Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Flagging the Head

“Flagging the head” refers to placing a white shape behind the head of the most important character in a figural composition. It’s a sure-fire way to place the viewer’s attention exactly where you want it, especially when you’re working against an impossibly busy background.

In this illustration by Maurice Bower*, the woman’s head gains importance because of its position against the light of the bright window of the crowded pharmacist’s store.

In “Norman Rockwell Visits a Country Doctor,” 1947, the doctor’s face would be lost in the clutter of his desk were it not for the brightly illuminated bunch of papers behind him.

When I painted this holographic workstation, I was worried the hero would be lost in all the detail, so I flagged his head with a slanting white table. You can see the Dean Cornwell and John Berkey influences on this paperback cover from the mid 1980s.
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*The Maurice Bower painting is lot 29 of the upcoming June 7 auction at Illustration House in New York, link.

12 comments:

Arco Scheepen said...

These tips of yours really make me look at drawings, paintings and illustrations in a whole new way.
Thanks!

Per H said...

Thank you for a great tip!

bonnieluria said...

Your blog is the art theory class I never had.
Every entry provides something so valuable.

Not only does this help be a better observer of a good painting, it also comes just as I'm working on a new painting of two figures and didn't know I needed this tip until now.

Thanks so much.

René PleinAir. said...

And not only peoples heads, ...

Rien Poortvliet

René PleinAir. said...

Ow, the index of this wonderfull site:

Rien Poortvliet index

Dan Gurney, Mr. Kindergarten said...

We visited an art gallery over the weekend. It's hard for me to look at paintings the same way after the education I've gotten from this blog. It's like bonnieluria said: this blog is like an art class.

I also enjoy those rabbit trails posts like yesterday's unexpected visitors post. Just great stuff.

Thanks.

Raluca C said...

The same with me!On the short time passed since I discovered J.G´s site I learned so many things!Hopefully I´ll not spend a whole day again,with a finished illo,just moving a red dot from a place to other without finding the right position for it!Today´s post,a new example of a helpfull,great tip!I liked(how could I not)your drawing as well.It deserve the place in the classic elite company you put it!Wonderful!

Eric Orchard said...

It took me a long time to do this with out it looking obvious, it often looked like I was placing an awkward halo behind my figures heads! I'd love a collection of your non Dinotopia work, I never realized how much of your other work I'm familiar with.

Dave H said...

This is twice in one week that your posts have shown me something make me shake my head and wonder why I couldn't see that before (the other was the color zones of the face). Thanks so much.
I agree with Eric. A collection of your sci-fi covers and National Geographic work would be great.

kcanadensis said...

I was directed here via a post on Pharyngula today... I'll be checking daily now. I'm an illustration student and I've already learned something just glancing at your posts. Thanks!

Hannah JS Davis said...

Oh! how absolutely wonderful to know :)

I have to agree with Bonnieluria in that your blog has shed more light on color theory the principles than I ever learned in my color theory classes at college.

Lindsay said...

I know I've told you how much I appreicate your site but this time I want to say that I really remember your lessons. The one on clumping from awhile back has helped me so much with my landscapes. This is also a memorable lesson. This stuff is a labor of love...and I'm loving it!!! Thanks again. You and your brother are very generous people. Two great teachers!