Monthly Archives: August 2010

MagCloud

MagCloud
As necessary is it is these days for artists to have a presence online, there are times when print is the medium of choice for showing one’s artwork, whether as a leave-behind for galleries, a sample book or portfolio for prospective clients or as a printed book for collectors.

I wrote back in 2008 about Blurb, and other modern print-on-demand services that allow you to create and print a professional looking 8x 10″ book, up to 40 pages, in quantities as few a one copy, for as little as $20; providing a terrific alternative to traditional means of printing portfolios or sample sheets for presentation to galleries, potential clients or buyers.

These are printed on Hewlett Packard’s Indigo digital press, in a process that produces results close to the more expensive process of offset lithography. The pages are bright and crisp with rich color, well suited to inexpensively reproduce color artwork and photography.

Blurb books are bound like a book and have a minimum of 20 pages; nice if you have a fair bit of work to present.

For a smaller body of work, an alternative resource is MagCloud, a service from HP that uses the Indigo press to produce short run on-demand magazines. This allows you to not only create a short run magazine on a schedule if you like, but also to create magazine-like printings that you can order yourself to use as handouts, or gallery leave-behinds, that can be as few as 4 or as many as 100 pages.

For magazines with more pages, they also offer a “perfect bound” option (a square binding as opposed to the fold and staple, or “saddle stitched” binding used in thinner magazines). These can be from 20 to 384 pages.

Unlike Blurb, which offers a free software application to allow amateurs to easily layout a book, you’re kind of on your own with MagCloud; but all you need is any software that will allow you to create and output a PDF file of the appropriate dimensions.

Like Blurb, MagCloud has a online store that allows you to offer your publication for sale if you want. They have a base price of 20 cents U.S. per page, and you mark up your publication to whatever price you want to set beyond that. The website has a feature that allows you to provide a multi-page online preview of the printed piece.

In theory, you could even publish comics, but the size is limited to 8 1/2 x 11″, not a standard comics format in the U.S. or Europe. I don’t know to what degree the service is available outside the U.S.

The New York Times has a photo/audio essay about a group Making a Magazine with MagCloud, and Read Write Web reports that MagCloud is rolling out a new feature that lets you create an iPad optimized version of your magazine.

A friend of mine, photographer and 3D computer graphics animator Harry Saffren, has been publishing his series of photographs of food on plates (as sequential images of the progress of consuming a meal) as 16 page issues of Plate Magazine. I was impressed with the results. Though there is no “cover” of heavier stock on the shorter run magazines, the reproduction is very like a professional newsstand magazine, and the printing reproduced the the bright vibrant colors of his original photographs to a remarkable degree.

MagCloud has an introduction as well as a Help page to get you started.

(Images above, links are to MagCloud page for that publication: top 2: Harry Saffren’s Plate Magazine, Paintings of Lesley Deacon, The Artwork of Bonnie Gloris, Works, American Painter John Grazier, Concept Art by Josh Mongeau 2010, SLAM (Support Local Arts Magazine), Fire Mass, eatsleepdraw magazine, John Bell, Jr. Paintings & Prints)

On Beauty and the Everyday: The Prints of James McNeill Whistler

On Beauty and the Everyday: The Prints of James McNeill Whistler
I’ve written before about the beautiful etchings of James McNeill Whistler, whose work as an etcher is even less well known than his paintings.

On Beauty and the Everyday: The Prints of James McNeill Whistler is a new exhibition opening this Saturday, August 21, 2010, at the University of Michigan Museum of Art, which has one of the most extensive collections of Whistler’s graphic work in the U.S.

The collection, which you can preview here, contains examples of some of Whistler’s finest and best known etchings.

Unfortunately, both the exhibition page preview (link for “More Images” at bottom) and the above images of the collection (meant to facilitate ordering slide sets) are small.

Etchings by their nature are subtle, with delicate lines against toned papers. This is part of their unique visual charm, but it makes them difficult to do justice in reproduction. There are some larger images on the site of the Frick Collection in New York. You can find impressions of some of the same etchings in both collections.

Some of the best online reproductions I’ve found are on the University of Glasgow’s site for James Mcneill Whistler: The Etchings, A Catalog Raisonne. Unfortunately the Catalog Raisonne mentioned is a book project, and the online resources are from from complete, but what is there is large enough to appreciate some of the subtlety of Whistler’s touch. You have to drill down a bit. Go to “Exhibition”, scroll down, click on the thumbnail to access the detail page, then click again on the image for the large version.

Next best may be the online images from the Freer Sackler Online Collections.

You will sometimes find the same etching in different “states”, impressions pulled form the plate at various stages of the artist’s work on the image.

Whistler was inspired by the etchings of Rembrandt, likely the finest practitioner of the art in history, and to a great degree revitalized the art in his time and placed himself high in the canon of the world’s great etchers and lithographers.

The exhibition at the University of Michigan Museum of Art continues to November 28, 2010.

For more information and links to resources, see my previous posts on James Abbott McNeill Whistler and Whistler’s Etchings. In the latter I give a brief overview of the process of creating an etching.

Etchings of James McNeill Whistler is wonderfully inexpensive Dover book.

I haven’t seen Etchings by Whistler: Sixty Photographs from Original Prints. It’s a facsimile of a book published in 1923 and I don’t know how well it’s fared in the reproduction.

Sebastian Krüger

Sebastian Kruger
Well along in a successful career as a designer and illustrator, German artist Sebastian Krüger began focusing on painting highly exaggerated caricature portraits of pop and music stars, particularly the Rolling Stones who he had met early in his career.

Since 2005 he has abandoned commercial work and devoted himself to gallery painting. As he has restlessly explored the boundaries of exaggeration possible in a recognizable face, he also began to work at large scale and in increasing degree of detail.

His large canvasses are now often highly realistic even when wildly exaggerated. Someare more straightforward, though often rendered with an intensity that makes them seem more exaggerated than they are.

I thought it was interesting that his portrayal of Jimi Hendrix, who went to lengths to present himself as an outlandish individual, is completely straightforward (and wonderfully realized).

I’m not familiar enough with his career to know if Kruger is moving more toward realism, but many of his recent pieces seem to be in that direction.

Krüger’s website is still in progress, but he has a current blog, and two additional blogs devoted to exhibitions and publications.

The artist occasionally leads workshops, and conducted his first in the U.S. early this year. Krüger works in acrylic on panels, at a scale you can see in the workshop image above.

There is a gallery site here that I think is unofficial, but it gives a nice range of his work and a fascinating tour through the degrees of exaggeration and intensity Krüger has brought to his “personality portraits” over time.

There is an article on Empty Kingdom that gives a good quick overview of his recent work.

Illustration 30

Illustration 30: Ellen B. T. Pyle, Edwin Georgi, Douglas Walters
I’ver written before about Illustration magazine, the beautiful quarterly periodical published by Dan Zimmer that showcases in-depth, lavishly illustrated articles on classic illustrators, both well known and undeservedly obscure, all presented with stunning production values.

Illustration 30 is out, featuring articles on Ellen B. T. Pyle, one of Howard Pyle’s students who married his brother Walter (images above, top); the strikingly colorful works of Edwin Georgi (above, middle) and the bizarre egg tempera and scratchboard illustrations of Douglas Walters (above, bottom).

The Ellen Pyle article is particularly timely in that it coincides with an exhibit currently at the Delaware Art Museum, Illustrating Her World: Ellen B. T. Pyle, that runs until January 3, 2010. The museum participated in the preparation of the article.

The issue, which is 96 full color pages, also includes a nice In Memoriam to Frank Frazetta by Ralph Bakshi, a personal remembrance of Ernest Chiriaka by Zimmer, plus the usual letters, reviews, exhibition and event listings and ads of interest to those who love classic illustration.

But why just take my word for it when Zimmer has placed the entire Issue 30 online for you to flip through, not just in thumbnails but in full screen and zoomable (click on the preview at bottom or the “View the Digital Edition” link, when in the full screen version click on the pages to zoom).

In addition to the current issue, Zimmer has made a number of past issues available the in the same full screen zoomable format through the Issuu.com interface (see the related issue thumbnails in the right column).

These will give you a great idea of the beautiful art and incisive writing in the magazine. I’ll stress again, though, as I have often pointed out, that the onscreen versions of the images, not matter that they’re full screen, are low resolution compared to the way they appear in print, particularly with Illustration’s superb color and reproduction standards.

The print version of issue 30 can be ordered directly from the publisher for only $15 U.S., which includes shipping ($30 U.S. for international delivery); and a number of back issues are available for the same price. In addition there are special publications, books and DVDs of interest to fans of classic illustration, including the ability to pre order the the new H.J. Ward book shipping in November.

Zimmer is also now presiding over The Illustration Gallery, a new online gallery of illustration art originals for sale.

Paul Madonna: All Over Coffee


“Predictable” is a word that, sadly, often applies to the contents of modern newspaper comics pages (what remains of them). In February of 2004 readers of the San Francisco Chronicle suddenly found themselves confronted with a new feature on the comics page, “All Over Coffee” by Paul Madonna, that set that notion nicely askew.

As an East Coast resident, I don’t get the Chronicle, but I can imagine that, for some, the feature was a source of confusion, despite the paper’s introductory article; but for others the reaction must have similar to the one I had when I first encountered All Over Coffee on the web: “Wow. What is this?”

The feature consists of a drawing, usually a beautiful pen and wash drawing of buildings, streets, rooms or architectural elements in San Francisco (and sometimes Paris, Amsterdam and elsewhere) accompanied by a short bit of writing, a few lines to a few paragraphs.

The writing consists of seemingly random musings, comments, suggestions, observations and generally enigmatic phrases written into and juxtaposed against the subtle beauty of the wash drawings. The “strip” ostensibly revolves around two unseen characters, Maurice and Sarah, whose abstracted thoughts and conversations form the text.

The drawings themselves are sometimes as wonderfully quirky and thought provoking as the writing, bits of seemingly incongruent architecture, flashes of streets, textural patterns of rooftops, storefronts, house sides, museum interiors, apartment lobbies, alleyways, cornices, telephone wires and TV antennas, often wrapped in geometric shadows and rendered with an intense affection and attention to detail.

Is it art? Sure. Is it literature? Yeah, that too. Is it poetry? Sometimes. Is it comics? Well, no (in that it’s not sequential storytelling as far as I can discern). Is it fascinating and rewarding? Almost always.

Madonna’s wash drawings are simply wonderful; his sensitive linework, sure draftsmanship, masterful applications of wash and keen eye for light and shadow produce images that are uncannily evocative of place, even for those of us who have never been to San Francisco.

Even though I have been to Paris, I don’t find those images any more or less resonant than the ones of San Francisco; the “place” he evokes isn’t as much a geographical location as the immediacy of one’s own surroundings, the sense of noticing the scene, and the moment, in which you find yourself.

Combined with text that, almost regardless of its actual content, has the common thread of causing you to slow down and contemplate, the final piece produces a poetic suspension of the ordinary; or more accurately, a reframing of the ordinary as extraordinary.

Madonna’s drawing style manages to retain some of the informality of travel sketches (and some of the journalistic immediacy of sketchbooks by Robert Crumb and Chris Ware), even while refined to the point of a finished work. He seems to have found a delicate “just right” spot between the two. He exercises that balance within individual drawings, with passages of intense detail against blank walls and great negative shapes of skies, often criss-crossed with telephone wires, window frames and the edges of architectural forms in a rich and playful compositional geometry.

His website opens in rather newspaper-like columns with news, announcements and links to various features and projects. All Over Coffee has its own section.

There is a book collection of All Over Coffee that is available from Amazon or directly from the publisher, City Lights. As announced on the All Over Coffee main page, a new collection, Everything Is Its Own Reward (the name of which is taken from this panel) is due in April of 2011.

Madonna has also provided illustrations for other books, including A Writer’s San Francisco: A Guided Journey for the Creative Soul by Eric Maisel, and Nikko Concrete Commando by Delfin Vigil (a magazine-like MagCloud publication, click on “Show Preview” on the page).

The bulk of the All Over Coffee images available online are in the Purchase section, in which you can purchase either original art or fine art prints of All Over Coffee pages. You will find some redundancy between the two, but the features are numbered, and I doubt you will object to seeing a given piece more than once.

In his presentation of the images on the site, Madonna gives the date and location of each drawing and a brief comment on the piece and its creation.

All Over Coffee is also, of course, a continuing feature in the San Fancisco Chronicle and its online edition SFGate. You can follow the online version here and access the archives here.

In whatever form, in print on online, take Paul Madonna’s invitation to slow down, look around and maybe contemplate a bit, all over coffee.

[Via Escape into Life]

Moonshine

Moonshine: Goro Fujita, Chin Ko, Lindsay Olivares, Samuel Michlap
Moonshine is the name of a group show that opens this Saturday, August 24, 2010, at Gallery Nucleus in Alhambra California. It features the personal work of 45 concept artists, production designers, art directors and character designers from DreamWorks Studio.

The list of participating artists includes a number of artists that I have featured here on Lines and Colors: Chris Appelhans, Goro Fujita, Marcos Mateu-Mastre, Samuel Michlap, Simon Rodgers, and Nate Wragg, among others (links are to my posts).

There is a list of artists, with links to their websites or blogs, on the Gallery Nucleus page for the exhibition. There will also be an online gallery of pieces, but as of this writing it’s not yet posted.

There is an opening reception Saturday from 7-11pm (with a $2 admission that serves as a raffle ticket), and a closing reception and book signing on Friday September 3rd from 7-10pm. There is a flyer for the show here.

The book signing refers to a book, also titled Moonshine (more here), that will accompany the exhibition. It will be the first to feature the personal art of DreamWorks creators. Additional volumes are planned.

The group has established a blog, Moonshine: DreamWorks Artists… After Dark, that features artwork and artist interviews, as well as links to the websites and blogs of the members.

(Images above: Goro Fujita, Chin Ko, Lindsay Olivares, Samuel Michlap)

[Via Cartoon Brew]