Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Lovell on Flesh Tones and Design

Here’s part 2 of veteran illustrator Tom Lovell’s painting advice:

"Keep in mind that flesh tones are essentially quite neutral. If they are overstated, figures tend to look like painted dolls.

Avoid lavish use of highlights. Avoid heaviness. Try reducing chroma with complementary color.

Good design is still the most important factor, though sometimes hard to live by, especially when one is obliged to handle complexities.

Good planning is half the battle.

Keep looking for big simple shapes, not always easy in storytelling pictures."
First image: "The Blue Hour," 1951. More at The Rockwell Center/Blue Hour

Second image: Burial of Sarah. From “Abraham, Friend of God,” National Geographic, December, 1966.

For more Lovell in National Geographic, see also:
Norman Conquest, August, 1966.
In the Footsteps of Alexander, January 1968.
The Vikings, April, 1970.

Tomorrow, a letter from Mr. Lovell in 1995, with thoughts on Pyle and color.


armandcabrera said...


Great stuff. Looking forward to his comments on Pyle.

Boldheadstudio said...

thanks for the daily wisdom James, I need my fix ;)

phiq said...

Wow, great advice! But what does he mean by heaviness? Love you blog, by the way ;-)

Marcos Mateu said...

Great illustrations, great advice!

jeff said...

Great stuff, one of the Kings of illustration.

Here's cool link to the Battle of Hastings.
Drawing, Oil sketch, finished painting.


Dangerous Don said...

I notice that Lovell used a very limited palette, especially in the Biblical painting.

But this painting is very complex, and it must have taken him quite a while to finish it.

What do you think Lovell did?

Did he (a) finish the whole painting in one sitting?; (b) spread the work out over several days, and re-mix new batches of the same colors every morning?; or (c) mix these colors only once, and then save the left-over paint every night, over the several days it took him to finish?

James Gurney said...

IbisBill, I really don't know the answer to that one. I'd love to learn the answer, too.

Phiq, By heaviness, I think he means unrelieved high chroma color, without variation or vibrancy from complements, like using a solid red tube color for painting a sweater.

Jeff, thanks for that Battle of Hastings link.