Those who are not conversant in works of art are often surprised at the high value set by connoisseurs on drawings which appear careless, and in every respect unfinished; but they are truly valuable... they give the idea of a whole.
- Sir Joshua Reynolds
We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are.
- Anais Nin


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Stéphane Halleux

Posted by Charley Parker at 8:30 am

Stephane Halleux
Stéphane Halleux creates sculptures of characters and objects that have a feeling of Tim Burton meets Rube Goldberg by way of 1930′s animated cartoons.

His tiny-wheeled cars, junk-dealer robots, Charles Adamsish characters, mechanized chairs and enigmatic “engines” are wonderful visual fun. Their textured and weathered surfaces, strange shapes, and arrangements of odd parts are imaginative and entertaining.

Halleux’s objects are appealing in a way that makes you want to pick them up, or at least be able to view them from a wide variety of angles. Though he often provides images from more than one angle, it’s unfortunate that Quicktime VR isn’t as easy as standard digital photography, it would be great to be able to rotate these images.

Halleux’s web site is apparently new, as the biography section is still “coming soon”, and some other sections are also incomplete. Though there is a section of preliminary design sketches (“croquis”) for some of his pieces, there is no information on his creations in terms of materials, technique, intention or size. Hopefully, that will be added in the near future. In the mean time, we’ll have to settle for looking through his galleries of wonderfully eccentric objects.

Posted in: Illustration   |   3 Comments »

Jessica Joslin

Posted by Charley Parker at 8:25 am

Jessica Joslin makes unusual objects that are a collision of sculpture, assemblage, jewelry and perhaps taxidermy.

Seemingly displays in an unnatural history museum, Joslin’s sculptures consist of bone (real, cast or modeled), brass, sculpted and painted leather, beads, lamp fittings, wire, machine bolts, pins, feathers, pewter, glass eyes, and various antique hardware items arranged into bizarre animal forms.

The result is an eerily disconcerting menagerie of “characters” to which she has assigned names like Serafina, Callisto, Ludwig, Valeria and Cosimo (at left).

Joslin is quick to point out in her FAQ that when she does use real bone or animal skulls, she obtains them from the same suppliers that provide them ethically to natural history museums. She often uses casts or modeled pieces as well, and does her best to make it unclear which is which. When viewing her galleries, note that you can often click in the text area on links for detail images.

Her objects vary in size from one inch tall to nearly six feet, and her site arranges them according to series done in particular years. Joslin works professionally as a commercial model maker, crating prototypes for toys (perhaps for an extra-dimensional toy company).

Link courtesy of Leah Palmer Preiss

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Metamorphosis and the beinArt Collective

Posted by Charley Parker at 10:22 am

MetamorphosisMetamorphosis is a new book of contemporary fantastic, visionary, outsider, and magic realist art published by the beinAart International Surreal Art Collective.

Founded in 2002 by Jon Beinart as the beinArt Austrailian Surreal Art Collective and expanded internationally in 2006, the collective has a presence in the form of a web site with galleries of work by the participating artists.

The Collective is a treasure trove of fantastic art with, as Beinart puts it, a representation of both “light” and “dark” themes. The book follows suit, and from the preview pages posted in the Collective’s Forum (click on the images for larger versions), promises to be a definitive collection of contemporary artists working in this vein.

If I were going to pick nits, and I’m obviously about to, I would balk at the casual misuse of the terms “Surreal” and “Surrealist”; even though I’m occasionally guilty of it myself. My point is not even that Surrealism was a specific art movement from a particular time, but that Surrealism was an art devoted to specific principles and intentions, and not just a catch-all term for art that includes bizarre imagery.

Surrealism was primarily a literary movement, to which the visual art was considered an adjunct; even though it overshadows the literary component in the public mind. Both aspects of Surrealism, however, were devoted to social, political and psychological upheaval; a revolution that was to be brought about by art created through expressions of the unconscious mind. This intention was laid out in the Surrealist Manifestos of the poet André Breton, who was the leader of the Surrealist movement. (You can read more about true Surrealism here, including an essay by Breton.)

I doubt that many of the artists in the “Surreal Art Collective” (or most of those contemporary artists referred to as “Surrealist”) concern themselves with automatism or the other elements of Surrealist creative process. I wouldn’t even call Ernst Fuchs, who I recognize as an important figure in fantastic painting, a Surrealist, and I doubt that he would classify himself as such.

The desire to misappropriate the term is common and understandable, though; the more correct terms of fantastic art, visionary art, magic realism or fantastic realism don’t have the same zing and brand-name recognition as “Surrealism”, but they are more accurate.

Now that I’ve got that out of my system (for the moment), I’ll go on to say that the new book from the beinArt Collective looks terrific and includes work from a number of artists I’ve featured previously on lines and colors, including Sergi Aparin, Brom, Andrew Gonzalez and Alex Grey.

There is a full artist list here in which the artists’ names are linked to examples of their work. You can spend hours discovering amazing work in the beinArt Collective’s online galleries (as I have done on occasion), but as with much visual art, there is a great deal to be said about the appearance of high-resolution images in print, quite different from viewing the same images in low resolution on screen.

Images above, from top: Alex Grey, Andrew Gonzalez, Pavel Surma, Ernst Fuchs, Carrie Anne Baade.

Addendum: The beinArt Surreal Art Collective also has a blog at:

Monday, May 21, 2007

Xiangyuan Jie

Posted by Charley Parker at 8:30 am

Xiangyuan Jie
Xiangyuan Jie is a Chinese painter, born in Hunan province, now living in Florida. He originally studied theatre set design and graduated from the Central Academy of Drama in Beijing with a BFA in that specialty, to which, in a way, he would later come full circle as a background artist for animated films.

He taught for several years at Hunan University and then traveled and lectured in Europe as a visiting scholar. He eventually settled in the U.S., taught at Auburn University as a visiting professor and later studied and taught at the College of Architecture at Georgia Tech.

Somehow, his background eventually led him to working with the Disney Feature Animation Studio in Florida, where he has done concept and background art for features like Mulan, Tarzan, Lilo and Stitch and Brother Bear (image above, top) and Ice Age 2. Jie is also an accomplished plein air painter, painting in a wonderfully open and colorful style informed by the early work of Impressionist inspired painters from Europe, Russia and the U.S. (images above, bottom).

His web site, although it still says “coming soon” in several places, is at least partially functional and has a section for his gallery art and a section for film work, though the content of both is limited at the moment.

You can find much more of his visual development work on his Visual development art for films blog, including multiple versions of backgrounds, working sketches and color keys. His work for Brother Bear, in particular, was done in a fresh, painterly style that came out of his work painting real landscapes.

Jie also maintains a painting blog, Art of Xiangyuan Jie, on which he posts recent work, photos of plein air painting excursions and links to extensive web albums of his landscape paintings, portrait studies and commissioned portraits, in which you can see the influence of Sargent and perhaps Anders Zorn.

There is now a book available of Jie’s landscape paintings. Ordering information can be found on his blog.

Link via

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Antoine Blanchard

Posted by Charley Parker at 8:31 am

Antoine Blanchard
Antoine Blanchard was not a major figure in French painting, and it might be easy to dismiss him as formulaic, but I think his appeal goes beyond the obvious superficial charms of his paintings and his work is most interesting for the elements that you don’t notice at first.

Blanchard’s paintings seem almost calculated for appeal in some ways. They are usually of Paris street scenes and very often include famous landmarks. They employ repetitive themes and similar composition. You can often find two, three or more versions of the same scene that at first glance look almost identical, but on closer inspection reveal themselves to be alternate versions. This is not an uncommon practice for artists (see my post on Gilbert Stuart), but in Blanchard’s case may be the result of a desire to paint a different time, as preserved in the relatively new technology of photography.

Blanchard’s Parisian avenues are thronged with pedestrians, parading past shop windows alight with bright yellows and oranges. His shop windows and lighted cafe fronts seem intended to stand out like jewels in sharp contrast to the blue-grays or muted siennas of his backgrounds. Though he employs short, painterly brush strokes and in some respects seems very influenced by the Impressionists, his brush handling is more graphic, with less intention for optical blending, and his use of light is decidedly different.

In marked contrast to the Impressionists’ pursuit of sunlight and its effects, Blanchard seeks out gray, overcast, rainy or snowy days. His gray skies and subdued backgrounds are a stage for the bright lights of his cafe, shop and streetcar windows. His repetition of these themes can again be seen as formulaic, but it isn’t the high chroma accents, meant to immediately attract the eye, that appeal to me in Blanchard’s paintings; it’s actually his backgrounds that I enjoy most.

His dark, overcast skies are painted with wonderful painterly suggestions of the shifting layers of rain clouds, at times dense and heavy with impending rain, at other times broken with hints of blue, indicating that the rain that turned the streets into shimmering mirrors has passed. His buildings, too, though obviously meant to play background to his brightly colored passages, are of more interest than his foreground subjects, with a marvelous economy of notation in which complex architecture is reduced to a few elegant brush strokes.

Blanchard was born in a small village and studied in Rennes at the Ecole de Beaux-Arts there, followed by study at the Ecole de Beaux-Arts in Paris, a city that would be his major source of subject matter. His career was interrupted by the 2nd World War and later by the death of his father, which compelled him to take over administering the family business. When he later returned to Paris, and to painting, he found himself nostalgic for a more idealized past and began to paint using images he had collected of Paris in La Belle Époque, particularly the 1890′s.

His work seems strongly influenced by Édouard Cortès, a contemporary of Blanchard’s who is better known, and who employs similar themes of overcast skies and darkened Parisian streets punctuated with warm artificial lights. The tenor and tone of the two artists’ work, however, their handling of light and dark, their brushwork and choice of color range is very different. Their intention seems different as well. Cortés shows us his contemporary Paris bustling with early 20th Century automobiles and electric lights. Antoine Blanchard lets us walk back with him through the leisurely Parisian streets of a more relaxed and romantic time.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

October the Cat

Posted by Charley Parker at 8:30 am

October the Cat
Here’s an animation in progress that bears watching. I learned about October the Cat from Michael Hirsh’s always fascinating Articles and Texticles blog.

The actual name of the film is October le Chat, but despite the French title, the film is being produced in Argentina, and the project’s blog, October the Blog is in Spanish (Google Translate here). The film’s official site is in English, however, with a secondary choice of Spanish, indicating that the producers hope for a wide distribution in English speaking countries.

The blog just started in April and includes some beautiful background images (click on them for the large versions) as well as some animatics.

On the official SiteOctober you can view the trailer (the “large” version is worth the download), link to the blog and read a brief synopsis.

You can also see smaller version of the trailer and animatics, along with the background images, on

Though the trailer is wordless, the synopsis promises that October is a “talkative cat” who is on a journey to a place he can’t quite remember. The trailer is a tantalizing display of fascinating and beautifully realized scenes that appear to take October to distant and wondrous places in his quest.

As Michael Hirsh points out in his post, there is a definite influence here from Hayao Miyazaki (which is a Good Thing), right down a scene in which October is flying above the moonlit treetops, accompanying a rider on a broom like a witch’s familiar, an obvious nod to Kiki’s Delivery Service.

Unfortunately, there’s no indication of a targeted release date, and I don’t even know if the film is a short or feature length, though I assume the former as there is no studio name associated with project and it has the feeling of a small-scale labor of love, even though there is a fairly long credit list of contributors. Although Federico Radero is listed first in the credits, none of them are listed as director or creator, indicating that it is either a collaborative effort, or the director/creator is magnanimous about credits.

If October the Cat lives up to the promise evidenced by the trailer and background paintings, it should be well worth the wait; and it will be fun to follow the blog for news and additional images in anticipation.

Posted in: Animation   |   Comments »

Friday, May 18, 2007

John Jude Palencar

Posted by Charley Parker at 8:30 am

John Jude Palencar
Many artists try to flood their images with light; others allow intermittent bursts of it within a framework of darkness. In John Jude Palencar’s fantasy themed illustrations, light seeps in, like some kind of oily liquid making its way through forgotten cracks. Once light has found its way into his images, it simmers and squirms as if skittering across frying pan. Even his brightest lights feel like they’re being held back by some secret force, a hidden gravity.

His images are steeped in atmospheric effects that feel more like emotional density then mere mist or haze. Carefully chosen colors and tones pull you inexorably toward whatever point of focus Pallencar intends, the eye is helpless to resist.

But light and color are not the real spell being cast here. Through all of his work, under it, over it and pervading it like a scent, is texture. Texture is everywhere, no surface is without it, the air seems textured. You begin feel that Palencar’s light itself is textured.

Palencar’s remarkably evocative paintings can veer from the horrific to the beautiful, and often embrace both artistic deities simultaneously. Central in subject is the human form, often isolated or even floating above a surface, wrapped in light and texture, as solidly three dimensional as a stone in your hand, as ethereal as an idea.

His gallery paintings are in a similar style, tempered with an enigmatic choice of subject matter. There is certainly a hint of Dali in his work, but it’s not the overt “strangeness” that some painters are quick to be influenced by; in Palencar’s case, it seems he sees through Dali’s lens to his influences, and dips back into the rich well of Valezquez and the visionary and disturbing paintings of Bosch and Breugel. There is also a touch of Arthur Rackham and perhaps a dash of Howard Pyle as well, a bit of heroic monumentality about his weirdling souls.

Rather than delineate Palencar’s long list of credits and recognition, I’ll point you to a nicely summarized description on Irene Gallos’ always terrific blog, The Art Department, in which she profiles Palencar as part of her coverage of five top Pro Artist Hugo Award nominees. (The other four are Donato Giancola, John Picacio, Bob Eggleton and Stephen Martiniere; all of whom I’ve also featured on lines and colors in the past with the exception of Palencar. My posts: Donato Giancola, John Picacio, Bob Eggleton and Stephen Martiniere.)

I haven’t covered Palencar until now because I’ve been waiting for a while for his new web site to go live. It has (I’m not certain just how long it’s been up), and I’m pleased to see it not only includes a good selection of his illustrations and gallery art, but drawings as well, including preliminary sketches for some of his paintings.

A collection of Palencar’s work, Origins: The Art of John Jude Palencar was released earlier this year. Irene Gallo also has a nice post about the book here, with some shots of the pages.

You’ll find numerous references to Palencar’s work around the web, including many to the book Eragon, within which the young author Christopher Paolini named one of his key mythical places Palencar Valley, well before the artist was called on to do the cover.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Antoni Gaudí

Posted by Charley Parker at 8:29 am

Antoni Gaudi
The Art Nouveau style that flourished around the turn of the 20th Century was notable not only for its international reach, but for its influence across many areas of artistic endeavor. The style is familiar in paintings and graphics like those of Alfons Mucha, but was also expressed in murals, mosaics, furniture, glassware, stained glass, jewelry, interior furnishings, and dramatically, wonderfully, in architecture.

Antoni Gaudí, whose full name was Antoni Gaudí i Cornet and is sometimes referred to as Antonio Gaudí, was an architect from Catalonia (an autonomous region in Spain), who can be categorized as Art Nouveau, but whose individualistic style and dramatically different approach can also put him outside the reach of any easy classification and into the realm of the unique.

Gaudí infused his buildings with the graceful curves, parabolas, hyperbolas, flowing style and rich decorative elements in common with other Art Nouveau structures, but went beyond that into an amazing expression of artistic enthusiasm that merged into the surreal. The Surrealists, in fact. felt a kinship with Gaudí, as they did with many artists and architects whose work they felt embodied their search for inspiration in dreams and the subconscious. Dali, in particular, is closely associated with Gaudí and was also a native of Catalonia.

Gaudí’s buildings, though often reviled during his early years (his multi-story Casa Milà was called “La Pedrera” – “the quarry”), are now among the most popular attractions in that region and in Barcelona, where he found patrons for his eccentric designs. His original style developed out of gothic revival, and his most dramatic work, the unfinished basilica known as La Sagrada Família (“The Holy Family”, image above left top and bottom), is an astonishing sculptural monument of gothic cathedral meets Art Nouveau by way of Surrealist hallucination.

His apartment buildings and multi family residences are perhaps less dramatic, but no less amazing for their remarkable originality and strikingly expressive decoration.

One of the sources I’ll point you to for an appreciation of Gaudi’s work is the Great Buildings Online site, which has a good selection of photographs not only for Sagrada Famillia, but for residence buildings like Casa Batlo (image above, upper right). and Casa Milà (“La Pedrera”, image above, lower right).

The thing that sparked me to dig out and complete this post was a MetaFilter post about a couple of YouTube vids of walk-throughs of Gaudí structures here and here.

Gaudi is quite popular and there are a number of beautiful books devoted to his work.

Interestingly, one of the solutions put forward for the new structures at the site of the World Trade Center was a large scale revival of Gaudí’s proposal from almost 100 years ago for a hyperboloid skyscraper in New York called “Hotel Attraction” (post on blog). How cool would it be to replace a monument to commerce, felled by an example of the horrifying impulse to destroy that lurks in the darks of the human mind, with a beautiful, giant inhabitable sculpture, a tribute to imagination and the human desire to create.

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