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.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Zip and Li’l Bit (update)

Posted by Charley Parker at 10:04 am

Zip and Li'l Bit - Trade Loffler
I found myself in a sour mood the other day and in need of some distraction and entertainment that didn’t involve gunshots, car chases, fist fights, explosions, betrayal, murder, infidelity, gratuitous nudity, scandal, deceit, lies and horror.

So I turned off Fox News and looked to the list of web comics that I like to check in on periodically.

Much to my delight I realized that Zip and Li’l Bit, a lighthearted online comic by Trade Loeffler, had progressed well into a new story since I had last visited.

If you haven’t encountered Zip and Li’l Bit, I’ll refer you to my previous post and suggest that you start at the beginning of the first story, The Upside-down Me. If, like me, you’ve read the first, but not the new story, start at the beginning of that story, The Sky Kayak.

The site is well arranged except that the home page always opens to the most recent page. This is a fairly common paradigm in web comics, but one of which I’m not fond. It’s convenient for current readers who are following along as new pages are added (in the case of Zip and Li’l Bit, Thursdays and Sundays), but can be disconcerting for first time visitors, who are presented with a “walked into the middle of a movie” situation.

The new story is up to page 19 as of yesterday, and the young brother and sister protagonists are accompanied this time by a couple of new characters, notably Zip’s shadow and Willoughby, a talking stone lion on a cornice of their house.

In describing these gentle, well crafted adventures, the word “charming” springs to mind, both in terms of being charmed by the characters, setting and unhurried pace of the stories, but also in terms of being charmed by Loeffler’s drawings, which are deceptively simple, but reward closer inspection.

Closer inspection is conveniently provided using one of the site’s great “only on the web” features. Clicking on any of the panels produces a pop-up enlargement of the panel in which you can see it in detail. This works particularly well in Loeffler’s chosen format of uniform panel shape.

You can click through the enlarged panels with a hidden arrow at the upper right of the panel, until the end of the page. Notice, in the enlarged drawings, the loose but restrained linework in the backgrounds, accented with a bit of texture and a carefully controlled color palette.

Notice particularly, though, Loeffler’s nicely varied and beautifully controlled ink lines on the figures and foreground objects.

Zip and Li’l Bit was originally planned as a print project, and I hope it makes it’s way to print at some point. The strip would charm children at bedtime just as much as adults at their computers.

Posted in: ComicsWebcomics   |   3 Comments »

Saturday, November 17, 2007


Posted by Charley Parker at 8:23 am

Sketchtravel - Gerald Guerlais, Dominique Louis, Claude William Trebutien,  Ronnie Del Carmen, Nash Dunnigan, Benoit LePennecI don’t know about you, but I can sometimes be a little intimidated by my own sketchbooks, specifically in cases where I’ve made some drawings that I feel were particularly successful, and become reluctant to add to them, either from worry about carrying a sketchbook with drawings I like in it around and losing it, or simply feeling like I have to be confident I’m going to make a comparably good drawing with my next entry.

This is completely silly, of course, and counter-productive for an artist, but I venture to think some of you can identify.

How much more intimidating would it be, though, if the sketchbook in which you were drawing were full of wonderful drawings by other artists? Daunting? Perhaps, but how inspiring might it be as well? This is the situation facing the artists participating in Sketchtravel.

Sketchtravel is a project jointly managed by Daisuke Tsutsumi, a multifaceted artist who I profiled on lines and colors last May, and Gérald Guerlais, a French illustrator and background designer, who informed me about the project.

Sketchtravel revolves around a single sketchbook to which 50 artists will make contributions at it travels around the world.

Each artist contributes a single page of art, be it drawing or painting, though the rules suggest that care must be taken not to damage previous or subsequent pages with invasive tools or techniques. The drawings are scanned, both as a precaution in the event of the worst case scenario of the book being lost or stolen, and also so the virtual version of the physical sketchbook can be updated on the project’s web site.

The theme of the works varies widely, though it often focuses on the book itself and its travels.

One of the more interesting aspects of the process is that the sketchbook is making its zig-zag journey around the curve of the horizon not by post or package service, but carried by hand. It travels in a custom made, felt lined, oak case with brass hardware.

Each invited artist receives the sketchbook from the previous contributor in person, adds their contribution, and, in turn, hands it off to the next artist; though I found no mention of how the artists are selected or how the logistics of travel were determined. The site has a map marking the book’s recent travels and current location (as of this writing, the west coast of the U.S.).

The project was started in 2006 and the sketchbook currently has 24 artists represented in the virtual version on the site. You can view the contributions to date, along with photos of the book and pictures of the hand-offs from artist to artist. There is also a list of the participating artists with links to their individual web sites or blogs.

Guerlais also maintains a blog for the project, with more details about the sketchbook’s travels, the hand-offs and related news. The blog and the web site have content in both French and English.

As each artist adds to the book, presumably more inspired than intimidated by the work of those who have added their drawings before them, the book will grow organically into its final state as a collaborative artwork. When finished, the original sketchbook will be exhibited at the Arludik Gallery in Paris, after which it will be auctioned off to a charity association selected by the artists.

(Images at left, from top: Gérald Guerlais, Dominique Louis, Claude William Trebutien, Ronnie Del Carmen, Nash Dunnigan, Benoit le Pennec.)


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Craig Elliott

Posted by Charley Parker at 8:22 am

Craig Elliott

(Image above © Disney)

Craig Elliott is an illustrator, visual development artist and layout artist who works in the film industry. He has worked on numerous films for Disney Feature Animation, Dreamworks and other studios. His credits include titles like Bee Movie, Shark Tale, Flushed Away, Mulan, The Emporor’s New Groove and Treasure Planet. He has also done work for the new Disney Feature Film Enchanted (image above).

In his online portfolio you’ll find a a variety of images of location design, creature and character design, color keys, 3-D models and sets, as well as fantasy illustration.

A number of the most interesting and imaginative images are from Disney’s animated feature Treasure Planet, for which Elliott’s contributions were extensive. He is featured prominently in Treasure Planet: A Voyage of Discovery (more info here), a collection of art done for the movie that also includes artists like Peter Clarke, Peter De Seve, Ian Gooding and Christophe Vacher.

Some of my favorite pieces in Elliott’s portfolio are black and white location design images for Treasure Planet that have a wonderfully imaginative, otherworldly quality, rendered with grainy textures and atmospheric tones. Objects that might be plants, rock formations, or both, extend into the sky over oddly surfaced plains, or form gigantic rippled walls against which tiny figures are silhouetted. Wonderful stuff.

Note: The site contains some NSFW material.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Dr. Sketchy’s Anti Art Show

Posted by Charley Parker at 9:56 am

Dr. Sketchy's Anti Art Show - art by Jim Hoover
I’ve long maintained that both men and women have only one erogenous zone. (Got your attention, didn’t I?)

I’ll further maintain that this single erogenous zone is located in the same physical location for both sexes, directly between… the ears. Nothing is sexy unless you think it’s sexy.

Which is why life drawing sessions are set up to maintain a professional or academic atmosphere and the sexual element is almost non-existant. This is generally a Good Thing, but it’s nice to know that there are exceptions to every rule.

Dr. Sketchy’s Anti Art School is a series of drawing sessions that looks to put the “arrrrrr” back into art classes, with racy costumes, provocative poses and a generally anti-academic atmosphere.

For more background, see my previous post on Dr. Sketchy’s.

At the time, I mentioned that submissions were being taken for the first Dr. Sketchy’s Anti Art Show.

Dr. Sketchy’s founder, illustrator Molly Crabapple, has written to say that the show is now assembled and will hang at Rapture, 200 Avenue A in NYC, from November 21 to December 20, 2007. The opening party will be November 27th.

There is a gallery online for those of us not in the area, that features work by some of the participants, as well as photographs from the sessions.

Note: The Dr. Sketchy’s site should be considered delightfully NSFW and politically incorrect.

(Image above: Jim Hoover)

Posted in: Outsider ArtSketching   |   4 Comments »

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Abigail Ryan

Posted by Charley Parker at 9:26 am

Abbey ryan
Abbey Ryan is a Philadelphia based painter, designer and illustrator who studied here in Pennsylvania as well as in New York and Massachusetts. She has a portfolio site, in which she showcases her illustration and design work, as well as her gallery art.

The latter is non-figurative, with arrangements of soft edged shapes that give impressions of movement and suggestions of morphing forms. They are arranged with a designer’s eye for the importance of negative space and rendered with a muted palette and delicate applications of texture.

Given my predilection for representational work, I find more interest in her painting blog, Ryan Studio, in which she has recently taken on the “painting-a-day” discipline, and paints crisp, painterly oils of simple subjects like fruit, vegetables, candy and other immediately available subjects that are often the chosen subjects for daily painters.

Ryan posts large images of her small paintings that are actually large enough to get a good feeling for the surface of the painting and the way the paint is applied, something I wish more artists would do when presenting their work online, both for the benefit of those just looking, and for the benefit of those looking to buy, who must make a judgement about the appeal of a painting from an online image.

Ryan’s strengths show when she arranges slightly more complex compositions and tackles textured and patterned surfaces in addition to her primary subject.

Ryan appears to be fairly young, and her willingness to take on the painting-a-day regimen, and her confidence in working with more complex elements within it, make me think it will be interesting to watch the course of her development as a painter.

[Link and suggestion courtesy of Jason Waskey]

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Art of War: Eyewitness U.S. Combat Art From the Revolution through the Twentieth Century

Posted by Charley Parker at 2:43 pm

Art of War: Eyewitness U.S. Combat Art From the Revolution through the Twentieth Century, John Singer Sargent, Tom Lea, Michael FayFor the benefit of those in other parts of the world, I’ll mention that today is Veterans Day here in the U.S., a day set aside to remember and honor those who have served in the military over the history of the country; though particular attention is given, as it should be, to those involved in conflicts within the memory of living persons.

This past Memorial Day (a U.S. holiday in observance of those who have died in military service) I wrote a post about the PBS series They Drew Fire: Combat Artists of World War II, in which I mentioned this often neglected function of art.

Art as reportage in general, and combat art in particular, gets looked down on by the art establishment as irrelevant, and often “not art”; but then the art establishment has always attempted to elevate itself at the cost of narrowing its vision. The fact is that visual arts like drawing and painting are very different from photography, and reporting a time, place or event through that process gives insight into life and human experience unlike any other. If the purpose of art is to communicate, here is that communication at its most raw and direct.

Artists have been painting their visions of war for centuries, but combat artists have a unique role, that of soldier and artist, participant and reporter, subject and observer. They are able to give us the reality of war in a way that carries the undeniable weight of personal experience.

Art of War: Eyewitness U.S. Combat Art From the Revolution through the Twentieth Century is a collection that puts together artwork depicting war at the level of those who experienced it, both from artists in combat and outside observers who were adapt at capturing some of the same reality.

The book, by combat artist Avery Chenoweth, includes art by a few names you will recognize, John Singer Sargent and Edouard Manet among them, but is mostly of names known only to those familiar with combat art. Some were artist/correspondents for magazines, who also went to the front lines, but most are actual combat artists, soldiers who did double duty as artists.

This is not the “military art” of glorified war machines, sleek warplanes, dramatic fighting ships and cool tanks (though I have to admit here that the 12 year boy in the back of my brain still has a fascination with such things), nor is it an anti-war treatise; it is work by artists who tried to portray war as they saw it, directly, immediately and without filter or apology.

I think it would be hard for those with direct experience of combat to glorify war, leave that to the video game companies and movie makers; combat artists need to convey their experience as honestly as possible.

I haven’t read Art of War, I’m basing my comments on the book on information from those who have, as well as articles and reviews, particularly an excellent article on combat art from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, that includes information about Marine Staff Sargent Michael Fay, a contemporary combat artist assigned in Iraq.

I think it’s important that collections like this exist. Here is a role for art that isn’t emphasized and discussed enough. Not only is it a visceral example of the power of art to communicate; but it serves as a reminder, even for those of us who are vehemently anti-war, that the sacrifices of those who have served their nation by putting on a uniform and stepping into the inferno deserve our recognition.

[Images above: "Gassed" by John Singer Sargent (WW I), "Mortarburst" (field sketch) and "The Price" (final painting) by Tom Lea (WW II), "Trip flares" by Michael Fay (Iraq II)]

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Sara Tyson

Posted by Charley Parker at 9:34 am

Sara Tyson
Canadian illustrator and designer Sara Tyson makes the commonplace monumental, abstracting the forms of her subjects into multi-planed geometric solids and rendering them with colors and textures that give them the weight of planets.

She appears to take her influences form 20th century modernism, particularly Picasso’s brand of cubism, Greek sculpture and decorative arts, and 12th and 13th Century European art, as it emerged from the geometric patterns of decoration into figurative realism.

Into this interesting stew she stirs her conceptual editorial approach and produces distinctive illustrations for clients like The Washington Post, CA magazine, The Globe and Mail, The Progressive and others.

Tyson is skilled as a graphic designer as well as an illustrator and that skill is evident in the strength of her compositions, in which the shapes read as strongly as design elements as they do as representational forms.

Posted in: Illustration   |   2 Comments »

Friday, November 9, 2007

M Collier

Posted by Charley Parker at 5:07 pm

M Collier
I know very little about this artist, not even whether “M Collier” is male or female. What little biographical information there is simply mentions that the artist was born in San Francisco, earned a degree in Art History from California State University, has “lived in and traveled to many places”, and now resides in Southern California.

M Collier is represented online by a painting blog called Paintings from the Point, as well as by inclusion in the DailyPainters.com site and membership in the Daily Painters Guild. I mentioned Collier briefly in my post last spring about Painting a Day Blogs (Round 6), The Daily Painters Guild. I don’t see any sign of a dedicated portfolio site or mention of gallery representation.

Collier’s paintings appear refined and accomplished, with an emphasis on chiaroscuro and the effects of light as it plays across the the gleaming faces of curved china dishes, around reflective silver surfaces, and through transparent vessels holding water, and usually, flowers.

There is a fascination with light, and the color of flowers and vegetables, but in particular I think, with the way these smooth curved objects sashay the light beams around their forms in graceful arcs and ellipses. If you look at the shapes of the areas of color, soft, muted blue-grays and delicate slivers of highlights, you’ll find those curves and arcs repeated again and again. This is particularly evident in the repeated theme of stacks of teacups, in which your eye follows a swinging line back and forth as it travels down the canvas.

Most of these works are painted in oil on board at a small scale, often 6×6″ (15x15cm), and take on the (I think) difficult challenge of handling square compositions. They are predominantly of small, intimate subjects, treated with a clear realist approach. The compositions usually employ a dark, very neutral background, against which brightest highlights in the foreground objects sometimes go to pure white. Within that range, color is carefully controlled and at times seems almost like an accent; with the red of cherries or the greens and reds of vegetables appearing almost like an extra element on top of a monochromatic final.

When viewing the works in Collier’s blog, there is no “Previous Posts” navigation, so use the dated links in the right hand column. You can also find a thumbnail-gallery display on the DailyPainters.com site that makes it easier to get an overview.

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