Joe Duncan Gleason

Joe Duncan Gleason
I only became aware of Duncan Gleason when my wife let me know there was an interesting painting being shown on one of those PBS programs about antiques. It was a painting of two kids sitting somewhat precariously on a rock in front of surf on the rocky California coast. It was painterly and colorful in a way that seemed related to the California Impressionist tradition.

I did a little digging and, while I couldn’t find much on his illustration work, I came up with some background and a number of images of his gallery paintings.

Edenhurst Gallery owns the domain name and keeps a small site for (as they do for the names of many historic California painters), but their own gallery has little in the way of images (at least from what I could bring up through their search feature, they seem mostly interested in buying his work and don’t keep an online archive of previously sold works).

The best results I got were from Vallejo Gallery, which has four pages of images (roughly 20 – links at top right of page), as well as a couple more here, along with a short bio. Click through to the page for the individual image and then click again for the large image (or sneak in the back door and look through the image directory for direct links but no thumbnails).

Duncan Gleason was a talented illustrator who started working for an engraving company when he was only 14. He trained in art at the University of Souther California and the Mark Hopkins Institute of Art in California and the Art Institute of Chicago and later at the Art Students League in New York.

He eventually returned to California and pursued his desire to transition into gallery art, and developed a specialty as a marine painter, with an emphasis on historic sailing ships. He was also an accomplished sailor himself, and a consultant on ship construction, and performed volunteer duty for the Coast Guard during WWII in his own yawl. He the author of two books about the California coast.

Later in his career, he worked as a background and production artist for MGM and Warner Brothers Studios. In addition, he was a championship gymnast and his relationship with the movie studios included work as a stuntman.

This colorful individual painted equally colorful paintings, with a broad, painterly approach rich in tactile brushstrokes and impressionistic hues.

There is a monograph on Gleason, Joe Duncan Gleason: Artist, Athlete, Author by Jane Apostol that at is available through John Moran, who also has a nice selection of books on California art, American Art and monographs, with an emphasis on American Impressionism, that are not always easy to find elsewhere.


Sergy Skachkov

Sergy Skachkov
Sergy Skachkov is a Russian concept artist, who is currently doing freelance work for films and games.

Except for a brief bio on CapucinesBoulevard, I can find very little in the way of information about him or his professional work. He doesn’t have his own web site (at least that I can find), but instead seems content to represent himself in galleries on community sites devoted to digital graphics and concept art, like gfxartist and the CGSociety, where he goes by the handle “Atris”.

You can also find some informal tutorials and articles about work in progress on the CGSociety, as well as more formal articles like this feature article about Dangerous Entertainments, the image shown above (larger version here). There is also a milestone post, in which he posted about the image’s progress as he created it as part of a CGSociety “challenge”, in this case with a theme of “Spectacular”.

Skachov works in both 3-D modeling and rendering applications like 3-D Max, as well as doing direct digital painting in Photoshop. When viewing his portfolio on CGSociety, you’ll find an indication of the software used below the image.

I prefer his digital paintings in Photoshop, in which he often takes on complex compositions and loads of detail, as in the image shown above. I was particularly struck by this image, but didn’t use it here because I didn’t think it was representative of his other work.


Pen Drawing by Charles Maginnis on Project Gutenberg

B. G. Goodhue pen and ink drawing from Pen Drawing by Charles Maginnis
I love pen and ink drawing. It has a visual charm and character unlike any other medium.

I assume that I came by my affection for it from realizing as a teenager that pen and ink drawing was the basis for comic books and cartoons, but I was also exposed at a pretty early age to the amazing pen and ink illustrations of Howard Pyle and other illustrators of the Brandywine School in my visits to the Delaware Art Museum, where I also encountered beautiful pen drawings by some of the Pre-Raphaelite artists.

It’s medium that doesn’t get as much attention as more colorful forms of expression, but it’s still there as the basis for much illustration, comics, cartoons and concept art, as well as standing on it’s own as a method of sketching or creating finished drawings.

There are some good resources out there on pen drawing if you dig for them, and you’ll occasionally find some for free.

A case is point is the Project Gutenberg eBook version of Pen Drawing by Charles Maginnis. (Amazon listing here)

This is a relatively short treatise published in 1903, at a time when pen drawing was in its heyday as a ubiquitous method of drawing that could be easily and inexpensively be mass reproduced as illustrations in books and periodicals.

The tone and attitude of the text are a bit dated, but is fascinating as a bit of history for that, and the instruction is basically sound.

The illustrations are not reproduced well, one of the frustrating things about Project Gutenberg that I’ve railed about before, but some of them fare better than others and can give you a taste for some of the excellent pen and ink artists featured from that era, including Joseph Pennell, Daniel Vierge, Herbert Railton, B. G. Goodhue (image above, top), Martin Rico and Maxime LaLanne.

Author Charles Maginnis was a noted architect and the book is slanted a bit toward architectural rendering and supplemented with the author’s own drawings (image above, bottom), but he also includes examples from more figurative artists like Howard Pyle, Will Bradley and Alfonse Mucha.

If this whets your appetite and you want physical pen and ink instruction books with high resolution images of great pen and ink drawing, look for copies of Joseph Pennel’s Pen Drawing, Pen Draughtsmen and Arthur Guptill’s Rendering in Pen and Ink.

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Creativity Enhancing Disease? (Anne Adams)

Anne Adams
No, you don’t want to get it.

The New York Times has published an article, A Disease That Allowed Torrents of Creativity, on the case of Dr. Anne Adams, a Canadian scientist who suffered from a form of dementia called frontotemporal dementia, or FTD, in which certain parts of the brain are adversely affected and diminish in function, while others are apparently enhanced by some compensating action within the brain itself.

FTD is often misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease, but it’s actions are different and more specific to certain parts of the brain. Adams’ particular affliction was a variant of FTD called primary progressive aphasia, PPA, in which patients lose the ability to speak. The action of the disease apparently releases inhibitions on other areas of the brain, enabling them to increase their function, in this case, the right posterior brain, which brain researchers have been coming to associate with artistic endeavor and creativity. Artists who suffer damage to that part of the brain often lose their creative abilities.

Adams, a scientist and gifted mathematician, lost her ability to work with numbers along with her speaking abilities, and began to exhibit a desire to create visually. She had a passing interest in drawing when she was younger, but never pursued it. To the surprise of her family, she abandoned her scientific work and took up art with an uncanny intensity.

At first she was painting architectural house portraits of houses in her neighborhood. As things progressed, she became fascinated with the music of composer Maurice Ravel, who, unknown to her, had suffered from the same disease.

Ravel composed Bolero, his most famous composition, while he was suffering from the disease. Adams became fascinated with this work in particular and created a visual interpretation of the musical piece. An expert in this kind of brain disorder has described Ravel’s piece as “an exercise in compulsivity, structure and preservation”.

You can see Adam’s interpretation, called Unraveling Bolero (image above, bottom) on a page devoted to Adam’s work on the Patient Art Gallery web site of the Memory and Aging Center of the University of California at San Francisco. Unfortunately, the page is in frames, so I can link directly to it for you. It’s the 5th thumbnail down, with the magenta border. There you will also find other examples of her work, like her paintings of houses and buildings, and other pattern based work, like her interpretation of Pi.

You can also find examples of Adam’s work here, along with a complete series of wonderful, almost Escher-like illustrations from An ABC Book of Invertebrates, by Adams and her husband, Robert Adams.

So here we have a disease that apparently rearranges the brain’s functions, and in these rare cases, unleashes a flood of creativity.

Like I said, you don’t want to get it, but it may help us understand the creative processes of the human brain a little better; just as the cases of artistic savants like Stephen Wiltshire and Gilles Tréhin can tell us some thing about the function of memory and mental visualization in relation to drawing.


Martin Wittfooth

Martin Wittfooth
Martin Wittfooth’s paintings draw on both industrial and natural elements, often displaying an intersection and clash of those worlds.

Rusting hulks of buses (school, public and VW) sink into the ground in barren landscapes, and occasionally sprout new growth; disarmingly fish-eyed cats swim in drainage channels with bobbing warheads while silver zeppelins glide over concrete aqueducts; wild dogs prowl at the perimeters of fire-belching furnaces; and a gas pump sits amid tree stumps while WPA mural style trains ride high trestles through the smoke and haze of indistinct industrial forms.

Wittfooth uses almost iconic bits of industrial effluvia, and combines them with sometimes malformed or even composite animals, including odd combinations of birds and squirrels, dogs and frogs, and monkeys and butterflies.

Instead of the more common photo-realist approach many artists might take when exploring this territory, Wittfooth approaches his subjects with an eye to texture, almost impressionistic brushwork and a muscular definition of forms; sort of Magritte meets Pissarro meets Thomas Hart Benton.

He paints both gallery works and illustration, and the pieces displayed in his online gallery are often shown in their elaborate frames.

Wittfooth’s commercial clients include Playboy, Victory Records/Silverstein, O’Brien Wakeboards, Sims Snowboards Ltd & Lamar Snowboards.

The “Shop” and “News” sections of his site (I can’t give you direct links because the site is hampered by frames) mention a new limited edition book of his work, Melting Season, Paintings by Martin Wittfooth. There are also limited edition prints available.

The Canadian born artist studied at Sheridan College in Canada and the School of Visual Arts in New York. He has exhibited at the La Luz Jueus gallery in Los Angeles, The Conference Room gallery in Beverly Hills and Galerie d’art Yves Laroche in Montreal.


R.J. Matson

R.J. Matson
Whenever the topic of political cartoonists comes up, the question of political bias raises its smirking little head and I get comments about “How could you feature this flaming liberal terrorist sympathizer?” or “How could you showcase such a right wing fascist nut case?”.

I’ll start out by saying that RJ Matson is unabashedly liberal, unabashedly a Bush basher and also unabashedly a Clinton basher. Either he likes Obama, or simply doesn’t find him a very interesting character to skewer.

Of course, any editorial cartoonist worth their salt will go after the people currently in power, they’re the ones stirring things up, after all, and the ones we need to be reminded to keep our eye on.

While politicians who do bad and/or stupid things make life difficult for the rest of us, they’re paydirt for political cartoonists and satirists.

Regardless of whether a particular cartoonist’s political leanings match our own, we should be able to look at them for their drawing style.

Matson, particularly in the past couple of years, has been working in a line and color style that owes more to the simplicity of classic newspaper comics than to the pen and ink crosshatch style usually associated with political cartoons.

In his older cartoons, he employs a style more in keeping with that tradition, but even there he is somewhat eccentric, and you’ll find stylistic references to other cartoonists like William Stout, Ron Cobb, New Yorker cartoonists like Jack Ziegler, even the historic political cartoons of Thomas Nast.

You’ll also references to 50’s EC horror comics, 60’s superhero comics and other pop culture visual landmarks.

It’s his current, open, line and color style that I particularly enjoy. Though he draws the cartoons so they will be effective either in black and white or in color (as you can see in the R.J. Matson archive on Cagle Cartoons), when reproduced in color, they have a nice feeling of direct drawing, and intentional coloring. It’s hard to put my finger on what it is about the style, but it just feels like Matson has utilized just the line work and just the color elements that he needs to nail his subject, with nothing included that doesn’t add to the effectiveness of the image; which is, of course, the essence of good cartooning.

Matson is the editorial cartoonist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, The New York Observer and Roll Call. In addition to his editorial cartoons, his gag cartoons and comic illustrations have appeared in many other publications, including The New Yorker, The Nation, The Daily News, The Washington Post, Rolling Stone and MAD Magazine. He has done cover art for the Capitol Steps comedy group and has illustrated several books.

Matson has been the Secretary of the National Cartoonists Society and is on the Board of Advisors of the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art in New York.

His web site includes a selection of his illustrations, as well as an extensive archive of his cartoons. The latter can be viewed by publication, selected “Greatest Hits”, or in total. Greatest hits can give you a quick overview of some of his most popular cartoons, but if you like his work, the “All” choice makes for a nice mixture of national and local cartoons.