Eric Bowman

Eric BowmanEric Bowman is a painter and illustrator originally from Southern California and now based in the Pacific Northwest.

After years as a successful illustrator, Bowman is apparently focusing on his passion for plein air painting and figure work. His painting site has galleries of recent work, an archive of older work, and figure studies.

He is apparently still active as an illustrator, judging by his portfolio on the Shannon Associates site, in which you can see the influence of some of the great illustrators of the past, like Dean Cornwell, N.C. Wyeth, Haddon Sundblom, and even some of the pulp illustrators.

Bowman’s commercial clients include Time-Life, GTE, Nike, Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, Kellogs and Hallmark; and his work has been showcased in the Spectrum annuals and has received Gold Medals from the Society of Illustrators.

His gallery paintings are frequently of landscape subjects that include built objects and environments, like houses, towns, boats and roads. Their small size (often 9×12 in; 22x30cm) and the painterly immediacy of their execution leads me to assume that they are largely painted en plein air.

Bowman has a nice flair for the creation of forms with succinct impasto brushstrokes, a refreshing brevity of notation and controlled but vibrant use of color.


Karen O’Neil

Karen O'Neil
Karen O’Neil’s oil paintings of glassware, china and fruit have some of the characteristics of watercolor and some of the feeling of pastels.

I’m pretty sure O’Neil is working in opaque impasto, but she somehow achieves a bright, airy quality to her paintings that is often seen in transparent watercolor, in which the surface white is transmitted through the paint.

She uses a lot of white objects and background surfaces in her compositions, and her subtle coloring of those surfaces, and the high chroma and high value of her color choices in general, give a feeling sometimes found in pastel, in which pigments are often mixed with white.

O’Neil seems fascinated by transparency and reflection, though by reflection I don’t so much mean mirror-like surfaces as reflected color. Colors bounce from one object or surface to another and back again.

She seems to utilize triadic color schemes and her paintings have an overall color theme to them, within which she is playful in her balance of color areas.

She is forceful and direct in her application of paint, with broad strokes defining forms with deceptive simplicity.

O’Neil is also a teacher and leads workshops and classes at the WailKill River School, The Woodctock School of Art and the Art Students League of New York Vytlacil Campus.

[Suggestion courtesy of James Gurney]


Tekkon Kinkreet background art

Tekkon Kinkreet
Tekkon Kinkreet (or Tekkonkinkreet, a pun on the Japanese phrase for reinforced concrete) is a feature length anime (Japanese animated film) that has attracted a good bit of attention since its release in Japan in 2006. I haven’t seen the film yet, though I’m looking forward to it, but I came across a trove of wonderful background images from the film and wanted to share them with you in case they disappear.

Adapted from a manga (Japanese comic story) by Taiyõ Matsumoto, the film is a combination of 3-D CGI and hand drawn animation. The backgrounds are stunningly rendered, filled with lavish detail in an evocation of the fictional city of Treasure Town, a thinly veiled alternate Tokyo.

The streets and buildings are presented with an uncanny eye to the minute details and textures of the city, carried over into equally detailed portrayal of imaginary structures.

Audrey Kawasaki has posted some images from the film on her blog i_seldom_do, evidently taken from a Japanese book of art from the movie that is not available in the US (as far as I can tell).

Worth a look both for the imagination, scope and visual splendor of the images; and for the direct observation and beautiful renderings of buildings and streets in sunshine and artificial light.

[Link via MetaFliter]


Joe Vaux

Joe Vaux
Joe Vaux is a New York born artist now living and working in California. He studied at Syracuse University and has exhibited in group and solo exhibitions in various galleries in California.

Outside of that, I know little about him. His work is a wonderful combination of grotesque imagery and punchy, almost storybook-like rendering, with a nicely graphic sense of design and a refreshing use of color. He often has a base of muted colors and deep darks, against which he pops passages of brighter colors and lighter values.

His subject matter encompasses all manner of demented creatures, fantastical environments and weird structures, and has some of the characteristics of the so-called “pop surrealists” but without the self-important seriousness often evident in many of those artists.

Vaux stands out in that his images exhibit a sense of humor, inventiveness and a visual playfulness that make them a treat. Sort of Bosch meets Miro by way of Charles Adams. I particularly like the way he juxtaposes bright colors against deep blacks, giving them a kind of electric glow.

His site is has two galleries plus an archive with many images, though the too clever for its own good navigation can be a bit tiresome after a while.

There is also a news section with mention of shows and galleries.


Anna Richards Brewster

Anna Richards BrewsterWhen looking at the history of art, which in may ways reflects social history, I can’t help but think about how many potentially terrific artists we’ve been denied because women were discouraged or actively prohibited from being artists.

Anna Richards Brewster was active at the turn of the 20th Century, a time when it was acceptable for women to study art, particularly upper-class women who were becoming “cultured”; but that cultural training was meant to make them better wives, not prepare them for an active career. Women artists often had difficulty being accepted in exhibitions, were frequently left out of consideration for prizes or reviews and generally treated as “not serious” as contributors to the art world.

There were notable exceptions, like Cecilia Beaux, but even they were often not given the same appraisal they would have met had they been male. Despite the advances in this area in the last century, I think this is still the case to a degree, and women artists are often pushed down a bit in the regard of art historians and the art establishment in general (a “varnish ceiling”?).

Anna Richards Brewster was an accomplished painter who, among her several stylistic variations, is primarily thought of as an American Impressionist, though she is seldom mentioned in the books and articles you encounter on the subject. She was successful in her time, however, and received recognition during her career, winning the noted Dodge Prize from the National Academy of Design at the age of 20 (for best picture by a woman artist), and showing her work throughout her life, up until the 1930’s.

Brewster started early. She was the daughter of renowned landscape and seascape painter William Trost Richards, and began painting at the age of 10. In addition to the influence of her father, she studied with William Merritt Chase and John Lefarge, and was trained at the Académie Juilan in Paris.

Brewster experimented with many styles, from the influence of her father’s friends among the Pre-Raphaelite painters, flashes of Turner, bits of Barbizon, even traces of Hopper, to the interesting series of Alice in Wonderland illustrations she did in the style of John Tenniel.

But it is indeed her impressionist style paintings that stand out, lumionus, rich with atmosphere and texture, in which you can see the influence of Childe Hassam, and, of course, William Merritt Chase.

Online resources about Brewster are somewhat slim, but there is now a dedicated site about Anna Richards Brewster, in conjunction with a traveling exhibit called Anna Richards Brewster: American Impressionist, organized by the Fresno Metropolitan Museum of Art and Science.

There is a beautiful book accompanying the exhibit, Anna Richards Brewster: American Impressionist (more detail here).

The exhibition site is arranged a bit awkwardly, and you have to poke around a bit to find all of the 57 images on view, some in “Artwork“, most in the several pages of the “Checklist” section.

The exhibition is currently at the Hudson River Museum, in Yonkers, NY, until September 7, 2008. It then travels to the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio from September 27 – December 28, 2008, and finally to the Fresno Metropolitan Museum from March 28 – June 14, 2009.

One of the stated goals of the exhibition’s organizers is to re-establish Brewster’s place in the history of American art, something that should well be done for a number of women artists.

[Link via Art Knowledge News]


Shy the Sun (Ree Treweek and Jannes Hendrikz)

Sea Orchestra - United Airlines animated ad by Shy the Sun - Ree Treweek and Jannes Hendrikz
I was watching last night’s dazzling opening ceremonies for the Beijing Olympics on television, alternating between being stunned by the artistic vision and choreographic scope of the event, and appalled by the contrast between that and the jarringly interspersed commercials for dreary consumer products and an apparent attempt by the network to display its most insipid excuses for TV shows; when I was struck by a new animated ad for United Airlines.

United, despite (or perhaps because of) being under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection since 2002, has been unusually understated and imaginative in their television advertising, notably in the form of a brilliant animated ad called Dragon, directed by Jamie Caliri and created from artfully designed papercraft cut-outs; which I profiled in my 2006 post on Jamie Caliri.

The airline has also had some other, nicely understated, ads using illustrations and animations over that time.

There is a new series of animated ads on United’s site, including a new papercraft ad by Caliri called Heart. Unfortunately, the site navigation for viewing the ads is terrible and I can’t give you direct links. From the main page of ads, choose “Commercials”. You then have to roll over the thumbnail at right to even see the other choices. There are also text links below to archived commercials, including Dragon.

Fortunately, the first choice is the commercial that stood out last night, Sea Orchestra (images above), which I immediately recognized as the visionary style of South African artist Ree Treweek and her collaborator Jannes Hendrikz, whose work I have been following with interest since early 2006.

Their association, along with musician Marcus Smit (A.K.A. Wormstorm), is known as The Blackheart Gang, and the piece that brought them to my (and lots of other folks’) attention is an animated short called The Tale of How, which I wrote about here.

The Tale of How is a wonderfully idiosyncratic and uniquely realized animation, with a combination of Treweek’s beautifully bizarre drawings and character designs and Hendrikz’ imaginative compositing and art direction. It received a special mention at this year’s Annecy Animated Film Festival (see my post on the Annecy opening shorts from Gobelins).

Treweek and Hendrikz have created a production company called Shy the Sun, and applied the same range of imagination and unique vision, as well as some of the Tale of How’s sea-creature theme, to the new ad for United called Sea Orchestra, much to United’s credit for once again stepping out of the narrow vision of mainstream television ads and into the realm of art.

The Sea Orchestra ad, like United’s other animated ads, is set to George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, which the airline has adopted as their theme music. In a scene similar to the Tale of How short, it shows an island raising from the sea, densely populated by all manner of bizarre sea creatures, who are gleefully playing music (presumably the version of Rhapsody in Blue you are hearing). A whale-like shadow leads to the tie-in with the airline.

You can see the ad on United’s site; or, if that link doesn’t work, on YouTube (the version on United’s site is better quality).

The other ads in the new series are nicely done, and certainly worth watching as animated shorts, particularly Caliri’s Heart, but they are outshone by the sparkling imagination and bizarre inhabitants of Sea Orchestra.

Now if only someone with imagination could get the bizarre and icky creatures of the TSA out of our airports, so we could fly with dignity again.