Thomas Nast’s Santa Claus illustrations

Thomas Nast's Santa Claus illustrations
Pioneering American political cartoonist and illustrator Thomas Nast — who was active during the mid to late 19th century, and particularly during the period of the American Civil War — was instrumental in the creation of the contemporary image of Santa Claus.

Though I often credit the later illustrations of J.C. Leyendecker with fully fleshing out the modern version of the character as we now know him (prior to similar interpretations by Norman Rockwell, N.C. Wyeth and Haddon Sundblom), Nast pretty well established the general characteristics we associate with the Jolly One, down to the fur-trimmed suit, belt, boots, cap and sack of toys.

These were based largely on descriptions in the poem A Visit from St. Nicholas — published anonymously in 1923, later attributed to Clement Clarke Moore — better known as “The Night Before Christmas”.

Nast portrayed Santa Claus in a number of illustrations, many of which appeared in the pages of Harper’s Weekly. The image above, top, is well known and widely reproduced; others are less frequently seen. As far as I know, these were all in black and white, and any color versions of them were applied by later hands.

Nast’s Santa — developed at a time when Christmas was celebrated in the US, but was not yet a national holiday — is a bit less innocently jolly than current interpretations, slightly odd and even a bit devilish and creepy at times.

Tiepolo, Guardi and Their World

Tiepolo, Guardi, and Their World: Eighteenth-Century Venetian Drawings, Morgan Library: Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Domenico Tiepolo, Giovanni Battista Piazzetta, Marco Ricci, Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo
Tiepolo, Guardi, and Their World: Eighteenth-Century Venetian Drawings” is an exhibition at the Morgan Library and Museum in NewYork that has been drawn from the museum’s rather remarkable collection of master drawings.

I haven’t yet had the chance to see this show, but I’ve been to numerous previous shows of master drawings at the Morgan, and they have been consistently terrific.

There is an online gallery of example drawings from the exhibit on the museum’s website. Like all of the artworks on the site, these are wonderfully high-resolution, and though limited to a zoom feature, they can be zoomed in full-screen mode. Clicking on the thumbnail opens the large image in a pop-up. Use the Full Screen and Zoom controls below the image.

There will be a gallery talk for the exhibit next Friday, October 18, 2013 at 6:30 pm. There will also be “Sketching in the Gallery” sessions on Saturday, October 19, November 9 and December 14, from 11 am – 1pm.

“Tiepolo, Guardi, and Their World” will be on display until January 5, 2014.

(Images above: Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Domenico Tiepolo, Giovanni Battista Piazzetta, Marco Ricci, Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo)

Tiepolo, Guardi, and Their World, Morgan Library, to 1/5/14

online gallery

Collaborating with a 4-year old

Mica Angela Hendricks and daughter
While drawing in a toned paper sketchbook, which she had carefully selected for its nice middle ground for adding highlights as well as darks, illustrator Mica Angela Henrdicks was reminded by her 4-year old daughter that kids always want to play with grown-ups’ toys.

She reluctantly acquiesced, and the 4-year old proceeded to “finish” a face her mother had drawn by adding a body, a dinosaur body, of course, which made it all the more perfect, and Hendricks was so impressed with the results that she began to do a series of faces, encouraging her daughter to add bodies, and then occasionally going back in with a bit of color in acrylics.

You can read Hendricks’ article about the series on her blog, and see more of them on her Society6 page. You can see Mica Angela Henrdicks’ professional work here.

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Doodle 4 Google

Doodle 4 Google
Those who don’t, like me, use a shortcut for search in a browser bar, but instead actually go to the Google homepage, will frequently see Google Doodles.

These are versions of the Google logo made of illustrated elements that, to one degree or anther, suggest or form the letters of the word.

Google has artists who work on these, and they can be wonderfully clever, imaginative and entertaining, as I’ve mentioned on occasion.

For the past 6 years, Google has been sponsoring a Doodle 4 Google competition for K-12 students in U.S. schools in which the participants create their own Google Doodles based on a theme.

The national winner gets their Doodle featured on the Google home page, is awarded a $30,000 college scholarship, a Wacom tablet (grin) and other prizes, and brings home a $50,000 grant to their school for establishment of a computer or technology lab.

This years theme was “My Best Day Ever…”, and the national winning entry (images above, bottom) from Sabrina Brady of Sparta High School, Wisconsin, is posted on the Google homepage today (May 23, 2013).

The pages devoted to the contest feature the national and state finalists and winners.

For those interested in next year’s competition, there is a FAQ page.

Despite the obvious self promotional aspect for Google, I like this because it not only encourages drawing, but creative thinking in the arrangement of graphic elements to make or contain the logo’s letters.

I was also pleased to see a high percentage of girls’ names among the finalists and winners.

Images above:
Maria I, Chestnut Ridge Middle School, NJ [6-7]
Madelyn K, Homeschool, IN [6-7]
Lauren S, Sheridan High School, WY [8-9]
Marissa F, Urbandale Middle School, IA [8-9]
Andrea S-L, Washington High School, WV [10-12]
Drexel B, Albert D. Lawton Intermediate School, VT [8-9]
Natasha D, Lake City Junior Academy, ID [K-3]
Amy L, Highland Park High School, TX [10-12]
Audrey Z, Michael F. Stokes Elementary School, NY [4-5]
Sabrina Brady, Sparta High School, Wisconsin, [10-12]

Andrew Bosley

Andrew Bosley
Andrew Bosley is a concept artist and illustrator currently working with Red Storm Entertainment in North Carolina.

I first encountered Bosley back in 2007, when he had just graduated from the Illustration program at San Jose state University, and was kind enough to write and share with us a blog he had posted called A Little Bit of J.C. Leyendecker Greatness (my post here) in which he had scanned and posted 30 some Leyendecker covers and made them available to illustration lovers everywhere.

At the time, Bosley was just beginning to post his own work, but not much was available. Since then, I’m happy to say, Bosley has not only continued his blog, but has put up a website with a portfolio of his work, which is just a delight.

A mixture of professional and personal projects, the portfolio showcases Bosley’s stylistic range, from rendered cartoony illustration to retro fantasy to straight ahead concept characters and environments. All of them, though, demonstrate a comfortable and unforced approach to composition, color and execution.

His cover illustration for the new novel by Mike Resnick, The Doctor and the Dinosaur, (above, second from bottom) makes me want to pick up the story just to see if it carries the same paleo-steampunk feeling as the cover.

In addition to his site and blog, there is a portfolio of Bosley’s work on Concept Art World.

There is also an interesting additional feature on Bosley’s website — The Brainstormer. This is a codified version of a tried and true creativity jumpstarting process usually practiced by desperate artists and writers in the dead of night with scribbled lists of words on scraps of paper.

Bosley, with help from John Mitchell, created a wheel based version done in Flash for the website, in which three lists of words can be randomly or systematically aligned against one another, forming three word juxtapositions to spark creative imagery.

Better yet, there is now a Brainstormer iPhone/iPad app (above, bottom), created with the help of Joel Davis (article here) that takes the concept to another level, and offers additional add-on wheels of subjects specifically for characters, world building and imaginary animals.

Neil Gaiman Addresses the University of the Arts Class of 2012

Neil Gaiman Addresses the University of the Arts Class of 2012
Solid and invaluable advice for artists or any kind, and at any stage in their life and career — but particularly when starting out, given by writer Neil Gaiman at this year’s commencement address to the graduating class of the University of the Arts here in Philadelphia.


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