Eye Candy for Today: Jessie Willcox Smith mixed media illustration

Illustration from <em>A Child’s Garden of Verses, Jessie Willcox Smith”  /><br />
<a href=Illustration from A Child’s Garden of Verses, Jessie Willcox Smith

Philadelphia-born artist Jessie Willcox Smith studied with Thomas Eakins at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and later with American illustration master Howard Pyle.

It was through Pyle’s classes that she encountered fellow students Elizabeth Shippen Green and Violet Oakley, with whom she would become lifelong friends.

Like Shippen Green, Smith often worked in a multi-media approach that involved layers of charcoal drawing, fixative, watercolor and sometimes gouache and ink.

Her use of white paint is evident in this beautiful illustration from A Child’s Garden of Verses, one of her most prominent projects. The combination of drawn lines and color gives that wonderful effect of being both a drawing and a painting.

Smith’s evocative portrayals of the joys of childhood were also often a paean to motherhood.

There are contemporary editions of the book from which this is taken. Amazon has unfortunately mixed the reviews of editions from different publishers, some of which are negative, so it’s hard to determine which edition is problematic.

I would suggest this 2015 edition from Pook Press, which contains 12 color images of Smith’s illustrations in addition to her pen and ink spot illustrations: A Child’s Garden of Verses Illustrated by Jessie Willcox Smith (Amazon US).

For readers in the UK: A Child’s Garden of Verses Illustrated by Jessie Willcox Smith, (Amazon UK).

 
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Atey Ghailan

Atey Ghailan, concept art and illustration, Path of Miranda
Atey Ghailan is a concept artist and illustrator living in Lidingö, Sewden and currently working with Riot Games.

The examples of work on his various web presences (also under the handle snatti/snatti89 ) are mostly of personal work, and primarily from a project called “Path of Miranda” which is the story of a young girl and her companions, a corgi and a penguin, investigating the disappearance of some robots.

His images for that project, along with some of his other images, have a pleasing visual character somewhere between digital plein air and Miyazaki-style anime backgrounds. I particularly enjoy his use of dappled sunlight in wooded scenes and patterns of light and shadow in interiors and street scenes.

 
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Gurney Journey at 10

James Gurney's Gurney Journey art blog at 10
Congratulations to James Gurney for 10 years of authoring his superb blog, Gurney Journey.

What started as a modest intention to chronicle his travels on a book tour — in a way mirroring the journaled adventures of the character Authur Denison in Gurney’s popular illustrated adventure series, Dinotopia — has grown over time into not only a superb blog among art blogs, but one of the most in-depth and useful sources of art information and instruction on the web.

Gurney has been unstintingly generous in sharing his experience as an illustrator, author, plein air painter, instructor, model maker, videographer, and restless experimenter and investigator of artistic topics.

Over the course of time his posts on painting techniques, equipment, paints, color theory, drawing, and related topics have been turned into instructional books, YouTube videos, and most recently, a series of full-length instruction art videos.

Gurney has been a proponent of misunderstood and often overlooked painting mediums like gouache and casein, and Gurney Journey remains one of the definitive sources on the web for information and instruction in their use.

Long time readers of Lines and Colors will know I’ve long enjoyed Gurney Journey and recommended it often, along with Gurney’s other projects.

For those who may be new to Gurney Journey, I will recommend that you take a look at the post he did in 2016 on the landmark of 4,000 posts. In it he links to a quick overview of some of the most prominent topics. You can also explore using the list of topics in the blog’s left column, or the search feature at the upper left of all pages.

If you take the plunge, I will issue my Timesink Warning, and point out that I fell down that rabbit hole myself for a couple of hours while preparing this post, bookmarking along the way numerous articles I had forgotten about for future reference.

 
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Kim Johnson

Kim Johnson, vector illustration
Kim Johnson is a Connecticut based illustrator and animator who transitioned in her primary career from graphic design to animation to illustration.

She works in vector illustration, with a nice use of gradient color, inventive composition and a keen sense of value relationships. Her animation background shows in her springy, lively shapes and whimsical approach.

Johnson is represented by Lindgren & Smith, Illustrator and Artist Representatives.

 
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Zhong Biao

Zhong Biao, concsept art and illustration, China
Zhong Biao is a concept artist and illustrator based in The Prople’s Republic of China (not to be confused in Google searches with another painter, a Chinese Neo-Surrealist gallery artist whose name also resolves to Zhong Biao in English).

Zhong Biao the concept artist has very little biographical information on the web. The web presence I could find consists primarily of a Tumblr blog and a deviantArt gallery.

Zhong Biao’s digital paintings are imaginative, lively and rich with color and texture. They are best viewed in the larger versions available on the websites, and reward careful inspection with subtle details that often aren’t obvious at first glance.

 
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The Original Mad Man: Illustrations by Mac Conner at the Delaware Art Museum

The Original Mad Man: Illustrations by Mac Conner at the Delaware Art Museum
As I mentioned in a post in 2014, I’ve long been impressed by the mid-20th century illustrations of MacCauley “Mac” Conner, an influential artist whose work was a prime example of the Madison Avenue advertising culture showcased in the Mad Men television series. This was a period that also represented last great heyday of magazine illustration in America.

Rather going into more detail here, I’ll refer you to my original post on Mac Conner, and concentrate in this post on the exhibition of his work currently at the Delaware Art Museum.

My admiration for Conner’s work was based largely on seeing it in reproduction — for an illustrator, that’s how it’s actually meant to be seen — but seeing his original art in the show, in a large and very well organized retrospective, just knocked me out.

I was frankly even more impressed than I expected to be. Throughout the show, I was wowed by Conner’s masterful handling of gouache and his consistently daring and inventive compositions.

Conner (who is still with us at over 100 years old) is an artist who was clearly not content to sit within the limitations of his field, but always pushing at the borders (both literally and figuratively) of what could be done with the printed page.

He experimented with novel points of view, referential repetitions of colors and images within the theme of an image, suggestions of elements not present (like walls, floors and horizons), daring crops, simultaneous representations of multiple views of the same scene, jarring juxtapositions of size and distance and sharp projection of emotional content.

Concurrent with his explorations of composition (in which negative space played a huge role) was his experimentation with the use of his medium, usually gouache on illustration board, at times augmented with pastel, ink or pencil.

His style evolved from Norman Rockwell influenced realistic rendering to the almost flat modernist style that came to exemplify 1950s and 1960s magazine illustration, in which rendering, if present, was often confined to the edges of forms. He also experimented with both rough and fine lines, textural effects and color palettes from monochromatic to duotone to full color, often with clever use of a contrasting color within an almost monochromatic composition to both highlight important elements and tie the composition together.

Underlying all of his inventiveness and restless exploration was his keenly developed draftsmanship and an unfaltering grasp of perspective, anatomy, facial expression and spatial geometry.

The exhibition at The Delaware Art Museum was developed by the Museum of the City of New York, which apparently has a superb collection of Conner’s work, and is similar to some degree to previous exhibitions in New York in 2014 and at the Norman Rockwell Museum in 2016.

The Delaware Art Museum has a selection of images from the show on their website, but they are disappointingly small, though there is a brief video on the page that shows some of the images in more detail.

Also disappointing is the inexplicably small printed volume that accompanies the exhibition. I do have an understanding of the economics of printing, but why take illustrations often meant to be double page spreads in magazines that could be almost 11 x 14 and print them in a book less than half that size? (Sigh.) The book was prepared by the Museum of the City of New York to accompany a previous exhibition and is apparently no longer available except at the exhibition venues, so if you want it, pick it up at the museum.

The best image source for Conner’s work online is this article from 2014 in The Guardian, in which the images are large enough that you can begin to get a feeling for the character of Conner’s beautifully handled gouache paintings. There is an unofficial Tumblr blog but few other online resources for his work.

The Original Mad Man: Illustrations by Mac Conner is on view at the Delaware Art Museum until September 14, 2017.

This is a tremendous show — stunning work, beautifully presented — and fans of illustration, daring composition, gouache painting (or the Mad Men TV show, for that matter) should not miss it.

 
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