Tim OBrien
May 2008
Last night I went to the opening of one of the best exhibitions the Society of Illustrators ever mounted. The work of J.C. Leyendecker is featured and it's an amazing collection. I think Judy Francis Zankel, past president and Terry Brown did a stellar job putting it together and it is presented in such an elegant and accessible way. The value of the work is such that a guard has even been hired while this show is at the Society. Several months ago I took over Museum chair from Anita Kunz. She was the chairman when this show was put on the schedule. Deciding where to take the work on our walls is a daunting task. A museum chair must work their way though countless proposals and hopefully only mount shows that are the very best work and showcase both contemporary and important vintage images. The work in this show has raised the bar for both. I walked through last night with a respect and knowledge of Leyendecker, but never did I have him on my radar as a personal influence. Perahps this will change. The paintings look wet, as if done yesterday. The ridiculously confident parallel brushwork and abstract assembly of background and foreground was a revelation to me. I stared at one part of a painting for quite a while trying to recognize that the reason it looked so great was that it was probably painted in minutes yet looked so assured. This is one you all have to see. From the Press Release: “Americans Abroad: J.C. Leyendecker and the European Academic Influence on American Illustration,” on display at the Museum of American Illustration at the Society of Illustrators, May 21-July 12, 2008. FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE NEW YORK, NEW YORK – – The Museum of American Illustration at the Society of Illustrators presents “Americans Abroad: J.C. Leyendecker and the European Academic Influence on American Illustration.” Opening May 21-July 12, 2008, the exhibit showcases the history and art of Leyendecker and other American Illustrators whose studies in London, Munich and Paris were influenced by the traditional teaching methods of the European Academies in the 19th Century.
Ralph Stanley
Here is the cover as it ran
A few weeks ago I was contacted by Tyler Darden of Virginia Living magazine. He's the very talented art director who has won a pile of medals and awards most notably with our very own Sterling Hundley. I jumped at the chance to work with him. He wanted a portrait of legendary Blue Grass musician, Ralph Stanley. In 2006 he was awarded the National Medal of Arts. Stanley's work was also featured in the 2000 film O Brother, Where Art Thou?, in which he sings the Appalachian dirge "O Death". With that song, Stanley won a 2002 Grammy Award in the category of Best Male Country Vocal Performance.
Here is a piece of the reference. Ralph is an older man now so the work in this was idealizing him just slightly and also Ralph does not smile.
The interesting thing about this assignment was what I thought it was going to be and how it turned out. I was thrilled to be called by Tyler and after getting some reference shots produced a sketch. His reply was to draw his own sketch that was slightly different but not all that different. I was initially confused and maybe even a bit tweaked. I thought about it a bit and contacted him about the awkward nature of being given an assignment then being told how to draw it out. He was so nice about it. He is actually a very talented artist and his sketch was quite nice. Once I got over the fact that his sketch was better, I had a blast. I think I assumed that the art director who worked with Sterling and allowed such free-formed images would let me just go with it. Expectations are sometimes the wrong thing to hold onto. I ended up loving the image and really enjoying working with Tyler. He's a prince.
Here is the sketch I did. It's a digital sketch with a feeling for how the final would look.
Here is the sketch by Tyler Darden. I know what the design does; how it moves his hands up and creates a better vertical rectangle.
Here is my final artwork.
The tiny brushstrokes describe the surface, hint at his age, but the lighting on his face is soft. This way, he looks elegantly aged but not haggard.
Here is the reference I shot of me holding my axe. One day, when I'm gone, there will be quite a pile of reference of me in all kinds or positions and situations. Also I have a huge collection of annoyed photos of my wife Elizabeth. I usually hit her up for modeling for me about 11 PM on short notice. She is beautiful but when asked to suddenly pose, she is not amused.
The Vulture
This is mostly a drawing and then an airbrush toned oil painting afterward.
For a job last week for Fortune, I was asked to paint a vulture about to swoop down on an unsuspecting Wall Street below. The AD said that they were envisioning a Gotham City version of New York; darker and even distorted. I love jobs like this and I needed it too. I love doing portraits but I think I had done almost 20 in a row. What came to mind was the work of Barry Jackson. I loved his work from the 1980's though I have no hard copies of any of it, but work off of memory. The assignment, "The Vulture" refers to how the private equity firms that will thrive in the year ahead are those that know how to profit from others' misfortunes, swooping down to pick over the bones. Fortune is great to work with.
My thumbnail. I always trust my initial designs. Usually.
A sent sketch
The think that was requested that I had to deal with was the inclusion of a person with a briefcase coming out of the stock exchange. The scale would make that a tough thing to do. I had to shift things and use a LONG shadow to make that tiny figure have more of a presence. Very clever!
Orphan Works?
Normally I post stories and images of illustrations I've been lucky enough to do or tell a tale or two. Today I want to join the chorus of voices within the illustration community, to my mind a unanimous voice, denouncing a terrible and unnecessary bill. The Orphan Works Bill claims to help museums, educational institutions and libraries from the terrible hardship of not being able to use images they want to without copyright clearance. The bill is broadly written and will cause great harm. On Tuesday, May 6th I attended a panel discussion at the Society of Illustrators. On the stage was Brad Holland, William Vasquez, Cynthia Turner, Constance Evans, Terry Brown and Ted Fader. I found this portion to be particularly clarifying. This is not a good bill and I urge not only other artists but anyone you know to take a moment to use the extremely easy-to-use-link to help blunt it's passage. Click HERE to write to your representatives.
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