Last week I had a chance to go see the Norman Rockwell Exhibit at the BYU museum of art. I went with friends from my critique group. It’s so much fun to go to things like this with other artists. We had a great time analyzing the paintings together. This post is about some of the things I learned by staring at the awesome art.
For example if you look at this painting called Triple Self-Portrait you can see how the man’s trousers are the same color as the canvas. In the original painting there isn’t a line to distinguish the two elements. Your brain fills that line in all on it’s own. Pretty cool.
See in that image how the three jackets are all the same color. Tan, tan, and tan. They are three separate elements but since the value/tone and color are similar your brain can read them as one. This is a busy picture full of lots of people and things. The color grouping really helps lead your eye through the image.
Here is another example of color grouping.
Another thing Norman Rockwell did all the time is harder for me to explain, but this image illustrates it very well.
See how that lady has a white dress on. See how the background is white. If I was painting this painting I probably would have made her dress purple or blue. White would have been out of the question. I would have been too afraid of her blending into the background and the image being out of balance. But Norman did it here and I think it’s working. I’m excited to start trying to do more of this type of thing in my paintings.
To see more of his photos into paintings you can check out this blog post.
But it wasn’t just that he took a lot of photos. He did drawings and color studies and more drawings and more color studies until he got what he needed.
This is one of my all time Norman Rockwell Favorites. It is 35×39″, and is typical of many of the paintings I saw at the museum. It’s not a mural by any means but it’s much bigger than the sizes I usually work at. He was able to get a lot of detail into the art at this size. I’ve been working the size of my scanner. I think I’m going to try some larger stuff so I can get more of the effects that I want.
There is a common misconception that being an artist is either something you are born with or not. The general feeling in society pervades that artists are odd, and going into art is an unwise career choice because artists don’t make any money.
The reality is drawing realistically can be taught, and there are many many careers for artists. There are also many careers which aren’t considered art jobs but that can benefit immensely from people with the skill for thinking spatially. Learning to see the world in a non-verbal visual way is a beneficial thing for everyone to learn. In school there is a lot of emphasis on core subjects such as reading and math. Drawing and music tend to be overlooked because they aren’t considered valuable skills when preparing for careers such as doctors, lawyers, or engineers. But, not only are there plenty of careers in the arts (fashion, movies, video game, and amusement park industries all use artists) but the ability to picture something in your head would be useful for a doctor or engineer.
Part of the reason people don’t see the value of taking an art class is because drawing is not taught as it used to be. Many art classes as they are taught now teach students to express themselves but don’t give them the skills to do so. This would be similar to telling a piano student to play something that expresses himself without teaching him any notes.
When I was about 11 my love for drawing was clear and my parents enrolled me as a student to my amazing teacher Sydney Bowman taught me many drawing basics using the book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards.
I’m grateful for the lessons she taught me and I’m excited to teach students of my own many of the principles I learned from her.
If you or your children are interested in learning to draw I highly recommend getting the book and going through the exercises. Or if you live in in Salt Lake County Utah I still have spots available in my classes. Email me at illustration (at) manelleoliphant (dot) com for more information.
I went to the thrift store and found some fun picture frames. This one is one of my favorites. It’s just so darn cool looking, despite the fact that it’s actually made of plastic. The red velvet was a little worn but some fabric paint took care of that.
Then I took some time and painted this blue wing fairy to fit in the frame. I’m really pleased with the result.
Here’s a video of my painting process.
I plan on selling the original art with the frame at a Christmas Gift and Craft show in a few weeks. Hopefully I’ll have some more fun framed art to share with you then as well. In the meantime if you really like this painting you can buy a print of it in my shop.