Kekai Kotaki

Kekai Kotaki
Hawaii born Kekai Kotaki is an illustrator and concept artist for the gaming industry now living and working in Seattle.

He is currently working as Lead Concept Artist on Guild Wars 2 for He has previously done work for Wizards of the Coast, Tor Books, Blur DC Comics, Fantasy Flight Games and Ballistic Publishing, among others.

His work has been included in the last two editions of the Spectrum collections of contemporary fantastic art, several of the Expose collections of digital art and was featured in issue #41 of ImagineFX.

Kataki works largely in digital media, creating his fantastic characters and environments with stylus and graphics software like Photoshop.

He often employs limited, almost monochromatic palettes, combined with an excellent command of atmospheric perspective, to give his compositions drama and layers of depth.

His website has galleries of work from his most recent projects (accessed from a drop-down menu under the “Gallery” navigation element at the top of the page).

As is frequently the case with concept artists, I find the work in his “Personal” section, done without the constraints of a professional job, to be some of the most interesting.

Kotaki also maintains a blog, where you can find other art and news of current projects, as well as a few step-through demos of his working process.


Harvey Dunn

Harvey Dunn
The great American illustrator Howard Pyle was influential both in his own work and as a teacher whose ranks of students contained a generation of America’s finest illustrators. Artists like N.C. Wyeth, Frank Schoonover, William James Aylward, Elizabeth Shippen Green, Jessie Wilcox Smith, Violet Oakley, Maxfield Parrish, Ellen Thompson Pyle, Olive Rush, Phillip Goodwin, Stanley Arthurs, Allen Tupper True and many others passed through his classes at the Drexel Institute in Philadelphia and his own school in Wilmington, Delaware.

Of them, Harvey Dunn stood out not only for his masterful paintings, but for his own contributions as a teacher, carrying forward Pyle’s teachings, along with his own learning and strongly held convictions, to a new generation of illustrators, a list that also includes many notable names. After only two years as Pyle’s student, Dunn opened his own studio in Wilmington and began to take on illustration students.

Dunn created vibrant, energetic canvases that sing with drama, emotion, adventure and excitement. Even though many of his paintings were printed as black and white illustrations, he painted them in strikingly rich color, perhaps partly to please himself and partly to honor the extremely high standards of his mentor.

His illustrations appeared in The Saturday Evening Post, Collier’s Weekly, Harper’s Magazine and Scribner’s as well as in numerous books. He emphasized the emotion and feeling of the image, taking Pyle’s advice to project oneself into the scene being painted, and he became a master of dramatic composition.

Dunn is particularly renowned for his portrayals of the pioneer west and of the prairie, as exemplified by the area in South Dakota where he was born. His ouevre, however, was much broader than that. In World War I Dunn volunteered as one of the first to be an official war artist (see my posts on Art of War and They Drew Fire), traveling with a fighting unit and sending his pictures of the battlefield back to the U.S., bringing the war home in personal and emotionally powerful manner.

On his return from the war, Dunn found himself unenthused about returning to editorial illustration, but his plans to continue expanding his wartime sketches into fully realized canvasses were dashed by a lack of interest from the war office, and a public apparently eager to put the war behind them.

He began a series of more personal works, some of them among his best known, of the prairie and prairie life, including The Prairie is My Garden (above, top) and a series of beautiful nudes.

Dunn continued his commercial work, but eventually moved to New Jersey, just outside of New York, where he opened a school of illustration with Charles Chapman and also began teaching in Manhattan at the Grand Central School of Art.

Like N.C. Wyeth, Dunn was a restless experimenter, always working with the application of paint and color, observing and absorbing influences from many quarters, including, to my eye, French Impressionism, German Expressionism and even Fauvism. His work can be a dramatic amalgam of the traditional and the modern.

Dunn’s work and contribution to American painting are greatly undervalued, and even in these days of increasing appreciation for classic illustration he doesn’t get the recognition he deserves.

Harvey Dunn: Illustrator and Painter of the Pioneer West by Walt Reed, Flesk PublicationsFortunately, a new book may help remedy that, Flesk Publications has just released a wonderful new book of Dunn’s work, Harvey Dunn: Illustrator and Painter of the Pioneer West, compiled, researched and written by Walt Reed.

Reed, for those unfamiliar with the name, is a well known author of several books on artists and illustration, the founder of Illustration House, the foremost art gallery devoted to illustration in America, and a lifelong devotee of the work and methods of Harvey Dunn. Though he couldn’t study with Dunn directly, Reed, an artist himself and faculty member of the Famous Artist Schools, studied with Dunn’s student Harold Von Schmidt.

I had known this book was in production, but I have to say that when I received a review copy from Flesk I was stunned. First of all, the book is absolutely beautiful. Flesk may have even raised the bar on their own high standards of art book production.

What really took me by surprise, however, was the depth and extent of the book. With almost 300 color plates and more than 70 additional black white illustrations, the book is a sweeping account of Dunn’s career and prolific output. The pages just pop with his intense color, dramatically three dimensional application of textural paint and striking compositions.

It displays a deep appreciation of Dunn’s approach and artistic concerns, follows his development and displays his range with exceptional reproductions, wonderfully selected and arranged.

Though the majority of the book is a monograph on Dunn and his work, there is a second aspect of the title that I didn’t expect, a look at Dunn as a teacher, including a section on his working methods, and an overview of some of his notable students, which included Harold Von Schmidt, Arthur D. Fuller, Charles Andres, Saul Tepper, James Edward Allen and the incredibly accomplished Dean Cornwell and Mead Schaeffer.

There is also a remarkable treasure in the form of an almost-facsimile reproduction of An Evening in the Classroom, a compendium of notes from Dunn’s students (who revered him) of his comments, criticisms and advice given in the course of his classes.

Reed says in his introduction that, though he was unable to study with Dunn directly, he has become a student of Dunn after the fact in assembling this book. In doing so, he has allowed us to share in that privilege.

The volume goes on to include a bibliography, a listing of Dunn’s work in museum collections, and a record of Dunn’s published work.

The book is available from Flesk Publications as both a trade hardcover for $50 and a deluxe slipcased limited edition with additional features for $125. There is a preview of some of the pages on the page for the book, but it just doesn’t do the book, or Dunn’s striking work, justice. This is unfortunate, because the book isn’t being distributed to mass market stores, so you can’t pick it up and look at it, and those not already familiar with Dunn may miss out.

The price, however, is the other thing that amazed me. An art book this extensive, authoritative and strikingly beautiful (even as a coffee table art book) in the hands of most other art book publishers would be priced over $75 or $100. I don’t know how Flesk has kept it to $50, perhaps a labor of love on their part as well, but I’m glad they did. Anyone with an appreciation for the Brandywine School, or American illustration, or for that matter, painting in general, will find it a treasure, and Dunn’s work deserves to be much more broadly known.

This is obviously more than a book on Harvey Dunn, this is a labor of love by Walt Reed, a beautiful tribute to a great American artist and a stunning volume that, if not a catalogue raisonné, is without question the definitive book on the artist and his work.


Adrie Hello

Adrie Hello
Adrie Hello ia a watercolorist based in Dordrecht, Netherlends. He paints townscapes of his city with atmospheric transparent watercolor and occasional touches of gouache.

Hello often finds interesting subjects in streets and canals seen through mist or light rain, using soft washes of muted color contrasted with accented edges on the objects he wants to bring forward.

He has a knack for suggestion, providing just enough detail and suggestion of textures that your mind fills in the rest.

His website has a section for Recent works and another for Paintings that is divided into sub-galleries.

Also of interest are his extensive lists of links to other artists and art resources, and his page on his favorite watercolor painters.

[Suggestion courtesy of Lyl and Aelle Ayres]


The Wormworld Saga, Daniel Lieske

The Wormworld Saga, Daniel Lieske
The Wormworld Saga is a new online graphic novel by German illustrator, comics artist and gaming concept artist Daniel Lieske.

It is an adventure story centering on the memories of a young boy recalling a time in his life when the world of the everyday intersected with the extraordinary.

The format is a bit different from most online graphic stories, which are posted a page or a few panels at a time; the first chapter of The Wormworld Saga was just posted complete; a necessity in this case because the entire chapter, in a variation of Scott McCloud’s “infinite canvas” concept, is essentially one long scrolling page, with the panels interconnected by larger passages and shared backgrounds.

The comic is read by scrolling down (something seemingly particularly appropriate for reading on the iPad), and though there are sections that might be considered “pages” in that their content and panel format is related, they defy the boundaries of conventional page layout.

Unlike some artists who have experimented with the online comics format and the conventions of how comics stories are read, Lieske hasn’t indulged in experimentation at the expense of graphic storytelling fundamentals, and his story reads well, flows nicely and is easy to follow.

The story, though only one chapter long so far, also stands out for its pace, more like an actual novel than the pace of most comics, which tend to proceed like a movie or television show, in which the narrative is compressed. Lieske seems comfortable with a pace that allow him to build up background and narrative texture; though the story is told well enough that there is no feeling of lag or delay.

The most outstanding characteristic of The Wormworld Saga, however, is Lieske’s artwork, which is highly accomplished, quite original and wonderfully realized.

Lieske is a digital painter by profession, both in his illustration and his game related concept art (you can see his professional portfolio here). He has applied his skills with digital painting tools to the images for the story in way that is delightfully painterly; and no, I don’t think applying the description “painterly” to a digital medium is a misuse of the term, it refers to the application of color in patches that look and feel like physical brush strokes.

Combined with a cinematic feeling for drama, his painterly textures and judiciously applied details give the story an emotional resonance and sense of place and time.

Lieske created a page called The Wormworld Saga Exhibitions, in which he talks about the project and its origins. he also maintains a blog which likewise features background on the story and art, as well as a personal website with sections for his other projects, including galleries of digital painting and sketches, and a page about the artist. There is also a page for ordering prints that should go live sometime this month.

If Lieske continues his practice of creating an entire chapter before posting, the next installment of The Wormworld Saga may take a while to arrive; but the current chapter ends in a way that will allow us to wait, and the next chapter should be worth waiting for.

[Via MetaFilter]


Chardin: Painter of Silence

Jean baptiste SimeonChardin: Painter of Silence
Still life, that genre of painting with a name that seems a contradiction in terms, is, in itself, quiet.

Still life never receives the attention paid to more prominent types of paintings. Dramatic interpretations of Biblical, history or literary scenes, genre painting, portraits and even landscapes, overshadow it easily.

Still life is the Rodney Dangerfield of painting genres, liked, but not often respected, and the masters of the art are seldom the most celebrated names.

But still life, even more than other forms of painting, can often embody what I feel is one of the most important and valuable properties of art — the revelation that the ordinary can be extraordinary, if we only stop to see it as extraordinary.

A master of this message, and of still life painting in general, was the 18th Century French painter Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin.

His is hardly a household name, though his influence on other painters has been considerable. His contribution is, I think, particularly relevant to the new generation of still life painters working today, whether they are aware of his influence or not.

His work is important not only in its mastery and quality, but in the approach he took in the application of paint and the character of the painted surface.

In a letter to his brother Theo in 1888, Vincent van Gogh wrote:

“The best pictures, and, from a technical point of view the most complete, seen from near by, are but patches of colour side by side, and only make an effect at a certain distance.

That is what Rembrandt stuck to, notwithstanding all the trouble it caused him (the honest citizens greatly preferred Van der Helst, because his work can also be looked at up close).

In that respect Chardin is as great as Rembrandt.”

Still life was not highly regarded in the time of Chardin’s early career, though he himself helped elevate the subject matter as his stature in the French art establishment grew over time.

In the middle of his career he took to painting portraits and genre pictures, focusing on aspects of French society as humble as the plain kitchen utensils of his still life paintings, another area not in keeping with the then accepted standards of Academic art. His style could hardly have been further form the flamboyant Rococo manner that was dominant at the time.

Chardin returned to still life later in his career; and even later, when his eyesight was failing, took up pastels and used them brilliantly.

The Palazzo dei Diamanti in Ferrara, Italy is currently hosting an exhibition, Chardin: Il pittore del silenzio, that is on view until 30 January 2011. The exhibition was curated in cooperation with the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid, where it will be on display from 1 March to 28 May 2011.

The Palazzo dei Diamanti has a selection of works from the exhibit on their site, and a catalog has been published.

There is also a selection of works online from an exhibition at the Met back in 2000 that I’m sorry to say I missed.

One of the best online resources for Chardin’s works is the Web Gallery of Art (second page and bio); I’ve assembled some others below.

For more, see my previous post about Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin.

Like Vermeer, Chardin dwelled in the quiet suspension of time, where the sublime qualities of light reveal the magic in commonplace objects.

19th/20th Century novelist Marcel Proust wrote of Chardin:

“We have learned from Chardin that a pear is as living as a woman, that an ordinary piece of pottery is as beautiful as a precious stone.”


“Everyday life will charm you once you have absorbed Chardin’s painting for a few days like a lesson. Then, having understood the life of his painting, you will have discovered the beauty of life.”