Friday, May 29, 2015

Eye Candy for Today: Luis Meléndez Still Life with Figs and Bread

Still Life with Figs and Bread, Luis Melendez
Still Life with Figs and Bread, Luis Meléndez

The link is to a zoomable version on the Google Art Project; there is a downloadable high resolution file on Wikimedia Commons; the original is in the National Gallery of Art, DC. (The latter also offers a downloadable high resolution file, but I couldn’t access it this morning — hopefully a temporary glitch.)

Spanish still life master Luis Meléndez gives us a tour-de-force of texture and value relationships. I’m struck by the contrast between the nuanced rendering of the bread, wood and figs and the economical simplicity of the bottle.

It’s obvious who Salvador Dalí studied when he learned to paint bread.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Michael Parkes

Michael Parkes
Michael Parkes is an American painter, printmaker and sculptor now based in Spain.

Parkes takes inspiration in his affection for a variety of artistic sensibilities, from Renaissance portraits to 19th century academic and Orientalist painters, Symbolists like Gustav Klimt, Art Nouveau posters, Golden Age children’s book illustrators — particularly Maxfield Parrish — and classic pin-up and “good girl” illustration.

Parkes combines these in his fantasy infused blend of Magic Realism, focused largely on young women and animals in often elaborate poses.

I don’t know that he directly accepts illustration commissions, but his work has been used for a number of science fiction and fantasy covers.

Parkes studied graphic art and printmaking at the University of Kansas, carrying forward his interest in stone lithography into his current range of color stone lithographs requiring multiple stones for each impression.

His work is widely available in a variety of reproductions, which makes the official website a bit confusing, and to my mind devalues his stone lithographs by including them amid giclées and commercially printed reproductions; though you can find them grouped with original painting drawing and sulpture on this page.

The michaelparks.com URL points to Steltman Galleries which also has an extensive selection of his work. I’ve listed other galleries below.

[Note: a number of the images on the linked sites should be considered NSFW.]

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

William E. Elston

William E. Elston
William Elston is a painter based in the Seattle, Washington area.

Elston’s wide range of landscape and cityscape subjects all bear a common fascination with the character of light in different times of day, seasons and atmospheric conditions. He carries his exploration of these changes forward with a nuanced control of color and value.

I particularly enjoy the contrast between those compositions in which he compresses his values to portray muted light, rain or mist with those in which he expresses a full range of light and dark. Even his brightest colors are carefully restrained, taking their apparent briilliance from their relation to surrounding colors rather than from high-chroma tube colors.

Elston’s website has fairly extensive galleries of his work in both landscape and cityscape, though many are too small to get a real feeling for the painterly nature of the work visible in some of the larger images.

His website’s home page functions as a blog, on which you will often find larger images, as well as work in progress and step-through sequences. In addition, he has a plein air blog, Notes from the Field, a Painter’s Workshop, focusing on new pieces and works in progress, and a personal elstonblog.

His website also offers a set of resources, with links to artist websites, galleries, blogs of interest and other destinations.

Elston teaches regular classes in plein air and studio techniques, as well as offering online instruction. He will be conducting a Plein Air Workshop Demonstration in Spokane on June 20-21, 2015.

Monday, May 25, 2015

World War I professional combat art

World War I professional combat art: William James Aylward, J. André Smith, George Harding, Ernest Peixotto, Wallace Morgan, Walter J Duncan

Today is Memorial Day here in the U.S., a day set aside to honor those who have died while in military service.

I’ve written previously on combat artists — soldiers who happened to be artists, or artists who happened to be soldiers — often specially commissioned by the military to document their experiences as only artists can. These are usually a mix of professional and non-professional artists, and though their work is always worth consideration, when purely considered as artwork it is sometimes uneven.

In World War I, the US War Department commissioned eight professional artists, made them captains in the Army Corps of Engineers, and sent them into the war in France. There were six illustrators: William James Aylward , Walter Jack Duncan, Harvey Thomas Dunn, George Matthews Harding, Wallace Morgan, and Harry Everett Townsend; one architect and etcher: J. André Smith, and one gallery artist: Ernest Clifford Peixotto.

The artists had freedom of movement to go where they would, recording the experience and nature of the conflict, to both create a historical record and help encourage public support for the war effort.

Together, they produced over 700 works, from sketches to fairly finished paintings, in four basic categories: daily soldier life, combat, the aftermath of combat (ruins and damaged towns, etc.) and the machinery of war.

When I learned that the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History has digitized these works and made them available online, I was expecting an archive of modest sized images, a small percentage of which might be of particular interest artistically.

I was surprised and very pleased to find that not only are there zoomable high-resolution images, but the consistency of the artwork is very high — not simply of interest as combat art, but an excellent resource for work by a group of superb artists. Many of them stand on their own simply as wonderfully rendered landscapes.

I was aware of some of the artists, like WJ Aylward and Harvey Dunn, but a couple of them, like J. André Smith and Walter J Duncan were impressive surprises.

The archive is extensive, accessed by a search for “world war i art” that produces some 160 pages of results. Unfortunately, my efforts to narrow the search to specific artists did not meet with success for Townsend or Dunn, so I resorted to simply going through the records in order.

I was 10 pages and two hours in before I remembered I had other things to do today and pulled my head out of the art. For those who might be as impressed with these wonderful sketches and paintings as I am, I’ll issue a Timesink Warning.

There is an article on Smithsonian Magazine, describing the archive, and a collection available as a book: Art from the Trenches: America’s Uniformed Artists in World War I.

This is a terrific resource, a confluence of art and war, the contrast of which brings home the horror of one and the power of the other.

(Images above, three each: William James Aylward, J. André Smith, George Harding, Ernest Peixotto, Wallace Morgan, Walter J Duncan)

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Agim Sulaj

Agim Sulaj, realist paintings, editorial illustrations and cartoons
Originally from Albania and now based in Itally, Agim Sulaj is a realist painter who also does award-winning editorial cartoons and illustrations.

The galleries on the artist’s website are divided between paintings and illustrations and cartoons. Sulaj’s paintings are in oil and often large in scale; his illustrations and cartoons are in acrylic, tempera and drawing media.

His paintings sometimes have almost blank backgrounds, and at other times are richly textural, particularly his portrayals of youth in the form of young boys playing, fishing, and often confronting obstacles. There are gallery paintings with a narrative element that seem to cross over into the territory of his editorial work, with suggestions of social commentary within the context of the painting. Unfortunately, the photography and reproduction of the paintings is uneven.

You can find additional cartoons and illustrations on Cartoon Movement. There is a brief bio on Wikipedia that appears to be machine translated from another language; there is a better one on Saatchi Art

[Suggestion courtesy of James Gurney]