Tuesday, November 6, 2012

R.I.P David Grove (1940-2012)

Poster for Something Wicked This Way Comes by David Grove

My earliest exposure to the work of David Grove in 1983 when I saw the stunning painting he did for the film adaptation of Ray Bradbury's "Something Wicked This Way Comes".  As with many of the works I drooled over in my early art life, I didn't have a name to attach to the art, but the brilliance of tis particular painting was burned into my nascent artistic psyche. I enjoyed more of of his work over the next few years until I finally learned the name David Grove in a history of Illustration class.

Poster for "Never Cry Wolf"
 Mystery solved. I was in love with the work of David Grove. Like many students I also dabbled in Grove's gouache rub out and acrylic technique before I settled into my own style. It was not until 2009 that I actually met David Grove when I was privileged to hear him give a presentation during my MFA studies.

Grove told many stories about his forty odd years as an illustrator that alternately amused and inspired the crowd. He outlined how his career began in 1965 as an illustrator in Paris, France. He had started out as a photography major at Syracuse University but left there to have what was intended to be a six month European experience. He stayed in France for a year and a half.

In Paris, Grove linked up with a representative who only dealt in illustration. The agent asked him to do a sample to prove he could draw. Grove obliged and the agent subsequently got Grove his first job in less than a week. It was an overnight rush job - a black and white newspaper advertisement. Due to confusion over the language barrier, Grove thought it was a $5 job.

When his agent handed him the $500 check, he realized that he had just made enough money to support himself for over a month. That job showed up on a billboard which led to another $500 job and that was the start of a brilliant career. After settling in California after his return from Europe, Grove found truly interesting work to be in short supply. He took a trip to New York where he immediately earned contracts to create nine book covers Those jobs were followed closely by fifteen more covers. Grove was launched as a top illustrator here in the United States.

David's long and storied career included countless movie and theater posters, book covers and advertisements for which he earned many awards  and the respect of the industry. Grove's clients included film posters for Disney, Warner Bros. Orion, MGM/UA and Fox.  Other clients included Sony, Pendleton, Eddie Bauer, Mercedes Benz and Deutsche Bank.

David Grove was a consummate craftsman and would go to great lengths to get the right information for a painting. Once he needed some guns for reference material. Rather than locate prop guns, he decided to build his own out of wood, cardboard and scraps. Well, the fake guns needed a coat of black spray paint in order to be convincing which necessitated a trip to the roof of his studio building. As Grove was spraying away, he heard the crackle of police radios and looked up to find himself staring down the barrel of a SWAT sniper rifle.

Neighbors had called in a report of some crazy guy with guns on the roof of a building. It took some convincing and a visit to his studio before the cops wrote it off as a false alarm.

Grove's technique involved making a detailed drawing based on his research which he said "could take anywhere from twenty minutes to weeks". The drawing (which took one night or up to weeks) was transferred to a gessoed board and then sealed off. Because he had his drawing established, the gesso could be applied in directional strokes that could follow the thrust of his drawing.

Flowing vibrant washes of gouache followed which were then rubbed out to reveal the highlights and subtle transitions from light to dark. Grove admitted in his presentation that for a while, he only used Burnt Sienna, Ultramarine Blue in his gouache palette. He liked how the blue would settle lower into the valleys of gesso and reveal a subtle vibration of warm to cool across the texture. A coat of Krylon Workable Fixative to seal the gouache that was then followed by layers of Liquitex Acrylics over the top.

Grove's paintings were finished off with a coat of matte varnish. He figured most of his paintings took about a week to complete. The combination of textures and the glorious flowing washes in Grove's work were often imitated but never equaled.
David Grove was inducted into the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame in 2007. He passed on October 25, 2012 at the age of 72 following a long illness. His talent and influence in the world of art and illustration will be greatly missed.

There is a book of David's work available at the link below from Norfolk Press. I can't wait for my copy to arrive.

David Grove : An Illustrated Life 305 page softcover monograph available herehttp://norfolkpress.com/david-grove-an-illustrated-life-david-grove/


Gary Locke said...

THANX for posting this---i too saw my first illustrator annuals in 1983---David Grove was the one who made my heart stop! 15 of us artists all on one studio---4 or 5 of us constantly trying to do a "DAVID GROVE'' illo. never could quite pull it off tho. these pics bring back memories man.

Unknown said...

Thanks Gary,
I tried a few times in college to pull off a Grove with limited success. One piece helped me earn a scholarship form the Society of Illustrators though, so it was not all in vain. Fabulous stuff.

Unknown said...


Don't know if you are checking the site or will get the message, I am just clearing out some of my dads old stuff and have found a signed poster by David grove for the 1983 indy 500?? wondered if there would be any interest in this, i love the picture but I cannot find a place for it unfortunately.

Unknown said...

Hi Steph,

Sounds like a cool piece. You might try selling it on EBAY. I saw a framed copy of the poster listed for $100. Looks like it's not a rare item, so maybe not a lot in terms of value. I love stuff like that, but unfortunately, I am in the same boat with too much stuff and not enough wall space.