Saturday, March 28, 2015

Alfred Wahlberg

Alfred Wahlberg, Swedish landscape painter
19th century Swedish landscape painter Alfred Wahlberg studied briefly in Stockholm and in Dusseldorf, but took influence from his exposure to modern French painting in Paris; and his work shows both the dark moodiness of the northern schools and the brighter palette of the French painters.

In much of his work, even pieces that I might assume to be older and not as much influenced by the French styles, you can see unexpectedly open, loose brush work in paintings the look more tightly rendered in smaller reproductions.

There are some relatively large images on an ad-laced Ukrainian site at and some medium sized images on the Scandinavian auction site Bukowskisthat lead to high-resolution versions for those who care to create a free account.

Wahlberg’s compositions are often theatrically lit, with late day sun cutting across the landscape or carving spotlights through breaks in clouds. Throughout are wonderful textural elements, both in the representation and in the surface of the paint.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Leah Lopez

Leah Lopez
Though she also works with figurative, landscape and cityscape subjects, still life is the primary focus of New York based artist Leah Lopez.

It was a particular quality of her still life paintings that most captured my attention. For lack of a better word, I might call it “presence”. Her still life subjects have immediacy, a painterly, tactile surface quality and a refined sense of composition. Along with her nuanced control of color and value, those qualities produce that elusive feeling of “being here” that I have difficulty describing, but find particularly appealing in still life paintings.

There are certain characteristics in her approach that, combined with the listing in her bio for study at the Art Students League in New York, incline me to guess that she has at some point studied with David Leffel and/or Sherrie McGraw, though I don’t know that for certain.

Lopez in now a teacher herself, teaching at the New York Academy of Art, Hudson River Valley Art Workshops, and at her own Leah Lopez Atelier in Manhattan. Her website includes a Studio Notes Blog, and a trailer for her first instructional video.

Her portrait and figurative subjects are often moody and theatrical, with figures emerging from deep chiaroscuro. Her landscapes and cityscapes are more direct, but also often deal in shadow.

There is an interview with Lopez on In Your Dreams, and another on John Potoschnik’s blog.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Eye Candy for Today: Childe Hassam’s Washington Arch, Spring

Washington Arch, Spring, Childe Hassam
Washington Arch, Spring, Childe Hassam

The link is to a zoomable version on the GoogleArt Project; there is a downloadable version on Wikimedia Commons; the original is in the Phillips Collection, Washington, DC.

What has always fascinated me about this painting — one of Hassam’s most recognizable works — is the seeming defiance of compositional norms. Hassam has taken a point of view that places the arch behind a row of trees that fill what most artists might consider its most interesting feature: the opening and framed space beyond.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Joshua Middleton (update)

Joshua Middleton, comics, covers, illustration
Joshua Middleton is an illustrator, comics artist, concept artist and art director who I first wrote about in 2006. At the time, he was primarily working in comics; since then, he has worked in film and television for clinents liks Universal, Lionsgate, Sony, Sony Pictures Animation and Warner Brothers; and as a cover artist for book publishers such as Scholastic, Abrams, Bloomsbury, Tor, Viking and Disney.

Middleton has also come full circle back to comic book publishing, becoming noted in particular for his striking cover art.

Comic book covers owe their lineage to the pulp magazine covers of the 1930s and 1940s. In those, flashy, often lurid images were used to grab your attention and get you to plop down your precious dime and pick up the magazine.

Comic book covers are basically in service of the same function: grab your attention and make you want to buy the publication. In pursuit of this, a lot of comics covers over the years have fallen into the least-common-denominator routine of being loud, brash and in-your-face. Not that there isn’t a place for that, but Middleton and some of his contemporaries have been raising the bar.

Middleton’s covers are attention grabbing to be sure, but also subtle in a way that is still unusual, with keen attention to nuanced shifts in color and value, and the use of fine, single-line weight outlines. The latter retain the graphic appeal of traditional comic art, but shift the line-to-color balance to bring the color forward, more in keeping with the styles of European and Japanese comics than mainstream American comics.

In particular, Middleton has been grabbing attention, both individually and on a larger scale, in his series of striking covers for DC Comics’ Supergirl.

Middleton brings some of that same nuanced sensibility to his book covers. Though usually more rendered than his comics covers, and often without outlines, these also pull back from over-rendering into a balance of shape and color that is particularly appealing.

Middleton’s current website serves as a blog, in which he features finished work as well as work in progress, various projects and comments on other topics. In the right-hand column you’ll find links with which you can sort for categories like “finished work” or “sketches”.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Carl G. Evers

Carl G Evers, marine painting and illustrations of Philadelphia in the 1050s for Philadelphia Electric Company
Carl Evers was a 20th century German/American artist, noted in particular for his marine paintings. He is generally considered one of the foremost American marine painters of the century. His evocation of the action of water, particularly roiled by storms and high waves, is just wonderful.

Evers was also an accomplished illustrator; his work appeared in publications like The Saturday Evening Post, Argosy, Yachting, and The Readers Digest, as well as in advertisements for companies that dealt with marine transport, such as Cunard, Grace Line, Farrell Lines, United Fruit and Moran Towing (biographical notes from J. Russell Jinishian Gallery). For some reason, Evers is rarely mentioned in compendiums of American illustration.

As much as I admire Evers’ marine paintings, I especially enjoy his illustrations. In particular, as a long time resident of the Philadelphia area, I just love his series of stunning portrayals of our beautiful and too often ignored city. These were done for a series of advertisements for the Philadelphia Electric Company in the early 1950s.

Evers was a master of his chosen mediums of watercolor and gouache, bringing to bear their suitability for intricate detail in astonishingly complex images, particularly large scale panoramas of Philadelphia, that, despite their level of detail, never feel forced or stiff.

James Gurney has this morning on his always fascinating blog, Gurney Journey, posted an article with “Five Tips from Carl Evers“, which prompted this post on my part.

The best source I’ve found for Evers’ work is this terrific post from Robin Benson on PastPrint, which has lots of large images, particularly of the Philadelphia Electric series.

Also good are two articles on Today’s Inspiration: ‘Carl G. Evers: “amazing scope and talent”‘ and ‘Carl G. Evers: able to portray “an ocean of almost infinite moods.”‘, by guest author Charlie Allen, supplemented with Lief Peng’s Flickr set. The J. Russell Jinishian Gallery has a selection of available Carl Evers originals.

There are three images on Heritage Auctions, that have slightly larger versions on roll-over. Those with a free HA account can access high-res versions. Those with a Pinterest login can find Evers’ work here; likewise FB here.

There is a long out of print 1975 collection of Ever’s work, Marine Paintings of Carl G. Evers, that is available used on Amazon (also here).

[Suggestion courtesy of James Gurney]

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Eye Candy for Today: JMW Turner etching and mezzotint

Bridge and Cows (Liber Studiorum, part I, plate 2), Joseph Mallord William Turner
Bridge and Cows (Liber Studiorum, part I, plate 2), Joseph Mallord William Turner

In the Metropolitan Museum of Art; use the zoom or download links under the image.

Part of a series of etchings Turner produced, categorized to illustrate the various kinds of landscape (in this case “P” for “Pastoral”), this beautiful etching and mezzotint was, like the others in the series, derived from preliminary drawings Turner did in brown watercolor, and is printed in brown ink, carrying forward that wonderful quality that such drawings can have.

The byline indicates “Designed and etched by Joseph Mallord William Turner”, but as the Met’s page points out, the mezzotint was applied to the plate by engraver Charles Turner (no relation), with whom JMW Turner frequently collaborated.

(For a bit more on mezzotint, see my Eye Candy post on James Stephenson’s mezzotint version of Millais’ Ophelia.)

I love Turner’s loose, gestural line, the delicacy of the clouds, and the wonderfully textural quality and moody darks of the tree trunks and bridge.