Norman Rockwell: Celebrating America

by Susan Kay Crawford and Mark Hunt



When the developed pictures were returned, Rockwell would pick and choose details from the photographs to form a final composition. He then drew dozens of preliminary charcoal sketches before beginning the final detailed layout. The artist used a charcoal sketch the same size as the final painting to avoid potential problems he might face when working in oils. This was an involved and somewhat wearisome process, but Rockwell felt it saved him time and produced a better picture. When the sketch was completed, it was photographed and printed on eight by ten inch or ten by twelve inch matte photographic paper. Rockwell then worked out his color scheme in oil directly on the photograph.

After priming his canvas and allowing it to dry, he transferred the charcoal study onto it by laying a sheet of architect's tracing paper over the sketch and carefully going over it in pencil. Then, using transfer paper, he would reline the drawing, transposing the it onto the canvas. In addition to this technique, Rockwell would sometimes use a Balopticon, a device that projects flat images onto another surface, to draft the finished drawing to the canvas. In either case, Rockwell would need to reline the entire drawing.

The canvas was stained with a thin even coating of a single color of oil paint, an imprimatura. When the imprimatura dried, Rockwell chose one color, perhaps a raw umber, to rough-in his entire subject in a monochromatic underpainting. Then he used the earlier color study as a guide to lay-in the other colors. Rockwell developed the final painting by working on the various sections (figures, background, faces) simultaneously, so that the painting would have a finished look at each stage of its development.

In his later years, as his health declined, he would sometimes allow other artists -- such as Joseph Csatari, Rockwell's successor with BSA and Brown & Bigelow -- to work on details in his paintings. Rockwell's last Brown & Bigelow calendar painting for BSA was the Spirit of '76, for which The National Scouting Museum has the color study. The whereabouts of the finished painting are unknown.

Norman Rockwell died on November 8, 1978. He was never a Scout or a Scout leader, but he left behind a rich legacy of art that exemplifies the solid values and traditions that have been the foundation of the Scouting program for over eighty years. To this day, his images of Scouts inspire young men to lead a life of dedication and hard work with the honesty, modesty, concern for others, and sense of humor that Rockwell himself exhibited. Although the artist is no longer with us, his Scouting legacy lives on through the paintings exhibited at the National Scouting Museum.


Go to:

This is page 4

Links to sources of information outside of our web site are provided only as referrals for your further consideration. Please use due diligence in judging the quality of information contained in these and all other web sites. Information from linked sources may be inaccurate or out of date. TFAO neither recommends or endorses these referenced organizations. Although TFAO includes links to other web sites, it takes no responsibility for the content or information contained on those other sites, nor exerts any editorial or other control over them. For more information on evaluating web pages see TFAO's General Resources section in Online Resources for Collectors and Students of Art History. Individual pages in this catalogue will be amended as TFAO adds content, corrects errors and reorganizes sections for improved readability. Refreshing or reloading pages enables readers to view the latest updates.

Visit the Table of Contents for Resource Library for thousands of articles and essays on American art, calendars, and much more.

Copyright 2003, 2004 Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation. All rights reserved.