Humans love stories. They connect us to each other, they educate and entertain. Some of my favorite artists tell stories through their paintings, and Joseph Crone has just become another one to add to my list to watch. I discovered his work in Colored Pencil Essentials 2, a sequel to the popular original download of the same name.
I would love to make up my own story about what either just happened or what’s about to happen in one of Crone’s colored pencil artworks, such as Leave Her to the Mountain (below), but I’ve invited him to take us beyond the paper and into his own psyche, to both connect us with his process and entertain us with his plots.
Warning: This is not your typical colored pencil artist.
CH: When you set your scenes, do you have an end result already in mind, or do you need to move your models and props around quite a bit?
JC: Most of the time I come prepared with storyboards and an end-result in mind when setting up for a shoot, but I always move my models and props around to ensure that I’ve captured the best scenario. Each drawing takes multiple hours to complete with the materials I work with, so I have to make sure the reference photo is solid before committing to the many sleepless nights.
CH: Is your process a collaboration with others?
JC: The foundation of each drawing is laid out through my sketchbook with thumbnails and notes about which direction I want to move forward with. Once the setup is ready and the models arrive, my approach is open for feedback. This may be as simple as whether or not they feel natural posing a certain way or how they might respond to a specific situation. After the reference photos are taken and I’m at the drawing board, I also like to have mini-critiques of my work in regards to the contrasts that move your eye throughout the piece.
CH: Do you have your own interpretations of your film noir paintings, or do you question the character motives just as much as any viewer?
JC: With the most recent group of work, I started out on the third piece, Salut, with a concrete idea in mind. From here I moved back and forth within the story, questioning each character’s motive–even the models in the background. I created an origin for everyone in case I wanted to develop another grouping of work as a side story. The drawings act out as chapters in a movie and each one has a connection, even if it’s a prop like an ashtray or suitcase.
CH: What’s the most challenging thing that has happened behind the scenes?
JC: One of the recurring challenges I run into while setting up on location is the unpredictability of each environment. Whether it’s attempting to capture a hand print on foggy mirror within a matter of seconds or a storm that appears when you least expect it, you have to act on your feet and hope that you’ve captured something worth drawing. A perfect example of this would be while shooting reference for Room with a View. This particular scene took place on a fire escape with my model perched up on a rail in the middle of the night. Not only had the sun set, but the first cold front of the season was passing through the Midwest, bringing in a line of freezing rain. The outfit I had requested the model to wear was definitely not suitable for the weather so we took what photos we could in order to capture an accurate perspective for scale and proportions. Feeling somewhat defeated, we regrouped at a nearby studio to have a drink and see what was on the camera roll. With one photo and a bottle of wine, we were able to recreate the fire escape scene using a stage, a handful of easels and a couple of drawing horses. This has been by far the most challenging shoot yet, but proved to be worthwhile.
As you can see, there are many levels to Crone’s artistry. Conceiving the mysterious scenes alone is a feat, and it’s admirable that he has a team of models who support his vision and are an active part of the experience. In Colored Pencil Essentials 2, he explains his colored pencil techniques in the feature article, “Bleak Moods and Sinister Stories.”
Connecting the pieces,
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