Looking at Illustration: Arthur Getz

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I’ve been looking through the illustrations of Arthur Getz, one of my favorite New Yorker cover artists. Getz painted 213 covers for the iconic magazine between 1938 and 1988. In addition to illustration work, he painted cityscapes and landscapes – ‘fine art’ sold through galleries – although he sometimes signed them with his middle name, Kimmig, because at the time a fine artist was not supposed to cross the line into commercial art.

A particular favorite of mine is his cover from 1957:

Art by Arthur Getz. Prints available through https://condenaststore.com/art/arthur+getz

The moment it captures is utterly American, isn’t it? To the left, the bustling, spangly city with silhouetted crowds in frenetic motion, and in the foreground the relaxed parking attendant, contentedly oblivious to the high life a few blocks behind.

The skill and techniques of this artist make the painting especially appealing to me. The blazing city lights in the distance are warm, but it’s cold moonlight fluorescing down on the garage attendant – that’s the opposite of what you’re taught in painting class! Warm colors are supposed to come forward and cools recede – but Mr. Getz makes this inversion work beautifully. The covers of the magazine our fellow’s reading are slightly brightened with the reflected light bouncing off the pavement – reflected light is a detail that a  master’s eye notes, and novices often overlook. The splashes of neon red far off in the city are balanced by that rusty red wall to our protagonist’s left; there’s even the faintest red haze in the air above the cars in the garage, a delicate touch to offset all that chill October air.

And our attendant’s pose, balancing on the chair – another master stroke.  Let me explain: when you draw a standing figure and you want it to look steady, not tipping over, you draw it so the supersternal notch – that’s the central notch between your left & right collarbone – is directly over the inner ankle of the leg bearing the weight of the body – this makes the figure looks solid.  Well, Mr. Getz has this gent perfectly balanced: if you imagine where his supersternal notch is, and draw a line straight down, it’s directly over the spot where the chair leg bearing the man’s weight touches the pavement. This acrobatic bystander is not going to tip over!

The contrasts in tone all around our nonchalant hero seal the deal for me. After your eyes take in the whole scene, where does your attention go? To the crisp lightning-white page edges of that magazine and that tiny cusp of face and finger illuminated by the October moon. That’s intentional – they are painted with a razor edge and surrounded by blacks and neutral grays to draw your gaze like a pinpoint. The same goes for the swatch of city on the left, the contrast is so high between the yellows and blacks that you can’t not look at them – but even though those marks are skillful, they are vague, to give an impression of buildings and lights. The painting strokes in and around our parked friend’s figure, instead, are descriptive, deliberate and masterful.

There’s sometimes a bit of friction between illustrators and fine artists, over whether illustrations deserve the same esteem that framed paintings are given.  If you ask me, this Garage Nocturne by Arthur Getz could hang in a museum next to Hopper’s Nighthawks any day.

My Cartoon Published

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UPDATE: My cartoons for the New Yorker can be seen here: https://condenaststore.com/art/pat+achilles

I am thrilled to announce that a cartoon I drew and submitted to the prestigious New Yorker magazine back in March has been published in this week’s issue, October 1, 2018.

https://www.newyorker.com/cartoon/a21844

“Sir, we’re getting ready to land–I’m going to need you to slide that under your seat.”

I started reading and chuckling at New Yorker cartoons in high school when my dad introduced its unparalleled humor to me. He and I shared many hours discussing our favorite gags and cartoonists, and, while Dad did land a great cartoon one time in The Saturday Evening Post, he never made it into Eustace Tilley’s grand library. He hoped someday I would. Dad passed away 8 years ago but I have the uncanny feeling he’s been pulling some strings.

Drawing a Historic Building in Doylestown

I am occasionally asked by the Doylestown Historical Society to draw representations of existing historic buildings as they looked when they were first constructed. Recently an assignment involved a lovely stone farmhouse, built by Robert Kirkbride in the late 1700s, possibly the oldest building in our town, which is now integrated into a neighborhood of townhomes. Its property was then referred to as a plantation since it was primarily farmed for crops that were to be sold.

The drawing would be of the original main house with attached kitchen, smokehouse, large stone barn with attached stone wagon shed, and a log hay house. Entrance to the plantation was by way of a dirt road (now called Veterans Lane) over a small wooden bridge over Cook’s Run (which is still there) and into the farm complex, with fields and woods beyond.

My first pencil sketch of the plantation and buildings was rough, based on instructions and photo reference given to me by Kurt Spence of the Historical Society.

Kurt had some corrections: changing the position of the carriage shed and barn door, making the field flatter, the house smaller and kitchen larger. I sent a revised sketch of the house, to the side of which i indicated a kitchen garden:

and a revision of the barn area:

I dropped them into the scene and adjusted a few other details, then sent this pencil sketch:

I then added digital grays to the scene to give some dimension to the buildings and surrounding area – the finished illustration –

Today the farmhouse still retains much of its historic façade, but the farm has been replaced by modern townhomes – a photo of the present home is below.

Latest cartoon in the New Yorker

My latest contribution to the New Yorker mag:

I actually drew this one before the virus hit last spring, when schools were all on regular schedules. Now happily more and more schools are back to normal (and . . . so are parents).

Neshaminy Journal Spring/Summer 2021

Neshaminy Journal has its newest issue out – it’s the magazine produced jointly by the Bucks County Writers Workshop and the Doylestown Historical Society. This issue includes some great articles, all related to the history and culture of Bucks County, a place with a long association with writers, musicians, artists and theater people.

Among the local creators featured in this edition are Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim, who studied in Doylestown under Oscar Hammerstein II; Pearl Buck, Nobel prize-winning author of The Good Earth; poet-novelist of the Harlem Renaissance Jean Toomer; Eric Knight, author of the classic tales of Lassie; and painter, teacher and writer Robert Beck, whose oil paintings chronicle our area’s beauty and its people. There is also original poetry in this issue and several illustrations by yours truly.

I recommend Neshaminy for everyone who has a connection to beautiful Bucks County. There are some fascinating aspects and stories to the people who have contributed and still contribute to its arts and history, and the writers involved here know how to spin wonderful tales. I enjoyed reading every one of them and learned a lot of Bucks County history that I didn’t know!

Neshaminy will soon be in book stores and can be ordered online by clicking HERE.

Illustrated Logo for a Farmers Market

I recently worked with Chef Kelly Unger, Chair of the Doylestown Farmers Market, to design a new logo for this very popular weekly gathering of Bucks County area farmers and shoppers, which has been going on for 45 seasons.

Kelly mentioned it would be nice to have some element in the design that would tie it to our location here in Doylestown, and that there are often buckets of bright flowers at the entrance to the market, a parking lot in the middle of Doylestown; so it would be nice to include flowers along with fruits and vegetables. I suggested making the logo reminiscent of a Mercer tile, since Henry Mercer is historically speaking the town’s favorite son. I did some rough logo ideas to show her and others on the market board.

The tile theme was popular, and so we tried adding more elements logo –

but it was determined that it got too busy. The image of the bike stuck though, for its symbolism of sustainability and since many shoppers do bike to the market, so we simplified the design but kept the outer tile-like border. I drew this rough pencil sketch, trying to show just enough of the bike to make it recognizable, but trying to keep the basket full of food the center of interest.

I drew the items in color in a graphic style and deliberately made the handlebar and flowers break through the border a bit, to give it a more contemporary design. I was asked to change the typeface at the request of the board, who wanted to keep a similar look with the brand of the established Bucks County Foodshed Alliance, of which this farmers market is a part. The finished logo is below.

I’m looking forward to the Doylestown Farmers Market’s 46th season opening on Saturday April 17. They will have over 30 local vendors selling beautiful cut flowers, fresh produce and delicious baked goods from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and you can meet some of the vendors as they are featured on the market’s Instagram at doylestownfarmersmarket.

Lassie Illustration

Who doesn’t remember this good girl? But you might not know that the glorious collie Lassie, star of a dozen films and a television series – and even a radio show – also has a brush with Bucks County history. The author of the first Lassie novel, (Lassie Come-Home, 1940) Eric Knight, lived in Springfield at Springhouse Farm in the 1940s, where he and his wife raised collies. The upcoming issue of Neshaminy Journal – produced jointly by the Bucks County Writers Workshop and the Bucks County Historical Society – has a long article about Knight and the famous collie, for which I painted this portrait in ink wash and pencil. This issue should be available in April at local book stores and through the website HERE.

Sondheim Illustration

Another celeb who has a connection to Bucks County, PA, is composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim, and his story is also featured in the upcoming issue of the Bucks County Historical Society and Bucks County Writers Workshop’s literary journal Neshaminy. Sondheim spent much of his youth on a farm in Doylestown, and eventually was mentored by Oscar Hammerstein II, who owned nearby Highland Farm, on how to write musicals. Sondheim has too many blockbuster musicals on his resume to name all of them, but I chose sheet music from one of his most recognizable numbers, Send in the Clowns, as a backdrop for a simple line sketch of him to illustrate the story for Neshaminy.

Magazine Illustrations

The Bucks County Historical Society together with the Bucks County Writers Workshop publishes a literary journal, called Neshaminy, twice a year and I contribute a few illustrations to each issue. All the articles deal somehow with events or places in this county, or with people who had a brush with Bucks County history.

In this issue there is an article about Nobel and Pulitzer prize-winning author Pearl S. Buck, whose home is located in Perkasie. She lived much of her youth in China as the daughter of Presbyterian missionaries, eventually writing richly detailed and moving novels of peasant life in rural China. When she moved to Perkasie she continued her prodigious writing and left a legacy of intercultural education and humanitarian aid, especially to orphans in Asia.

I drew the elegant Mrs. Buck seated at her writing desk. I used reference photos of her and the interior of her writing office to sketch out this original illustration.

I then drew it all in prisma pencil and used ink wash over the pencil for the finished art.

I’ll write about other pieces for this issue tomorrow.

Icon of Poodlehood

I’ve illustrated six children’s books for author Chrysa Smith’s Adventures of the Poodle Posse series, a string of stories that details the wags and whimsy involved in raising a bunch of very personable pooches. While each book focuses on one or two poodles who wander into the saga, the one constant character is Mrs. Flout, the bouncy lady whom the dogs have ‘adopted’ as their mom.

Chrysa visits schools to read her books and promote reading and writing to youngsters, and often for Catholic Schools Week and Read Across America Week she is busy traveling and presenting. She delightedly receives quite a few hand-drawn pictures from the kids of her poodle pals, but this past week’s surprise was unique: one particular teacher dressed up as Mrs. Flout (whose hair is uncannily similar in texture to a poodle’s) and sent Chrysa a photo –

I think when you start having people dress up as the characters in your books, you have really done something special. Congratulations, Chrysa! Mrs. Flout is now an official Icon of Poodlehood.

Chrysa’s books have all received the Mom’s Choice Award, which honors excellence in family-friendly media. If you know some youngsters who love fun stories and especially if they love dogs, please take a look at Chrysa’s selection of fun books on her site HERE.

Slim Harpo

Singer/musician Slim Harpo was a successful blues musician of the late 1950s and 60s, with a laid back singing style and a mastery of the blues harmonica, known in the industry as a “harp.” Evidently his hit song of 1957 “I’m a King Bee” was recently used in the series The Man in the High Castle.

I was thrilled a year ago when the British record label company Not Now Music asked to lease an illustration I’d created previously for the sleeve of a re-release of the music of Slim Harpo. And I just recently found out the label was re-issued this past August, and I’m pleased with the clean, punchy design using my art –