Monthly Archives: January 2010

Nate Simpson

Nate Simpson
Nate Simpson is a concept artist who has worked in the gaming industry since 1993. He has worked for companies like The Dreamers Guild, Taldren, GoPets Inc. and Gas Powered Games.

His credits include leading the art team for Demigod, a 2009 game from Gas Powered Games and Stardock, from which you can see an image in the Concepts section of is web site.

According to a short note on his site, Simpson is “…currently taking year off to learn how to make comics”. Judging from the sample pages he has posted, particularly those in the section of his site for “New Comics“, which are for a an endeavor Simpson calls “Project Waldo”, he is learning quite well indeed.

Simpson’s comic art sensibilities are distinctly European, having a feeling in keeping with some French and Belgian comics artists (which is a Good Thing in my book).

When clicking through the galleries on his site, click on an image to make it larger and then step through with the arrows. Much of the appeal is in the rendering and contrast between levels of line weight in the inks. This is again more in keeping with European (or Japanese) comics than mainstream American comics, in which line weight is frequently varied throughout the delineation of every figure.

You can find even larger images, including inked pages prior to the application of color, on Simpson’s blog, which is named for and devoted to Project Waldo.

His tagline for the blog reads “Follow along as I learn how to make a comic by making a comic. I hope you’re not in a hurry.”

Those who aren’t in a hurry, and can take the time to go back to the beginning of Simpson’s posts and follow through, will find a good deal of insight and valuable information that he has accrued in his learning process, and offered up in the course of the past year.

The image above shows page two of the story, along with detail crops below of inks and final color from the lower center portion of the middle panel. (See the original large image on Simpson’s blog here.)

Simpson puts a great deal of detail into some elements, leaving others open to be carried by the application of color. His background landscapes have more in common with Bruegel’s landscape drawings than with mainstream comics.

The color itself is in the style of European comics albums, bringing to mind the work of Moebius in particular (when he is coloring his own work, not handing it over to someone else to bury under inappropriate Beltran-like over-rendering, but I digress; that’s a topic for another post).

Word is that Simpson has gotten expressions of interest from some publishers, but there are no specifics yet, and it has now been a year since his first post on the Project Waldo, and he is only up to page 8 (out of how many pages total, I don’t know). It looks like those of us who, like myself, are looking forward to reading the finished story, will also have to not be in a hurry.

In the meanwhile, whether in concept art or comics, Simpson is a artist to watch.

[Via Drawn!]

Jeffrey Hayes (update)

Jeffrey Hayes
I’ve profiled Boston based painter Jeffrey Hayes before (also here and here).

After being an early adopter of the painting a day regimen, Hayes realized that his inclinations required more time, even when painting on an intimate scale. Today he follows that direction, painting small, carefully composed and rendered still life paintings, with an eye to the influence of the Dutch still life painters of the 17th Century.

Hayes frequently utilizes a shadow box, for which he gives basic building instructions here, to compose his directly lit still life subjects in strong contrast.

If you look through his blog, or use the topics links for subjects like “In Progress” or “In the Studio” you will find additional posts about his process and techniques and insightful comments on the the work of a painter, as well as images of works in progress.

Hayes also maintains an archive of another blog that he is no longer updating, Watching Paint Dry. In addition, he has a YouTube channel with video demonstrations of his painting process.

Hayes posts paintings that are for sale, with links to purchase information. I still find it disconcerting that clicking on the images themselves takes you directly to the eBay page for the piece rather than a larger image directly on the blog, but it seems to serve well enough. In addition to a larger single image of the work, the eBay pages sometimes have one or more detail images from the painting.

There is also a link on his blog to Available Work, that also leads directly to an eBay page.

I’ve had the pleasure of watching Hayes develop and evolve as a painter over the time since I first encountered his work; his subjects becoming richer with multiple colors, surfaces taking on greater subtlety and character of texture, and the effects of light emerging as a driving force in his approach.

I’m particularly fond of the way he handles reflective metallic surfaces and transparent glassware, with hints of iridescent color delineating edges and bouncing from one surface to another.

(Image above: “Silver, Pottery, Glass”, original post here)

Ed Binkley

Ed Binkley
Concept artist and illustrator Ed Binkley has crafted a style of illustration that seems at once old and new.

His finely detailed, almost monochromatic images feel as though they are from another time, or perhaps another place, with fantasy subjects inhabiting misty woods and glades, all drawn with meticulous care.

Despite the level of detail lavished on the works, they never feel overworked or artificially detailed, as is so often the case of similar subjects in the hands of less accomplished artists. Binkley knows how to balance passages of detail with open areas, both for composition and for visual dynamics. In particular there is a wonderful contrast between highly textural foreground elements and beautifully atmospheric backgrounds, in which his imaginary worlds extend into misty infinity.

Occasionally, his approach reminds me of such delightful fantasy artists as Jean-Baptiste Monge, but he really has created his own world. Binkley is obviously versed in art history, as evidenced both by his solid grounding in traditional drawing skills and occasional nods to the greats, like his wonderful take-off of Ingres’ portrait of Louis-François Bertin in Desideratum (image above, bottom, detail image here).

Binkley’s web site is not directly arranged as a gallery, but treasures are to be had if you poke around and lift a few leaves, like his step by step walk through of the creation of his piece, The Mouse’s Return (image above, top).

He also has a secondary site, Holy Men and Monsters, with a gallery of color work.

Issac Levitan

saac Ilyich Levitan
Isaac Ilyich Levitan (Isaak Il’ich Levitan) was one of the greatest of Russian landscape painters, one of the greatest Russian painters in general, and one of the great landscape painters in the history of art.

Born into a poor family, he managed to begin study at the Moscow School of Painting and Sculpture when his family moved to Moscow in the late 1860′s. While at school, he lost both of his parents within two years of each other and was left without resources, but was allowed to continue at the school, his tuition waved, because of his extraordinary talent.

He was greatly influenced by his teachers, Alexei Savrasov and Vasily Polenov. The latter shared a penchant for light-filled plein air painting with the French painters of the Barbizon School, who would also be an influence on Levitan.

Levitan didn’t paint urban landscapes, preferring the lyrical countryside, and created his own branch of the Russian style of landscape known as “the landscape of mood”. His occasional forays into the sunny and brightly colored fields made popular by the Impressionist painters are balanced by many paintings of cloud filled or overcast skies, great shadows across the land and dark masses of trees, though often with hints of breaking light, or impending change.

You will sometimes see Levitan mentioned in concert with the Russian Impressionist painters. Though he had an appreciation and talent for handling color and light in keeping with the young French painters, he rejected Monet’s Impressionism. He remained essentially a realist, but his later work was emotional and romantic in a way that is suggestive of Symbolism. For an excellent article on this direction in his work, and Levitan in general, see Michael Hirsch’s “Good Evening from Issac Levitan” on Articles & Texticles. There is also a good article on Gurney Journey, titled “Plein Air and Poetry“, comparing one of Levitan’s studies with the finished piece.

Levitan’s place in Russian culture has been compared to that of the writer Anton Checkov, who became one of his closest friends. Levitan exhibited with the Peredvizhniky (Itinerants), a group that included his teacher Vasily Polenov, along with Ivan Kramskoy, Ilya Repin, Ivan Shishkin, Vasily Surikov and other great Russian realist painters.

Levitan was prolific, leaving behind over a thousand works.

István Orosz

Istvan Orosz
In my post from 2008 about Anamorphic Art, I briefly mentioned the work of Hungarian artist István Orosz.

Orosz is a graphic designer, illustrator, printmaker, poster artist, animator, stage designer and painter. He has a fascination with anamorphosis, and has several examples of his own in the gallery on his web site.

Unfortunately the site is inconvenient to deal with, one of those web site designs that is too “clever” for its own good (see my rant on How Not to Display Your Art on the Web). It opens in a pop-up, you have to wait for the white square to fill to indicate the site is loaded, and then deal with a difficult navigation system that is hidden until you roll over it and search out the links. Hints: main navigation is at the bottom, portfolio sections at the top, individual pieces in a band over the image in the center that you have to scroll through.

If you’re willing to work your way through, however, there are many interesting pieces in the section of Anamorphoses, along with illustrations, posters, paintings and Escher influenced etchings that explore the realm of impossible figures (see my posts on M.C. Escher and Andreas Aronsson).

You may find it easier to view Orosz’s work on Gallery Diabolus or Marlena Agency.

Orosz wrote an article titled The Mirrors of the Master in the book M.C. Escher’s Legacy: A Centennial Celebration.

Some of Orosz’s anamorphoses are particularly well done, in that the flat image makes perfect visual sense in itself, as in the image at top, with it’s anamorphic component hidden until revealed in the proper curved reflective surface (above, middle), as opposed to the somewhat easier paradigm of a flat image that simply appears distorted until viewed in the reflective surface.

Orosz also explores illusionistic double-images, as found in the work of Dalí and earlier artists, in which a secondary image can be seen in the main image (e.g. a face in a landscape).

I particularly like his poster designs, in which his playfully brain-teasing themes are presented in strong, simplified graphics.

Demons and Devotion: The Hours of Catherine of Cleves

Demons and Devotion: The Hours of Catherine of Cleves
A “Book or hours” (Wikipedia) is a devotional text of prayers, stories and psalms common in the Middle Ages. Though they followed similar forms, each was unique and, of course, hand lettered.

Many of them were illuminated, but few as lavishly and beautifully as the one known as The Hours of Catherine of Cleves. It is one of the most striking examples in existence; and is in the collection of the Morgan Library and Museum in New York.

The museum has put this rare treasure on display, along with supplementary material, in an exhibit titled Demons and Devotion: The Hours of Catherine of Cleves, that runs until May 2nd, 2010.

The illuminations, in this case, go far beyond the decoration of the pages and include beautifully painted miniatures, some 157 of them. The Morgan has an online exhibit, in which you can see the pages, and view their details in a zoomable interface. You can also view the pages as thumbnails. The limited space for viewing the image can be frustrating, but zooming is still better than just small images. [Addendum: John Overholt was kind enough to write and let us know that there is a "Full Screen View" button at the far right of the zooming controls below the zoomable images. There is a "Zoom Help" link that shows the button labels. Much better!]

They’re not all as striking as the examples here, of course, but many are quite beautiful, and the ones like The Mouth of Hell (above, middle and bottom) are worth the effort alone. Interesting how graphic visions of hell and damnation are always much more interesting than those of heaven and salvation, but then, the promptings of the Church in the Middle Ages were often more stick than carrot.

The artist in this case is known only as the Master of Catherine of Cleves. The amount of work lavished on this single book is astonishing. When you’re not being dazzled by the miniatures, take a moment to appreciate the rest of the decorative illumination.

Works like this take the concept of “book illustration” to an entirely different level.

Addendum: The Morgan is concurrently running an exhibit titled: Flemish Illumination in the Era of Catherine of Cleves featuring 18 illuminated manuscripts that should provide an excellent context for this exhibit.

(For more on miniature paintings in illuminated manuscripts, see my post on Jean Fouquet.)

[Via Horace Rumpole (John Overholt) on MetaFilter]