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.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Ed Binkley

Posted by Charley Parker at 11:07 am

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.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Issac Levitan

Posted by Charley Parker at 11:38 pm

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

Posted by Charley Parker at 11:24 am

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.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Demons and Devotion: The Hours of Catherine of Cleves

Posted by Charley Parker at 2:57 pm

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]

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Jan Toorop

Posted by Charley Parker at 10:34 am

Jan Toorop
Jan Toorop (also known as Jean Theodoro Toorop or Johannes Theodorus Toorop) was a Dutch Symbolist painter with a wonderfully unique style.

He was born in Purworedjo, Java, at a time when Java was a Dutch colony. Ne moved to the Netherlands in 1872 and studied in Delft and at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam.

Toorop’s work fits loosely into the category of Symbolist painting (a bit of a grab bag to begin with), as well as Art Nouveau. At times in his career he flirted with various styles, including Realism, Impressionism, Pointillism and Applied art.

His paintings combined both European and Javanese elements and aesthetics. The long thin arms of the figures in the image above, bottom, are indicative of Javanese shadow theatre.

In The Young Generation (image above, top), we see Toorop’s young daughter, Charley, seated in her high-chair, arms outstretched toward the strange and wondrous world that beckons her. Charley Toorop would also become a respected artist, as would her son.

In addition to his gallery work, Jan Toorop also created book illustrations, posters and stained glass designs.

There is an extensive site devoted to the artist, The Jan Toorop Research Center, which has a comprehensive gallery of his works, arranged by year, along with a bio, writings and section devoted to his experiments with different art movements.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Sally Tharp

Posted by Charley Parker at 10:55 pm

Sally Tharp
Michigan born painter Sally Tharp graduated from the University of Rhode Island with a BFA, but considers herself a self-taught painter.

Her web site features several series of painting themes, including outdoor sign letters and a series of still life objects on shelves and other still life subjects.

Her primary focus, however, is a wonderful series that she calls Glass Paintings, featuring a variety of glass objects that prominently include home canning jars, apothecary bottles, glass marbles and coke bottles.

These are marvels of refraction and reflection, often with multiple objects arranged behind one another, and cropped close, creating a sort of refractive geometric lattice of color, within which are the representational characteristics of the image.

Tharp has a blog called Sally is Painting Today in which she posts images of current works, oil sketches on different subjects, including her contributions to Karin Jurick’s Different strokes from Different Folks (see my posts here and here).

She also occasionally posts images of her work hung in galleries, from which you can see the large scale of her paintings, such as this image of the painting at top, Sometimes I Feel Like You Look Right Through Me.

Black & White ImageS: The Fifth Special Collection

Posted by Charley Parker at 11:52 am

Black and White ImageS: The Fifth Special CollectionWe are jaded by an abundance of color images.

Dazzled, distracted and spoiled by color’s overt and often brash appeal, we can easily lose sight of the sublime pleasures to be had in the appreciation of black and white artwork.

There is a visual charm and magic to black and white images that is difficult to describe, a sensation of value, texture and tonal contrasts that have their own kind of appeal quite separate than that of painting, or even drawings in colored media. (True aficionados of black and white film will confirm that appeal in a different medium.)

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the work of the master illustrators from the Golden Age of Illustration, roughly from the 1880′s through the 1920′s.

Particularly in the early part of that span, when reproduction techniques improved dramatically, but had not yet made color printing inexpensive enough to be widespread, black and white illustration flourished and bloomed, producing astonishing works from the masters of the genre.

Pen and ink drawing, in particular, achieved a kind of modern Renaissance, with masters like Howard Pyle, Franklin Booth, Joseph Clement Coll, James Montgomery Flagg, Arthur Rackham and many others producing drawings that are masterworks of the medium.

In addition, great illustrators like Howard Pyle and others painted beautifully evocative oil paintings in black and white (If you ever get a chance to visit the Delaware Art Museum, you’ll see what I mean).

Unfortunately, this work is overshadowed by color images, even those by the same artists, and is not widely reproduced these days, even on the web. Fine lined pen and ink drawing, in particular, does not fare well in reproduction on the web, suffering from the limitations of low-resolution display on screen.

As I’ve pointed out before, even though it’s not evident at first glance, computer monitors are low resolution (about 103ppi) — print images in glossy magazines and books are almost three times higher in resolution than your monitor (300dpi); and the difference in reproducing this kind of image is striking.

Fortunately, there is a source for some of the most beautiful black and white images from that period when great illustration was at its height, printed as they should be; and a terrific new collection has just been released.

Black & White ImageS: The Fifth Special Collection of Images from the Vadeboncoeur Collection is the latest in a series of annuals form the ImageS series of collections of great Golden Age illustration (see my previous posts on The Vadeboncoeur Collection of ImageS and ImageS 11).

As always, Vadeboncoeur has managed to feature work by some of the best known names along with discoveries that are likely to be new even to those already hooked on the beauty of great Golden Age illustration. The issue features over 35 artists, including Howard Pyle, Joseph Clement Coll, James Montgomery Flagg, Arthur Rackham, Rose O’Neill, Herbert Railton, Howard Chandler Christy, Dorothy Lathrop, Daniel Vierge and Elizabeth Shippen Green (links to my posts).

There is a preview on the ImageS site of the entire issue. Vadeboncoeur is showing larger previews for this issue than for previous issues (and I take a little bit of credit for encouraging him to do so), but I have to stress again that you cannot begin to appreciate the quality of these images, or their true visual appeal, from small reproductions on the computer screen. (As an example I’ve included at left, bottom, a detail from the image above it.)

In particular, the printing of ImageS goes beyond even normal high resolution printing, with image quality and printing standards comparable to limited edition prints. The edition is oversize at 9×12, on 100lb matte paper, and can be ordered from the publisher for $25 + $5 postage (U.S., postage is higher elsewhere). Many $100 art books don’t give you this many great images.

To order online, go here, click on “Product Overview”, then “The Vadeboncoeur Collection of Images” and then scroll down to Black & White ImageS Special #5. You can also contact the publisher by phone or email here.

Whether you’re reading by gaslight, or Edison’s newfangled electric bulbs, images like these are a rare treat.

(Images above left: Henri-Jules-Ferdinand Bellery-Desfontaines, Elizabeth Shippen Green, Wladyslaw T. Benda, Will Crawford)


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Eric Joyner

Posted by Charley Parker at 11:47 pm

Eric Joyner
Eric Joyner has a seemingly endless fascination with robots; not just any robots, mind you, specifically those wonderfully bizarre tin robots from the 1950′s, largely made in Japan and often constructed in inexplicable configurations; oh, and doughnuts, lots of doughnuts.

Joyner was an illustrator with clients like Random House, McGraw-Hill, Levi’s, Sprint, Hasbro Warner Brothers and Microsoft; and had received awards from the Society of Illustrators and Spectrum art collections. He began to enter juried shows with his own paintings of urban landscapes, Mexican masks, cartoon characters and… tin robots. The latter captured his attention and as his presence as a gallery artist grew and he transitioned into gallery art full time, he focused largely on that theme; oh, and doughnuts, lots of doughnuts.

Joyner’s site has galleries of his work, arranged by year, in which you can find numerous examples of his favorite subjects, which also include plastic robots, particularly the Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em Robots, and a few movie an TV robots, like Robbie the Robot from Forbidden Planet (my personal favorite) and the Robot from Lost in Space (who I found out actually had a name: “B-9″, as in “benign”); oh, and doughnuts, lots of doughnuts.

When browsing the galleries, be sure to click on the images to see the larger versions. His work is much more painterly than you might assume, and large in scale. He doesn’t give the dimensions in on the site, but you can see some of his pieces in this video interview on Art Babble.

You can also find a few more images of his work on his blog, Ruminations from a Tin World, though it’s only a few posts.

There is a book of Joyner’s work, titled, as you might expect, Robots and Doughnuts.

As you go back in years through his blog, you’ll find other somewhat related subjects, like tin spaceships, hot rod models (driven by tin robots, naturally), tin cars and other collectibles; oh,… and doughnuts, with and without sprinkles.

Display Ads on Lines and Colors (1st tier): $25/week or $75/month.

Please note that display ads for lines and colors are limited to arts related topics and may not be animated.
Display Ads on Lines and Colors (2nd tier): $20/week or $65/month.

Please note that display ads for lines and colors are limited to arts related topics and may not be animated.

Donate Life

The Gift of a Lifetime