Andrew Wyeth-one of a dynasty

This did not go as I planned.

I thought we were doing Roy Lichtenstein for this week and got half-way through him when my hubby asked, “Are you sure? I thought it was Wyeth or something…” Suddenly doubtful I checked and…oi…then my parents called…the week ended up fuller than I’d expected and I wasn’t even on the right artist!


Truth is, Andrew Wyeth is one of the best-known American artists of the 20th century. That’s quite a feat, given he created super-realistic works in an Medieval medium (tempera) during a time period known for it’s love of Abstract Art and shocking images which perplexed as many of the public as it offended.

Wyeth was different from that. His images showed rural life, life lived close to the land, life of the strong, the stubborn, the proud…those who would rather live in earned poverty than unearned wealth. The vast bulk of his pictures can be located within a few miles of his two homes: one in Pennsylvania, and the summer cottage in Maine. The public loved him. The critic loathed him.

I mean LOOK! You can tell it’s a kid, running down a hill! in WINTER! NO need to imagine what the artist was thinking of!!! Shocking, just shocking! <eyeroll> Critics are still deeply divided over Wyeth’s work, even now, over a decade after his passing.

And yet, Andrew Wyeth was one of many artists in his family. His father, N.C Wyeth, was one of the best-known illustrators of the turn of the 20th century. Andrew’s siblings all became creatives: painters, portrait artists, musicians, composers…the odd duck out became an engineer who invented many items (including the plastic that made 2-liter soda bottle possible)

Andrew’s children and grandchildren became creatives. His was a family immersed in various arts, from literature, to poetry, to music, to painting, to building. His childhood included visits from authors like F. Scott Fitzgerald to actors like Lillian Gish and John Gilbert. His mother’s memories included family visits from Henry David Thoreau and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

So as I “met” these interesting people, I wanted to include more information about them and what they did. Some of their work is very famous, and you’ve probably seen some of it. N.C. Wyeth’s illustrations are very well-known; I’ve seen them from my childhood before I knew who he was.

But…life intervened, you know? We ended up gutting the garage to re-wire and insulate it this week, which chewed up time. Our car decided “no….I really DON’T feel like driving in the cold today…really…” Six inches of the heavy wet stuff coated our house and driveway and our neighborhood is considering enforcing a 48-hour clear rule…

This is one of Wyeth’s most well-known works, Christina’s World. The story behind it is in the Packet below.

So I guess, stick around…I’ll have to add the other Wyeths to this blog later. They truly were an interesting clan. If you look up information about them, it’s worth it.

R Rating

A word of caution as you look up Andrew Wyeth’s work…one of his most famous painting series is the “Helga” series. These were a series of drawings and paintings of his neighbor, some of which were in the nude. In fact, there are a number of nude studies in Wyeth’s work. This isn’t too unusual, nude studies are a normal thing in art training (how else are you going to learn what the body looks like so you can draw it?) but they are there…so if you don’t want your students to see that, be advised.

The Experiment

The experiment meant to go along with Andrew Wyeth is based on a technique called “resist”. Scientifically, this plays on water-soluble and water-insoluble items. Like oil and water…some things don’t mix. In art, a resist is something that will resist a water-based pigment sitting where it sits. The easiest and cleanest thing to do is use a white crayon to lay down several dots of “snow” on a paper, then start painting with a water-based paint. The wax (oil/fat) in the crayon will ‘resist” letting the watercolor bead on top of it, and will leave a white “patch” in the painting.

This is an example of Wyeth’s use of a resist. This was probably artist resist made from liquified rubber and spattered on his surface before he painted. Once he finished, he removed the rubber and there you go! Swirling snowflakes!

There are other ways to achieve a resist look too. It takes longer, but dotting some rubber cement or resist fluid (available at most art stores) onto a paper and letting it dry will work (this may be done in advance if your class is very time-compact) then paint overtop. Once done AND DRY (that’s so important!) lift the rubber cement/masking fluid away to reveal a crisp, sharp dot of white around your paint.

To split the difference: do rubber cement on one half, white crayon on the other and see how both react to the same paint.

Lots of stuff to do here. Enjoy the Process of Creating!