James Jean

James Jean
James Jean is an illustrator who is widely recognized in the comic book community for his distinctive and beautifully done covers for DC Comics.

Born in Taiwan, educated at the School of Visual Arts and currently living in LA, Jean has an impressive list of illustration clients including Time, Playboy, Wired, SPIN, The New York Times and Rolling Stone. In addition to his work for DC comics, his clients in the comic book industry include Marvel, Dark Horse and Fantagraphics.

His main site has galleries of his work arranged either by client and by project. You’ll find comic covers in the section called “Coverwork”. There are also sections for sketchbooks, paintings and “Recess”, a project about “childhood and ghosts”.

His work can be in turns elegant and beautiful or startling and disturbing. There is always a firm underpinning of solid draftsmanship and strong design.

Jean has a well regarded blog called Process Recess, that includes examples of his work, sometimes presented in several stages as in his cover for the special 5Oth issue of DC Comics’ Fables, shown above. You will also find sketches and figure drawings.

There is a book of his work, Process Recess: The Art of James Jean.

Link via Cat Morley’s Designers who blog. There is an interview with Jean in this column of Morley’s Cat’s fancy, on the same page as interviews with yours truly and John Martz of Drawn!, who has also posted about James Jean here and here.

Drawn! also points out that there is an interview with Jean on The Hundreds. Unfortunately, it’s hidden in abysmally poor navigation and is in an awkward horizontally scrolling interface. Go here and look for the James Jean link – I think it’s about the fifth or sixth thumbnail down on the left.


Pablo Lobato

Pablo LobatoI was writing about the geometry of faces in yesterday’s post about Modigliani. Well, there’s geometry of faces and then there’s geometry of faces!

Pablo Lobato is an designer, illustrator and caricaturist from Argentina who has an uncanny ability to distill the essence of a likeness out of starkly graphic geometric shapes.

The structures of his famous faces are amazingly abstract (in the true meaning of that word) and the images are wonderfully composed as graphic designs. The result is a beautiful blend and balance of design and drawing.

Caricaturists often seem to try to push the envelope to see how far they can distort a face and yet keep or reinforce the strength of the likeness. Lobato excels here as well, presenting objects that almost seem like they couldn’t even be used to represent a human face if viewed individually, that come together in an uncannily strong likeness.

Most of his portraits are of musicians and actors, and occasionally of sports or political figures or even one of his artistic heroes, Picasso.

Lobato has done work for Rolling Stone, The Chicago Tribune, The Boston Globe, Time, TV Guide and The New York Daily News, among others.

There is an article here on Illustration Mundo, and a gallery on the site of his rep, Anna Goodson.

The links page of his site includes links to other artists and caricaturists as well as related sites.

Link via Metafilter.


Amedeo Modigliani

Amedeo ModiglianiAmedeo Modigliani was one of the first artists, beyond my teenage infatuation with Surrealism, that led me into an appreciation for modern art. (I should make a caveat that my appreciation for modernism is largely concentrated in the first half of the 20th Century, before the boring postwar theorists elected themselves the raison d’être for visual art.)

I stumbled across Modigliani’s work while thumbing through art books in the school library, and immediately hunted down an inexpensive paperback of his work at the local bookstore. There was just some innate charm about the freedom with which he distorts the faces and figures, drawing them out with an almost cartoon-like sensibility, that captured my attention.

His brash colors and large graphic shapes filled with texture add to the appeal, making a fascinating visual soup of lines, colors and forms. Modigliani’s figures lean and twist, their geometry askew as though gravity has shifted to an an angle off of perpendicular. His faces are sometimes perched atop elongated necks, as if striving to be taller, and are often tilted to one side in some quizzical inflection.

His geometrically distilled portraits and languorous nudes project a warmth and humanity that is often lacking in the work of many of the other modern painters, who seemed to be striving to remove those characteristics from their angular collisions of shapes and colors.

Modigliani was friends with Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi, who sparked his interest in sculpture and introduced him to the primal appeal of African masks, which would greatly influence his work.,

Modigliani’s charms were wasted on the art patrons of the time, even those interested in the other emerging modern painters. His work became very popular years after it was too late to do anyone but the gallery owners any good.

Sadly, Modigliani lived the tragic, falsely romanticized life of the “starving artist”. So charming and romantic was this lifestyle that the desperation and shame of his poverty, along with bouts of chronic illness, drove him to be consumed by drink and drugs in addition to the tuberculosis that cut short his life in 1920 at the age of 35.

The Royal Academy of Arts in London, UK has just mounted the first major exhibition of his work in forty plus years: “Modigliani and His Models“, which runs from July 6 to October 15, 2006. There is also a book associated with the exhibit, Modigliani and His Models by Emily Braun, Kenneth Silver, Simonetta Fraquelli and Kenneth Wayne, but it hasn’t been released in the US yet. Modigliani is well represented in art publishing, though, and you’ll find numerous titles in bookstores.

Taks a look through Modigliani’s portraits and figures and you’ll see the source for much of the stylization in the 50’s and 60’s animators and the current crop of retro-sixties-modern animators and illustrators. At the very least, you may get a different slant on things.

Link via Art Knowledge News.


Aaron St. Goddard

Aaron St. Goddard
Canadian concept artist Aaron St. Goddard has done illustration, concept design, storyboards and matte painting for companies like Piazo Publishing (who seems to have taken over Dungeon and Dragon magazines from TSR), Darrel Brown Media, Radical Entertainment and Mainframe Entertainment. (Mainframe is responsible for my all-time favorite 3-D CGI TV show, Reboot.)

St. Goddard’s site showcases his designs for environments and characters (like the hazard-suited character above left), but the stars of his oeuvre are his nicely scary creatures (like the minotaur above right).

The site also features a step-through (not exactly a tutorial) of his coloring process and promises a similar feature for his drawing process in the near future.

St Goddard seems to work primarily digitally, drawing and painting his characters and environments in Photoshop. He also works in 3-D applications.

His approach is generally one of color-filled linework, rendered far enough to give a relatively finished painted appearance. This gives his exotic creatures and wild characters a degree of realism while keeping the loose feeling of a drawing.

There is a brief interview with him on Animation Arena.

St. Goddard is also the creator of Bunchies (inset) which are um,.. animal creature kind of thingies that have become something of a phenomenon on the Web.


The 9/11 Report: a Graphic Adaptation

The 9/11 Report
The 9/11 Report: a Graphic Adaptation is an an attempt to adapt the 568 page 9/11 Commission Report into graphic story (i.e. comics) format.

The project is being published as webcomic by Slate, the long running online magazine. The graphic adaptation is written by Sid Jacobson and illustrated by Ernie Colón, both of whom have a long history in the comic book field.

The story is divided into chapters, the first thirty page chapter is devoted to the dramatic events of the day itself and the second chapter begins to go into some of the backstory, including the rise of Bin-laden and al-Qaeda. It looks like there will be about 13 chapters in all, so there is quite a bit of backstory and probably more detail on the events of the day to come.

It’s an ambitious undertaking, but Jacobson and Colón seem up to the challenge. Colón’s art is clear, unfussy, straightforward and built on solid draftsmanship, which seems essential to conveying this kind of information-dense account.

Colón’s drawings are also lively enough to keep your attention, and Jacobson knows how to break the story and backstory down into smaller coherent sub-stories, which also seems important in dealing with what could otherwise be a dry mountain of information overload.

The full graphic story project is available as a hardback print edition: The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation.

We have a chance here to see a broadly circulated example of the medium of comics conveying complex information in a way that is unique to the nature of graphic stories.

Comics are the only visual storytelling medium in which readers move at their own pace, hopefully making it easier for all of us to digest what actually happened on that fateful morning.


Eyvind Earle

Eyvind Earle
Eyvind Earle was an illustrator, author, animation art director and background artist. He did backgrounds for a number of Disney’s notable short films in the ’50’s and was the background artist and art director for Disney’s Sleeping Beauty feature length animation. He also worked on Lady and the Tramp and Paul Bunyan.

His illustrations appeared in Time, The New York Times, The New York Sun and The Los Angeles Times, among others. His designs have also been the center of successful lines of greeting cards.

He focused in his later career on images for gallery display and is represented by Gallery 21 in Carmel California. In the gallery’s site you’ll find Earle’s limited edition edition serigraphs (screen printing, often anachronistically called “silkscreen”).

His landscapes are very stylized and yet highly evocative of time, season and atmosphere. He uses color combinations that in lesser hands might dissolve into treacle (read: Thomas Kinkade), but in service of his swirling oriental art and 1960’s animation inspired compositions work remarkably well.

There is an article on the Cartoon Modern blog with some images of his Disney production work.

There are a couple of beautiful, but unfortunately expensive, volumes of his work: The Complete Graphics of Eyvind Earle and Selected Poems and Writings 1940-1990 and The Complete Graphics of Eyvind Earle and Selected Poems, Drawings and Writings by Eyvind Earle 1991-2000.

Earle is also featured in the short Disney documentary “4 Artists Paint 1 Tree” which is included on the special edition DVD release of Sleeping Beauty.

Thanks to Cully Long for the suggestion and information.