Saturday, March 10, 2007

Tommy Lee Edwards

Tommy Lee EdwardsTommy Lee Edwards is an illustrator, comics artist and visual development artist who employs a delightful mixture of styles and approaches in the service of his wide mix of projects. His clients include gaming companies, the major comics houses, book publishers and film industry giants like Dreamworks and Lucasfilm in addition to commercial entities like Coca-cola and Hasbro.

His variety of stylistic approaches employs an amalgam of techniques that usually just calls “mixed media”, which I assume is at times a mixture of ink, charcoal, paint and digital media.

His work features a bright, engaging handling of color and textures, peppered with highlights, spots of accented color, scratchboard-like textures, and playful contrasts between elements that are in and out of focus. His figures and organic shapes have a strong geometry to them; folds on a coat can become a dramatic zig-zag of highlight color, edges are accentuated and areas of color snap against one another in strong relief.

At times he’ll abandon traditional rendering for pop-art like exaggerated lines and flat colors, overlayed with rough scratches and electric highlights. There is a wonderfully casual feeling to much of his work, obviously underpinned with solid draftsmanship and an apparent knowledge of the history of illustration. He’ll use Leyendecker-like strokes of color across faces and clothing or Cornwell style heavy outlines filled with rendered color, and there are echoes of Al Parker’s flat colors and dynamic shapes, particularly in his comics work.

If you browse through the galleries on Edward’s site, you’ll find an engaging mix of images from various projects — style guides (licensing and promotional art) for major movies like Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Superman Returns and Batman Begins, illustrations for books and magazines, visual development art and comic book pages, notably from his collaboration with Rick Veitch on The Question.

Click on the main image for enlargements. Unfortunately, many of the larger images are marred by watermarking, but they’re not so seriously obliterated that you can’t at least get a feeling for what they actually look like. Navigation through the galleries is a bit awkward, you have to click through bars of thumbnails, that for some reason are obscured until you roll over them, to find an image; and there’s no indication of how many images are in a given section or any way to jump forward or backward quickly if you’re trying to get to a specific image or lose your place. In spite of these glitches, the site is well worth exploring; Edward’s images are consistently worth looking through. He always manages to keep his subjects fresh and lively and I was often delighted to find some new facet of his work with which I wasn’t familiar.

Edwards has a couple of online comics, one on the WhatIsTheMatrix site: The Matrix An Easy One, and one on his own site, Teddy Grant Soldier of Fortune, which is very much in the mold of Milton Caniff’s terrific Terry and the Pirates (right down to the title graphic, which is an obvious nod to Terry). Edwards splits the traditional comics narrative here, placing text in a scrolling box to the left and wordless images in a frame to the right. In spite of this, the narrative works well enough, and the drawings are terrific at capturing Caniff’s film-noir chiaroscuro combined with the energetic zing of modern concept art.

(Images above, left, from the top: Wolverine comics cover, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone Style Guide, The Question, Teddy Grant Soldier of Fortune.)

There is a new collection of Edward’s work The Art of Tommy Lee Edwards, an Amazon search will also produce several other books in which his art is prominent.

 

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