Tag Archives: art direction

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
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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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Stills From Sylvain Chomet’s “The Illusionist”

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This is a random assortment of images in no particular order, so please don’t read it as if it were a storyboard!

‘The Illusionist’ premiered some time ago, at the Berlinale Film Festival (February 16th, 2010)

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I love the art direction of these images. They are centred on a very particular sense of place, and the palette and lighting are truthfully based on the Scottish landscapes of highland and island.

The visual development was initiated by Evgeni Tomov, and Bjarne Hansen is credited as Art Director.

There’s an interview with Sylvain Chomet here, (Here’s the YouTube version), and a mini portfolio of stills here

Full cast and crew credits on the IMDB site.

Sylvain Chomet’s previous credits as director include “Les Triplettes de Belleville” and “The Old Lady and The Pigeons

The poster for the film.  It reads: The Illusionist.  A Film by Sylvain Chomet, based on the script by Jacques Tati.

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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.
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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.
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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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Art & Design in The British Film #27 – Wilfrid Shingleton

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 Wilfrid Shingleton (1914 – 1983)

He is essentially a practical artist and there are few problems in art direction that he would not overcome.

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Bonnie Prince Charlie, 1948. Conté, London Films.
(Click the image to show it in Vistavision!)

WILFRID SHINGLETON wanted to get into films at a very early age (18 yrs old!). Living with his family at Ealing he got the opportunity in 1932 and started as a junior assistant in the art department at Ealing Studios under Edward Carrick and Clifford Pember.

He was very studious and took his responsibilities very seriously.

When Carrick left Ealing Studios, Shingleton took over the art direction and in 1938 was designer for ‘Four Just Men’, followed by `Proud Valley’, ‘Saloon Bar’, and ‘Convoy’.

Returning from a very interesting wartime experience on naval camouflage, he joined Cineguild as Art Director on ‘Great Expectations’ and ‘Take My Life’, on which films John Bryan was Production Designer.

He recently left this set-up to join Andrejew as associate on ‘Anna Karenina’ thus renewing a friendship made when as a draughtsman he had worked on ‘The Dictator’, Andrejew’s first picture in England.

Shingleton spends quite a lot of time lecturing on art direction to schools and youth clubs and writes about films from the technical viewpoint.

He is essentially a practical artist and there are few problems in art direction that he would not overcome.

(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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If you look at Shingleton’s profile in IMDB, you’ll find that during his long career he was the art director or production designer on some seminal films, including Polanski’s Dance of the Vampires, The Blue Max, The African Queen, and the wonderful Pure Hell of St Trinians.

I also find it wonderful that Shingleton spent time “lecturing on art direction to schools and youth clubs”. I’d love to see a modern day art director anywhere near a school or youth club.
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Art & Design in The British Film #26 – Paul Sherriff

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 Paul Sherriff (1903 – 1960).

It was in 1943 that Sheriff made his most memorable contribution to film decor when as Art Director for Laurence Olivier’s `Henry V’ he experimented with an entirely new kind of background, taking the illuminated chronicles of the period and using their naive perspective and delicate colouring as the basis for his designs.

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(Please click the thumbnail pictures to enlarge them. I thank you.)
Henry The Fifth Two Cities Films, 1944

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Henry The Fifth Two Cities Films, 1944

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Vice Versa Two Cities Films 1948 1

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Henry The Fifth Two Cities Films, 1944

Read the full text >> Continue reading

Footnotes for this post:____________________________________
  1. Director: Peter Ustinov. []
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Art & Design in The British Film #25 – Michael Relph

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 Michael Relph. (1915 – 2004)

His designs are made in crayon and wash, and as designs show a distinct theatrical influence but when built in the studio become essentially cinematic. In ‘Dead of Night’ his work had an exceptionally emotional quality which made the backgrounds unusually important and an essential part of the dramatic content of the film.

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They Came To A City – Ealing Studios 1945
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Champagne Charlie. Ealing Studios 1944
Starring Tommy Trinder and Stanley Holloway.

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Champagne Charlie. Ealing Studios 1944

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Saraband For Dead Lovers Ealing Studios 1948 (Credited as Associate Producer)

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Saraband For Dead Lovers Ealing Studios 1948

Read Michael Relph’s profile >> Continue reading

Art & Design in The British Film #22 George Provis

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 George Provis.

After starting work in a solicitor’s office George Provis found that his heart wasn’t in it and so set out to learn architecture and the building trade.

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Day Break – Gainsborough Productions 1948.

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Day Break – Gainsborough Productions 1948.

After starting work in a solicitor’s office George Provis found that his heart wasn’t in it and so set out to learn architecture and the building trade.

Carry on reading this post after the fold ->->
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Art & Design in The British Film #21 Peter Proud

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 Peter Proud.

When he was 15, his money was finished and he left school and applied for a job as sound recordist at B.I.P., Elstree, where `mention’ of some complicated sound apparatus so impressed the sound director that he was taken on as an assistant recordist. It was soon found out, however, that he knew nothing about it and was demoted to magazine loading boy!

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Green For Danger. Pen and Wash. Individual Pictures.
Trivia lovers will be delighted to learn that Hattie Jacques made her debût in this film.

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Woman In The Hall Pen and wash. Wessex Productions.

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Woman In The Hall Pen and wash. Wessex Productions.

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Green For Danger Pen and Wash. Individual Pictures.

Continue reading Peter Proud’s career synopsis after the fold: >> Continue reading

Art & Design in The British Film #20 C.P.Norman

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 C.P.Norman, also known as Norman Delany.

CP. NORMAN approaches film decor as a scenic artist with the knowledge of the photographer – he is lucky in knowing how far ‘make-believe’ can go before it is detected by the camera and his sketches are painted in the heavy body colour of the scenic artist.

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The First Gentleman 1948 Pen and gouache. Columbia Pictures

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Blithe Spirit 1945
Conté and gouache. Cineguild

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Another Cynthia 1
Gouache. Columbia Pictures

Continue reading reading C.P.Norman’s career synopsis below the fold….

Continue reading

Footnotes for this post:____________________________________
  1. I cannot find any web based reference for this film. Perhaps its name was changed on its eventual release. []
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