Daren Bader

Daren Bader
How’s this for a transition, from yesterday’s post about eye-placement in portraits to today’s illustration of a cyclops. (What’s that saying? “In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed, giant-tusked, white veined, maniacal, rampaging cyclops is king.”?… or something like that…)

Daren Bader is a fantasy illustrator who, among other projects, does a number of illustrations for the Magic: The Gathering card-based game. He steps outside the usual approach to that genre, though, in that he treats his Magic paintings like illustrations for the grand adventure fantasy books that were the stomping grounds of illustrators like Howard Pyle and N.C. Wyeth, who he obviously admires.

He tackles his mythological or fantasy subjects with broad strokes and painterly chunks of color, using strong value contrasts for drama and nice tonal control for atmosphere. The result makes for images full of action, adventure and lots of visual fun.

He creates interesting fantasy animals that are wierd amalgams of dinosaurs and mammals, and also paints more straightforward images of dinos. Some of his pen and ink illustrations show the influence of Franklin Booth and Roy Krenkel.


Eye Placement in Portraits

Eye Placement in Portraits
Here is an interesting bit of scientific/artistic conjecture. Christopher W. Tyler, of the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute in San Francisco suggests in this short (1 page) illustrated article that a high percentage of portrait paintings are arranged so that one eye, presumably the dominant one, falls on the horizontal center line of the image, even when the head appears to be centered in the painting. (He goes into more detail in a second article.)

He cites a number of examples and invites speculation on the part of the reader as to the purposeful placement of eyes in portraits according to several artistic models. His results from a sampling of 282 different artists suggest that he is correct a large percentage of the time and my own casual observations seem to agree.

Get out your ruler and art books and see for yourself.

The site is part of the Smith-Kettlewell Brain Imaging Center, which also includes The Eye Page, with interesting tidbits about eyes, both human and those of other animals, and a series of Art Investigations, scientific inquires into various aspects of art.


Tsukahara Shigeyoshi

Tsukahara Shigeyoshi I hope I have the name right. I’m taking it from the copyright line. The site is iyasakado.com.

I’m a little sketchy about the details here, mainly because they’re in Japanese, and the Google translate feature, remarkable as it is, doesn’t work so well in translating from Japanese to English. (The results can be comical, in fact. Try translating a well-known phrase into Japanese with Google Translate and then translate it back. Send the phrase to your friends and see if they can guess the original. Hours of fun!)

Anyway, the high point of this site is a number of nicely done and imaginative Flash animations that are part of a series entitled “Steel Fantasia”. More vignettes than parts of a coherent narrative, they are nonetheless presented in order and take place in the same setting. They are delightfully done, with simple but clever animation, artful use of multi-plane backgrounds, imaginative painted settings and nicely designed sequences.

The animations are set in an alternate time or reality, in an industrialized society at about a World War I level of technology, amid tanks with mechanical, steam-powered legs, airships, ornithopters and towering city structures. There is apparently an ongoing military conflict, against the backdrop of which small dramas play out. The overall tone is actually whimsical and the animations are charming and thought provoking.

The movies are essentially wordless, the music is excellent and the sound effects are well done, so language is no barrier to enjoyment. The supplementary comments on the pages are lost, however, in the inability of Google to return much that is intelligible. Instead of the somewhat-readable translations Google returns from related European languages, Google’s attempt to translate Japanese gives us phrases like: “…industry it sends with self-confidence cow moth!” that are amusing but not particularly informative.

The animations are linked by graphics from this page, apparently in order from the bottom up. The movies can take a while to load before playing. You might want to start with the second from the bottom (image of the toy soldier’s head) to get a better flavor for the whimsical feeling of the better sequences.

Link via Cold Hard Flash, original link via Gil Crows website.


Gilles Tréhin

Gilles Trehin
Gilles Tréhin is an autistic savant who began to exhibit a seemingly innate talent for drawing at the age of 5, as well as unusual abilities for mental calculation and music.

Autistic savants are people whose mental wiring seems to be a little different than the rest of us, resulting in limitations in certain areas but extraordinary abilities in others. Their phenomenal talents in the areas where they are gifted may hold secrets for the rest of us in understanding our own potential abilities.

I wrote two posts earlier about autistic savant Stephen Wiltshire, who also exhibited an extraordinary faculty for drawing from an early age. My first post was a general introduction and the second post dealt specifically with Wiltshire’s amazing ability to create memory drawings of complex city landscapes, like the skyline of Tokyo or Hong Kong, after viewing the subject for less than an hour.

Like Wiltshire, Tréhin seems to have a fascination with complex architectural themes, but in his case, his subject is imaginary, a fantastic city called “Urville” (named after “Dumont d’Urville”, a French base in the Antarctic). Urville is an large city (“11,820,257 inhabitants” according to Tréhin), with its own unique geography, street plan and architectural style, that exists in great detail in Tréhin’s mind.

Tréhin conceived of the idea of Urville at the age of 12 and started to construct it out of Legos. As he got older and the idea for the city grew, he realized that his drawing skills would let him expand his concept of the city and he began a series of detailed drawings of Urville, its streets, plazas, bridges, churches, promenades, airport, skyline and street plan.

The drawings are large scale, extraordinarily detailed and rich with the feeling of a real city, in which the buildings, streets and plazas exist in well-defined relationship to one another. It’s not like he’s drawing some imaginary street scenes with buildings put in as a convenience for composition, like most illustrators would do, it’s much more like Tréhin has been walking the streets of Urville in his mind, sketchbook in hand.

Tréhin has also created an entire background for the city, with its history (founded by Phoenicians), economy, culture and more. He is putting together a book but in the meanwhile his site offers a fascinating “Guided Tour”.

There is also an interesting article on the site of the Wisconsin Medical Society.

Maybe it’s because of the architectural subject matter, and maybe it’s just me, but I think his drawing style, although more sophisticated, bears a fascinating resemblance to Wiltshire’s. Food for thought.

Link via Boing Boing, original link via The Kircher Society.


Craig Mullins (update)

Craig MullinsIt seems odd to refer to digital art as “painterly”, but modern digital painting tools in applications like Corel Painter and Adobe Photoshop make that eminently possible. Concept artist Craig Mullins excels at creating dramatic, believable concept paintings for movies and games that are rich with digital “brushstrokes”, at times appearing as abstract blobs of color when viewed in detail.

Mullins was an early adapter of digital painting for concept art and is one if its undisputed masters. (He was urged to try digital painting by no less than John Knoll, visual effects supervisor at ILM and co-creator of Adobe Photoshop.) Mullins has created matte paintings for movies like The Matrix Revolutions, Armageddon, Apollo 13 and Forrest Gump; and concept visualization paintings for games like Halo 2, Marathon 2, Final Fantasy, GoldenEye: Rogue Agent and Prince of Persia.

His site galleries are filled with a dazzling array of images from his professional work. One thing that constantly stands out is his brilliant use of light and color to highlight portions of the images in a way that adds tremendous visual drama. You find yourself wishing the the final movies and games had more of the visual power of Mullin’s images.

In addition to his concept art, his site also features digital sketches in various degrees of finish as well as works in traditional media: oil, watercolor and pastel (usually figures from life). He appears to work rapidly, both in his digital concept art and in his traditional life painting, which gives his work a feeling of immediacy and freshness.

There are also sketches and more finished pieces that are apparently done for his own amusement, in particular a series of swashbuckling pirate images in the grand tradition of Howard Pyle and N. C. Wyeth but with Mullin’s signature digital painting style. Very cool.

His work is featured in the Expose 1 collection of digital painting from Ballistic Publishing, in which he was unanimously voted the first “Grand Master” award for that series. There is an article about him on the Ballistic site. There is also an illustrated article on the BBC News site.

I first wrote about Craig Mullins back in October of last year, but a recent post in Acuarela prompted me to check in on his site, Mr. Goodbrush, and see what’s new. The answer is: plenty! The site itself hasn’t changed (I groused about the navigation then and I’ll do it again), but he has posted tons of new work.

Mullins is prolific, and the the delight of many, posts lots and lots of his images, and posts them large enough that you can get a really good ideal of how good they are! (Are you listening, all you other artists who think that tiny images are sufficient for an online presence?)

Mullins is not only talented, but smart. He has figured out how to maintain a career as a concept artist while living in Hawaii, instead of being tied to Los Angeles.


Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida

Joaquin Sorolla
Spanish painter Joaquín Sorolla is sometimes called an Impressionist, an inaccurate label but an inevitable comparison. His canvases are flooded with sunlight and the effects of sun and shadow on people, objects, landscapes and particularly on the surface of water, often portrayed in paintings of the sun-drenched beaches in his native Valencia.

Like the French “painters of light”, he worked en plein air, painting in the natural light of the scene he was depicting rather than taking the work into the studio as was the practice in the 19th century. Also like the Impressionists, he often used strokes of pure color, letting the eye optically “mix” the final colors rather than blending to a smooth finish.

Despite the similarities, Sorolla was actually more of a realist, or a “Sorollaist”, than an adherent of the Impressionists’ ideals and principles. Sarolla had his own unique vision and approach. It makes as much sense to compare him to Courbet or Corot as to the Impressionists; although it’s enlightening to view his work in relation to those Impressionists who painted more directly, like Sisley and Caillebotte. A more apt comparison might be John Singer Sargent, who also shared some characteristics with the Impressionists but was essentially a realist, a painter of light and an adherent of his own unique style.

Sorolla was particularly fascinated with the play of sunlight on cloth: clothing, towels, sheets or sails, as well as scenes of young children playing in the sunlight on the beach. He was prolific, painted rapidly and often felt free to leave areas of his canvas unfinished or rendered with a few quick strokes of color. When it came to color, Sorolla was a master of defying convention, juxtaposing colors that ordinary painters of his day would never have placed together, in some ways anticipating the Modedrnist movement that would eventually shove him and many other important realists into ill-deserved obscurity.

Sorolla is much less well known than he should be today as a result. He is regaining attention and respect however, as the foam of the Modernist wave washes back into the sea and the solid bedrock of realism is revealed again. There is a nice appreciation from Peter Saint-André, but I’ve found little on the web in the way of Sorolla biographies in English.

Thankfully, that is not the case with his painting, there are many rich troves of images of Sorolla’s paintings, both in English and Spanish. Some of them are listed below. There is also a nice book: Joaquin Sorolla by Blanca Pons-Sorolla. There is a Sorolla Museum containing examples of Sorolla’s work, (along with a collection put together by Sorolla of the works of other artists) and a recreation of the artist’s studio, in Sorolla’s former house in Madrid.