Appreciating the Art of M. Leone Bracker

November 13, 2018

Several years back, as I was digging through online archives of magazines from the early 20th Century, I kept coming across the fascinating drawings of an illustrator, named M(urray) Leone Bracker.

I haven’t been able to uncover much information about him other than he had a younger brother, Joseph, who was also an illustrator with a very similar style, so they must have agreed that Joseph would sign his name differently as “J. Henry” (Joseph Henry Bracker.) I only recently learned that the “M” stood for “Murray.” It appears that he was born in the late 1800’s, and I assume he began his illustration career around 1900. The earliest work I’ve seen was dated 1909, and the latest was advertisement art from 1928.

He seemed to prefer charcoal as his medium of choice; although, I have seen at least one painted magazine cover. The realism of the rendering shows what appears to be a strong photo reference with high contrast lighting. The staging and poses of his figures generally have a theatrical melodramatic characterization. His work is very unique for illustrations of this time, and wonderfully drawn.

Below is a selection of a few more examples of his art. I’ve found story illustration from books and magazines, as well as posters.

If you want to find reproductions of his art, look for magazine issues of Scribner’s, Hearst’s International, and Collier’s around 1910 – 1930. He also illustrated books for Bruno Lessing and Arthur Roche, among others.


New Sketch: Lion Statue at Palmyra

October 30, 2018

Surfing the net recently, I came across a photo of the lion statue at the al-Lat temple at Palmyra. I liked how the sun was hitting it on the side, and thought it would make a nice drawing, so I laid down this ink sketch. It’s about 11 x 13″.


Painting Final: Jerry Reading

October 23, 2018

It’s not 100% finished, but far enough to let it sit for awhile, then do some cleaning up. That right hand in the corner could use a little more work, I think.


Painting Update 2: Jerry Reading

October 12, 2018
gouache painted figure in progress

Made a little more progress on the new painting. I’ve worked more on his head, arms and shirt. I wasn’t sure how well the white paint would cover on this grey surface, but it did okay.


Painting Update: Jerry Reading

October 7, 2018

Other chores got me pulled away from the painting for a few days, but I managed to at least work on his face this afternoon. It looks like him, so that’s always a good sign.

I’m liking the rough sketchiness of this so far, so I’m hoping I can keep that without getting carried away with details as I tend to do. I’m losing love for his yellow pillow, however.


New Painting Started: Jerry Reading

October 1, 2018

I’m starting a new gouache painting of my friend, Jerry, who posed for me awhile back as he caught up on some reading. The surface is surface is 13 x 19 inch gray Binder’s Board.

pencil sketch on newsprint

I began with a rough pencil sketch on newsprint. I then rubbed gray pastel chalk on the back to transfer it to the board, tracing just the outline shapes.

initial painting stage with undertones

I started to set the values on the board using a refill marker from Molotow that was filled with thin burnt sienna acrylic paint (Golden’s High Flow.) I used some thin raw umber acrylic in some areas to get a slightly darker gray value than the gray of the board. This I applied with a brush. On the left you can see where I’ve started in with gouache paint.

This binder’s board is an interesting surface to paint on. It’s about 3mm thick, and very absorbent. I think that there might not be any sort of sizing on it. The paint marker gave a rough dry brush on this that makes it good for loosely blocking in shapes. If I scrub the surface with a stiff wet brush it’ll peel up a bit, but it’s solid grey all through, so that’s not a big problem. No warping from the water, either. I like it.


Reviewing Arteza Brand Gouache Paint

September 24, 2018

I want to review a recent batch of commercial gouache paint I recently purchased from a company called Arteza. I haven’t yet tried to do much more with them than some preliminary sketches, and I do have a few complaints that I’ll get to in a moment, but my overall impression is that they are a good deal, and will likely be buying more at some point in the future.

Arteza gouache packaging

The paint comes in a set of 24 small tubes. It is packaged in a thin box with two plastic racks that hold the separated tubes, which is nice for storage. The pigment ID numbers are printed clearly on each tube, and I’ve made a chart below showing each one. The main thing that I am happy about is the low price. Including shipping, the cost came to @ $1 per tube. The shipping was free.

Below is another image that shows a brush stroke of each color over black ink to demonstrate its transparency.

For the most part, I am happy with the range of pigments. Most of them are mixtures of 2 or 3 pigments, but those are still useful, and there is a good range of single pigments. The pigment load of the paint feels very good, not streaky or poorly mixed, comparable to quality brands, and not like student grade paints.

I do have a few complaints: The tube size is very small at 12ml. Granted, they are inexpensive, so you might order 2 or 3 packages and have as much or more paint than you would get from other companies for less money.  but that brings me to another negative point. The paint isn’t sold separately, only in a set of 24. I don’t imagine myself ever using the neon “peach red” and perhaps very little of some others, so when ordering more I’d wind up with paint I don’t need. Arteza sent me an email saying they are considering selling them individually, but no information on when or how. Perhaps they could come in smaller sets that you could pick yourself, or maybe larger tubes could be an option. Those are suggestions I’ll send back to them.

Curiously, there are two tubes of titanium white, one labled as such, but the other is just labeled “white,” even though the pigment ID is PW6 for both. Having more white is a good thing, but I found this labeling confusing. I looked around on the web, and saw a couple other reviews of people thinking the “white” might be a “mixing white” (includes zinc) but that isn’t what’s on the label. 

Also, the color printed on the label in many cases isn’t accurate to the paint inside, either when it’s wet or dry. If you reach for a tube based on that color, you will sometimes be disappointed. The Ultramarine, for example, looks more like a violet on the label, and dries at a lighter shade. This Ultramarine label looks very similar to the Prussian blue label, and could easily be mistaken when the actual colors are different. I recommend making a separate color chart as I did above, and keeping that handy, something good to do for all your paints. In terms of the pigment choices, I would have preferred cadmiums and a true cerulean, but that likely would have increased the cost. Having a Phthalo blue or green that was not mixed would be nice. 

One last comment which is not Arteza’s fault has to do with tracking the shipment I received from the Post Office. It took a week to arrive, but on the day I got it the useless tracking information said it was still on its way to the Post Office. Possibly only a one time glitch.

Once I make a couple sketches that I like with this paint I’ll post them here.