Monthly Archives: June 2010

Tony Ryder (update)

Tony Ryder
Tony Ryder is a noted contemporary draftsman and painter, author of the popular book The Artist’s Complete Guide to Figure Drawing and a well regarded teacher.

He studied at the Rhode Island School of Design and the Art Student’s League in New York, and continued independent studies with Ted Seth Jacobs in New York and France.

Since then, Ryder has taught at the New York Academy, the Art Student’s League and independent workshops in the U.S. and France. Ryder is now the leader of the Ryder Studio School, a classical atelier in Santa Fe, new Mexico.

Ryder’s website includes selection of his drawings and paintings, primarily figure, portrait and still life. It also features a number of sequential images for a portrait demonstration. You can also find some brief instructional essays on the site of the Ryder Studio School.

There is also a blog for the Ryder Studio School that seems to largely chronicle activities at the school, but occasionally posts work and instructional sequences.

There is an additional selection of his work on the Art Renewal Center. For more, see my post on Anthony J. Ryder from 2006.

Charles Burchfield

Charles Burchfield
Charles Burchfield is probably one of the more important 20th Century American artists that most people have never encountered.

Burchfield’s work went through several phases. His early watercolors can have a simple, almost naive feeling. He went through a time when he settled into rather straightforward representations of landscapes. But his mid-career paintings, after he appears to have experienced some kind of transformative event, and later ones in which he returned to some of the same themes, are strikingly visionary and have a sophisticated graphic power.

There can be something of a Van Gogh like quality to his visionary work, in the simplification and intensification of pictorial elements. In his more prosaic pieces, he conveys some of the direct, blunt observation of everyday scenes found in the work of his friend Edward Hopper.

The mystical, visionary quality to Burchfield’s most interesting work is sometimes ecstatic, sometimes haunted — an edge of transcendent meaning vibrating just under the surface of the commonplace, where he saw God’s expression in nature. In that respect, I see parallels to the landscapes of Caspar David Friedrich.

Burchfield mixes ink and gouache with his watercolor, also mixing painting and drawing conventions in the same image to wonderful effect. Objects dance, shimmer and vibrate, both with light and color and with linework and graphic effects.

He studied art for four years at the Cleveland Institute of Art, and then when on to the National Academy of Design in new York, but dropped out on the first day, apparently in embarrassment at being asked to draw from the nude model.

He returned to Ohio, secured a job designing wallpaper, and began to paint watercolors on his lunch hour. He then moved to Buffalo, New York, continued his work as a wallpaper designer and eventually quit to become a painter full time.

Burchfield suffered from some kind of emotional imbalance, prone to episodes of highs and lows, and at one point in his career experienced a dramatic episode that changed his work for many years after.

He was already inventive in many of his pieces, incorporating influences from botanical illustrations, Japanese prints, illustrators like Arthur Rackham and Romantic artists like William Blake and Samuel Palmer; but after the event he began to incorporate a system of graphic symbols into his work that he had invented to convey specific negative emotions.

He eventually came to grips with his emotional states, seeming to balance out his life, but he also subdued the mystical aspects of his art for many years. He later returned to his earlier subjects and styles with renewed confidence and control.

There is a nice essay on Burchfield by Bruce MacEvoy on Handprint (see my post on the color and watercolor resources on Handprint).

There is a Burchfield Penney Art Center affiliated with Buffalo State College, supposedly dedicated to the art of Charles Burchfield and other artists of Western New York; but the museum’s website is inexplicably bereft of images of any sort, and therefore useless in determining if the institution is worth a visit.

The Whitney Museum in New York is currently displaying an exhibition titled Heat Waves in a Swamp: The Paintings of Charles Burchfield, that runs from now until October 17, 2010. There is a selection of images from the exhibition online. There is a review of the show on the NYT.

Steve Huston

Steve Huston
Steve Huston studied at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena and embarked on an illustration career while still in school. After graduating he worked in illustration for 10 years, acquiring a client list that included MGM, Universal Studios and Paramount Pictures.

He then started to teach drawing, painting and composition at the Art Center, and later in corporate classes at Disney, Warner Brothers and Dreamworks. He has since transitioned into gallery art.

Though he occasionally does landscapes, the majority of Huston’s paintings are of figures. Of these his fascination with the complex geometry of the human form, and the surface topography of musculature, takes its greatest expression in his series of paintings of boxers, wrestlers and laborers.

He presents these in dramatic chiaroscuro combined with areas of smudged, “lost” edges, rough paint textures and gestural expressions of motion.

Huston lists among his influences Titian, Rembrandt and the early American Tonalist painters. I personally see the influence of Thomas Eakins in his work. Huston also cites American comic books for their graphic qualities and exaggeratedly heroic treatment of the figure.

Huston apparently no longer has a dedicated website, but is represented by several galleries. The Eleanor Ettinger Gallery has the largest selection of his work, though the reproductions are frustratingly small.

Skotia Gallery has fewer pieces, but they are presented somewhat larger, along with a bio.

Tom Wheeler

Tom Wheeler
Like many of us who come out of art school with concerns about the viability of gallery art as a source of livelihood, Tom Wheeler had a back-up plan, and devoted part of his attention to computer based design skills. Also like many of who who pursue a dual career path, he found he had a passion for both sides of his career.

He now divides his time between web site design and programming and his in interest in painting and drawing, and he teaches courses in both web design and drawing at the the Art Institute of Portland in Oregon.

His website showcases his work in both arenas of endeavor. In the Fine Art section you’ll find his paintings and drawings. Among the former are figurative, still life and landscape subjects.

Standouts for me are his paintings of creeks and small streams with rocky beds, in which he finds great variety of color and tone in the facets of the rock forms, their surfaces both wet and dry and their shapes as refelcted and refracted in the water.

Wheeler’s site also has resources for his students, which include lists of favored illustrators and realist painters.

Wheeler also maintains a blog which is inclusive of both of his fields of interest.

The Blank Page

The Blank Page - George Metaxas
The Blank Page is a short (3 minute) stop-motion animation by student George Metaxas that helped to get him accepted into the experimental animation program at Cal Arts.

Metaxas describes it as “An allegory about the creative process”.

What’s particularly interesting is the visual charm he accomplishes with his limited materials: a range of cardboard shapes that have been painted or drawn on.

There is an interview with him on Design Federation in which he discusses his process that includes some storyboard drawings.

Other than that I can’t find a site or other internet presence for Metaxas, but I have a feeling that we’ll be seeing more from him in the near future.

[Via Cartoon Brew]

John Collier

John Collier, Lady Godiva, In the Forest of Arden, Bauty
John Collier was a Victorian neo-classical painter, apparently introduced early on to Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, who did not take him on as a pupil, and influenced later in his career by the portrait paintings of John Everett Millais and his Pre-Raphaelite colleagues.

Judging by the quotes from reviews written during his life and at the time of his death, Collier faced poor critical reception in many circles, particularly in the ability to assign mixed interpretations to his works in a genre that was intended to convey moral lessons. (Of course, by the time he died in 1934, the influence of Modernist critics was beginning to cast any 19th Century art that was not considered part of the path to Modernism as irrelevant.)

Collier was also criticized as less original and less skilled than his contemporaries. Perhaps this is true, but in his best images he captures some of the magic that makes Victorian painting so appealing; with bright colors, rich textures, palpable atmosphere and the added depth of backstory inherent in literary subjects and legends, as in his interpretation of the ride of Lady Godiva (above, top).

He was the vice-president of the Society of Portrait Painters and painted a number of luminaries, including Charles Darwin, Rudyard Kipling and Aldous Huxley, who was his nephew.

Collier was the author of at least three books, A Manual of Painting, A Primer of Art and The Art of Portrait Painting, all of which exist as modern reprints.