Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Snow White & Rose Red by Chris Beatrice (& a note on the importance of illustration)

Snow White & Rose Red by Chris Beatrice
I've posted on this artist before and no doubt will again because not only is he a beautiful artist, I love that he shares his process: both regarding technique and the thoughts behind constructing the image. For this particular one he has a wonderful blog post HERE in which he takes you through step by step in making the painting. He thinks about the characters, what they do in their lives and the important aspects of the story they're in.

For example, in the tutorial he gives us close-ups of both girls and explains a little of his thoughts on each and how he imbued the painting, not only with aspects of their personalities but also of their parts in the story, foreshadowing what's to come.

Here's a few comments on the room and the girls in particular:
Everything in the picture has to contribute to what you're trying to do, or it will undoubtedly work against it. You need to think about it all - color, value, lighting, mood, viewpoint, content, facial expression, body language, costumes, things, stuff - everything! For "stuff", I like to think about what these folks do when I'm not looking at them. How do they scurry up that ladder when they go to bed at night? What is just slightly "off camera" that we may not be seeing? What's in that jug on the shelf? What kinds of visitors come and hang their coats on that coat rack by the door? Who winds that clock? What do the girls do during the day - I know, they pick cherries - there's a basket of them under the ladder...
Here's a detail shot of the mantle. Red is more active and wild - she likes to catch butterflies, so there's a jar of butterflies above her. Snow likes to read, so there's a stack of books above her.

On Snow White:
At one point in the story the girls are rescuing a dwarf whose beard has gotten stick in the split of a log. Snow whips out a little pair of scissors and cuts the beard, freeing him. There they are... 

And a close-up of Rose Red (he takes you through the painting process/build-up via this close-up):

I like that he put Rose closer to Bear's teeth - it quietly shows us she's more daring than Snow, who is gently stroking the soft side of Bear's head. I love the curious goat behind Bear too.

You can find many more of Chris Beatrice's illustrations at his website HERE and see lots of art, art-in-progress and fantastic tutorials, like this one, on his blog HERE.

Do go show your appreciation and support. There's this nutty idea going about that there's a dearth of good illustrators these days (and apparently of strong narrative stories too!) and that just isn't true. Just look at the stunning illustrations for the new editions of the Lang Color Fairy Books being produced by the Folio Society HERE (to see the Green, Brown, Red etc books, scroll down the Folio page for links).

I will say one thing in regard to fairy tale collections though: one of the things I dearly loved (and love!) about the Andrew Lang, Joseph Jacobs and the Grimms Household Tales collections is that these text-heavy works have unforgettable illustrations throughout. I don't think these "anthologies" would have been as popular, or impacted as many generations as they have, without them. Fairy tale "memory" (I speak collectively here) is strongly linked to illustration. In this digital age of internet and access to almost anyone who logs into the world wide web we have an incredible resource that simply wasn't available - at least not to the common man - even just twenty years ago. Now we have collections and translations of all kinds, more than we could ever really read in a lifetime, yet I worry that many of these will fade out of public circulation in future and exist only in elite libraries - libraries which may not be able to access them in the future as they thought. (Note that there is a rising concern of the degradation of digital data for filmmakers and artists of all kinds who rely on digitization of any form. Why? Because the "decay" beings almost instantly and nothing much is being done about it. See link for details.)
Donkeyskin by Chris Beatrice
 It's the paintings of the Pre-Raphelites that brought myth and legend (and fairy tales too, to some extent) back into the public eye (I'm speaking very generally here - historically it's more complicated than that) and it was illustrators like Arthur Rackham who worked extensively (though not exclusively) on large collections of fairy tales that captured the public's imagination and possibility of owning a piece of that "magic" for themselves. Fortunately many of the tales came with that "magic" and they lived on - the tales informed the illustrations and the illustrations kept the tales in peoples memories. A large reason Walt Disney had such success with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is that it was designed to be a "storybook come to life". One of the failings of the Company as it tries to work with fairy tales now, is that they don't truly aim to give life to beloved tales and then take them to a new and different place. Instead they're now focused on "branding" above all else.
The White Bear by Chris Beatrice
We have such a wonderful variety of illustrators working now and no matter where they are in the world, we're able to see and benefit from their work. Fairy tale collections used to be one of the first places people, usually as children, were introduced to excellent art. While children's books still have a lot of beautiful art today, there's something truly unique and almost magical about what happens when you tell a child a fairy or folk tale in conjunction with showing them a beautiful illustration. More than ever, we live in a visual society where we are bombarded by images from every angle (even our phones are visual these days). Our writing (and I cringe, even as I acknowledge this) is even becoming ever more "visual" with the constant use of texting and emoticon shorthands. As much as we may resist this idea that the representation of language is changing, we must face that it is and not let our precious tales be lost in the flood. It's important we keep them in sight. Art is (largely) timeless and it's no coincidence that as faster and more digital our age gets, the more people look back to the past for stability and understanding. While people are busy searching ancestry.com and picking up Classics (with a capital 'C') in ebook form, it's the images that are sweeping the web. A huge boon of worldwide web sharing is that vintage photos have made a tremendous comeback and it's these that are prompting people to go back and discover the stories of their ancestors and even of complete strangers. When we finally unearth something like a photo of Dickens shaking hands with Dostoevsky (yes, they did meet! but there are no photos that I'm aware of) suddenly the world clicks a little more into place and you begin to understand people's stories and foci at the time. Tale illustrations do the same thing, only they have the ability of their art form to transcend boundaries of time and culture and directly appeal to the heart.
Jack the Giant Killer by Chris Beatrice
So yay! for illustrators like Chris Beatrice, who not only have the skill and talent for making beautiful art, but also for helping keep the stories alive, even as they breathe life into them through new works. All we need is for these wonderful people to try their hand at more tales than just the "classic canon" and for us to help make sure they're seen.
Illustration for the Italian fairy tale Porziella (by Giambattista Basile) by Chris Beatrice
Once again, you can find Chris Beatrice HERE and HERE.

No comments:

Post a Comment