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Cole Phillips – Week 2

Clarence Cole Phillips, better known as Cole Phillips, was an artist most famous for his unique use of negative space, usually featuring stylish women. Phillips was an extremely popular illustrator of his time, and his popularity has not dismissed. Many tie his popularity to his signature fadeaway, but Phillips was much more than a one trick pony.

Beginnings & Time Magazine

Phillips initial contact with art was perhaps not the most conventional. Instead of drawing in a classroom, he sketched while working as a clerk for the American Radiator. As he came from a purely lower-middle class family, Phillips began with no other ambition to be a prominent illustrator, and took the job as a clerk, a job which he had no talent or interest in.

He soon quit his job there in order to attend Keyton College in 1902, where he published his first official works. More specifically he illustrated for the college’s monthly magazine, The Reveille. However in his junior year he dropped out, with the intention of working as a professional artist in New York. When he moved, he brought a recommendation letter from his old clerking job, which helped him gain a position as a clerk (and later a salesman) at the company’s New York location. However, a less than flattering illustration of his job cut his time there very short.

However, not all was over. A co-worker of Phillips recounted the story to  J.A Mitchell the publisher of Life Magazine. Upon his request, the co-worker presented him Phillips illustration, and Mitchell loved it so much he offered Phillips a job as an illustrator at the magazine. Phillips initially refused the job offer, opting instead to take art lessons. However, after a short and sweet three months at art school he dropped out, and in 1907 he accepted the job. He proved to be immensely successful, and a favourite of the magazines audience, which got him many jobs to illustrate the covers. Within just a year of working at Time, Phillips established himself as popular as other illustrators of his time, such as Charles Dana Gibson and James Montgomery Flagg.

Fadeaway Girl

In 1908 Phillips would debut what would later become his most perhaps the most iconic signature: The Fadeaway Girl. The first example of this was his 1908 but it became a technique which he utilized many times throughout his career. The figure’s clothing blends into the background, with the form of their clothing is still clearly defined and readable through minute details and careful planning on Phillips part. While the fadeaway could be (incorrectly) dismissed as a mere gimmick, it is a technique which demonstrates Phillip’s skillful compositional skills. When arranging a n image in such a fashion, immense attention has to be paid to the shapes that the positive and negative spaces make, and how they interact. This is a skill easier said than done. He didn’t just limit the technique to clothing, he applied the fadeaway in many different ways such as in the poster below.

Phillips utilized this technique many times, and it remains very popular for contemporary artists to take their own stab at it.

Phillips Girl

Women were a primary subject of Phillips, and the women he drew can be seen as
as an modern reiteration of other ideals of beauty, such as Charles Dana Gibson’s illustrations of the “Gibson Girl”. The changing time for women were expressed in Phillip’s illustrations. The ideals which the elite, prim and proper socialite which the Gibson Girl stood for where replaced with more modern values. The women which Phillips drew were often depicted as active, fun, and modern. Some even cite these illustrations as one of the first pin ups.


In all, I quite like all of Phillips work. The lines are very clean and the colours are well picked : overall it has a very clean and sleek look to it. His fadeaway style in particular is very interesting and amazingly executed. I hope to improve my own work by studying and adopting some of his techniques.

Walter Crane – Week 1

Walter Crane

Walter Crane, ca. 1886

Walter Crane, born August 15th 1845 in Liverpool, Lancashire, England was an illustrator and prominent figure in the Arts and Crafts movement but is remembered as the (unwilling) king of children’s book illustration. He worked in various different mediums, painting, designing wallpaper, ceramics, and stained glass yet he could never match the success he gained from illustrating children’s books.  

Beginnings & Apprenticeship

As the son of Thomas Crane, a portrait painter and miniaturist, and Marie Crane, daughter to a successful malt-maker, Crane’s interested in art was always fostered by his family. In fact, his brother Thomas would also go into illustration and his sister Lucy, would go on to become a noteworthy writer. In fact, it was his father, who was so impressed with his early watercolour work, that he introduced him to the wood engraver WJ Linton, who he would later be apprenticed to.


His apprenticeship to Linton began in 1859, and there he furthered his skill. He took influence from many sources and studied the work of old masters and contemporary artists such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti and John Millais. Crane showed a particular fondness for the work of the Pre-Raphaelites and their intense attention to detail is a quality which Crane absorbed and applied to his own work. However, Crane’s work is also indebted to the work done by Japanese illustrators. Many stylistic motifs which these artists utilized are present in his own works, such as the deep space and the flat perspective and colour. This particular quality would be most strongly expressed in his work with toy books. Additionally, during his apprenticeship, he was instructed in several printing and engraving techniques.

Political Work

Just as Linton helped develop Crane’s artwork he also impacted Crane’s views and morality, which were largely coloured his own ones. Linton was a staunch socialist, a position which Crane took up as well. Crane believed that his art was a tool to inspire social reform (many of which he was involved in). In his own words, he stated that capitalism was an “unwholesome stimulus” for art which only created a “catch penny abomination” of cheap, commercial art. In his mind, a socialist society would only benefit art, as it would allow artists to dedicated themselves solely to their art, and not how to make a living.
Crane was held to be one of the best 1800’s socialist artist and when not illustrating children’s books, he worked for many socialist periodicals.

Socialism and the Imperialistic Will O the Wisp, 1901 (engraving), Crane, Walter (1845-1915)

Additionally, he found many like-minded artists and was a prominent member of the Arts and Craft Movement with William Morris.

Toy Books

But all good things come to an end, and in 1816  his apprenticeship with Linton ended. However, he was quickly rewarded with a position as an illustrator for Eduman Evats, a leading woodblock colour printer at the time. Evans had him designing covers for “yellow back” books when Crane was only 18. However, it soon began clear that Crane struggled to produced everyday scenes. Evans aptly recognized his aptitude for illustrating children’s nursery rhymes, fairy tales and fables and switched him to illustrate “toy books”(illustrated children’s books). He also illustrated children’s colouring books. Here is where Crane formed his reputation, illustrating 17 toy books throughout his career.

“The Frog Prince and other stories”, 1874


The Academy

While Crane’s most recognizable works are his children’s book illustrations, he resisted his association with toybooks. While they are undoubtedly what solidified his career as an artist and illustrator he had no fondness for them. In an attempt to distance himself for children books illustration and completed some allegorical paintings and took to designing textiles, stained glass and wallpapers. His paintings were exhibited in the Royal Academy in 1862, but enjoyed very little success, probably due to their heavy socialist leanings.


Crane gave up submitting his work to the Academy and focused on taking his children’s book illustrations to a new level. In these works, he developed his style, with an intense focus on detail. His style was also greatly reminiscent of medieval wood engravings and illuminated books. In the end, he devoted his life to these books and changed the course of illustrations for children’s literature.



While I am aware that Crane wanted to distance himself from his children’s book illustrations, it’s clear why they were so popular. Crane developed a beautifully nostalgic style which call back to medieval paintings, all without sacrificing immense detail. While I also enjoy his realistic work, I still think that his stylized work demonstrates more of his skillset. It was harder to find his other works, I found several examples of his wall paper designs which I thought were beautiful.

Cover Rationel

My partner Tina and I were assigned to create a cover for the Idea 22 History book we’ve been making spreads for this term. We first struggled a lot with the design, and our initial sketches very much dependent on literally depicting the events, people, and inventions from different time periods. Unfortunately, these thumbnails would be rather weak cover designs, or at least would blend in with the hundreds of other history books.  

So, Tina and I switched gears and turned towards a more conceptual approach. Namely, we wanted to depict our major takeaways from the course, namely: the cyclical nature of history and the connections between the different events. From this ensued many thumbnails, including one with a map. I did some more thumbnails with the map, and while I could plot the main events and important ideas down, I found it difficult to connect them. Especially in a way illustrated timing well. I ended doing some more digging and came to look at some subway maps, which ended up as our final design plan.

We felt that the subway idea was particularly well suited to illustrate the idea of connections, as different art movements and events could be connected through subway lines. Additionally, we feel as though the railway lines also create a very linear movement, which also acts as a timeline to place points upon. This would solve the problem which the earlier map idea problem created, where I couldn’t show multiple events happening in conjunction with each other. To add more authenticity to my design I referenced various subways systems around the world, especially Paris’s one. Paris subway system, in particular, was particularly interesting because it follows Paris’s radial city plan. I borrowed the radial design, and make it the epicentre of my “city”, where I placed the text which reads “IDEA” twenty-one. Additionally, epicentre also could represent our current day, as all past events and design and fine art movements feed into.

We decided to extend this design into both the cover and the back, as we felt splitting it would greatly weaken the design.


Overall, I feel that our spread was fairly effective and I would give us an 8/10. I think that we had a very strong concept, but there were aspects that could have been perfected. This was especially evident in the way which the text was added. Additionally, the execution could have been a little cleaner in some areas. Perhaps markers would be a better medium compared to the paint.

Andrea Mantegna-Late Gothic & Early Renaissance (Blogpost Week 1)

Andrea Mantegna was an Italian artist of the early renaissance with a background in Roman archaeology. He not only had a successful painting career but also had a notable career as a engraver (although he never dated any of these works).

His background in sculpture is clearly reflected in his paintings, especially his later works.
His artwork is noted to be on the stiffer,more rigid side, as he preferred he works of ancient artists to nature. The approach he maintained towards sculptor. Mantegna’s works often featured a barren dull landscape, and stiff, relatively with a bony, stiff figure.

Image result for andrea mantegna 
His paintings “St. Sebastian” from 1480 and “Christ and the Suffering Redeemer” are a good example of this.

As per the time, Mantegna Experimented with the new discover of perspective. He especially seemed to favour the then new trend of lowering the horizon. This created a very subtle worms eye view which created a greater sense of awe. .

In general, the art of the late Gothic period and the early renaissance is not one which I find particularly appealing. While I recognise the immense skill of renaissance painters  and the of its time, it is not artwork which I generally enjoy. The majority of the Mantegna’s paintings are rather dull, however there are a few exceptions. Unfortunately, I don’t think the colours are particularly well handled, although this may be a result of the available materials at the time.


For example, his “Judith and Holofernes” is certainly more colourful than his other works, but I personally dislike the use of colour in this piece. (It should be noted that it is disputed whether Mantengna painted this or Giulio Campagnola did).

All information and pictures are from his Wikipedia page (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrea_Mantegna)