If you, like me, are into popular culture, your favourite artists are most often famous comic book artists, conceptual designers, game illustrators and such. And sure, those guys and gals can all be put into different styles and eras, but no matter if we are talking about Frank Frazetta or Becky Cloonan it is pop culture; modern styles of art and narration.
But what about traditional art, can we get any useful inspiration from such?
I would say we can, and it is not as far fetched as we might think. First of all, art is art and new styles evolves from old ones, obviously. But, more remarkably, we might identify common denominators between, for instance, Rembrandt and … Mike Mignola. Yes, I am a big fan of Mignola and I love work built on catchy shadows. Well, to make this (not at all scientific) theory a bit more comprehensible, please let me show and tell. As you might have guessed by know, I am talking about Rembrandt Lighting:
»[…] is a lighting technique that is used in studio portrait photography. […] Rembrandt lighting is characterized by an illuminated triangle under the eye of the subject on the less illuminated side of the face. It is named for the Dutch painter Rembrandt, who often used this type of lighting.»¹
Mignola’s HP Lovecraft and ”Self portrait sketch” by Rembrandt.
Obviously, it is not only Mignola. I mean, I do not think that Mike Mignola sat down one day and thought to himself: ”Hey, I’m really into shadows, why don’t I use that kind of lighting they evolved during the Dutch golden age!” It is more likely that other historical artists found interest in this way of lighting and carried it on from there, then others picked it up and then comics came along and …
… Today you will find that this way of lighting is not so popular among painters but photographers. I can not say exactly how it found it’s way into comics, but I guess it has to do with comics being about simplifying. In short, if you want to keep things simple but striking you will approach simple but striking techniques; and there we got Rembrandt as a model.
What can I or we learn from this?
I believe that to enrich our inspiration at a wider range we can not only study our immediate models but allow us to move back and forth through history and look at both the originators and the evolvers, both distant and close to the styles we would like to approach. As well as learning from Andy Warhol, John Howe or Jim Steranko we should also look back at Leonardo da Vinci, Anthony van Dyck, Artemisia Gentileschi or Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun.
¹ Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Rembrandt lighting. 2016. Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rembrandt_lighting, (accessed 10 April, 2017).