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.

Illustrating “Robbie to the Rescue!” Part 2

To read Part 1 of this process click HERE.

Once I had drawn all the pages of Laurie Nowlan’s Robbie to the Rescue! as pencil sketches, I scanned all the drawings and colored them in roughly so both the author and I could see the placement of color throughout the book.

Early on when Laurie and I discussed her main characters, we had decided there should be some little bits of clothing to humanize Robbie and his older brother Ben. Laurie liked having Ben wear a baseball cap, and perhaps big sneakers for Robbie, to make him look smaller and younger and maybe a little clumsier than his older brother. In initial sketches I had given them orange and red jackets, thinking they’d stand out in green foliage – then when I started doing pages I realized it was autumn in the story and the leaves would be those colors. So I switched their jackets to blue and green.

The story has a number of scenes that take place during a rainstorm so I tried to vary the spreads between pages that bled off the sides and vignettes where there was white space around the illustrations, as well as full double page spreads where it was warranted, to keep the scenes from looking too similar.

Laurie suggested that the storm scenes should stay very blue and gray, so that at the end of the story when there are beach scenes, the change to sunny warmth would really be apparent to the reader. I agree it worked really well.

After this stage I started painting finished art for the book. I’ll write more about that, and about developing the cover art, in Part 3.

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“Robbie to the Rescue!” is available now through BookBaby HERE.

Illustrating “Robbie to the Rescue!” Part 1

I recently completed illustrating a new children’s picture book, written by Laurie Nowlan, Robbie to the Rescue! It’s a lovely story about brother robins and how they help each other through the younger brother’s first southern migration. I think it’s a very good sibling story, with lots of touches that happen between real brothers and sisters, so many children will relate to it.

I first spoke at length with the author about how she imagined the characters and the flow of the story. Laurie is a retired teacher and has been writing for a long time so she had already given this much thought. I di some black and white and color sketches of the brother birds and more or less used them as my prototypes when developing the page art – although you’ll see some colors changed.

With the author’s suggestions I laid out the text and drew pencil sketches for each double page spread. I drew a very loose pagination, which just helps me visualize a variety of page setups before I design, like this –

Then I drew pencils of each spread like these samples.

I’ll explain the next steps in the process in my next post.

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“Robbie to the Rescue!” is available now through BookBaby HERE.

Children’s Classical Concert Returns!

I’m very happy to say that the Lenape Chamber Ensemble, a group of world-class musicians who perform several times a year for chamber music lovers in our area of Bucks County, will return to a live in-person concert for children on November 13 at Delaware Valley University. The Ensemble has been performing these delightful and educational concerts for kids for over 20 years; they play snippets of music from their adult concerts, teach the children about the composers and musical instruments, and even invite the little ones dance to the music as a finale – it’s just as much fun for parents as for the kids!

I always illustrate the flyer for the Children’s Concert with little animals playing instruments, and this fall is no different. The selections to be played will include parts of Telemann’s Tafelmusik, which was meant to played as entertainment at a banquet, so that became my theme. I started with a pencil sketch, and set it in the rainforest because I just wanted to have a toucan in the scene. I sketched monkeys playing the noted instruments, with a jaguar seated at a little table enjoying the music.

I traced the basic lines of this scene onto bristol paper and inked it in loosely with a Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pen. The finish is below.

For those who have attended before, please note the new time of the concert. I highly recommend this event to everyone – parents will love the informal and fun atmosphere and kids will easily learn to appreciate the beauty of the music and the joy of these musicians.

House Portrait of a Lovely Doylestown Home

I was asked to paint a charming home built in the late 1800s in my hometown, a house that catches many an eye with its sunny coloring and delightful front gardens.

I took a number of photos for reference and consulted the owners about what season to paint. I tried pencil drawings of both summer and spring.

And then I tried rough color sketches of both seasons in colored marker.

We determined that spring gave both color and a good view of the house, since surrounding trees were still lacy enough to see through. I also put in the small figure watering the flowers, the lady of the house, to make it personalized.

For the finished painting I used watercolor board and acrylic paints diluted like watercolors. Here are two partial views –

And the completed painting –

My Cartoon on the New Yorker site today

Heard by teachers around the country this week:

“What I did this summer, this spring, this winter, last fall, the previous summer . . .”

Found at: https://www.newyorker.com/cartoons/daily-cartoon/tuesday-september-14th-what-i-did-this-summer

Free Coloring Book for Children

Last year I created some artwork for Mike DeSantis’ CPA website and in the process Mike introduced the idea of using a little cartoon of his dog as a friendly mascot for the business. Mike had used “Bart the dog” as a fun part of his business before, telling long-time clients that Bart helped around the office – he even gave Bart a phone extension on the menu!

After the pandemic hit, Mike searched for an idea that could honor the workers in healthcare and also help children through a worrisome time in their young lives. In thinking about the Bart cartoons on his website, he came up with the idea of a coloring book for youngsters that would teach safety tips on staying germ-free during flu season. The book, called “Keep the Germs Away,” is dedicated to all the doctors, nurses, hospital workers and first responders who risk their lives on the front lines to help others, and I drew the illustrations.

Mike has donated 100 copies of the book to Doylestown Hospital’s Children’s Village. Each coloring page has a simple suggestion supporting good hygiene for children, and features Bart the Dog, the friendly mascot of DeSantis & Co., P.C. The director of Children’s Village, Teri Windisch, said of the gift, “Our kids and families loved the “Keep Germs Away” coloring book from Mike. What a great way to reinforce what they have learned during this tough time!”  The coloring book is also available to anyone for free download from Mike’s website www.descpa.biz and he’s allowed me to put it on my site too, free on this page HERE. So get out your markers and sharpen up your pencils!

Poster art for The Sorcerer Musical, opening in July

Every year I design the poster for the Bucks County Gilbert & Sullivan Society’s musical comedy, and last year because of lockdowns we had to postpone the event. I’m happy to say the group is back in business this season and they will produce what would have been last year’s show, since the whole cast wanted to reassemble and perform it – and the show is Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Sorcerer. It will be performed LIVE, with a full live orchestra, on July 16, 17 and 18 in Doylestown. I love the wacky plot of this show, which involves a sorcerer in Victorian England who is asked to create a love potion of which an entire town unwittingly partakes, with chaotic and comic results. It strikes me as typical Gilbert & Sullivan silliness that instead of a cauldron like witches traditionally use to brew potions, this very proper Society Sorcerer’s potion is steeped along with a pot of tea.

I was lucky to be at an early costume fitting for the actor playing the title role, so I took photos of him in costume for reference when drawing, and the prop staff even had the large teapot that will be in the show on hand. I knew the kind of pose I wanted for the figure and started with pencil sketches –

I put some rough color on the sketched figure and placed him on the poster page, with the text that will go around him, and drew in the background roughly with a digital gradation, markers & colored pencils, to get a rough design of the page.

I refined my line drawing of the figure and did more detail on the digital color –

I worked on the title logotype next, to shape it around the sorcerer’s arm & umbrella. I used a fun typeface called “Island of Misfit Toys, ” although I played with the letter shapes a bit, stretching and adding some curls, to give it a consistent feel of whimsy.

I drew the cloud emanating from the teapot digitally and put the figure in place –

and then dropped in the title logotype and added some more magical swashes and particles circling the Sorcerer and the cloud, for the finished art.

The singers and musicians of Bucks Gilbert & Sullivan are busy rehearsing now and are thrilled to be back onstage live, with the full Bucks County Gilbert & Sullivan Orchestra accompanying them. I recommend everyone comes to The Sorcerer, performed at Delaware Valley University in Doylestown, PA, to enjoy this fun show! Tickets are on sale now through Eventbrite HERE. And to enhance the audience’s enjoyment of the show, the group provides interesting background info on the show on the website HERE.

Last Chance to Bid on Original New Yorker Cartoon Art

Today (June 4) is the last day of the Cantus Novus auction, and bids are being taken until midnight tonight. Have you taken a look at the items, trips and event tickets HERE?

Cantus Novus is a 40-voice choir that performs beautiful choral music in two annual concerts in the Bucks County area. I’ve donated my original art of a recent New Yorker cartoon, “Student-Teacher Conference,” which appeared in the May 10, 2021 issue of the New Yorker. I drew this cartoon by hand in prisma pencil and ink wash on illustration board, and on the back of the 13″ x13″ frame I’ve attached the printed page of the cartoon from the New Yorker in a plastic sleeve.

I think the topic of the gag cartoon would give a laugh to any teacher, principal or school staff member who receives it as a gift, so consider those end-of-the-year gifts for outstanding teachers!

If you are interested in owning an original drawing that was published in the New Yorker, you can easily register to place a bid. My cartoon is listed HERE and all proceeds go to help fund the extraordinary music created by Cantus Novus.

Free Coloring Sheet for World Bicycle Day

Anyone can download my bicycle coloring sheet below for free, to celebrate World Bicycle Day! See the link below the drawing.

A young girl goes on a fantasy adventure under the sea – what will she find? Download, print and color this picture – maybe add your own secret treasure to the scene! Can you make up a story to go with your artwork?

I’d love to see any children’s finished art – you can email a snapshot to me at achillesportfolio@gmail.com.

Click on this link to download, and then print –

achilles_undersea_drawing_coloring_sheet-1Download

My New Yorker Cartoon Original Drawing Donated for Auction

In case you missed it in my video interview with realtor Linda Crane, I mentioned that I have donated the framed original art of my recently published New Yorker cartoon to the auction supporting the wonderful choral group Cantus Novus.

This original signed cartoon “Student-Teacher Conference” appeared in the May 10, 2021 issue of the New Yorker. I drew this cartoon by hand in prisma pencil and ink wash on illustration board, and on the back of the 13″ x13″ frame I’ve attached the printed page of the cartoon from the New Yorker in a plastic sleeve.

I think the topic of the gag cartoon would give a laugh to any teacher, principal or school staff member who receives it as a gift!

Bidding is open to the public until June 4, so if you are interested in owning an original drawing that was published in the New Yorker, you can easily register to place a bid. My cartoon is listed HERE and you can take a look at a lot of other auction items, including some terrific vacations, on the site HERE. All proceeds go to help fund the extraordinary music created by this 40-voice Bucks County choir.