After enduring an unpleasant prep for a medical exam this morning, I decided to treat myself by driving out to the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA. I'd read on the museum's website last week that there were two intriguing exhibits -- one about pop-up books, and the other a show of illustrations and portraits by the artist Everett Raymond Kinstler. It was a beautiful day, though not quite warm enough to take my motorcycle (I guess those eighty degree days we had a few weeks ago really WERE an anomaly).
The pop-up book thing was kind of a bust -- I was expecting something with in-depth looks at how pop-up books are made, why they appeal to us so much… but it was basically part of someone's collection of pop-up books.
It was fun to look at, but certainly not worth a fifty-five mile (one way) trip.
However, the Kinstler show was great -- lots of examples of his illustrations, both ink drawings and paintings, many of which were portraits -- and from what I could gather, all painted from life, not photographs. Here's a nice one of Katherine Hepburn:
He's definitely one of those "old school guys" -- and at the age of 86, he's still going strong. I was wandering around looking at a lot of his beautiful work, when I realized that the crowd of people in one of the galleries were actually listening to Mr. Kinstler himself!
I had not realized that he was supposed to be there today, so I decided to take advantage of this bit of serendipity and listen to the rest of his talk, which was very interesting and humorous.
My favorite part was when he described a meeting he had with Theodor Geisel (aka "Dr. Seuss") when Kinstler was painting this portrait of the famed children's book writer…
It seems that somehow in their conversation, the topic of a children's book Kinstler had illustrated some years previous came up. It was titled "Cowboy Andy", and as Kinstler told the story, he confessed to Geisel that it was the worst illustration job he'd ever done…
… to which Geisel replied "No, it's the worst illustration job ANYONE has ever done!" Apparently, Kinstler didn't disagree too much with Geisel on this point (or at least didn't take great umbrage at that description of his work on that book), as he told the story with a big grin.
After the talk, the crowd thinned out to the point where I was able to get a minute or two to talk with him, and I asked him what tools he had used to do this 2011 drawing (and other drawings of a similar style in the exhibit).
I thought for sure he would say a brush, but he told me that he actually did them with broad nibs for pens which were dipped in India ink. I was hoping to ask him if he'd known Jack Kirby during his years of working in comics, and what he thought of fellow illustrator Norman Rockwell, but other fans were itching to ask him some questions, so I didn't get that chance.
It was fascinating to study his artwork up close, especially the large black and white pen and ink drawings, to see how his loose, sweeping style was also so well-controlled as to produce some amazing shading and rendering effects. The guy can DRAW! Definitely worthy of being shown alongside Norman Rockwell.
Before I left the museum, I stopped in their gift shop and bought three things: a Norman Rockwell tie, a little bear which I am going to send to a bear-fancier friend of mine, and a beautiful autographed hardcover collection of a lot of Kinstler's illustration work titled "Everett Raymond Kinstler: The Artist's Journey Through Popular Culture 1942-1962". This is definitely a show which any appreciator of fine illustration should see. -- PL