Willy Pogany

Willy Pogany
William Andrew Pogany, called “Willy”, was a prolific Hungarian born illustrator, active around the turn of the last century, who illustrated over a hundred books. Most were children’s classics like Arabian Nights, and Mother Goose, even Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, but also included less common titles like the Bhagavad Gita and the Rubiat.

Before coming to the US in 1914, he studied in Budapest, Munich and Paris, and lived in London for 10 years where he illustrated four titles that were considered his masterpieces, Colridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Wagner’s Tannhauser, Parsifal and Lohengrin.

Pogany worked in a fluid Art-Nouveau influenced style that varied widely throughout his career. He seemed to alter his approach at will to suit the subject matter. His prints for Tisza Tales (above, right) are reminiscent of Ivan Bilibin. He also did a variety of commercial and editorial work for periodicals (above, left).

Pogany designed stage sets for the Metropolitan Opera and various Broadway productions in NY, painted murals, did art direction for movies, including uncredited work for the 1932 version of The Mummy, created architectural designs, did sculpture and, in his later years, portraits, including subjects like John Barrymore and Carole Lombard.

VictorianWeb has Pogany’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner posted online, but it’s not very satisfying. Like much of the Gutenberg Project, and the Willy Pogany archive from the University of Pennsylvania Library, it suffers from the apparent unwritten rule that public domain books posted on the web must have poorly scanned and badly reproduced versions of the illustrations.

It’s unfortunate, because his pen and ink illustrations are particularly good, but I’ve found few on the web that are reproduced well enough to get an idea of what they really look like, here’s one.

Pogany also authored a number of books on painting and drawing techniques. I first encountered Pogany in the wonderfully inexpensive Dover Books reproduction of his classic The Art of Drawing. Though perhaps not as thorough or authoritative as LoomisFigure Drawing for All it’s Worth, it is still a terrific resource for any comic book artist, illustrator, animator or other artist interested in constructing the figure.

His figures have a touch of designerly, Art Nouveau charm that the more straightforward instructional drawings from Loomis and Bridgeman lack. You should be able to find some of his other illustrated books from Amazon and other sources.


The drawing bench (horse)

drawing bench or drawing horse
Though I use them for painting, I have never been fond of easels when attending life drawing sessions. They always seemed awkward, uncomfortable and in my way when trying to get from model to eye to hand to paper as directly as possible.

Fortunately, I encountered many interesting tools from the academic art tradition early on when I began taking classes. One of them was the use of a drawing bench, which is often called a “drawing horse” or an “art horse”, I assume because one sits astride it, and/or because one looks about as silly as a child on a wooden hobby horse when using it.

A drawing bench or horse is a wooden bench with one raised end, or with two raised ends, one higher than the other, that is designed to allow an artist (or young buckaroo) to sit astride one end and prop a drawing board up against the other.

The wonderful advantage of a drawing bench over an easel is that the drawing is below your line of sight to the model, rather than to one side.

You look up at the model, straight on and directly above your drawing, rather than stepping back or repeatedly turning your head from side to side. To me this is a much more natural and satisfactory method of drawing from life. I also think it’s significantly more comfortable, particularly over the course of an extended drawing session, or in classes day after day. Despite the notion of noble suffering for one’s art, I prefer to be as comfortable as possible when I’m concentrating on drawing.

Of course, shortly after I began to use a drawing bench, I found I preferred to misuse it. Rather than propping the drawing board almost vertically on the bench, with its lower end in one of the grooves intended for that purpose, allowing the correct arms-length pivot from the shoulder when drawing large scale (shown in my sketch above, bottom left), I began to sit forward on the bench, drawing board propped in my lap and leaning over it so that it served as miniature drawing table, allowing me to finesse small scale drawings (above, bottom right).

Many art schools and drawing sessions provide them, particularly those with 19th century academic traditions, and you can also find them from larger art suppliers. Here’s a fairly standard one from Dick Blick (image above, left). I’ve also come across models like this one (image above, top right), from chlidren’s supplier Sensory Edge that has a rounded end, that restricts your ability to misuse the thing the way I like to.

You can also find variations that have a built in easel, which defeat the purpose in my mind, or that actually have a small adjustable drawing table incorporated.

I’m not suggesting that you run out and drop $$ on a drawing bench. If you’re inclined, and modestly carpentry enabled, you can cobble one together from scrap lumber, as in this fine example of a homemade drawing horse from Meer Image (shown above, top middle).

Also, you can approximate the use of a drawing bench, or at least my assiduously incorrect application of one, by using two folding chairs, one to sit in and the other placed in front of you with its back to you, allowing you to prop your drawing board against the back and lean over it a bit like a drawing table.

If you’ve always done life drawing by turning your head side to side from an easel, this approach is certainly worth investigating; and you may find you like riding the range on your trusty drawing horse.



Greg Pro

Greg Pro
Greg Pro creates concept designs and character designs for the entertainment industry, though his emphasis is not on films and games as much as it is the presentation of entertainment concepts in the form of theme park rides, theme park architecture and related designs for casinos and other venues where the physical environment is, in essence, a form of entertainment.

Pro’s clients include Disney, Universal Studios, Paramount Parks and Landmark Entertainment. His web site includes galleries of illustration, storyboards, character designs and sketches.

As much as I like the ostensibly more exciting images of scenes from theme park thrill rides, I’m actually most interested his renderings for architectural environments (in the “Illustration” section).

I find the idea of creating physical spaces that are visual entertainment particularly fascinating. When I go to a theme park, I get as much, or more, enjoyment out of the appearance of the attractions as I do out of the rides and entertainment. Pro manages to convey that visual appeal in his paintings (even though the “Full Size” images on his site are still a bit small to get a real feeling for the rendering).

Pro works digitally and the “Process” section has a brief description of his approach.

Note: Like a theme park ride, Pro’s site throws sound effects at you. You may want to turn sound off if you’re viewing at work.


Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo
As this self portrait makes startlingly clear, the life and art of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo are inextricably intertwined with that of Diego Rivera, her mentor, husband and largest artistic influence.

It’s also difficult to separate her from her times and the other strong-willed and influential people she encountered in her life, from political figures like Leon Trotsky (she and Rivera were supporters of Communism when it seemed more like a social revolution than an excuse for another bunch of totalitarian governments), to the avant garde artists in Paris who were ripping up the fabric of art and making some bizarre new material out of its remnants.

Kahlo is often referred to as a Surrealist. You will occasionally hear me rant about the casual misuse of that term, and Kahlo, who associated with the original Surrealists and knew exactly what was and wasn’t Surrealism, did not consider herself a Surrealist; saying: “They thought I was a Surrealist, but I wasn’t. I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality.”

She later came to despise the intellectual snobbery and coldness of Breton and the other Paris Surrealists, saying of them, “They are so damn ‘intellectual’ and rotten that I can’t stand them anymore….I [would] rather sit on the floor in the market of Toluca and sell tortillas, than have anything to do with those ‘artistic’ bitches of Paris.”

Kahlo was, to say the least, outspoken, both verbally and in the confrontational, in-your-face directness of her paintings. Many of her works are self portraits and, in essence, all of her work is autobiographical. In a time when her contemporaries in Mexico, like Rivera, were painting large, bold murals depicting the noble struggles of the poor and downtrodden workers, and Mexico’s 1910 revolution, Kahlo chose a much more intimate, though no less bold, path for her art.

Her self portraits look at first, in spite of their imaginative overtones of symbolism and visionary art, to be very direct and honest appraisals. After comparing them to some photographs, however, I think they were actually intentionally (perhaps subconsciously) harsh, almost always emphasizing her mustache and “unibrow” effect which, while visible in photographs, seem much more pronounced in her paintings. I see her work as self-critical; it is hard edged and at times is obviously an expression of pain, disappointment and emotional turmoil.

She paints her images with an undeniable force of personality and a painting style that borrows some of its power from traditional Mexican art forms, as well as the image juxtapositions employed by the Surrealists, the melodramatic murals of her husband and his comtemporaries, and the bold primitivism of artists like Rousseau.

The personal and self-confessional nature of her work, her feminist and communist beliefs, and the turmoil of her life, have made her something of a hero to many, and she is sometimes exemplified as a victimized woman; though I find it hard to see someone of such obvious strength of will and force of character as a timid victim.

She did have great difficulties to overcome, however. Her life with, and two marriages to Rivera were filled with infidelity and difficulties from the outset. Her painting career began in convalescence from a trolley accident as a teenager, that crushed many bones and broke her back in three places. In her later years she said: “I have had two accidents in my life – the streetcar crash and Diego Rivera”. She also had polio as a child and was in physical pain much of her life and unable to have children. Lest we get all misty-eyed, there is also indication that she was not the kindest or nicest individual herself, and was often not spoken well of by artists and others who encountered her.

I’ll point out here that I have not seen Frida, the popular movie about her which starred Salma Hayek, nor have I seen the documentaries on PBS or A&E. I have also not seen her originals in person, so my knowledge of her life and work comes from images in print or online.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of her birth, and the Museum of the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City, her birthplace, has mounted the largest ever exhibition of her work, Frida Kahlo 1907 — 2007 National Homage, which runs from now through August 19, 2007. The museum does not have images online, but I’ve gathered some other resources for you below.

Exhibition links via Art Knowledge News


Gobelins students’ Annecy animations

Goeblins students Annecy animationsEach year in June, the beautiful town of Annecy in the Rhone-Alpes region of eastern France temporarily becomes the animation hub of the world, as it plays host to the Annecy International Animated Film Festival and Market.

Annecy is the number one international competitive animation festival. Animators, and animation students, from around the world come to put on a display of their best work.

So each year animation students from the remarkable Paris based Gobelins school of art and animation gather in small teams and create short animations devoted to the upcoming festival; as I reported in my post on last year’s entries from Gobelins animation students.

Like their predecessors, this year’s entries are also wonderfully clever and marvelously realized. The films are short (90 seconds or so) and are largely wordless, so language is not a barrier to enjoyment. The only requirement seems to be that the films are in essence a short introduction to the festival, so the students are free to let their imaginations run wild.

Here is the main Animation page on the Gobelins site, which lists both this year’s entries and those from 2006. (Google Translate version here.)

The 2007 entries are (images at left, top to bottom):

Le grande Arche by Jean-Michel Boesch, Quentin Baillieux, Manuel Tanon-Tchi and Sébastien Vovau;

Keep Walking by Carlo Vogele, Antonin Herveet, Sophia Chevrier, Cécile Francoia and Leah Ordonia;

Anima facta est by Lucie Arnissolle, Maël Gourmelen, Léah F. Ordonia, Célia Riviere and Setpen Vuillemin;

Chronos 1.0 by Wassim Boutales, Yann Boyer, Vincent Mahe and Bruno Mangyoku;

Nano by Stéphane Vlavonou, Sébastien Rouxel, Stéphane Chung, Nicolas Rubio and Nima Azarba; and

Emile et les fabuleux petits monsieurs by Jean-Nicolas Arnoux, Tom Haugomat, Charles-André Lefebvre, and Louis Tardivier.

Though I liked all of the entries, my favorite is Chronos 1.0, a short time travel adventure with a wonderful concept.

My timely reminder for the Gobelins Annecy shorts, as usual, is Michael Hirsh’s Articles and Texticles blog, which has both an initial post and an update on this year’s entries.


Chiho Aoshima

Chiho Aoshima
Working digitally in a vector art program (presumably Illustrator), and outputting her images on a large scale printer, Chiho Aoshima creates wall-size installations, “wallpapers” and environments.

Coming from a background that did not include any formal art training, Aoshima’s images are full of brightly colored, cartoon style landscapes, citiscapes and fantasy environments, populated with cheery-looking anime and manga inspired characters, usually young women, often engaged in vaguely horrific activities.

Aoshima can be associated with the “superflat” movement, popular among young Japanese artists, that emphasizes the two dimensionality and simplified forms that make up their visual vocabulary.

Aoshima’s work can have an interesting juxtaposition of images that at first have the appearance of colorful innocence, and on second glance can be disconcertingly morbid, producing a feeling of pop comics storybook illustrations gone horribly wrong.

I haven’t had a chance to see her work in person, but I get the feeling that scale makes a difference (as it usually does). Her images are often highly detailed and include small elements that may not be visible in reproductions, and are displayed at a size intended to have an immersive quality.

The galleries I list below often include photos of the large scale and wall size works printed and mounted in place, so you can get a idea of their size and presentation, which sometimes includes sculptural objects or printed floors.

Link via Ann Marshall