Rocks, Stones, Paving and Concrete In Art

Rocks, Stones, Paving and Concrete In Art

I grew up in Christchurch, New Zealand, and occasionally visited The Christchurch Art Gallery. In the viewing room to the left of the entrance hall there was an especially memorable painting. Every now and then I come across a piece of art which takes my breath away, and this was one of the first.

When I say ‘memorable’, I don’t remember what this artwork was called or who painted it; the painting itself was memorable, for its hyperrealistic riverbank of greywacke. Each and every stone had been individually rendered. The entire canvas was covered in greywacke rocks, the iconic rock of New Zealand’s Canterbury plains. I couldn’t believe someone had taken the time to paint each and every stone so lovingly.

Much more recently, I was about to sit down and painting a cliff face and rocky riverbed. At first I wasn’t having much luck, so I tried to find examples of how other illustrators had handled it over the years. When you’re looking for a specific thing it’s always difficult to find.

After a few false starts I ended up with a perfectly serviceable cliff face and dry riverbed.

Cliff face and river bed in progress for Trip Trap, a re-visioning of The Three Billy Goats Gruff.

But now, every time I see beautiful rocks in art, I wish I’d already collected some for quick reference.

Below are some illustrations of my favourite rocks, boulders, paving stones, cliff faces, stone walls and everything related.

  • Watercolour makes for an especially good medium for painting rocks.
  • We’re often told that water takes on the colour of the sky. Well, so do rocks.
  • Sometimes artists choose to give the impression of a rock-filled landscape by drawing just a few then leaving the viewer to guess the rest. In other illustrations, the rocks are highly decorative and almost a character in their own right.
  • Painting wet rocks isn’t all that different from painting metal.

Paving, Cobblestones, Stone Roads and Paths

Harold N. Anderson
A scene from Edward Gorey’s 1968 book “The Other Statue”
Warwick Goble (British illustrator of children’s books) 1862 – 1943 Cinderella Trying On Her Glass Slipper By The Hearth
Illustration for The Sleeping Beauty showing the Good Fairy departing from the christening of the Princess in a carriage harnessed with dragons. Painted by British illustrator Richard Doyle, 1863
The Story of Siegfried illustrated by Howard Pyle (American, 1853-1911)
Vida Gábor (Hungarian 1937-2007) ‘The Goldmine ‘

Those paved paths above are impressive, but if those stones are wet, now you’ve got a picture where the stones are the star.

The Storytellers illustration by Ted Lewin
Sun room designed by Hazel Dell Brown, 1930
Edmund Dulac (French illustrator) 1882 - 1953 Portrait of a Woman Eleonora 1907
Edmund Dulac (French illustrator) 1882 – 1953 Portrait of a Woman Eleonora 1907
Arthur Rackham rocks
The Iliad and the Odyssey, A Giant Golden Book – Illustrated by Alice and Martin Provensen
Sandra Dieckmann
Quiet Evening 1899, Theodor Kittelsen
Nash, John Northcote; Rocks and Water; Roebuck Collection; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/rocks-and-water-9922
John Singer Sargent’s ‘Simplon Pass,’ (1911)

Quirky charm infuses this tale of Old Rock’s life story, which is much more exciting than you’d expect.

Old Rock has been sitting in the same spot in the pine forest for as long as anyone can remember. Spotted Beetle, Tall Pine, and Hummingbird think just sitting there must be boring, but they are in for a wonderful surprise.

Fabulous tales of adventurous travel, exotic scenery, entertaining neighbors, and more from Old Rock’s life prove it has been anything but boring.

Great storytellers come in all shapes, sizes, and ages, and Old Rock’s stories are sure to inspire questions that lead to wonderful conversations about the past and the natural world.

GUSTAF TENGGREN for Pinocchio
The Young Traveller In Space by Arthur C Clarke 1934
Shoda Kakyuyu Ryokuin 1930s
Howard Russell Butler – Zion National Park
Howard Russell Butler – Zion National Park
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona (1938) National Park Service Poster
LADY FILMY FERN or The Voyage of the Window Box (early 1930s and 1980) Edward Bawden
Waterless Mountain 1932 by LAURA Adams ARMER Newbery Award Young Adult Literature Navajo Boy
Waterless Mountain 1932 by LAURA Adams ARMER Newbery Award Young Adult Literature Navajo Boy
Eyvind Earle (1916-2000) American artist, author and illustrator, noted for his contribution to the background illustration and styling of Disney animated films in the 1950s
Joseph Mallord William Turner - Mt St Gothard 1806-07 rocks
Joseph Mallord William Turner – Mt St Gothard 1806-07
Francis Danby - Liensfiord, Norway, Calm c.1835 rocks
Francis Danby – Liensfiord, Norway, Calm c.1835
William Collins – Returning from the Haunts of the Seafowl 1833
Eagle Feather illustrator Viktor Britvin 1990
DER ROTE VOGEL FELIX (1975) Marie Sarraz rocks
Binz auf Rügen, 1901
H. R. Van Dongen (1920 – 2010) 1954 cover illustration The Big Rain for Astounding Science Fiction magazine.
Donald Teague 1942
Stories by Firelight by Shirley Hughes
Bernadette Watts (English, b.1942) – The Enchanted Nightingale
William Keith (1838 – 1911) Yosemite, Sentinel Rock, 1872
Joseph Feher (1908-1987) for Yosemite and United Air Lines
By Peter Kľúčik for unpublished edition of The Hobbit rocks
By Peter Kľúčik for unpublished edition of The Hobbit
By Peter Kľúčik for unpublished edition of The Hobbit
By Peter Kľúčik for unpublished edition of The Hobbit
By Peter Kľúčik for unpublished edition of The Hobbit
By Peter Kľúčik for unpublished edition of The Hobbit
By Peter Kľúčik for unpublished edition of The Hobbit
By Peter Kľúčik for unpublished edition of The Hobbit
Roberto Innocenti
From The Hobbit (1976) Mikhail Belomlinsky (b.1934). Unlike Peter Kľúčik‘s example of the bridge above, in which every stone is a feature, Belomlinsky gives us the suggestion of bricks by detailing some of the outlines and ostensibly leaving the others in shadow.
Carel Weight (1908-1997)
Penguin Books 1896 Graham Greene – A Gun for Sale 1963 cover art by Paul Hogarth
Trina Schart Hyman 1977 illustration for The Sleeping Beauty
Trina Schart Hyman 1977 illustration for The Sleeping Beauty
Trina Schart Hyman 1977 illustration for The Sleeping Beauty
Frank Tenney Johnson, A Light In The Night, 1936 cowboy
Frank Tenney Johnson, A Light In The Night, 1936 cowboy
Anna Palm de Rosa (1859–1924) - Högklint Cliff
Anna Palm de Rosa (1859–1924) – Högklint Cliff
MERGEN EN ZIJN VRIENDEN (1974) Gennadi Pavlishin rocks
MERGEN EN ZIJN VRIENDEN (1974) Gennadi Pavlishin rocks

STONE WALLS AND BRICKS IN THE MIDDLE DISTANCE

‘Summer Gardens, Great Bardfield’ (1940) Kenneth Rowntree
Andy Warhol
Ellen Tebbits by Louis Darling for a Beverly Cleary book
Anton Pieck (1895-1987), Dutch painter and illustrator
William Heath Robinson (English, 1872-1944). “They reached the house where the light was burning.” An illustration from the story “Little Tom Thumb” from the book “Old-Time Stories by Charles Perrault” translated from the French by A. E. Johnson, with illustrations by W. Heath Robinson. Published by Dodd, Mead and Company, New York, 1921.
Anton Pieck (1895-1987) 1951 Illustration from ′Geertgen van Leyden to Sint Jans by Jan Verheyen castle
Anton Pieck (1895-1987) 1951 Illustration from ′Geertgen van Leyden to Sint Jans by Jan Verheyen
Cinderella and her Friends (A Little Golden Book) 1950
Frederick Cayley Robinson (1862-1927) concrete wall
Frederick Cayley Robinson (1862-1927)
1949 February, cover by George Giusti stone
The ogre was frightful to behold by Gustaf Tenngren
The ogre was frightful to behold by Gustaf Tenngren
Anton Pieck (Dutch 1895-1987) Illustration of three men playing cards by a graveyard
Daniel Ridgway Knight (1839–1924) – A Halt
from Ty’s One Man Band
New Yorker May 3rd, 1969 Art Print by Ronald Searle stone
Michael Deas US release advance poster (1977) for Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes (1972)
Jill Barklem Brambley Hedge, The High Hills
Captives by N. C. Wyeth from The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper. NY Scribner’s, 1919
Anton Pieck (1895 – 1987) 1935 illustration for Franz Schubert by Lou van Strien
Frank Henry Mason, Yorkshire Coast, 1937
Leslie Ragan, 1949
Gustav Tengren, Pinocchio
From Kipling’s A Song of the English. Illustrated by W. Heath Robinson
From Kipling’s A Song of the English. Illustrated by W. Heath Robinson
From Kipling’s A Song of the English. Illustrated by W. Heath Robinson
Sidney Paget – The Death of Sherlock Holmes (”Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls”), an illustration to Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Final Problem for the Strand Magazine. December 1893
Frank Godwin (1889 - 1959) 1921 illustration for The Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang
Frank Godwin (1889 – 1959) 1921 illustration for The Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang. The sky is the star of this environment. Even so, the rock occupies a significant amount of the canvas and must be interesting.
Carry On – 1932 Norman Rockwell
unused artwork for The For, illustration by Kenard Pak rocks
unused artwork for The Fog, illustration by Kenard Pak
Fritz Hegenbart (German painter and illustrator) 1884 - 1962, Quelle des Unheils (Source Of The Doom), c1902
Fritz Hegenbart (German painter and illustrator) 1884 – 1962, Quelle des Unheils (Source Of The Doom), c1902
N.C. Wyeth illustrations from The Anthology of Children’s Literature, Kraken (1940). Golden Age Comic Book Stories. The greenish rocks are quite rounded and almost look like creatures themselves.
Maxfield Parrish
Maxfield Parrish, Poet’s Dream, 1901 , Created to illustrate John Milton’s poem L’Allegro
Kodomo no kuni (“Children’s Land”), 1922–30 rocks
Kodomo no kuni (“Children’s Land”), 1922–30
Postcard by Tove Jansson (1914-2001)
Pan American – South Seas Travel Poster – art by Paul George Lawler – c 1938
The Christmas Legend Gustav Tenggren

I’m tempted to collect only those examples of beautifully coloured rock, where the environment affects the beautiful colour. But sometimes rock is just gray. In the artwork below, the viewers eye is drawn to the spot of warm colour, to the woman holding the lantern. The night-time rocks do not compete.

From Egypt and Its Monuments (1908) Jules Guerin (1866-1910)

In the illustration below, we know that the walls of the booth are made of metal and that the ground is made of tarmac. We know this from life experience, but Dohanos also renders the textures slightly differently. He’s used a grungy splat to decorate the surface of the road, but streaks of subtle reflected light for the metal.

By Stevan Dohanos (1907-1994)–‘Stop and Pay the Toll’ f. Saturday Evening Post cover April 7, 1956

The statue of the old man in the foreground left of the painting by Boris Godunov is a good reference for how to depict old stonework covered in moss.

Illustration for Boris Godunov (1913) by Leon Bakst (1866-1924)

WORKING WITH BLACK AND WHITE ONLY

What if you only have black and white to work with? Hatching is key. In the black and white illustration below, Charles Robinson emphasises the atmospheric perspective. The rocky arch of the foreground is black with white detail; the stonework further away is white with black detail. It’s not a great photo of the artwork, but useful as an example of how to depict a stony surface using only linework, no greyscale, no colour.

A Child’s Garden Of Verses, the very first book illustrated by Charles Robinson, 1896.
Fritz Hegenbart (German painter and illustrator) 1884 - 1962 Im Streben (In The Pursuite) c1902 etching
Fritz Hegenbart (German painter and illustrator) 1884 – 1962 Im Streben (In The Pursuite) c1902. This etching makes use of the same technique for aerial perspective, with what looks like white on black for the foreground rock, and black on white for the distant rock.
Paul Landacre, Tuonela, 1934 rocks
The Story of Siegfried illustrated by Howard Pyle (American, 1853-1911)

Below is another linework example. Each and every cobblestone of the road has been individually rendered, grounding the artwork for the viewer. The stone walls of the buildings are rendered in graduated flecks; white flecks on black where shadow dominates, and the reverse where there is light.

Dugald Stewart Walker illustrator, Sara Teasdale (1884-1933) writer, ‘Rainbow gold; poems old and new selected for boys and girls’ 1922-6.
Bernie Wrightson, pen and ink illustration, 1983 She died on the first approach of cold weather
Masury Versus Sky 1936 Arnold Wiltz
Carlos Neve ‘The Tortola of Ajusco’ 1915
Carlos Neve ‘The Tortola of Ajusco’ 1915
Eric Ravilious, Coastal Defences, 1940. Scene below Newhaven Fort, close to Newhaven Harbour in East Sussex concrete
Eric Ravilious, Coastal Defences, 1940. Scene below Newhaven Fort, close to Newhaven Harbour in East Sussex concrete

HIGHLY STYLISED

Charles Keeping 1960 From the educational book How they were built: Roads
Charles Keeping 1960 From the educational book How they were built: Roads
Charles Keeping 1960 From the educational book How they were built: Roads
Charles Keeping 1960 From the educational book How they were built: Roads
Charles Keeping 1960 From the educational book How they were built: Roads

Header illustration: William Heath Robinson (English, 1872-1944) Thumbelina

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