Norman Rockwell in the House!!!

22 Nov 2011

The Gossips by Norman Rockwell, 1948.
The Gossips by Norman Rockwell, 1948.
I think every one of us loves Norman Rockwell's illustrations, whether it is a little bit or a lot. They tell stories and always seem to capture expressions and reactions so perfectly. My favorite has always been The Gossips. I actually kept a copy of it in my wallet all throughout high school. (Yes, another weird arty habit of mine—at any one time my wallet will have a few pictures of inspiring art that I shove in there to look at during random times.) But I had no idea that Rockwell made watercolor paintings.

Rockwell did most of his magazine commissions in oil, although he did in fact submit several watercolor paintings to the Saturday Evening Post for publication. He often used watercolors to create sketches and quick studies for his commercial illustrations. He'd work out his ideas by painting watercolors that allowed him to explore color options, composition, and other concerns that he'd finalize in the work that would actually get into print.

Being a proponent of working from life with a model, Rockwell's use of watercolor isn't such a surprise. He would have been able to get tons of working sketches that explore an idea in various ways, and then gather those around him when composing the final work in his studio.

Watercolor painting was a gateway for Rockwell's work, but he also used it when travelling to depict scenes, architecture, landscapes, and incidents that caught his attention. Usually painted in his sketchbook and not meant for publication, these works show a freer hand than what we've come to know of Rockwell. They border on impressionistic and don't have as much detail in them as his illustrations.

Houghton's Mill by Norman Rockwell, watercolor painting. Across Kensington Gardens by Norman Rockwell, watercolor painting.
Houghton's Mill by Norman Rockwell,
watercolor painting.
Across Kensington Gardens by Norman Rockwell,
watercolor painting.

Rockwell's watercolor paintings allowed him to work differently, and that is what makes a lasting impression on me. Watercolor is able to give so much to an artist if they seize the opportunity, as Rockwell did. Knowing this is just another reason I look forward to each new issue of Watercolor. There's always a tip or method that I can take from the pages and run with, artistically speaking. Start your subscription today for Watercolor and enjoy that same opportunity!


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JazzSuze wrote
on 23 Nov 2011 6:21 AM

Oh Courtney! 'The Gossips' is my all time favourite painting!. You can sit and look at it for hours, repeatedly! I hadn't seen any of Mr Rockwell's watercolours though, the're really interesting, and in an unexpected style! He's my hero!

I love your little daily discussions - always relevant.