Rebecca West: Words & Music

Famous Artists

by Bob West

In 1959 I enrolled in the Famous Artists Course in Commercial Art and Illustration. "The school was founded by the twelve most successful artists in America -- artists whose names were household words -- artists whose work you see and recognize every time you open your favorite magazines." At least that quote from their brochure was true fifty years ago, while publications were still primarily illustrated with drawings and paintings. Advanced technology and photography has changed that. But even now many will still recognize the name Norman Rockwell, who was one of the school's founders.

The school was located in Westport, Connecticut, but the course itself was done at home using comprehensive manuals designed and illustrated by the founders. Assignments were mailed to the school where they were critiqued by the guiding faculty and instructors who were the leading artists within their specialties. I also got some valuable tips from the outstanding illustrators I worked with at the Martin Company.

Here are some samples of the school work I did and the critique I received.

Lesson 1, pencil rendering
Lesson 1: Assignment 1, Pencil Rendering by Bob West

Lesson 1, pen and ink rendering
Lesson 1: Assignment 2, Pen and Ink Rendering by Bob West

Wash and opague rendering of woman's head
Lesson 5: The head and hands
Assignment 3, Drawing in Wash and Opaque by Bob West

Sylvia running
Sylvia poses for photo reference Bob needed of woman running
in the illustration assignment shown below

Illustration of woman with rolling pin
"Working" drawing by Bob West for a magazine story illustration.
This pencil drawing has the final composition, perspective, figures, and clothing carefully worked out in detail. For the background he used a photo of a decorative pattern that suggests the atmosphere of the rooming house where this scene took place.

Sylvia poses for illustration of woman on skis
Bob took this photo of Sylvia to use for reference
when he did a story illustration which included a woman on skis.
Pictures of skis, snow, etc., came from other sources.

Bob poses as gunfighter Bob poses as checkers player
Bob posed for illustration assignments himself (left: gunfighter,
right: an interrupted game of checkers) while Sylvia took the photos

Lesson 18 assignment
Preliminary pencil drawing by Bob West, which was the basis for his painting
of a magazine story illustration (Lesson 18 assignment)

Lesson 18 assignment
Photo taken of Bob West's drawing board with reference photos and the finished illustration (Lesson 18 assignment before the removal of the masking tape)

Lesson 18 assignment
Famous Artists School instructor's critique included my grade for this assignment, plus his sketch (shown above) with notations and comments and a letter that went into more detail.
This was typical for all lesson assignments. Very helpful!

Here is an another example of my Famous Artists School assignments and my completed illustration:

"You have been assigned a very sophisticated romantic story for a women's magazine. The picture is to occupy one page in black and white. The art director has suggested a scene in the story when the hero and heroine are alone in a very swank city apartment. They have just returned from a dance and are in evening clothes. She has invited him in for a few minutes, and as she is removing her cloak he suddenly takes her in his arms. Our heroine is a very lovely brunette, the sparkling type, well-educated, well-poised, and thoroughly knowledgeable. One might guess her age as twenty-six. The hero is a successful young executive, with a college and sports background -- a man about thirty-four, tall, blonde and handsome in a rugged way. The pose, the number and kind of props you want to show, the lighting -- all these things are up to you. But remember -- the most important things to get across, and quickly, are the two characters involved, the highly romantic mood and atmosphere, the strength of the attraction they feel for each other."

FA lesson assignment

As I did this illustration, I thought about Sylvia and yearned for a better relationship with her. Years later the Lord would show me how to make that happen.

To be continued...

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