Saturday, August 24, 2019

Harry Anderson Techniques

Harry Anderson still life, casein, 1980s
Illustrator Harry Anderson  painted floral studies casein and tempera paint. Here's what he said about how he made a picture:

"When I put brush to paper, the final composition is reasonably clear in my mind. Picture boundaries are determined by boxing the hands or by using a cardboard viewer with a rectangular opening. Starting to paint, I like to lay in all color areas as quickly as possible, so that the arrangement becomes clear for a second study. In this stage, little attention is paid to detail—only the general shapes are indicated. Values and colors are made as true as feasibly consistent with hasty application.

"Frequently I use my fingers or, more accurately my thumbs in manipulating the color for different effects. I am always watchful for desirable 'accidental' passages which, when found effective, I am careful to retain."

"Another practice, which I am told is uncommon, is the use of two different colors on a single bristle brush in painting objects whose color might run from light to dark—as a cylinder. First I load the brush with the lighter hue and then with a section of the brush I pick up the darker paint so that, when the stroke is made, very interesting accidentals result. This works very well on small objects. To lighten or change a painted tract, I would hesitate to use solid opaque color, applying light on dark. I would prefer first scrub out the expanse and then repaint it."
—The quote comes from in the book The Art of Harry Anderson and was originally published in American Artist, May 1956.


Thom Rozendaal said...

I always love that style of 1950-60's illustration like the cover of this book. What would you say gives it that distinguishable look? I feel like it's more than just the hair and clothing style of the subjects, but something in the way it's painted, though I can't figure it what it is.

Timothy Bollenbaugh said...


My articulation is awkward but I'll try. You're right—style isn't enough. Who and why is more the answer. 40's & 50's...what had people experienced? Where were the people coming from and hoping? How did they feel and relate to their environment and each other, or themselves? Anderson and others were living it. But people are people, and through self-searching, study and empathy you will likely be able to give a good effect. Acting the part will give style, but experiencing the part will come through, provided that painting skills are up to it.

James Gurney said...

Thom and Timothy, If I understand you right, you're suggesting that there's a quality in the very "visual DNA" of the image that's deeper than the subject matter or paint handling. Whatever that quality is, it's hard for copyists and forgers to get right, and it makes a work identifiable to a certain artist or a certain period of time.

Penny Taylor said...

I've always loved Harry Anderson's work.