Jan 15, 2010


John Ford Clymer (January 29, 1907 - November 2, 1989)

John was an American painter and illustrator known for his work that captured nature and the American West.
Born in Ellensburg, Washington, Clymer first studied art through the Federal School correspondence course. He continued his study in Canada, where he spent eight years illustrating for Canadian magazines.
In 1932, he married his childhood sweetheart, and five years later, in the fall of 1937, John and Doris Clymer moved to Westport, Connecticut, where he established his career as an illustrator for American magazines, including Argosy, The Saturday Evening Post, Woman's Day and Field and Stream.
While in the Marine Corps, he illustrated for Leatherneck Magazine and the Marine Corps Gazette. His work in advertising included paintings for White Horse Scotch Whiskey, the Pennsylvania Railroad and the Chrysler Corporation.

In 1976, Clymer received the Prix de West from the Academy of Western Art. His oils and charcoal drawings brought him medals from the Cowboy Artists of America. He was named Western Artist of the Year by the National Wildlife Art Collectors Society. In 1988 he was awarded the Rungius Medal from the National Museum of Wildlife Art (Jackson Hole, Wyoming) for his painting Late Arrivals, Green River Rendezvous. Clymer died in Wyoming.
Today, his work is on permanent exhibit at the Clymer Museum of Art. located at 416 North Pearl Street in Ellensburg, Washington.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

At an early age John's parents were aware of his special talent for art. At the young age of five, John saw his first circus parade and upon his return home, John sat down and reproduced the whole circus with nothing more than brown paper and a pair of scissors. Each circus animal including elephants, wagons, horses with decorative plumes, circus band members and the calliope were cut out and the silhouettes placed around the baseboard of the Clymer family living room. Even into his early teens John found himself doodling and sketching when ever he had the opportunity. While attending church one Sunday young Clymer sat quietly a few pews behind his parents. It was during the sermon that the minister thundered "Junior Clymer, stop drawing in the back of the hymnal this instant! Furthermore, you have until next week to erase your drawings for all the other hymn books we have found defaced!" This would prove to be the first public notice of John's blossoming art.
Clymer's Approach to Art
"The method which I find that works best for me in planning and painting a picture is this: When I first start thinking about a picture I want to paint I begin with a series of "doodles" or small pen and ink sketches on paper, postage-stamp size, to develop the shape and composition or design of the picture. Because the composition is so small in size it has to be simple and make a strong statement. If I can accomplish this in my small drawing this statement will carry in a picture of any size."
"I then concentrate on the arrangement of the light, medium, and dark areas in the picture as well as the attitude and movement of the figures and animals. When I have finally arrived at an arrangement in the small sketch that is simple and easy to read and that moves in a positive manner I am ready to start drawing up the picture."
"On a large canvas I carefully draw the composition of my small sketch. If the picture is a person or people I get someone to pose for me so I can make a study of the lighting, drapery, and detail of hands, feet, or other important features. I then make a drawing or take a photograph of the model posed in the attitude of my composition with attention to the details just mentioned. I use this for reference for the detail for my charcoal drawing and my finished painting. A model is an absolute necessity to make the picture convincing. In the case of animals for animal paintings, one must become thoroughly familiar with animal anatomy. One has to know the skeletal and muscular structure in order to draw movement that is convincing. There is no substitute for drawing from nature in either people or animals. In the case of grizzly bears, for instance, I have sketched and watched them in Canada, Alaska, and in the West. It is also very necessary to have a thorough knowledge of the characteristics and habitat of the animal one is portraying."
"When I am satisfied that the charcoal drawing on the canvas is as good as it can be, I use a fixative spray on it before starting to paint."
"I think I should mention here that if one feels the necessity for making a color sketch before beginning to paint he should by all means do so."

"One of the most important things I have learned is to paint out of doors. There is no other way to learn the perspective of values and the perspective of color. You cannot learn the effect of sky color on the top of rounded surfaces and the effect of the color of the earth and grass on the underside of objects or animals from a photograph. Go out and look for this in nature. The more one looks and becomes aware of these features the easier it is to put it into one"s work."
"The first thing I paint in my picture is the sky. This gives the atmosphere color of the day. The distant hills are most affected by this color. I next paint in the middle distance where the transition begins between the atmospheric color and the local color. From this I work forward more and more into the local color of the earth, grass, rocks, and trees in the foreground. When the sky color and the ground color are established I paint the figures or animals, with the light reflecting up from the ground affecting the color of the underside of the figures and the sky color affecting the upper surfaces. This makes the figures take their proper place in the picture."

Development of an Illustration
Here we follow a John Clymer illustration step by step from start to finish
Step One: John starts with a charcoal drawing on canvas, outlining the composition and the position of the figures, animals, and humans. John then refers to his files for different animal studies, to help assist in the animals action. Most of the action John uses stems directly from his own experiences and knowledge of the animals.
Step Two: John photographs his models and begins to draw the people. This process takes some time but once his human figures are finished, John fixes the drawing with alcohol and shellac.
Step Three: The painting begins. With a general color scheme in mind, John begins painting in oil, handling the illustration as he would an outdoor sketch. That is, he does the sky first and then works toward the foreground. The color of things in the distance is affected by sky and as he moves into the foreground, the color becomes more local and less affected by the sky. John paints the people in last because their coloring is affected be the background and the top light. He keeps painting out of the sky into the foreground and, once the sky is finished, he finishes the painting portion by portion instead of progressing on the painting as a whole, a method followed by some other artists.

Over the years John Clymer received numerous awards and honors including the revered Prix de West in 1976, from the national Academy of Western Art. Other great achievements included both gold and silver metals for his oils and charcoal drawings from the Cowboy Artists of America, "Western Artist of the Year" from the National Wildlife Art Collectors Society, and both John and Doris were honored at the Ellensburg National Art Show and Auction for their contributions to western heritage. John's highest honor came in 1988 when he was awarded the prestigious Rungius Medal from the Wildlife of American West Art Museum in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, for his painting "Late Arrivals-Green River Rendezvous".
From the John Clymer Museum

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