The Legend of Steel Bashaw, Petar Meseldžija

The Legend of Steel Bashaw, Petar Meseldzija
Serbian artist Petar Meseldžija, who I wrote about in 2008, has a career that has included outstanding work in comics, illustration, posters and gallery art.

He has taken elements from all aspects of his skill range and applied them to the classic form of the illustrated storybook in The Legend of Steel Bashaw, an adaptation of a Serbian folktale known as Baš Čelik.

To bring the book to U.S. readers, Meseldžija worked with Flesk Publications, whose consistent high standards in reproduction and printing for art books make them an ideal choice to bring Meseldžija to the attention of a wider audience.

Flesk sent me a review copy and they’ve hit it out of the park again.

Meseldžija brings his rich, painterly style to classic fantasy settings, quite cottages on sunny hillsides, paths through darkened green woods, mountain streams and ancient castles; and in particular, gnarled trees, wet with moss and tinged with fall colors, that are like characters themselves.

Into these settings he brings grotesque giants, fearsome demons and cunning dragons, along with our hero and heroine, who play out a story cast in the mold of great man vs. monster legends like Beowulf and Homer’s Odyssey.

With an eye for subtle color contrasts and vibrant textures, Meseldžija brings the story to life in the first two thirds of the book. In the latter third, Flesk has worked with Meseldžija to bring the making of the story and its images to light, with initial sketches, concept drawings, and highly refined preliminary tone drawings, as well as color sketches and some of the artist’s relevant landscape paintings.

The result is two books in one, the illustrated story and the “making of” chapter that reveals Meseldžija’s working methods.

You can see some images from the book on the Flesk Publications site, as well as in the Illustration section of Meseldžija’s site.

The book can be ordered through Flesk’s new online store, or via snail mail.

Petar Meseldžija’s website has been revised and expanded since I last wrote about him, and includes examples of his work in multiple areas.

[Update 11/23/10: Petar Meseldžija now has a blog at Though it was only recently started, he has already added fascinating information about his working methods.]


Edgar Degas

Edgar Degas
Though considered a member of the original core group of French Impressionists, Edgar Degas (Hilaire Germain Edgar Degas), always stood apart, both in his approach to painting, in which he considered himself a realist rather than an Impressionist, and in his emphasis on drawing.

Amid a group that downplayed the role of drawing in art in deference to the immediacy of painting the fleeting effects of light (Monet went so far as to hide the role drawing played in his art), Degas was arguably one of the finest draftsmen of the 19th Century.

Degas was part of the Impressionist group socially, and hung out at the Café Guerbois with artists in and around their circle, including Manet, Cézanne, Renoir, Monet, Sisley, Bazille and Pissarro, though he often argued with them.

He helped organize the Impressionists’ out-of-the-mainstream independent exhibits, and exhibited in all but one of them. More financially stable then the others, he also collected works by painters in and around their circle, like Pissarro, Gauguin, Cézanne and Manet.

In his painting style, however, he never adopted the broken dots of color, painting of light effects or fondness for landscape championed by Monet and the other Impressionists, and was derisive of their practice of plein air painting.

He instead continued in the vein of the realists like Courbet and Corot (who, we forget today, were radical in their own time). Degas, too was radical in his own way, particularly in his dramatic compositions, which broke the laws of academic painting as surely as his contemporaries did with their deliberate rejection of academic traditions.

Like the Impressionists, Degas was very influenced by the work of Édouard Manet, who he met while both were copying the same painting in the Louvre (a practice common to serious art students at the time), but Degas also carried with him his admiration for artists like Ingres and Delacroix.

Degas, particularly in his later work, did share with the Impressionists the use of bold, painterly brushwork and vivid colors; and this, as well as his compositional innovations, carried over into his intensely expressive pastel drawings, which may be the most recognizable of his works today.

With their familiar subjects of ballet rehearsals, horse racing and women at the bath, Degas’ pastels are beautifully drawn, innovatively realized and striking in their graphic power.

Degas also drew beautifully in other media, and was accomplished at etching, lithography and sculpture.

There is currently an exhibition at the Morgan Library and Museum in New York of Degas Drawings and Sketchbooks that is on display until January 23, 2011. The Online Exhibition on the website lets you flip through a selection of drawings and a sketchbook from the exhibit. Use the “See thumbnails” choice at left and when using the Zoomable views, be sure to choose the “Full Screen” option below the image to the right of the zooming controls.

Degas has become one of the most popular and revered artists in the world, and there are more resources in print and on the web than I can begin to list here; so I will instead point you to a general search on Amazon for Degas, and the extensive lists of web resources for Degas on ArtCyclopedia, including museum listings and image archives (see the tabs at the top of the list for other categories).


Arcimboldo, 1526-1593: Nature and Fantasy

Giuseppe Arcimboldo
Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s wonderfully bizarre blendings of nature and humankind, incorporating natural forms like vegetables, twigs and leaves as well as fish and other small animals in the representation of human faces, can still “turn heads” today, as they must have in the 16th Century.

Largely forgotten shortly after his death and re-discovered in the 20th Century, Arcimboldo is the subject of a new exhibition at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C.

Arcimboldo, 1526-1593: Nature and Fantasy includes sixteen examples of his work, seen here in the U.S. for the first time. The exhibition also includes drawings by Da Vinci and Durer, along with other works intended to provide context for the paintings.

His hallucinatory arrangements of images within a larger image delighted the Surrealists, who saw in him a precursor to their dream inspired visions. His “still life” paintings (done at a time when still life was not an accepted genre) that only revealed their human face when inverted, have entered pop culture in the form of countless “optical illusion” variations on the theme.

The National Gallery has provided a very nice PDF Exhibition Brochure, that can be downloaded from the right hand column of the exhibition page, as well as a short video.

Arcimboldo, 1526-1593: Nature and Fantasy will be on view until January 9, 2011.

For more, see my previous post on Giuseppe Arcimboldo.

[Via Art Daily]


OP-ED at 40: Four Decades of Illustration

OP-ED at 40: Four Decades of Illustration, New York Times
40 years ago, the New York Times debuted a new page, the OP-ED or Opposite Editorial page, meant to be both physically and philosophically opposite the editorial page.

In choosing the art for this page, the editors wanted to step outside the customary range of editorial cartoons and find an opposing style there as well.

The result have been 40 years of striking, hard-hitting, though provoking and outside-the-box illustration.

There is a short (10 minute) video on the New York Times site, OP-ED at 40: Four Decades of Illustration, that explores the history of the illustration for the page, featuring multiple examples along with comments from both editors and artists.

There is a list on the page, below the video, of the artists whose work is featured, in the order of appearance.

The feature includes several artists I’ve written about here on Lines and Colors, including Brad Holland, Sam Weber, Al Hirschfeld, Ronald Searle and Maria Kalman.


Art of the American Soldier

Art of the American Soldier: George Harding, Lester G. Hornby, Franklin Boggs, Howard Brodie, Paul MacWilliams, Frank M. Thomas, Sieger Hartgers, Peter G. Varisano, Elzie Golden
I’ve written before about combat artists, soldiers called on (or inspired to) record their experiences in combat and in other aspects of a soldier’s life.

Starting in World War I, the U.S. Army had a program of officially designated combat artists. Remarkably, they were told to record their experiences directly as they saw them, and not reserved or slanted as nationalistic propaganda.

That principle seems to have been adhered to over the years, so we get to see soldiers’ lives through their own eyes, largely unaltered by the otherwise expected filters of military bureaucracy and politicians.

The Army has a collection of hundreds of works, spanning generations of artists, that its curator calls “the most famous collection no one’s ever heard of”.

Selections have been drawn from that collection as part of a new exhibition titled Art of the American Soldier that opened yesterday at the National Constitution Center here in Philadelphia.

The online preview is arranged along a horizontally scrolling 100 year timeline, from WWI to the present day. You can hover your mouse over individual images for brief credits, and click for more detailed information and larger view, that can in turn be clicked on for a larger image.

Art of the American Soldier is on view until January 10, 2011.

(Images above: George Harding, Lester G. Hornby, Franklin Boggs, Howard Brodie, Paul MacWilliams, Frank M. Thomas, Sieger Hartgers, Peter G. Varisano, Elzie Golden)


Divergent: The Art of Sterling Hundley

Divergent: The Art of Sterling Hundley
Sterling Hundley, who I’ve written about previously here and here, is the subject of a one man show at the University of the Arts here in Philadelphia.

Divergent: The Art of Sterling Hundley opens today, September 24th, 2010, at the Richard C. von Hess Illustration Gallery, 333 South Broad St, Philadelphia, and runs until November 22nd.

Hundley will be giving an artist’s talk on October 14th from 1:30 to 3pm in the CBS Auditorium, followed by a reception in the Von Hess Illustration Gallery.

The show features over 30 works from Hundley’s career and demonstrates a diverse range of illustration styles (presumably the origin of the exhibition’s name). In them he shows some common threads of fascination with texture, patterns, and subdued color palettes.

You can see a preview of works from the show on Hundley’s page on Behance Network.