The Impactful Art of James R. Bingham

If I could use only one word to describe the work of James R. Bingham, it would be this:

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"Impactful."

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Bingham had the innate ability to take any scene, from the most benign...

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... to the most ferocious...

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... and give to it a sense of drama that transcended the work of most other illustrators.

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That's because James R. Bingham could do so much more than just draw and paint well. Bingham had a masterful understanding of all the elements that make up a great picture. It takes more than the ability to render well; a great picture must have great lighting, staging, and colour.

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Bingham may have considered himself an illustrator...

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... but I believe he was, at heart, a designer. Bingham's attention to the essential elements of composition...

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... his thoughtful choice of colour palette...

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... his conscious decision to employ strong silhouetted shapes and to arrange them as effectively as possible...

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... his love of dramatic lighting and contrasting values...

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... all speak to the kind of picture making one expects from the best designer/illustrators; the Rockwells, the Leyendeckers, and the Pyles.

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Great design is the key to great illustration - but its something many artists often overlook because they are caught up in the pleasing (and perhaps challenging) act of rendering forms in pencil or paint. Bingham understood the importance of design and always employed it to great effect.

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This week, let's take another look at the always impactful art of James R. Bingham!

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* This week's subject is a result of my having recently received a wonderful gift in the mail. TI list member Bruce Hettema, owner of P&H Creative Group, sent me a huge package of old tearsheets from the early days of his studio, when it was known as Patterson & Hall, a San Francisco-based advertising art studio. Among those tearsheets was the image at the very top of today's post -- and many more that I'll be presenting this week will also come from that pile. So many thanks, Bruce, for sharing this treasure trove of wonderful artwork with me and the rest of the TI readers!

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