Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Power of Silhouette

Harvest - by Maxfield Parrish

The term silhouette was named after the French government official Etienne de Silhouettte who because of economic crisis in 1759, was forced to imposed harsh economic policies upon the French people, in particular the very wealthy. As a result, his name became synonymous with anything that was done very cheaply, including the making of cut paper portraits.

Silhouette type portraits were popular at the time before the advent of photography mainly because they could be produced quickly and at very little cost. An artist with a modicum of skill could produce a portrait likeness with such basic materials as black card paper and scissors. 

End paper art for Treasure Island - by N.C. Wyeth

One of many Kuppenheimer ads done by J.C. Leyendecker

The best illustrators also understand the power of this simple concept to carry their artwork as evidenced by these examples from some of my favorite Golden Age illustrators.

Rosie the Riveter - by Norman Rockwell

The above Parrish piece reduced to black and white still caries the dramatic intensity of the original

Even when reduced to black and white, these images still retain their readability, narrative content and compositional heft because the artists understood the power of the silhouette.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Donut Falls

Donut Falls-Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah

I went camping with my family over the weekend and aside from the soggy Friday evening complete with bouts of torrential downpour, we had a great time. Saturday dawned clear and bright with crystal blue skies and the tents mostly dried out before we had to pack them.

The Donut Hole seen from above

We ventured up to a lovely little waterfall appropriately named Donut Falls. I have made the hike before but not since a rockfall several years ago changed the vista. Rumors of the demise of the actual "donut" proved to be greatly exaggerated and I was grateful to see that the most unique aspect of the falls had survived, the cave that the stream falls through on the way downhill.

Inside the cave offers this dramatic view

The slope to the right had tumbled in front of the falls, narrowing the cave entrance dramatically but if you watch your head, you can still make it inside with little difficulty. After pooling in the cave, the water percolates through the sand and gravel and continues it's rush down the canyon.

The stream above the falls offers this picturesque vista

We also ventured up above the falls, a place which I had previously not seen and enjoyed this view of the stream carving it's way through the mountainside. I didn't bring any drawing or painting supplies on the trip and didn't want to delay the family anyway, so photos will have to do for this visit. Sometime I may paint a little scene from the trip with this reference.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Immovable- I.F.

Alpine Thaw - 18" x 9" acrylic on canvas
From "Spring Song" - By Barbara Seuling, pictures by Greg Newbold

This week's Illustration Friday theme is "Immovable" and I can't think of another painting I have done that represents this more beautifully than this one. I live in the middle of the Rocky Mountains and am spoiled with a fabulous view of Mount Olympus in the Wasatch Range in my front yard.

View of Mount Olympus by Jeff McGrath
This is what I see out my front door every day.

I have been privileged to spend a lot of time in these spectacular scenes during my life, so it came naturally when I painted the opening spread for Spring Song. Anyone who wants to pick up this book or any of my others can do so on my very own Life Needs Art Essential Bookshop. Spring Song is unfortunately out of print, but there always seems to be a used copy or two floating around. There are a bunch of other books I love available there also as well as books I highly recommend for anyone interested in art.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Lighthouse - 12" x 16" mixed media/acrylic

The studio is an unholy mess right now. As is my habit, I have let stuff pile up beyond reason and it's time to do a serious sort and purge...right after I get this job off the table. Isn't that how it always goes? I admire people who seem to be able to run a tidy ship but it always makes me wonder what they let go of  in order to maintain the immaculate facade. Maybe they are just better at hiding the chaos. My studio always seems to degenerate to the point where I become that ship trying to navigate the pea soup fog to find port without making a mangled mess of myself on the rocks. Well, my ineptitude won't keep me from making another stab at organization. Now if I could just find a professional organizer that would take a painting in trade for helping get my place in order...where was that painting again? I know I have it here somewhere...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Psycho Raccoon

This is one of those things I have no idea where it came from. Just doodling in my sketchbook, I did a series of angry looking critters an it sort of grew from there. I posted one a while back where I took the same approach as this one - scan the drawing and then colorize and add textures in Photoshop. I may have gone overboard adding texture and grunge, but I was having so much fun. This sort of reminds me of the pair of squirrels that have committed suicide in my studio in the past year (I promise I am not making this up). Take the poll to the right and let me know if you want to hear the gory story. If I get enough votes, I'll write it up and post it later.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Graveyard - ink on bristol - 6" x 8"

I like to do line art, though I don't often get very many opportunities to create it for clients. This piece was my favorite of a series of pictures I did as online content for a fantasy publisher.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Missing Figure Drawing

Life Drawing - Charcoal on Newsprint - 18" x 24"

It's only been a couple of weeks since the term ended and I am feeling the lack of life drawing opportunities. Teaching Life Drawing  four times a week really spoiled me. I will need to make extra efforts in order to draw from life at least semi-regularly. Drawing is the key.. Here's one more drawing from the term. I spent about thirty to forty minutes on this one.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Illustration Friday - Atmosphere

Misty Morning - Oil on Masonite - 24" x 14"

I have been doing a few of these landscape oil paintings the last year or so. I have enjoyed creating these "cow paintings" and have more planned. This one hung in a show I had last March. I sold a few paintings but this one is still hanging around my living room. I like the palette and the close tonal values, but the more I look at it, I think I may go back into it now that I have some separation from it. It is a little on the dark side as I had to adjust the levels a little for this post.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Somewhere Near Madagascar

Somewhere Near Madagascar - 12" x 16"
Acrylic on bristol paper by Greg Newbold

This piece was done as a cover illustration for Ask Magazine. The entire issue dealt with the exotic and animals that have evolved on remote islands and isolated continents such as Australia. I piled a bunch of them on a ridiculously small island and added an Henri Rousseau inspired red sunset for a bit of mystery. I like how it turned out.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Using Collage and Foil Leaf

By Sliver of Moonlight (Angel Muse) - Greg Newbold
acrylic, metal leaf and collage - 18" x 24"

One of the best things about grad school at the University of Hartford was the travel assignments. Each "away trip" included an assignment to capture something about our week in each city. After our Pasadena, CA trip I decided I wanted to do an angel, roughly tying the theme to "The City of Angels" as well as making her an artistic muse. I experimented a lot with different materials including collaged paper and photos and faux gold leaf.. Initially, the pasted on elements included photos from our trip.

Collage and leafing texture with Sponge Bob peeking out at the top

During the experimentation process, most of the details in the photos got covered over and if I use this process again, I think I will more carefully plan the value pattern so that more of the details are evident, but overall, I like the result. You can still get a little glimpse of Sponge Bob in there from our visit to Nickelodeon.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Car-free and Homeless at Jamboree

My 12 year old snapped this great photo during the finale.

Disclaimer: the following story didn't change the great time I had at the Centennial Boy Scout National Jamboree a couple weeks back. As mentioned previously, I was in Virginia at Fort A.P. Hill to sign posters of my July cover of Boys' Life Magazine. I stayed overnight with the scout troop my two boys were part of and thoroughly enjoyed the time with them. Well, the next morning, I went to put my gear back in the rental car and found it MISSING. OK, granted, I most likely did not follow procedure on staying overnight, figuring it was easier to ask forgiveness than permission which it indeed was. I found out that the cost of such forgiveness was $100. I spent about 2 1/2 hours locating the rental car and finding a way to retrieve it from the impound lot. My hosts at Boys' Life Magazine were very kind and covered the impound fee (thanks John!) and made sure I got to my car (thanks Kevin), so I am grateful for that. 

Dirt seats weren't too comfortable, but what a sight.

I attended the Arena Show Extravaganza that evening with my boys and about 70,000 other scouts and leaders in full uniform (what an impressive sight)

Switchfoot had the arena rockin'!

We laughed along with Dirty Jobs guy Mike Rowe and rocked out to Switchfoot capped with one of the best fireworks show I have ever seen. There was a candlelight ceremony in which everyone recited the Scout Law and pledged their duty. The sight of 70,000 young men and leaders that represent the best in our nation was quite a moving moment.

The candles were all blown out at the same time

After I hugged my boys goodbye, I dragged my tired carcass back to the Best Western hotel in Fredericksburg looking forward to a few hours sleep in a real bed before my 7:00 a.m. flight. With key raised to open the door I noticed someone IN MY ROOM WATCHING T.V.! Um, hello? MY ROOM! According to the desk staff, I had "checked out at 2:30 p.m." . I just had to laugh when they said the hotel was full. They apparently gave my room away when I didn't sleep there the middle night of my stay even though I had reserved it for three nights. Go figure. Long story short, I drove the hour plus to the Richmond airport, arrived at 2:30 am, got an hour and a half of sleep on the floor before the incessant "there is no parking along the drop off curb" announcements began to repeat every five minutes. Saving grace? I was only charged for a single night stay after making a stink and then slept like the dead when I got home to my own bed. Sometimes you just gotta laugh- and besides, I got a good story out of it all.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Pop Culture Parody

The famous Uncle Sam poster - James Montgomery Flagg

We have all seen it. The iconic if not pervasive image of of Uncle Sam done by James Montgomery Flagg back in the Golden Age of  Illustration. Some images have a way of forging a permanent place in the consciousness of the American psyche and like Grant Wood's "American Gothic" become the subject of countless parodies and jokes. If you have any doubts on the subject, just click here to see how many versions of Flagg's Uncle Sam motif pop up. As an artist, I have been tempted more than once to base a picture on one of these iconic images. I once even dressed Michaelangelo's David in farmer's overalls and placed him in a chicken coop for an undergraduate illustration assignment.

Fat Uncle Sam- by Greg Newbold 
12" x 14" - acrylic wash over pencil

Currently, I am working on a self generated picture book that will undoubtedly include several such parodies on famous works (but I won't spill the beans on that project quite yet). The one I show today is my own version of Flagg's Uncle Sam done for Eating Well Magazine for an article about how government policy sometimes encourages overeating and poor food choices. I enjoyed taking what Flagg had done and twisting it, yet at the same time trying to be faithful to his technique, right down to trying to replicate his brushwork.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Chasing Down Work

Run For Help - acrylic/mixed - 5" x 9"

Now that my full time teaching contract with BYU has ended and I am back to part time faculty, I feel somewhat like this little guy chasing down some new work. This was a spot for a children's magazine story I did a couple of years ago in which a little boy had to run for help after his grandfather was trapped under an
overturned tractor. I don't quite feel like the grandpa, since I do have some work on the table, but I will miss the consistency of that check every month. I have weathered all the other ups and downs of an art career to this point, so I am sure I'll do it again, but I'll be hustling once again, just like everyone else.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Star Gazing - Illustration Friday

I did this painting a couple of years back as a wraparound 3rd Grade Reading textbook cover. The theme was adventure and this is what the art director and I came up with. What kid hasn't had the fantasy of of reaching for the stars from the relative safety of the backyard tree house? The shadow cast on the fence is a subtle reference to the moon landing. I like to add little "nuggets" in my pictures that maybe aren't obvious at first glance but that the viewer gets to discover. I think it makes them feel like a participant in the artwork and makes them enjoy it more.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Sun Sets on Summer Term

Sunset Campfire - From "The Adventurers" -  19" x 13" mixed media/acrylic

Well, today is the last day of finals for my figure drawing and head painting classes at BYU. I have to admit I will miss being able to draw and paint from life every day and hope I get the chance to teach these classes again. I was digging through the archives last week to pull together a pack of samples for Scholastic to look at when I found this painting I had done a couple of years back. I thought it appropriate to mark the end of this term.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Green Thumb Final Ad

I posted this project the other day, but thought I'd show a peek from the concept to the final application.

This is the sketch I got from the the creatives at Integrated Marketing Group. I was to incorporate my type of signature farmscape into the background as well as adding some clouds in the sky. 

The client was still wavering a bit on whether this concept could work, but after seeing my drawing, they were convinced.

Here's how the print ad layout came together. Matt Aller, the creative director and co-owner there added the cool retro feel type and pertinent info about their services. This advertisement will run in several trade magazines that cater to the natural food industry.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Alexandra - 9" x 12" - Oil on canvas panel

Yesterday was the last day of my head painting class for summer term. I think all the students enjoyed the class, learned a lot, and made good progress. Here's one of the head studies I did a week or so ago toward the end of term. I like the neutral background and the slight tilt of the head. It is difficult to get different and interesting poses sometimes with the somewhat limited pool of models the school provides. We loved painting Alexandra because of her exotic latin looks. This study took about an hour and a half. I am pretty pleased with how it turned out.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Jamboree Patch Phenomenon

Various CSP's (Council Shoulder Patches) from the 2010 Jamboree

Last week when I was at the National Boy Scout Jamboree I witnessed the phenomenon that is patch trading. I had heard from those that had been there before that this was a huge deal and many scouts would sacrifice all the wonderful activities offered at Jamboree and succumb to the allure of patch trading. I was flabbergasted by the extent of this trading by both scouts and adults as well as wowed by the artwork on some of these patches.

Order of the Arrow full pocket and flap patch

I arrived at Jambo with zero patches and it became a bit of a game for me to see how many of these fully embroidered patches I could accumulate in my two days there. Admittedly I would not have scored very many patches had I not been there as a celebrity artist of sorts. Many patches were simply given to me because I met so many people while signing at the Boys' Life tent.

Striking artwork and rarity added to the tradeablility of patches

Others were acquired because I mentioned I had two boys attending and several people gave me pairs of patches to pass along to them. I felt like a magician  as I pulled patch after patch out of my pockets to give to them. I basically conjured around fifty patches out of thin air and the generosity of those I met.

Me with Art Merit Badge Staff leader Judi Krew

Art Merit Badge Staff patch and another designed by Judi Krew

Judi Krew of Canton Ohio, was one of these people who graciously gave several patches to me and my boys. She was running the Art Merit Badge booth at the Jamboree. Here are a couple of the patches that she designed. Thanks Judi!

Friday, August 6, 2010

A Green Thumbs Up

Green Thumb - 13" x 16" Acrylic on illustration board

I just finished a painting for Integrated Marketing Group, a design shop here in town that works on a lot of accounts for the Whole Foods type market. This will run as a promo for IMG in industry rags and on their website. The concept headline is "A Green Thumb For Growing Natural Brands".  It was a bit of a tight schedule to get it done considering I only had about a total of four days at home between trips before I had to deliver it to the photographer to get shot. I lost some sleep, but it got finished and the client is very pleased. I'll show a little of the process when I get a PDF of the final ad from the client.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

15 Minute Drawing

15 minute life drawing- conte on smooth newsprint

My figure drawing class is winding down with only a couple more sessions left in the term. I was looking back through the pad and found this quick little drawing. This one took between 15 and twenty minutes somewhere between a gesture and a little more sustained drawing and is fairly small, maybe ten inches across. I'll look through the pad from the last half of the class when the term ends and see if there are other drawings I want to show. It's been a fun experience helping the students improve their drawing. Without exception, they have all gained new skills or refined their existing drawing abilities.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Naughty Marietta

Naughty Marietta - 11' X 14"
Acrylic/mixed on illustration board

I did this piece a while ago for a small theater in Louisiana called the Jefferson Performing Arts Society. I didn't get to take advantage of the free ticket offer from the theater because of proximity, but from what I gather, the operetta is highly entertaining. It tells the tale of Captain Richard Warrington who is asked to unmask and capture a notorious French pirate calling himself  "Bras Priqué" – and how he is helped and hindered by a high-spirited runaway, Contessa Marietta. I love doing theater work and hope to keep having opportunities to do paintings like this.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Signing at 2010 Boy Scout Jamboree

July 2010 Boys' Life cover with my painting

As I mentioned in a previous post, I went to the Centennial Boy Scout Jamboree to sign posters this past weekend. I did the cover for the special Jamboree issue of Boys' Life Magazine which they turned into a great poster that we gave out at the Boys' Life tent at the Jamboree site in Fort A.P Hill, Virginia. I had a great time despite a few mishaps including the fact that my small digital camera didn't want to work with the new SD chip I had in it, resulting in no pictures. My two boys were at Jamboree with their troop, so I have a few pictures on that camera which will be home when they return. until then, I am relying on those who took pictures of the event.

Me posing with Nahan Dolan at the Boys' Life tent

One of these pictures is of me with Nathan Dolan, a scout from California. We both shared a piece of the July issue of Boys' life. I of course had the cover article illustrations and a photo of Nathan was on page ten illustrating a blurb about the BSA 100th anniversary celebration in Sacramento, CA.

Nathan Dolan in his Great Grandfather's 1922 Eagle Scout garb

He got to dress in his Great Grandfather's 1922  Eagle Scout uniform for the parade through the state's capitol. Thanks for the photo Nathan and Tom! I hope others will send me enough additional photos to do a couple more posts.

Monday, August 2, 2010


Kathryn - 9" x 12" charcoal on gray paper

The other day in our figure  drawing class, I had the sudents work on head studies.  I found that several students are struggling with head porportions and getting the features to turn around the face on the foreshortened side. We will be working more on this in the coming days. I didn't have to deal with the foreshortening since I had a profile view.