Frank Scicchitano (Illustrator) –
Creative Drawing & Sports Illustration – At seventeen I met Mr. Harold Ransom Stevenson and he changed my life forever.
I love drawing and painting and always have. For me, the study of art and art history is a wonderful lifetime pursuit. My love of Disney, dinosaurs and Jack Davis has been happily ongoing through ups and downs, for the last forty-five years. My dad would put Jack Davis cartoons on my desk at night (and never said a word) and my mom taught me to love dinosaurs. Encouragement, approval, and inspiration are essential to a young child. I remain forever grateful and blessed.
I discovered Walt Disney through Preston Blair’s wonderful book on Animation, a Water T. Foster publication, (what great books for children today). I spent much of my childhood drawing and making magic marker copies of everything Disney and Davis.
As both of my very supportive sisters began buying me all the Disney books available (and both continue to do so to this day) I discovered the “Nine old Men” and the Complete Disney tradition.
My favorites like Ken Anderson and Marc Davis, Al Hurter, Claude Coates, and Gustaf Tenggren were all great draftsmen, great idea men. It was this group that intrigued me the most. The preliminary sketches were the best!
The great books by John Canmaker, Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnson, and Pierre Lambert were & continue to be a constant source of study and inspiration. Thinking with a pencil or marker and seeing a subject developed from many views was the essential greatness of these wonderful artists. Their skill, unequaled!
As I continued to grow, Bruce Stark cartoon illustrations also began appearing, magically on that same desk! What a great illustrator! His pen work to me was the best I had ever seen. Perhaps the best in the great tradition of giants like Charles Dana Gibson, Joseph Clement Coll and Orson Lowell.
I continue to collect a scrapbook of Davis, Stark, and Mort Drucker, the best cartoonists in the world (the golden age of Mad Mag.)
Owning some originals are some of my most fun moments, pouring over them constantly. (Coincidentally, I’ve worked on several Baseball Card series with Ron Stark, the son of Bruce Stark and a fine painter in his own right.) All three continue to leave me in awe. Their unique talents will never be equaled.
At seventeen I met Mr. Harold Ransom Stevenson and he changed my life forever. A beautiful human being, a great man, a great painter, and a great teacher! It was under his guidance that I began to study art. His approach to drawing and painting was simple. Flat abstract poster-like two dimensional shapes, in the right place at the right value, with the correct edges to portray a three-dimensional image. As someone said “the challenge to reduce a landscape or personality to a limited two-dimensional surface.” I love that!
Mr. Stevenson taught me, that as a cartoonist especially, I should understand the giant concept of the quick sketch; he believed, the most important thirty seconds of any drawing. “You can’t build a house on a faulty foundation,” he would say over and over. (Jack Davis’ work illustrates this to perfection! And his use of watercolors allow for no mistakes).
Mr. Stevenson taught values painting, the traditional approach: light to dark to reflected light to cast shadow. He taught all his students the soundness of the Munsell color system, a system of matching color to value. His stressed a complete value study of any subject. First always. And he stressed practice and persistence above all else. Talent was of little importance to him. I love that! He stressed reading Creative Illustration by Andrew Loomis endlessly, and he continued to reread it throughout his life. I followed his advice and always, and I continue to reread it. To see a Lomis original is truly inspirational!
Mr. Stevenson’s approach taught to him by Frank Reilly and Norman Rockwell(How I Make a Picture by Rockwell is a great book) was how he worked and studied, and was what he tried to teach us. He studied with Norman Rockwell in Stockbridge for several months before he was forced to return home. We would talk abou this, and everything else, outside the studio when the model was posing. I should have been painting, as he always told me, but I loved listening to him speak, and loved hearing about the stories of his journey! He had a big approach to life. Simple and honest. A wise man who knew just what to say to a stumbling student. Constant practice, was his answer to everything. Constant practice and study so that your imagination is not limited by your physical skills. He showed us through his own life, that the study of art was not at all about material things, but joy. These are so different.
As I continue to study, things become clearer – big truths that I have read over many times suddenly go off in my head like a bang!
I love and study the “usual suspects” of art history and building an art library has become an ongoing pleasure. Great painters from all the “schools reside.” Most with the names of one or both of my sisters’ inspirations inside the covers. Valazquez, Hals, Vermeer, (Mr. Stevenson’s favorite painter), Goya and David provide constant inspiration. As do Raeburn, Chardin, and Ingres. I love Vuillard, Mary Cassatt, Celie Beaux, and Faifield Porter as well. So many painters throughout history can supply anyone with inspiration and joy. Manet, Sargent, Zorn, and Sorolla are so much fun to study and so interesting to read about. At this point, and this changes often, Frank Duveneck, Waterhouse, and Whistler are three of my most favorite painters.
Some things in life you cannot control, and some you can. You choose what you read and study. You choose what school you like, abstract or realism (to me they are the same). And you get to choose whether you practice and study or whether you don’t. Some things you can control, you choose!
As an illustrator I really love the Golden Age of Illustration. Howard Pyle, N.C. Wyeth, J.C. Leyendecker, Norman Rockwell and many others were not just illustrators, they were great artists. This was a great period, a creative period. Before movies and T.V., great novels held that distinction. It was these top illustrators that set the trends and styles for decades. The Arros shirt man, the Gibson Girl, and many others all iconic imagery of the day. Saturday Evening Post covers were the American Idol shows of yesterday, and to see these works in person is truly a thrill. Living downtown, I have that luxury. I live a block away from Illustration House, a great place run by Mr. Walt Reed and his son. They authored dozens of books and articles on this great period as they are the preeminent authorities in the field. Mr. Reed, a warm and gracious man, was an illustrator and instructor during this great period and has wonderful stories about this golden time and these glorious image makers. Roger who follows in his dad’s footsteps, is a great authority in his own right and a good friend. I see them constantly, visiting all the time. It is a great gallery and I study there often.
The study of art and the love of my family are my great joys. I continue to study in all mediums as every art student does and I really enjoy the layout part of picture making, the preliminary sketches and studies. I believe this is the strongest part of my work, certainly the most rewarding and fun. They are always looser, as my finished work is always tight and less satisfying, and always frustrating! It’s the coolest frustration. I love drawing and painting and always will. For me the study of art and art history is a wonderful lifetime pursuit.
This is a portion of my portfolio. Please use the links below to view my entire illustrative portfolio or to contact me for commissions.
Article by James Day
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