Every year as a kid I remember having a Norman Rockwell calendar hanging on the wall. A great majority of his paintings tell the American story from WW II until the time of his death in 1978. He was a proud veteran of WW II as were my parents. Our family could relate to the stories he was telling in his paintings. One year for Christmas I was given a beautiful book entitled “Norman Rockwell’s America” full of large images of his pencil drawings and paintings.
One day in 1980, just out of art school, I thought I would test my drawing skills. I took out Norman’s book and on P. 75 there is a wonderful drawing he did entitled Love Letters. I wanted to see if I could challenge myself and draw it without using an eraser. After I completed it I felt a tremendous sense of accomplishment. I felt I had pushed myself to another level by copying one of Norman’s masterpieces. My version of Love Letters is depicted on the left.
In 1995, I had the opportunity to paint my version of a Norman Rockwell painting The Man Painting Flagpole for a client. When I completed the painting I appreciated Norman Rockwell’s work even more. He was not just an illustrator. His work is masterful. He always went the extra mile to capture the character in his subjects. His use of color, shading and highlights is genius. He has an amazing painterly quality to his work. If you look for example at the sole of the shoe of the flagpole painter there are many colors that play off each other to give an ordinary old shoe it’s character.
As in the drawing, copying The Man Painting Flagpole painting inspired me to push myself harder on every painting. It made me want to be a better painter. My painting, The Man Painting Flagpole is shown here on the right along with a detail shot of the painter’s shoe below.
If you ever have the opportunity to visit the Norman Rockwell museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts it is well worth the trip. Masterpiece after masterpiece are displayed beautifully. I walked away in awe at how prolific a painter he was. How could he put so much detail into so many large paintings? It was simple staggering!
Studying and copying works by Masters can be an invaluable learning experience for an artist. I know it has been for me. Thank you Norman for being so inspirational!