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Inspiration

So happy that creative director Louise Bolin asked me to do a Norman Rockwell-inspired piece about the friendliness of the local pharmacy in Delaware Today’s premiere issue of 302 Health. So, I decided to go pretty and sun-drenched for this illustration and include lots of happy folk. Sadly, my local Shoppers Drug Mart does not have the same vibe as this. The Eastern European postal lady intimidates me to no end.

Here are my pencil linear and the inks before I added the colour digitally. When I apply colour this way I always use swatches of my own paintings so the final piece retains my look and takes away from the glossiness of pure digital colours.

The illustration was potentially going to be a cover, so I had to lay the piece out with the magazine title in mind. Sadly, a photo of of a very fit Valerie Bertinelli won out. Who can blame them really? Luckily I did get a nice big spread though. Full page illustrations are always a treat.

Some of the inspiration for this project came from 1950s photos of small town American life and vintage illustration as you can see below. Wish I wore outfits like that when I was in school.

Although I wasn’t going for the realism of Rockwell, it was a nice excuse to check out the brilliant craftsmanship of his artwork and I was happy to discover there’s now a book out featuring his reference photos,  “Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera” by Ron Schick. I’ll definitely have to buy this. They’re brilliant shots in their own right, quirky snapshots capturing an era of American life and the characters that lived in it. It’s fascinating to see how much depth and personality he adds to these images with his paintings, not to mention those beautifully layered skin tones. What a sense of humour too – I’m particularly fond of the tattoo illustration. I’m still saddened that that sailor dumped Rosietta. I thought they were such a good fit.

These images can be found on NPR along with a more detailed description of Rockwell and the “Behind the Camera” project and even more at the Smithsonian Magazine.

 

 

Growing up overseas, I fondly remember getting hand-written letters from my family back in England. Later when I moved to Canada at 11 years old, I would still get letters from friends in Bahrain. The fact that they didn’t come as often as a Twitter message or an email made them that much more special. There’s something so much more personal about a hand written note rather than an email, similar to looking at an artist’s sketch rather than a finished piece of art. You can see how they hold their hand, what kind of mood they are in from the pressure of the pen on paper, and usually their personality comes though more, maybe partially due to the fact that one can’t backtrack and correct things. I guess composing on a computer is more subtractive and hand written is more additive and therefore more ‘of the moment’.

Letters from my Grandma are written exactly how she speaks. Since she’s from Lancashire, England, her notes are filled with her local dialect Such as t’other day instead of the other day, or aye instead of yes. So, getting these letters always feel like I’m actually having a conversation with her. Also, they were always written in a lovely cursive which sadly I hardly see anymore.

Maybe I also lament the death of handwriting since I never really properly learned how to type. Yes, I’m one of those pitiful folks who type with two fingers (although fairly quickly) and when I glance up from the keyboard my screen is filled with misspelled words. I blame taking drafting in high-school instead of typing class. That year of AutoCad has never really furthered my life ambitions. But who am I kidding, I was just as lazy at writing letters back in the day as I am at emailing today.

Here’s a piece I did on the demise of cursive handwriting in school in Hour Detroit magazine, written by Ilene Wolff and art-directed by the lovely Jen Hamilton & Jessica Decker. You can read the article here: Writing off Cursive, because the widespread use of computers, learning the fine art of handwriting in school is gradually being erased.

Cursive handwriting was evolved from the days when people used to dip pens and ink. It allowed people to cut down on those messy blotches by having a continuous line. Even though dip pens had been long unused in schools, I do actually remember having to do these exercises in pencil when I was a little kid. I even remember practicing how to sign my signature. Jacqueline is awfully long for a little kid. Supposedly now with the decline of kids knowing how to write cursive there’s also a decline in knowing how to have a proper signature too and even the chance the children won’t be able to read cursive.

Here are signatures from Albert Einstein, Abraham Lincoln, Nostradamus, John Hancock, Marilyn Monroe, Martin Luther King Jr. Leonardo daVinci, Walt Disney, Rembrandt, Renoir, & Miro. (some found here & here)

From the Detroit Hour article:

Computers may wipe out cursive writing, leaving behind yellowed manuscripts that only anthropologists can decode…..The handwriting is on the wall for cursive’s demise, or at least for teaching it in school. Don’t expect educators to cry at the funeral, though. “I want my child to at least be able to read it,” Avery says. “That’s an illiteracy of sorts.”

 

Marijean Levering, Ph.D., a native Detroiter who now is associate professor of theater at Utica College, in Utica, N.Y., reads primary-source documents for her work. For example, she combed through records written in cursive for her book, Detroit on Stage, about Detroit’s Players Club. What if she had never learned cursive in school, she wonders. “I wouldn’t have access to well over half the documents, or I would have to pay somebody else to transcribe them,” she says. “The thought that something written in my language wouldn’t be understandable to me is mind boggling.”
In addition, she says, handwriting offers a glimpse into someone’s personality.

There was a great article on this subject in the New York Times, The Case for Cursive by Katie Zezima

Richard S. Christen, a professor of education at the University of Portland in Oregon, said, practically, cursive can easily be replaced with printed handwriting or word processing. But he worries that students will lose an artistic skill. “These kids are losing time where they create beauty every day,” Professor Christen said. “But it’s hard for me to make a practical argument for it. I’m not one who’s mourning it because of that; I’m mourning the beauty, the aesthetics.”

Here’s some beautiful samples of older letter writing that I find truly inspiring. This piece is from Michael Twyman’s 26 November 2007 presentation on French Notarial Handwriting found on Dan Reynolds Flickr

Below is a 1850 Austrian letter (found here)

Some beautiful and touching letters can be found on the site, Letters of Note. Maybe not as gorgeous as the 1800′s letters, quick notes written on torn-off notebook paper, seem so personal that I almost feel embarrassed to read them. Here is a letter from the late Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker – a veritable musical genius and one of the world’s greatest, most innovative saxophonists. Here’s an apologetic but undeniably poetic handwritten love letter, penned to long-term lover Chan Woods. Parker’s adult life was a turbulent one, his musical brilliance often affected by his addiction to both heroin and alcohol, and he split with Woods in 1954 following the death of their two-year-old daughter. Tragically Parker passed away the next year, aged just thirty-four.

Transcript

To you;

The way I thought was wrong, having not known, it was right. Here is the proof of my feelings, Don’t hate me, love me forever: — — — —

Beautiful is the world, slow is one to take advantage. Wind up the world the other way. And at the start of the turning of the earth, lie my feelings for thou.

To you
Shame on me.
I love you.

 

Another touching note from Letters of Note is a parting note written by Frida Kahlo on the back of a depository envelope – used by Kahlo to hold jewellery during a stay at hospital – prior to a trip to New York. Her husband (for the second time), Diego Rivera, was painting a mural in San Francisco which now resides at City College. He was assisted at the time by fellow artist and mutual friend ‘Emmy Lou’ Packard.

Translation
Diego, my love,

Remember that once you finish the fresco we will be together forever once and for all, without arguments or anything, only to love one another.

Behave yourself and do everything that Emmy Lou tells you.

I adore you more than ever. Your girl, Frida

(Write me)

 

Some truly touching moments can be found in postcards. Since they have such a minimal amount of space you can read between the lines and guess at the more complex feelings that could be there between the sender and the receiver. This can be especially found in postcards from wars such as this one below (found here).

Hope you enjoyed this post. Now to try and find more time to work on my atrocious handwriting!

Paulo Canabarro @Paulov2 kindly contacted me about doing an interview for him on Abduzeedo. It’s always lovely to get asked to do something like this but always a bit strange answering questions about yourself. Hopefully I came across alright! Thanks again Paulo! Here’s the full interview on Abduzeedo with more photos of my work and my studio.


When I was checking out the site today it was a lovely surprise to see that there was a post on my main squeeze Jamie’s hand painted type work. Check out some of the screen grabs below and go to Abduzeedo to check out more. Such amazing textures and layering! If you’d like to find out more about Jamie Lawson’s work check out his art site and his design site at Poly.



Here’s a few of my scans from The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, a beautiful vintage children’s book written & illustrated by Howard Pyle (1853-1911) from 1883. The other week, I luckily found this book collection at the Aberfolyle Flea Market so look out for more book scans coming up in the following weeks!

The attention to detail is remarkable in these illustrations. Nice to see the strength in basic black and white line work. This skill does not need to rely on colour. For more information about Pyle check out this very in-depth blog from another illustrator, Ian Schoenherr. In addition, here’s some Pyle biographical information from Illustration House.

As a teacher, Pyle attracted a large number of students, inspiring them as much by his idealism as by the high standards he set for picture making. Over the years he taught at Drexel Institute in Philadelphia, lectured at the Art Students League in New York, and eventually conducted special classes for gifted students at both Wilmington, Delaware and, during the summer at Chadd’s Ford, Pennsylvania. He made no charge for his teaching and, in fact, built a set of studios for the students to work in. N. C. Wyeth, Harvey Dunn, Stanley Arthurs, and Frank Schoonover were among the beneficiaries of this instruction, and passed along to others Pyle’s unique approach as they, in turn, became illustrators and teachers. At the time when it was customary and fashionable to study in Europe, Pyle had a strong conviction that students should seek their training and inspiration in America. Many of Pyle’s greatest pictures came from his intense and loyal interest in Americana. His renditions of the Revolutionary War period and of Civil War subjects have since become standard pictures in our history books, among them Woodrow Wilson’s History of the American People, and James Truslow Adams’ History of the United States. - Walt Reed

So, I’m finished teaching the Winter semester at Toronto’s OCAD U. It’s always inspiring to see how much the students improve over the semester and it’s a constant reminder for me to keep excited about my own work. Have a good Summer!

Here are some 1950′s magazine vintage school Illustrations from Christian Montone Flickr. Also, I just found these illustrations from a Finnish elementary school, printed in 1955 from vasiliisa flcikr. Love the printing process on these!