Doug Braithwaite

Doug Braithwaite
First, a little bit of Wikipedia-style disambiguation. Since I’m likely to write here about either topic, I’ll point out that this article is about the gallery artist named Doug Braithwaite, as opposed to the comic book artist that some readers might associate the name.

Doug Braithwaite is a painter who works primarily en plein air, or on studio works that are based on plein air studies. His subject matter comes from his surrounding Utah countryside, mountains or town scenes.

He says in his artist’s statement: “I often worry that it will be hard to continue to be a landscape painter in a place where you have lived and worked all your life. But I have found that what used to seem a limited resource is, in fact, quite limitless. The more I paint, the more options for paintings are opened up.

Braithwaite approaches his subjects with a fresh, painterly style that comes from the brevity of notation necessary for successful plein air painting.

“Painterly” is a term frequently used to describe paintings in which brush strokes or the surface of the paint itself are a visible characteristic of the image. Though it’s not always easy to tell because the images of his paintings are not reproduced as large on the web as they might be, Braithwaite seems to have the ability to capture many of the major shapes or “color notes” in his paintings with single brushstrokes.

It might be a fence post, a tree trunk, the side of a distant house or the plane of a face of rock, Braithwaite captures it with a quick confidence that leaves the impression that the painting was executed without hesitation or doubt.

His color notes are so accurate that the images can at times appear “photographic”, but I think that is again a limitation of the size at which they’re reproduced, and closer examination gives a suggestion of their geometric lattice of visible brush strokes.

In keeping with the geometry of his strokes, Braithwaite’s compositions have a strong underlying geometry as well. In this regard, viewing the even smaller versions of the thumbnail images lets you see the large, bold shapes of color areas that form the foundation of his paintings.

[Suggestion courtesy of Karin Jurick, (see my post on Karin Jurick)]


BibliOdyssey (the book)

Ephemera is defined as printed or written material that isn’t intended to be preserved. Magazines and newspapers, for example, are meant to be transitory, disposed of once read (the pile of National Geographics in your grandfather’s attic notwithstanding.)

Even many books are meant to be ephemeral; computer instruction manuals, for example, are out of date the instant the ink is dry because the next version of whatever it is has jut gone into beta.

Ephemera has a long history (ironically enough), as one person’s transient junk is another’s lasting treasure (witness baseball cards and comic books).

For literally hundreds of years, printed matter has been produced that was quickly made irrelevant by new events. Often this material is accompanied by illustrations, images that are as varied, weird and bizarre as anything intentionally created by fantasy artists.

It used to be that this material was relegated to dusty libraries and second hand book shops, where diligent curiosity seekers would occasionally turn up forgotten gems of oddness and wonder. But everything, it seems, whether ephemeral or significant, is being scanned and put online at some point, as our entire civilization is squeezed through the digital cheesecloth of the internet and filtered into archival bits.

“PK” (or “peacay”) is an individual who has a knack for finding particularly fascinating bits of treasure amid the cultural detritus as it settles into the great Sargasso Sea of internet archives. He collects the most bizarre and interesting pieces of visual ephemera and displays then for our delight on his long running blog, BibliOddysey, which I’ve written about before.

Now, in some kind of poetic circle of weirdness, some of this material has been collected and printed as a book, BibliOdyssey: Amazing Archival Images from the Internet, in which some of the best and strangest of PK’s finds are collected and annotated by PK for our edification, amusement and delighted bewilderment.

The book is part of a nascent publishing venture by the Fuel design group, a well known design firm in the U.K. In his description, PK points out that “With pre-production topping out at somewhere over 500 years, BibliOdyssey might well be the slowest book ever published.”

You can read about the book on the Fuel site, or on the BibliOdyssey site, where you can also, of course, get lost in the online display of ephemera. There’s something special and different, though, about the way images appear in print; and in this case the bits of ephemera are being re-released back into their natural element, at home once again in the sea of printed pages.

Let me see if I’ve got this right now, this is a book about visual material from the web that was archived from books, but I’m telling you about it on the web, and pointing you to online sources from which you could order the book


Cosmé (Cosimo) Tura

Cosme (Cosimo) Tura
Active in the mid-15th Century, Cosmé Tura (AKA Cosimo Tura, AKA Cosimo di Domenico di Bonaventura) was an Italian painter of the early Renaissance.

Tura was born in Ferrara, in north-central Italy, on the road between Venice and Florence. Though not as commonly mentioned as the other major centers of the Renaissance, Ferrara was home at one time or another to such notable artists as Andrea Mantegna, Giovanni Bellini, Pisanello and Titian.

Of them, Tura was certainly possessed of one of the most unique visions and styles of painting. His figures are cut with precise edges into high relief, glowing with with bold, high-chroma colors, intensified by the use of adjacent compliments (e.g. greens and reds), and are frequently set within wildly stylized architectural elements and deep, sometimes forced, perspective.

Plus the guy was just downright weird at times. I mean check out those copper “dolphins” adorning he throne of our muse above; where did those come from?

The painting above (large version here), was painted around 1460 and has been alternately called “Spring”, “The Muse”, “Erato”, and “Calliope”. (Often the original titles of old master paintings, if indeed they had titles, are lost to us; and scholars and collectors provide their own names over the years.)

The original is currently in the National Gallery in London, which has an image (unfortunately watermarked) with a zoom feature.

This piece was probably part of a richly decorated room, no longer in existence, created for the d’Este family; which is assumed to have had several paintings of these “muses”. Tura also did murals and other works with mythological and secular themes, as well as religious works including a painting of the Annunciation, complete with nesting doves and an attendant squirrel, on the organ doors for the Duomo.

There are some books available about Tura and his milieu, like Cosme Tura: The Life and Art of a Painter in Estense Ferrara by Joseph Manca and Cosme Tura of Ferrara: Style, Politics, and the Renaissance City, 1450-1495 by Stephen Campbell, though they are on the expensive side and I haven’t personally seen them.

Like many artists of his time, Tura painted in both egg tempera and the exciting new medium of oil paint, which had been introduced to Italy by northern painters like Rogier van der Weyden. In this case Tura has painted this work in oil over top of a previous, somewhat different image in tempera on the same wooden panel.

Some of his religious works are just as striking as this one. Look at his painting of the Madonna Enthroned, with it’s trompe l’oeil arch, wild architectural constructions, punched up colors and oddly languorous figures (larger but color shifted version here). Take a look at the intricately carved figures and weird details on the alcove/pedestal/throne or whatever it is behind the Madonna, including hanging grapes, winged lions, urns with faces and that bird-thing at the top with a human-looking head. Say what?


Michael Phipps (update)

Michael Phipps
When I wrote about Utah illustrator Michael Phipps back in February I mentioned that I was hoping to see more of his work. Phipps has just launched a completely revised web site with additional illustrations.

His site, which I believe he designed himself, is a rare example of a “clever” concept site that still manages to function as a navigable portfolio site.

The news section include links to an interview with Phipps on the MySpace blog of the rock group Advent, for whom he recently illustrated a CD cover.

Phipps’ illustrations, pained largely in acrylic, have a fascinating sense of dimensionality and texture, with nicely visceral textures on surfaces like tree bark, stone and carved wood. He also has an interesting approach to rendering atmosphere, at times condensing vaporous elements into apparent solids.

Phipps’ new site includes several images I hadn’t seen before, but I’m still looking forward to more.


Birgit Amadori

Birgit Amadori
Birgit Amadori is an illustrator and designer living in California. She was born near Frankfurt, Gremany and her influences seem to reach from Europe and the Art Nouveau artists to the woodblock artist of Japan, leaving her geographic location as a nice metaphor.

Amadori weaves design and figurative elements together, often incorporating richly detailed pattern. My assumption is that she works digitally in vector illustration. She simplifies forms, particularly faces, and then often fills areas like clothing that are both representational objects and design elements, with patterns, sometimes intricately detailed. The images are unified with very controlled palettes, bordering on monochromatic.

Amadori’s clients include Virgin Atlantic, Lufthansa Cargo, Virgin Atlantic, Volkswagen, Suzuki, Yahoo and Montblanc.

Her portfolio site has sections for professional and personal work, “Work hard” and “Play Hard”. Once your in either of them there is no link back to the other without backtracking.

I found the pieces the Play Hard: Posters section most interesting, as well as the ones in the Work Hard: Fashion and Deco/Food section.

You can also find a differently aranged portfolio of her work on the iSpot.

[Suggestion courtesy of Jack Harris]


Christopher Evans

Christopher Evans
In his latest series of paintings, currently on view at the Fischbach Gallery in New York, contemporary realist Christopher Evans creates broad sweeping vistas of serene landscapes. Rolling hills bask in the California sun under skies dappled with cumulous clouds; dawn cuts across the tops of mountains, opening the curtain on cloud filled valleys; and quiet waters on tidal plains reflect the crowns of distant trees.

It all sounds very “picturesque”, but there is an authority and clarity and forcefulness of detail to the images that push them well beyond “prettyness” into a subtle feeling of still contemplation, almost like a cinematic pause meant to focus our attention on the landscape in preparation for understanding how a story will unfold within it.

The “cinematic” element has other aspects relevant to Evan’s work. One element is the size and proportion of many of the works, which are panoramic and immersively large in scale. For example, Oak Tree Lake Sonoma (image above, bottom) is 37 x 84″ (94 x 213cm) and Sunlit Hillside Under Gray Clouds (above, top) is 32 x 80″ (81 x 230cm). The latter proportion, perhaps not coincidentally, is almost exactly the 2.35:1 aspect ratio of many widescreen movies.

The film context is of particular interest because Evans has been for a number of years one of the premiere matte painters in the film industry. He was head of the matte painting department at Lucasfilm during the filming of Return of the Jedi, and later established the Matte World Digital studio.

I don’t know of any collections, online or in books, of his matte painting work, but he is mentioned in The Invisible Art: The Legends of Matte Painting and From Star Wars to Indiana Jones: The Best of the Lucasfilm Archives.

You won’t find any mention of his matte painting career on Evan’s personal site, which serves as a portfolio for his gallery work. There you will also find previous series of paintings with different themes, including cityscapes, figurative work and interesting triptychs that combine those elements and others.

I only know about the connection between Christopher Evans the gallery artist and Chris Evans the matte painting artist courtesy of James Gurney, who visited the show at the Fischbach recently and has a post about Evans on his always fascinating blog, Gurney Journey.