Thursday, September 9, 2010

Leyendecker’s Method

In December of 1950, Saturday Evening Post cover artist J.C. Leyendecker outlined his basic method in a letter to a student.

“My first step is to fill a sketch pad with a number of small rough sketches about two by three inches, keeping them on one sheet so you can compare them at a glance.

“Select the one that seems to tell the story most clearly and has an interesting design. Enlarge this by square to the size of the magazine cover, adding more detail and color as needed.

“You are now ready for the model. First make a number of pencil or charcoal studies. Select the most promising and on a sketch canvas do these in full color, oil or water with plenty of detail. Keep an open mind and be alert to capture any movement or pose that may improve your original idea.

“You may now dismiss your model, but be sure you have all the material needed with separate studies of parts to choose from, for you are now on your own and must work entirely from your studies.

“This canvas will somewhat resemble a picture puzzle, and it is up to you to assemble it and fit it into your design at the same time simplify wherever possible by eliminating all unessentials. All this is done on tracing paper and retraced on the final canvas.

“Your finished painting may be any size to suit you, but is usually about twice the size of the reproduction.

“As a rule, I start work with a round or flat sable using a thin wash, with turps as a medium. Keep shadows very transparent, and as the work progresses, apply the paint more thickly on lighted areas, adding some poppy oil or linseed oil if necessary, and using a larger flat bristle brush for the heavier paint, but still keeping the shadows thin and vibrant.

“When the work is dry, apply a quick drying retouching varnish either with a brush or an atomizer.

“Sometimes because of prohibitive model rates or other reasons, one is forced to use photography, but try and avoid it if possible.
-------
Thanks, Keita!
Lots more Leyendecker Lore at Lines and Colors
Bio and more samples at BPIP
Many originals on display at the Haggin Museum in Stockton, California

15 comments:

Libby Fife said...

What a great post so thank you. I was able to see an exhibit of his work here in Stockton and it was really wonderful and amazing in person (so to speak). The work looked like it was "lit up" and it was possible to see all of the little nuances of the brush strokes. Good stuff.

Vincent Nappi said...

Words straight from the man, the myth himself! Thanks so much for posting this Mr. Gurney.

Mary Bullock said...

Love Leyendecker! Wish they used advertising like this today. Love how chisled everything looks - nothing really blended yet it looks so life like. Thanks for this post - it is so interesting to learn about his process

kingworks said...

I find it interesting and a little curious that he advised against using photography.

I imagine my habit of popping Google images open for a quick reference would be looked down upon.

donm said...

james, your blog posts are by far the most interesting and educational to me. thank you.

DavidStill said...

Oh man, that hand in the third picture.. Oh man, what a painter!

ivo.de.wispelaere said...

This kind of posts about the method of working of a particular artist would be a very interesting subject for a next book :-). But I suppose that would be too complicated concerning rights etc. when using images...

ivo.de.wispelaere said...

Here in Europe we have a huge and ancient tradition of painting (with some of the oldest from my own country :-) ). That long tradition has made us (or at least me) unaware of the relative younger American painting tradition. Through this blog I have met a number of (to me) previous unknown American painters that are really worth knowing.

Stephen Southerland said...

This is gold. Three cheers to you, sir.

Alen said...

Great post, and btw I really like these old photos of painters at work.

Manuel Furnic said...

What's up with those two black lines on the white background? They appear a lot in Leyendecker's work.

James Gurney said...

Manuel, those were part of the graphic design of the Saturday Evening Post covers.

Manuel Furnic said...

Thank you, James! Silly me. Damn, I knew I had seen them before somewhere but din't recognize them out of context! :)

Cole said...

Joseph Christian Leyendecker. Great painter? Or greatest?

Unknown said...

If anyone is interested, I have listed am original oil study for a Saturday Evening Post Cover by JC Leyendecker on eBay.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Original-Leyendecker-American-Flag-Oil-Study-Canvas-Saturday-Evening-Post-1913-/251354039530?pt=Art_Paintings&hash=item3a85de44ea