The Norman Rockwell Museum

Stockbridge, MA



Visual Solutions: Seven Illustrators & the Creative Process


Graphic for Exhibition, courtesy of Norman Rockwell Museum

Visual Solutions: Seven Illustrators & the Creative Process, opening at the Norman Rockwell Museum on November 7, 1998 and running through May 31, 1999, offers insight into the working lives of seven contemporary illustrators. Rarely does an exhibition give the museum goer the opportunity to join the visual artist in the steps taken to create a work of art. From rough sketch to final work, this exhibit charts the creative process through the art of seven of today's most prominent American illustrators: Eric Carle, Leo and Diane Dillon, Wendell Minor, Michael Deas, Barbara Nessim and C.F. Payne.

Over 100 paintings, drawings, collages and computer-generated images profile a fascinating look at a diverse range of talents and artistic perspectives. Visual Solutions features children's book illustration, book cover art and editorial illustrations. The exhibit gives a greater understanding of the field of illustration as it exists today, an extension of the profession to which Norman Rockwell dedicated himself for almost seven decades.

Visitors to the Norman Rockwell Museum have long expressed a keen interest in the development of Rockwell's work from rough sketches, photographs and pencil and oil studies to the final painting and the published magazine cover. Visual Solutions: Seven Illustrators and the Creative Process expands upon previous exhibitions which detailed Rockwell's working process and the many steps involved in crafting an illustration.

"This exciting exhibition invites viewers to discover how illustrations are created. said Maud Ayson, Associate Director for Education. " Visual Solutions. Seven Illustrators and the Creative Process offers a window into the working lives and studio routines of seven of America's most talented illustrators. If the exhibition accomplishes one thing --I would hope that it will change how visitors look at the art of children's books, editorial and book cover art forever -- and make them savor and remember the names quietly revealed in the credit lines below the pictures."

Visual Solutions takes visitors beyond the illustration and into the illustrator's mind. A range of visual materials will be displayed, revealing the aesthetic and practical considerations involved in creating a successful and powerful image. Specific assignments, conceptual decisions-making, editing, research, the artist's personal approach and ultimately the public's response all play a role in creation of an illustration. Preliminary drawings, editor's comments, reference photographs, working materials and other pieces of the creative process of the seven illustrators will be included in the exhibition.


The Artists


Eric Carle

One of the world's most beloved artists of children's books, Eric Carle is the creator of the classic, The Very Hungry Caterpillar (1969). This engaging story follows the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly. Carle's distinctive style comes from his innovative use of hand-painted tissue paper, cut into shapes and collaged to form colorful bold images. Left: Eric Carle, A House for Hermit Crab, 1987

A resident of Western Massachusetts, Carle began his professional career as a graphic designer. He never imagined himself as a children's book illustrator until he was asked to illustrate Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (1967). It was the first of more than 40 children's books that he has illustrated, including several authored by him. His work includes The Grouchy Ladybug, (1977) The Very Busy Spider, (1984) Animals Animals, (1989) and Today is Monday (1993).


Michael Deas

Using time honored techniques rarely used in illustration today, Michael Deas calls his approach to composition and color classical, rather than realistic. His greatest influences are Jan Vermeer and the 19th century academic painters which are clearly reflected in his harmonious, luminous compositions. Deas makes sketches of scenes that catch his eye, for eventual reference in illustration assignments. He works in oil paints, using the classical technique of creating an underpainting and then glazing over it. Working on wood enables him to paint fine details with clarity. A typical painting takes between 100 to 200 hours to complete. He does not refer to his work as photo-realism in spite of the close and accurate rendering of his imagery. "I get a great deal of pleasure in observing things and then rendering them as truthfully as possible. I try to allow my subject to speak for itself." Left: Michael Deas, Lily, 1993

The US. Postal Service commissioned Deas to create commemorative postage stamps of Tennessee Williams, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, as the "rebel without a cause" and Elvis Presley, the largest selling collectable stamp to date. He has won numerous awards for his work, including gold and silver medals from the Society of Illustrators. Deas has studios in New Orleans, Louisiana and Brooklyn, New York.


Leo and Diane Dillon

The richly textured and colorful images illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon have earned national and international awards, including two prestigious Caldecott Medals for children's book illustration. Collaborators in their art since the 1950s, the two artists share in the research, conception and execution of each illustration they do. The result, they say, is the work of a "third artist," Their art has covered many different cultures and includes Who's in Rabbit's House (1977), Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions (1977), Children of the Sun, and Swith on the Night (1992).

Above: Leo and Diane Dillon, Thailand

The Dillons met at Parsons School of Design, and married shortly after graduation. They began collaborating on album covers, advertisements, movie posters and cover art. Both, however, found artistic freedom when they began illustrating children's books. When their son Lee was born in 1965, there were few books that featured African-American children. Through their work the Dillons have helped to introduce children to a culturally diverse world. While their early work used woodcuts, by the mid-1970s their illustrations were noted for their diversity of materials, subjects and techniques. The two are masters of their art and spend much time researching their subjects. Their work has garnered many "Best Book" and "Best Illustrated" notices from numerous publications.


Wendell Minor

In the past twenty-five years, Wendell Minor has produced over 2,000 bookjackets, several widely acclaimed children's books, documented space flight for NASA, painted a US. postage stamp celebrating North Dakota's 100 years of statehood, and served as a former president of the Society of Illustrators in New York City. Knowledgeable about history, architecture, automobiles, antique toys and gardening, the vernacular architecture of America echoes throughout his work in which his love and respect for nature are clearly evident.

In 1996 the artist was invited to capture the beauty and spirit of the Norman Rockwell Museum landscape in a series of images that have been produced as fine quality prints and cards Left: Wendell Minor, To Kill a Mockingbird

Wendell Minor has received over 200 professional awards for his books and covers which he both illustrates and designs. The synergy between works and images is deeply felt. "The author with the ability to tell a good story through narrative and character development is always a joy for me as an illustrator. The word pictures they draw make it easy for me to interpret their work." His images appear on the covers of such renowned books as To Kill a Mockingbird, Truman and Eleanor Roosevelt: A life of Discovery.


Barbara Nessim

Barbara Nessim's frank images of women are not the typical flawless depictions or enhanced portraits that the public finds comfortable and familiar. Some of her work has been controversial, based on grotesque imagery, which was not embraced by the cultural mainstream. With the premier of MS. magazine, her work began to be accepted and appreciated by an international audience and has since been featured in major publications such as Rolling Stone, Time and Newsweek.

Nessim was one of the first illustrators to explore the technological possibilities of computer generated art. In 1980, she accepted IBM's offer to explore its graphic technology. Now known as the grand dame of this increasingly significant medium of artistic expression, she lectures widely on how computers are influencing illustration and global visual communications. Left: Barbara Nessim, Women & Madness - MS, 1972

Nessim lives in New York City and is chair of the Parsons School of Design Illustration Department.


C.F. Payne

"Barely a day goes by when I am at my board working that thoughts of Norman Rockwell don't rush through my head. Though illustrators come and go, one name always returns: Norman Rockwell. In baseball, one name stands alone: Babe Ruth. In Illustration, our Babe Ruth is and will always be Norman Rockwell."

Described as the "modern Rockwell," C.F. Payne's work has graced the covers and pages of the best, most widely distributed magazines in the country from Time, Esquire, and Rolling Stone to Sports Illustrated. His images of contemporary political and entertainment figures are startling reminders of how illustrations capture aspects of human experience that photographs overlook. Right: C.F. Payne, Newt with Pennies, Rolling Stone, 1996

A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, C.F. Payne prefers editorial illustration over advertising for its "larger freedom of expression." He has received numerous awards including gold medals from the national Society of Illustrators for his portrait of Jack Nicholson in Rolling Stone and his image of President Clinton on the cover of Time. He teaches at colleges and universities across the United States.

rev. 11/26/10

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