Thursday, September 30, 2010

Thickets, Screens, Scrims

Proposition: things are located in places, but places are not made of things.

I have been stressing to our juniors: think a little less about looking at things than trying to see through them. At heart this advice gets at questions of place. Places reveal themselves in layers.

Here are three illustrations, all from Cosmopolitan, which create interest through a use of layers. At top, a piece by Robert Weaver depicting a man fleeing through a city park at dusk. (1962.) A row of orange buildings suggests the sunset which must have recently passed. The rising moon is untouched by color, a wink at a third moment in time. The trees in the foreground dominate the picture, even as we look immediately through/past them to gather the information we need to decipher the image. Take the trees out, and the image loses much of its force. Above, a second Weaver (1958). Here he uses a reflection on a storefront window to provide information about what's across the street, even as a shadowy scene takes place behind it at left. The monochrome color provides tonal levels and atmosphere. Finally, below, a Bob Peak image (also 1958) describing a stakeout of some sort. The sense of inside and outside are strongly established through the use of color and value to create transparent scrims.

Valuable examples. Enjoy. (Curated from Leif Peng's amazing Flickr set of mid-20th century illustrators and illustrations.)

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