Tim’s talk on the American Illustrators

An example of one of his characterful illustrations

Tim Daost has been studying with us for some years. He has received both the De Laszlo Scholarship and was awarded Artist in Residence at Leighton House Museum. We have been fortunate that he has given a series of lectures at the studios on perspective and most recently on the American Illustrators. Here is a brief synopsis of his fascinating talk.

 

One of the main reasons I wanted to study traditional drawing and painting techniques was to improve my ability to tell stories visually.   I have always loved the way a good illustration can transport you to another world, and admire artists who can use realism in imaginative ways.

 

Although slightly less famous in the UK, the American Illustrator Norman Rockwell has long been considered a master of visual storytelling by the US public.

Norman Rockwell

 

The more I practiced traditional figure drawing the more I wondered how Rockwell and his contemporaries became such amazing figurative artists and illustrators.  I decided to explore this topic more in a talk I gave at the studio in November 2016.

A large part of the story of American Illustration comes back to the Art Students League in New York City.   Every time I found an illustration from the early 20th century with amazing figurative work and researched the artist’s background I discovered that they spent some time at the Art Students League or in Paris at Academie Julian.

 

Arts Students League

Researching a bit about the training at the Art Students League around the 1900s explains how its students became so influential.  At the time the League had three incredibly influential teachers:  George Bridgman, Robert Henri, and Frank Dumond.  All three of these teachers had trained at the Ecole Des Beaux-Arts or Academie Julian, some directly under the tutelage of France’s foremost academic artist, William-Adolphe Bouguereau.

 

Here are a few images of students training at the Art Students League – the setup should seem familiar to anyone who studies here at London Fine Art Studios.

 

 

 

Frank Vincent Dumont in Class

One of the longest standing teachers at the Art Students League, George Bridgman, wrote some of the most influential books on figure drawing that are still in wide use today and can be bought at the studio shop Lavender Hill Colours. Here you can see examples of the work from his class.

From a George Bridgeman class
From a George Bridgeman class

 

Robert Henri, another instructor at the League, wrote the highly influential book The Art Spirit.

Robert Henri Art Spirit

Frank Dumond, who exhibited at the Paris Salon and won a medal, can be seen in the photos above teaching cast drawing.

 

Frank Dumond

 

 

It is no surprise that instructors of this calibre were able to turn Norman Rockwell into one of America’s best illustrators by the time he was 20. Rockwell matured as an illustrator at a very fortuitous time, since the technical circumstances of the time made illustration the dominant form of advertisement.

 

 

During the 19th century lithography, photography, and printing were making it possible to mass produce black and white images cheaply.  Colour printing was a more complicated process, but by 1904 rotary offset lithography made it possible to mass produce colour images.  Although colour printing was possible, colour photography was still a challenging process until 1935 when Kodak introduced Kodachrome film.  This meant that mass produced colour advertisements required an illustrator from the early 1900s until about 1935.

 

This opportunity was taken up by many other Art Students League students:  Walter Biggs and Howard Pile were all former students at the forefront of American Illustration.

 

Illustrators from outside the League were also popular; a little research tends to reveal that they also had an academic background.  J.C Leyendecker was America’s leading illustrator before Rockwell.  He studied under John Vanderpool, the Dutch-American artist and author of the book “The Human Figure” which is still widely used in art schools today. Leyendecker continued his studies at Academie Julian in Paris.

 

Leyendecker’s images for Saturday Evening Post defined the modern look of Santa (often mis-attributed to a subsequent Coca-Cola campaign that clearly references these images), and his work for Arrow Shirts advertising helped define the fashion sense of the 1920s.

Leyendecker

N.C Wyeth is also considered one of America’s greatest illustrators.  He trained under Howard Pyle, who was in turn trained by F.A Van der Wellen from the Antwerp Academy of the Arts.  It is hard to find exact details on how Pyle was trained, but it is clear the Van der Wellen had his students draw from casts.  Pyle also briefly trained at the Art Students League, and it is reasonable to surmise that Pyle trained Wyeth using the classical techniques that he learned from the league and Van der Wellen.

N C Wyeth

Wyeth completed an incredible 3,000 paintings (an average of 6 per month during his working career)  and illustrated 112 books (2 -3 per year)  during his career.  Maintaining such a pace would require spending no more than 25 – 35 hours per painting.

Ann’s Out & About – The Ashmolean

Our Museum Trip Lunch Reward served on dark Colombian pottery copy

This morning I got up early to set off on my first artistic and cultural adventure of 2017, accompanied by my daughters. We left Broccoli behind as, although she loves our arty escapades, Museums are less welcoming to furry friends.

We drove to Oxford, with Rene Aubrey playing in the background. Driving through the city, waves of nostalgia washed over us – the architecture and familiar street names have inspired some of our greatest literature, most gripping murder mysteries and characters.

We arrived at the Ashmolean in good time. The building was recently renovated and boasts light and airy modern spaces. There is much to see, too much and for this reason we decided to focus on just one floor. We will have to return for the other floors and to revisit our favourite paintings.

A whole room is dedicated to Dutch flower painting. We felt spoilt by the number of paintings and whilst it was a treat to have so many masterful examples of the genre in one room, by the end we were able to be quite picky about what we enjoyed and what we felt was overdone and overwhelming.

Mignon. Flower Painting. Oil on Panel

We concluded that the paintings just marginally under life size did not work, they looked mean and disproportionate rather than merely under life size. There really is no need to paint something as small as a flower under life size, and it doesn’t make visual sense. Obviously this is not a rule that holds true to all subject matter, for a building to be painted life size would be ridiculous!

The lighter backgrounds were fresh and stood out amongst all the dark backgrounds. Why were Dutch flower paintings predominantly painted on dark backgrounds? Fast forward to the delicious Colombian feast we went onto after the Ashmolean. It was served on typical dark Colombian pottery, which Maria considered an effective way of emphasising the colour of the food. It made me think of the Dutch flower painting – perhaps the dark backgrounds were a device to accentuate the colours? Then again, in the days of no artificial lighting, I would have thought it would have been brighter to have lighter images?

My daughters were fascinated and did a great job finding at least one bug in every painting, like an arty Where’s Wally. I wonder, were the bugs there to entertain the artist, the children, or help explain the freshness and aliveness of the flowers!?

From flowers to landscapes, we moved through two rooms dedicated to the landscape sketch, mainly from the Gere Collection. These paintings are always a delight to see, their freshness and purity – no bugs needed, just pure observation. Leighton’s sketches are uncluttered and utterly underworked (very different to his large paintings); Valenciennes’ colours and shapes are crisp and simple, almost modern. Here too we were spoilt by the number of paintings and yet, by the end, similarly judgmental and quick to comment on the lack of accurate perspective. There is a clear difference between exaggerated perspective, which helps give the effect of distance, to forced and misjudged perspective.

Leighton. Villa Malta, Rome. Landscape Sketch. Oil on canvas     Valenciennes. Oil landscape Sketch. Oil on paper

The Constables were at the end of the room and had great impact. I am a huge fan but on closer inspection and after the light sketches of the Roman Campagna, they were disappointing.

The last room we entered was much more eclectic both in terms of timeline and genre. The jamboree of images did have some advantages as it made it very easy to pick out the gems in the crowd! The portrait by Lawrence, on a bone ground was striking and particularly remarkable for its colours and simplicity.

In the same room was the most amazing Hogarth sketch, a small oil painting on canvas. It is phenomenally modern, if it weren’t for the style of dress one would think it was a Walter Sickert. The painting is a sketch for the final episode of Marriage à la Mode; the looseness of the paint and the melting edges are incredible. However, what really brings the painting into the 20th century are the pure colour notes thickly applied, and the use of impasto to guide the storyline.

Hogarth. Oil Sketch for Marriage a la Mode. Oil on Canvas. Alla Prima

The painting feels very free, today we would be astounded by the sureness of touch and paint quality – alla prima at its best. Yet for Hogarth it was just a preliminary sketch!

There is so much more to be said – and this is just the second floor! However, my account would not be complete without indulging in what was the greatest pleasure of our visit: the Van Dyck studies. Two preparatory sketches of bearded men both in ruffs on a grey ground that brings a delicious warm tone to the work.

Van Dyck. Portrait Study of a man with a Beard and Ruff. Oil on canvas

Van Dyck uses a very limited palette, his colours are clean and direct and every brushstroke has a purpose. This is not painting sketchily, nor slowly finding your way round till the end fits in with your visual start. It is instead considered and carefully applied so that, every brushstroke makes sense, in terms of its shape, value, temperature, colour. In these paintings there is nothing to trick us or lure us; no flashy colours, unnecessarily thick paint, or layers of glazes; no dripping paint or splashy backgrounds; just the purest form of honest painting. Every brushstroke is purposeful and none is excessive.

As an aspiring painter, what more could you hope for than the purest distillation of paint, and a lesson to apply to more aspects of our lives than just art!

New de Laszlo Foundation Scholars announced

De Laszlo Scholarship | London Fine Art Studios

We are grateful to The de Laszlo Foundation for their continued support of the school.  Now in its third year, the scholarship programme has enabled many talented young artists to further their training and build their confidence, successfully making the transition into the professional realm.

We are pleased to announce two new scholars for the Autumn Term and look forward to witnessing their development as artists:

 

oolong-with-roses
Oolong with Roses by Nneka Uzoigwe

Charcoal Portrait by Tim Daoust

timdaoust_charcoal

 

Back to school

Art Courses in London

The Autumn Term begins 19 September.  We look forward to welcoming back old and new faces.

Few Foundation spaces left, additional courses include:

Beginners Sculpture, Mondays, 7-9pm

Printmaking, Wednesdays, 1-4pm

Urban Landscapes, Saturdays 10am-1pm

Apply online here or for more information email: info@londonfineartstudios.com.  Want to find out more?  Watch this short video about the school.

London Fine Art Studios: An insight

London Fine Art Studios: An insight

London Fine Art Studios: An insight This is us!  We have been busy working with acapmedia to produce a wonderful video about the school.  Thanks to Chris and Aaron of acapmedia for all their work and expertise.  Thanks also to the team at LFAS for their participation.

Check us out here:

[pexyoutube pex_attr_src=”https://youtu.be/NBoCL1gGuiw”][/pexyoutube]

We look forward to the release of a second short film produced with acapmedia.  Also with the support of The de Laszlo Foundation.

Classical skills that go hand-in-hand

Screen Shot 2014-01-23 at 11.49.14

This week started with, amongst other things, a conversation on the news about media bartering. A grosso modo it referenced the way in which large organisations are cutting marketing costs through in-kind exchange.

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Swapping goods and services for promotional opportunity or something similar is hardly a new concept, and it is certainly prevalent amongst many arts organisations. Indeed, it is at the heart of how many communities operate.

 

London Fine Art Studios is testament to this tradition. A Battersea-based, independent fine art school, the Studios is in essence an atelier offering classical art courses for aspiring and established artists. This encompasses drawing and oil painting, printmaking and sculpture, all from within a representational art lineage.

 

In keeping with the atelier methodology, much importance is placed on learning through exchange. We barter knowledge and experience, in exchange artists, teachers and students alike learn more, enjoy more and ultimately retain more. Small student groups work together, receiving focused and constructive critiques from their tutor-artist who draws and paints alongside them. They also gain from regular demonstrations as well as through observing their peers.

 

Underlying this process is a deep respect for the craft of drawing and painting. Again, there is a shared understanding that mastery comes through practice. It is the result of concrete instruction as opposed to conceptual or theoretical training, which, all too often, leaves students floundering, trying to run before they can walk.

 

This collaborative ethos runs through everything we do, and that is a lot! In a previous life one of our award-winning artists was also an award-winning barista (painted left), he now runs the Studios’ coffee bar supplementing his income whilst giving us (and our work) a welcome caffeine kick. We have yoga teachers and chefs, all of whom find a way of trading goods to everyone’s advantage!

 

It has also propelled LFAS and its artists well beyond the confines of the studios, working alongside a range of organisations across London. Projects with Poet in the City and Central School of Ballet have helped forge new working relationships between different art forms. In the case of Leighton House Museum and Dulwich Picture Gallery we have brought practical expertise to the seat of art history; and, different again, popping up at the Affordable Art Fair and Pintar Rapido we have brought classical principles into a contemporary context.

 

Screen Shot 2014-01-23 at 11.49.14Whatever we choose to call it – bartering, collaboration, in-kind exchange – this age old tradition has enabled us all to gain at so many different levels. Evidently it brings with it exposure and so the opportunity of increased following and, more importantly, new creative adventures. More significantly, it allows the participants to grow professionally as they try their skills out in new arenas and push the boundaries of their craft.

 

Finally, in a world that is notoriously cash-strapped and solitary, it has consolidated ties between artists and individuals and meant that we all get more bang for our buck.