Thursday, May 08, 2008

Frank Reilly: "A meticulous perfectionist"

In his 2001 article for Step-by-Step magazine's 'Masters' series, author Kent Steine writes "Reilly was a meticulous perfectionist. He approached art as a science, believing that fundamental principles and formulas, when applied with consistency, were the keys to becoming a successful artist."

"Reilly incorporated a systemic structure and order to producing an illustration, taking all of the information and detail he had observed, and charting them with the consistency and logic of a mathematical formula."

For those interested in a deeper understanding of Frank Reilly's highly developed system of working, former Reilly art school student Candido Rodriguez offers the following:

"Here are my thoughts on books dealing with Frank Reilly's approach to teaching drawing and painting. All the books published cover, in varying degrees of success, Reilly's core concepts on drawing and painting. None indicate the full scope and scale of what Reilly taught. To get some idea of the range of Reilly's approach consider this: Reilly would lecture twice a week for approximately 46 to 48 weeks within a year. Each lecture would range in length from 45 to 60 minutes, occasionally even 1.5 hours. The core lectures would be repeated each year (always with some variations). However many topics were covered as time permitted and would be given sporadically. I studied with Reilly for nearly four years (mostly in the evening class) and I did not hear all his lectures, some I heard only once."

"In addition to his lectures and largely undocumented are the comments Reilly made as he critiqued students in the painting class, especially the advanced students. Here Reilly would discuss the nuances of representational paining, edges, painting in the light, pulling paint, brushwork, etc."

"Given the above the best book on Reilly's approach to painting is Jack Faragasso's "Student's Guide To Painting". It does provide Reilly's core concepts on painting (this area could be greatly expanded). The major problem with this book is that Faragasso mangles Reilly's use of the Munsell system to quantify values. Faragasso also does not cover the all important modeling factors and their step by step implementation. And the book does not cover the lectures on landscape and marine painting, painting the nude outdoors, colored lights,etc."

"Faragasso's book "Mastering Drawing:The Human Figure" provides the most complete account of Reilly's approach to drawing. It would have been useful if an explanation had been provided of Reilly's goal in drawing, of the distinction between structure and anatomy and why Reilly downplayed anatomy, and the inclusion of drawings which clearly show how information on planes are put into action. Lots of information here, perhaps a bit overwhelming without someone at your shoulder pointing out the way as was done in class, no offense but Faragasso's drawings do not represent the highest standards achieved in class (Reilly's program was a carefully planned step by step progression which took into account a student's level of skill and knowledge)."

"Sadly there is no documentation on Reilly's approach to Picture Making, the end goal of everything that Reilly taught. Reilly saw Picture Making as a two phase process: the design of a picture, and the composition of the picture. Reilly truly enjoyed this phase of his teaching program."

*My thanks to Tom Palmer, Candido Rodriguez, Kent Steine and Tom Watson for providing all the material for today's post.

My Frank Reilly Flickr set.


  1. Frank Reilly is an excellent example of objective accuracy and planning, with subjective results. I know that is not exactly kosher in today's illustration or fine art thinking, but I gladly subscribe to Reilly's method of painting over the popular emphasis on self expression, as the most important ingredient in producing art!

    Too bad Reilly wasn't still around to train the art teachers today.

    Tom Watson

  2. Anonymous3:28 PM

    His renderings of industrial plants somehow remind me of Adolph von Menzel and his famous rolling mill - similar accuracy and planning, with a great subjective result.
    Thanks for featuring this born teacher.

  3. Anonymous5:27 PM

    New Book on Frank Reilly method of painting by Reilly's student/class monitor Ralph Garafola
    "Frank J. Reilly The Elements of Painting"