Monday, October 23, 2017

Painting Newport's Shipyards

Thomas C. Skinner (American, 1888-1945) painted the worker's world of shipbuilding.


A couple of weeks ago, when I visited the Mariners' Museum in Newport News, Virginia, Jeanne Willoz-Egnor, Director of Collections Management, took me behind the scenes to see some of Skinner's paintings. This giant oil shows the workings of the forge hammer shop.


According to the Richmond Times Dispatch, December 19, 1948: "Shortly after the Mariners’ Museum was founded in 1930, Mr. Skinner was appointed its staff artist. By a happy stroke of fortune he was assigned studio space in the heart of the shipyard where he could paint from life all phases of modern steel shipbuilding." 


"His studio did not possess the conventional quite decorum. Riveting hammers provided a continuous tattoo, and his floor shook with the vibration of heavy machinery."

Thomas C. Skinner, preliminary study, courtesy Mariners' Museum
"But he learned in a matter of moments to set up his easel and start sketching a damaged tanker being warped into a big drydock. The result has been that his unposed paintings are bold, colorful, and almost noisily true to life."

This 1933 gouache shows the Mallory Line freighter Mallemak in dry dock, getting a paint job. 


In the shipyard's heavy machine shop, he depicts the special tools used to refine the shapes of the forgings and castings.


The expressed intent of his project was "to promote prosperity during the Great Depression and celebrate America's industrial might."
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Read more
Shipbuilders' art, painter's art meet
Main page for Mariners' Museum 
This is their page on Thomas C. Skinner 
Thanks, Jeanne.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Flatness and Depth in Painting

This scene was on the back cover of David Drake's paperback collection of military science fiction short stories called "The Fleet Book One." 



To make the typical '80s air battle look more incongruous, I imagined it taking place at a low altitude over farmland. I set up the scale by introducing the fighter craft in the foreground, and then repeating them way back in the scene. I also softened the colors and compressed the lines of the croplands as they went back to the horizon.

When I was in art school, many of the teachers spoke dogmatically about the importance of making the painting reinforce the flatness of the picture plane. But that idea never really interested me very much. The flatness of the picture plane is a given. It's easy to make a painting look 2D—colored stuff on a rectangle of canvas.

The real fun for me starts when the surface starts to fall away and pulls me back into infinite depths.
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Read more:
Modern art theory: "The Importance of Flatness"
Previous post on "Houding" (a theory of pictorial depth from classical Dutch theory)
Amazon: The Fleet Book One


Saturday, October 21, 2017

Learning from the Famous Artists Course

The Norman Rockwell Museum produced this new video about the Famous Artists Course (Link to video)


The clips include color video of some of the faculty of 1950s American illustrators, along with Walt Reed, who was one of the faculty helpers, and Elwood Smith and Howard Cruz, who took the course.

Norman Rockwell in his Stockbridge, Massachusetts,
studio surrounded by his many studies for Art Critic. Bill Scovill 1955
Their exhibit "Learning from the Masters" will be on view through November 19.
You can still get secondhand copies of the Famous Artists Course.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Flagg Draws a Model

In this 1934 video, James Montgomery Flagg (1877-1960) draws a female model while talking about the importance of perceiving the skull underneath. (Link to YouTube).


In the video he lays down a few preliminary structural lines, and then at 2:04, the video makes a jump to a nearly finished drawing. Flagg dramatically signs the drawing, turns to the camera, and as he puffs on a cigarette, he says: "If you're searching for a beauty, and you want her to last, pick yourself a good skull."



Flagg was a star illustrator from 1900 through World War I (for which he designed the famous 'I Want You' poster) and on beyond WWII. He was known for his lightning portrait sketches, but he also had a reputation for being cantankerous.


His model is Ilse Hoffmann, whom he describes as the 'wood-nymph or elfin' type, but not the 'classic' type:
"Flagg had a long-term relationship with another one of his models, Ilse Hoffmann, the daughter of Hans Heinrich Lammers. His biographer has argued: 'Half Flagg's age, Ilse was a complex and unhappy woman. Enraptured with her beauty, Flagg felt perpetually compelled to paint her, in spite of her being a poor model because she hated to pose. He was dazzled by her physical grace, her humor and intelligence, by her good taste and her coquettish manner.' He described her as the great love of his life and was devastated when she committed suicide in 1945." Source
Flagg, Portrait of Ilse Hoffman
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Read More
Online: Bio of Flagg at Spartacus Educational
More about the love life of Flagg
Book: James Montgomery Flagg
Video by British Pathé
Thanks, Sascha Karschner

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Biopunk Truck

I painted this image for Thomas Easton’s science-fiction story “Down on the Truck Farm” (1990). 


In this biopunk future, living vehicles are genetically engineered out of the organic parts of animals:
"The genimal's legs were mounted high, above the wheels, their joints reversed; as they ran, they pushed against the tires, spun the wheels on their bony hubs, and propelled the vehicle down the grassy greenways that had replaced paved roads early in the Biological Revolutions."
To paint the setting of giant marigolds and pumpkin plants, I set up my easel outside in the garden.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A Few Tips for Accuracy


A few days ago I visited the old mill town of Greenwich, New York and painted this streetscape.


In the video (link to YouTube), I share some tips for getting accuracy using the traditional pencil-measure method.
Gouache tutorial
How to Make a Sketch Easel
My videos are also available as DVDs at Kunaki
Music by Kevin MacLeod