This illustration is for the a book called "Illest of Illustration 09: Conversations with Dean Cornwell" (I think that's the title) that's to be published by Ringling College of Art and Design. The first thing I want to say is that if you're going to be in a book with "Illest" in the title, what you submit should be nauseatingly good, or at least the best of your ability. Also, some of the other illustrators who are in line to be in this book could put my skills to shame, so I needed to step it up. This book is a tribute to Dean Cornwell, one of the forefathers of American Illustration, So if I'd hacked out some 2 hour drawing, and polished the turd with cheap photoshop effects, the piece would only serve as another reminder of how far the craft of illustration has fallen. Now that I've established the stakes, I can say with confidence that I've never worked so hard on a painting. For me this painting was epic. It's a long shot from Mucha's history of the Slavs, but I consider it a personal best in effort. If you've been keeping up with my blog, you know that the level of polish in my paintings has been on the raise. This is largely due to spending much more time working out the drawing in the sketch and rough phase, so that when I get to the finish there's little or no guess work. You can see here the the thumb is remarkable close to the finish in terms on composition. This is because I scan the thumb, blow it up, and trace if making is very polished, then scan that and blow it up to trace onto the painting. Since I've started doing this, I've realized that is is the way to go. The drawing gets to be much better by tracing, reworking it so many times. You also realize when lines or elements are not necessary.
Many people don't know who Dean Cornwell is, and I didn't know too much about his work before I started this project either. Here's some of the images which most directly influenced me during this process. This was a difficult project. Firstly, these are from the peak of representational painting, and much of that knowledge has been lost because art schools stopped thinking it was important to know how to paint, draw, or compose, and started teaching purely based on concept. The biggest challenge is the composition. He was brilliant at it, and I don't have a clue how he came up with them. I noticed a few things that I liked, and used them. Having a colder foreground character, rounded shapes at the bottom with vertical lines above, and making the focus of the painting higher contrast. I'm no Cornwell in compositions, but I did learn and improve from studying his.
I had this idea that I would add little notes at the end of blogs for any odds and ends that are on my mind.
NOTES: 1.Jason Shawn Alexander's work for Abe Sapian is killer! I always though he was a good painter, but found the similarities to Kent Williams disturbing. His new work has really come along, though, and it is fantastic.
2. Stopped looking at most other artists, especially my contemporaries because it's been too influential.
3. Stopped reading blog posts about me because what people say on them influences my decisions and often leaves me feeling trapped.
4. Painting a mural on a textured well is WAY more difficult than you'd think!