Sunday, January 3, 2010

A Gil Elvgren dissected a little

Here's our Gil Elvgren painting again. I want to talk about the lines and the thrust of those lines that carry the eye through the painting to where Gil wants you to go. The "punchline" here are the thighs of our lovely teacher who has inadvertently exposed them while escaping from an obnoxious amphibian. I live in the town that produced Pam Smart, compared to Pam, our teacher is pretty innocent indeed. Can you imagine this girl seducing a student and then manipulating him into shooting her husband? Never! This is a nice girl in an unfortunate situation. Lets try to respect her dignity as we examine the means of its destruction.

Here is the main line of the figure. You can't get much more classical than that. Formal. Bouguereau would recognize this line. It is springy, and that gives action and rhythm to the teachers pose. If that line had been straight our teacher would have been stiff and the painting would have been static. That springy line implies a compressed energy that wants to uncoil. Look for coiled lines within figures and trees if you want to get life and movement, invent em , if need be.

Here are the lines in this picture that drive your eye to the exposed thigh and pink mystery area. Each of those lines is the edge of a form that has a thrust, that is it directs our eye in a particular direction. Even the frog is on his way there. This is an absolutely perfect example of eye control. Elvgren compels the viewer to travel to his "punchline".


Here are the rhythmic curving lines in the figure. They echo and repeat one another , that is repeated with variation all around the figure. They also oppose and balance another across the figure. For instance the curve of the legs is the reverse of the curve of her raised skirt on the other side of the figure. The curves of the arms are opposite one another on each side of her abdomen. All of this slightly concealed geometry underlying the image gives it a designed look. We see that at a subconscious level and are pleased by it in a different way than the randomness of a snapshot or real nature . It is a human and not a mechanical creation, this tableau.

Here overlaid on the previous curved lines illustration are the straight lines in the painting. These lines set off the curved lines. The two sorts of lines are in a dialogue with one another. The curving lines are dominant, as they should be, they describe the subject, the straight lines are subordinate but "show up the arcs of the curved lines". Just as it is good to have a spot of a real dark value to get a sunlit piece to light up, it is good to have a set of straight lines to make the curved lines of a figure "work"
The straight lines and the curved lines dance together in this painting, each underscoring the attractive qualities of the other. None of this happened by accident by the way, in fact.........

NOTHING GOOD GETS INTO A PICTURE BY ACCIDENT!

and furthermore

YOU CANNOT OBSERVE DESIGN INTO A PAINTING!

I am steeling myself to do a series of posts on tree and their drawing, it is going to require me to do some illustrations, that I hope can be kept simple, but it is going to be time consuming. However I know what I want to say and it is something I have worked with a lot. I have said that this blog is a rehearsal for a book, the next series on trees is the kind of thing I would like to rehearse the most. So watch for that, it should start soon. I may have to do it in short posts, we'll see.

10 comments:

willek said...

Very interesting post, Stape, but I am really interested in the tree thing coming up. Winter must be a good time for tree anatomy as the trees are "naked".

billspaintingmn said...

You cannot observe design into a painting.. neck tattoo #2
This dissection of Gil Elvgren's
painting helps.
From pin-ups to naked trees,2010
is heating up~!

Honor Martinez said...

Thank you, thank you. Your overlays help so much. I am looking forward to your articles on trees. I have been studying some of the books but still have problems. You are such a good teacher, breaking things down their essential simplicity. again thanks for sharing. It is such a great gift to your followers.

Deborah Paris said...

I almost spit out my diet coke when I got to "even the frog is headed there"- had to regain my composure before reading on! Great analysis as always, Stape.
Hmmm, must be something going around-I'm teaching a class on drawing/painting trees in February. As Carlson says, you learn to paint trees by "much drawing of trees". Looking forward to seeing what you have to say!

Stapleton Kearns said...

Willek:
I am giving you pinups and you want trees. OK
.................Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Bill:
Yes that would make a fine neck tattoo. Another vote for the chlorophyll driven babes, I guess.
........Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Honor:
Thank you very much. Still love that name. I was trying to convince my wife that flexibility was one of the virtues and would be a good name for a daughter. She wouldn't buy it.
...........Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Deborah:
Thank you. Stuff like that probably gets me an R rating. An older woman I know complained about the Heinrich Kleys as being too risque.This stuff could be really sleepy though with out some "jive" going on.................Stape

Philip Koch said...

Stape- very useful comments about the useful play of straight lines contrasting curving ones. I never heard it said so simply or well. I will be thinking about this.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Philip:
Thank you. I went in a removed a few typos too. Seems like I can never be rid of all of them.
......Stape