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.


Friday, May 21, 2010

Robert Fawcett

Posted by Charley Parker at 12:06 pm

Robert Fawcett
American illustrator Robert Fawcett was a master of expressive texture, controlled color, dramatic value, strong composition and, above all, superb draftsmanship.

Fawcett was active in the early middle of the 20th Century, a time when the role of photography, and the shifts in fine art, were dramatically changing the look and feel of illustration.

Like many of his contemporaries, Fawcett de-emphasized rendering, focusing instead on the composition as a whole, the drama of the scene in relation to the page on which it was printed and the surrounding or incorporated type, and the visual appeal of passages of intense texture against more open areas.

He did not, however, abandon the fundamentals of draftsmanship and expressive drawing that carried forward from the traditions of the Golden Age illustrators and the 19th Century academic art from which they evolved.

Fawcett’s use of subdued color may have had something to do with the fact that he had a form of color blindness (often relying on his wife’s guidance in the application of color), but it was also from his emphasis on a solid foundation of value as the basis for a composition.

Even Fawcett’s more highly rendered illustrations contain an overt element of drawing, with linework evident in the architectural backgrounds if not in the figures. Many pieces have a feeling of painted drawings, and were in fact done that way.

He had an interest in art form an early age. Encouraged by his father, who was an amateur artist, he was apprenticed to an engraver, and spent most of his earnings buying magazines to study the illustrations. Fawcett was born in London, moved to Canada with his family and then to New York. He returned to London to study at the Slade Art School.

He began his career studying to be a gallery artist, but was bitterly put off by what he saw as petty politics, infighting and posturing of the fine art milleu. He decided to devote himself to commercial art, which he saw as more honestly straightforward in its intent.

He had great success creating illustrations for magazines like The Saturday Evening Post, Holiday, Cosmopolitan and numerous advertising clients. His most famous illustrations were a terrific set of 12 Sherlock Holmes illustrations for stories written by Conan Doyle’s nephew Adrian Conan Doyle and John Dickson Carr. The first of these ran in Good Housekeeping, and the others were published in Collier’s Weekly (image above, bottom). In his later career Fwcett devoted himself to documentary style reportage for Look magazine.

He was well respected by his peers, earning the mantle of “The Illustrator’s Illustrator”, which is the subtitle of a much anticipated book from Auad Publishing, Robert Fawcett: The Illustrator’s Illustrator, that is currently in production.

Fawcett himself wrote a well regarded book, On the Art of Drawing, which is still in print from Dover books.

Fawcett was one of the original group of illustrators, along with artists like Austin Briggs, Al Parker, Norman Rockwell and others, brought together by Albert Dorne to form the Famous Artists School.

I haven’t found a specific site dedicated to Fawcett’s work, but Leif Peng has come through again (as he so often does) with a terrific Flickr set (note that there are multiple pages of thumbnails), as well as a brief article on his blog, Today’s Inspiration.

Lori Lovecraft has a page devoted to Fawcett’s Sherlock Holmes Illustrations.

Gallery Nucleus, in Alhambra, California is hosting a Robert Fawcett Solo Exhibition, the opening for which is tomorrow, May 22, 2010, (though they haven’t yet posted pieces from the show). The exhibition runs until June 14, 2010.

Posted in: Illustration   |   4 Comments »

Thursday, May 20, 2010

MicroVisions 5 auction

Posted by Charley Parker at 10:07 am

MicroVisions 5 auction: Michael Kaluta, Bill Carman, Donato Giancola, Allen Williams
MicroVisions is a yearly auction of small (5×7″, 12x17cm) paintings by noted science fiction and fantasy artists, arranged by Irene Gallo and Dan Dos Santos, the proceeds of which go to the Society of Illustrators student scholarship fund.

This year’s participating artists include Scott Altmann, Scott Bakal, Rick Berry, Bill Carman, Jon Foster, Donato Giancola, Michael Kaluta, Tim O’Brien, Omar Rayyan, Allen Williams, and Boris Vallejo (links to my posts on the artists).

The auction is now live on eBay and runs until next Wednesday, May 26, 2010.

(Images above: Michael Kaluta, Bill Carman, Donato Giancola, Allen Williams)

[Thanks to Bill Carman for the heads-up.]

Posted in: Sc-fi and Fantasy   |   1 Comment »

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

James Bama Sketchbook

Posted by Charley Parker at 7:24 am

James Bama Sketchbook
James Bama is one of America’s primere “Western” artists, though less in the sense that term is usually applied to artists who depict the landscapes of the American West, and more in the tradition of artists like Frederic Remington who portray the people and character types associated with the traditions of the frontier west and their inheritors, modern cowboys, mountain men and native Americans.

After a successful career as one of America’s noted illustrators, creating memorable illustrations for magazines, advertising and book covers, most famously his striking series of covers for the Bantam Doc Savage novel series, Bama moved from New York to Wyoming began to devote himself to his personal work and gallery art.

Bama’s intensely focused realism draws its power from both his keen observation of his subjects and the graphic strength his compositions inherit from his years as an illustrator.

Underlying both phases of his career is Bama’s skill as a draftsman, and that aspect of his art is brought out beautifully in a new book from Flesk Publications: James Bama Sketchbook: A Seventy Year Journey, Traveling from the Far East to the Old West. I received a review copy from Flesk and was delighted to find it full of Bama’s wonderfully realized drawings and character studies of his Western subjects.

Most are preliminary drawings on which finished paintings were based, though many were of subjects that never became paintings. The book also includes small color studies, a very nice series of travel sketches from trips abroad, notably to China, color studies from his days in advertising, and even drawings from his time as a student at the Art Students League, where he studied with Frank Reilly, among other notable instructors.

Most of the drawings in the book are done in a style that speaks to Bama’s approach as both a draftsman and a painter, in which delicate pencil outlines contain areas of graphite tones, value studies set in strong compositions against minimal backgrounds.

The character of the faces of his subjects is Bama’s main focus, but a strong second is the character of their clothing, whether the traditional and ceremonial costume of Native American tribes, the rough denim and leather of cowboys and ranch hands, or the simple dress of Chinese farmers. Bama captures them with a sharp eye and deft hand.

The book can be ordered directly from Flesk Publications, who also published a previous book on Bama’s color work, James Bama: American Realist. The latter is still available, but in a limited quantity.

Flask has done their usual superb job with the book’s production values, right down to the color and nature of the paper on which the sketches were drawn. However, even though Flesk’s online book previews are getting better, I could still wish for more and larger sample pages from the books on the web site, particularly for those who might be coming across an artist like James Bama for the first time.

Bama does not have a dedicated site that I’m aware of. JamesBama.com is the Jerry W. Horn Gallery offering limited edition prints, and Greenwich Workship has a gallery of limited editilon prints on canvas. I’ve listed some additional resources on both the new book and on James Bama below.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Pencil Test Depot

Posted by Charley Parker at 1:15 pm

Pencil Test Depot
A pencil test is a step in the process of creating traditional (hand-drawn) animation in which the artist draws a sequence in pencil, which is then photographed and run as an animation.

This allows animators to see, assess and, if necessary, adjust the crucial elements of motion and timing prior to creating the more elaborate inked cells that are used for the final animation.

These are never meant for the public, any more than concept art or preliminary sketches; they are just intended to be tools for the animator. The images are often rough and characterized by smudges, false starts and scribbled notes.

The process is fascinating, though, and so is seeing the characters move and act, but in a rough state that makes it more obvious that these are moving drawings.

Pencil Test Deopt is a blog maintained by animator Jamaal Bradley, in which he gathers together pencil test videos from around the web and posts them along with descriptions of the piece and the animator(s) involved.

There are some pencil tests from classic Disney animations, as well as some recent additions from great Warner Brothers animators.

This is a tremendous resource for anyone interested in animation, and the process by which drawings “come alive”.

[Via ASIFA-Hollywood]

Posted in: Animation   |   6 Comments »

Monday, May 17, 2010

Joseph Adolphe

Posted by Charley Parker at 10:36 am

Joseph Adolphe
Originally from Calgary, Canada, illustrator and gallery artist Joseph Adolphe now lives and works in Connecticut.

His painted illustrations have an immediate, painterly quality that almost seems casual, with paint laid on in dabs and chunks, rough textured backgrounds and a loose, comfortable command of his materials. Many of his illustrations blend drawing and painting, with varying degrees of the two deftly mixed in his compositions.

His drawings also often retain a rough, informal feeling, with lines deliberately retaining a sketchlike quality and areas of the image suggesting different degrees of finish. He works in a variety of media, pen and ink, graphite, oil, acrylic and collage. He also often takes his illustrations created in traditional media into the computer for additional digital modification.

Adolphe is an associate professor in the Department of Fine Arts at St. Johns University in Queens.

He maintains a website for his illustration work, though I found his work easier to view on the site of his artist representatives, Gerald & Cullen Rapp.

He has a separate website for his gallery work, which ranges from recent work in which figures and ground are interworked in great scraping sheets of texture, to older pieces that are more straightforward figurative compositions, portraits sketched and painted on index cards, still life and painterly urban landscapes.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Simone Bingmer

Posted by Charley Parker at 9:49 am

Simone Bingmer
Pastel is a fascinating medium that traverses the boundaries of both drawing and painting. In the hands of portrait artist Simone Bingmer it falls into the latter category, taking on the refined appearance of oil painting, but with a textural surface quality unique to the dry medium.

Bingmer lives and works in Cologne, Germany. She starts the portrait process with a phase she calls brainstorming. This is a search for the sitter’s personality that involves conversation and the taking of numerous reference photographs. From there she proceeds with an initial pencil drawing, which is then enlarged and transferred to canvas as the basis for the pastel painting.

Bingmer’s website features a gallery of her portraits of children, men, women and animals. She appears to find her greatest inspiration in portraits of women and young girls. The former allow her to engage in elegant rendering and classical compositions, the latter have the most emotional resonance, with her young sitters often displaying a vibrant force of personality.

The images in her gallery are linked to somewhat larger versions, but some of the most fascinating images are only available in the Flash slideshows that are at the top of the home page and other non-gallery pages. In those you can see larger details of the portraits that show the surface texture and her adept handling of the medium.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Telemaco Signorini

Posted by Charley Parker at 2:23 pm

Telemaco Signorini
Telemaco Signorini was one of the premier members of the Macchiaioli, a group of Italian painters working in Tuscany in the latter half of the 19th Century. They were contemporaries of the French painters of the Barbizon School; and like them, were precursors of Impressionism in their devotion to painting outdoors, painting everyday subjects and seeking to capture natural light and color in their work.

Macchaioli comes form “macchie” meaning spots or patches; and, like the term “Impressionist”, Macchiaioli was originally a derogatory term coined by reviewers, referring to the “unfinished” nature of their paintings and the discrete unblended areas of color they employed to achieve their luminous effects.

Along with Giovanni Fattori and Silvestro Lega, Signorini was at the core of the group, having met them at Caffé Michelangelo in Florence, and responding to their like-minded rejection of the restrictions of academic painting.

Though perhaps not as artistically adventurous as his compatriots, Signorini became the one most concerned with the underlying spirit and intention of their work; perhaps in a way comparable with Pissarro’s role among the Impressionists.

Signorini painted interiors as well as landscapes, and after volunteering during the Second Italian War of Independence, painted military themed works. Many of his later works also contain an element of social conscience.

Like his compatriots, Signorini retained much of his academic training and formal draftsmanship, elements that many of the French Impressionists would later eschew, and also utilized a deeper range of value than the Impressionists, even to the point of chiaroscuro.

Many of his most frequently reproduced works are scenes of Florence (Firenze) and the neighboring Tuscan countryside. Signorini was also an accomplished etcher, producing numerous wonderful plates of Florentine scenes.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Fritz Kahn

Posted by Charley Parker at 10:26 am

Fritz Kahn
Dr. Fritz Kahn was a Berlin based gynecologist who wrote and illustrated a number of popular science books that showed the processes of the human body as though they were machines.

While the metaphors may be limited in terms of actually understanding biological functions, they make for great imagery.

Kahn was active in the 1920′s. In the 1930′s his books were banned by the Nazis and copies were burned along with other works by Jewish intellectuals. He was expelled from Germany, and just before the onset of WW II, escaped from Europe to the U.S. with personal help from Albert Einstein.

There is a website devoted to Kahn and his work, that includes a gallery.

A large reproduction of the image above (shown with details) can be found at the National Library of Medicine as part of their Dream Anatomy feature (see my post on Dream Anatomy).

His book, Fritz Kahn: Man Machine Maschine Mensch is still available in an edition that includes both the original German text and an English translation.

Henning M. Lederer has created an animated and interactive interpretation of the work above, for which there is a preview video on YouTube.

[Via Cyriaque Lamar on io9]

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