In this post, I am going to talk a little about one or two of the techniques Frank Godwin employed in his oil paintings.
In working on this post, I looked at a couple of earlier posts which I had made “private.” (In one case, I made it private back in 2013. On the other one, I don’t know when I made it private.) In any event, I have taken a lot of the content from those two earlier posts, and I have added some additional discussion.
One of the things that has always amazed me is the wide rage of techniques and media in which Frank Godwin was an expert. Godwin created watercolor paintings, oil paintings, and gouache paintings. And he painted in subcategories of certain general areas — for instance, as to oils, he used them for impasto effects and as a transparent glaze. He was a sculptor, and an etcher. And as to pen-and-ink, you could say that no one in history has been more accomplished. Also, he was probably involved with other techniques and media that I am not thinking of at the moment, or that I am unaware of.
Oh, did I mention impasto? Take a look at this:
A detail from an oil painting by Frank Godwin. A reproduction of the painting was used as the frontispiece of certain Winston printings of “The Swiss Family Robinson.”
That is from the original oil painting that Frank Godwin painted as one of his illustrations for The Swiss Family Robinson (Winston, 1929). (For those unfamiliar with boat parts, the main diagonal dark shape is a “yard,” which is a spar (generally horizontal) that is attached to the mast.) This detail is interesting for several reasons. First, it shows precisely Godwin’s handling of the yard, the edge of which almost meets up with the background (a yellow sky). He has made no effort to have the two areas of color rest against each other, but in essence has left a thin area unpainted (though there does appear to be a light-greenish background other than primer). (It also appears that he painted the dark spar first.)
Also interesting is the treatment of the diagonal clouds of yellow and whitish. One can to some extent discern which color was painted first, and where. It appears to me that this sequence varied.
Most interesting (and obvious) is the impasto technique that Godwin used in the yellow areas. Notice that he made no effort to disguise the direction of paint near the yard. The brushstrokes were simply parallel to it! And then, other brushstrokes are in different directions, often at right-angles to the spar. And again, you can see that light-greenish background showing in places.
These are not necessarily approaches that would be adopted by all artists, and I have a feeling that Godwin’s handling of that tricky area of the painting was born of long experience.
If you look at a lot of Frank Godwin art, you will find that he often uses little lines, drawn at right angles to a major line, to break-up the main line, and make it a little more gentle. Probably this is normally used to provide a bit of gradation between two sections of the art. Here is an example from that ship-painting:
￼You can see little vertical dark lines at right-angles to the edges of the clouds (halfway down the image and to the right).
Here is a detail, which might make matters more clear:
It is remarkable that Godwin went to this effort, since the effect upon the actual book illustration would be (probably) negligible. The final illustration was greatly reduced from the rather large original art.
In his paintings, Godwin sometimes similarly used little patterns of lines to break up plainer areas, like shading in a pencil-drawing or hatching in a pen-and-ink drawing. That can be seen in the following image (small segment) from another oil-painting in my collection (which was used in a calendar in the early 1920s):
Notice the little lines on the sleeves, as well as the lines on the quiver (perpendicular to the long sides of the quiver).
Here is an image of a small section of another paining in my collection. It shows the heads of oxen, which are pulling a plow in the original. Notice to the right the little dots that Godwin used to suggest foliage.
The following image is a detail from the same original. It shows certain features that might be more typical of a drawing. Dozens of the little short lines can be seen in the top half of the image. Really nothing in the way of impasto is seen in this image.
I think that concludes this post!
June 8, 2018