Sunday, January 13, 2008

Artist(s) of the Month(s): John Bauer

"Still Wolf" - outline for work in progress.
colored pencil on drafting film.

Okay, first of all, I apologize for being behind on blog comments and posting. Phew. It's been a crazy week. Second of all, I did find the time to study one of the artists of the month, John Bauer.

Last Sunday I looked at Kay Nielsen and did some wolf sketches in his style -- this week I decided I'd tackle the same subject after studying Bauer and work the finished piece from whichever sketch I preferred.

John Bauer (nice collection of his work here), a nineteenth-century Swedish
artist, fascinated me because of his whimsical, idealized drawing, his limited palette, and his beautiful use of darks. You guys should know by now that this is the real way to get me excited. Add to Bauer's work a tragic life story (he drowned with wife and child at a young age) and he becomes a poster child for drawing well and succeeding early before you kick the bucket. Take that, procrastinators! Anyway, his work complements fellow Swede (funny sounding word, that) Kay Nielsen's nicely.

The main problem with Bauer is that he died young and left behind little written evidence of his existence. Especially in English. So the only tools I have to really study this artist who showed such promise are a very limited biography and the relatively small collection of works available online.

Still, am I dissuaded by this? Nah! So, here is what I learned from my study of Bauer today.

  • His palette is extraordinarily limited, possibly a function of where his art was going to be used, reproduced in books
  • He often used the darkness to emphasize a single, light subject
  • Though his work was finely drawn illustration work, he wasn't afraid to omit details to simplify and stylize
  • He loved drawing hair
  • Hair is very cool (note to self)
  • His subjects are very simple. Each image immediately and efficiently tells a story.
  • One of the biographies I read said that he took a month-long hike through the mountains with a sketchbook and that he used these impressions for the rest of his artistic career, simplifying the forests and stripping everything nonessential away
  • His female subjects were frequently shown in profile
At right you can see my first wolf sketch (and you can see which Bauer piece I based it on). I think this is the sketch I'll end up doing my finished piece from -- or at least the first piece I do based on these artists this month. I also would like to take a page from Bauer's notebook and do some simplified sketches of the woods around my house. I've mentioned before that trees are a weak point of mine.

Debbie was kind enough to send me a list of links for John Bauer (thank you so much, Debbie). So please peruse them and in the next few days I'll be doing a follow-up post on complementary colors, with all the great links you guys have sent me.


Quilt Knit said...

Are you using mylar drafting film? Are you going to layer as in the article by Rhoda Bartoe work on marbles. Three layers of mylar???


Debbie said...

I love your .
sketch for your piece. One thing I noticed about his work is how he elongates everything. The really tall trees, the figures when standing are tall and slime, the animals are drawn out and lenghtened. The one exception of course are the trolls. I do some costuming and I would love do something on his trolls.

I am between semsters right now so I am starting a piece, maybe, I might have an idea. Hmmm

Katherine said...

That's a really nice drawing Maggie - looking very promising.

Anonymous said...

Just a suggestion - you might want to try black illustration board with white colored pencil to get the real bang! that Bauer's work has - come to think of it, I'm going to try it to see what happens. Fun to see Bauer's work again, had some books with his illustrations when I was young at least 100 years ago!!!!Helen in North Carolina

Jennifer said...

Love Nielsen! I just bought a book with his art. In october I saw an exhibit at the Brandywine River Museum of fantasy children's illustrations. You would have loved it. There were many original Nielsen paintings. The detail in each one was amazing. You could have looked at them forever!

Maggie Stiefvater said...

Sherrie - Yep, I use the mylar drafting film. I don't layer like Rhonda does, but I do work both sides of the film.

Debbie - I noticed that too. And Kay Nielsen elongates even more. Do you have pics of your costuming?

Katherine - thanks! I have to show you guys my failure on this next Sunday.

Helen - do you remember the names of the books? I'd love to track them down.

Jennifer - grrrooooan with envy!!

Anonymous said...

Maggie - One of the books had the Swedish Folk Tales in it. I no longer have the book as we had a leaky basement and didn't know it until after a big rain and guess what :-( it ruined the book. I checked on Amazon web site and they do have used and new editions of the Swedish Folk Tales, hope this helps. Helen in NC