Monthly Archives: February 2008

79 years of Best Picture Winners in Posters

Academy Award Best Picture Winners in Posters
Some of us are waiting with bated breath for the Academy Awards (and some of us are waiting for them to be over so we can get back to more important things, like new episodes of The Daily Show), but it’s a time of year when movies become a topic of discussion.

Movie Poster Addict, a blog with the nice subtitle “Because we all like pretty pictures”, has posted 79 years of Best Picture Winners in Posters, featuring a series of the posters that accompanied the past Academy Award winners for Best Picture from 1927 up to last year.

These aren’t the best movie posters ever (by any means), simply the ones associated with the Best Picture winners, but some of them are pretty good, and it’s fascinating to see the mish-mash of quality between the posters and the movies; some of each are classic, and some of each are eminently forgettable.

If you click on most of the images in the blog post you’ll get an larger version. The links underneath lead to the source for the poster image which sometimes includes an even larger version and some information about the movie.

Unfortunately, many of them don’t include credits for the poster artist or designer, though some do. Some of them are the work of well known illustrators, like Bob Peak’s poster for My Fair Lady, John Van Hamersveld’s Amadeus poster and Richard Amsel doing his best to emulate J.C. Leyendecker in his poster for The Sting.

Credits for some of the older illustrations are apparently lost in the mists of time, or at least out of the reach of a quick Google.

For some more interesting posters, see Movie Poster Addict’s post on the 2007 Key Art Awards, which actually are awards for artwork associated with movie promotional materials.

[Link via Neatorama]

ArtDemonstrations.com

ArtDemonstrations.com - still from portrait drawing video by Barrett Bailey
ArtDemonstrations.com is a blog in which the author has collected and shares links to various art demonstrations and tutorials he has come across on the web.

Some of them are more useful than others and they take several forms, from a few steps in a painting process shown as photos, to longer step-by step breakdowns, to time-lapse videos of the creation of drawings or paintings (like the portrait drawing by Barrett Bailey shown above), to full half hour or more videos of painting demonstrations.

At first I thought that the blog might be from someone associated with SmartFlix, an instructional video rental service that features a number of art instruction DVDs, because of the ubiquitous banner. There is also a list of text links under his Google ads that look like a blogroll, but are actually links (presumably paid links) to items in the SmartFlix store. These are videos that might be of interest, but the listings feature no actual online demos or articles.

Apparently, though, SmartFlix is just a sponsor the author encountered after doing a short post on them. (They’ve contacted me as well, but I haven’t had a chance to check into the service yet. I’ll try to rent a video or two and give you a report in the near future.)

Some of the ArtDemonstrations.com posts are links to short promos for artists’ commercial video releases, including short excerpts from a new instructional painting video, The Portrait Sketch, by Jeremy Lipking, as well as other video clips of him.

In addition to Jeremy Lipking, the blog points to demos by other artists that I’ve mentioned on lines and colors, including Tony Ryder, Duane Keiser, and a couple by William Whitaker (from the blog’s listings for November, 2005)

Other posts mention books and web archives of books, as well as tidbits like old film of Picasso at work and a PDF of an article on Sargent’s painting methods (PDF link 28k) posted by Craig Mullins.

In addition to Mullins there are a few mentions of concept artists, though that’s one of the largest areas of available tutorials on the web, particularly in the portals like CG Society and ConceptArt.org. Still, most people with a particular interest in concept art are aware of those sources and I think ArtDemonstrations.com is better aimed at the broader art community.

Unfortunately, the author, who I can find referenced only as “Jeff” (and is apparently an artist himself and has contributed one or two of his own demos), doesn’t seem to post often; and has not yet included a number of readily available painting demos I’ve come across on YouTube and other places.

The idea of trying to collect a central reference for available art tutorials on the web is a terrific one, and I would love to see it pursued more aggressively; but instead of complaining, I should be thanking Jeff for sharing what he has.

John Beder

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.

Kevin Turcotte

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.

Brad Holland

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.

LitGraphic: The World of the Graphic Novel

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.)