Wednesday, February 8, 2012

John Berkey Featured in Illustration

It's pile-on time. Illustration magazine just came out with its 36th issue which features ace illustrator John Berkey (1932-2008) and illustration-oriented blogs are already posting about the great event. So why not join in? After all, I too am a Berkey fan and wrote about him here just about a year ago.

The author of the illustration piece is Jim Pinkowsi who maintains a blog that has images of much of Berkey's work; the link is here. A Website by the Berkey estate is here.

Pinkowski's article has details on Berkey's use of casein paints, a medium I was never fond of. It seems that Berkey didn't use the paints out of tubes (though he might have early in his career), instead he mixed his own batches using raw pigments. Later he seems to have added acrylic binder to some of his mixes.

Let me propose two classes of classical illustrator (ignoring those using digital media for most of a given piece): There are those who paint using easels (Norman Rockwell, J.C. Leyendecker, Dan dos Santos, Greg Manchess) and there are others who work on a drawing board. Drawing board based artists tend to be commercial artists who use gouache, airbrush and other water-based media on materials such as illustration board, though a small (less than 0.5 meter, say) illustration can be done on a drawing board using almost any kind of medium and support.

Berkey was a drawing-board guy. And he was shrewd enough to realize that working close to the image could degrade the result; it had to be viewed from farther away because the final version usually would be reproduced at a smaller size than the original -- in effect increasing the viewing distance. Berkey's eventual cure for this problem was a mirror setup. His drawing board was reflected using a mirror placed above it to another mirror placed at a distance. This double-reversal allowed him to view the work-in-progress at a distance of about eight feet (2.5 meters) without having to budge from his chair.

Here is how the setup looked from the perspective of the drawing board. This image was scanned from the book whose cover is shown below.

Pinkowski's blog includes other images of this setup.

The Illustration article is of interest because it contains more than just a bunch of Berkey's space ship images, great though they are. A nice selection of other subjects can be found, demonstrating Berkey's overall ability and versatility.

If you don't see the new issue of Illustration in your local Barnes & Noble's magazine rack, go the the Illustration site linked above and order before it is sold out.

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