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.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

John Beder

Posted by Charley Parker at 10:23 am

John Beder
Had I come across John Beder’s children’s book illustrations on their own, rather than finding them on his web site after seeing the realist still life paintings on his painting blog, I would not have thought them to be the work of the same artist.

His illustrations for children’s books are loose, almost roughly realized, and at times cartoonlike. His still life paintings, on the other hand are precise, detailed and contemplative. Both sides of his work show a fondness for bright colors.

His still life paintings are most often of arrangements of fruit. Though his subject matter and blog format shares some similarity with the blogs of many “painting a day” artists, it’s obvious at first glance that these paintings are the work of much longer painting sessions.

They are often wonderful explorations of the way light cascades across and wraps itself around the forms of the fruit, sometimes lighting them as if with an inner glow. The forms of individual grapes or the surfaces of plums are revealed with dedicated attention to the appearance of their textural and light reflective qualities.

In a number of paintings, Beder challenges himself with the rendering of the play of shadow and light across the complex folds of striped cloth, arranged as a backdrop to the still life, in what must be an very painstaking process.

As you might expect, Beder doesn’t post new paintings often. My one real disappointment, though, is that he doesn’t post larger versions of them. The “detail versions”, such as they are, are hardly larger than the images on the blog page; leaving you to imagine as best you can what the paintings might look like in person, as they are reasonably large, in the range of 30″x 20″ (75x50cm).

You can also find some of his paintings on his (somewhat awkwardly arranged) web site, which is devoted largely to his illustrations and his “Feeling Faces” line of emotion flash cards.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Kevin Turcotte

Posted by Charley Parker at 11:01 am

Kevin Turcotte
Kevin Turcotte is another of those artists who has a somewhat vague web presence. I don’t think he has a site of his own, but he posts his small paintings as a participant in the group blog, Paintopolis.

He shares Paintopolis with James Martin, Jeremy Engleman and Marty Havran. There is little direct information about any of them on the blog, but I’m guessing that they all work for Disney animation in some capacity, as the one other bit of information I’ve been able to come up with on Turcotte is his IMDB listing; which credits him as background artist or background supervisor on films like Sinbad: Legend of the Seven seas, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, The Road to Eldorado, The Prince of Egypt, Pocahontas, The Lion King and Aladdin.

You’re left with the impression that the blog exists basically for the benefit of the artists themselves and/or their friends, because, except for the artist’s names and a few short notes about the posted images, no background information is provided.

Turcotte seems to be the most prolific contributor, frequently posting small landscapes that he describes as “lunchtime paintings”, quickly realized and fresh with the painterly immediacy that the limited timeframe implies. These are done primarily in oil and occasionally in watercolor. Likewise he often posts both oil and watercolor figure paintings, from appearances done in a classroom or workshop setting. These are also wonderfully painterly and quickly but surely rendered.

There are also quick studies of flowers and still life subjects as well as a few more fully realized paintings.

In browsing through the blog, which unfortunately is one of those Blogger affairs that doesn’t have an “earlier posts” link and requires you to fidget through the archives links to see past the first page, you’ll also encounter the work of his fellow Paintoplois bloggers, whose “off-hours” work is also worth attention, even if they don’t think it’s worth any explanation, bios, or other background information.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Brad Holland

Posted by Charley Parker at 10:52 am

Brad Holland
Brad Holland has been a major figure in contemporary American illustration for as long as I can remember, and I’ve wanted to do a post about him for some time, but I’ve been put off by his web site, in which the images are few and inexplicably small.

I just discovered, however, that Holland now has a space on illoz that is many times better than his own web site and finally gives an adequate view of his work.

Holland has a long list of prestigious clients including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Vanity Fair and many others.

I remember being impressed early on with his pen and ink drawings, in which he somehow made ink textures that felt like charcoal and pulled light out of darkness.

His ink drawings can be at times sophisticated and complex and at other times have a rough cartoony feeling reminiscent of the drawings of B. Kliban.

His color pieces have a remarkable feeling in which color and texture seem to be inseparable, as though he worked in color/texture as a sensibility rather then one or the other at any given moment.

His editorial illustrations can be brain-tinglingly clever in their concept and execution, often making a complete statement in themselves in addition to illustrating the written piece.

New York Art World hosts a page of quotes from Holland on art and related subjects that, agree or disagree, are worth a listen.

I particularly like his quote on “That’s Not Art, That’s Illustration”:

Almost everybody is an artist these days. Rock and Roll singers are artists. So are movie directors, performance artists, make-up artists, tattoo artists, con artists and rap artists. Movie stars are artists. Madonna is an artist, because she explores her own sexuality. Snoop Doggy Dogg is an artist because he explores other people’s sexuality. Victims who express their pain are artists. So are guys in prison who express themselves on shirt cardboard. Even consumers are artists when they express themselves in their selection of commodities. The only people left in America who seem not to be artists are illustrators.

Posted in: Illustration   |   12 Comments »

Sunday, February 17, 2008

LitGraphic: The World of the Graphic Novel

Posted by Charley Parker at 12:09 pm

LitGraphic: The World of the Graphic Novel at the Norman Rockwell Museum - Will Eisner, Robert Crumb, Frans Masareel, Frank Miller, Art Spigelman, Steve Ditko, Harvey Kurtzman, Dave Sim, Terry Moore, Lynd Ward, Peter Kuper
If you tell a story of a certain length with words, it is called a novel; and, bad or good, is considered representative of an art form. Drawings are likewise considered representative of an art form, whether they are good examples or not. Put words and drawings together, however, and they somehow sink through the clouds, disappear from the art form firmament and descend ignominiously to earth (or below) with a resounding thud.

Getting the art establishment in the U.S. to accept comics as the unique art form that they represent has been a little like getting Israelis and Palestinians (or worse, Republicans and Democrats) to admit that the other may occasionally have a valid point of view.

This stonewall of cultural bias seems to be largely localized to the United States, perhaps out of insecurity in our ability to lay claim to having culture in any form. Museums large and small in Europe will mount major shows of comics artists and cartoonists, recognizing them as a valued part of the cultural whole.

This cultural divide is finally starting to show signs of cracks in the U.S., however, and the cultural elite here are starting to show a dim awareness of what the rest of the world has known for years.

I’m always heartened when museum exhibits of comics and cartoons are mounted, as it represents progress, however small, in the direction of improving that awareness.

The Norman Rockwell Museum, which should be very aware of cultural bias in the visual arts in the form of the “illustration is not art” bias that accompanies the “comics are trash” bias, has taken a good step toward promoting awareness of the place of comics in our cultural treasure chest with their current exhibit, LitGraphic: The World of the Graphic Novel.

The show features a scattering of examples from the burgeoning field of long-form comics stories, both by current practitioners and past trailblazers. It showcases work by Will Eisner, Robert Crumb, Frans Masareel, Frank Miller, Art Spigelman, Steve Ditko, Harvey Kurtzman, Dave Sim, Terry Moore, Lynd Ward, Peter Kuper and several others.

The Rockwell museum has a somewhat skimpy preview on their site that I don’t think highlights the major figures in the exhibition well enough.

The exhibition is currently on view and extends to May 26, 2008.

I haven’t seen it, and I’m not certain if my schedule will let me get there, so I’ll refer you to a first person account from James Gurney, who also lists additional links and resources relevant to the exhibition, including links to some mini-documentaries producer Jeremy Clowe has posted on YouTube.

In addition, TFAOI has an article and a list of labels from the exhibition.

(Image above, left to right: Will Eisner, Niko Henrichon, Peter Kuper, Harvey Kurtzman, Lynd Ward, Terry Moore.)

Posted in: Comics   |   5 Comments »

Saturday, February 16, 2008

William Stout’s murals for the San Diego Natural History Museum

Posted by Charley Parker at 11:54 am

William Stout's Fossil Mysteries murals of prehistoric life for the San Diego Natural History Museum - Costal Dinosaurs
Prior to the influence of pioneering paleontological artist Charles R. Knight, the display of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals in natural history museums consisted mostly of isolated fossilized bones in glass cases, fascinating to scientists to be sure, but perhaps as exciting to the general public as mounted butterfly specimens.

After Knight’s work with paleontologists at the American Museum of Natural History to display the animals in realistic settings, and, later, Rudolf Zallenger’s astonishing murals for the Yale Peabody Museum, the display of prehistoric life by museums would never be the same.

These days, when natural history museums are competing with multimedia, games and popular entertainment to capture the attention of the public, the skeletons of prehistoric animals are mounted in the most dramatic and theatrical manner possible within the framework of scientific knowledge.

As museums renovate their dinosaur halls, which are often the focal point of a natural history museum’s public relations strategy, emphasis is placed on creating an immersive experience, a significant part of which is created by the presence of large murals depicting life in prehistoric settings (see my recent post on the spectacular new murals at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History by Robert Walters and his studio).

A new exhibit at the San Diego Museum Natural History Museum called Fossil Mysteries that opened in the Fall features several dramatic new murals of prehistoric life by William Stout.

Stout is a multi-talented painter, paleo artist, concept designer, illustrator and comics artist who I profiled in 2006. The exhibit also includes work by Doug Henderson, Raúl Martin and others (artist bios here), but Stout’s paintings are the headliner.

His murals for the exhibit depict prehistoric life from several eras. From the age of giant mammals we see huge ground sloths, fierce sabertooth cats and giant mastodons. Reaching back into the dark mysteries of the Cretaceous Period and the Paleocene Epoch, Stout takes us into the depths of seas teeming with life. And, of course, there are dinosaurs; in this case a tableau of costal dinosaurs awash with brilliant color, dramatic skies and ingeniously theatrical lighting effects. All of them are vibrantly painted with Stout’s trademark emphasis on color, texture and fluidity of line.

Characteristic of the substandard quality of many natural history museum web sites, the SDNHM information on the murals is skimpy and not very informative. However, the museum has posted a wonderful set of high-resolution images of the murals, presumably for use by the press and schools (and, of course, lines and colors readers).

These are nice large files that are (finally!) big enough that you can really appreciate the way Stout has worked with his colors, values and contrasts to sharply define individual elements when viewed up close, but kept all of them working as part of a unified whole when seen from a farther vantage point. It’s also surprising how painterly the images can be when seen in detail.

Stout’s new murals will be featured in the March 2008 issue of Natural History magazine. You can also see some (unfortunately much smaller) images of Stout’s previous paleo life murals and other paintings of prehistoric life on his web site. His terrific book, The New Dinosaurs is still available and is full of his wonderfully expressive paintings and drawings of dinosaurs, often done in a playful nod to the styles of other artists (Art Nouveau dinosaurs anyone?).

Stout fans will also be delighted to know that Flesk Publications (which I mentioned most recently in my post about Steve Rude: Artist in Motion) is planning a volume of his work.

[Link via Paleoblog]

Posted in: Paleo Art   |   6 Comments »

Friday, February 15, 2008

Raj Chaudhuri

Posted by Charley Parker at 10:58 am

Raj Chaudhuri
After years of a successful career in information management, Raj Chaudhuri is concentrating on making his lifelong passion for painting and drawing into his full time focus. Chaudhuri credits his study at the Art Students League in Denver, particularly with Mark Daily and Quang Ho, as the deciding factor in enabling him to make the jump.

Chaudhuri, who was born in India and studied in Bombay, had the opportunity to travel in Europe and the U.S. and now lives in Denver. His richly colored, painterly oils of landscapes, interiors and portraits are often drawn from his travels or his time in India.

He finds appealing subjects in richly colored cloth, whether traditional clothing in small villages, the bright spandex of a bicycle rider or the sharply lit green of a pool table surface.

Chaudhuri paints with bold, bright strokes, and his patches of color create their own feeling of texture in addition to the variations in tone and hue.

He is represented by the Abend Gallery in Denver.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Kris Kuksi

Posted by Charley Parker at 10:06 am

Kris KuksiKris Kuksi is an artist of seeming contradictions.

One moment he’ll be fascinating you with his grotesque, darkly themed “Mixed-media Assemblages”, or disconcerting you with his jarringly electric fantastic realist visions; and the next moment he’ll surprise you with classical portraiture, traditional figure drawing or a delicate, naturalistic rendering of a freshly opened orchid or a dew spattered iris.

I first encountered Kuski’s work at a gallery here in Philadelphia where one of his assemblages was attracting a lot of attention on a “First Friday” gallery walk in the Old City gallery district.

These sculptural objects (image at left top, with detail, below) are wonderfully intricate constructions of pop culture effluvia like plastic model kits, injection molded toys, dolls, plastic skulls, knick-knack figurines, miniature fencing, toy animals, mechanical parts and ornate frames or furniture parts; assembled into grotesque tableaux that look a bit like an explosion in Hieronymus Bosch’s attic or H.R. Giger’s dollar store.

These constructions are usually given a patina of light grey that pulls them together and gives them a nice fake antique look that makes them perfect for that alcove in the dark hallway in your Victorian mansion that leads to the Room that None Must Enter.

I can say from seeing these close up that the photos on Kuksi’s site (in the gallery section labeled “the grotesque”) don’t do them justice. There are better photos, with details, along with an interview, on Dark Roasted Blend. There is a short time-lapse video of the assembly of one of his constructions on MySpace.

When I looked up Kuksi’s web site on returning from the gallery walk, I found more of these assemblages, along with some of his “fantastic realism” paintings and drawings, that range from Art Nouveau meets H.P. Lovecraft to psychedelic visionary paintings that lean into Alex Grey territory (image at left, bottom left).

Continuing to the “portraiture” section, I was surprised to see a portrait that I had come across elsewhere and made mental note to look up, not realizing at all that it was by the same artist who did these constructions (Portrait of George Gillaume, image at left, middle with detail). I was further surprised to see, in Kuksi’s “naturalism” section, detailed, contemplative paintings of flowers and images of animals.

Kuksi paints in acrylic on Gessobord. Most of the images in his galleries are accompanied by highrer-resolution versions accessed from a link in the description text. Don’t miss the fact that many of his galleries have more than one page, accessed by small links at page bottom. There are numerous images from the many sides of this multi-faceted artist.

In my research I stumbled across this listing for a Drawing Workshop with Kuksi in Germany in the summer. Please note that I’m not certain if this is current.

On his deviantArt page, Kuksi lists some of his favorite artists as Alphonse Mucha, Ernst Fuchs, Robert Venosa, Alex Grey, and Andrew Gonzales. Hs also lists his “interests” as Art, Music, Science, Philosophy and Maritime Cannibalism.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Daniel Dociu

Posted by Charley Parker at 10:08 am

Daniel Dociu
Daniel Dociu is an art director, illustrator and concept artist working in the gaming industry. He was born and studied in Cluj, Romania, moved to Athens and then the U.S., and now lives in Seattle, Washington.

He has worked for companies like Squaresoft, Zipper Interactive and Electronic Arts and is now Art Director at ArenaNet. His credits include Guildwars: Prophecies, Guildwars: Factions, SSX3, James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing, SOCOM: US Navy Seals, MechWarrior III, and many others.

Dociu’s images often have a sharp, angular feeling to them, which gives them a sense of energy and impending motion. He works often in what look like science fiction themes, and with environments that convey a sense of monumental scale. His color palette frequently contrasts rust colored oranges with electric blues or icy greens for dramatic effect.

Fortunately, his online galleries feature pop-up images of a decent size because much of what I find most appealing in his work reveals itself in the details, where he is able to simultaneously employ loose, gestural rendering and a remarkable suggestion of detail.

Unfortunately, both his site and a gallery on the Komotion site suffer from less than ideal interface designs. In the former, the thumbnails are too small to judge the image by, and the pop up window makes you wait while it calculates the image size with JavaScript and resizes itself. I actually find the other gallery a bit easier to browse, though I almost missed it at first. In a particularly bad piece of interface design, what appears to be a heading image for a credits page is actually a large button that calls up a pop-up window with a gallery of his work.

Dociu works digitally and there is a nice article about him on the CG Society.

His splintered geometry and whorls of angular forms give his concept paintings an unusual and fascinating feeling of continuity, while still ranging across a wide expanse of imaginative terrain.

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