Extraordinary preparation

J.C. Leyendecker - Studies
J.C. Leyendecker – Studies

If you know a tiny bit about the history of illustration, then you know that this guy is a power house: Joseph Christian Leyendecker. He is most famous for the 322 Saturday Evening Post Covers he painted and if you haven’t seen his work, please look him up.

I want to look at this study sheet of him because it is a superb example of how one can prepare for the final work.

If you have looked him up and compare his work to this study you will not recognize a big difference in the quality of his painting method. He did these studies as careful as the finished works.

Some parts are repeated over and over to find the best version for the final piece. For example the two versions of the hand holding the spoon. He did not change the position of the fingers, he changed the position of the camera / view point. Both hands are completely worked out. From these studies he can create the final painting with no need for models or photo reference. Everything he needs and more is there. He has enough variants to change his mind in the last minute.

I want to take these studies as a symbol for myself that should remind me to study even more, prepare better and to always give it my best shot.

Master Study Update – No. 1

Master Study of George Bellows

Master Studies are part of my training and I try to do them often. It is a great exercise to leave the own head and to jump in the mind of someone else. Especially if you admire the person for his skill.

The funny thing about this study is, that the digital reproduction of this Bellows painting seems to be completely off. As it was pushed through the web each person gave it a bit more color.

When I saw a reproduction in a book afterwards I did not recognize the piece. The green river was what motivated to do the study but is not in the original.

Anyway I still like it and I learned that bad reproductions can have value too.

the complexity of simplicity

William Turner - The Black Boat
William Turner – The Black Boat

This looks like a simple sketch.

Did not take a long time, right? Maybe 5 to 10 minutes?

A few washes of watercolor and some black strokes for the ship.

Easy, mhm?

No, it’s not. Simplicity can be seen as the hiding of effort.

This is the problem with paintings (or anything) that looks really simple: It’s really hard to see what is needed to produce them.

In this way simplicity is a complex thing. Turner needed around 7 washes for the background and around 10 strokes for the ship. This is not much for the indication of a sea, weather, presence of man and the creation of mood.

If we have a finished product, we often do not see all the skill, planing, try and errors, pain and time that went into it. But if we try to do it on our own, we will recognize what it takes to creates something simple, elegant, beautiful.

A painting divided in half

Francisco de Goya - The Shootings of May 3rd, 1808
Francisco de Goya – The Shootings of May 3rd, 1808

This painting shows the shooting of May 3rd 1808 in Madrid.

I have just seen it in a book where one half of the painting is printed on one side and the other half on the opposite side.

This dividing line splits the painting at an important point.

It splits …

… the light from the dark side.

… one group from the other.

… characters and faceless.

… emotion and coldness.

… hope and finality.

… eye contact and blind obedience.

Dark Seascape from Monet

Claude Monet - Shipping by Moonlight
Claude Monet – Shipping by Moonlight

At the moment I am working on a series of seascapes, that will be much darker and more monochromatic than the last ones. I work with a very limited palette, basically a Zorn palette (named after the swedish master painter Anders Zorn) and focus on a strong light and dark pattern.

One painting I always have in mind when I think about dark seascapes is the one above by Claude Monet.

He is mostly known for his colorful adventures in his garden in Giverny, France but he was examining all variations of light, including moonlit scene.

I also like to see the not so very famous work of an artist which he become not known for. Even Monet as a superstar artist has a few more unknown moody and darker pieces that are worth exploring.

Memento Mori

Caspar David Friedrich - The Abbey in the Oakwood
Caspar David Friedrich – The Abbey in the Oakwood

Maybe we are the only creatures who are aware of their own death and understand what that means.

I heard that death is not a part of our life, because death happens afterwards and therefore we shouldn’t worry about it. Maybe this is true for our own death, but the death of the humans we know are part of our life. And because we know, that we will die as well we can make it a part of our life.

Caspar David Friedrich was that kind of person, because he gave death a big place in his work. His work reminds us that our time is limited and gives us a reason to think and talk about our perception of life and death.

As we become more aware of our own death, we may think a little more about whether we spend our time really meaningful or if there is a little room for improvement.

Into my Sketchbooks – No. 1

aclaussen.com - Sketchbook 2
Egon Schiele

Since 2013 i draw in a sketchbook every day without an exception. It is my most important daily ritual that sustains and builds up my eye-brain-hand-connection. I do all kinds of experiments in them: Sketches, longer drawings, paintings, collages or other mixed media work.

If you would flip through my sketchbooks you would find all kinds of different master studies. They are an essential part of my training and I do them regularly. Here are six master studies from the sketchbook I finished yesterday (original size A5). Hope you enjoy.

aclaussen.com - Sketchbook 1
Rembrandt and Nicolai Fechin
aclaussen.com - Sketchbook 3
William Turner
aclaussen.com - Sketchbook 4
Frederick Judd Waugh
aclaussen.com - Sketchbook 5
Frederick Judd Waugh
aclaussen.com - Sketchbook 6



Study for caricature

Horse Study by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
Horse Study by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec is known for is Moulin Rouge posters and for capturing the parisian nightlife. His subjects are often painted / drawn very stylized. They are caricatures.  This is why i find this representational study so cool, because Lautrec captured the horse without exaggeration.

This is a skill all great caricaturist have. They study and understand reality and they are able to depict it. From this basis they decide which parts to emphasize and which not.

It is a choice they have because they earned the skill which makes them independent from randomness.

Enhance emotion with visual analogies

Anton Mauve - Flock of Sheep with Shepherd in the Snow
Anton Mauve – Flock of Sheep with Shepherd in the Snow

When I saw this painting as a thumbnail on google, I thought that a lonely person is standing on a sinking island. But actually a shepherd stands in the middle of his herd.

I do not know if Mauve has deliberately sought this analogy (or if I have made it up), but in principle the emotions in paintings increase when we remind the viewer of something familiar, something he immediately understands, even if it appears in new context.

Suppose Mauve wanted to express how lonely the shepherd is who has to move through the high snow with his herd. Mauve really wants to emphasize and make tangible this emotion of loneliness.

But he can not assume that every viewer knows what it feels like to look after a herd of sheep alone. So Mauve is looking for something that everyone can easily imagine. He thinks and comes to the conclusion that no one is lonelier than a person, on a leaving island, which is only a few square feet tall.

He visually transfers this universal motif to his shepherd and composes the entire painting in such a way that the viewer feels reminded of the lonely man on the island without necessarily noticing it.

So we see the lonely shephard with his herd and we see him lonely on the island.

Ferenc Pintér

Ferenc Pintér
Ferenc Pintér

While traveling through the web, bookstores, or antique shops, I find artists with an incredible array of high-caliber works, so that I wonder how they have been able to escape my radar for years.

Either I’ve actually never seen one of their works (the algorithms that should know what I like were apparently on vacation) or my sensors were not geared to this kind of work. Well no matter.

In any case, I always feel like I’ve discovered a nugget of gold under my pillow.

One of these nugget is Ferenc Pintér. This guy has a great eye for exciting compositions, placement of characters, angles, shapes and space.

I can learn a lot from him. Hope you enjoy his work as well.