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.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Caravaggio’s Supper at Emmaus comes to Chicago

Posted by Charley Parker at 11:55 pm

Caravaggio Supper at Emmaus
Caravaggio’s striking painting The Supper at Emmaus is one of the most respected and influential paintings in the canon of Western Art.

The occasion of the painting crossing the Atlantic to be on display at The Art Institute of Chicago is an occasion to be noted; similar to the significant visit of Vermeer’s The Milkmaid to the Met in NYC.

The rarity of Caravaggio paintings in U.S. museums in general makes the visit of what is perhaps his most significant work even more worthy of note.

In exchange for the loan of the Art Institute’s The Crucifixion by Francisco de Zubaran, the painting will be on loan from The National Gallery, London to the Art Institute from October 10, 2009 to January 31, 2010.

Caravaggio’s display of virtuosity here is well known (in spite of the oddly disproportionate rendering of the right hand of the disciple to our right). The painting is also fascinating for the compositional choices the artist has made, the fingers extending off canvas at right, the about-to-stand position of the foreground figure, the rich detail of the still life arrangement on the table, the dramatic shadows against the wall, seemingly in contradiction to the direction of light in other parts of the painting, and the interplay between the figures and the directions of their gazes.

Caravaggio painted two versions of this scene, separated by time, space and widely different circumstances in the artist’s life; as reflected in the dark, subdued version in Milan, a stark contrast to the richly colored, dramatic composition of the London painting.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Scott Musgrove

Posted by Charley Parker at 11:35 pm

Scott Musgrove
Scott Musgrove is a painter, illustrator, comics artist and “Co-executive Director of the National Institute of Creative Biology”. The latter self-appointed title refers to his new imaginary bestiary The Late Fauna of Early North America: The Art of Scott Musgrove.

Musgrove is the creator and producer of the Fat Dog Mendoza TV series, which was based on his comic book of the same name, published by Dark Horse Comics. He is also the artist and writer for Loose Teeth, published by Fantagraphics Books and has had work included in a number of comics anthologies.

Lately, Musgrove has been focusing on gallery art, in particular his series of fanciful animals, in the portrayal of which he sees himself as continuing in the tradition of James Audubon (if Audubon’s subjects were from another planet, perhaps).

His whimsical take on various fauna are portrayed in compositions that combine a cartoon-like sensibility in their forms with rendereing in a detailed painting technique that speaks to his declared influences of Carlos Crivelli, Jan van Eyck and Heironymous Bosh, along with contemporary artists like Botero and Odd Nerdrum.

Musgrove’s web site includes galleries of his paintings, arranged into categories like “Accidential Organisms” and “Natural Alchemy”, along with watercolors and a section on Fat Dog Mendoza.

He also maintains a blog, in which he goes into more detail about his projects, and in which you can find out more about the new book and the limited edition version; and also see his work in place in an exhibition space, giving you a feeling for its scale.

There is an article on Wired with some large images, an interview on Millionaire Playboy, an additional gallery on the beinArt Surreal Art Collective and a gallery (scroll down) and short bio on Jonathan Levine Gallery.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

MoMA’s Monets

Posted by Charley Parker at 9:49 am

In the later years of his life Claude Monet largely devoted himself to painting the gardens he had built at his home in Giverny, in particular a series of over 200 paintings of Nymphaes, or water lilies, from the Japanese style pond that was the centerpiece of the smaller half of his gardens.

Three of these form a mural sized triptych that is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, where for years they were in their own space, somewhat aside from the main bustle of the museum.

They have not been on view in their original relationship since 2001, and were not reinstalled during the museum’s extensive renovations in 2004.

The MoMA has now put them on view, to the delight of Monet lovers in NY, in an installation accompanied by smaller but related works, two loans from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and, from their own collection, The Japanese Footbridge, a stunning counterpoint to the serene waterlillies, ablaze with a maelstrom of fall colors that would have set Van Gogh on his ear.

The installation is on view until April 12, 2010.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


Posted by Charley Parker at 11:36 pm

Pandore (Pandora) is a superb animated short by Marion Stinghe, Meryl Franck, Benoît Guillaumot, Nicolas Caffarel and Elen Le Tannou, students in their third year as Animation majors at Gobelins, l’école de l’image, a visual communications school in Paris.

Unlike the introductory shorts done by Gobelins students for the Annecy Film Festival each year, this one makes use of CGI, though wonderfully handled. And unlike many of the animated films coming out of Hollywood these days, it has an entertaining and original story (in the space of two and a half minutes). Pandore takes the Pandora legend and gives it a nice twist.

[Via Animation Blog]

Posted in: Animation   |   2 Comments »

Friday, September 11, 2009

Bill Perkins (update)

Posted by Charley Parker at 9:21 pm

Bill Perkins
California artist Bill Perkins helped co-found the Plein-air Artists of California in 1983, and has been a member of the Plein-air Painters of America since 1985.

Perkins is a recognized teacher. He has taught at the Art Center College of Design and Associates in Art and is currently an instructor at Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art.

I wrote about Perkins in 2007, when I emphasized his career as a concept artist and art director for companies like Walt Disney Feature Animation, Warner Brothers, Dreamworks, ILM, and 9th Ray Studios.

Perkins has a production design studio called High Street Studio. Unfortunately, there is not a site devoted to his plein-air painting. His Bill Perkins Studio site hasn’t been updated since June of 2008. There is an article about both aspects of his career on Articles & Texticles.

Perkins will be giving a one and two day “Plein Air Painting Workshop with Models” in the Pasadena area on September 19th & 20th, 2009.

According to Thomas Brillante, who is apparently helping to co-ordinate the event, “This workshop covers plein air techniques with focusing on changing light and capturing light. There will be lots of demos through out the day and personal instruction.”

The workshop will be limited to about 12-14 artists a day. Contact information is on the flyer posted here.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Covered (Robert Goodin)

Posted by Charley Parker at 11:53 pm

Here’s an amusing notion. Robert Goodin, an illustrator and comics artist, has established a blog called Covered, the theme of which is to allow contemporary artists and illustrators to display their take on classic comic book covers; their covers of covers, if you will.

The result is a delightful amalgam of styles and approaches, as artists create their interpretations, some straightforward, some liberally re-imagined, of whatever comic covers that they are inclined to redraw.

A variety of genres are represented, from mainstream superhero to Archie to 60′s underground comix.

The blog posts show the original cover next to the new interpretation, and both can be clicked on for larger versions. Credits are also given for the original artists as well as the new interpreters. The posts include links to the contributors’ web sites; and, where possible, links to information about the original artist or team.

Goodin has a page outlining the submission guidelines here.

You can also see Goodin’s own work on his web site and primary blog.

(Images above, originals on left, reinterpretations on right: Alessa Kreger covers Millie the Lovable Monster 4, original by Bill Woggon; Jack Noel covers Elektra 2, original by Greg Horn; Ben Newman covers Green Lantern 63, original by Neal Adams.)

[Via Underwire]

Posted in: Illustration   |   2 Comments »

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Matt Held

Posted by Charley Parker at 10:14 pm

Matt Held, Facebook profile portraits
When people choose a photo (or series of photos) by which to represent themselves on a social networking site like Facebook, they are, in a way, making a self portrait, their choice influenced by their perception of themselves.

This is one of the interesting aspects of Matt Held’s Facebook Portrait project, in which he paints portraits of people from their Facebook Profile photos.

Individuals can essentially submit their photos for consideration by joining the “I’ll have my Facebook portrait painted by Matt Held” Facebook group, from which Held selects his subjects based on his own criteria for interesting portraits.

Held moved from Seattle to NYC with the intention of establishing himself as a portrait artist, but found himself struggling and creatively blocked. At one point, he was having difficulty achieving the kind of skin tones he wanted and, as an exercise, started a painting of his wife from her Facebook photo.

His wife suggested that he look into working with other Facebook portraits, and the project, and Facebook group, was initiated. The portraits are not commissioned, and the “sitters” whose photos are chosen as subjects just get a digital image of the painting, though they can buy the painting as they would a gallery piece.

The paintings themselves will be gallery pieces, some of which will be exhibited in an upcoming solo show, though I don’t have the details on when and where.

Held’s goal for the project is 200 portraits, which he estimates will take about two years to complete. The project has garnered a bit of media and net attention, and the Facebook group is up to over 8,000 members.

Held’s painting approach is very straightforward. He works in oil with brusque brushwork and a deliberate application of color (and he seems to be working out his issues with skin tones). There is no attempt to flatter, he approaches the paintings as paintings.

His choice of subjects has given him a rich source of odd poses, expressions, costume and quirky compositions, though it’s difficult to say how much of the latter is from the source photos and how much is Held making his own compositional choices.

(As a side note, it’s interesting to compare Held’s internet based source of subjects with another project, Bill Guffey’s Virtual Paintout, in which any number of artists use Google Maps Street Views as subjects for paintings.)

Held has a blog, in which he discusses the project and the individual pieces. The blog includes a FAQ about the process. The images on the blog are small, however, and the main gallery of images is on the Held Studios web site.

There is also a video by Radar Nine on Metacafe in which he discusses the project.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Triplets of Belleville

Posted by Charley Parker at 11:51 pm

The Triplets of BellevilleNow that the U.S. animation studios have largely abandoned cell animation in favor of the hyper-kinetic slickness of computer graphics, we must look elsewhere for the joys to be found in hand-drawn animation.

The most prominent of those delights is the obvious and simple visual charm of drawings that move; a charm that is most powerful when the drawings are left to look like drawings, with attention paid to the presence and quality of line.

For a delightful (in it’s true sense, full of delights) example of that we turn not to Japan, as many of you may have been expecting me to say, but to France, the third largest producer of animation in the world (see my posts about the yearly introductions to the Annecy Film Festival by students a the Gobelins School).

The Triplets of Belleville (original title Les Triplettes de Belleville, also called Belleville Rendez-Vous in the UK) is a feature length tour-du-force of hand drawn animation, in which the Tour de France plays an integral part. It was written and directed by Sylvain Chomet, co-produced by companies in France, Belgium, the UK and Canada, and released in 2003.

A champion bicycle rider had been kidnapped, you see, and his astonishingly indefatigable grandmother must find him, against odds, but with the assistance of wonderful oddballs.

As much as I rail about the unimaginative formulas in American animated features (Pixar notwithstanding), the story is really not the point here. It’s basically an extended version of the kind of quirky little story you get in animated film festivals. Like many of those films, Triplets is essentially without dialog, but the timing, sound artistry and skillful visual storytelling make that a moot (mute?) point. The essence of the film is the settings and characters, and, of course, the moving painted drawings, rich with line and artfully applied color.

The film has the character of the kind of wonderful concept art drawing that is usually lost in the translation to film, but in this case is retained and brought to life.

Even where they have used bits of computer animation to aid in things that are difficult and highly time consuming to portray in hand drawn animation, they have retained the essence of the drawn line and blended it well with the rest of the scene (for the most part, there are some awkward moments, but insignificant in the grand whole).

The scenes range from rural france to the metropolis of Belleville, a thinly veiled mash-up of New York and Paris in the early part of the 20th Century. The harsh caricature of obese, rude and unkind Americans is balanced by the equally unflattering portrayal of the French gangsters and wine merchants. The settings, however, are lavished with affection.

The Sony Pictures official site is unfortunately flawed (of course, it’s Sony, a corporation that seems to be devoted to doing things wrong in so many ways). The Flash interface has a lazily programmed Flash detection that tells Mac users they don’t have the plug-in (you do, click on the bottom link); and the interface navigation, despite the designers’ attempt to capture some of the visual charm of the film, is cramped and requires slow scrolling to access anything. Worst of all, they cut corners and linked to the trailer on the Apple trailers site instead of hosting it on their own site; and, of course, it’s no longer available there. You can see a rather grainy (from being up-sized) version of it on YouTube.

The original French web site fares much better and has a better trailer (fourth knob over on the TV set).

The Triplets of Belleville is quite unlike anything from animation studios in either the U.S. or Japan. If you like being charmed by drawings that move, The Triplets of Belleville will do that nicely.

Posted in: Animation   |   16 Comments »
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