N C Wyeth

Newell Convers Wyeth

By
Armand Cabrera

One of the most famous illustrators from America’s Golden Age of Illustration was Newell Convers Wyeth. Also an accomplished easel painter, Newell Convers Wyeth was born on October 22, 1882. He was the eldest of four sons of Andrew Newell Wyeth, a farmer, and Henriette Zirngiebel. Growing up in a rural setting gave the young “N.C.” a deep love for the land and a great understanding of the human form in motion. N.C. had a keen ability for recalling the smallest visual details of a scene—something that would serve him well as an illustrator.


It was N.C.’s mother who encouraged his artistic ability and she who convinced his father to allow N.C. to attend art school instead of an apprenticeship to a New Hampshire Farm. N.C. attended the Mechanic Art School in Boston, graduating in 1899. He continued his studies at the Massachusetts Normal Art School and the Eric Pape School of Art in 1902. Through a fellow student, he was encouraged to apply for the Howard Pyle School in Delaware.

Howard Pyle was the most famous Illustrator of his time. His school was free to anyone who met Pyle’s standard for artistic excellence and hard work. Within 4 months, the 20 year old N.C. rose to the top of his class. Pyle encouraged his students to paint from life, whenever possible.

Although N.C was marginalized by other artists during his lifetime because he chose illustration as his occupation, his illustrations have stood the test of time as great paintings. N.C. became one of the most successful illustrators in America, illustrating such classics as Treasure Island, Last of the Mohicans, Robin Hood and Robinson Crusoe.

Throughout his career, N.C. would return to his passion for the land and people close to his homes in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania and Port Clyde, Maine. These canvases not only have his illustrator’s skill of exceptional facility, but also a deep understanding of the land and the people who worked it.

N.C. Wyeth created what is one of the most impressive art families in America. His sons and daughters went on to become successful artists in their own right. His son, Andrew, and his grandson, Jamie, are continuing the legacy to this day.
N.C. was tragically killed with his grandson, Newell, when his car stalled on the train tracks near his house in 1945.


Bibliography

Not For Publication: Landscapes, Still Lifes, and Portraits by N.C Wyeth
Brandywine River Museum 1982

N.C. Wyeth A Biography
David Michaelis
Knopf 1998

N.C. Wyeth: the Collected Paintings, Illustrations and Murals
Douglas Allen and Douglas Allen, JR.
Bonanza 1972

Quote
I don’t want to be rated as an illustrator trying to paint, but as a painter who has shaken the dust of the illustrator from his heels!! ~Newell Convers Wyeth

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Observation, Construction and Visualization

by Armand Cabrera

Observational painting directly from nature opens your eyes to a world filled with color and light. There are very few situations outside that shadows aren’t filled with ambient and reflected light. Colors of local objects are affected in unusual and unpredictable ways. The organic groupings of rocks and the undulating flow of the landscape are always more interesting than imagined.

There is a drawback to observational painters though; the information is overwhelming at first. Learning to translate the 3d image of what you see is harder than copying a 2d photo. It is hard to decide what to use and what to ignore. The organic patterning of trees and other elements are hard to organize. Too many easel painters don’t transcend the observational aspects of painting. They cannot construct what they cannot copy. They lack the basic knowledge of construction to elevate their drawings past the mundane.Until they learn to visualize their compositions tend to be weak always depending on what is in front of them, whether a figure model or scene.

In the book on the biography of the Payne’s, Edgar’s daughter Evelyn remembers “He sometimes planned his studio painting in the evening; he very often sketched penciled compositions as he sat listening to the radio. They were little composition sketches, working out artistic problems. It was interesting to watch him draw; his hands moved very rapidly, and he held his Venus 6B pencil in the same fashion you would hold a piece of charcoal when drawing on canvas…” What she is talking about is construction and visualization.

A constructive approach is the one often used by comic book, illustrators and production artists. In these industries many times you learn the rules governing perspective and anatomy and construct the scenes out of your head. Color schemes follow strict rules of theory to maximize impact. Little time is spent using models under real world lighting conditions if at all.

Visualization is also used in these disciplines, creating worlds, creatures and characters from the imagination or scenes from antiquity. The skill is an important one in painting and drawing because it allows for manipulation of elements to suit the image. Artists are not tied to something observed and more focus can go toward design and composition.

The problems arise when people rely too much on these systems for a completed painting and ignore observation. A lack of understanding of how light actually works or natural effects really look can over simplify a scene. Too many illustrators ignore real world observation and use only construction and visualization for their subjects, relying solely on these skills which can never match the lighting in a real world situation. Their lighting is simplistic with the shadows too dark and their colors too saturated and color combinations monochromatic.

NC Wyeth maintained his plein air painting his whole life he incorporated impressionist observational studies into his illustrations to great success. His illustrations were painted using the places he knew giving them life.

Painting from life doesn’t just benefit the easel painter. Construction and visualization are not just good tools for the illustrator or the painter of historical subjects. Any painter serious about their painting should incorporate all three of these skills in their work. It requires a lifetime of dedication and practice.

Combining all three, visualization, construction and observation will take your art to the next level and your paintings can only improve no matter what the final use for them is.

 Top two images Edgar Payne
Bottom two images N.C. Wyeth
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Howard Pyle: American Master Rediscovered

By

Armand Cabrera
This week I had the pleasure of seeing the Howard Pyle Exhibit at the Delaware Art Museum. The Preview and show were well attended proving once again how starved the public is for this type of art. The exhibit really shows his range as an artist.
This is the largest showing of his work since his death 100 years ago. The museum also displayed the work of some of Pyle’s students, showing his influence as a teacher. Walking around with the other artists we were all struck by his use of color and value and his great eye for unusual compositions.
5am. When I was younger I would’ve been coming home at this time

In Chads Ford, 10 miles away at the Brandywine River Museum they also had a tribute to Pyle and some of his students, plus all seventeen of N.C. Wyeth’s Treasure Island Paintings on display.
Margo, myself, Jeanette, James, Jean Baptiste, Lester
My trip started with a 5:30 am Friday morning drive up to the Brandywine River Museum to meet James Gurney and his wife Jeanette, Jean Baptiste Monge and his wife Margo and Lester Yocum when the museum opened at 9:30am. Jim had these little pieces of paper with 11 on them and at 11:11:11 on 11/11/11 we took a picture of ourselves. I think it caused a rip in the space time continuum somewhere. 
Myself and Garin and our portraits
After seeing the show we went and had lunch and were joined by two other artists Kevin Ferrara and Garin Baker.While we all  talked James painted watercolor portraits of me and Garin.
At 5pm there was a 2 hour preview party at the Delaware Art Museum which was very well attended.
Afterward, we left James and Jeanette who had prior committments, and found a diner and talked art for a few hours.
                              left to right, Garin Baker Kev Ferrara, Margo and Jean Baptiste Monge
Saturday, I was back at the Delaware to get an early look at the show before James Gurneys lecture. People were waiting for the Museum to open when I got there. As I was walking around with James and Kevin we met Noah Bradley who was up for the Lecture and show as well as Patrick O’brien. I was also introduced to John R. Schoonover and Ian Schoenherr.  James Gurney gave a 45 minute talk on Howard Pyle and Composition Techniques to a packed crowd.

Kev Ferrara briefly eclipsed by Garin Baker and Noah Bradley

Afterward, a few of us took our lives in our hands trying to caravan to the diner we had been to the night before. After a few close calls we finally made it and enjoyed a simple lunch with more great conversation.

Heading home, I had plenty of time to think about Pyle and his legacy that still touches artists of all ages to this day.
If you are on the East Coast it is a must see show.
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Illustrating Modern Life

by
Armand Cabrera

The Kelly Collection of Golden Age of American Illustrators including Leyendecker, Pyle, Cornwell, Wyeth, Dunn, Rockwell, Scheaffer, among others will be on display at the Frederick R Weisman Museum of Art at Pepperdine University.

The dates are January 12 through March 31 2013, The opening Reception is Saturday January 12, 5-7 pm

 

 

You can find more information about the show here
And more about the Kelly Collection here
I want to thank Richard Kelly for sending me the information about this important show.
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Working from Memory and imagination

By

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. 





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