Working from Memory and imagination

Armand Cabrera

In the book 40 illustrators and how They Work N. C. Wyeth says “Every Illustration or painting I have made in the last 30 years has been from the imagination or memory. However, I have constantly studied from the figure, from animals and from landscape, and have especially stressed the training of my memory. ”

Another quote from 40 Illustrators and How They Work
“Wyeth, asked for an account of his technical procedure, gave me the following: This painting was made entirely from memory, which is my customary practice for creative painting.”
The interview was from 1944 a year before Wyeth died which means all of his illustrations going back to 1914 were created this way. I take this to mean although he painted and drew from life; he did all of his illustrations without reference in that time frame. That would include Robin Hood and everything after that but not Kidnapped or Treasure Island.
In the book Three generations of Wyeths Andrew makes similar claims about N.C. so I have no reason to doubt it without proof to the contrary. It’s pretty amazing when you think about it. During his lifetime, N. C. Wyeth created over 3,000 paintings and illustrated 112 books.
Some quotes by Andrew about his dad.

 “Pa was also a master of still life. I think he felt that he needed to work from life, and I can understand that. If you work all the time from your imagination as Pa did for his illustrations you think I got to go out and eat a good roast beef or something. You need to nourish yourself. Working completely from the imagination is very draining experience.

“When it came to illustrating pa had an amazing ability to do them without a model”
“Pa’s animals are outstanding in his illustrations. He could do a horse on its back, flying through the air, or in any position you’d want.” I asked him once “How did you learn to do a horse in so many positions without a model and make it really alive?” Well I’ll tell you on the roundup I had the chance to cut up a horse that had died. I’ll never forget the anatomy of a horse.”

Talking with other artists about this, it’s interesting that a lot of people can’t accept someone could work this way. That is not to say I believe he did everything completely from his imagination. Andrew even says N.C. used his children for difficult or tricky things like a foot here or hand there and had them pose so he could get a clearer image of his idea. He had an extensive collection of props and costumes that he kept for reference.  But that is still a different thing than a lot of today’s painters and their complete reliance on photographic mimicry. Where it is not enough to just refer to the reference but it must be slavishly adhered to at all cost even the success of the painting.  NC Wyeth had a completely unique style that has been often imitated but never surpassed I beleive the basis for that is in his imagination. 

Social Media and Nudity in Art

By Armand Cabrera
Artists are increasingly posting their work on social media. Some are finding that because of the  reach of the web their work is being censored. They way sites like Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook apply their acceptable use/ guidelines are uneven leaving many artists confused and frustrated by the experience. The problems stem from these sites having many purposes for their users unlike dedicated artist hosting sites which can be much more flexible although with a smaller much more targeted user base.

As more and more artists and entrepreneurs are turning to self promotion and marketing, social media sites are finding themselves having to adjust and things that would have gotten banned just a few years ago can be completely acceptable now.

The internet offers a worldwide audience though, and something considered in good taste in one place could be found to be offensive in another. Content generators don’t really have control over who shares their posts even though they are responsible for the content of them. Violations can get the offender temporarily or permanently banned.
Artists recently hosted a Facebook Nudity Day protesting the random censorship of art on the site.  The site was flooded with all forms of artistic expression celebrating nudity. In my own feed I have seen people  reported and censored briefly for a post only to have FB reverse their decision upon inspection of the content in question.
If you are an artist how do you deal with the restrictions various social media place on your art? If you respond please do not include  links or images in your reply. That’s how I am dealing with comments.

Vasily Vereshchagin

By Armand Cabrera

Vereshchagin was born in Cherepovets, Russia in 1842. At 8 years old he was sent to naval cadet school. He made his first voyage at the age of 16. 

Vereshchagin graduated first in his class from Naval school  but left the service and joined the Saint Petersburg Academy to study drawing and painting. Two years later he won a medal and the next year travelled to Paris to study under Jean-Leon Gerome.

In 1867 he rejoined the service and received a medal for bravery at the siege of Samarkand. He returned to Paris in 1868 and Started an Atelier in Munich in 1871.

He continued to travel extensively through Asia from North Africa to India and the Philippines. Besides painting exotic cultures he also painted brutally realistic depictions of war and was onsite during many conflicts. His paintings were considered too real and banned from being published or exhibited in many countries of Europe and in his native Russia.

Vereshchagin was with Russian troops during the Russo Turkish War 1877-1878, The First Sino-Japanese War 1894-1895 and The Boxer Rebellion in 1900.

Eventually his depictions of the horrors of war brought him success and fame though his work continued to be controversial in certain circles.

He died during the Russo-Japanese War in 1904 when the warship he was on struck two mines and sank, killing most of the crew, including Vereshchagin.


The Orientalists
Lynn Thornton
ACR Editions
Some Call It Kitsch
Masterpieces of Bourgeois Realism
Aleska Celebonovic
Popular 19thCentury Painting
A Dictionary of European Genre Painters
Philip Hook and Mark Poltimore

Antique Collectors Club

Science Fiction and Fantasy Conventions

Armand Cabrera
I’ve decided to take the plunge and reenter the world of science fiction and fantasy conventions this year. I will be attending a local convention to show my art and participate as a guest.  The convention is RavenCon in Williamsburg VA and the dates are April 29-May 1 2016.
It’s been over twenty years since I was actively involved with science fiction and fantasy conventions. At one time I was attending ten or more of these events a year, showing in the art shows and participating as a guest or sometimes an artist guest of honor while working a full time job and working part time as an Illustrator.
Those early years my work was different in that I didn’t work outside from life as much as I do now. Part of my enjoyment creating this kind of work now is that I can marry the two disciplines together in much the same way the 19th century genre and narrative painters did.


My recent successes with Illuxcon over the past few years and my sales at the World Fantasy Convention in Washington D.C. in 2014 have helped my decision to branch out to other local imaginative venues. I’m really looking forward to being able to introduce my imaginative work to a contemporary audience.

New Dean Cornwell Book

Armand Cabrera

The Illustrated Press is publishing a new Dean Cornwell book. This book is the first new book on Cornwell in 38 years. The original book by Patricia Broder was first published in 1978 and reprinted in 2000.

This new book is 9 x 12 inches, 224 pages and contains 260 illustrations with many full page images and is in full color. The price for the regular edition is $44.95 plus shipping. The 1978 book had less than half the images in color.

The new book has sold out of its slipcased numbered limited edition and is almost sold out of the first run of the regular edition so if you are interested in a copy make sure you order soon.