Friday, March 30, 2012

Cobblestone Magazine 2: Frederick law Olmsted

Yesterday I finally finished my second batch of illustrations for Cobblestone Magazine and they were approved!
This being a history magazine, each image comes with it's own hidden challenges and research not always evident on the surface. With this first image you might expect it was simple matter of  going out to my back yard and taking  a couple pictures of the trees and woods since I live in Vermont. While this image didn't require a ton of research for historical aspects it did take some time in the thumbnail sketch and developement stage. For one thing the boy needed to at least resemble his older self in the next couple of images. The hardest part for this was trying to design an image which shows the boy out  in the woods while still leaving an area of smooth color for the text. I considered various options and finally envisioned this solution. I did do quit a bit of research for the following two images though and during that process I discovered that Olmsted helped design The back bay fens in Boston. I then remembered one of my favorite trees from that park when I lived in Boston. I still have pictures of it and did a finished drawing and painting of it for class assignments at Mass Art. So since this series is about Fredrick Law Olmsted I figured it would be the perfect Chance to paint this tree once again. I'm sure you can guess which tree it is.
This next image was probably the toughest of the three simply because the topic didn't seem to have a whole lot of reference material readily available. My task was to portray Olmsted as an accountant/ Office aapprentice around 1840. I looked into the sort of clothing he would be wearing, I searched through a gazillion old office photos, I looked into the sorts of writing utensils in use, I even did some searching on what sorts of lighting and other office equipment might be visible in the piece. Again I had difficulty in designing this scene in which there was such a large chunk of text.
This final image required perhaps the most research while I suppose has less of that evident in the final image. My task was to illustrate Olmsted on his farm where he began to learn the art of landscape design. I researched the house and the land and had a look at various species of trees, clothing from the period etc. In the end I used artistic licence a great deal in the layout of the land as there was soo little to go on without actually visiting this property in NY. I would say the key element I did research for is the barn which the art director had me take out of the piece. I had a couple of books on hand about American barns and went to work reading about various styles and purposes. I read about how some barns in New England had roofs sloped at a good angle to allow the snow to stay on the roof and hence insulate the barn in the winter. I learned that painted barns start to appear in America in the late 1700's. Also that painted barns started in Virginia with gray toned paint while the more northerly barns moved in the direction of red. There are various theories for this. I find it interesting with Historical illustration how much behind the scenes research happens without ever being evident in the final pieces. There is a great deal of difference between illustrating the sentence, "The farmer worked on his farm" and  the sentence " Frederick Law Olmsted worked on his farm in his early twenties". Overall I enjoyed my second round with the art director at Cobblestone and hope to eventually have time to work on another with them should they invite me back for a third course in history!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

American Milking Devon Bull

Over the past few weeks I started work on my second assignment for The American Milking Devon Cattle Association.  I did some finished drawings and oil illustrations of the cows last year. This year they need illustrations of the Bull. The ones along the bottom are from last year and along the top are what I have so far for this year. I'll likely still need to make changes before going to finals.
As you can see, the bulls have more muscle on them, their heads are bulkier, their horns are designed more for damage than for elegance and their legs are wider and stronger. The females have a large pouch to hold the milk while the bulls . . . do not.

          My main art director while working on these is the farmer who got me the gig in the first place. He's a large part of the association and knows Devon cattle and bulls like the back of his hand along with many other subjects that he's been involved in over the years. He's owned a number of businesses and has spent hours on end telling me of stories from his life. When I told him about my girlfriend he immediately rambled off "Women are a kingdom, men are a fool, take away his senses and wear away his jewels". The pic below is one I just realized I accidentally caught of him in the background as I was taking pictures of the bull. I wanted to do a sketch of him while he talked but I'm still a bit too shy for that.
He went on to tell me why the bulls have such wide legs, making sure I made them strong and straight like a piano. He wanted the neck long to indicate a healthy beast that could reach the grass, Strong necks, heavy brisket, and he had me move the horns up. I think the horns will still need lots of work to get them looking big, powerful and heading in the exact right direction. I've found the horns to be the most difficult part to illustrate on both versions. I even made a clay model to try helping with that. From this angle the horns would be in a  weird position in which the horns fold back over themselves but it doesn't look good when I draw it that way.  I must have spent over an hour on the horns alone. So I may need to go have a better look at the bulls from various angles in person now that they are outside of the barn. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Overwhelmed With Joy

This past month and particularly the past week has been extremely busy. So I really haven't found the time to do much for this blog. I have six projects going at the moment so I have more than enough new work to show but no time to put it in blog form. It's been probably over a year since I've updated my website. I'll get to that eventually I'm sure. This past week alone I worked on my various projects, went to Boston to do a PowerPoint presentation for the senior illustration class at Mass. college of Art and Design, helped my brother knights of Columbus with a fish fry for lent, bible study, a young adult group holy hour and gathering and topped the week off by proposing to my girlfriend. SHe said yes!!!! Just now I began to realize how cool it will be to finally get to add a particular line to the end of my bio about how "Matthew Gauvin lives in Vermont with his beautiful wife . . . ".

        Now I'm finding it particularly difficult to get back to work as the temperatures soar to 70 and 80 degrees for the first time this year, I dug two stuck cars out of the muddy driveway yesterday, I've spent time writing to and talking to friends and family about the engagement, and I just have this overall feeling of excitement and joy wanting to be out basking in all of the warm graces God has been showering over my life. Yes it's true I have summer fever but it's Ooooh so much more than that! I want to build gardens and journey along new paths, walk in the sun and splash in the rain puddles, shoot my bow in the backyard while BBQing ribs on the grill and knocking back a cold one. Summer is here folks! and what a great summer it's shaping up to be. Thanks to all who have stopped by the blog, commented, read, shared, or in any way participated in this blog.

    In the near future I hope to show my progress on the BBQ logo, show some finished work from my recent children's book, show some new bull illustrations, BW's from my new chapter book, sketches and final art for my new Cobblestone assignment, and I've been meaning to get to all kinds of other blog post ideas I've had in mind for some time.