Traders Among The Crow, by Howard TerpningFrom Bob Foster:
Sometimes it's a fine line between good illustration and fine art. Maybe it's a blurry line. Maybe there's no line at all, depending on who's doing the viewing.
Back when I was in art school studying to be an illustrator (because all the adults in my life thought that "commercial art" was the only viable art form to pursue), I collected illustrations cut from the pages of Ladies' Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, The Saturday Evening Post, Redbook and countless other publications that kept a lot of illustrators busy in the 40s, 50s and well into the 60s before photography took over. I had large envelopes filled with illustrations from all my favorite illustrators.
One of them was Howard Terpning. In 1974 Terpning crossed the line.
From around 1950 until 1974 Terpning was one of the most prolific illustrators in America creating advertising and story illustrations for many of the major American magazines. He began his career as an apprentice to Haddon Sundblom and soon was working for himself. But in 1974, having grown weary of the commercial art grind, he decided to follow his interest in the American West and the Plains Indians. He created paintings and sold them in Western art galleries. Three years later he moved to Arizona and two years after that was elected to the National Academy of Western Art and the Cowboy Artists of America.
His early western paintings sold for about $2,000. One of his most recent paintings sold for $1.5 million.
Terpning will turn 85 this November but you'd never guess it by looking at him or listening to him. There are 86 of his paintings in the show and I urge you to see it.
It's easy to stroll through the galleries and look at his pictures but I suggest you try looking at the painting that went into the creation of those pictures. Yes, they're illustrations because there are stories being depicted, but they're fine art because his painting is so damn good.
When you're done, get the book. If you don't get the book, please get the DVD documentary on Terpning and his career. From rough sketch to finished masterpiece, the film shows the creation of the painting Traders Among the Crow. This is the kind of inspiration artists thirst for.
Here's a link to the movie poster work Terpning did during his Hollywood years. This is a revelation. I didn't even know he had done all this stuff. Check out all four sections of images:
And here's a link to more Terpning art:
And most importantly - Admission to The Autry National Center of the American West is free to the public on the second Tuesday of every month. That means next Tuesday, June 12, is free admission day. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The show runs until June 30. Please don't miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see these paintings by Howard Terpning at the Autry.
Abandoned, by Howard Terpening