Happy Leyendecker Baby New Year 2010!

J.C. Leyendecker New Year's babies from Saturday Evening Post covers
In what is becoming something of a tradition, I’ll wrap up the year with four more Saturday Evening Post covers from the early 20th Century featuring New Year’s babies from J.C. Leyendecker, the illustrator who started the practice of representing the new year as a baby.

For more on the history of Leyendecker’s New Year’s babies, see my post Happy Leyendecker Baby New Year from 2006. I’ve also listed below some of my previous posts about this amazing illustrator, one of the all time greats, who should be much better known than he is today.

The good news is that after many years without an in-print book of Leyendecker’s work, J.C. Leyendecker by Laurence S. Cutler and Judy Goffman Cutler was published last year and is still available.

I hope you all have a new year filled with great art, old and new!



David Levine

David Levine
David Levine was one of the great caricaturists of the 20th Century. He is best known for his drawings of notable figures published in The New York Review of Books over the course of more than 40 years.

The NYRB web site has a gallery of over 2,500 of his drawings that can be browsed by year or category.

Unlike caricaturists whose subjects are largely drawn from one or two sections of public life, Levine’s position called on him to portray a wide variety of figures from history as well as the present.

I’ve always been particularly fond of his caricatures of artistic figures, both historic and contemporary. The images above show Levine’s interpretation of Rembrandt, Rubens, Valázquez, Titian, Andrew Wyeth and John Singer Sargent (links to Lines and Colors articles on those artists).

Levine took the “large head small body” style of caricature and made it his own, giving emphasis to the faces. His pen and ink approach could be intricately detailed, wonderfully loose, or both simultaneously.

He studied painting at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, and at Tyler School of Art here in Philadelphia. His work as a painter is less well known than his illustrations, but you can find galleries of his paintings on his web site and a few examples elsewhere on the web.

His caricatures were often searingly on target, focusing on the foibles and flaws of politicians and other public figures; sometimes definitively so, as in the case of his famous portrayal of Lyndon Johnson lifting his shirt to show his Vietnam-shaped operation scar.

There have been several collections of his work published, like his collection of American Presidents.

David Levine died today at the age of 83.

[Via Art Knowledge News]


Different Strokes From Different Folks Year End Portrait Swap

Different Strokes From Different Folks Year End Portrait Swap: Sharon Margolies, Paula Cravens, John Wolff, Akiko Watanabe, Dana Copper, Steve Prenner, Karin Jurick, Karen Hollingsworth, Amanda Carder
I’ve written before about Karin Jurick, both about her own wonderful paintings and her ongoing group painting blog, Different Strokes From Different Folks in which numerous artists paint their own interpretation of the same photographic resource in periodic challenges.

I also wrote last year about the Different Strokes From Different Folks Portrait Swap, in which participating artists supplied photographs of themselves and were in turn supplied with the photograph of another participating artist; each artist painting the portrait of another.

Jurick has decided to repeat the challenge again this year, (in what may become a tradition), with a Different Strokes From Different Folks Year End Portrait Swap.

This time there are 180 participating artists. The photographs have all been assigned, but the artists still have until December 31st to submit their finished portrait.

A good number of them are already posted on the Different Strokes blog, however, and it’s a fascinating mix of painting styles and approaches. The images usually have a somewhat larger version linked to them, as well as a link on the artist’s name to their own site of blog.

The participants include Adebanji Alade, who I recently profiled and Karen Hollingsworth, who I profiled in 2006.

Jurick has also posted a pair of videos on YouTube, here and here, in which some of the portrait paintings are shown with the source photograph.

(Images above, artist credit, row 1: Sharon Margolies, Paula Cravens, John Wolff, row 2: Akiko Watanabe, Dana Copper, Steve Prenner, row 3: Karin Jurick, Karen Hollingsworth, Amanda Carder)


John Watkiss concept art for Sherlock Holmes

John Watkiss concept art for Sherlock Holmes
Ordinarily, concept art for film is created as a means of visualizing scenes before they are staged and filmed; giving directors, designers and production companies a guide as they develop the components necessary to actually bring the scene to to the screen.

However, according to Borys Kit of The Hollywood Reporter, this is a case of specialized concept art being utilized at a much earlier stage — to sell the film idea to the studio.

Producer Lionel Wigram had the idea for the action hero take on the Sherlock Holmes tradition, but felt that a written story treatment wasn’t sufficient to get the idea across to the studio executives.

He contacted Gregory Noveck at DC Comics and asked for a recommendation for an artist who could help him convey the idea visually. Noveck suggested John Watkiss, an artist with experience in both comics and movie concept art (see my previous post on John Watkiss).

Working together they created a comic book like pamphlet with illustrations that got across a visual and dramatic punch that sold the movie to the studio. (The comic-like format led to rumors for a while that a Watkiss-illustrated Sherlock Holmes graphic novel was in the offing, but unfortunately that was not the case.)

Watkiss used dramatically staged ink and tone drawings, heavy with chiaroscuro, to convey both the mood and action intended in the production.

The drawings themselves are an unusual style for concept art, but work beautifully for the purpose (and would have made for a terrific graphic story).

Many of the original illustrations are currently on display, and for sale, at Gallery Nucleus in Alhambra, CA, in an exhibit called The Art of the Motion Picture: “Sherlock Holmes” by Jon Watkiss, that runs until January 18 2010.

If you haven’t seen the movie, you might consider some of the images plot spoilers.

[Via io9]


The 2010 Eustace Tilley Contest

The 2010 Eustace Tilley Contest
For the third year The New Yorker is holding a Eustace Tilley contest, in which participants are encouraged to submit their own (usually modernized) interpretation of the top-hatted and monocled character who has become the magazine’s iconic symbol.

The original Eustace Tilley (above, top left) was drawn by Rea Irvin, then art director, for the cover of the magazine’s first issue in 1925.

Since then, the character has been reinterpreted by numerous artists on New Yorker covers, and now by many others in the course of the contests.

There’s no particular prize other than being selected by the New Yorker’s art editor, François Mouly, for a sildeshow on the magazine’s site. The point, of course, is the fun and challenge of doing your version (a bit like a high-profile version of Illustration Friday).

I’ve entered again this year (image above, bottom right, larger version here; some of you may recognize it as a repurposed version of my last-minute submission from last year, with a uniform change – grin).

You have to sign up to enter, and then you can upload as many entries as you like. You can find links the rules, signup page and information about the contest, as well as galleries of current and past entries, on the contest’s main page.

Deadline is 11:59 PM January 18, 2010. Results will be announced February 8, 2010.


Adoration of the Shepherds, by François Boucher

Adoration of the Shepherds, by Francois Boucher
This beautiful drawing in pen and brown ink, wash and brown, black and white chalks, Adoration of the Shepherds, by François Boucher, is currently on display at the Morgan Library and Museum in new York.

It is part of an exhibit called Rococo and Revolution: Eighteenth-Century French Drawings, that runs until January 3, 2010.

There is a selection of drawings from the show highlighted on the Morgan’s web site, which are linked to zoomable versions. Though I’m not always a fan of the constraints of zooming images, they still offer the ability to see details normally not available in smaller images on the web. This is also something that is rarely applied to drawings.

Zooming in on this drawing we can see Boucher’s fluid Rembrandt-like pen lines. Look at the way he has used the reddish brown tones and judicious applications of white chalk to give the scene a luminous quality more often seen in paintings than drawings.

I love the wonderfully economic notation of the animals and the wooden structures, bales and baskets at the lower right portion of the drawing.