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Empathy, or the ability to feel with the characters and the action you
are portraying, is the secret to making your pictures come alive. The
spirit of the event, according to Austin Briggs, is more important than
the fact. Paint what moves you; present your emotions so that your
viewer can share them.
Exploring a similar theme, Norman Rockwell’s Girl at Mirror,
a 1954 Saturday Evening Post cover illustration, pictures a child’s
transition to young adulthood. Rockwell had a natural ability to
portray experiences that a broad audience could easily relate to,
an essential element of his success.
THE IMPORTANCE OF EMPATHY
Girl at Mirror follows a long tradition of artists who have pictured
a woman contemplating her reflection. George Hughes, fellow
Post cover artist, said that Édouard Manet’s 1877 Woman Before Mir-
ror inspired this painting. Two paintings by other artists stand out
as strong candidates, however. Included in Rockwell’s reference files
are examples of Picasso’s Girl Before a Mirror and Louise Élisabeth
Vigée Le Brun’s The Artist’s Daughter, each of which could have
directly influenced this work. Rockwell typically created a full-scale
charcoal drawing in preparation for work on his final canvas. The
drawing closely resembles his finished illustration, from the main
Austin Briggs
I’ll Never Let You Go, 1948
Illustration for
The American Magazine,
1948
Casein on board
In this story illustration,
Briggs inspires empathy
for this young woman,
who explores the depths
of memory through the
objects found in a storage
trunk.
Norman Rockwell
Girl at Mirror, 1954
Study (in charcoal) and final cover illustration
The Saturday Evening Post, March 6, 1954
Oil on canvas
picture elements to the appearance of actress Jane Russell on the
magazine pages. There are, however, distinct dierences between the
two. Consider the changes that Rockwell made in his final and what
impact they have had on the painting.
36
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Girl at Mirror follows a long tradition of artists who have pictured
a woman contemplating her reflection. George Hughes, fellow
Post cover artist, said that Édouard Manet’s 1877 Woman Before Mir-
ror inspired this painting. Two paintings by other artists stand out
as strong candidates, however. Included in Rockwell’s reference files
are examples of Picasso’s Girl Before a Mirror and Louise Élisabeth
Vigée Le Brun’s The Artist’s Daughter, each of which could have
directly influenced this work. Rockwell typically created a full-scale
charcoal drawing in preparation for work on his final canvas. The
drawing closely resembles his finished illustration, from the main
Norman Rockwell
Girl at Mirror, 1954
Study (in charcoal) and final cover illustration
The Saturday Evening Post, March 6, 1954
Oil on canvas
picture elements to the appearance of actress Jane Russell on the
magazine pages. There are, however, distinct dierences between the
two. Consider the changes that Rockwell made in his final and what
impact they have had on the painting.
NOW YOU TRY IT!
reimagine a rockwell
Artists often find inspiration in each other’s work and
quote or appropriate inspirational compositions.
Choose an image by Norman Rockwell or another
famous illustrator.
Now re-create it based upon your own experience
or events inspired by the contemporary world.
37
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Al Parker was especially good at creating innovatively designed
scenes that felt alive and real to his viewers. In these preliminary draw-
ings for one of his mother-and-daughter illustrations, he first works
out his composition in terms of large shapes and movement lines.
When he begins to add detail to the faces and clothing, we see the per-
sonalities of the characters and the relationship between them emerge.
(All images on this spread)
Alfred Charles Parker
Pencil studies for and final cover illustration
Famous Artists Magazine, 1958
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