Posts Tagged ‘Lynd Ward’

rockwell kentI’ve always had a special affinity for the work of Rockwell Kent, the American illustrator of the last century.  Maybe it’s because my local art museum, the Arnot Art Museum in Elmira, had a couple of his paintings that had seen over the years.  Maybe it’s the fact that he headlined a show featuring the art of American illustration that hung at Schweinfurth Memorial Art Center in Auburn, NY back in the mid 90’s.

It was the first real museum show in which I ever participated and while I never considered my work illustration, gallery director David Kwasigroh saw something in my work and really wanted it to be part of the show.  I was really honored to have my early work hang among some of the giants of illustration such as Kent and Lynd Ward, and felt as though I had taken a big step, even though it was really more symbolic than actual.  I was far from ready at that time to move on but it gave me the impetus to do so.

rockwell kent cover fieldsI also felt a bond with Kent in that he lived part of his life in the Adirondacks, an area that has always hit a chord with me.  A lot of his landscapes are immediately recognizable as being from the center of the Adirondack Mountains.  When I look at his work I get the feeling that he was coming from the same place inside when he created his works that I do when I paint mine.  There’s a sense of familiarity that I can’t explain.

rockwell kent moby dickI’ve also always loved his graphic work, for instance the prints he did for his work illustrating Moby Dick.  I seem to take a lot from black and white work such as engravings and woodcuts.  It’s all about composition and subtlety of tone within the print and I think that is the real bones of painting.  I figure that if I can absorb some of the way a striking picture is put together it will find its way eventually into my own vocabulary of imagery.

There is a lot to absorb and like for me in the work of Rockwell Kent such as his use of mystic imagery in natural settings, trying to add that unseen element in a visual manner.  For me, he has always succeeded.

rockwell kent 2

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Lynd Ward/ Madman's DrumThis is from the wordless graphic novel, Madman’s Drum, from the mind of the talented Lynd Ward, done in 1930.  It is a self-described novel in woodcuts but to me has the feel of the truly great silent films from the years prior to its publication.  When I came across his work 13 or 14 years ago I was blown away by the feel, by the dynamic compositions and by the rawness of the storylines.  Each frame was put together so beautifully.  I am at a loss for words to describe how his images spoke to me, how his handling of light and dark told more than words.  

His first and perhaps more famous graphic novel  was Gods’ Man, published in 1929.  This was actually the first Ward work that I saw.  I have a newer edition from Dover that is very nice, very sharp, but the first book of his I saw was an older edition in the library from the 1930’s.  It was a bit yellowed and the paper slightly rough, the spine rubbed and worn.  It all contributed to the overall feel of the work.  It felt like I was finding a certain truth, something that was tucked away, a spirit voice waiting to be heard.Lynd Ward / Gods' Man

The boldness of the lines and the way the shapes and forms filled the picture frame boggled my mind.  It was so cinematic, so stylized.  Detail was stripped away but each frame lost no emotional impact.

It was everything I wanted in my work.  But I knew that could not be.  He is a true individual and his work is his and his alone.  I didn’t want to emulate.  I wanted to absorb the feel and use that feel to create something that was my own.  It showed me the possibility.

Great stuff…

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