Brian Blood

Brian Blood
When I first encountered the paintings of California plein air painter Brian Blood on the site of the Jones and Terwilliger Galleries, it was in compositions that brought to mind the work of pioneering California Impressionist Granville Redmond, who reveled in the intense colors of the California poppy fields around the turn of the 20th Century.

Apparently, those fields are still in evidence in parts of the California countryside, giving Blood the opportunity to fill some of his canvasses with brilliant splays of color against verdant hills.

On viewing the extensive portfolio on his own site, I found his direct painterly approach applied to scenes of the rocky California coastline, particularly in places with those wonderfully shaped Cypress trees with horizontally extended crowns, as well as other views of California hills, valleys and mountains.

When viewing the work on his site, you can click to enlarge one of the images and then continue to click through in the larger versions (actually, the middle-size images are superfluous in this age of large monitors and fast connections).

If you go deeply enough into the series of works, you’ll find very nice on location paintings of various places in Paris, as well as a few still life paintings that are often composed in the theatrical glow of a table lamp.

Blood’s early career was as an illustrator and graphic designer. He transitioned into gallery painting about 17 years ago and has been a participant in numerous plein air organizations and events. He also taught for over ten years in the Fine Art Department of Academy of Art University, and currently leads workshops and advanced workshops in plein air painting at several locations in California.

His work has been featured in Southwest Art, Art of the West, Artists Magazine, Coast Magazine and American Artist.

Matthias Lechner

Matthias Lechner
Matthias Lechner is a German born art director, production designer and visual development artist living and working in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

He is currently Art Director for a 3-D feature from Vangard animation called Space Chimps, but what I found most fascinating in his online galleries are the production and design drawings for a range of European (I think mostly German and Belgian) films that have unfortunately not made their way “across the pond”.

These mey be more familiar to European readers than they are to me, and include titles like Little Dodo (above, top), The Little Polarbear 2, Laura’s Star, Derrick (above, bottom), Globi and the Stolen Shadows, Troll-Story and Help, I’m as Fish, as well as several television productions.

Lechner’s monochromatic drawings for these are nothing short of wonderful. Mostly environments and backgrounds, they are simultaneously lush with detail and beautifully free, sharing the characteristics of a finished tone painting and a sketch.

His control of value and texture give these wash drawings an ability to evoke a place, atmosphere and time of day that could hardly be improved on by the addition of color. Lechner wields his monochromatic “palette” with uncanny aplomb. You will find a bit of color work for one of his productions; but as nicely handled as those pieces are, I don’t miss the color when looking through the rest of his portfolio.

What strikes me most is his ability to completely master the particular environment he is constructing; whether thick jungle foliage, craggy seacoast rocks, undersea pools lit by shafts of sunlight or the rich architectural details of European cities.

[Link via Man Arenas (see my previous post on Dodecaden/Man Arenas)]

Giovanni Bellini

Giovanni Bellini
Those who think they don’t like dusty old Renaissance paintings of religious scenes might find themselves delightfully surprised if they took time to investigate some of the Renaissance painters more closely.

There are astonishingly great painters in the history of art who often get less contemporary attention than they might because they are are eclipsed by the brighter stars of better known figures. One of these is the late Fifteenth, early Sixteenth Century Venetian painter Giovanni Bellini.

Bellini was on the cusp of several shifting paradigms, the shift from Gothic revival painting to the first flowering of the Renaissance, the shift from egg tempera to the remarkable new medium of oil painting (see my post on Rogier van der Weyden); and the adoption by painters of new ways of handling color and atmosphere, new methods of modeling the human face and form and new approaches to the representation of landscape, all of which were in part related to his experimentation and influence.

Bellini is considered the founder of the Venetian school of painting, and instrumental in the elevation of art from that city to a status in league with Rome and Florence, no small feat. His father, Jacopo Bellini, was an artist and one of the founders of the Renaissance style of painting. His brother, Gentile Bellini became a noted painter and official portrait artist of the Doges of Venice; and his brother in law was the painter Andrea Mantegna, quite a family.

Even in his early work in tempera, Bellini strove to convey the characteristics of natural light in the background landscapes of his paintings. Landscape as an art in itself would not really appear for centuries, but within the context of his religious themed paintings, Bellini was one of the great landscape artists. He brought to his landscapes, and to his figures and faces, a higher degree of realism and skillful modeling than his immediate predecessors and most of his contemporaries.

He experimented with the new medium of oil paint to great effect, achieving rich glowing passages of of color in layered glazes that paved the way for the painters of the High Renaissance who would follow.

He was also instrumental in introducing elements and techniques from the early masters of the Northern Renaissance to Venetian painting and Italian painting in general. Durer visited Bellini in Venice, and in 1506 wrote of him “He is very old, and still he is the best painter of them all.”

Giovanni Bellini became the official painter of the Venetian Republic (Venice was at the time an independent city-state), and the master of its most prestigious school; but his accomplishments were eventually outshone by those of his remarkable students Giorgione and, in particular, Titian.

The image at top, with a detail below it, is St Francis in the Desert, sometimes called St. Francis in Ecstasy. It is in the Frick Collection in New York, and it is quite amazing. The Frick web site has a zoomable version of this image, along with a selection of detail images which show fascinating details like a rabbit emerging from his burrow, just under St Francis’ outstretched right hand (the painting is full of understated religious symbolism).

The image at bottom left is a Portrait of Doge Loenardo Loredan, then Doge of Venice, and is remarkable not only for its realistic portrayal and the powerful presence of the face, but the beautiful rendering of his intricate garment.

Third down and with a detail at bottom right is Madonna and Child with Two Saints (detail here, click for enlarged version in each case), which shows Bellini’s beautiful naturalistic rendering of faces, where he has incorporated lessons learned form his contemporary Antonello da Messina, and is approaching the style of the High Renaissance.

There are many resources on the web for Giovani Bellini (and deservedly so), and I urge you to spend a few minutes exploring his wonderfully strange compositions, his remarkably rich and human portraits and the astonishing intricacies of his sculptural landscapes.

Look in particular at the resources where large reproductions of his images can be found, like WGA, ARC, and the individual museum listings, which often have zoomable images.

(My comment in the first paragraph about visual development artists and contemporary landscape painters who think they don’t like Renaissance painting only applies to a few, of course, but I wanted to specifically get their attention. One of my main goals with Lines and Colors is to get people to cross boundaries and discover treasures they’ve been missing.)

Antonio Javier Caparo

Antonio Javier Caparo
Antonio Caparo is a Cuban born illustrator currently living and working in Toronto, Canada.

Caparo studied graphic design at the High Institute of Design in Havana and devoted much of his early career to design, but gradually sifted his focus to illustration.

He has a muscular, energetic style that uses texture and tonal contrast to make his images pop off the page. They are at once realistically dimensional and freely stylized, sometimes in a cartoon-like direction. The result is a visual charm that immediately draws you in, and invites you to linger over the image.

He often opts for a muted palette and dark base tones, allowing him to give theatrical emphasis to key elements with passages of more intense color and lighter values.

Caparo’s images are often accented not only with textural variety, but with visual extras, incidental characters and little details.

I’ve found little information about his overall technique, but I know that some of his images are digitally painted, if only from their presence in his gallery on CGSociety.

There is also a Antonio Javier Caparo gallery on the new Tor Books site that I mentioned in a recent post, and a more extensive one on Shannon Associates, along with a brief bio.

Caparo has also done some comics work, notably for the American version of Heavy Metal magazine, and apparently still keeps his hand in as a graphic designer.

Outside of the online galleries mentioned above, Caparo doesn’t appear to have dedicated web site, but he started a blog just last month.

His latest book illustration project is The Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas, for which he created characters, places, animals, decorations, a typeface and maps for both the book and an interactive minisite devoted to the book on the Harper Collins site.

John Watkiss

John Watkiss
John Watkiss has created visual development art for films like Disney’s Tarzan, Treasure Planet, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Fantasia 2000, Skycaptain and the World of Tomorrow and the proposed Sandman. In his movie related career he has done work for Twentieth Century Fox, Dreamworks, Francis Ford Coppola and Ridley Scott Associates.

Watkiss has also had a career as a comic book artist, doing covers and interiors for D.C., Marvel and UK publishers on titles like Batman, Conan, Deadman and Sandman.

If that isn’t enough, Watkiss also is a gallery artist. His subjects are frequently images of women painted in a modern style but in costume and compositions influenced by Victorian painting.

You can see a mixture of his film development and gallery work on his blog, though not much of the work for comics. There are unofficial galleries of his comics work on ComicArtFans and Comic Art Community.

On his blog, there are some visual development paintings for a prospective Sandman movie on this page. Despite the huge red “SOLD” across some of them, clicking on them still takes you to viewable images (image above, bottom).

Watkiss has taught anatomy and other art subjects at Royal College of Art in London, as well as other schools. He is the author of several books on anatomy. These don’t seem to be available through the usual online bookstores, but can be ordered directly from the sidebar of Watkiss’ blog. Watkiss has a drawing approach that combines fluid linework with strong underlying geometry, reminiscent of George Bridgeman or Andrew Loomis. Students of figure construction may see a similarity to Burne Hogarth as well.

The books had a dedicated site at one time, and there was also a site devoted to his gallery art, but he seems to have dropped those in favor of the bog.

There is still a site dedicated to his gallery art, a different one, The Works of John Watkiss at, I don’t know if it is directly connected to Watkiss or not. Here you will find his Pre-Raphaelite influenced paintings of women in (and out of) classical gowns and idyllic settings. These are my favorites of his, in which subjects and styles we are used to seeing rendered with a high degree of finish are given a lighter, more gestural approach.

There is a YouTube video of a “Levi’s spec ad featuring John Watkiss” that Marcel Duchamp fans in particular may find amusing.

A new solo exhibition of Watkiss’ work from all three aspects of his career opens on August 2nd and runs to August 10, 2008 at Gallery Nucleus in Alhambra, California.

Exquisite Visions of Japan

Okumura Masanobu, Utagawa Hiroshige, Hiroshi Yoshida
The Blanton Museum of Art, part of the University of Texas at Austin, is currently showing Exquisite Visions of Japan, which is an exhibition of Japanese woodblock prints from the James A. Michener Collection of the Honolulu Academy of Arts.

Though the online image gallery on the museum’s site is minimal, it provides a nice jumping off point for revisiting some of the extraordinary Japanese woodblock print artists I’ve written about before, including Hiroshi Yoshida, Kawase Hasui, Katsushika Hokusai and Ito Shinsui; as well as looking for links for some artists I have not yet written about, like Utagawa Hiroshige, Hiratsuka Unichi, Okumura Masanobu, Katsukawa Shunsho and Kitagawa Utamaro.

Many of these artists are associated with the genre known as Ukiyo-e, or pictures of the “floating world”. (As I mentioned in my post on a recent exhibit of work from the Utagawa School at the Brooklyn Museum, the “floating world” is not what you might think on first hearing the term.) Others are associated with the “shin hanga” or “new print” movement.

These artists were tremendously influential on European artists in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, particularly the Impressionists and others like Whistler.

Unfortunately, my knowledge of the history and relationship of these artists and their times is frustratingly minimal. You will also have to forgive me if I am inconsistent in the order in which I use the artist’s family and given names, as this varies in listings and the naming conventions are unfamiliar enough that I’m never quite clear about which is which.

I do know that some of these works are among the most beautiful prints I’ve ever encountered. Particular favorites of mine are those of Hiroshi Yoshida and Kawase Hasui.

(Image above: Okumura Masanobu, Utagawa Hiroshige, Hiroshi Yoshida)

[Link via Art Knowledge News]