Monday, March 23, 2009
Gordon Grant, Down to the Sea in Ships
OK, lost my way for a bit there. As an illustrator and a freelancer, sometimes the workload gets busier than others. Busy, is generally a good thing. There does come a time when some form of sacrifice is made to make a deadline, and it has been that kind of time, so the V I E W took a little break. If I am lucky, it will happen again . . . but I'm back, and here is a bit of an intro to an illustrator who for most of his career worked in an area which greatly interests me— marine illustration. For all those who know my recent works, it is apparent that the sea has taken up a good amount of my attention as a painter/illustrator. This is one of the guys whose work inspires me—
Grant (1875-1962) was right in the thick of the Golden Age, being 25 in 1900. He found a specialized market and a personal strength in nautical subjects that gave him a path divergent from many of his contemporaries. There was a good deal of work with this theme at that time, both in fiction and in the reporting of the day; so much so, in fact, that there was more than one illustrator that made quite a good name for themselves even with this very narrow focus—W. J. Aylward and Anton Otto Fisher both come to mind immediately. Each of them may get a deeper look from VIEW down the road.
Grant's work has a very personal look to it, it often retains a lot of the freshness of a direct sketch. It's this drawing quality that separates him from most of the other marine illustrators out there at the time, and still to this day gives his work a first-person authenticity. In many of the publications he produced, a sketchbook style page is presented as the end product, with a certain degree of looseness, bold strokes, and solid inked-in shadows. As an inker, he is superb. His understanding of light and the limits of the ink line are woven in and out of each other to form some fantastic interpretations. Many years ago, I said to a friend that in a great ink drawing, the viewer no longer "sees" the line. ( I was describing Howard Pyle's work at the time) Grant's work does that, he paints values with ink lines.
The book that I found Gordon Grant in was The Book of Old Ships by Henry B. Culver. This book is in print today and is readily available. It contains no less than 80 line drawings by Grant, recording most of the major sailing-ship designs from Egyptian galleys to the Clipper. They are accurate, remarkably efficient ink drawings backed with good research; they make for great reference. Grants' book work with Culver would continue, from The Book of Old Ships in 1924, to Forty Famous Ships in 1936. This book has some of Grant's color work as well, which are for the most part finely colored drawings. Again, solid research, even with notes and specs on the ships in the appendix. Two other titles I own, that have the sketchbook approach, are 1932's Greasy Luck; A Whaling Sketchbook. This book tells a great tale in its images and notes, of an occupation no longer practiced. And last is the Gordon Grant Sketchbook. This little Watson-Guptill book is really a facsimile sketchbook, full of floating characters, side-turned compositions, and no text. Spontaneous, energetic studies.
Check out Jim Vadeboncoeur's bio of Grant here. (In connection with Bud Plant)
And here is work by a great modern-day maritime painter, (R. C. Moore) also inspired by Grant, who is the primary force behind the great ship work on a certain ship based card game-
Next week I expect the release of my latest book with Dover Publications, Visions of Camelot, Great Illustrations of King Arthur and His Court. When the book is posted, I'll give a little sample of what's in it. The topic has been one I've wanted to compile for as long as I've been putting books like this together.
Thanks to all those who have said hi, signed on, and like what they've seen. Keep the comments coming, it will help shape what we are looking at here. Jeff