Sunday, August 23, 2009

Dean Cornwell Notes Part 2

(all images Dean Cornwell)
By Armand Cabrera

My second set of Dean Cornwell quotes from Art Student League lectures given in the thirties.




For background material, go to the source, not clippings of another illustrators work. Build you own files with your own sketches

Do what the camera can’t do- the camera can’t add the spiritual; it can’t go beyond the mentality of its models. Test your work ask yourself “Can the camera do what I have done?” If you can make a real picture you won’t have to worry about the camera.


One thing is definite-ART IS IMPORTANT! Man drew pictures before he could read or write and he still looks at pictures. Let us then agree they should be good.

In speaking of art, Frank Brangwyn says the best art is that which serves the best purpose.

From all we can read of the old masters they did not set out to produce art but to do well a given job

No one can ever hope to attain success as an illustrator when this aim is not their sole purpose in life.


Any picture made by a rule is most likely to result in looking like rules and hence will always lack distinction and personality.

The first thing a student seems to think important is that of acquiring a style. It is truth we are striving for and style is a bit of the man himself that stands between the observer and the idea and is always a distraction.


Every thought in the artists mind is always manifest in the result. If you are thinking of how the paint is put on your canvas the result will be this is your message.

To understand art apart from facts one must go to the work of acknowledged masters, while fact may be gained from nature. We must realize that art is interpretation not imitation.

It is the quality of selection in everything at all times that makes for the artist. Whatever you do, do it as well as you can, whenever in doubt, don’t do it.

Art is a language complete and distinct from literature. Anything that can be said in words is not a subject for a painting.



A picture so limited to any one line in the story is not worthy of space.

I have known illustrators to lack imagination to the extent that they allow or depend on the model to give them an interpretation. Very rarely have I ever found a model that can get into a pose in spirit or drawing the way I would like it on canvas. You should know enough about drawing so that your action or posture is definitely established on your canvas before ever calling the model.

I have always started without drawing in the charcoal first but with lots of medium and very large brushes working entirely in tone and mass. In laying in your picture this way after a few hours at a distance of twenty or thirty feet your canvas should look complete and finished. Until this is so it is not a lay-in and until you have a good lay-in no thought should be given to the use of models.

Drawing is an indispensable aid to the illustrator. By this I do not mean academic drawing, this is of practically no value.

A successful picture is a thing conceived as a whole and cannot be attained by the sum of its parts. The sum of the parts is never as great as the whole.

It is impossible for any man to paint and not leave traces of his personality. In the work of big men, despite this, the idea is never obscured by technique or manner of presentation.