Norman Rockwell's Technique

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It is easy to assume Norman Rockwell’s technique lies in his painting style. But really it begins with his illustrations.

I recently visited the Norman Rockwell Museum in Boston Massachusetts to gather clues to Norman Rockwell’s technique. Beside displaying famous works such as his Four Freedoms (Freedom Of Speech, Freedom From Want, Freedom From Fear and Freedom Of Worship) the museum also has his studio on display, allowing a rare peek into the mind of a master artist. His studio wall is lined with binders and books which imply influence from other artists, mostly the great masters. Surprisingly, there are not many books that give art instruction except from some back issue books of Art Instruction / American Artist.

Norman Rockwell Illustration

It is well known that Norman Rockwell’s technique began behind the camera. But many would not have guessed the level of detail that he reached in his preliminary drawings. Using graphite and charcoal, he would meet scale and tone of what would later be recreated using oil based paint. When unsatisfied, he would cut out fresh pieces of paper and glue them over the areas he did not approve of. He would then use the area to make corrections.

If you are interested in Norman Rockwell’s technique, you should definitely read his autobiography. (affiliate link) It reveals that he originally lived in New York and walked along the Hudson River. He steps you through his career as an artist and how he came to walk that path. If you can find the short film Norman Rockwell’s World, it is narrated by himself and he briefly describes his motivation while sparsely demonstrating his method. You are also able to see how slow and meticulously that he paints.

The museum also features other artists like Norman Rockwell on a regular basis. Artists like Alex Ross and Mort Kunstler have graced the halls with their fabulous magazine illustrations. Do you have any thoughts about his technique? Like him? Hate him? Leave a comment below.