Lately, as I contemplate what direction I want to go next with my oil painting, I have been studying the elegance and simplicity of line and form in the work of turn-of-the-century illustrator J.C. Leyendecker [Amazon book link].

Of particular interest to me was his use of color sketches on canvas, his unique “grid-method” transfers, and exaggeration of the effects of light and shadow, in particular ‘form shadows’ or ‘core shadows.’ He always maintained a balance of cool and warm to help separate lights, too.

In one instance I found, left, he apparently painted the sketch the way he wanted it, then drew grid-lines through the still-wet oil paint to transfer the image to a another, perhaps larger canvas.

Sadly, Joe Leyendecker was very secretive about his work, taking with him to his grave his “secret medium” that allowed him to “draw fluidly with paint.” Still, a student of his images could learn a lot about composition, conservation of line, beauty of shape, simplified volumes and idealization of face and figure.

This is the newest book of many about his work, and is filled with excellent pictures. It comes highly recommended — by me — for its beautiful pictures and examples, but probably not the quality of the text. Besides the authors’ elevating Leyendecker by unnecessarily bashing my other early 20th century hero Norman Rockwell, stating opinion as fact, they assert that Rockwell definitely copied Leyendecker. How do they know something that I highly doubt? I have been studying both illustrators for nearly 40 years.

Plus I found the text to be highly speculative and overly concerned [to the point of the unmistakable stench of misplaced agenda] with the sexual preferences of this master Illustrator. — David R. Darrow