Bob McCall’s “Escape the Morning”

In the 60’s, Boy’s Life Magazine was my window into adventure. Nothing was a bigger adventure then than going to the moon. To me, the space race was the pinnacle of what we could achieve as human beings.

I remember this particular painting by Bob McCall as the defining painting of my boyhood that whetted my appetite for adventures on the moon. In those days, Boy’s Life was as big as Life Magazine in format, so you can imagine how my eyes lit up when I turned the page on this baby.

Before I even understood what the heck acrylics were, McCall was already breaking ground and pushing the limits of the medium. He mastered this phenomenal scene with about 4 colors: burnt sienna, cadmium red, cadmium yellow medium, and prussian blue.

When that page is turned, McCall sweeps the eye from left to right in a bold diagonal that cuts across the gutter and exits stage right, pulling your interest with it and practically demanding that you turn the page. From upper left’s splash of brilliant yellow sun to bottom right’s cool shadow where we just make out the running, leaping, lightweight astronauts. Even the paint strokes drag your eye across the page. This is one of the boldest uses of diagonal composition I’ve ever seen.

The space program spent millions to grab my attention. I loved every precise moment of it. But every time I look at this painting, I’m reminded of how spectacular those trips to the moon can be. Bob McCall used four colors, one major diagonal, and a wonderful imagination to get me right to the surface.

Sometimes the dream keeps the reality more alive.

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