often the contents are so free and spontaneous that they draw us in, wanting and needing nothing more than these simple lines on paper.
The Society of Fellows at the Rockwell Center for American Visual Studies announces a seminal conference:
LOCATION: Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri,
DATE: March 21-23, 2019
CONVENED BY: The Rockwell Center for American Visual Studies at the Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, Massachusetts, and the D. B. Dowd Modern Graphic History Library at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.