Saturday, March 09, 2019


Before he became an illustrator, Harold Von Schmidt was a cowboy.  

He loved the old west: "I had a chance to be with the Indians, to take part in trail drives and get to know cattle and horses."  He also had long, long days to study the immense clouds hovering over the western landscape.  

Here are two very different ways he looked at those clouds: 

The first view used traditional tools of accurate painting, such as light, color and perspective to capture a likeness.

Illustration for the Saturday Evening Post

The second view forced every element of the landscape into either black or white.  No compromises.

Illustration of a goat herder watching a distant storm in Willa Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop
You can bet when Von Schmidt was riding the range, he never saw clouds with thick black outlines. Here he has created a strange binary world by pushing the contrasts in the landscape to the far end of the spectrum.  Like the hot desert sun, he bleached out the nuances of color and shading.  He annihilated any fine lines that might be used to create the crutch of a half tone.  You'll find no wrinkles or folds shading that goat herder's cloak:

The drawing was done big and bold, with thick lines on a large illustration board nearly 28" wide.  Who draws like that anymore?

Both views of clouds capture their immense scale and majesty. The painting achieves it primarily through a likeness but the drawing achieves it more through abstraction. Welcome to the wonderful world of drawing. 

Abstract art is nothing new; the first abstract art was created when our first human ancestor drew the first line in the dirt with a stick.