Learning From Great Artists - Stephen Gammell

Today I want to hone in on the astounding illustration work Stephen Gammell has made for many children's books and other publications. For the most part, his gray scale printed work is his most well exposed works so that is more so where the focus will be.

Although, I mainly paint these days, for years I made highly detailed graphite drawings. My work was portraiture and figure based but my goal was to transfer his understanding and use of subtle light gray transitions. For me, it exposes a sense of light and energy that diverts your attention. There are a few reasons why this can was so important to me. First, he was able to create scary images and bathe them in light without it becoming too weak. The go-to for horror is black, yet only a third of his work is set in a fully dark scene. Second, the points of higher contrast stand out with more energy and radiance when surrounded by subtle transitions. Below is an illustration of mine from 2014 so you can see the way I integrated his style.


His work also has a surreal sense of depth. Yes, you can say his style is surreal but that isn't what I am focused on. It comes across rather flat being made as small illustrations to have a different presence on a book's page than a computer screen. Yet you can recognized the implied depths and distances based on sizing and how meticulously he uses blurs and fades. The draw your eyes to and from the focal point.

I have always loved his work and I continue to study it, even after a decade of seeing the magnitude of illustrations and prints he has made since the 70's.