A Painting by Norman Rockwell
Friday evening, Wilma and I went to take in an extraordinary event at the Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG). It was a talk entitled: “An intimate Perspective on Norman Rockwell” by Norman Rockwell’s youngest son Peter Rockwell.
For me this was a must see. I had admired Rockwell’s art forever. Since I can remember seeing art I always recognized, closely examined and imitated his art. For me as a kid it was a few things. First and foremost was the way he added interesting details to his pictures. For example in the picture above you have the book at the side with book marks. The glass sitting at a slant in the open book, and it creates interesting tension. “Will that thing fall off?” is the question and you are curious. It was these additional things that I was so attracted to in his work.
It was also the way he drew his scenes with a clear hint of a cartoon style. I love cartoons and for me I saw an artist mixing “real” art with this cartoon style and be successful at it.
His art gave me a lot of ideas on how to draw interesting pictures.
The other thing about this was that it was one of his children doing the talk! How often does this happen? Therefore, I expected some kind of “inside” information on this amazing artist.
First, about the venue. I could not believe the seats. They are unlike any theater venue I’ve ever seen. You can easily “rock” on the chair and that’s very nice. Secondly they turn side to side but the extraordinary thing was they can spin right around, yes exactly, a whole 360 degrees. This certainly brought out the child in us and we began commenting and chuckling with strangers as we experimented spinning on our chairs. It was delightful and refreshing. We were immediate groups where the row ahead could turn their chairs backwards visiting with us while sitting in their chairs in comfort and ease. What a great idea for an art gallery venue.
Peter Rockwell is the youngest son. He was born as his father was entering the height of his career and it was obvious he was very familiar with how his father worked. He mentioned how they as kids were always welcome in his father’s studio which was just behind the house. Also, he (and his brothers) often posed for his father in preparation for painting his Saturday Evening Post covers.
Here are a few things I took away from his presentation.
First, that he was a workaholic. He worked seven days a week.
He painted only “positive, feel good” pictures. Even if the subject was difficult or negative he would try to paint it in a way that saw good things in the story.
His paintings were a story. He tried very hard to make the story clear, understandable and believable to the everyday person.
The biggest thing for me this time was learning abut the amazing process he went through in the creation of every piece. Generally the process began with several ideas rendered as rough sketches in charcoal. These he would show to the Post editor for his approval. Then he began with taking photos of most every aspect of the picture. The still life, the characters, the setting etc. That sounds pretty normal but this would include details like several series of photos of each area mentioned. Like several options of clothing for the human subjects of the painting, several ideas for the setting etc. So you can see how this could become quite a time consumer. Also, if down the line the outfits did not seem to work in the picture and he had other ideas, new photos were taken. Then he worked with charcoal working out the placing of everything in the painting. This would also take time as he did several of them, roughly at first but finally when things were coming together he’d do a complete one with all the details, then came the painting process. Apparently he used a “Dutch” method of painting, layering the colors till he got the right tones. to give you an idea of the care he took in makeing things just right, in one painting, he painted 18 versions of one persons facial expression before he was satisfied it was just right.
As you can see, this was a time consuming process. He was to make one image a month for the Post, but usually finished only 8 – 10 paintings per year.
By the way, Peter Rockwell is also an artist, a successful sculptor.
What an inspirational evening and show! After the presentation we had some time to see the exhibit, but it was too much to quick. I will be going back myself when I have no time constraints and “linger”.
“By all this we are encouraged. In addition to our own encouragement, we were especially delighted to see how happy Titus was, because his sprit has been refreshed by all of you.” 2 Corinthians 7:13