Monday, April 28, 2008

Ken Riley: "Confirmed Noodler"

Early in his article in the June 1958 issue of American Artist magazine, author Frederic Whitaker writes, "we overlook the probability that no great artist ever set out to contrive a unique technical style. More likely, the great ones simply strove for perfection alone, guided, of course, by personal convictions. The individuality of their work became manifest as a natural, unforced result."

To contradict this presumption, Whitaker then gives us the example of "a young artist [Ken Riley] who avoids the lure of easy fame, who acknowledges that anything of value must be earned by effort, and who still wins through outstanding achievement."

Of course I couldn't agree more. Ken Riley has always been a favourite of mine, and its apparent, I think, that he brings a tremendous amount of thoughtful consideration and hard work to his art.

This is obvious in his beautifully designed compositions (Whitaker says Riley goes so far as to mathematically calculate the balance of his compositions)...

... but foremost in my mind, is Riley's wonderous and unique approach to colour.

I've always been captivated by the myriad of colours that Riley invests in even the most mundane of objects in a typical painting. You can spend a great deal of time pouring over the nooks and crannies of one of his illustrations...

... then pull back to focus on the larger composition and marvel at how he has made this vast kaleidoscope of coloured bits come together and absolutely sing.

Regarding his painting technique, Riley admits in the article, "I'm a confirmed 'noodler'."

But he justifies his approach with a sound philosophy:

"In contrast to yesteryear, readers now are provided a plenitude of excellent illustrative photography which they can compare with painted illustrations. This well-informed public understands the difference between the two - realizing the special requirements of painted illustration and appreciating the illustrator's contribution to their enjoyment and edification."

This week, let's join Frederic Whitaker in hailing Ken Riley, a "graphic craftsman"... whose work shows "a little genius, imagination, emotion and personality."

My Ken Riley Flickr set.

1 comment:

  1. Ever since I heard about the "Riley Palette" I've wanted to know more about this illustrator/teacher. Copies of his work are not easy to come by.

    And I've yet to understand what colors compose a "Riley Palette".

    I wait with anticipation for the next installment. :)