N. C. Wyeth: Too Busy for Controversy


“By the late twenties and early thirties my easel pictures were being shown and somewhat admired. Critics used the word ‘illustrator’ as a denigrating label. I resented the implied barrier between illustration and painting but I was too busy to enter into controversy. Both illustrator and painter are artists who are in pictorial communication. Both should be measured by their competence — not by artificial compartments contrived by critics.”

N. C. Wyeth (1882-1945)


Famous Illustrators: Rembrandt van Rijn


It is written that Rembrandt created three illustrations in his career (art specifically made for publications), and this is one of them: The Marraige of Jason and Creusa. The etching was designed as an opening illustration for the frontpiece of Jan Six’s printed edition of his play, Medea, in 1648. Jan Six was a very important patron of Rembrandt.

Interestingly, Rembrandt’s image does not depict an actual scene from the play. Whether he chose to purposely show an event that was not described (the great American illustrator N.C. Wyeth used that approach often for his illustrations), or whether he was depicting a tableau vivant or living picture (a staged picture using actors and props created between acts) is unknown. Either way, the artist presents a dramatic and telling narrative moment, showing a glowing marraige scene beyond the shadows -shadows that hold the treacherous Medea, in the bottom right foreground.


Jan Six portrait by Rembrandt

Writing with Pictures: Poetic Advice

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Stanly Kunitz, in the August 1988 issue of The  Paris Review, described well the process of getting art from the head to the page. As a believer that illustration is “writing with pictures,” I often find advice from writers to be particularly use in my teaching and professional practice.

“The poem in the head is always perfect. Resistance starts when you try to convert it into language. Language itself is a kind of resistance to the pure flow of self. The solution is to become one’s language. You cannot write a poem until you hit upon its rhythm. That rhythm not only belongs to the subject matter, it belongs to your interior world, and the moment they hook up there’s a quantum leap of energy. You can ride on that rhythm, it will carry you somewhere strange. The next morning you look at the page and wonder how it all happened. You have to triumph over all your diurnal glibness and cheapness and defensiveness.”

Stanley Kunitz (1905-2006) won many awards for his writing including the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Pize. He was the U.S. Poet Laureate in 2000.