Sang Jun Lee

Sang Jun Lee
Sang Jun Lee is a concept artist who seems to specialize in creature and character designs for movies. Working primarily for ILM and Lucas Film, he has provided concept design art for movies like Frankenstein, Men in Black II, The Hulk, Peter Pan, Pirates of the Caribbean and Star Wars Episode III.

In addition to the gallery, there is a section of his site devoted to descriptions of his involvement in each project.

Though most of his characters tend toward the dark and threatening villains and monsters of the piece, you can occasionally see a sly sense of humor seeping through.

Most of his concept pieces are painted, but he often leaves some of the line work visible, creating a nice informal blend of line and color. His color can be sketchy or more refined, but always adds a solid feeling of form and volume to the figures.

Lee’s gallery includes sketches, drawings, illustration and sculpture as well as concept illustrations. The “drawing”, “sketchbook” and “misc” sections contain some drawing and painting from life in addition to flights of fancy.

Unfortunately the large gallery images are accessed through one of those tedious “click to pop-up, click to close” arrangements that begins to try your patience after 5 or 6 images, but if you like the first few, persevere, and you’ll find many more of equal calibre. Be aware that several of the gallery sections run for more than one page, via a link at the bottom of the thumbnail pages. The sketchbook section, in particular, runs for several pages, and features some particularly nice animal drawings from life toward the end.

 
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Maxfield Parrish

Maxfield Parrish
In many ways Maxfield Parrish was the antithesis of the popular image of bohemian artists, struggling for recognition and starving in noble sacrifice for their art. He was precise, orderly and methodical and was successful throughout his career.

Born into a family that unflaggingly encouraged his interest in art, he was taught initially by his father, Stephen Parrish, an engraver and landscape artist. Maxfield, whose given name was Frederick, chose to use his Grandmother’s maiden name as his middle name and became known by it. He was born in Philadelphia, graduated from Haverford College and went on to study at the Pennsylvania Academy of The Fine Arts and also attended classes given by the great illustrator Howard Pyle at Drexel.

Pyle reportedly looked at Parrrish’s portfolio and said that there was nothing he could teach him, and simply encouraged him to develop a unique style. That is something Parrish certainly did. His work, although an integral part of the Golden Age of illustration, was unlike any artistic school, style or movement at the time. Since then, of course, he has been very influential and much imitated.

Few can imitate his actual technique, however. Parrish would painstakingly build up his luminescent colors in layer after layer of transparent glazes. Unlike the old masters who originated this technique, Parrish used a blue and white underpainting, rather then the traditional grissaile or terra verde. If you ever get to see his originals, you wll be struck by the jewel-like quality of his colors, almost like looking through stained glass. Parrish, in fact, collaborated with the famous glass artist Louis Comfort Tiffany on glass mosaic mural called The Dream Garden, which can be seen in the Curtis Center near Independence Hall here in Philadelphia.

Parrish was renowned for his unorthodox use of color. His images are ablaze with brilliant hues that are often contrasted with their complementary color in the same image or on the same object, causing them to be intensified. He was also unorthodox in his mechanistic and methodical approach to composition and usually prepared his paintings from elaborate combinations of photographic reference, models and constructions. After making his mark as an illustrator for magazines like Colliers, he moved into painting specifically for reproduction as mass-produced prints, the first and most successful of which is his famous Daybreak (detail here).

What he really enjoyed doing most was landscape, and he created landscapes for 30 years for Brown & Bigelow, a calendar and greeting card company. His landscapes were never painted from life, though, and seldom referenced any real place. They were usually amalgams of images from various sources, a tree from his yard, a photograph of a mountain and a stream from somewhere else.

In fact, Parrish would often “construct” his own landscapes. He kept 30 or so pieces of granite, quartz and other rocks in his studio. These were painted a neutral brown and arranged on a piece of glass, giving the appearance of a reflective lake, set in layers of powered rock and strongly lit to give him the custom-designed landscape he wanted to paint. His colors were obviously those of his own choice and not those of nature, together producing a world of landscapes as unique as the masterful approach of the artist who painted them.

 
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Elwood H. Smith

Elwood H. Smith
About 10 years ago, my wife and I bought a copy of The Book of Classic Board Games, a spiral-bound book with thick pasteboard pages that came with attached pouches of “Go”-style game pieces and served as both a text about, and playable examples of, simple but timeless board games.

It was an example of brilliant book packaging, highlighted by illustrations throughout. By far the most memorable of these, including the cover, were done by an artist whose work I recognized but whose name I didn’t know at the time. It was Elwood H. Smith. We’ve used the book countless times, and I’ve never failed to be delighted by the pages containing his illustrations. Since then I’ve always been pleased to find his work in other books or periodicals.

Chances are you’ve seen his illustrations too, in the pages of Time, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal The New York Times and many other editorial and advertising venues.

His whimsical cartoon illustrations carry echos of great comic strip artists from the early 20th Century, like Bud Fisher, Cliff Sterrett, and in particular, George Herriman.

Many cartoon style illustrators fall flat for me by simplifying their drawings to the point of leaving out anything of visual interest. Smith has an uncanny knack for balancing just the right amounts of stylization, color, tiny bits of detail and wonderful elements of simple texture to charm your eye and make his drawings a joy to look at.

Addendum: Elwood Smith has written to let us know that he also has a blog at www.drawger.com/greenmonkey on which he posts his animation experiments, new images and thoughts on all manner of subjects, including his search for the perfect brush, and his favorite india ink and favorite drawing pen, the Pelikan 120.

 
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Michael Komarck

Michael Komarck
Michael Komarck is an illustrator who transitioned from local graphic design work to fantasy and science fiction illustration for national-level clients like Wizards of the Coast, Fantasy Flight Games, Upper Deck and White Wolf.

He also made transitions through different media, moving, as he describes it, “…from crayons to pencils to acrylics to oils…”. In the course of his graphic design business, he began to work in Flash and Photoshop and eventually moved into digital painting.

His paintings have a nice sense of atmosphere and a gritty feeling of the texture of stone, metal and the leathery wings of dragons. He also has a nice sense of compositional drama and lighting that give his paintings a feeling of motion and excitement. He employs color dramatically, often pushing his images toward an almost monochromatic palette punctuated with sharp highlights of complementary colors.

 
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Hendrick Goltzius

Hendrick Goltzius
Despite the fact that he was limited to the use of one hand, his other having been crippled by fire, 16th Century Dutch artist Hendrick Goltzius was a master of the art of engraving, as well as a supremely accomplished pen draughtsman.

He was also accomplished at drawing with chalks, notably the “trois crayon” method of drawing with black, red and white chalks on tinted paper to achieve a painting-like effect, usually for portraits or figures. In his later years, Goltzius left engraving to devote himself to painting, but never achieved a mastery of that medium comparable to his extraordinary accomplishments with burin and pen.

Goltzius was very impressed with the work of Michelangelo, which he encountered on a trip to Italy. Many of his works are influenced the Italian master’s more strained and convoluted figures, and his most dramatic examples of foreshortening.

It is in Goltzius’s own command of the engraving burin and drawing pen that he really shines, though. He brought ink techniques, like the use of varied width lines, to engraving; and his ink drawings are amazing emulations of the line style of engravings, like the extraordinary pen drawing of his crippled right hand (image above), for which you can see chalk studies here.

Like most artists of his day, many of his chalk drawings were preparatory for finished works, like this chalk study for his famous engraving depicting the lost classical sculpture known as the Farnese Hercules (Wikipedia article)

Goltzius did a number of remarkable large scale “penworks”, pen and ink drawings, often drawn on specially prepared canvas and colored with delicate washes of transparent oil. These were done a much larger size than was common for ink drawings, as in the striking Without Ceres and Bacchus, Venus Would Freeze, acquired in the early 90’s by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which is 41 x 31 inches (105 x 80 cm).

He also did large panoramas of landscapes in his native Holland, which were some of the earliest of their kind and helped pave the way for great Dutch artists to follow, like Rembrandt.

 
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Charles Robinson

Charles Robinson
Charles Robinson was an illustrator of children’s books in the “Golden Age” of illustration, a time roughly from the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s.

His black an white illustrations are subtle combinations of line and stipple, often simple and at times simply silhouettes, at other times leaning toward a more elaborate, Art Nouveau style that carried similarities to Aubrey Beardsley or Kay Neilsen.

It is his watercolor illustrations, though, primarily for the covers of the books he illustrated, that are most fascinating for me. In ways reminiscent of Arthur Rackham, or the more open style of Edmund Dulac, his watercolors have a grace and charm that make me wish he had been able to do more full color illustrations for the interiors of his books.

Robinson, along with his brothers, Thomas Heath Robinson and William Heath Robinson, who were also illustrators, were among the first generation of artists who could actually see their work reproduced in books by way of photo engraving.

Previously, artists would have their work interpreted by specialty engravers, such as the Robinson brothers’ father, who would copy the illustrator’s work in preparing the actual engravings which could be used for printing. Interior color reproduction was difficult and expensive as individual plates that were “tipped in”, or added to the book after it was printed.

Charles Robinson illustrated classics like Beauty and the Beast, Bluebeard, Cinderella, The Frog Prince, Little Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel (image above).

 
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