Tuesday, November 30, 2010

40 Illustrators and How They Work

War Bonds painting by Dean Cornwell

A recent post on James Gurney's excellent blog mentioned the good news that a new book called "Masters of American Illustration: 41 Illustrators and How They Worked" By Fred Taraba is forthcoming. This prompted me to pull out my copy of the original classic from the 1940's "40 Illustrators and How They Work". The book features such legendary illustrators as N.C. Wyeth, Norman Rockwell and Dean Cornwell, but also other artists whose work is now nearly forgotten but nonetheless worthy of examination.

Cornwell's sketches for the above painting

Once again I came away impressed at the level of commitment that these artists dedicated to getting the image right. This is a skill that is sadly missing from much of contemporary illustration. Trends toward "primitive" and naive illustration aesthetics have led many artists to believe that visual research is not necessary or worse yet that it is actually preferable to skip research altogether.This mentality is obviously misguided as such investigation can only help in the depiction of a chosen subject, even allowing you to consciously depart from it more easily, should you choose. Below are a couple of examples from the book of the extensive research that went into these artist's finished work.

Sketches by Donald Teague

As they say, the finished painting never lies and the hard work is evident in the convincing nature of these paintings.This is a book I would recommend to any illustrator or classic illustration enthusiast. I purchased my copy many years ago but am pleased to find that good copies can still be had for a reasonable price.

Find 40 Illustrators and How They Work here

Addendum: Dan Zimmer of The Illustrated Press,  publisher of the upcoming "Masters of American Illustration: 41 Illustrators and How They Worked" has told me that the publication date will be announced hopefully by the end of December. It will be full color, 432 pages, hardcover with dust jacket. It will collect all the classic illustrator profiles from Fred Taraba's articles written for Step-By-Step magazine. This sounds like a must have book. I can hardly wait!

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