Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Rare Video of Illustrator Arthur William Brown

Here's a rare archival sound film from 1949, showing Golden-Age illustrator Arthur William Brown (1881-1966) as he tells the story of his career and the principles behind his pictures. (Link to YouTube)

He says: "I think I was one of the first to realize the advantages of the camera, whether to get natural attitudes, telling expressions, and quick accidental poses that a model couldn't hold long enough for an artist to get on paper. Today, with a few exceptions, every illustrator uses the camera in some way. We don't copy the photograph. We use it as a guide."

"If I were giving advice, I would say, be sincere in your work. If you admire the work of a great illustrator, learn from him, but don't imitate. You won't last long if you do. And if you really want to be popular, make your girls beautiful. Then you can't miss."

Sorry the quality isn't any better. I added subtitles to make it a little clearer. It has been duplicated a few times, and I'm not sure if the original film even exists.

The footage was shot by Frank Reilly, part of his "Artists at Work" series. According to Reilly himself, the purpose of the film "is to impress upon us the accomplishments of those among us now and to perpetuate their memory for the inspiration of those who are to follow."

If you like this, you might also like the ones on Dean Cornwell and Harvey Dunn
Wikipedia on Arthur William Brown


Drew said...

It's equally surprising and unsurprising to hear him dole out advice that's as sound now as it was back in his time. I can't think of anything he said that could be looked at as old fashioned or irrelevant in today's time - might have to write down some of his advice just to have around the studio.

James, do you know how many artists Frank Reilly recorded for this series at all? I can't imagine it being just Arthur William Brown, Dean Cornwell, and Harvey Dunn.

jeffkunze said...

Good advice!
"Make your girls beautiful" haha my friends and I always joke about the short cut to getting popular on deviant art is to just draw/paint overly sexualized women in different ways.

Jim Douglas said...

Arthur William Brown stresses the importance of changing your style to keep with the times. It would be fascinating to see what style he would use if he was alive and working in 2015.

grobles63 said...

I like the interview but I thought that he did imitate Frederic Rodrigo Gruger when he first started. copied materials and method. There were a lot of illustrators who started as imitators of someone else but developed their own style (for lack of a better word). First one to come to mind is Rockwell. You can see the Leyendecker influence in Rockwells early work.

Drew said...

Grobles - Yeah, but I think you affirmed what he was talking about by using the key words "When he was starting out." It's not so much an issue early on when you're hanging your influences on your sleeves, since we all do it, but it becomes problematic for yourself when you're 10 years, 15 years in and haven't figured out how to parse what you like and don't like about your influences and build it into your own. I feel like that's what he meant by saying don't imitate.

James Gurney said...

Drew, Reilly also shot some footage of Bradshaw Crandall, William Oberhardt, and F.R. Gruger working, but the quality of the umpteen-generation-analog-copy that I've got is so terrible that you can hardly tell what's going on. The one additional piece I've got somewhere if I can find it, is Dean Cornwell reading a statement about illustration. It will need subtitles too, but hey, it's CORNWELL! His cigar butts are worth checking out.

Groble, funny, I was thinking the same thing, that Brownie started off as kind of a Gruger clone. Which is funny, because Gruger didn't use photography and rarely used models. But as Drew says, he changed and became his own guy.

Jim, yes, he'd probably have a great website and would be doing his work on a Cintiq.