He who knows how to appreciate colour relationships, the influence of one colour on another, their contrasts and dissonances, is promised an infinitely diverse imagery.
- Sonia Delaunay
Colour is my day-long obsession, joy and torment.
- Colour is my day-long obsession, joy and torment.


Saturday, April 21, 2007

Vladimir Kush

Posted by Charley Parker at 2:17 pm

Vladimir Kush
Vladimir Kush is a Russian painter who studied at the Moscow Art Institute and is now living in the U.S. He works in a vein of fantastic art obviously influenced by Surrealists like Dali and Magritte, but with a distinctly different emotional context.

His paintings have something of a visionary mystical quality and many of them feature recurrent themes like butterflies, sailing ships, fruits and other natural forms, and visions within cloud formations.

His images often deal with interesting combinations of visual elements. Sailing ships are masted with stalks of gladiolus, their blossoms unfurled as sails. Giant butterflies catch the wind on another ship (above), or form the blades of fantasy windmills. Giant mechanical fish and dragonflies and a monumental rhinoceros undergo maintenance. The rising sun is revealed to be the yolk of a giant egg or the pearl of an oyster. A half pear is envisioned as a lute, and a half apple as a butterfly. Through many of the works, beautifully stylized and textured clouds roil and tumble revealing visions of seas and harbors or taking on forms like hot air balloons.

Unfortunately, the images on Kush’s own web site are too small to get a real feeling for his paintings. Fortunately, his work is represented on the web on the sites of galleries that carry his prints or originals.

There is a nice selection with large images on the Reflections Gallery, and another selection with somewhat smaller images on the Art Center Gallery. There is a particularly nice selection of images featured on the Dark Roasted Blend blog, some of which are linked to even larger versions on Flickr.

There are print collections of his work, but I’ve had trouble establishing their availability (it may be primarily through galleries rather than traditional book sources). One is called Metaphorical Journey and seems to be pricey ($200) as a used book on Amazon. On the books page of Kush’s site two other titles are shown, The Bronze Drops of Time and Journey to the Edge of Time, which is apparently new and more readily available.

Journey to the Edge of Time isn’t a collection, per se, but a coffee-table science fiction book, arranged as diary with many of Kush’s paintings as illustrations. The authors are Oleg Kush and Mikhil Kush, though I don’t know their relation to Vladimir.

Link suggestion courtesy of Karl Kofoed

Friday, April 20, 2007

Dan Gheno

Posted by Charley Parker at 10:34 am

Dan GhenoDan Gheno is an artist and teacher who places a special emphasis on figure drawing. He teaches at The Art Students League and The National Academy School in New York and is Prefessor Emeritus, The Lyme Academy College in Old Lyme, Connecticut.

I’m particularly fond of his life drawings because his approach is similar to my own, in that it is a combination of line and tone, heavily influenced by an admiration for the drawings of masters like Michelangelo, Raphael and Rubens.

Gheno also credits his approach to an early fascination with comic book art, and the corresponding desire to develop the ability to draw the figure from his imagination; a path that gave him the impetus to approach figure drawing with special emphasis on a solid sense of geometry underlying the form and a feeling for the volumetric nature of the human form in three dimensional space.

One of the key skills that sets comic book artists apart from other illustrators or cartoonists is the need to develop a consistent ability to invent and quickly draw figures from the imagination, portraying the human form, however exaggerated, in an enormous variety of positions and spatial relationships, often with severe foreshortening.

Dramatic foreshortening and dynamic projections of the figure in space are also hallmarks of masters like Michelangelo, Raphael, Carracci, Tiepolo and Pontormo; and I’ve always suggested that comic book artists and illustrators who work with the invented figure would do well to supplement their life drawing with the study of these artists’ drawings, along with more traditional sources of instruction like the books of Andrew Loomis, George Bridgeman and Walt Reed. (Would-be comic book artists who study only the work of other comic book artists are simply lost.)

To that list of instructional inspiration, I would easily add Dan Gheno, not only for comic book artists and illustrators, but for any artist interested in drawing the figure.

Though Gheno has not yet written a book of his instructional methods, he has over time written a series of articles on figure drawing for American Artist magazine and American Artist’s Drawing magazine. These have been collected into a special issue of Drawing Highlights that is now on the newsstands.

This is essentially a figure drawing instruction book in magazine form and is a tremendous resource for under $10. Gheno supplements his clear and thoughtful instruction not only with his own accomplished drawings, but with the work of a variety of master draftsmen, including the artists mentioned above and a host of others, like Rembrandt, Ingres, Goltzius, Rodin, Durer, Da Vinci, Prud’hon, Greuze and Charles Dana Gibson.

There are articles on drawing the figure, the hand, the head, actions and gestures and the seldom covered subject of drapery on the human form, i.e. folds in clothing.

You can also find somewhat truncated versions of some of these articles on Gheno’s web site in the Teachings section.

Unfortunately, Gheno’s site is one of those awkward, mid-90′s style nightmares with scrolling pages full of centered text and oversize linked headings, but you’ll find it worth the trouble to dig around and find your way to his drawings, metaphorical figurative paintings, landscapes, teachings, reading list and materials list. (The navigation links that should be on the home page are strewn down this page. Click on the large text links that look like headings for the subsections; the images are linked to their larger versions. In the galleries, only the images with red dots are linked to larger versions, the others are empty links that will leave you 404.) Gheno has also provided a nice set of links to art resources he has found of value.

There is also a transcript of an online chat with Gheno on the American Artist site. The special issue of Drawing Highlights should be on the newsstands for a few months (or until it sells out).

Addendum: The managing editor of American Artist was kind enough to write and let me know that the issue of Drawing Highlights mentioned here can be ordered directly from them through this link.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

startdrawing.org: the asia drawing portal

Posted by Charley Parker at 11:50 am

startdrawing.org: the asia drawing portal
This is a tremendously rich source of articles and links to artists either working in Asia or of Asian descent living elsewhere.

Though the emphasis is a bit more focused on contemporary artists, startdrawing.org is a bit like lines and colors in terms of the different genres covered: illustration, gallery art, comics, concept art and animation, in both traditional and digital media; but goes even further to include architecture and product and toy design.

There doesn’t seem to be a month-by month navigation, as common in many blogs, but you can navigate by category or by geographic region in the upper right or simply move through the pages with previous and next links at page bottom.

The blog has a wonderful variety of styles and approaches and, if you like the mix on lines and colors, and Drawn!, I think you’ll appreciate the nice stew of styles, genres, and approaches in contemporary Asian art that the blogs creators, josef lee and junming, are constantly cooking up.

Image above, clockwise from upper left: Aya Kato, Hoang Nguyen, MAC56 (Yorga) and Yanyan Ye.

Note: The site contains images that are NSFW and may be offensive to some.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Chris Sheban

Posted by Charley Parker at 9:50 am

Chris Sheban
OK, admittedly I’m a sucker for the kind of parody/homage to Vermeer seen in children’s book illustrator Chris Sheban’s take on Vermeer’s “Young Woman with a Water Pitcher“, hanging on a kid’s bedroom wall in the illustration above. Add in my affection for paleo art and dinosaurs in general (I want one of theose brachiosaurus lamps) and I couldn’t help but be fascinated.

I was delighted to find that Sheban’s other work is just as terrific. His illustrations are wonderfully imagined and executed, composed of rich, atmospheric colors, a subtle play of light and striking characters; and enlivened with a beautifully textured rendering style.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find much biographical info or details on his working methods, as Sheban doesn’t seem to have a web site. I found a few stray bits of information, he lives in Illinios and trained in Perugia, Italy, but that’s about all I could find.

Fortunately, his work is represented on the web on the site of his artists rep, The Graphic Artists Guild and two illustrator portfolio sites.

I was particularly disappointed to see that many of the books he has illustrated, apparently including I Met a Dinosaur, for which he received a Gold Medal from the Society of Illustrators and which I presume included this image, are not currently in print (undoubtedly a result of the insane overemphasis on what’s new at the expense of all else, that’s indicative of the sorry circus of self-destructive madness that is the modern publishing industry, but, I digress).

Posted in: Illustration   |   6 Comments »

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Bill Watterson: 15 Questions

Posted by Charley Parker at 12:49 pm

Bill Watterson
Bill Watterson is one of my all time favorite comic strip artists, which is saying something, because my tastes run toward the greats from the early part of the 20th Century like Herriman, McCay, Raymond, Foster, Kelley and such, but Watterson is one of the few contemporary cartoonists I would put in their company.

I’ll write a more complete post on Watterson at some point, but a recent post on Digg pointed to a nice little interview of sorts, in which Watterson responds to reader questions. This is part of the press materials for the release of The Complete Calvin and Hobbes on the Andrews McMeel site.

Posted in: Comics   |   2 Comments »

Chris Ware: On Cartooning

Posted by Charley Parker at 12:30 pm

Chris Ware
A recent post on kottke.org reminded me of this interview with Chris Ware (who I profiled in February ’06) on the PBS site, as part of their features accompanying Tintin and I, their program last july on Hergé (who I profiled at the time and also mentioned in reference to the major exhibition at the Pompidou Center last December).

Ware gives his fascinating thoughts on Tintin, Hergés’ ligne claire drawing style (obviously a huge influence on Ware), the creation of comics characters, and a variety of other topics in this fairly long interview.

Posted in: Comics   |   2 Comments »

Monday, April 16, 2007

Omar Rayyan and Sheila Rayyan

Posted by Charley Parker at 10:49 am

Omar Rayyan and Sheila Rayyan
Studio Rayyan is home to husband and wife illustrators Omar Rayyan and Sheila Rayyan.

The tongue in cheek “Who are we” section on their site provides little information of real use, except that Omar is of Middle-Eastern descent (could we have guessed?) and is allergic to yaks (always good to know). I was also able to glean from the provided photograph that they have, or personally know, a horse.

In addition to childrens’ book illustration, to my eye influenced by the terrific work of Arthur Rackham, among others, Omar’s gallery features some commissioned works and a series of “portraits” of individuals with large demonic horns.

A little digging shows that Omar’s clients include Aladdin Books, Hyperion Books, Holiday House and Spider magazine and has won a Spectrum Gold Medal. You can find some of the books he has illustrated on their links page or on Amazon.

Sheila’s gallery features an array of fantasy subjects and amusing grotesqueries, intricately rendered in pencil. Sheila’s work has also been featured in the Spectrum annuals and both artists have been nominated for the Chesley Award; though they haven’t brought it home… yet.

Image above: Omar Rayyan (left) and Sheila Rayyan (right).

Correction: Omar did win a Chesley. In 2005 he won the award for artistic achievement.

Posted in: Sc-fi and Fantasy   |   6 Comments »

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Coles Phillips

Posted by Charley Parker at 3:42 pm

Coles PhillipsJust as there was a “Gibson Girl” in the 1890′s, in which the illustrations of Charles Dana Gibson came to be the personification of the ideal of a modern woman, so, in the early part of the 20th Century there was a “Phillips Girl”, a less well known, but also influential, ideal, portraying an on-the-go and socially active modern woman.

Phillips is perhaps more well known for another stylistic aspect of his work, the “Fade-away Girl”. In one of his illustrations for Life Magazine, which was initially a humor magazine, Phillips used a clever graphic device of making the foreground color of his model’s garment the same color as the background, creating a sort of inverse silhouette. This went over so well that Phillips repeated it, and went on to create many variations on the theme (left, bottom).

Phillips was a strong and talented artist, but in an era when he was surrounded by great illustrators like Joseph Clement Coll, N.C. Wyeth, James Montgomery Flagg, Harvey Dunn, Maxfield Parrish and Edmund Dulac, who can blame him for finding a way to stand out.

It’s easy to think of Phillips as being too reliant on the technique, but he needed a masterful sense of design to pull it off, and his terrific draftsmanship and obvious skill as a painter come through.

Personally I prefer his illustrations that don’t depend on the “Fade-away Girl” (left, top). His beautiful use of color, handling of figures and rendering of fabrics and folds put him in the company (and probably mutual influence) of greats like J. C. Leyendecker.

There is a wonderfully inexpensive collection called All-American Girl: The Art of Coles Phillips by Michael Schau.

the American Art Archives site has an excellent bio and a the best selection of Phillips images on the web.

Posted in: Illustration   |   2 Comments »
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