J.C. Leyendecker - Part 3

Without getting into too many extraneous details, dates, and biographical information about Leyendecker, it is somewhat important to mention that his fame happened before photography really began to influence the working methods of illustrators. So he didn’t have the luxury, as did Rockwell and so many others, of using decent and quickly produced photo reference in order to tweek compositions, explore models facial expressions, and experiment with costumes. There’s nothing wrong with using photos, but the fact that Leyendecker very probably didn’t, makes his skills all the more impressive. Just look at these wonderful preparatory oil studies for final paintings.

The entire challenge for any realistic artist as I see it, is to distill the details of their subject down to the bare essential few pieces of visual information needed to nail the description of the thing. “Less is more” as they say. Leaving something for the viewer to fill in is always a good thing.

That’s more of a “fine art” rather than commercial illustration philosophy. Being an illustrator trying to depict a product and belt out work on a deadline had a lot more to do with the­ development of these studies than any artistic philosophy did. But looking at these studies one gets the feeling that Leyendecker could execute the less is more approach as well as any “fine artist” ever could. I guss being an artist with your feet held to the fire to produce work on time for a publisher isn’t such a bad thing after all.

Here’s a couple close-ups to appreciate the confidence with which he sketches with the brush. Look particularly at the fabric portions. Think his previous experience illustrating such products as Interwoven Socks and Arrow Shirts paid off? I’d say so!­­­­­­

The only pencil I can see is the grid lines he used to get proportions right. That’s the great thing about working in oils, they can be thinned down to a watercolor consistency, but, unlike watercolor, the oils can be easily “erased” with paint thinner even hours after placing a stroke.

Among the things we’ll be looking at next time is Leyendeckers “secret” formula for mixing paint medium, something which was essential in allowing him to produce the “Leyendecker Look”.



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