Friday, June 15, 2007

Scott McKowen

Scott McKowen
Well, my friends, here is yet another tantalizingly different artist about whom I could find very little information without having to dig.

I first encountered Scott McKowen’s work in the form of his wonderful set of covers for the Marvel Comics limited series 1602 (in which Marvel superheroes are envisioned in that time period, and are of course assumed to be witches, among other things). As is common practice in American comics, the cover and interior comics pages for this series were done by different artists, and, as much as I like the work of Andy Kubert, who did the artwork for the series, this is one of those instances where I bought the comics for their covers (image above).

These are unlike any comic book covers I can think of, before or since, and look more like wood engravings than comic book illustration (making them perfect, of course, for the setting of the series). They are in fact drawn in scratchboard, a style of pen and ink rendering in which white lines are scratched with sharp instruments from areas of black ink that have been applied to clayboard. (See my posts on Virgil Finlay, Elizabeth Traynor and Mark Summers.)

The appearance of this traditional looking approach, which McKowen has used in the style of wood engraving book illustrations, works remarkably well when combined with digitally applied color.

He does not seem to have a web presence of his own, but McKowen is represented by the Marlena Agency, who has fortunately supplied an online gallery of his work. There in no bio information, however.

A search on Amazon provided more information than the rep’s site. McKowen has illustrated a number of books in a series of Unabridged Classics, including Frankenstein, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, The Adventures and Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, Gulliver’s Travels and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

These editions include some interior illustrations by McKowen, though the reviews indicate they are sparsely illustrated. If you like his work and are frustrated by the limited amount of material on his rep’s site, you may find it worthwhile going through the Amazon listings to look at the enlargements of the covers (or, of course, looking for the books in your local bookstore).

I also found out through an editorial review on Amazon that McKowen and his wife Christina Poddubiuk operate a company that specializes in design and illustration for theater and performing arts called “Punch & Judy, Inc.”, though it apparently has no web presence either. Their projects often involve historical research into period costumes and settings, leading us back to McKowen’s ability to create an wonderfully appropriate look for illustrated classics, or even a superhero period piece.

15 thoughts on “Scott McKowen

  1. Li-An

    His work is magnificent. I saw some of the comics covers in Spectrum I thing and I was impressed. Thank you for the link, I think I will “steal” you this one :-)

  2. Larry Simmons

    I’ve always been impressed by his work. I’ve seen the pieces done for the classics, and they are wonderful, if limited. I do believe he’s done more work, but I can’t place it right now. Didn’t he do the ad work for Barnes & Noble? The “famous authors” series?

  3. Barbara from BC

    While I find his art very impressive, it’s not really authentic scratchboard. The highlights are done with overlaid colour, where scratchboard uses line thickness to indicate light and dark areas. If you look closely, you’ll see that the horizontal lines are all the same width in this artist’s work. I doubt that scratchboard was used, it seems like entirely digital artwork.

  4. P-chan

    Scott most certainly uses scratchboard and with a magnifying glass too. This is verified by a friend of mine who has worked for him. He does use a computer to colourize and sometimes merges two versions of a piece together if he’s not entirely happy with a certain portion of one.

  5. Barbara from BC

    The true test of his work would be to view it without the overlay of colour. If the highlights and shadows are still visible, then he’s a master of scratchboard. Truthfully it’s hard to judge based on the computer image alone.

  6. CM

    I worked with Scott for years, check out The Shaw Festival Theatre before 2002, he did all of the art direction for years, working closely with Christopher Newton Artistic Director and David Cooper; Photographer. I’ve personally watched him doing Scratchboard, so Barb from BC, it is truly authentic..and quite incredible I might add.

  7. cskate

    I’m reading 1602 right now and did a search of Scott on Google and found this blog. I’ve been a scratchboard artist for years and I’ve never seen anyone with such great control of the medium. I wish I knew what brand of board he uses as his lines are so clean, I’ve yet to be able to come close to it.

  8. Dave Nalle

    Interesting. He seems to be quite talented, yet he did a set of pen and ink drawings for a reprint of Howard Pyle’s Robin Hood which I ran across recently which are just bland and awful. Wish there was more info available on him through the web.

    Dave

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