Saturday, March 15, 2014

Peter Helck: "Like a piece of music, some pictures just give you an enormous thrill."

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

(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)

"The first thing I think of [when making a picture] is an agreeable composition. I arrange the elements in such a way that they relate directly and agreeably."


"I try always to use the minor elements to supplement the major ones. This takes patience and care. In composing pictorial elements you are emotionally absorbed in the creative process."


"I think a work of art can be made of anything at all. It's the way you approach it. Anything that excites me, that creates a terrific drive to set the subject down on paper, is worth painting. We have all had the experience of seeing something which arrests us completely."


"The painter should analyze for himself precisely what it is that causes him to feast his eyes. This will probably make a picture."


"I'll never stop being amazed by what seems sheer magic, how the solving of one troublesome color area invariably indicates the solution of a neighboring area. Like most artists I work rapidly at the outset to cover the entire picture area to be rid of the disturbing whites of the raw illustration board or canvas. Only then do I feel the picture is under way."


"Since the client is paying the bill I think he should be given a lot of consideration. But some artists will surrender at the first sign that the client isn't pleased. Right now I am doing four race pictures. In one I have a pole placed in a position which contributes to the composition. The client said he didn't like the pole there. I'll think about it but I still believe it belongs there. If he makes an issue of it I may surrender or I may not."


"You have to try new things or you'll get stale. At least I have to. In my book The Checkered Flag there are about 120 Peter Helck illustrations. I tried various ways of doing them. Of course, in many there is a tendency to work in a familiar medium."


"Like a piece of music, some pictures just give you an enormous thrill."


"You wonder what's taking place there."


"I always look for composition. I admire [Robert] Fawcett and [Ben] Stahl tremendously. Stahl is a virtuoso in the application of paint. And he is able to generate a deep emotional feeling.


"[John] Atherton, who is dead now, had a great finesse and taste, fine design and excellent colour."


"I'll be candid. There are very few occasions when I feel any great satisfaction [from my own work]. I always feel they have not matched the visualization I had in mind."


"Only rarely do I get something that really pleases me. It is gratifying to get a telegram from a client telling you he likes the picture. But the greatest joy comes from those rare moments when the picture clicks."


"I wish it happened more often."

* For more about Peter Helck, visit the artist's website or his Facebook Fan Page

* There is a long and interesting article about Peter Helck's race car illustrations at the Saturday Evening Post website

* 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...


  1. Hace tiempo que no comento, pero sigo sus publicaciones y me siguen pareciendo geniales.

    Gracias por compartir sus conocimientos.-

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