Friday, April 25, 2008

Vignetting: Part 3

Let’s conclude our look at the ten kinds of vignette compositions.

The Sketchy Edge Vignette
A painting can dissolve into sketchy lines, giving us the feeling of an informal sketchbook page. Dutch illustrator Rien Poortvliet often used a sepia penline to establish his vignette illustrations, in this case from the book “In My Grandfather’s House.”


And Dean Cornwell lets his preliminary brush-drawn lines hang out, finishing the figures above the sketchy edge.

The Cutback Vignette


The silhouette shapes of JC Leyendecker’s figures are painted first on a toned canvas. Then he cuts back with white paint, using long strokes and a slippery medium. This is just a study, but it shows his method in action.

This more finished cover is done in the same way, leaving a few spaces between strokes where the toned canvas can be seen.

The Wraparound Vignette
A wraparound vignette sets up the detail around the outside edge of the design, leaving the white of the page open for type. Jon Whitcomb establishes a feeling of firelight and moonlight.


The blacksmith shop of Volcaneum in the first Dinotopia book was conceived in the same way, with the white space used for text.

Breakaway VignetteIn this last vignette strategy, the form pops out of the rectangular panel. It's perfect for explosive action, but it calls attention to itself, so it should be used sparingly. This one appears in Dinotopia: The World Beneath.

I used a similar idea in an unused sketch for National Geographic, where I wanted to convey the sense of speed and danger of a chariot race.

To recap, the ten types of vignettes are soft blur, torn paper, fadeaway, form-link, real white, spillover, sketchy edge, cutback, wraparound, and breakaway.

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Read the whole series:
Vignetting, Part 1
Vignetting, Part 2
Vignetting, Part 3
More on vignetting in my book: Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn't Exist

Thanks to the following this week:
John Flesk, link.

Roger Reed of Illustration House, link.
Leif Peng’s Flickr sets, link.
Jim Vadeboncoeur’s illustrated books, link.
100 Years of Illustration, link.
Armando Cabrera, link.
Illustration Art, link.

Tomorrow: Fresh Out of Mummies

6 comments:

Josh (musarter) said...

This is a phenomena I have been noticing more and more in classic illustration. I love the feel, the interaction, this affect has with the text. Many times the texts and illustrations are disconnected but this technique makes the composition more organic and more aesthetically pleasing. I have been considering how I can incorporate this into my own illustration.

Great insight and post as usual. Please keep imparting us with you sage like wisdom.

Josh (musarter) said...

I was referring to the wraparound and spillover vignette.

Enzie Shahmiri said...

It's interesting to see how an illustrator works. When doing portraits, the figure has to get truly integrated into the background to avoid the cut out look. Yet in most illustration this effect seems to be more desired. I love these little insights into the world of illustrations.

Kyle Smart said...

Thank you so much for being so generous with these vignette write ups James. They're coming in very handy for what I'm hoping to achieve with my college final major project. So much useful information, classic illustration rules!

a. fortis said...

Degas had some interesting examples of the sketchy-edge vignette in his drawings. He seemed to be more interested in the faces and heads than anything else, and kept the rest of the figures sketchy.

I've learned a lot from this series of posts--thanks!

Ginger*:)* said...

This was so helpful. As an illustrator of children's books I am always looking for the best place for text without sacrificing the illustration or the author's carefully chosen words.