In this ad for the Famous Artists Course, Norman Rockwell says, "If you can draw, your future is secure." You notice he didn't say "If you can paint, your future is secure."
|Norman Rockwell The Handkerchief, 1940|
But the foundation of any picture rests on the planning stages.
Dry media such as pencils and charcoal are perfect for exploring compositional decisions. You can draw quick thumbnail sketches, and you can erase elements and move things around. Because of the lack of color, you can easily see the bones of the picture.
In the Famous Artists Course, Norman Rockwell shared a preliminary drawing to show students how his thinking developed in this 1940 illustration. Before arriving at the final design of the old woman in the chair, he had the woman and the girl sitting on a settee with a low table in front of them.
|Images courtesy Curtis Publishing and the Famous Artists School.|
"I like the intricate shape of the old settee, particularly the flow and movement of the frame. It could actually act as a sort of an old-fashioned picture frame, holding the two figures in."
But he later had second thoughts. The table is too important, and the settee is too insistent. The active line of the settee's edge was too active, out of keeping with the quiet relationship between the lady and the girl.
Those second thoughts drove him to think the design afresh and to do a new set of drawings.
If Rockwell had those second thoughts after the picture was already committed to paint, it would have been very difficult to make the changes.
On Amazon you can still get copies of the original instructional binders of Famous Artists Course.
There's a book version of Rockwell's teaching, republished in the '80s called Rockwell on Rockwell: How I Make a Picture