Category Archives: Illustration

Norman Rockwell Museum Reveals All in ProjectNORMAN- (but teeny-weeny)

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Triple Self Portrait
(Please click to enlarge the images)

The Norman Rockwell Museum announced the opening of ProjectNORMAN (New Online Rockwell Media Art & Archive Network) today, the 6th of January, which will allow you to look through thirty thousand of Rockwell’s reference photos, preliminary sketches and paintings, and other items from the Museum’s art and archive collections. 1

Here’s the link to the new gallery http://collections.nrm.org/, and this page gives an account of the archiving process.
His studio alone contained over 3,000 articles, from brushes to furniture.

Could you guess at the amount of all the stuff in your studio?

Below is a little sketch Rockwell sent to a friend.
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Boy on the high dive” 1947 This image comes from an auction site, not from the NORMAAN archive, where the images are MUCH smaller, and watermarked almost into obscurity.

Anyone who is in southern Britain can go along to the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London, and have a look at hundreds of Norman Rockwell paintings in an exhibition that closes at the end of March.
Thanks for the tip-off Miss Hathorn!

Footnotes for this post:____________________________________
  1. Surely that acrostic would read NORMAAN, no? []
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Charles Tunnicliffe 1901 – 1979

The fourth in a seasonal series of short entries featuring snow.
Today’s subject is Charles Tunnicliffe; Etcher, engraver and painter, whose principal subject was bird life and the natural countryside.

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Company of Whitethroats” ( Please click these images to enlarge them ).

Charles Tunnicliffe RA OBE
1901 – 1979

Charles Tunnicliffe was born in Macclesfield, Cheshire. Known primarily for his depiction of birds and other wildlife, notably illustrations for Tarka the Otter. He is widely regarded as the greatest UK wildlife artist in modern times.

After studying at the Macclesfield and Manchester Schools of Art he won a scholarship to the Royal College of Art in London, gaining his teaching diploma and a further scholarship to study in the RCA’s new Etching and Engraving School. He stayed on in London to develop a career as an etcher and engraver, producing some of his finest etchings during this time. In 1928 he returned to Macclesfield, earning a living mainly from commercial artwork, much of it for the farming industry.

He was elected A.R.E. in 1929 and R.E. in 1934.

He was a regular contributor to the Royal Academy and was elected as an associate in 1944, becoming a Royal Academician in 1954.Sir Kyffin Williams encouraged Charles to show his personal reference collection of measured drawings at the R.A. in 1974 – the exhibition was a great success.

Tunnicliffe moved from Cheshire to Anglesey in 1947 where he lived until his death in 1979. He believed strongly in observing and sketching direct from nature, especially around Cob Lake, the Cefni Estuary, South Stack Cliffs, Llyn Coron, Aberfraw, Cemlyn, then when back at Shorelands spending many hours creating a superb set of sketchbooks full of accurate and colourful ‘memory drawings’.

These sketchbooks are works of art in themselves and are now kept as part of the Tunnicliffe Collection at Oriel Ynys Môn, along with his measured drawings and other examples of his work – including original wood engraving blocks, etchings, watercolours, oil paintings, pencil drawings, scraperboards and book illustrations.

The RSPB awarded him its Gold Medal in 1975 and he was also honoured with an OBE in 1978.

His work hangs in numerous public galleries, while in Macclesfield’s West Bank Museum a room has been dedicated to his work. A Charles Tunnicliffe Society exists to maintain his legacy

(via Gateway Gallery)

Tunnicliffe engraving
Tunnicliffe engraving, with his wife Winifred looking on.

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Grey Partridges
Another chilly scene, that also shows Tunnicliffe’s mastery of pattern and layout design.

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“Ladybird” Books

Tunnicliffe illustrated many of the Ladybird series of childrens books, which sold in millions.

Here are some links to sites with numerous pictures by Tunnicliffe:
1) http://www.museumsyndicate.com/artist.php?artist=639
2) http://artmight.com/gallery/search/%28keyword%29/Charles+Tunnicliffe
and 3) The Charles Tunnicliffe society website:

http://www.thecharlestunnicliffesociety.co.uk/siteindex.html

A well meaning website that reflects many aspects of Tunnicliffe’s output, but small, postage stamp size images, daft (but futile) impediments to right clicking and yellow backgrounds. Yes. An artist’s homage site with YELLOW backgrounds.
What I find especially galling, given Tunnicliffe’s mastery of so many graphic arts, is the use of COMIC SANS for all the text. Pur-lease!

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Theodor Kittelsen

The third in a pre-Christmas line up of snow paintings.

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From “The Christmas Troll” (Juletroll ) 1907
( Click to enlarge, please )

At about the time when yesterday’s subject, Victor Westerholm, was active in Finland, another Scandinavian artist was struggling to make a living in Norway. While we have by and large forgotten the prosperous Westerholm, the memory of Theodor Kittelsen lives on today in the hearts of many Norwegians, even though he died in utter poverty, leaving a widow and eight children behind.

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Self Portrait 1891

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The Water Spirit” ( Nøkken ) 1887

The short version of his bio from Wikipedia:

Theodor Severin Kittelsen (* 1857 in Kragerø, Norway; † January, 21st 1914 in Jeløya, Norway) was an Norwegian artist who had become well-known for his nature paintings on the one hand and on the other hand for his illustrations of fairytales and legends, especially of trolls.

You can find a few links to his work on the Wikipedia page, and a marvellous site about troll paintings here.

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Art & Design in The British Film – The Last Chapter

Wrapping a series about Art Directors in the British film industry up to 1948, when the book containing these articles was published.

This final chapter describes briefly the work of British art directors and production designers who for one reason or another could not be interviewed directly by the author.

Shorter Notices.
THIS book would not be complete if I were not to include the names of some of those art directors well known for their contribution to film decor, but who, for some reason or other I have been unable to represent by examples of their work or records of their effort.

I had expected contributions from Carmen Dillon, Holmes Paul, Andrew Mazzei, and Charles Gilbert, but I have had to go to press without them.

Carmen Dillon is the only professional art director of the ‘fair sex’ in the country.
She studied as an architect and then went into films.

For many years she has been associated with most of the films produced at Denham by Two Cities. She recently worked as art director on ‘Hamlet’ in collaboration with Roger Furse, who was the designer.

Andrew L. Mazzei, one of the most genial of characters, was Lancashire born of an Italian father and a French mother and therefore inherited a lot of natural genius. He studied architecture and sculpture and was an expert on fibrous plaster work.

At one time he helped to design the White City exhibition, a great technical achievement in plaster of paris, which has stood up wonderfully to the ravages of time.

His first film job was in America for Famous Players after which he worked in Germany and Italy. When he came back to England in 1928 he was already well known for his work on ‘Roses of Picardy’ and ‘The Flight Commander’.

Mazzei’s name is associated with many films at Shepherd’s Bush where he is now art director. I first met him when he was designing a film for Anna Sten at B.I.P. in 1937, when I was greatly impressed by his knowledge of film technique.

R. Holmes-Paul is now chief Art Director at British National Films, Elstree. He is a man of great experience having worked as an art director on numerous productions in America as well as England.

He worked at Ealing and at Rock Studios for many years where his sets have been notable for their appreciation of style and careful treatment of detail.

Charles H. Gilbert came into films in 1930. He had previous experience as a scenic artist; after a considerable period as assistant on various productions he did his first job as art director in 1939, when he made the decor for ‘The Middle Watch’, an A.B. production.

This was followed by many more films for Associated British including ‘Spring Meeting’, ‘The Farmer’s Wife’, ‘This Man is Dangerous’, ‘Banana Ridge’, ‘ Women aren’t Angels’ and two Hitchcock films, ‘ Madagascar Landing’ and ‘Bon Voyage’.

His best known work was for ‘Night Boat to Dublin’ and ‘ Wanted for Murder’ in which the authentic backgrounds were a contribution to the success of the films.

There are other designers too, who have temporarily retired from films, gone abroad, or who are no longer with us, but whose contribution to British films should not be overlooked.

Walter Murton was born in 1892 and was Art Director for the Stoll Studio in silent picture days, during which period he proved to be one of the most competent designers in the country.

Those who can remember ‘Huntingtower’ will remember how good it was. He went on to Shepherd’s Bush Studios where he continued to work as art director and floor manager. This was followed by an offer to go to India in the capacity of adviser on film production, on which subject he was by then an expert.

John Mead was one of the many art directors who worked at the B.I.P. Studios. Mead, however, was remarkable in that he had a real flair for film decor.

His sets for ‘The Marriage of Corbal’ in 1936 were exceptionally good, though the picture was bad.

He used all the tricks of perspective, and painted shadows with great ability and imagination. He was particularly at home on Eastern subjects, and his work for ‘Abdul the Damned’ at Elstree had all the atmosphere of a corrupt Turkey behind it.

The late Sidney Gausden is remembered chiefly for his work as
designer for ‘The Great Mr Handel’, an enterprising film made in colour by Norman Walker in 1942.

The colour scheme for the whole film was most carefully planned and although the system for reproduction was not what it is now, the results were studied with great interest by all who were keen on the use of colour in films as opposed to those who used colour to make films colourful.

Gausden first came into films in 1940 and designed the sets for ‘Man at the Gate’. Then in 1941 ‘Hard Street’ followed by ‘The Great Mr Handel’ and ‘They Knew Mr King’ in 1945, all of which were directed by Norman Walker.

Gausden was a very interesting character—at one time he studied for the church, then became well known as a painter and wood engraver depicting life in Bosnia, where he had spent a long time, after being badly wounded in the First World War, teaching the art of furniture making. He wrote plays, and at the time of his death was keenly interested in religious films.

Then there are those who worked on silent pictures. For instance, young Ian Campbell-Gray who designed the settings for ‘Shooting Stars’ and ‘Underground’, Anthony Asquith’s first film in 1927-28.

Allan McNab, a brilliant young etcher and engraver who came into films round about the same period and made designs for ‘The Wrecker’ and ‘The Lady in the Lake’.

Harry Jonas, an outstanding figure, a painter who worked with George Pearson on ‘Love, Life and Laughter’, in which a stairway scene was so dramatically conceived that the impression of it has remained with me for twenty-two years.

Willie Davies, formerly a pageant master, worked with D. W.
Griffith before he supervised the decor to numerous British films.

Bert Evans and Oswald Jones, both had been scenic artists before
working on films.

Clifford Pember was one of the first designers to graduate to film decor through an architect’s office. He worked in America for Griffiths on ‘ Way Down East’ and on most of Herbert Wilcox’s silent pictures. He then worked with Basil Dean on his first film ventures.

Herbert Norris also worked in films, and J. Elder Wills, James Carter and Frank Wells were all well known in silent picture days. They were also designing before the war but have since taken positions on the production side of the business.

Edward Delany, the well-known scenic artist, designed sets for a number of Oswald Mitchell’s productions at Stoll Studios. He put a great deal of work into these small films and had he not been wedded to the theatre would have made a brilliant art director.

All those mentioned in this book have contributed in some way towards the design of motion pictures—some felt disillusioned early on by what seemed a dumb commercialism that would not even recognize that good art would obviously sell better than bad art.

Others stayed on and sought to improve the medium by endeavouring to understand it.

In 1924, that veteran artist in the film medium, George Pearson, said:

`I believe in the Cinema; in its claim to be an art, in its power to speak to the people with equal vigour to that claimed by the stage, and in its ability to stand first in the days to come as inspirer of the people.
`But I equally deplore all those hideous bonds that now strangle its growth—the many passengers and parasites who feed upon it, the charlatans who exploit it, and above all the thinkers who will not think about it; the convention-ridden workers who would leave to others all the discovery, content to get a living of sorts by toiling in narrow grooves till the end.
`If you are to help me you must be with me in my belief. It is a
fervent, consuming belief.’

I know these words inspired me and many others to persevere. We would not be passengers and we still hope to see the film rise above mere entertainment and become, as G.P.’ puts it, ‘The inspirer of the people’.

(Excerpted from: “Art & Design In The British Film” A Pictorial Directory of British Art Directors and their work. Compiled by Edward Carrick, 1947 )

The End.

(Fade to black).

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The table of contents for this series of 30 posts can be found on the “Series” page.

Art & Design in The British Film #30- Lawrence Paul Williams

Continuing a series about Art Directors in the British film industry up to 1948, when the book containing these articles was published.

This chapter deals with Lawrence Paul Williams (1905 – 1996)

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Compressed charcoal sketch for “So Well Remembered” RKO Pictures 1947
(Please click these thumbnails to enlarge them)

he became the prime mover in a scheme to start a ‘ Society of British Film Art Directors and Designers’, similar to the Society of Motion Picture Art Directors in America, of which he is also a member. The English Society had as one of its main objects the cultivation and improvement of pictorial design and quality in British motion pictures.

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Compressed charcoal sketch for “So Well Remembered” RKO Pictures 1947

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Compressed charcoal sketch for “So Well Remembered” RKO Pictures 1947

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Compressed charcoal sketch for “So Well Remembered” RKO Pictures 1947

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Compressed charcoal sketch for “So Well Remembered” RKO Pictures 1947

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Compressed charcoal sketch for “Brief Encounter” Cineguild 1945

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Compressed charcoal sketch for “Brief Encounter” Cineguild 1945

Link to Art Director Lawrence Paul Williams’ IMDB page.

A visitor to the Stoll Studios in the silent picture days of 1928 might have found two young artists fighting a duel with prop swords which were eventually broken in the conflict and for which they had to pay out of their meagre salaries—one would have been Edward Carrick, the other, L. P. Williams, the young man who wanted to streamline motion picture production.

He has since gone a long way towards doing what he wanted and is now Technical Director to the Denham and Pinewood Studios and doing his best to introduce all the most up-to-date scientific ideas and machines into his studios, with the idea that the more you perfect the machine the easier it is to work and so allow for more freedom of expression on the part of the artists who are expected to use them.

`L. P. W.’ studied architecture at the Architectural Association between 1922 and 1927 and then joined the firm of Mark Henri and Loverdet, who, as well as being the best scenic artists of the time, were also undertaking a number of large contracts for interior decoration for which they needed architectural assistants.

Not far away in Temple Road, Cricklewood, were the Stoll Studios and Williams soon found himself there as Assistant to Clifford Pember, who was Art Director for Herbert Wilcox at the time.
Some months after he was given the chance to design the settings for a film entitled ‘On Approval’ and he never looked back—carrying on as Wilcox’s designer and artistic adviser on all his successes including ‘Nell Gwynn’, ‘Victoria the Great’, ‘Sixty Glorious Years’, and ‘Nurse Edith Cavell’.

When Wilcox went to America, L. P. W. went too, and established there a reputation as a No. 1 Art Director. He worked chiefly for R.K.O. and was Art Director on Hitchcock’s ‘Mr and Mrs Smith’.

War came and he joined the Royal Engineers and, on return to England in 1945, was David Lean’s Art Director on ‘Brief Encounter’, a fine piece of film making. R.K.O. then made a picture entitled ‘So Well Remembered‘ which L. P. W. was naturally called in to design.

About this time he became the prime mover in a scheme to start a ‘ Society of British Film Art Directors and Designers’, similar to the Society of Motion Picture Art Directors in America, of which he is also a member. The English Society had as one of its main objects the cultivation and improvement of pictorial design and quality in British motion pictures.

Because L. P. W. was educated to be an architect, he always found figure drawing difficult, but he has never tried to avoid it, having learnt that a background without figures is devoid of human interest.

Now his figures, which are sometimes very humorous, are often the most important elements in his designs. He draws with conte in a style all his own—very direct in approach, very simple in treatment—and always with a great sense of humour.

Lawrence Paul (aka Bill ) Williams retired from art direction in 1947.

(Excerpted from: “Art & Design In The British Film” A Pictorial Directory of British Art Directors and their work. Compiled by Edward Carrick, 1947 )

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Die Duckomenta Gerben Steenks

I was going to post a few images of the new exhibition of Die Duckomenta, but the idea of wading (or waddling) through a hundred and twenty versions of the same joke made me grab just a couple of the non-duck images. (below).

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Based on that Dancing Dutchman.
(Click these thumbnails to enlarge them, please)

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With a nod to Kurt the Kunstmeister.

A friend and colleague, Gerben Steenks (known as Gur-B), worked at the coalface of the Mickey industry in deepest Duckburg for a while, and was paid to put a graphical twist on the old menagerie of Disney characters.

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(Do keep clicking on these thumbnails!)
He’s now freelance and producing some amazingly unhinged work that’s impossible to classify, yet instantly attention-grabbing.

A small sample:

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I hope Gerben is thinking of selling prints of these.
Link to the Gur-B blog.
Link to Gur-B Flickr page.

.
The B in Gur-B
.
(The B in Gur-B)

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Art & Design in The British Film #29 – Alex Vetchinsky

Continuing a series about Art Directors in the British film industry up to 1948, when the book containing these articles was published.

This chapter deals with Alex Vetchinsky ( 1904- 1980 )

He is an artist of the cinema and does not pretend to be a painter of pictures. His work is never self-conscious and he has that carefree approach which allows him to sketch on any piece of paper that is handy and failing that on the back of a studio ‘flat’.

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Pencil sketch for “October Man“. Two Cities Films.
(Please click these thumbnails to enlarge them)

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Pencil sketch for “Hungry Hill“. Two Cities Films.

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Pencil sketch for “Hungry Hill“. Two Cities Films.

ALEC VETCHINSKY is generally known as ‘Vetch’— he is one of those genial unpretentious beings with twinkling eyes, very much liked by all who come in contact with him.

He is an artist of the cinema and does not pretend to be a painter of pictures. His work is never self-conscious and he has that carefree approach which allows him to sketch on any piece of paper that is handy and failing that on the back of a studio ‘flat’.

He does not keep his sketches but the few one comes across here and there possess qualities that often far excel the more conscious ‘masterpieces ‘ that others put into frames.

Vetch studied to be an architect at the Architectural Association, where he was awarded the ‘A.A. Diploma’ in 1928. After 18 months in an architect’s office, he went to Gainsborough Pictures and worked as an assistant.

The picture on which his work as an Art Director first drew attention was ‘Tudor Rose’, made at Gaumont Studios by Robert Stevenson. This was followed by a number of other successes such as `Sunshine Susie’, ‘Love on Wheels’, ‘Owd Bob’, ‘Michael and Mary’ and in 1936 ‘Bank Holiday’, an ambitious film for studios with such limited stage space, in which. the backgrounds were most successfully carried out. Then in 1938 came Hitchcock’s ‘The Lady Vanishes'; 1939, ‘Night Train to Munich’ ; 1940, `Kipps'; 1941, `The Young Mr Pitt’.

After the war he worked on a number of more ambitious films like ‘Hungry Hill’ in which some very fine work by Vetch was made unconvincing by the action that went on in front of it, a common occurrence in films, which require the united effort of a number of artists to achieve the best results.

Sometimes the designer is the only person on the picture who can appreciate the fundamental principles that govern the making of any work of art. The result is then patchy, to say the least.

Vetchinsky has more recently designed the sets for ‘Escape’ and `October Man’.

He has always been keen on making the fullest use of all the tricks of the trade in order to help create dramatic effects, and on these last two pictures he has done so most successfully.

(Excerpted from: “Art & Design In The British Film” A Pictorial Directory of British Art Directors and their work. Compiled by Edward Carrick, 1947 )

During his long career in British studios, Vetchinsky worked alongside many other artists and technicians, and two of them are included in this series: See John Howell, and Maurice Carter. (You can also find them in the list below.)

Link to article at filmreference.com
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Art & Design in The British Film #28 – Duncan Sutherland

Continuing a series about Art Directors in the British film industry up to 1948, when the book containing these articles was published.

This chapter deals with Duncan Sutherland. (Born 1905 – )

Sutherland is another of those robust and jovial artists; like Vetchinsky, he bothers little about his drawings as such and depends for so much of his effect on the way he dresses his sets which, after all, is the only visible part of a character’s personality.

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Production sketch from “Thunder Rock” Charter Films, 1942. Pencil & wash.
(Click these thumbnails to enlarge them please)

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Production sketch from Bedelia John Corfield Productions, 1946. Pencil & wash.

DUNCAN MACDONALD SUTHERLAND was trained at the Glasgow School of Architecture and became assistant to G. P. K.Young, then President of the Scottish Institute of Architects.

Giving up architecture, he took to the stage and then to films as an actor.

Coming to London he worked for six years in the Art Department of the British International Pictures at Elstree, one of the first pictures he worked on being ‘Cape Forlorn’ under Alfred Junge.

Following this he did various films which he hopes ‘will always be shrouded in the mist of time'; all the same he established a reputation that brought him right to the forefront when he art directed Thorold Dickinson’s ‘Gaslight’ in 1940 and through his decor and set dressing built up an authentic Victorian atmosphere that could not have been bettered.

Then came ‘Pimpernel Smith’ and `Thunder Rock’, in which he built a lighthouse interior and a scene in one of the sheds in the Potteries during the industrial revolution that again came to life.

`San Demetrio London’ did not give him much scope, but on his new picture with Thorold Dickinson, ‘Then and Now’, it sounds as though he will again have an opportunity to make the past come to life.

Sutherland is another of those robust and jovial artists; like Vetchinsky, he bothers little about his drawings as such and depends for so much of his effect on the way he dresses his sets which, after all, is the only visible part of a character’s personality.

(Excerpted from: “Art & Design In The British Film” A Pictorial Directory of British Art Directors and their work. Compiled by Edward Carrick, 1947 )
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