Ever wondered how modern day animations came to being? How Walt Disney became so successful? Today we meet the man responsible as Cass Art celebrates the birthday of Hardie Gramatky, dubbed one of the most influential American watercolourists of all time.
Born in 1907, Gramatky displayed precocious artistic talent, by the time he was in his late teens he was a leading artist at the Los Angeles Times newspaper. At Stanford University he was told by the staff that they had no more to teach him, so he transferred to the Chouinard Institute where he would develop the California Scene style of watercolour painting. Practicing mainly in plein air, exploring the tactile landscape of the state, the California Scene is still a wildly popular method of working today.
By the 1930's Gramatky had substantial experience working under Walt Disney, spending his time studying at night school and working during the day. While he worked on classic illustrations such as the original Mickey Mouse cartoons, he also expressed keen interest for animation and moving image. By the time Gramatky left the Disney studios in 1936, the animation team had grown from 14 men to 250.
"I figured that the more you painted the more of a master of your medium you became; so that when you really had something to say, you said it directly, without having to consider the medium. My idea was to play my palette like a pianist plays a keyboard: never conscious of reaching for color or tone, but getting the most subtle shades of harmony with the greatest of confidence."
It goes unsaid that Hardie Gramatky's passion and perseverance with art goes unmatched. The sheer volume of his back catalogue says it all, with each work as beautiful as the last. Gramatky wrote and illustrated a number of children's books - most famously 'Little Toot' a charming steamboat character who's story was inspired by Gramatky's time in New York along the East River.
In using watercolours his treatment of light gives exquisite form to the subject in question, it could be the bright Californian light casting sharp shadows, that inspired Gramatky's unique cartoonish style. The bright contrasting colours are another staple of Gramatky's working, with what is often scene as a meek material, he achieves strength and power in watercolour.
We owe a lot to Hardie Gramatky, no less for his beautiful original watercolours than for shaping the future of animation in the modern day.
Feeling inspired? Stock up on your art supplies, this month is watercolour season and Cass Art has some fantastic exclusive offers for our customers. Not only that, there's plenty of sable brushes, watercolour pads and masking fluid for everyone to get started on their Hardie-style characters.