Monthly Archives: November 2006

Evgeny and Lydia Baranov

Evgeny and Lydia Baranov
Many art forms can be collaborative, film production, musical performances, mainstream comics, animation and others can be the culmination the efforts of several artists working together in varying degrees.

Collaboration in painting is usually more one-sided, as in a master being aided by an assistant, a master touching up the work of a pupil or a figure painter employing a specialist to paint animals into a composition (as Rubens did); all are examples of one dominant painter and one helping. True collaborative painting, in which the same painting is worked on by two artists working in tandem with equal input, is rare.

Husband and wife Evgeny and Lydia Baranov, who are originally from Russia but now live in California, seem to have achieved a balance that allows them to do just that. They work side by side on the same canvas, which might be started by either, sharing the application of paint and the advancement of the composition in an interplay they liken to improvisational jazz.

They seem to work and think alike enough that the intention and execution of the paintings feels of a whole, like the work of a single artist. They apparently travel extensively and their work includes landscapes and cityscapes from Paris (image above), Russia, Venice and other parts of the world, in addition to their adopted home of California.

Their online galleries also include intimate interiors and still lifes, occasionally combined with exteriors in the same composition as in their “Moscow Windows” series. Their work also includes portraits and figures in the context of interiors or landscapes. Their approach is painterly, with broad strokes of intense color laid down directly, space and form defined with areas of color and little evidence of line.

I don’t know if someone more familiar with their work than I could pick out the influences of one artist over the other. Their site sometimes arranges their work by date, and I see more variation in style over time than I do in a given year, indicating to me a pretty seamless synthesis of the vision of the two artists into a shared whole.

It’s interesting to compare this approach to that of two other artists I have featured who are husband and wife, Neil and Karen Hollingsworth, who obviously share influences, but retain separate artistic points of view. I think it’s rare enough to find couples who work in the same medium and general style; the Baraov’s joined expression is very unusual.

Thanks

J. C. Leyendecker, Norman RockwellWhile I realize the American holiday of Thanksgiving is about giving thanks for weightier and more immediate concerns, like being here at all, having enough to eat, clothes, shelter and basic freedom, at least for those of us fortunate enough to enjoy these things; lines and colors is specifically about art, and the day gives me a chance to reflect on the amazing cornucopia of visual art that we enjoy, from the past and in the present.

In the course of writing this blog for the past year and few odd months, I’ve had the pleasure of sharing some of the art treasures I’m aware of, rediscovering some I had forgotten or neglected and discovering new ones. In all, I’m just flat-out amazed at the bounty of great drawings, paintings, illustrations, concept art, cartoons, comics, webcomics, woodblock prints, digital paintings, animations and images of all kinds that we have access to, whether through reproductions on the web, books, libraries, and periodicals, or in person in the halls of museums large and small, galleries local and national and, perhaps best of all, from our own hands.

When I was in the first few weeks of writing lines and colors I found myself wondering if there were enough topics to sustain the kind of daily posts I was doing once I got past the favorite artists I had in my head at the time. Now that I’ve been doing it for a while, I simply don’t know how I can ever find time to write bout all of the great stuff that I have remembered or discovered in the process, particularly in light of all of the exciting things I see happening in the various art communities.

I’ve been thrilled to watch the painting-a-day phenomenon bloom and spread, individual artists and galleries reach for new ways to make contact with those who would appreciate and support their art, and students, young and old, forging their way through the process of artistic discovery and sharing that experience with other artists and the world at large through the ever-growing list of sketching and painting blogs. I’ve seen online comics explode from a handful to hundreds, sketching clubs, illustration challenges, and artist groups spring up like crazy and art resources of all kinds appear on the web.

Wow.

So my hat’s off to all of those participating in the explosion of art appreciation that I think is happening, partly on the net and partly in the rethinking of art on a local scale, with galleries banding together to promote gallery walks, schools looking for unorthodox teaching methods, independent ateliers springing up, and individuals taking the first steps into artistic creation since leaving it behind in adolescence when wrongfully told that only “professional artists” should pursue it past that point. Attitudes are changing, the role of art in society is expanding, not contracting as pundits were afraid would happen under the pressure of popular entertainment. It’s an exciting time to be interested in art.

And thanks to all of you readers of lines and colors, for your interest, comments, suggestions and support, and for making this project more than worthwhile and tremendous fun.

Oh yes, the illustration at left, top is by J. C Leyendeker, one of the most amazing of the great illustrators from the early 20th Century (and sure to be the topic of a full future post). It’s the cover of The Saturday Evening Post from November, 1928. You can find more of his fantastic illustrations, and those of many other artists in the SEP cover archive on the Curtis Publishing site.

And yes, that archive also includes the image you were probably expecting to see here today, at left, bottom: Rockwell’s “Freedom from Want“, not specifically a Thanksgiving image, but part of a series of “Four Freedoms“, posters created by Rockwell as a response to a speech by President Roosevelt to Congress in 1941 on those really basic freedoms: Freedom From Fear, Freedom of Speech, Freedom From Want, and Freedom of Worship.

Greg Broadmore

Greg BroadmoreFor somebody who isn’t specifically a paleo artist, New Zealand artist Greg Broadmore paints very cool and realistic dinosaurs. He has apparently loved drawing dinos from an early age (as happens to many of us), and now gets to paint them in the service of movie concept art, specifically for the lavishly dinosaur-populated remake of King Kong from Peter Jackson.

Broadmore works as a concept artist for Jackson’s WETA Workshop and has also done concept design and illustration for The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, and the upcoming Halo and live action Evangelion films.

He works digitally in Photoshop and Painter, and his illustrations have a feeling of physical paint and a muscular approach to light and shade that gives his work an appealing immediacy and power.

Broadmore’s work is featured prominently in The World of Kong: A Natural History of Skull Island, a book set up as a mock “natural history” of Kong’s Skull Island, beautifully illustrated by the WETA concept artists who worked on the film.

Broadmore also created a comic called Killer Robots Will Smash the World that is published in New Zealand and may bit hard to find here in the States (I’m looking).

Did I mention that he also paints great robots?

The links below are to his galleries on the WETA Workshop site, that showcase his concept art for the films, and a site called The Battery, a project he shares with fellow WETA artist Warren Mahy, which features some of his sketches and quick studies, as well as more finished personal work.

 

Mark Rogalski

Mark RogalskiOne of the most basic forms for children’s books is the ABC book, a tried and true formula with a long history, that usually presents a challenge for illustrators: to come up with a way to make images associated with the alphabet that are amusing enough to keep a child’s attention through repeated readings. The best illustrators who take on this venerable form not only accomplish that, but look for a new and different way to approach the idea and make it fresh.

In his new book Tickets to Ride: An Alphabetic Amusement illustrator Mark Rogalski has created a veritable amusement park of alphabet illustrations in the form of delightfully styled and wittily titled alliterative animal rides.

The images of the Zebra Zeppelin and Octopus Orbiter Blast at left are just a taste. Unfortunately, the images on Rogalski’s web site are too small to get a real feeling for these delightful digital paintings, which are at once boldly simple and richly detailed. You can see them somewhat larger in the recent Communication Arts Illustration Annual 47, and, of course, at their intended size in the book.

The illustrations make for an ideal kind of children’s book: fun and simple enough to appeal to kids, and visually sophisticated enough to also keep Mom or Dad entertained through repeated readings.

Rogalski’s site is also a bit shy on information about the artist or his techniques. I get the impression from his speaking schedule, and the fact that the book is published by Running Press, that he is based here in the Philadelphia area. The Contact page of his site promises more info to come — “Archives”, “History” and the tantalizing “Oddities”, but we’ll apparently have to wait for a bit. In the meanwhile, the book should provide enough “tickets to ride” to keep us nicely amused, regardless of our age.

 

Jacques-Louis David

Jacques-Louis David
Political revolution can often coincide with a revolution in art, but sometimes political upheaval can send art backwards, looking for reaffirmation in older forms.

Jacques-Louis David (pronounced da-veed) was a painter at the height of French neo-classical style and at the center of the turmoil of the French Revolution and its aftermath.

As a student David won the prestigious Prix de Rome from the Royal Academy and, after studying in Italy for five years, returned to be made an Associate member of the Academy and later a full Academician.

He was a student of Boucher, the great painter of the Rococo (and a distant relative) who, along with Fragonard, represented the fun, frivolity, eroticism and decadence of a style that David would reject for the austere beauty of the neo-classical. David himself was an enormously influential teacher, counting among his pupils François Gérard, Antoine-Jean Gros, Jean-Babtiste Iasby, and the amazing Jean Aguste Dominique Ingres, as well as the American naturalist painter John James Audubon.

David was a masterful draughtsman, and representational drawing and respect for the refinement of form in the sculpture of antiquity formed the basis for his art, as evidenced in “The Death of Sacrates”, above, where we can see Socrates expounding while reaching for the hemlock in a formal tableaux drawn and rendered with consummate skill. Ol’ Socrates is looking pretty pumped-up and sprightly for being 70ish, but, hey, that’s the point of neo-classical art, it’s idealized to the max.

Looking back form the post-Romantic viewpoint of the 19th Century, let alone the 21st, it’s easy to see David’s monumental solidity as cold and lifeless, but the desire to live in the ideal of the classical was a passion, inextricable from his political passions. David was not only caught up in the revolution, but was directly and fervently involved. When Napoleon came to power there were many painters in the circle of the emperor (including Prud’hon), but David was the main painter to the emperor and it was he who created the painting that provides than now-clichéd image we have of Napolean with his hand tucked into his vest.

David’s life of political intrigue would undoubtedly fill a a fascinating book, as would his many paintings, austere perhaps, but masterful and supremely accomplished; and if you look for his portraits, you may find an unexpected warmth and force of personality lurking in the formal compositions.

Marie-Denise Villers

Marie-Denise Villers
I used to think this was my favorite painting by Jacques-Louis David. I was mistaken.

But then, so were art scholars who for years had attributed it incorrectly to David and subsequently decided that it was the work of Marie-Denise Villers, a French portrait painter about whom little is known.

We tend to think of art history as immutable, set in stone, perhaps literally. But history, while not exactly a science, is like science in that new evidence, and sometimes just new thinking about existing facts, can change things overnight.

Prior to the change in attribution of this work, not much attention was focused on Villers and I haven’t had much success in searching her out on the web, other than to find dozens of references to this particular painting. We know that she was a student of Anne-Louis Girodet-Trioson, called Girodet, who was in turn a pupil of David’s. You might add that Villers was a very talented student, given that her work had been mistaken for that of David by art historians.

She painted for a while under her maiden name of Lemoine and later took the name of her husabnd, architecture student Michel-Jean-Maximilien Villers. Her portraits apparently attracted favorable attention when she exhibited in the Salon as a student of Girodet. She carved a niche for herself with paintings that combined some of the characteristics of portraits and genre paintings, which she called “studies of women”.

You will still find this painting in books listed as a portrait of Charlotte du Val d’Ognes by David. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which has the painting in its permanent collection, now attributes it to Villers and lists it as simply “Young Woman Drawing“.

The painting is striking. It’s large, 63 x 50 in. (161 x 128 cm), and when you enter the gallery in which it hangs, the painting is facing you on the opposite wall. It’s hard not to be struck by the luminous figure of this beautiful young woman, drawing board in hand, the folds of her white dress bathed in the soft light from the window behind her, who is gazing directly at you, as though you were the subject of her drawing.

Not knowing anything about the painting, I had made an assumption that here was a student of David’s, drawing the master as he, in turn, painted her. It now seems more likely that the painting is actually a self portrait, an idea that just feels “right” when you look at the painting with that in mind.

Artists’ faces often have a certain look to them in self portraits, due, I believe, to a shift in consciousness into a mode of perception associated with artistic seeing (see my post on Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain). The woman might have that look whether she was drawing herself or another, but the semi-hidden position of her drawing hand and other elements just make it feel like a self portrait now that the idea of attribution to David is removed.

I certainly hope the Met doesn’t move this striking painting now that it’s assigned to a “lesser” artist. I think we need to supplement our art history with some literature and remember Shakespeare’s lesson that “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”, and a beautiful painting by another artist’s name is still a beautiful painting.

Addendum: I’ve come back and added what resources I could find on Villers as of November 2009 to the list below, and replaced the smaller image I had here with a new version from the Met’s updated site. There is also now a zoomable image of the painting. I’ve also written a new post about Marie-Denise VIllers.