Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Russell Flint's Technique

This post is dedicated to David Page Coffin, who asked about—and has been patiently waiting for—any information I have about William Russell Flint's painting technique. Well, it's not all inclusive for everything Flint did, but it's extensive for this particular painting. This is a VERY long post, with lots of typing on my part, and is more information than 99.9% of the viewers here need to know, but thanks David, for asking.

I am excerpting and quoting pertinent information from an old essay about Flint, written by Percy Bradshaw:

"Watercolor is his favorite medium...and for his illustrations in which a certain definite color-scheme and a richness or depth of tone are necessary...he first covers the entire surface with a wash of tone composed of the pigments most suited to his prevailing color-scheme. On this transparent ground the drawing is produced, any highlights which were required being removed with a moistened brush, the other colors introduced being necessarily affected by prevailing tone.

For Flint's pictures, pure watercolor on a white ground is almost always used, and it is in this method, which gives greater evidence of his skill, that he made—just before the War commenced—the drawing we are about to study.

First of all, it should be noted that he has used, for this subject, Unbleached Arnold paper of the quality known as "140 lb., Not Imperial"; brushes of Fitch hair, very large in size, the smaller qualities being Nos. 3—7, and occasionally a Sable for smaller details.

The Arnold Paper used in this instance was something in the nature of an experiment, and has proved exceedingly satisfactory, but Russell Flint usually works on "O.W.", which, though not so brilliantly white, is on the whole rather better.

His colors are, in the early stages, restricted to Yellow Ochre, Light Red, French Ultramarine, Indian Yellow, Prussian Blue, and Hooker's Green No. 1; and this is how the drawing proceeded:

STAGE 1 (above)—A very slight preliminary pencil note (little more than a thumbnail in size) has been made of the composition, a model has been obtained, and the figures very lightly and loosely sketched in charcoal. There is nothing in the nature of a carefully constructed pencil study here, the charcoal lines, still observable in the tree, showing quite clearly the lack of detail introduced into this preliminary stage.

The artist starts his drawing almost at once, with the brush, and proceeds by well-defined stages and by a method which is repeated in all his work. First of all, Yellow Ochre and Light Red are mixed very thinly on his palette, and a pure wash of these colors placed all over both the figures, from head to feet—in a tone approximating to the high light shown on the shoulder.

These washes are allowed to dry thoroughly, and it is an essential characteristic of Flint's method that, though the successive washes are put on with all the freshness, sparkle and purity of which he is capable, they must be absolutely dry, stage by stage, before the drawing is proceeded with. So particular is he in this matter that he has often used a spirit lamp to dry a wash and enable him quickly to proceed to the next stage.

The first thin wash of Yellow Ochre and Light Red having been allowed to dry, he proceeds to introduce a slightly stronger wash of the same colors, putting it on quite flatly, with no attempt yet at modeling or detail. This again is left to dry. Meanwhile, he has made a rough pencil sketch for the arrangement of drapery, and when the second wash is dry, he has treated the drapery by a similar method, first introducing a light wash of Ultramarine and Light Red, and, later, placing on the shadow portions a darker tone of the same colors—a little less red being used. Finally, the highlights have been lifted up with a small brush. You will see that the drapery, as far as it has gone, has been kept quite fresh, and that ragged edges are left unsoftened.

Now with regard to the completion of this first stage of the drawing. For this, a stronger flat wash of the Light Red and Yellow Ochre (with the addition of a very little French Ultramarine) has been used to block in roughly the darker tones—such as the hair, suggestion of the feature, the modeling beneath the armpits and on the legs, etc. Where edges have appeared, they have been washed away, and the nose has been tentatively modeled by lifting away the darker tones with a small moistened brush.

An exactly similar method has been adopted with regard to the lower figure, but this has not been taken quite so far. With regard to the rock, this is washed in freshly, first with Ultramarine and Indian Yellow, secondly with a darker wash of the same colors, thirdly with these colors and Light Red, each stage being thoroughly dry before the next is applied.

Then come the background, a fresh wash, with a big brush, of Ultramarine, Indian Yellow, and Prussian Blue. The sea is indicated with Ultramarine, there is a little Indian Yellow for the sand, and the foliage is chiefly suggested by Hooker's Green, Indian Yellow, and Raw Sienna.

STAGE 2 (above)—You will see, by the second reproduction that the drawing has reached a decidedly more finished condition. To achieve this, the hair is darkened, a little Raw Sienna being introduced, the features being defined more carefully, with the previous colors, and a slight touch of Crimson Lake introduced onto the cheeks. Then the trunk and arms are modeled, by washing over the previous tones with pure water to remove roughness, and when the water is dry, another wash of the colors used previously is taken over the surface, the shadows being further suggested with darker tints of the original colors.

Where lighter tones are to be noticed, such as on the left shoulder and on the outline of the trunk beneath the breast, the tone is obtained by washing away. Towards, the ankles, after a similar general method has been adopted, touches of Crimson Lake are introduced, the drapery being washed down and simplified with pure water, and improved by the subsequent addition of one or two fresher tones.

The lower figure is similarly treated, except that the tones are kept slightly warmer throughout, and, in starting the second series of washes, the original highlights on the shoulder and breast are of course left. You will note the addition of a little Crimson Lake on the hands and towards the knees.

As to the background, the horizon line is very considerably raised, by a wash of Ultramarine and Prussian Blue; the rocks in the water are suggested with Raw Sienna, the blue showing underneath in the foreground. There is a suggestion of distance, introduced by Light Red and Crimson Lake, and the foreground rock is washed down, touches of Light Red being introduced. Finally, Hooker's Green, Raw Sienna and Indian Yellow were again used to strengthen the foliage.

STAGE 3 (above)—In the third reproduction, you will realize that a good deal of scrubbing has taken place. If the paper is of satisfactory quality, this can easily be accomplished without detriment to the drawing. In this stage, the artist has scrubbed down, with water and a rathr large brush, the hair of the nearer girl, and proceeded to model the face more carefully.

To do this, a wash of Raw Sienna and a little Lake is taken over the entire face. When this is dry, the lights are lifted out with a moist brush, and the features defined more carefully with Sienna and Lake. Exactly the same system is adopted with regard to the body and arms, the Crimson Lake being decidedly noticeable in the left forearm. Observe once again that the original highlight is still on the shoulder and back.

The drapery has been very considerably improved, by reference to the previous pencil study, and by strengthening of the darker portions with a brush of French Ultramarine and Crimson Lake, the edges being softened when dry and the lights lifted with the moistened brush. The scrubbing of the legs, lower portion of the drapery and the sea should be noted. The rock in the foreground has been strengthened with Light Red and Ultramarine, and the lower figure treated in exactly the same way as the draped girl, the tones being strengthened with Raw Sienna, Lake and a little French Ultramarine in the method just discussed.

STAGE 4 (above)—With regard to the fourth reproduction, you will see, at a glance, that it is altogether colder. Russell Flint felt that the figures in the previous stage were getting a little too warm in tone, so he has taken a very transparent wash of Prussian Blue, slightly touched with Chinese White, over the darker tones to cool the color, and worked again on the features. The rocks in the sea have been taken out, and the foreground rock scrubbed away. There are also a few additional touches introduced for the foliage.

STAGE 5 (above)—The fifth reproduction shows another very definite advance and improvement. Some of the previous coolness has been removed; the foliage has been strengthened with pure Hooker's Green, Indian Yellow (for the fruit) and Raw Sienna; and the draped girl has been given a scarf of French Ultramarine and Light Red, the pattern being picked out with a moist brush. The edges of the shadows of both figures—especially on the legs— have been softened throughout, foliage has been introduced around the nude girl, and a useful mass of drapery (Crimson lake and Light Red) has been introduced over the previous color. Finally, the sea has been strengthened , a fresher green introduced into the rock on which the girl stands, and a touch of red in the sea.

STAGE 6 (above)—In the final stage it will be noted that the warm foreground has been strengthened with Light Red, Crimson Lake and French Ultramarine, the legs of the draped figured slightly warmed with a wash of Raw Sienna, and a little Lake at the heels. The hair of the nude figure has been slightly softened, the foliage made a little less obtrusive, and the horizon line washed down slightly. Lastly, a portion of the drapery has been scrubbed out with a Hog-Hair brush, and some oranges in a gold dish have added another touch of interest to an exceedingly interesting example of Russell Flint's technique.

Phew. David, don't make me type that much again. I hope this has been of interest to you, cuz I don't think anyone else made it this far.

Monday, May 30, 2011

A Story of 2000 A.D.

Frank Leyendecker was overshadowed in his illustration career by his brother Joe. Frank's work was just as vivid and vivacious, but didn't quite have the distinctive stylizing that JC had. I, for one, certainly wish Frank had illustrated more books, especially in the realm of fantasy, such as this sweet little volume by Rudyard Kipling:

With the Night Mail — what a great cover binding!

FX Leyendecker — what great endpapers!

FX Leyendecker — what a great frontispiece!

Title page

Above, for some reason a ringer is thrown in here — H Reuterdahl

FX Leyendecker

FX Leyendecker

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Everlasting Gratitude

Wishing you a PEACEful Memorial Day, with everlasting gratitude for those who have given their lives in the service of vanquishing tyranny.

James Montgomery Flagg — Leslie's Weekly — July 12, 1917

The Huntresses & the Knight

A miscellaneous image. An offbeat composition where sky takes center stage and the knight is sort of lost among the foliage. Even so, it's a Flint!

W Russell Flint — The Huntresses and the Knight

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Oh, to Slip My Duties

Sometimes I just can't help myself, when I find an old graphic that cries out for some art direction. I'm sure the original art was a beautiful gem of a painting, but what I found was a washed out greytone halftone. So I turned it into a poster to remind me to indulge my phantasies:

Above, S. Long and T. Buchanan — Sylvan Glade

Below, the halftone by S. Long — Pan —1914

Update: A big thank you to Chris, for pointing out that this is the work of Sydney Long, an Australian artist that I should have heard of before now. Below is the actual painting and below that a print, using the same elements. Both are the gems that I predicted they were, and now I feel horribly guilty that I presumed to art direct the piece nearly 100 years after its creation.

Diamond Mountains

Bertha Lum — Diamond Mountains — woodcut — 1936

From an old postcard, but I'm pretty sure the original was in color.

The Great Enchanter

Charles Robinson was one of the greatest enchanters of the golden age of illustration. And this illustration is one of his most enchanting, in my opinion.

Friday, May 27, 2011

In the Jungle

James McMullan — In the Jungle — 1983 — watercolor


As I complain about the decline and downfall of the quality of graphic illustration, I always know there have been exceptions—LOTs of 'em—over the decades. I certainly don't mind change in general—different styles, experimentations, exaggerations. It's only when art and design become dry and lifeless, dull and unmemorable that I am disheartened.

Ah, but those exceptions always make it worth paying attention. I clipped this Steve Madden ad to put in the morgue, but short-sightedly didn't think to put the date on it (who knew back then I would someday put it up for the world to see), but sometime in the 80s or 90s. Maybe you can date it with those boots.

Anyway cool fashion ad:

Sorry, don't know the artist. Anybody know?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

You Can Be Sure

This storybook cottage looks like it's from the 1920s, but the ad is from 1951. Every light in the house is on, which felt right for folks in the post-war era, following blackouts. The 50s may have been dry culturally, but it certainly was a time of plentitude.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Old Cover Hubbard

Anyone familiar with and enjoying Al Hubbard's artwork on the Mary Jane & Sniffles comic book stories from the 50s might want to look in on Whirled of Kelly, where Hubbard carries on with Peter Wheat stories where Walt Kelly left off.

Al Hubbard — Mary Jane & Sniffles — FourColor #474 - back cover

Beyond Jagged Peaks Lies the Land of Baako

Newspaper comic pages were still going strong in the 1930s, as demonstrated here. Can you imagine? Dr. Seuss himself sending his colorful nonsense right into your living room every Sunday (at least for awhile), along with a score of other amazing comic delights.

Dr. Seuss — Hejji — April 7, 1935 (1st appearance)

Dr. Seuss —Hejji — 1935

Above, only a LITTLE phallic . . .

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Use ter Be

Oh yes kids, you hear it all the time, but it's true—the newspaper comics were amazing in days of old. Imagine magic like this Johnny Gruelle strip at the huge full-size that comics use ter be.

Johnny Gruelle — Mr. TweeDeedle — ca 1915

FYI, Gruelle is the guy who created the Raggedy Ann and Andy story books.


Coming to you, from the purple-hazy years of underground comix, is this monolithic pen & ink drawing by Larry Welz, the creator of "Cherry"— the adult parody of Archie comics.

©1972 Larry Welz — inside cover of Monolith —1972

Do look close enough to notice the dog and other details.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Appealing Fashion

Very appealing fashion art, originally a Vogue magazine cover:

Ethel Rundquist — 1919


More magical color by Milton Glaser, grand master of graphic design and illustration. "Satyrs are a recurring theme in my work," says he, "perhaps because of Picasso's influence."

Glaser's work has been an influence on my work in the past, and I intend the same for the future, as I make time for more graphic exploration.

Milton Glaser
poster - advertising the Saratoga Performing Arts Center-1981
Colored inks

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Color Delight

Those who delight in color should find Milton Glaser's work delightful.

Milton Glaser — Overlook Press poster — colored ink

Fresh Air

For me, simple scenes like this are like a deep breath of fresh air.

Clifford Beese — Valley of Romance — ca 1920

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Mistress Fairy

I can never get enough of golden age faerie illustrations.

Really. Can you?

Milo Winter — This is MAB, The Mistress Fairy — 1918

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Jeffrey Catherine Jones

Jeffrey Catherine Jones — Vigil

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Fashionable Beauty

This cover is just a few months short of 100 years old.

All that negative space with no blurbs! Remarkable!

George Wolf Plank — Vogue — November 15, 1911

Warning! Comic Book Geek Reference:

From the golden age of illustration is this Harold Nelson 'editorial cartoon' of sorts looking all the world like he channeled a Mike Kaluta Conan the King cover from decades into the future. Can't you just see the Conan the King masthead looming behind this guy?

Harold Nelson — A.D. 1918 — 1918

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Teutonic Thor

I haven't seen Thor, the movie, and at this point I don't intend to. I'd like to see a movie loosely based on the original Teutonic version of the guy more than the comic book version.

M.E. Winge — Thor, the Thunder God —late 1800s

Based on the illustration above, doesn't it look like it would have been awesome casting to have Danny McBride, below, play Thor? I mean doesn't it?

I really like Danny McBride's work.

The Meaning of Life

A quote you may have seen before, but demonstrated simply and beautifully with a drawing by Russell Patterson, the great cartoonist/illustrator of the flapper era:

Unfortunately, I still have much to learn as I toil through the day.

Cuppa Joe

Won't you join me in a cuppa joe?

Illustration by the great graphic designer Milton Glaser

Monday, May 16, 2011


How much wood could a woodcut cut, if a woodcut could cut wood?

P.E. Vibert — woodcut of nude — early 20th century

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Fire the Imagination

Textbooks are so much more appealing and approachable when the graphic design and illustrations of the book are given great thought to, as they were in the early years of the 20th century.

Binding design and illustrative paintings help to fire the imagination, which is always a great aid to learning.

cover binding

Ernest Wallcousins
The Tempatation of Ea-Bani

title page

Ernest Wallcousins
Merodach Sets Forth to Attack Tiamat

Ernest Wallcousins
The Slaying of the Bull of Ishtar

Ernest Wallcousins
The Babylonian Deluge

Ernest Wallcousins
Nebuchadnezzar in the Hanging Gardens

Edwin Long
The Babylonian Marriage Market

Ernest Wallcousins
The Shepherd Finds the Babe Semiramis

The edition I own has the misfortune to have a plate sliced out, probably more than half a century ago. That dastardly deed has earned someone a few decades in a hole in Hades, without benefit of seeing Ishtar. The missing plate, below, grabbed off the internet.

Ernest Wallcousins
Ishtar in Hades