Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Perspective Ink Drawing

You may recall the work of Atkinson Grimshaw, the Victorian moonlight specialist.

A typical finished Grimshaw dockside scene combines mysterious and atmospheric distances with the delicate tracery of rigging and other fine details.

What procedure did he follow to work out the perspective?

Fortunately there are a few unfinished Grimshaws which show his method. This one has a thin layer of brownish oil color scrubbed over the entire surface to establish the overall tonality and mood, but he has not yet moved on to the finished opaque rendering.

Here’s a detail of the same canvas. Grimshaw’s crisp preliminary line drawing shows right through the thin paint. I haven’t seen the original, but most likely the drawing was accomplished in India ink.

Grimshaw, like Bouguereau, Gerome, and many others in his day, preferred to have the foundational perspective work carefully completed in ink on the canvas before going on to the final painting. The drawing would eventually disappear under later opaque layers.

Gerome also used a perspective ink drawing on the canvas before he dove into his renderings of complex tilework.

Other painters like Sorolla, Sargent, Duveneck, and Zorn (and, more recently, Richard Estes and Frank McCarthy) took a more improvisatory approach, and “found it in the paint,” drawing loosely at first with the brush. Both methods are completely valid.

More about Atkinson Grimshaw at ARC.org
Previous posts on the color of moonlight, Link; on perspective grids, Link; and on a Dinotopia preliminary line drawing, Link.

Tomorrow: Your Khalian Sketches (Deadline noon today)


Paolo Rivera said...

I always assumed there must be some intense preliminary work in those Gerome paintings with tiles, but it's nice to see a similar dedication in Grimshaw's painting, despite it's nearly silhouetted quality.

Also, I'm planning on attending your talk in Allentown. Is it more of a kids activity? Their web site seems to point to that, but I'd also like to see the National Geographic Show, regardless. And I just noticed that you'll be at the Society of Illustrators in about a month. I might have to go to that as well.

I just saw one of your originals at the Society gallery last week. It's great to finally see your color in person.

Patrick Dizon said...

I read somewhere that Gerome (and maybe other artists) hired experts in perspective to help with his work. I just find that interesting.

James Gurney said...

The audience at Allentown should range from little kids to adults. I'll do a PowerPoint show there that covers the new Dinotopia book, with a bit more emphasis on the Nat Geo work.

As you say, I'll also be doing a similar digital slide show (geared a bit more to fellow artists) at the Society of Illustrators and NY Comic Con in April.

Everyone should check out the gorgeous work on Paolo's blog, including the amazing Ghostrider artwork and a video from Heroes, Villains, and Artists. http://paolorivera.blogspot.com/

Pat: I remember hearing or reading the same thing——that Gerome hired a professional perspectivist——but I wasn't sure enough of it to put it into the post.

Paolo Rivera said...

Thanks for the recommendation! Hopefully, I'll meet you this Sunday.

Regarding Gerome, I have a book on him by Gerald M Ackerman that confirms his employment of "architects, professional perspectivists, and photographs." But that's as much as he says on the subject.

Victor said...

Fantastic. I always wondered how and to what extent these painters worked out their perspective. We often see studies and drawings of figures and props that are seen in the final composition, but rarely perspective layouts for backgrounds.

Anonymous said...

James, are you sure that Estes did his photorealistic paintings using only brush...? Some of those are rather complex. So, no pencil/ink/whatever drawings underneath...?