Ivan Shishkin

Ivan Shiskin
Russian painter, etcher and draftsman Ivan-Ivanovitch Shishkin was also a naturalist. He based his stunning landscapes of dense northern forests not only on careful observation, but on a deep understanding of nature and natural forms.

Shishkin studied at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture and then at the St. Petersburg Imperial Academy of Arts where, after travels and studies in Germany, Switzerland and Czechoslovakia, he returned to become a professor. He became a member of The Itinerants, a group of Russian painters who banded together for traveling exhibitions, and the Society of Russian Watercolorists.

Shishkin’s attention to botanical detail earned him the nickname of “the book-keeper of leaves”, but his paintings are anything but cold studies of plant species, they are magnificent excursions across the sweeping fields of the Russian plains and into the dark cathedrals of her forests.

There is a terrific post on Articles and Texticles about Shishkin that goes into more detail than I can here and mentions the ArtsStudio, a team of artists and conservators working in the Art Conservation Department of the State Russian Museum, who paint faithful copies of Russian masterpieces and post photos of their process online, including a copy of the Shishkin painting above, “The Mast Grove” (meaning a grove of pines large and true enough to be used for making ships’ masts).

Kam Mak

Kam Mak
Kam Mak is a Chinese-American illustrator whose web site has essentially no bio or text information on it at all. His images, however, speak eloquently.

I was able to find some biographical information on the web sites of his publishers and a gallery. Mak was born in Hong Kong but grew up in New York’s Chinatown section after his family moved there in the early 70’s. He became involved in an Art Workshop designed to encourage inner city youths to investigate art and, to my mind, makes a terrific case that programs of that kind can indeed be a fertile ground for nurturing talent. Mak went on to study at the School of Visual Arts on a full scholarship and earned his BFA in 1984.

His beautifully realized illustrations have illuminated the covers and interiors of books from Harper Collins, Simon and Schuster and others. He has been awarded the Oppenheim Platinum Medal for best children’s picture book, the National Parenting Publication Gold Medal, and both Gold and Silver Medals from the Society of Illustrators. He is an assistant professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

Mak’s images show his heritage and the influence of the junction of two cultures in Chinatown. His work is often alive with images from Chinese culture, filtered through a fertile imagination and painted with a relaxed and confident realism in the tradition of European Academic painting.

In his paintings paper dragons come to life, imperial goldfish float in water or air, cats make existential comments and butterflies hint of the miraculous.

Mak can also be very down-to-earth in his portrayals of people, young adults in particular, and themes of growing up in Chinatown are evident in his work and exemplified by My Chinatown: One Year in Poems, which he both wrote and illustrated.

He also illustrated The Moon of the Monarch Butterflies (The Thirteen Moon by Jean Craighead George, The Dragon Prince: A Chinese Beauty & the Beast Tale by Laurence Yep and The Year of the Panda by Miriam Schlein. He is featured in American Dragons: Twenty-five Asian American Voices by Laurence Yep.

Nowhere in the bios or on Kam Mak’s site did I find mention of the fact that his name is a palindrome.

Arthur De Pins

Arthur De Pins
French animator Arthur De Pins first gained notice with his animated short L’Eau de Rose (Bed of Roses, image above — bottom, left), for which he created the characters and animated them in Flash, with some additional compositing in After Effects.

Macromedia (Adobe) Flash, a computer animation application which was originally aimed at the creation of animated banner ads for the web, has been coming into its own as an animation tool for both television cartoons and animated shorts aimed at the animation circuit. The Kalamazoo Animation Festival International actually has a special category for Flash animation and awarded that category to L’Eau de Rose in 2005.

De Pins worked with producer Jeremy Rochigneux on Rose, and teamed up with him again for La Révolution des Crabes, which took home home top honors, and the prize money, from the 2005 session of Nextoons, The Nicktoons Film Festival.

In the meanwhile, De Pins has been creating animations for commercials in Europe and illustrations for European magazines like Max-Magazine and Wombat. His web site is in French, but non-French speakers can easily navigate through the galleries of illustrations (some NSFW) arrayed in the left column and the choices for animations on the right, including his first short, Geraldine.

At the top of this site you’ll find his bio, bulletin board, wallpapers and links.

De Pins illustration style has a strong graphic simplicity combined with a feeling of completed rendering that is achieved with artfully controlled areas of flat color. His celebrity portraits (image above, bottom, right) are particularly strong in this way, as are his panoramic illustrations for Max-Magazine (image above, top). His gallery for Max includes some comics that are done in a broad, cartoony style that is closer to his animation style.

His illustrations are wild, sexy, funny, unabashed, wonderfully drawn and beautifully colored.

Link via Cold Hard Flash (and here)

Note: The site linked here contains adult material that is not suitable for children and is NSFW.

Will Paint for Food (Shawn Kenney)

Shawn Kenney
Shawn Kenney is a Rhode Island based painter who has been warming up for his regular painting practice with small (4×6) daily paintings since the summer of 2006. Initially this was not inspired by the daily painting blogs that have become prevalent in the last year or so, and Kenny wasn’t blogging about the studies, just painting them for his own advancement as a painter (what a concept).

He eventually did bring his small paintings to the web with a painting blog, but with a twist. The subject matter of most of his small paintings is food, a common subject for small daily studies because of its familiarity, variety and the ease it provides in acquiring and arranging colorful and visually interesting objects.

In a seemingly unrelated series of events in a cooking class, involving meat trimming and a bit of first aid, Kenney met food writer and blogger Lydia Walshin. They became friends and Walshin saw some of Kenney’s small food paintings as a studio open house and asked if they were for sale.

Out of this came an idea in which Kenney asked Walshin to help him to donate a portion of the sale of his small food paintings to organizations involved in hunger relief, an area in which she was already active both personally and through the Ninecooks cooking group. With the additional involvement of Peg Meade, as business manager and “set designer” for Shawn’s daily food paintings, they launched the Will Paint for Food site which works, in conjunction with Kenney’s painting blog, to bring a portion of the proceeds from those paintings sold to organizations like Heifer International, the Rhode Island Community Food Bank and Share our Strength.

I wasn’t able to easily find out the percentage donated or the average price of the paintings in my initial perusal of the two blogs, but perhaps that will be addressed as they progress.

You can see a gallery of Kenney’s larger farm-themed paintings on his regular web site, along with a selection of drawings and some of the food paintings. Unfortunately they are reproduced quite small here. Fortunately the food paintings are shown larger, more or less life sized, on his blog.

He paints his larger works in oil but most of the small food studies are done in acrylic, in which he manages to keep an oil-like feeling of painterly brush strokes and surface texture. He seems to feel particularly challenged by reds, and takes on subjects like jars of sauce that let him work with those color schemes, still keeping to the original purpose of daily painting practice as a way to move forward as a painter.

Suggestion courtesy of Jeff Hayes

The Painting Journalist (Ashley Cecil)

Ashley Cecil is a Kentucky based artist who mixes paintings of still life and landscape subjects with those of rallies, demonstrations, meetings and urban scenes as well as subjects encountered in trips to South America (image at left, bottom).

She posts work to her painting blog, which she calls The Painting Journalist, and donates a percentage of the sale to non-profit organizations, often with a thought to matching the theme of the painting with the mission of the non-profit.

She supports organizations like Habitat for Humanity, the Bowery Mission, Democracy Matters, Witness for Peace, and Kentucky Youth Advocates.

A watercolor of a neglected dog in an animal shelter (image at left, top), whose leg had to be amputated because of an injury, not only sent $10 of the painting’s $70 sale price to the shelter, the blog post resulted in the successful adoption of the dog. Cecil’s blog features a time-lapse movie of that painting in progress, as well as others.

Unfortunately the “About” link on the blog just returns you to the main page and the “Gallery” page is not that helpful either. There is, however, a page of “Paintings for Sale” and a Sold Paintings page that have more variety and list the non-profit and amount of donation which is assigned from each painting.

Jeff Miracola

Jeff Miracola
Illustrator Jeff Miracola has subtitled his web site “Here there be monsters!”, and his Paintings gallery is chock full of them — grinning, leering and gnashing their lovely monster teeth amid assorted bad guys and other nasties. Miracola has done a good bit for work with Wizards of the Coast for their collectable card game Magic: The Gathering, which is always a fertile ground for monsters.

Miracola has also done illustration and occasionally conceptual toy design for companies like Warner Brothers, Jamdat Mobile/Electronic Arts, Upper Deck, Hasbro, White Wolf and others. His work has been featured in a number of books and collections, including several of the Spectrum collections of contemporary fantastic art.

In addition to the Paintings gallery, his site has a gallery of his Sketches, but what I find particularly fascinating is his forays into Digital Art, in which he is playing with iconic, almost primitive, decoration, particularly when applied to faces, often seen in a symmetrical head-on view like a mask, combined with modern gradient rendering techniques.

There is also a gallery, with additional comments, on the CGSociety site. His work has also been featured in in ImagineFX Magazine and is included in the February 2007 issue of Advanced Photoshop Magazine.