He who knows how to appreciate colour relationships, the influence of one colour on another, their contrasts and dissonances, is promised an infinitely diverse imagery.
- Sonia Delaunay
Colour is my day-long obsession, joy and torment.
- Colour is my day-long obsession, joy and torment.


Sunday, September 21, 2008

Robert Crumb Exhibit in Philadelphia

Posted by Charley Parker at 11:40 am

Robert Crumb Exhibit in PhiladelphiaJust a quick note that there is a new extensive exhibit of works from demented genius cartoonist and underground comix pioneer Robert Crumb at the Institute for Contemporary Art here in Philadelphia.

I’ll write a post about the show, and Robert Crumb, in more detail after I’ve had a chance to see the exhibit, but I wanted to give a heads-up about it now for those within traveling distance.

The ICA site has a list of events and public programs related to the show, including tours, a showing of the film Crumb, and a lecture by cartoonist Charles Burns.

The exhibit is called “R. Crumb’s Underground” and features over 100 works. It runs until December 7, 2008.

Posted in: Comics   |   Comments »

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Thomas Paquette (update)

Posted by Charley Parker at 11:49 pm

Thomas Paquette
It’s always a treat for me to get to meet and talk to some of the contemporary artists I write about. This past Friday, I had the opportunity to attend an opening of a new show at the Gross McCleaf Gallery here in Philadelphia of works by Western Pennsylvania artist Thomas Paquette.

I wrote about Thomas Paquette back in the Spring of 2007 on the occasion of another show at the same gallery, but I just made it to that show before it closed, and missed the opening.

At the time I was fascinated with his small works in gouache that I had seen in reproduction, and since then in a beautiful book, Thomas Paquette: Gouaches, that is available directly through the artist’s site, or though Amazon. The pieces featured in the book are also available as archival prints.

Though the gouache paintings weren’t part of the show that time (or this time), I became fascinated with some of the gouache-like characteristics of his much larger scale oils, that seem to carry some of the same feeling.

This time I had a chance to meet the artist and talk with him about his work and technique. Though still pursuing many of the same subjects and approaches that were evident in his work before, he is pushing with some of his new paintings in new directions, notably in paintings in which large color filled skies dominate the composition.

You can see some of his recent work on his own site, and a selection of additional work on the Gross McCleaf site.

In asking about his working methods, I found out that Paquette often works over his oils in layers, painting and repainting areas, partly building up texture and placing areas of color within areas of color, and partly searching out the forms and colors, almost like an additive sculptor working back and forth in clay. It reminded me that there is actually a sculptural quality to his work, in which the surface texture of his paint is one of the appealing elements of the painting; unfortunately, one that is lost in reproduction.

Paquette’s work strikes me as a delightful blending of seemingly contradictory elements, impressionistic in its color and open brushwork, yet academically strong in the drawing and composition. Close up, the shapes and areas of color seem abstract, in the true sense of that word, meaning to extract the essence of something, but also in the sense that you could crop out a small section of almost any area of his paintings and have a vibrant non-representaional composition, filled with lively variations in color and texture.

That texture itself, layers of richly applied paint, well raised above the surface in places, is also a contrast with the apparently flat nature some of his shapes take on from a middle distance. Step back more and that graphic quality, a sense of line and color that reminds me of colored woodblock prints, resolves into a lush naturalism.

The surface character of his paintings, and the nature of the areas of color close up, seem so different form the naturalistic appearance of the works from a distance that I asked him if he does a lot of stepping up and back as he paints; something I’ve been curious about in regard to a number of painters in who exhibit similar characteristics, like Sargent or Daniel Garber.

In Paquette’s case, the answer is no. He told me that it is more of a mental grasp of overall work, maintained while working close, than a technique of constantly viewing the work from close up and back.

Paquette is, after all is said and done, a realist; but his rendering technique pays attention to paint as paint, areas of color as individual abstract elements; and texture as an exploration in itself.

The tension between these opposites, along with his strong sense of value and color and the dynamics of his compositions, are what make his work so fascinating.

The show at the Gross McCleaf Gallery runs until September 27th, 2008.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Harry Grant Dart

Posted by Charley Parker at 11:55 pm

Harry Grant Dart
Harry Grant Dart was an American illustrator and comics artist active in the late 1800′s and early 1900s.

He worked for the Boston Herald and then the New York World, where he eventually held the position of Art Editor. He was one of the newspaper sketch artists who sketched important events for newspapers prior to the use of photographs (see my post on The Illustrators of La Domenica del Corriere). He also maintained an outside career as a magazine illustrator, working for titles like Life and Judge.

As a cartoonist Dart created a comic strip called The Explorigator, about a an airship staffed by a crew of adventurous kids. Meant to be a competitor for Winsor McCay’s spectacular strip Little Nemo in Slumberland, The Explorigator only ran for 14 weeks in 1908.

There aren’t a lot of resources on Dart that I could find, but there is a treasure of an archive of The Explorigator on the Barnicle Press site; sadly, not in color, but still a stunning example of this detailed, beautifully drawn and wildly imaginative strip.

The strip featured Dart’s penchant for drawing fantastic Victorian era aircraft, which also showed up in his other illustrations, like the image above (large version here on Flickr), done for a magazine called The All-Story.

I love the fact that he’s given us a liberated, fashionably attired Victorian era woman pilot, years before women could vote.

Posted in: ComicsIllustration   |   6 Comments »

Monday, September 15, 2008

Alex Niño

Posted by Charley Parker at 10:40 am

Alex Nino
There are a number of strong communities of comics art (those of you in the expensive seats read: “graphic storytelling”) in various parts of the world, each with its own stylistic leanings. Some, like Japan, France and Belgium are more familiar to us here in the U.S. than others, like Italy, the UK, South America, China, Korea and the Phillipines.

Unlike comics artists in China, Korea and most other countries in the Western Pacific rim that produce comics, artists in the Philippines took their primary influences not from Japanese Manga styles but from Spanish, South American and North American influences.

In the early 1970′s established artists from the Phillipines, many of them with with their own studios and publishing endeavors, like Alfredo Alcala, Nestor Redondo (a personal favorite), and Tony De Zuñiga began to do work for American companies like Marvel, DC and Warren.

I don’t know the details, but it may have had a lot to do with the crackdown and sanitization of the comics medium that resulted when the Marcos government declared martial law and began to outlaw or control all mass media in the country.

In the U.S., the Filipino artists’ unique styles and intense, detailed rendering brought them the immediate attention of publishers and readers, and had a dramatic impact on the American comics artists working at the time.

The elder Filipino comics artists (in the Phillipines, is was “komiks”, as there is apparently no “C” in the alphabet), soon began to bring some of their younger contemporaries into the American market. One of the most notable of these was Alex Niño, who would become a star comics (and komiks) artist in his own right.

Niño illustrated over 300 stories for publishers in the Phillipines; and in the U.S. did work for Marvel, DC, Warren, Byron Preiss and Heavy Metal magazine.

Drawing on influences that ranged from his fellow Filipino artists to golden age pen and ink illustrators like Franklin Booth and Joseph Clement Coll and science fiction illustrators like Virgil Finlay, Niño created a synthesis of pen and ink styles that he used to propel his highly imaginative flights of fantasy.

His work ranged from quietly elegant renderings to over-the-top, wildly stylized fantasies that had some of the manic energy of American underground comics.

His rendering style combined the calligraphic thin-to-thick line work common to American comics with the intensely textural rendering of pen and ink illustration, to unique effect.

In the late 80′s and early 90′s Niño’s decorative style and fertile imagination led him to doing production and design work for Disney Studios, contributing to feature animation like Treasure Planet, Mulan, The Emperor’s New Grove and Atlantis.

Auad Publishing, who I have mentioned in the past as the publisher of terrific books on Franklin Booth, Alex Toth and other illustrators and comics artists, has just released The Art of Alex Niño, a 160 page labor of love into which Auad had crammed page after page of Niño’s lavishly rendered illustrations, drawings and comics pages, including several complete short stories.

The book covers a wide range of Niño’s styles, and includes a healthy sampling of color work (perhaps a quarter of the book). As much as I enjoy his color work, it was in his black and white work, particularly in the Warren magazines, that I think Niño was able to utilize his drawing and rendering strengths, and his dramatic sense of page design, to best advantage.

The Gallery of Niño’s work on the Auad site is small, and the is no official site for Niño or large single repository of his work in the web that I’m aware of. I’ve tried to line up some other resources for you below.

Posted in: ComicsIllustration   |   10 Comments »

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Anna Richards Brewster in American Art Review

Posted by Charley Parker at 12:33 pm

Anna Richards Brewster
Another quick magazine mention. Anna Richards Brewster, an under-sung American painter who I profiled recently, is featured in a 10-page article in the October, 2008 Issue of American Art Review.

For $6 (U.S.), you get a nice overview of her work and 20 images. The article bears the same title as the current traveling exhibit, and related book, Anna Richards Brewster, American Impressionist.

The issue is on newsstands now (try larger bookstores) and should be available on the American Art Review web site as a back issue (Volume XX, Number 5) in a month or so.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Dean Cornwell in Illustration Magazine

Posted by Charley Parker at 9:08 am

Dean Cornwell
As I mentioned in my previous article on Dean Cornwell, he was a second generation inheritor of the traditions of the Brandywine School of American illustration, having studied with Harvey Dunn, a student of Howard Pyle.

Cornwell’s other major influence was painter and muralist Frank Brangwyn, with whom he studied when he turned his career toward mural painting.

Cornwell’s vivid, muscular murals and dramatic, painterly magazine illustrations earned him the appellation “Dean of Illustrators’.

The new issue of Illustration Magazine has an extensive and (I love this phrase) lavishly illustrated article on Cornwell; that plays a much needed role in filling in for the books on Cornwell that should be, but aren’t, in print; notably Dean Cornwell: Dean of Illustrators by Patricia Janis Broder.

You can see a preview of thumbnail images of the entire issue here, though the images are too small to appreciate his work. I give some links to other Cornwell resources in my previous post.

The article features a wide range of Cornwell’s work, including editorial illustrations, posters and pubic service ads for War Bonds, and some of his major mural work, including the famous murals in New York that I mentioned in my other post (images above), and a series for the Los Angeles Central Library, both of which were the subject of controversy.

Jim Winstead, on his blog trainedMonkey, relates how Cornwell was so desperate to win the competition for the latter commission that he entered the contest three times, twice under assumed names; and came in first under the submission for his own name, and second and third for the submissions under his two assumed names.

The Illustration Magazine article also includes some of Cornwell’s detailed and beautifully realized preliminary drawings, which were reputedly were the main reason, along with his limited palette and pre-mixing of colors, that he could sometimes execute a finished illustration in a little as three or four hours.

[Link and notice about the issue via Gurney Journey]

Posted in: Illustration   |   1 Comment »

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Colin Stimpson (update)

Posted by Charley Parker at 9:47 pm

Colin Stimpson - How to Cook Children
The classic story of Hansel and Gretel informed us of the alarming eating habits of witches, who love to lure children into their gingerbread houses, fatten them up with sweets, snap them into the oven and cook them right up. Yum.

How unsophisticated, though, and how simply old fashioned by today’s standards of cooking shows and recipe books; and how delightful then, to have a modern take on the gruesome eating habits of pointy hatted, children eating witches that writer Martin Howard and artist Colin Stimpson have cooked up as How to Cook Children: A Grisly Recipe Book, a funny and refreshingly politically incorrect update on the idea.

It is indeed a grisly recipe book, and the recipes include such delicacies as “Cajun Cherub Gumbo”, “Barbied Shrimps” and “Deepfried Small Fry with Fries”, each elucidated by a guest witch/chef with a particular speciality for cooking up the little darlings.

The real pleasure here, though, is in Stimpson’s snappy, witty, and charmingly gruesome illustrations.

I wrote about Colin Stimpson last Summer. In addition to his illustration work, he has been a concept and color guide artist on a number of animated feature films for Walt Disney Studios, as well as serving as Art Director for The Emperor’s New Groove.

He brings some of the lively style, springy line and artful exaggeration common to animation and concept art to his gleeful portrayals of our witchy chefs and their dastardly cookery.

The book is available in the UK through Pickabook and Amazon.co.uk, but unfortunately not through Amazon.com here in the the U.S. (at least not yet, Stimpson was kind enough to send me a review copy).

The Amazon UK site does have a few images, but small ones; and except for the home page of his site, Stimpson’s online portfolio doesn’t include work from the new book yet.

Fortunately, concept artist and blogger John Nevarez (see my 2005 post on John Nevarez) has posted 12 beautiful images, linked to high-resolution versions, in three posts on his blog, here, here and here.

Wicked tasty.

Posted in: Illustration   |   1 Comment »

Monday, September 8, 2008

Arthur Streeton

Posted by Charley Parker at 11:55 pm

Arthur Streeton
The practice of painting outdoors (or en plein air, see my recent post on pochade boxes), spread from France, where it first came into wide practice, to other parts of Europe, America, and other parts of the world, largely through the impact the French painters had on artists from other countries who came to the artistic centers of Europe to study.

Arthur Streeton was an Australian artist who, along with a small group of contemporaries, brought the practice, and the influence of the French Impressionists, to his homeland.

Largely self-taught as a young man, he became particularly impressed by what he read and saw in photographs of the works of the Barbizon School of French painters, particularly Corot, and later became influenced by the Impressionists, who inherited the practice from their Barbizon mentors.

Streeton’s formal study was at the National Gallery of Victoria School, and he went on plein air painting trips on the areas surrounding Melbourne. He joined groups of like-minded artists working in artist camps in Box Hill and Heidleberg (Victoria).

Along with Tom Roberts and Frederick McCubbin, he participated in the first show of Impressionist influenced works in Australia. The show was called the “9 by 5 Impression Exhibition” and consisted largely of plein air paintings on cigar box lids of that size (image above, bottom).

Like the American Impressionists, the Australian painters were not so much devotees of Impressionist theory, as simply painters who adopted what they liked from the Impressionist approach into their own unique style.

Streeton moved to London, after passing through Cairo, where he painted for five months, and then Naples. He moved back to Australia, then back to England; and then traveled Europe, including a notable stint of painting in Venice. Back to Australia again and then back to England, where he joined the British Army medical Corps in the course of the First World War.

He eventually returned to Australia and became one of the most notable and successful of Australian artists.

His bright, fresh color and lively brushwork are evident in both his cigar box sketches and his larger finished work.

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