A Window Into Art

Dude, I was stoked by the story topic for this assignment. It's terrific to learn that museums are stepping up to enhance the art experience. A year or two ago, at a museum I won't name, the ushers were going around asking people to put away their iphones, etc. Those poor ushers were extremely busy and watching them them harass the visitors over and over again brought down the museum-going experience.

Museums have been isolated, impregnable caverns of art for centuries, and they didn't seem to realize they were on the verge of being culturally paleolithic. It totally put me off. So, this story sounds like good news to me. It's by Patrick May and you can read it here. He does great work and is always worth the look.

The painting without the text boxes. This was how it looked before I rearranged things
 to accommodate the layout for print. Open in a new window for a massive image.

After reading the proposal for the story, my first thought was of Rockwell's great painting, "The Connoissuer." I wanted to do a riff on that, and I imagined the character wearing his Google-glasses and toting his iPad. But his back is turned in Rockwell's painting, and straying too far from that iconic pose might have disconnected it.

My solution was to have someone offering him the chance to enjoy his modern painting in a new way. That might work!

Doesn't get any bigger. The section front
title font defaulted here, but not in print!

Drawing the Norman Rockwell figure was a lot of fun, and when it came time to render the woman I had planned on taking a photo of my wife and working the image up in the painstaking manner of Rockwell. I roughed in a figure as a placeholder and started refining it. I was caught up in the task and an hour or so later I thought it looked good enough. No need to take a picture and start it all over again!

This was the first rough I put together. I rendered the figures
a skooch more before submitting for editorial approval.

There was a bit of a rush toward the deadline, and the inclusion of the text boxes – representative of looking at the paintings through your Google Glass thing, or iPhone accompaniament – turned out to be trickier than I thought. I imagined it would be no trouble to plop them into the painting but it didn't look or feel quite right to me. I fussed with it, but it still came up a bit short, I think.

Had to wrap it up and send it down the chute, tho. No time to dally with it when the deadline doomsday clock sounds its menacing chime.


Just for kicks I'll post the paintings within the illustration below. Click and open in a new window for giant-size images!

To create the faux Jackson Pollock I went in search of Photoshop brushes made from paint splatters, and I found a bunch. I tried a lot of them but there remains the problem of repetition of splatters. If there are several spattery shapes that look the same, then they cease to look random. So it came down to just playing with the settings on a few brushes and messing around – layers upon layers upon layers – until it looked right to me.

The "Salmon Trout and Smelt" painting is at the De Young Museum and I have memories of looking at that painting going all the way back to childhood. Once, maybe twice a year, my family would drive to SF and either go to the De Young or to the Steinhart Aquarium. I grew up looking at that painting of dead fish.

I resolved not to get too involved with it as a study, and began to paint at a small size, hoping to minimize the effort. But, after a short while, I blew it up big so that I could attack it properly. I was enjoying it too much to do a hack job on it! I don't know if it turned out that great but I spent a little extra time at home so that I could play with it for a little longer.

The whole illustration was a pleasure to create because I was able to work as Norman, as Jackson, as Samuel. It's like going to a costume party as three different artists!

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