Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Visiting Vernon Hill

I apologize for being late this week. I've been occupied hanging (and gathering, and framing...) a show of my own work. After a Northeast snow-day delay, it was finally put up on the night of the 3rd, and hopefully things will resume their normal frantic pace, instead of the frenzied crisis pace I've been on this past week. Onto discussion-
Vernon Hill

Maybe five years ago, I came across a great book—
Fantasy by Brigid Peppin, Subtitled; Book Illustration, 1860-1920. The book came out in 1975, and it has a wealth of information—both on the stars of the era, like Arthur Rackham and Edmund Dulac, and the nearly forgotten; those who put out one or two real solid entries, and then faded into obscurity. Like many, my own interests had led me to become familiar with the bigger names, but some of these lesser-known artists and works were gold! Many illustrators have had a peak moment, when they were firing on all cylinders and producing some stunning stuff. But what if you can't maintain that standard, for 20, or even 10 years? What if it was two books? These folks don't have collections of their work in print. A book like Peppin's opened a door for me to find a huge new group of influences in my work, and it also contributed to my wanting to share some of these artists with others, through my own book work, and now with this blog—

One artist I "met for the first time" within the pages of Peppin's book, was Vernon Hill.

Hill (British, 1887-?) appears to have been busy as an illustrator for just a few years, 1910-1912—though he remained tied to the art field for some time. Through the 20's and 30's Hill produced etchings, and designed (and produced?) sculpture for numerous buildings, mostly religious. A good look at his sculptural work can be seen here. The work on the sculpture link tells us that he was working at least until the 50's. No record of his passing could be found. WHAT AN INCREDIBLE SHAME this man didn't do more illustration. The mixture of symbolism, personal style,(taste for material) and technique (meaning his use of wide value-range graphite medium) produce some work here that is nearly unique. The samples I found in the Peppin book are from a limited edition book produced in 1912, called Ballads Weird and Wonderful, which I was eventually able to get my hands on. The scans at the right, are from this book.

While digging up material to explain who Hill was and what he did, I came across one site that had already done a lot of this digging, in a similar fashion to my own intent. Moment of dilemma ... do I go on as planned, at the risk of being redundant? I came to the decision that the web is a strange and complex netting, and it is unlikely (though not impossible) that many of you who are here, have also been there. So I show you Vernon Hill, but I also will refer you to this excellent blog, where Vernon Hill caught the attention of another illustrator, Mr. John Coulhart. It is on Mr. Coulhart's site that I found out, like last week's entry, this book is available as an entirely free pdf download. Tip of the hat to you, Mr. Coulhart.

The other fantastic site I found, featured incredible scans of Hill's 1910 Arcadian Calendar. Nearly the whole thing, and good quality images- This is very cool stuff that Tim Burton would love. Although Hill's work is fairly consistent at this time, both in style and substance, there is precious little of it—enjoy it here.


I also thought it would be worthwhile to show another sample of the great scanning dilemma. (Faithful reproduction vs. "correction") Color, as mentioned last week, is not alone in this issue—shown here are two files of the same image, the left being a direct scan, the right being a "corrected" file, with a fuller range of contrast and tone. While most will find the right image more appealing, how do we know that it wasn't intentional that the values were limited? It all comes into opinion, and how an image like this is reproduced today is very subjective.

See you next week—Jeff

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