Jean-Sébastien Rossbach

Jean-Sebastien Rossbach
Jean-Sébastien Rossbach is a French freelance illustrator and concept artist based in Paris. He has done work in publishing, video games, board and role playing games, movies, the recording industry and advertising.

Rossbach gives his fantasy themed illustrations an extra element of decorative surface, incorporating patterns and deign elements into his images. Very often he uses suggestions of patterns, with just enough detail for your eye to fill in a richer surface than he has actually rendered.

Rossback paints digitally in Painter and Photoshop, but uses the textural characteristics of the digital brushes to produce a painterly appearance, particularly in his loose, gestural backgrounds.

His web site includes a blog and galleries of illustrations, covers and sketches. When viewing work in his portfolio, be aware that the arrows lead to subsequent pages of thumbnails, and there is a text link for “Zoom” under the thumbnails that links to high resolution versions of the images.

Rossback collaborated with illustrator Aleksi Briclot and writer Jean-Luc Istin on Merlin, an art book re-exploration of the Authurian Merlin legend,. The text is in French, but the book is largely illustrations.

You can download a PDF preview of the book from the publisher’s site (link that says “Découvrez quelques pages de cet ouvrage”).

Philip Geiger

Phillip Geiger
Phillip Geiger says that he does not intend for his paintings to carry a narrative, but a narrative element is often implied by the posed subjects that inhabit his room interiors.

His interiors are at once quiet and lively, calm and energetic. It is in his treatment of light and painterly handling that Geiger conveys energy. The confident application of paint and contrasts of tone and color, along with the play of light, bring almost every surface alive in his otherwise subdued domestic scenes.

The people seem almost like still life elements at times, appreciated for their form, texture and color rather than for their personality, and are often shown from behind or in other positions where viewer interaction with them is de-emphasized and replaced with the viewer as observer.

Though the interiors are of modest houses, they are older and often provide rich contrasts of color and tone in the woodwork of door and window framing, variations in the color of painted walls and degrees of lighting from room to room and frequently direct patches of sunlight across wood floors or illumination from lamps within the scene.

I’ve seen Geiger compared with intimists like Vuillard and Fairfiled Porter, and he lists his own influences as Vermeer, Degas, Corot and Hopper; but the painter that springs to mind for me is Edmund Tarbell, whose quiet interiors were also alive with rich colors, lively paint textures and the suggestion of narrative within the calm posing of figures.

In Tarbell’s case, the figures were members of his family, Geiger uses paid models to populate his interiors.

Geiger is a member of the faculty of the Studio Art Department of the University of Virginia, where he teaches drawing and painting. I can’t find a dedicated site for him, but he is represented by the Tibor DeNagy Gallery in New York and the Renyolds Gallery in Richmond.

Unfortunately, the Tibor DeNagy gallery is frames, apparently to defeat any chance of people letting each other know about a particular artist by linking directly to them (what are the designers and clients who make these decisions thinking?), so I can’t give you a direct link. The Renyolds fares better, but the images are frustratingly small and few.

I’ve found a few other resources, notably on Painting Perceptions and Indiana University School of Fine Arts (click for larger versions).

Jason Seiler

Jason Seiler
Jason Seiler is a caricaturist, character designer and illustrator whose clients include The New York Times, Time Magazine, The Weekly Standard, Business Week, MAD Magazine and many others.

As a caricaturist, Seiler often pushes his exaggerated portraits to extremes, to the point where they have a fun-house mirror feeling. He can then turn around and deliver a straightforward portrait, though he obviously enjoys the freedom that caricature allows.

His web site has sections devoted to entertainment and political figures, but don’t miss the sketches, in which displays a nice quality of line and hatching in the process of building up his monochromatic tones.

If I’m not mistaken, he works both digitally in Photoshop and in traditional media, using strongly modeled rendering to give his exaggerated faces a solid three dimensional feel.

Seiler also maintains a blog, in which he discusses work in progress, often with preliminary images and process sequences.

He has recently done his first character design for feature film, working on the Bandersnatch for Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.

Seiler is also an instructor with the Schoolism online school, along with Bobby Chiu and Ryan Wood.

Jason Seiler is the son of painter Larry Seiler, who I profiled yesterday.

Larry Seiler

Larry Seiler
Gouache is a medium that doesn’t get its due. Often looked on as a “less than” subset of transparent watercolor, or a “wannabe” substitute for oil, gouache has some of the characteristics of each.

Gouache is a form of watercolor, pigment suspended in gum arabic, and does give the ability to work in light over dark like oil and unlike transparent watercolor. Most importantly, though, gouache has its own character, allowing the artist to produce smooth, even tones, distinctive color and impart a graphic character to brushstrokes that can give gouache a unique visual appeal.

Larry Seiler worked for 17 years in acrylic and another 15 in oil, and though he apparently still works in both, he now prefers gouache for his small immediate paintings of the Wisconsin landscape.

Seiler’s colorful landscapes are often painted on black board or black prepared surfaces, and he frequently paints in an inset area, leaving part of the surface around the edges.

His gouache paintings are rendered in bright dabs of color with little blending, giving them a simultaneously painted and graphic feel. His compositions often include small streams of lakes and bright foliage, subjects that lend themselves well to the application of broken color.

Seiler has a web site on which you can find examples of both his small paintings and larger studio work, but it is on his blog that you will find the small gouache paintings.

His web site also includes step-by-step demos, an instructional DVD and CD Rom book, and information on workshops.

Larry Seiler’s son, Jason Seiler, is also an artist, known for his caricatures, character design, portraits and humorous illustration.

Alice in Wonderland Illustrations

My old pal, Doc Ozone, has graced us with a nice set of images of Rackham's Alice Illustrations., Sir John Tenniel, Author Rackham
“…and what is the use of a book,” thought Alice, “without pictures or conversations?”

I used the quote above, from the first paragraph of Lewis Carroll’s classic and newly popular story, as a preface to the “Dead Tree Edition” of my webcomic, ArgonZark! when it was published in 1997. I felt it was a perfect summation of the appeal of comics and graphic stories, as well as illustrated books in general.

Though hardly a graphic story in its initial form, the original appeal of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (which every proper Victorian child knows is the actual name of the book, emphasis on “adventures”) was deeply intertwined with the beautiful pen and ink drawings of Sir John Tenniel that graced the first printed editions (top two images above), along with the follow-up Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There. (The story was first illustrated in manuscript form by Charles Dodson, AKA Lewis Carroll, himself.)

Those two stories area often mashed together in film, theater and comics adaptations, mixing characters and episodes from the separate stories with abandon. Granted, they are not the most linear or coherent of storylines (grin), but there is a general confusion even about which characters are from which story, and, though I haven’t seen it yet, it looks like Tim Butron’s new action/adventure version (emphasis on “action”) is taking the same license.

Part of the confusion arises from the fact that subsequent editions often presented both stories in one volume and publishers assigned their own illustrators to illustrate both at the same time.

There is a long list of illustrators who have taken on illustrating the two stories over time, but few have risen to the challenge of stepping into Tenniel’s large shoes (even after eating their slice of “Eat Me” currant-labeled cake).

Even noted illustrators of the stature and ability of Jesse Willcox Smith have bowed to Tenniel as the master of Alice illustrations by basically reinterpreting his illustrations in their own. Others, like Maria Kirk, Harry Rountree, Bessie Pease Gutmann, Charles Robinson, A.E. Jackson and Willy Pogany created their own visual interpretation, sometimes beautifully illustrated, but none have the weight and force to shine without being lost in Tenniel’s glare.

Mervyn Peake did a set of excellent illustrations that were so idiosyncratic as to stand on their own, but lack the charm and enduring appeal of Tenniel’s pen and ink Wonderland.

Only one other illustrator, to my mind, created a series of illustrations for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland that can hold their place at the tea party with Tenniel — the great British illustrator Author Rackham (above, bottom two images).

Rackham has given us a different Wonderland, still simultaneously dark and bright, stylized and grounded in reality, and rendered with undeniable visual charm.

My old pal Doc Ozone has graced us with a nice set of images of Rackham’s Alice Illustrations.

There is a reasonably good collection of Tenniel’s Alice illustrations on alice-in-wonderland.net and another here.

There are inexpensive editions of the Alice books with Tenniel’s beautiful illustrations in which the quality of the images is quite high: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass (Modern Library Classics) and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (Barnes & Noble Classics Trade Paper).

Unfortunately, the print versions of Rackham’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland are out of print, though you can still find them used. (Amazon is muddying the waters now by listing Kindle eBooks in the same searches with real books in an attempt to push the Kindle, so it looks at first glance like there are more editions than exist physically.)

There are several sources for other Alice Illustrators.

In addition to the wonderfully extensive list of Illustrators of Alice, with links, on LewisCarroll.org, there is a terrific resource on Alice Illustrators, A-Z by Lauren Harman, in which she posts example images by each illustrator.

Also, there is a good series of llustrations of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Artists other then Tenniel, with scans from has own collection by Dave Neal, and a sampling of various Alice illustrators on From Smiler, with Love.

The lists are long, and there are a number of great illustrators on them, plus you could spend considerable time looking through the work of John Tenniel and Arthur Rackham alone, so I’ll issue my customary Time Sink Warning, and point out that you could be down this particular rabbit hole longer than you intend.

Nick Pugh (update)

Nick Pugh
I wrote about Nick Pugh back in 2006. Pugh is a concept artist and designer for the entertainment industry.

In addition to his work in feature films, he often does design work for theme park rides and attractions.

Since my previous post, Pugh has redesigned his web site and added considerable material. You’ll find links to various galleries, including those exploring his interest in concept vehicles, and his fascinating “Liquid Vehicles” ideas (image above, top).

Pugh is a digital painter, and of particular interest to me were his pieces in the section labeled “Luminair”, a series of digital paintings from life (image above, bottom).

Digital painting is most commonly associated with paintings of the imaginary and fantastic, making it a common choice of media for concept art, but a number of artists are using it to paint from life (see my post on sparth construct). It’s a practice I sometimes enjoy myself, and find particularly fascinating in that it allows effects and colors unavailable in traditional media.

Luminair is the title of Pugh’s instructional book on the subject. There are other books either about, or including Pugh’s work in the “Store” section.