Paris Belts - Rendered, please.

The Saturday Evening Post is an interesting magazine. Any media tells you who it thinks its consumers are with the nature of its advertising. This is why daytime television and to a greater extent, middle-of-the-night television are so depressing. The Saturday Evening Post has ads for mundane everyday things like belts or food, but also industrial things like stapling machines and caster wheels. I think I'll maybe do a post on that strangeness sometime soon.

This ad for Paris belts is nice because it's a painting, despite the fact that it came from an era when photographic reproduction was common (1952). I don't know why. They could have used a photo, but they went with a rendered image. Maybe it was easier to get the belt superimposed properly over the background if the whole thing was an artificial image?

I can only guess at that, but this painting is yet another beautiful example of specular highlights. For a product shot like this, the luxurious sheen of the leather is what's going to sell belts, so it needs to come through in the picture.

Notice that the lamp in the picture is made of metal - probably chrome plated, too. But the lamp is painted to look dull and gray. Why? because it mustn't upstage the shine on the leather products. It's not the star of the show.

Here's a breakdown of the shine effect the artist has put on the leather:

Primary light source - The primary light source is somewhere in the middle of the room, up near the ceiling. So, the largest and brightest highlight is on the corner of the case facing that light, and on the highest point of the belt's curve where it faces the light.

Reflected light source - Since light can bounce off of almost anything, reflected light can be plausibly exaggerated to suit the artist's purpose. It usually falls on the object from the opposite direction as the primary light source, as the light bounces off the floor or whatever and casts a muted glow on the subject's back side. In this case, the reflected light is bouncing off the desk to illuminate the lower areas of the products.

Contour hilights - Light behaves like the opposite of water. It gathers on the high spots. Anywhere the leather's surface turns a corner, creating an edge, there's a thin highlight there. You can use this to accentuate fine detail in a glossy object, like the scalloped edges of the belt.

The colors and techniques for painting leather are pretty similar to finished wood. They have about the same amount of shine to them and use the same range of colors.
By way of example, here's a piece of a painting i did in one of my past lives, at StarToons. Drawing was done by Vince Proce for a cartoon that never got finished. Primary light source is from the upper left. reflected light can be seen coming from the lower right, on the cherub's face. Edge highlights are found everywhere in the wing detail and hair.

Okay, art lesson over. Here's a baffling comic I saw a page or two away from the Paris belts ad. I don't get this joke. Is he saying "whoa" because she's walking too fast? I can't see anything impressive he may be looking at, and I don't think the word "whoa" was used interchangeably  with "wow" at that time anyway, like it is now. I now post the comic so you can boggle at it too. Feel free to speculate about the nature of the joke in the comments if you like. Also note that the comic was drawn by a fellow Phil - Phil Interlandi. I can't be bothered to look him up right now, but he's probably famous or something. Click for larger version.


Craig said...

It's the ponytail.

Whoa, pony.

Not a particularly great gag.

Phil said...

Ahh, Craig! Well, he beat me to it. I need to start getting up earlier!

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