Archive for the ‘illustration’ Category

Friday, February 20th, 2015

Theory: Organic Shapes- Ernst Haeckel’s Art Forms in Nature

Artforms in Nature

Artforms in NatureArtforms in NatureToday, I hope you’ll bear with me as I get philosophical. (I promise not to get all “hippie college professor” on ya!) Think of this as one of Eddie Fitzgerald’s theory posts at Uncle Eddie’s Theory Corner.

When an artist sits down to draw something, he is focused on how the object he is drawing appears. But there are other aspects that can be caught in a drawing beyond just the likeness. Believe it or not, it’s possible to also capture the place that object holds in the universe.

Artforms in Nature
Artforms in Nature

We scanned an interesting and inspiring book today- Ernst Haeckel’s Die Natur als Kunstlerin (Nature as Artist). This paperback book from 1913 is a popular adaptation of Haeckel’s landmark book, Kunstformen von der Natur (Art Forms in Nature) originally published in 1904. Haeckel was a biologist and an artist, and he merged both disciplines into a study of natural forms, shapes, symmetries and patterns from every aspect of the natural world.

Artforms in Nature
Artforms in Nature
Artforms in Nature

Natural history studies are beyond the scope of what we do here at Animation Resources, but this one is an exception. Haeckel didn’t just attempt to document lifeforms and their place in the environment… He documented the structures and shapes that are common to all plants and animals on this Earth. His drawings have no indication of scale or habitat of the various organisms he depicted. A jellyfish would appear right next to a single cell animal or the patterns of folds of skin on the face of a bat. The focus was on the form.

Artforms in Nature
Artforms in Nature
Artforms in Nature

Biologists in Haeckel’s time thought of man’s place in nature much differently than we do today. Haeckel was a staunch Darwinist. He saw mankind as a part of evolution, and a vital part of nature. Today, when we turn on the TV to watch a nature show, we see jungles and tigers, or underwater coral reefs full of fish. There isn’t a human being in sight. Many people today look upon humans as "contaminants" to the natural world. But in Haeckel’s day, nature was seen in everything- Darwin’s Theory applied to the evolution of fish or birds just as much as it applied to the evolution of people. social organizations, business practices or creative processes.

Artforms in Nature
Artforms in Nature
Artforms in Nature

Haeckel saw no contradiction in his role as scientist/artist. In fact, he considered his work to be an expression of his own natural place in the world he was attempting to represent. Instead of approaching the subject from an objective viewpoint, he subjectively and selectively edited what he saw to reduce it to a form that appealed to him on a basic level as an artist. Thus, the scales of a fish become arabesques, and microscopic diatoms become beautiful sculptural forms. Haeckel was using nature’s imagery to express his own inner nature.

Artforms in Nature
Artforms in Nature
Artforms in Nature

At the turn of the century, when this book was published, Art Nouveau was popular. Natural forms were incorporated into everything from architecture and illustration to street signs and ornamental patterns on clothing or wallpaper. Today, we have nearly eliminated natural forms from our lives. We live in shoebox shaped houses and drive cars shaped like shoeboxes with rounded edges. We pave the landscape with geometric grids of asphalt and design characters for animation out of triangles, rectangles and circles. We have isolated ourselves from natural shapes; and in so doing, we have isolated ourselves from ourselves.

RECOMMENDED RESOURCES

Proteus DVDProteus DVDErnst Haeckel was a remarkable person. He straddled the seemingly contradictory disciplines of art and science and was able to reconcile them in a way that fully expressed the best attributes of both. The DVD documentary, Proteus presents an amazing look into Haeckel’s life and work. It includes eye bogglng animation based on his drawings of the remarkable single celled creature, the radiolarian. This is one of the best documentaries I have ever seen on any subject. It changed the way I think about the world around us. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

The following three books comprise an encyclopedia of natural shapes for you to explore. Don’t copy from them- incorporate them into the way you think…

Art Forms In NatureArt Forms In NatureArt Forms In Nature by Ernst Haeckel

Art Forms In OceanArt Forms In OceanArt Forms From The Ocean: The Radiolarian Atlas Of 1862 by Ernst Haeckel

Cabinet of CuriositiesCabinet of CuriositiesCabinet of Natural Curiosities: The Complete Plates in Colour, 1734-1765

I promise you, you won’t be disappointed by these books. They may just change your life!

UPDATE

Pita, a reader of this blog sends along this link to a page with all 100 images from Haeckel’s landmark book, as well as a downloadable PDF version.

Also, check out Pita’s great image blog, Agence Eureka. It’s at the top of my blogroll; and I bet once you see it, it’ll be at the top of yours too.

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

TheoryTheory

This posting is part of a series of articles comprising an online exhibit entitled Theory.

Monday, December 29th, 2014

Illustration: Monks By Eduard von Grutzner

Monks by Eduard von Grutzner

Here is another interesting item from the collection of Carlo Vinci. These photographs were among his most prized posessions. They are turn of the century reproductions of the paintings of Eduard von Grutzner. Grutzner was born in 1846 and received classical art training at the Munich Academie under the noted realist painter, Karl von Piloty. Grutzner specialized in genre paintings, which formed the basis for the style of many classic book illustrators who followed. He was famous for his paintings of jolly gatherings in alehouses, hunting scenes, and humorous images of monastic life, which these particular images represent. Grutzner was successful and popular in his day, and died in 1925.

The family isn’t quite sure where Vinci obtained these photographs, but my guess is that they date back to his earliest years as a professional artist. After graduating from the National Academy of Design, Vinci was hired to do reproductions of classic paintings. It’s entirely possible that these were used by him as reference for reproductions of one or more Grutzner paintings. It’s easy to see why Vinci treasured these pictures. The compositions are classically perfect, the caricatures are well observed, the lighting is beautifully rendered, and a Falstaffian sense of humor makes the images a lot of fun.

Monks by Eduard von Grutzner
Monks by Eduard von Grutzner
Monks by Eduard von Grutzner
Monks by Eduard von Grutzner
Monks by Eduard von Grutzner
Monks by Eduard von Grutzner
Monks by Eduard von Grutzner
Monks by Eduard von Grutzner
Monks by Eduard von Grutzner
Monks by Eduard von Grutzner

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

IllustrationIllustration

This posting is part of a series of articles comprising an online exhibit spotlighting Illustration.

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014

Illustration: Tenggren’s Sing For Christmas

Gustaf Tenggren Sing For Christmas

Around 1940, Gustaf Tenggren left the Disney Studios a changed man. It’s said that he gathered together the paintings he had created up to that point, piled them up in the street and set fire to them. With this single decisive act, he marked a turning point in his artistic career. He never painted in the classic European book illustrator style again. He had resolved himself to create a new style.

Gustaf Tenggren Sing For ChristmasGustaf Tenggren Sing For ChristmasI really don’t know what brought him to that point. I’d love to know the full story. But you can clearly see the sharp dividing line between old and new in his work. In the first few years of the 1940s, Tenggren struggled to develop a new way of painting- a simplified style that depended on fundamental qualities like skillful composition, expressive texture and unique color harmonies, rather than photo-realistic detail and modeling techniques derived from classical easel painting. This book, along with its sequel Sing For America and the schoolbook reader Runaway Home would lead to the creation of the very first Little Golden Books… The Pokey Little Puppy, The Tawny Scrawny Lion and The Saggy Baggy Elephant. You know the rest of the story…

This book is far from representing Tenggren’s best work, but it’s an important example of a decisive turning point in Tenggren’s career. I’ll post some illustrations from Sing For America and Runaway Home soon.

Gustaf Tenggren Sing For Christmas
Gustaf Tenggren Sing For Christmas
Gustaf Tenggren Sing For Christmas
Gustaf Tenggren Sing For Christmas
Gustaf Tenggren Sing For Christmas
Gustaf Tenggren Sing For Christmas
Gustaf Tenggren Sing For Christmas
Gustaf Tenggren Sing For Christmas
Gustaf Tenggren Sing For Christmas
Gustaf Tenggren Sing For Christmas
Gustaf Tenggren Sing For Christmas
Gustaf Tenggren Sing For Christmas

Gustaf Tenggren Sing For ChristmasGustaf Tenggren Sing For Christmas







All of us at Animation Resources wish you and yours the happiest of holidays.

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

IllustrationIllustration

This posting is part of a series of articles comprising an online exhibit spotlighting Illustration.