Philip Burke

Philip Burke
Philip Burke is another of those artists whose images are more commonly known than his name. Whether you’ve heard of Burke or not, you’ve probably seen his his wildly exaggerated portraits of rock stars, splashed with lurid colors and jumping out at you from the pages of popular magazines with expressionistic abandon.

His work has been on the covers and interior pages of publications like Time, Newsweek, The New Yorker, Vogue, Sports Illustrated, The New York Times, TV Guide, Fortune and, of course, Rolling Stone, where he was the featured artist for several years. You’ll find a major section devoted to his work in the collection Rolling Stone: The Illustrated Portraits.

He has received awards and notice from the Society of Illustrators, the Society of Publication Design and the Society of Newspaper Design.

Burke’s portraits cover a range of public figures from entertainment, sports and politics, but his real love seems to be those in the music culture, from James Brown to the Beatles to David Byrne to Miles Davis to Carlos Santana (above).

If you go to, it resolves to the “official” site of L.B. Madison Fine Art, presumably his rep. There is a broad cross-section of Burke’s work here, arranged in various ways, along with a bio and other information. Unfortunately the images are watermarked; though most of them are not defaced to the point where you can’t at least get a feeling for the original image.

There is also an unofficial gallery on A Feast of Crumbs on which you can see the images without the intrusion of watermarking.

Burke does more than take the usual caricaturist’s license with the shape and placement of his subject’s features. Though his portraits can sometimes be less exaggerated, they are often wildly sculpted into outrageous forms, giving a real push to the psychological implications that you can read into some of them.

His colors are also “pushed”; brilliant contrasting hues seem to fight amongst themselves for dominance in their attempts to define the forms, each pulling their own way but somehow working together in the final image to snap into the clear focus of of the portrait. Remarkable.

Addendum: Thanks to Dale Stephanos for a link to this post from Stephen Kroninger’s blog in which he posts a wealth of early work from Philip Burke.


Dafen, China – Where All the Paintings Come From

Dafen, China oil paintings - Xu ZanPeng
I’m not certain how the statistic was arrived at, but the figure being bandied about is that 60% of the world’s paintings come from a single village in China.

Dafen (Dafen shequ) is actually more of a suburb than a village, lying outside Shenzhen, a city of 10 million northeast of Hong Kong. In the early 1990’s a group of 20 or so artists moved to the area at the urging and under the guidance of artist/businessman Huang Jiang, and began turning out quantities of replicas of famous paintings by artists like Da Vinci, Van Gogh, Dali, Rembrandt, the French Impressionists and others.

The enterprise became wildly successful and more artists were recruited, a number now believed to be in the thousands. The paintings are sold through a number of outlets, both brick-and-mortar and online (do a Google search for Dafen paintings), while some of them are original in design (think ads for “starving artist sales” and cheap “sofa sized paintings”), most are copies of famous paintings and are clearly promoted as replicas.

Dafen, China oil paintingsWhile there are replica painting enterprises with similar processes in other countries (notably Russia), nothing approaches the scale of the output from Dafen.

The area has become a gated community, with a large sculpture of a hand with paintbrush outside its gates, and indulges in its identity as an art center, even to the point of facsimile painting “matches”, in which a hundred or more painters compete in creating replicas of the same painting in a timed event (image at left – AP).

The site and journal for REGIONAL, a design and research network whose founders are currently working in Shenzhen, commissioned some of the Dafen painters (many of whom studied at art academies) to turn their painting skills from painting replicas to painting self-portraits. A few of them are posted along with the article Self-Portraiture and emerging artistic consciousness in Dafen ‘Oil Painting’ Village, accompanied by a photo of the artist and one of their representative facsimile works.

The images at top, taken from the article, are of painter Xu ZanPeng, who specializes in Russian Baroque painters, including a detail of one of her replica paintings of Kramskoy’s Unknown Woman (see my recent post on Ivan Kramskoy).

I doubt there is any town in the world into which oil paint, brushes and canvas are trucked in, and paintings trucked out, in such quantities. According to the Chicago Tribune, Dafen shipped over $120 million in paintings last year, which is a lot when you consider that the prices are usually quite low.

I guess it’s good that there’s a large worldwide market for oil paintings, even if it’s not exactly the kind of market for which we might have hoped.

[Link to REGIONAL article via BoingBoing]


Build Your Own Easel (Ben Grosser)

Build Your Own Easel - Ben Grosser
Ben Grosser is an artist and composer who also directs the Imaging Technology Group at the Beckman Institute. As a painter, Grosser paints large scale non-represenational works. After being frustrated early in his painting career by the cost of large easels that would accommodate his desire to paint large canvasses, he decided to build his own.

Impressed by the helpfulness of the free information of various kinds on the web at the time (1998), Grosser decided to contribute his plans to those interested and posted them on his website.

He has continued that practice and the plans, which are detailed, accompanied by a materials list and photographs, are available freely on his web site today.

With them, he states that even a novice, with borrowed tools and no woodworking experience, can build their own large easel for under $100, handling paintings as well as some large easels costing many times that much.

There is also a gallery of photos from people who have built their own easels using Grosser’s plans (images above, bottom row), as well as emails with anecdotes, descriptions of customizations and clever enhancements, and even stories of easels built from scrap materials for under $20, some of them looking wonderfully rough hewn and rustic.

Grosser was offering easily downloadable PDF versions of his plans, but his generosity was repaid by scavengers ripping off his free plans, stripping out his credits and selling them on eBay as if they had created them; so he has had to discontinue the PDFs. The web based plans, however, remain available.

If you decide to build an easel, be sure to send him photos and comments about your experience.

[Link via Ujwala Prabhu]


David Lloyd

David Lloyd
David Lloyd is self-taught as an artist. Born in Virginia and raised in Houston, he studied Drama, English Literature and Philosophy at the University of Houston.

Lloyd has developed a style that wavers between painterly realism and a graphic feeling that recalls the modernist influenced styles of mid-20th century illustrators like Al Parker.

Lloyd works in acrylic at a relatively small size (at least in those paintings for which I can find sizes), frequently 8×10″ (20x25cm).

Lloyd’s subjects range from mountainous landscapes to intimate still lifes to portraits and figurative works to illuminated night streets mirrored in rain. My favorites are his quiet interiors, their subtle darks in sharp contrast to brightly illuminated windows.

There is often a sketch-like feeling to the drawing component of his paintings, in which verticals are left casually askew and forms are briefly suggested.

At other times the works can feel more finished, as in the image above; there is always a feeling, though, that he has stopped at the moment when there was “enough” to the image, never pushing into the dangerous territory of potentially overworking the painting.

Lloyd maintains both an Artblog, where he posts recent paintings, and a Sketchblog, in which he posts his sketches which are frequently done in pen and ink on toned paper, occasionally accented with wash.

Lloyd is represented by the Jean Bragg Gallery and the Canal Street Gallery in Houston, as well as making his work directly available through his web site.


Yearbook Project: Excelsior 1968 (John Martz)

Yearbook Project: Excelsior 1968 by John Martz (Robot Johnny)
What a terrific idea this is. Last year, cartoonist and illustrator John Martz, also known as Robot Johnny, drew a version of his mother’s entire yearbook from 1968.

He took each yearbook image, over 1,000 of them, and distilled the essence of the face down to a few succinct lines, capturing a cartoon likeness for each individual. The resulting project, called Excelsior 1968, debuted last year at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival.

Martz has published the project as a book, available from his online store, and posted the images as a Flickr set. (I love the look of the thumbnail display for the set, with hundreds of cartoon portraits arranged in a huge grid, it would make a great poster).

Martz is an illustrator and cartoonist who is currently the chair of the Canadian Chapter of the National Cartoonist Society, and is the editor and driving force behind Drawn!, a superb collaborative illustration and cartooning blog that I’m sure many of you are aware of (see my previous post about Drawn!).

I find it interesting that he chose his mother’s yearbook from the 1960’s as the basis of the project rather then his own, perhaps finding the different character of the photography, hair and clothing styles appealing as subject matter.

In following a comment from Martz’s blog post, I came across a different approach, in which artist John Ralston did pen, colored pencil and watercolor illustrations of a much smaller class, drawing the senior class of Hamline University in 1925.

[Link via Digg]


Robert McCall

Robert McCall
In some ways Robert McCall is an inheritor of the mantle of pioneering space artist Chesley Bonestell, continuing to document the space program and visually forecast its future, as well as the future of mankind as we step off our little blue island into the vast sea of space.

McCall first gained notice for his illustrations for a series on the future of space travel in Life magazine in the early 1960’s. McCall began documenting the US space program for NASA, chronicling many of its major achievements in dramatic paintings. His visions of spacecraft, both existing and projected, and scenes of space and the surfaces of other worlds are on display at a large scale in murals for the National Air and Space Museum in Wasington, D.C. the Pentagon, EPCOT Center and the Johnson Space Center.

His work is also in the collection of the National Gallery of Art and was on a series of stamps for the US Postal Service commemorating the space program, as well as gracing emblems worn by astronauts.

His conceptual and poster art for films includes titles like 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Black Hole and Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

You’ve probably seen McCall’s work many times without realizing it, both in famous posters and accompanying articles in popular magazines. His poster for 2001: A Space Odyssey has become something of a cultural icon.

Even if you’re passingly familiar with McCall’s work, you’re likely to be unaware of the range and variety of his paintings, from accurate representations of existing technology and real events to imaginative projections of visionary futures.

McCall’s site has nicely extensive galleries of his work in several categories. When viewing the thumbnails, rollover the “i” symbol for information about the dimensions, medium and publication of the image, and click on the text link for a larger version (thumbnails are not linked).

The site also has biographic and background information on the artist, as well as information on sales of original art and limited edition prints. There is a collection of his work, The Art of Robert McCall: A Celebration of Our Future in Space, with an introduction by Ray Bradbury, that is out of print, but may be available used. McCall’s site has a limited number of signed copies for sale.

[Link via Randall Ensley]