He who knows how to appreciate colour relationships, the influence of one colour on another, their contrasts and dissonances, is promised an infinitely diverse imagery.
- Sonia Delaunay
Colour is my day-long obsession, joy and torment.
- Colour is my day-long obsession, joy and torment.


Thursday, March 23, 2006

Matt Dixon

Posted by Charley Parker at 9:23 am

Matt DixonI first came across Matt Dixon’s work on the CGSociety site, where he has been a participant in several of their “Challenges“, contests in which computer graphics artists create works that are a response to a particular theme.

The great thing about the Challenges is the the artists document their work at numerous stages during the creation process, effectively creating a sort of tutorial for each work. Here is the finish page for the sequence devoted to the image at left, Dixon’s entry for the “Master and Servant” challenge, for which he took second place for 2-D works after Linda Bergkvist’s elegant entry. (See my previous post about Linda Bergkvist.)

The Challenge feature page for each work is a bit like a blog, with “posts” arranged in reverse chronological sequence. Go to the second page and scroll to the bottom to go through Dixon’s creative process from the initial concept sketch to finished digital painting.

You can also see his digital painting process for The Old Man of the Woods, his entry for the more recent “Spectacular” Challenge theme.

The Challenge features are particularly nice in the case of artists like Dixon, whose own site has galleries of his work and a little bit of background info, but virtually nothing about his working methods.

Grounded in traditional drawing and painting techniques, Dixon now prefers to work entirely digitally. Professionally he does concept art for the gaming industry. There is a list of some of the games he has contributed to on the MobyGames site.

The March 2006 issue of Heavy Metal magazine features gallery of Dixon’s work. He is also a contributor to the Event Horizon 2 anthology from MamTor Publishing.


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Michael Skrepnick

Posted by Charley Parker at 9:14 am

Michael SkrepnickMichael Skrepnick gets to draw and paint fantastic animals that are as wild and bizarre as anything done by any fantasy or science fiction artist, except that the animals he portrays are real, or at least based on the best information we have about real animals that once walked the Earth.

Paleo artists like Skrepnick work with paleontologists to create images of animals long extinct by extrapolating their appearance from the fossil record and from a knowledge of modern animals that share physiological characteristics with the extinct ones. In the case of dinosaurs, this means birds and members of the crocodile family.

Good paleo artists and paleontologists are painstaking in their efforts to recreate these animals faithfully. The fossils give good information about skeletal structure, from which things like muscle mass, size and weight of an animal can be deduced. There is also some information about skin textures. (For color, however, fossils don’t give a clue.) The closer we get to the reality of what dinosaurs actually looked like, the more one thing becomes clear: these were some weird puppies.

Working in graphite or pen and ink for monochromatic works and in acrylic for paintings, Skrepnick portrays prehistoric animals with a clear, sharp and detailed style that reinforces their connection with the real world and recognizable environments and makes their strangeness even more palpable. His dinosaurs are bathed in sunlight, strongly modeled and connected to the ground and the world around them.

His images have appeared in many museums and scientific institutions and in books from a variety of publishers.

There are two galleries in the site, but the images are frustratingly small – not large enough to get a real feeling for the quality and drama of Skrepnick’s work. Try looking for some of the books he has illustrated.

Some titles are: Great Dinosaur Expeditions and Discoveries: Adventures With the Fossil Hunters (Dinosaur Library) (Thom Holmes, Laurie Holmes), Armored, Plated, and Bone-Headed Dinosaurs: The Ankylosaurs, Stegosaurs, and Pachycephalosaurs (The Dinosaur Library) (Thom Holmes, Laurie Holmes), Triceratops: Mighty Three-Horned Dinosaur (I Like Dinosaurs!) (Enslow Publishers), Sinosauropteryx-Mysterious Feathered Dinosaur (I Like Dinosaurs!) (Michael William Skrepnick), and Mesozoic Vertebrate Life: (Indiana University Press), for which the image of Monolophosaurus jiangi, shown here, is the cover.

Posted in: Paleo Art   |   3 Comments »

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Michelangelo’s Drawings

Posted by Charley Parker at 12:49 pm

MichelangeloThis sheet of drawings, Michelangelo’s studies for the Libyan Sibyl, perhaps the most beautiful of the figures on the Sistine Chapel ceiling, has always impressed me as a self-contained master course in drawing.

It’s loose, expressive and supremely confident. The draughtsmanship is precise and elegant. The figure is modeled in detail but there is still an economy of line. The tone work is subtle and strong and defines the forms with unquestionable fidelity. The line itself is firm and definite, but almost disappears in places. You can see the remnants of light construction lines where Michelangelo is searching out the form, but when he finds it, he nails it. No question.

The drawing is exquisitely beautiful, and of all of the master drawings I’ve seen in my life it remains one of my absolute favorites, yet it was never meant to be a work of art.

For Michelangelo Buonerroti, as with most artists before the Baroque period, drawing was a tool, a step in the preparation of a final work, whether a painting, sculpture or other work, and not an art form in itself. Drawings were made into woodblocks, engravings or etchings for display as artworks, but the original drawings were seldom considered works in themselves. (Michelangelo burned many of his drawings before his death!)

Michelangelo considered himself a sculptor and not a painter or a draughtsman, yet his drawings are among the most brilliant in the history of art. (Hey, that’s why they call these guys “masters”.)

I’ve had the opportunity to see this drawing in person twice, once in Philadelphia and once in New York, and I was entranced by it both times, coming back to it again and again. Like all works on paper, it can’t be on permanent display and is only shown as part of a temporary exhibition. The original is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum in NY. You can view it in detail with the zooming feature on their site.

There is a major exhibit titled Michelangelo Drawings: closer to the master at the British Museum in London (this drawing is not part of it) opening this Thursday, March 23rd and running to June 25th, 2006. The exhibit draws on the collections of The Ashmolean and the Teyler Museum in Haarlem as well as the British Museum’s own collection.

There is a gallery connected with the exhibition page, and you can find other selections from their collection including another study for the Sistine ceiling.

You can find some other selections from the exhibit here, some other Michelangelo drawings on the Web Gallery of Art, Casa Buonarroti, and excerpts here from a book published by Yale University Press: Michelangelo Drawings : Closer to the Master (Hugo Chapman).


Monday, March 20, 2006

Alessandro Barbucci
& Barbara Canepa

Posted by Charley Parker at 10:31 am

A few years ago I was in Paris (sigh), gleefully digging through the bandes-dessinées shops in the area around the Sorbonne, when I chanced on a comic album called Sky-Doll. I knew nothing about it, I was just struck by the wonderful drawing and colors. I was unfamiliar with either the artist, Alessandro Barbucci, or the writer/colorist, Barbara Canepa, both from Genoa, Italy.

I managed to conjure up enough halting, clumsy French to convey to the proprietor that I was interested in any other comic albums he might have with art by Barbucci, but finally learned that this was the only volume so far and the artist was new.

The drawings were lively, fresh, slightly cartoony but highly rendered and with delightfully realized and very imaginative backgrounds and settings. I was immediately taken with the visual joie de vivre and went home happy with my discovery, but disappointed that I couldn’t carry home a stack of Barbucci albums with my Moebius, Beltran and Gillon.

I was able to pick the second volume of Sky-Doll a couple of years later (this time while rooting through fumetti shops in Rome), and learned that Barbucci had, in fact, been around for a while. He had previously worked on a comic series for Disney Italy, also written and colored by Canepa, called Witch, a charming and beautifully drawn childrens’ series (as opposed to the distinctly adult nature of Sky-Doll). The series is the basis for the current W.I.T.C.H. animated TV series, but I don’t think B&C have anything to do with it directly.

After the first two volumes of Sky-doll, Barbucci and Canepa returned to Disney to work on the first three (I think) stories for Monster Allergy, a delightful comic series about a kid whose allergies allow him to see invisible monsters in his house. The comic series continues to run under other artists and has been made into an animated TV show in Italy.

Sky-doll #3 is currently being serialized in Lanfeust (Google translation here), the French action-adventure comics anthology magazine, and should be released soon. Sky-doll 0: Doll’s Factory is a “making of” book on the series.

There is an official site for Sky-Doll, but it’s been unfinished and apparently abandoned for some time. It still has full pages that you can preview, though. In fact only the Book intro and Gallery page are active.

You can also find some art from B&C on Catsuka.com (Google translation here). The Catsuka.com page for Witch, has lots of small comics pages you can preview. There is also some Barbucci art here.

There is an unofficial site devoted to Barbucci and Canepa (annoying Lycos pop-up warning) with news and info as well as galleries of comics pages, covers and sketches. (Google translation here).

Americans can order some of the Sky-doll comic albums from Stuart NG Books or Mars Import. These are the French editions (there are no English translations that I’m aware of) and they come at a premium, but you can get them.

Note: Some of the sites linked here contain nudity and sexually suggestive images. Avoid them if you’re likely to be offended.

Posted in: Comics   |   16 Comments »

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Garren Gallery: Russian Art

Posted by Charley Parker at 5:40 pm

It’s not that often that I get to be overwhelmed with dozens of terrific artists that are new to me all at once. That’s the happy result of my decision to look into Russian art for the post I did back in January.

Responses to the post have left me with a wealth of links to great Russian art on the web. I’m still sifting through some of these great resources and wonderful Russian painters, but I’ll start with a response I just got from Robert Garren of the Garren Gallery.

The Garren Gallery is a remarkable commercial gallery in, of all places, Georgetown Tenessee, that has one of the largest collections of Russian art in the U.S and represents over 250 artists from Russia and the former Soviet Union.

The gallery’s site allows you to browse through online galleries of hundreds of works, sorted by artist, or by title of the works.

You can browse for hours and keep discovering wonderful paintings, drawings and graphic works. The site also includes bios of most of the artists, with important exhibitions, museum credits and lists of major publications.

There is also a selection of short articles, including one about the Russian Academy of Arts.

Shown in the images at top, clockwise from top left: Vasili Ivanovich Bratanuk, Boris Andreevich, Yuri Fedorovich Vnodchencko, Vladimir Ilich Scherdrin and Olga Nikitaevna Fomina.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Sir John Tenniel

Posted by Charley Parker at 12:58 pm

Sir John Tenniel
John Tenniel is best known (and rightly so) for his beautiful, imaginative, definitive and absolutely perfect pen and ink illustrations for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass: And What Alice Found There.

Though many illustrators have done their versions of Alice (see Lauren Harmon’s lists of Alice Illustrators, and the list of artist links on lewiscarroll.org), Tenniel remains the definitive interpretation. In my humble opinion, the only one who breaks out of Tenniel’s shadow when illustrating Alice is the great Arthur Rackham.

Tenniel has also influenced many artists and illustrators over the years, from his contemporary Victorian illustrators and cartoonists to modern “gothic” artists like Edward Gorey and Mark Ryden. (You can see my own nod to Tenniel in this cartoon from my book of Dinosaur Cartoons.)

The majority of Tenniel’s career was spent as a cartoonist and charicaturist for Punch, the British satire and humor magazine in the late 19th century. He also exhibited his work in galleries and painted a fresco in the Hall of Poets of the House of Lords.

As an illustrator, he created illustrations for a number of books including Aesop’s Fables, Undine, and Dickens’ The Haunted Man. It’s for his suberb drawings for the Alice stories, that we most treasure him though.

There are archived copies of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland on Project Gutenbeg and Through the Looking Glass: And What Alice Found There on sabian.org, but the quality of the reproductions is inexplicably poor.

You can also find some of Tenniels’ Alice illustrations at the Webmuseum, and his political cartoons, illos for The Haunted Man as well as a full Alice set on The Victorian Web and some of the color versions of the Alice images on the British Library site.

For the best reproductions, and to truly appreciate Tenniels’ beautiful work, look for Alice books that include his illustrations. There are inexpensive editions in which the quality of the images is quite high: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass (Modern Library Classics) and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (Barnes & Noble Classics Trade Paper).

Posted in: IllustrationPen & Ink   |   8 Comments »

Friday, March 17, 2006

Jamie Caliri

Posted by Charley Parker at 5:51 pm

Jamie CaliriJamie Caliri isn’t an illustrator, animator or graphic artist, he’s the director of two of my favorite recent short animations.

If you haven’t seen Dragon, the wonderful, essentially wordless, animated ad for United Airlines in which a father tucks his son in bed and flies off on the back of a bird to meet with knights at a round table, defeat a fire-breathing dragon and bring home the rewards, you’ve missed the most beautiful 64 seconds of animated television in recent memory.

You can see the ad here on the United Airlines site, along with a fascinating “making of” video that shows how Caliri and his talented crew of artists, animators and artisans created animated magic out of stage sets and puppets that were essentially paper cut-outs.

There is a larger format version of the ad (worth it) here on Caliri’s site, as well as a comprehensive list of the creative team and some large production stills.

Caliri is also responsible for the end titles for Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, which was certainly the best part of that movie and one of the best short pieces of animation in several years.

I didn’t care that much for the movie (although the production design is nice), but I’ll pick up that DVD just for Caliri & company’s beautiful end titles.

Link via Drawn!

Posted in: Animation   |   4 Comments »

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Henry Fuseli

Posted by Charley Parker at 9:54 am

Henry Fuseli
A Swiss-born artist who lived and worked in Berlin, Rome and London, Fuseli is generally thought of as English. While in Rome he became fascinated with the work of Michelangelo and changed his name from Johann Heinrich Füssli to the Italian sounding “Fuseli”.

Like the Pre-Raphaelites (see my post on William Holman-Hunt), who he pre-dated by some years, Fuseli often painted literary subjects; depicting scenes from Shakespeare and John Milton.

He also often painted mythological or fantastic subjects and the edges of his paintings are frequently populated with tiny details of elves and fairies. He created works infused with horror, wild imaginings and eroticism.

He seemed to want drama above all things in his canvases and often contorted and exaggerated his figures to achieve a dramatic effect. Men were overly muscled and women melodramatically sexual. You might think of him as a precursor to modern fantasy illustrators in that regard.

The picture shown here, The Nightmare, made his reputation and is by far his most famous and recognizable work.

Fuseli’s working methods were reputedly unorthodox and he was said to have often used his paints as a dry powder, spread and worked with a pencil dipped in oil or turpentine.

He was at one point romantically involved with Mary Wollstonecroft, whose daughter, Mary Shelly, wrote Frankenstein.

There is an exhibition at the Tate Gallery in London: Gothic Nightmares: Fuseli, Blake and the Romantic Imagination that runs until May 1, 2006.

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