Bill Perkins (update)

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.

Covered (Robert Goodin)

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]

Matt Held

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.

The Triplets of Belleville

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.


Luke Jerram

Luke Jerram
Luke Jerram is a UK artist who creates sculptures, installations and art events.

In his Glass Microbiology project he has created a series of glass sculptures of viral structures, to, in his words, “contemplate the global impact of each disease and to consider how the doctoring of scientific imagery affects our visualisation of phenomena”.

The sculptures are of viruses that are associated with particularly virulent and well known diseases, Smallpox, HIV, SARS, Swine Flu and, in the case of the image above (with detail below), E. coli.

The fact that the virus sculptures are made of glass, a transparent substance which, in its most basic form, has no color of its own, is indicative of the second aspect of Jerram’s investigation, the suggestion that the coloring of scientific images carries implications beyond conveying information.

It’s common for scientific images to be given false colors for the purpose of clarity, or easy perception of information that may be hard to glean in the images’ “true” state. An example of this might be the application of false colors to astronomical images to display the structure of nebulae or the light from infrared or radio sources.

It is also common to color images of viruses; in fact a majority of illustrations and images of viruses that are not the original electron micrographs seem to be intensely colored. Jerram speculates that as a result, most non-scientists might assume that real viruses are actually brightly colored.

He further speculates that the practice can promote a sense of wonder and and make the images more impressive (possibly intentionally), as well as carrying an emotional tone, perhaps one of menace.

The glass sculptures neatly obviate the effect of color (except for one that was deliberately colored by a photographer, though it acts as a contrast), and reduce the viral shapes to just that: their shapes.

Jerram has another interest in removing the effects of color and judging the effect on perception; he himself is colorblind (an awkward term that might more accurately be called limited spectrum color vision), though I don’t know in what range his limitation extends.

The play of light on these sculptures, however, is still beautiful, and the perception of the shapes is heightened by the refractive characteristics of glass (something I respond to as strongly visually appealing); so I have to submit that Jerram has removed one source of intentional visual appeal only to substitute another.

However, as sculptures they work wonderfully. The shapes of viruses are particularly fascinating forms. I also find it compelling that microscopic structures capable of being deadly on a devastating scale can be represented with such beauty.

Jerram’s glass sculptures will be highlighted in a solo show at Smithfield Gallery, London from 22 September to 3 October, 2009.

[Via MetaFilter]

Myke Amend

Myke Amend
Myke Amend is an illustrator who focuses on steampunk and gothic horror themes, stemming largely from traditions grounded in the literary work of Jules Verne and H.P. Lovecraft.

These two traditions dovetail in Amend’s series of paintings “Airships and Tentacles” which feature detailed, highly textured images of, well… just that. Amend works these images in a nicely retro manner, with a subdued palette and atmospheric lighting.

Amend works primarily in acrylic, with occasional paintings in oil and a variety of drawing media, including a series of engravings. Some of his other subject matter is handled in a breezier, almost cartoonlike style.

His galleries are in the Gallery & eCards section of his site, though the largest images are in the Desktop Wallpapers section. There are also pieces scattered around the rest of the site.

The home page of his site acts as a blog, though he seems to maintain a second blog on LiveJournal. You can also find his work on deviantART and MySpace.

[Via Dark Roasted Blend]