29 December 2017

Proposed Rockwell Sale Under Investigation

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(Stephan Schuetze/Bild Zeitung via Getty Images, link)
Secret documents reveal that the Berkshire Museum was pressured to sell off their Norman Rockwell originals by a Boston consulting firm. 

For now, the planned liquidation of their most valuable and beloved artwork has been been halted by the Massachusetts Attorney General as the investigation continues.  

Let us hope that Sotheby's will release the Museum from their fees if the Museum decides to call off the sale and raise money the old fashioned way—by showing great art to the community and asking for their support.

More on ArtNet

Disney's 'Tricks of the Trade'

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(Link to YouTube Video) The decade of the 1930s was a pioneering era in animation. Artists at Disney Studios developed the new art form all the way from Steamboat Willie to Pinocchio.

The animators had to figure out the principles of character animation for themselves. As Disney says: "We took you into a unique schoolhouse where the pupils were their own teachers. They had to be because no one in the world could give them the answer to what they wanted to know."
The Art of Animation: The Story of the Disney Studio Contribution to a New Art This is one of the early books the Disney Studios published on animation.
The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation This book by two of the "Nine Old Men" is one of the standard reference books on the history and art of Disney animation.

Revisiting An Illustrated Ghost-Story of Christmas

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About this time last year I brought you a look at five illustrated editions of the beloved Charles Dickens story, A Christmas Carol, that ghostly, redemptive journey of one soul through Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come.

For this year I thought that idea worth a revisit and an expansion. I tracked down some more of my favorites and yours as well! Going through your comments from last time, I found a few versions that were new to me and I've included those here.

Though it's been 174 years and countless illustrated editions of the book what remains is the myriad of ways to approach any given scene. From the arrival of Jacob Marley to the vision of Scrooge's own grave, I present evidence that the solutions are endless.

A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost-Story of Christmas by Charles Dickens.


John Leech. The original illustrated edition. 1843.


Brett Helquist. 2009.

I remember the moment I first laid eyes on Brett Helquist's work. I was in a Barnes and Noble and I picked up a book in this new series I'd been hearing about, A Series of Unfortunate Events. I've been a  fan ever since. 

I love the way Helquist builds with shapes and the how he does this kind of hatching within the textures. It's wonderful. Speaking more specifically about this edition, man, do I ever love the larger than life Marley. That's such a brilliant idea.


Arthur Rackham. 1915.

It's sobering to think of Rackham working through these illustrations during 1915, the second year of The Great War. I checked my copy of Arthur Rackham: A Life with Illustration by James Hamilton to see what, if anything, was noted about this time in his life.

This was the first Dickens story Rackham had attempted, and despite its ghostliness, and the opportunities for the supernatural that story presents for its illustrator, Rackham did not exploit these to the full. ... It's as if, in choice of his subjects, he voluntarily passed by the opportunity to terrify his readers with too many ghosts and images of retribution, and chose instead to calm them with pictures of sliding on the ice in smoky London, dancing with Mrs. Fezziwig and children bouncing about on Christmas Eve. Perhaps caught by the national anxiety and tragedy of wartime, Rackham voluntarily softened his interpretation of Dickens' story in a way he might not have done eight or ten years earlier - or indeed twenty years later with Poe's Tales.

Despite that, as you can see, I chose the spookiest ones to include here. There's some top-notch grumpy old man face Rackham on display. I mean, just look at that Scrooge nose.


Roberto Innocenti. 1996.

Italian illustrator Roberto Innocenti was a new find for me, from one of your comments, in fact. I had a hard time tracking down any larger images online but this piece above is just lovely.


P. J. Lynch. 2006.

One of the more recently illustrated editions on this list is by the prolific Irish illustrator P. J. Lynch. This is a truly beautiful collection by a living legend.

If that final piece of Scrooge playing in the snow doesn't lift your heart, well, I'm sorry to say that you might actually be dead: to begin with.


Lisbeth Zwerger. 1988.

Another edition which proved difficult to find quality images online, nonetheless, Zwerger's inimitable watercolor and unique compositions are on full display.


C. F. Payne. 2017.

Ok, fine, a little bit of a cheat in that it's not a new edition of the book but just look at this! Your move, entire publishing industry.

Payne's Instagram is a gold mine and he's constantly posting great new work.


Trina Schart Hyman. 1983.

What more could I say about Trina Schart Hyman? I adore her work. Rather than me go on about it, I'll let her ink and paint do the talking.


Carter Goodrich. 1996. 

As before, I'm probably showing my hand here by posting this as the final one so I'll just come out and say it: This is my favorite illustrated edition of A Christmas Carol. 

If you haven't happened to have seen it, I'm not exaggerating when I say that every single piece in this book is a masterclass in design, storytelling, and composition. The warmth and life of the characters, the glowing color and impeccable values, the despair and joy written on Scrooge's old face... 

I'm in absolute awe every time I crack it open.

(And the story is pretty good, too.)

The Delaware Art Museum - Part 1

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I have an early holiday gift for you! I went to the Delaware Art Museum when I was at Illuxcon a couple months ago and managed to get some high quality captures and details. The images are large, so be sure to click on them or download them to see them in their large size. 

I left all the images a little under exposed to preserve the data. If you want, download the zip file and you can adjust them in PS to bring out a little more contrast if you want. I shot everything in manual mode and for each painting the settings stayed the same across image. I did this so that the darker detail shots would stay accurate relative to the lighter close-ups.

This painting is full of so many wonderful caricatures. I don't know if he had models for the specific faces or how much liberty he took, but if I ever captain a pirate ship, this is definitely the handsome crew I want. Faces only a scurvy dog could love.

Another beautiful painting full of wonderful characters.

The thick impasto paint was so rich and compelling to see in person.

This painting captured my imagination as a kid and hasn't let go.  What a treat to see it in person. What a great composition!

I thought this painting was beautiful. Cool to see how little contrast there was between foreground, figure and background. If you squint down, or convert to greyscale it becomes a study of 2.5-3 values and very abstract.

Another power composition, simple but with plenty of impact and depth. The thin sharp line of the ocean on the horizon is perfect, as is the little arc of a wave in the lower left. It creates such strong tension. The sky in this kept me studying this painting for a long time.

This piece inspired my own pirate painting when I was just getting started with freelance. It is one the truly great masterpieces of American illustration.

A shot from the side to show some light raking across the paint.

Thanks for giving the post a read and I hope you have a wonderful, safe, and memorable holiday season!

I won't be posting again until 2018! Here's to a great year of learning and growth, new opportunities and friendships. Be kind and generous with your time and knowledge and thank you again for supporting Muddy Colors. Thank you Muddy Colors for having me on board for these past few years.

- Howard