Those who are not conversant in works of art are often surprised at the high value set by connoisseurs on drawings which appear careless, and in every respect unfinished; but they are truly valuable... they give the idea of a whole.
- Sir Joshua Reynolds
We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are.
- Anais Nin


Friday, December 24, 2010

More Haddon Sundblom Santas

Posted by Charley Parker at 2:41 pm

Haddon Sundblom Santas
Despite the inaccurate claims made by Coca-Cola for a number of years (they have since modified their story), and some confusion from other quarters, American illustrator Haddon Sundblom did not create the look of Santa Claus as we know him.

That story is a bit less than straightforward and involves a number of other illustrators, including Thomas Nast, J.C. Leyendecker, Reginald Birch, Norman Rockwell and others (see my post on Illustrators’ Visions of Santa Claus).

However, Sunblom, one of the great illustrators of the early 20th Century, refined the image of the character to his most recognizable form. Sundblom’s series of Santa illustrations for Coca-Cola ads, that ran from 1931 to 1964, gave us the quintessential modern interpretation of the Jolly One.

The Coca-Cola page has a selection of some of the images and the Coca-Cola Art blog has another page here, both with links to larger versions. An even better resource is the post on Golden Age Comic Book Stories, with many of the Sunblom Santas in one place (again, click for larger images). There is also a post on KoiKoiKoi.

Leif Peng has an excellent post on Sunny’s Santa on his blog Today’s Inspiration, and has a wealth of other posts on Haddon Sundblom. (Note: some of them include Sundblom’s pin-up illustrations, which can be mildly NSFW.)

See also my previous posts on Haddon Sundbom and Haddon Sundblom’s Santa Claus Illustrations.

I wouldn’t mind a lump of coal in my Christmas stocking if it was painted by Haddon Sundblom.

Posted in: Illustration   |   5 Comments »

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Wikimedia Commons

Posted by Charley Parker at 9:00 pm

James Tissot, Henryk Hector Siemiradzki, Carl Spitzweg, Aleksandr Novoskoltsev, Viincent van Gogh, Willem de Zwart, John Singer Sargent, Jules-Eugé Lenepveu, Ilya Repin, Jean-Léon Gérôme, Edouard Manet, William Merritt Chase
No, it doesn’t have anything to do with WikiLeaks, but Wikimedia Commons is related to another familiar Wiki based phenomenon, Wikipedia, in that both are projects of the Wikimedia Foundation.

(A wiki, by the way, is simply a kind of website, specifically, a potentially collaborative website created with wiki software, that allows for contribution, editing and administration by people with no knowledge of HTML.)

Wikimedia Commons is the Wikimedia Foundation’s online free-use media resource, containing over 7,000,000 media files — sound, video and of course, images.

Among the images are an increasingly large number of art related images — paintings, drawings, etchings, engravings and the like. It has become one of the larger art image repositories on the web (see my posts on The Athenaeum, ArtMagick, AllPaintings, The Web Gallery of Art and The Art Renewal Center). You may have noticed links to Wikimedia Commons among the links provided with a number of my articles about artists from history.

You can use the search feature at the top of every Wikimedia Commons page to look for a specific artist, of course, but one of the nice things about the arrangement of the material is that it enables a certain kind of browsing, one conducive to discovering artists and works that may be new to you.

An initial search for “paintings“, for example, brings up a page that provides access other category listings, such as Paintings by artist, Paintings by city, country, period, medium, subject, technique, and even Paintings by museum.

One of the most productive to my mind is the “Paintings by date” category, and from that landing, “Paintings by century“.

Here it’s easy to narrow down, for example into 19th century paintings. At this level, you’ll be presented with a number of thumbnails for a variety of paintings from the century, a sort of skim through some of that century’s artists, and a further breakdown into decades. Here is where I like to browse, by choosing a decade, for instance, 1880s paintings.

Though there are further breakdowns at that level, into individual years, the thumbnails for a given decade present a nicely varied selection of works to view by a variety of artists. Though hardly comprehensive, it makes for a fun way to explore and sample a selection of works by artists both familiar and not.

The images above, for example, all were represented on the 1880s paintings page as thumbnails, from the top: James Tissot, Henryk Hector Siemiradzki, Carl Spitzweg, Aleksandr Novoskoltsev, Vincent van Gogh, Willem de Zwart, John Singer Sargent, Jules-Eugé Lenepveu, Ilya Repin, Jean-Léon Gérôme, Edouard Manet and William Merritt Chase.

Once on the page for an individual work you can sometimes (though not always) click through a linked mention of the artist’s name into a page of works specifically by that artist, for example, William Merritt Chase.

The possibilities for discovering artists are extensive.

I’ll give my usual Major Timesink Warning for resources this large and potentially engrossing.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Interview with Jean-Baptiste Monge

Posted by Charley Parker at 4:56 pm

Jean-Baptiste Monge
Jennifer Oliver was kind enough to write and let me know that she has posted a two-part interview with French fantasy illustrator and concept artist Jean-Baptiste Monge (who I profiled previously here) on her blog Academy of Art Character and Creature Design Notes.

An Interview with Jean-Baptiste Monge, Part 1, and Part 2.

The blog is aimed at her students at Academy of Art University, but Oliver has generously shared the interview with the rest of us.

The interview, conducted in English, is profusely illustrated (how I love that phrase) with Monge’s beautiful, often detailed and wonderfully realized paintings, along with drawings, sketches and photographs of Monge at work (be sure to click on the images for larger versions).

Monge’s work is enchanting, in the fullest sense of that word, drawing you in with wonderfully stylized lines and forms and then charming the eye with beautiful touches and thoughtful details. He often reminds me of illustrators from the Golden Age of Illustration just before and after the turn of the 20th Century, so I found the list of influences he mentions in the interview of particular interest.

He mentions a number of painters and illustrators I would have associated with him from my impression of his style, and some I didn’t expect.

Many of the artists he mentions have been the subject of previous posts on Lines and Colors, including painters and clsssic illustrators like J. W. Waterhouse, Jean-Léon Gérôme, John Bauer, Edmund Dulac, Arthur Rackham, Alphonse Mucha, Norman Rockwell, J.C. Leyendecker and Haddon Sundblom, as well as contemporary illustrators like John Howe, PJ Lynch and James Gurney (links to my posts).

Oliver lists some resources for information on Monge, including his website, a portfolio on Creative Talent Network, his LinkedIn and Facebook pages and Mr. Dumblebee.

For more see my previous post on Jean-Baptiste Monge.

Velázquez Portrait Restored, Literally and Figuratively

Posted by Charley Parker at 1:50 pm

Velazquez, portrait of Philip IV restored
In 1973, for reasons still not clear to me, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York undertook a sweeping reassessment of many of its holdings, resulting in the downgrading of 300 old master paintings from attribution to the master to attribution to “workshop of”, “circle of” or “follower of”, removing them from the canon of those masters’ works and significantly depleting the value of the museum’s collection.

Some of those pieces have been again reassessed, both in the light of continued scholarship and as the result of subsequent cleanings and restorations. Last year the Met cleaned and restored Velázquez’s Portrait of a Man, and in the process restored it to it’s original attribution — originating from the master’s hand an not that of a subordinate. This was particularly significant as the painting is likely a self-portrait (see my post, Velázquez (Self?) Portrait Rediscovered).

This process has been repeated with a painting that was once, and is now again, one of the museum’s most important paintings by the Spanish master, who is sometimes labeled the greatest of all painters.

The full-length portrait of Philip IV of Spain is one of three the court commissioned from Velázquez after he became court painter. The painting had suffered over the years from numerous applications of varnish and misguided repainting, and was in a condition that made definitive attribution difficult.

The New York Times has a nice set of interactives on their feature, The Restoration of a Velázquez, that allows you to move a slider across the images, comparing the before and after restoration state of the painting (click between the “Restoration” and “Two Paintings Compared” tabs at the top of the feature).

I don’t know how long the NYT feature will be available before it disappears behind a registration wall. The painting’s listing on the Met’s site has both a larger version and a Zoomable feature, and still bears the “This information may change as the result of ongoing research.” tag.

We can assume (or hope) that Velázquez hasn’t indulged in flattering his subject here. The young Philip, pale, droopy eyed and red lipped, looks more like the dweeb you sat next to in chemistry than the ruler of one of the great empires of the world. But his appearance is consistent throughout paintings by Velázquez and others, and the master’s hand, revealed on the removal years of accumulated abuse, holds a steady mirror to nature.

(Image above, images of the interactive from NYT on the left, images from the Met on the right)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Ian McQue

Posted by Charley Parker at 10:02 am

Ian McQue
Ian McQue is a concept artist, illustrator and art director for the gaming industry. He is currently working for Rockstar North, and gaming aficionados will recognize the several Grand Theft Auto titles to his credit, along with an number of other games.

McQue works in both traditional and digital media, the latter including Photoshop, Illustrator and 3d Studio Max.

When not working, McQue likes to add to his flotilla of steampunk airships. Wonderfully realized, improbably heavy, they appear battered and patched, as though the aerial equivalent of the junks and salvaged ships one might find in an off the map Pacific port, trading in God-knows-what, plying the currents in the grey skies of another place or time.

You can find a nice big introductory batch of his flying ships on Concept Ships, where his work was chosen for the Monthly header this month.

You’ll find more of his on his blog, along with some of his nicely gestural sketches. There is also a gallery on CGHub.

[Via io9]

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Confident Color

Posted by Charley Parker at 11:46 am

Confident Color: An Artist's Guide to Harmony, Contrast and Unity, Nita Leland
This is one of those books for which the binding is key.

Nita Leland’s Confident Color: An Artist’s Guide to Harmony, Contrast and Unity is published by venerable art instruction book publisher North Light Books.

Like Leland’s previous book, The New Creative Artist (which I reviewed here) and Bert Dodson’s Keys to Drawing with Imagination (my review here), North Light has published it in their hybrid hardback/spiral binding, giving the overt clue that this is a book meant to be used, rather then simply read.

The spiral binding allows for laying the book flat on your drawing table, the hardcover allows for rough and continued handling, and the combination allows for propping the book open upright on the rail of an easel.

The intention of the publisher clearly matches that of the writer, to get the most out of this book, it needs to be used, worked with over time; and will have shown its best service when ragged at the edges and spattered with paint.

Not that you couldn’t settle into the Comfy Chair and find lots of interest to read through and look at; Leland drills through a concise introduction to color theory, history and terminology and covers the basics of understanding palettes and pigments, all augmented with her selections of works from a variety of contemporary working artists and a few of her own. The real value, though, is in the exercises, trials, procedures and processes that form the core of the book.

If you’re lucky, you may have encountered a teacher like Leland in your formative years, one who will, however gently and politely, continue to poke and prod and push you to try something new, move out of your comfort zone, experiment, play and explore.

This isn’t random try-whatever experimentation, however; in Confident Color Leland provides you with guided exploration, designed to systematically familiarize you with the ranges of relationships presented by your color choices.

There is a “Look Inside” preview on the Amazon listing, though as is often the case, the pages represented don’t give the best indication of the actual content of the book. The index is actually better for that.

The book is aimed at beginners as well as more advanced artists, and though watercolor is Leland’s medium and some of the pigments mentioned are particular to watercolor, the general palettes are set up with colors that work well across most mediums that involve color.

In some ways this is an extension of and companion to Leland’s 1998 book Exploring Color, which has become something of a standard among books on working with color. That book, though without the advantage of the lay-flat binding, was also meant to be worked with.

Both volumes focus alternately on the split-primary process of color mixing and on the exploration of variations on the red/blue/yellow triads that serve as the basis for several of many possible color wheels.

She urges you to work with and understand the difference between palettes composed of muted, intense and earth-toned colors, as well as the “workhorse” colors that form the basis of most artist’s palettes.

In pursuing her exercises and explorations, you might work with colors and combinations that you would’t use in other circumstances, which may seem counter productive; but just as contour drawing is rarely used as the style for a finished work, knowing artists will work at it with dedication, letting the practice inform and strengthen their finished style.

This isn’t the kind of book that says “mix two parts Cad Yellow to one part Ultramarine to paint this foliage”; in Confident Color, Leland is suggesting if you experiment with these excursions into color harmony and contrast, work through the mixtures possible with variations of of the primary triad and really get the feeling for how colors act and react with one another, you’ll instinctively know what to mix when you want to paint something.

The book’s binding is the key. Confidence comes from doing.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Waterhouse’s Miranda

Posted by Charley Parker at 9:03 pm

Miranda from Shakespeare's the Tempest, by John William Waterhouse
Whatever the actual reception of the movie itself, I think it’s always good when a new popularly released move brings renewed attention to the works of Shakespeare, which had much more in common with the characteristics of contemporary popular entertainment than your high school English class might have led you to believe.

The latest adaptation from the Bard’s cupboard of timeless tales, the 2010 version of The Tempest, features Helen Mirren as a female version of Prospero, and Felicity Jones as her sheltered daughter, Miranda.

Victorian painter John William Waterhouse, who, like his friends in the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, often took scenes from Shakespeare for his subjects, apparently painted three different interpretations of Miranda.

One was painted in 1875, early in his career (images above, top). It shows a contemplative Miranda gazing out over a calm sea.

The other two, smaller and larger versions of essentially the same image, were both painted by Waterhouse in in 1916, the year before his death. They show Miranda as witness to the storm and shipwreck which which the play’s actions begin. The later and larger of these (image above, top) is probably the most familiar.

More Tempest trivia: one of the most interesting, if loose, adaptations from The Tempest was the spectacular (for its time) 1956 science fiction classic, Forbidden Planet (more here). The film, aside from the connection to The Tempest, was notable for a number of reasons: the “monster from the id” and the subterranean alien power station were rendered and animated by veteran Disney artist Joshua Meador; the action was filmed largely on a soundstage backed with an enormous painted cyclorama of the alien landscape; and the movie and its production design were credited by Gene Roddenberry as a primary influence on the creation of his television show Star Trek; it also featured Leslie Neilson as the dramatic lead and introduced Robbie the Robot, one of the most iconic and influential designs for a cinematic robot; but I digress… back to Waterhouse’s 19th Century interpretation of Shakespeare’s 17th Century play.

Scenes from The Tempest were also interpreted by other artists, notably Pre-Raphaelite painter John Everett Millais, William Maw Egley, William Hamilton, earlier by Swiss-born Henry Fuseli, and even earlier by Angelica Kauffmann and George Romney.

(See my posts on John Everett Millais, Henry Fuseli and John William Waterhouse.)

Thursday, December 16, 2010


Posted by Charley Parker at 10:22 am

Xenozoic, Mark Schultz
Long time readers of Lines and Colors will know of my fascination with dinosaurs and paleo art, my fondness for science fiction and adventure stories and their accompanying illustrations, my admiration for the beautiful ink drawings of classic illustrators, the inspired adventure comic strips from the 1930′s and 1940′s that carried their traditions forward, and the wonderfully lurid E.C. Comics comic books of the 1950′s that, in turn, evolved out of them.

Together, those leanings make me a prime candidate to love the work of comics artist, writer and illustrator Mark Schultz, whose long running series Xenozoic Tales, also known as Cadillacs and Dinosaurs, has been delighting similarly minded readers since its surprise appearance in the comics anthology Death Rattle in the mid 1980′s.

Like his predecessors, Schultz has been taking the influence of the comics and illustration greats that inspired him, weaving it into his own always progressing style and applying it to telling the kind of stories that fired his enthusiasm for the comics medium when he was younger.

Schultz is now inspiring a new generation of comics artists and illustrators, who recognize that the very best in a given medium or genre is often slightly outside the mainstream, where those with eccentric visions can create the work that is unrestrained by the latest corporate sponsored “fads” and based instead on the artist’s love of the medium and subject matter.

Which brings me to Xenozoic, the new collection of Schultz’s Xenozoic Tales stories published by Flesk Publications. Flesk sent me a review copy, but I have to say that even though I have much of the material already in other formats, I would have picked this volume up anyway because it’s such a satisfying way to enjoy these stories and art.

Xenozoic collects the range of the stories, from early ones that lay out the groundwork for Szhultz’s fantastic world, to the latest and best, where his artwork, already striking in its intricate detail and deep chiaroscuro, develops to its peak of sweeping vistas and extraordinarily realized characters, animals and settings.

Did I mention that the comics are in black and white (with beautiful touches of tone)? Did I mention that this is a Good Thing? In the same way that classic black and white films have a feeling, mood and atmosphere that can’t be matched in color, so black and white comics and illustration can evoke mood and utilize visual texture in a way that the addition of color would only diminish.

In Schultz’s hands, areas of rock, foliage or background skies that otherwise might be simple areas of color become intricate marvels of ink line, texture and pattern, drawing you deeper into the scene and slowing down the pace with which you read, a technique that most contemporary comics artists have not learned to use effectively.

Many contemporary comics artists indulge in detail for its own sake, Schultz is one of the rare few who understands how to use it effectively to control how a story proceeds.

I won’t go into detail here about the history of Xenozoic Tales or the work of Mark Schultz, but will instead point you to my previous post on Mark Schultz, where I’ve already done that.

Mark Schultz; Various Drawings Volume 4Fans of Schultz’s work should also be aware of the books collecting his drawings also published by Flesk, the latest of which, Mark Schultz; Various Drawings Volume 4, is still available in paperback though sold out in hardcover.

These, unlike the toss-off sketchbook drawings sometimes compiled into collections by other comics artists, are more often fully realized, finished drawings. Volume 4 includes a wonderful 2 page fold-out of a John Carter of Mars illustration, along Schultz’s preliminary drawings for it, along with an assortment of other terrific drawings and even a one page comic strip, Paleonauts, in which he pays tribute to another Schultz.

Xenozoic is a big, heaping helping of fantasy adventure comics at their best, transporting the reader into pulp-inspired tales of high adventure in a mildly dystopian eco-disaster future (making it possible to have dinosaurs, people and, of course, Cadillacs within the same fantastic landscapes).

This is the kind of “plop down in the Comfy Chair with the big adventure book” experience that not enough pop culture fans have encountered. If you know someone who loves the modern takes on classic adventure movies, like the Indiana Jones movies, Jurassic Park, Peter Jackson’s King Kong remake, or even Pirates of the Caribbean, but for some reason thinks they don’t enjoy comics, here is a possible bridge into that world (and a treat of a present).

There is a preview of Xenozoic on the Flesk site, where you can click to see a few images from the book. Even though Flesk is getting better about this, showing somewhat larger preview images, the previews still don’t do the pages justice. If you’re not already familiar with Schultz’s work, look for the book in a bookstore so you can see how these pages look printed full size.

There is also an additional Mark Schultz gallery on the Flesk site (Schultz doesn’t have a dedicated site or blog of his own as far as I know).

Xenozoic and Mark Schultz; Various Drawings Volume 4 can be purchased directly from the Flesk Publications online store.

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