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Celebrating Illustration, Design, Cartoon and Comic Art of the Mid-20th Century

Peter Helck: "I try to make a picture that will generate a feeling of impact"

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Over the years I've showcase the work of quite a few members of the Famous Artists School 'Founding Faculty.' Albert Dorne, Al Parker, Robert Fawcett, Austin Briggs, Jon Whitcomb, Fred Ludekens, Ben Stahl and of course Norman Rockwell have all had their turn on Today's Inspiration. I'm happy to at last present one more member of that most distinguished group; Peter Helck, in his own words, excerpted from various early '60s issues of FAS magazine... ~ Leif

Helck30
(L-R: Norman Rockwell, Ben Stahl, Peter Helck. See the full photo of the the entire FAS founding faculty at the end of this post)

"I try to make a picture that will generate a feeling of impact, something that will stop a person and keep him from turning the page."

Helck32

"If [the subject] isn't monumental, I try to find some way of handling it so it becomes monumental. For example, in the making of steel, some operations aren't particularly vital pictorially. So I resort to exaggerated perspective, improvise some dramatic lighting, innovate with color for some hint of the heroic and monumental."

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"I distort perspective freely. Sometimes I rearrange the elements of the picture to get more drama. I like anything that is big structurally - a building, a tractor, a locomotive, anything that has the aspect of the monumental."

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"When I travel abroad I look for a man-made structural aspect of the scene - an old Roman bridge, a windmill. If it's set in a beautiful landscape, so much the better."

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"Like everyone else engaged in the task of making pictures, I learn all I can about the subject before I begin to paint. If it happens to be a subject I'm familiar with, like automobiles, I have tremendous files right at home to work from. Otherwise I have to go out and learn all I can about it."

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"The last time I made a steel advertisement I made half a dozen trips down to the mills. For hours I hung around the particular operation I was supposed to paint. I was accompanied by an executive who could explain the operation to me. I think the artist needs to saturate himself in his subject. He should go to the scene whenever possible and see for himself what the possibilities are."

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"If he is actually there, seeing the place, noting its colors, its compositional opportunities, the flavor of the scene, he can't help but make a better picture."

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Continued tomorrow

* Two notable events related to the Famous Artists School occurred recently:

The Norman Rockwell Museum recently acquired the art and archives from the Famous Artists School in Westport, Connecticut, nearly doubling the Museum's collections. This major gift comprises more than 5,000 un-catalogued artworks, including several original works created by Norman Rockwell! You can learn more here...

Famous Artists School Group_5_6

Secondly, the current incarnation of the Famous Artists School is re-offering the original Famous Cartoonists Course online! FAS president Magdalen Livesey wrote to tell me, "we have reissued Book 1 of the FAS Cartooning Course. At this point, it’s only available online, not in printed version, but we are offering Assignments and Critiques as well as the book alone." Learn more here...

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