George Tooker

George Tooker
When I was a teenager, I subscribed to a rather bizarre and eclectic experimental magazine called Avant Garde, published by Ralph Ginzburg. The value of its contents varied, but I remember one thing about it above all else — in one of the issues it introduced me to the work of American painter George Tooker.

Compared at times to Andrew Wyeth and at times to Edward Hopper, Tooker’s work defies being pigeonholed. People have tried to make his individualistic square peg fit in the round holes of Surrealism, Symbolism, Magic Realism and God knows what other isms, without clear success.

Tooker’s paintings, painstakingly and deliberately rendered in the demanding Renaissance medium of egg tempera, evoke loneliness, alienation, and the dehumanizing forces of modern society. Some of his works are well known, almost iconic images, though his name is not a household word.

His enigmatic scenes of eclipsed faces, half glimpsed figures and slack bodied individuals with haunted expressions seem to portray people resigned to their fate as the invisible vampires of modern existence drain away their life and humanity — though there are occasional glimpses of light and life — disconcerting, but powerful and unforgettably resonant images.

Tooker died last Sunday, March 27, 2011, at the age of 90. Unfortunately, there isn’t a really good source on the web for a large number of Tooker’s works.

Ten Dreams probably has the best selection of Tooker’s work on the web, but the viewing method is deliberately terrible. You have to launch each image in a full-screen pop-up window, then mouse over the image area and wait for the image to load in order to see it (because you’re a thief, you see), then close the window and select the next image.

(I suppose they think they’re making it hard for people to grab the images with these shenanigans; they need to do a little more research to understand that they’re only discouraging the most casual users from getting them, and in the process alienating many potential visitors who will find the site too much of a PITA to deal with; but I digress…)

The largest images of Tooker’s work I’ve found are on the Smithsonian American Art Museum including The Waiting Room.

Next best for large images are Terra Foundation (one zoomable) and Sothey’s sold archives (two zoomable).

There are print collections of Tooker’s work: George Tooker, by Robert Cozzolino, Marshall N. Price and M. Melissa Wolfe, is in print, you may find others used, like George Tooker by Thomas H. Garver, George Tooker: Paintings, 1947-1973 and George Tooker.

There is a Cleveland Museum of Art documentary on YouTube in three parts, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

[Notice via ArtDaily]


Not the usual Van Goghs

Vincent van Gogh
Browse through a dozen different books on Vincent van Gogh and chances are you’ll see many of the same paintings again and again.

You might be tempted to think he had a limited oeuvre, but nothing could be further from the truth. Van Gogh was astonishingly prolific, particularly in light of the fact that his active career barely spanned 10 years. The books, except for the most complete, have simply chosen to play it safe by repeating his “greatest hits”.

In honor of Van Gogh’s birthday, here is a modest selection of some works you don’t often see. These were taken from the Vincent van Gogh Gallery website (see my post here), where you can find many more.


George Nick

George Nick
Contemporary realist painter George Nick is highly regarded by his peers, by students who encountered him in his 25 years of teaching at Massachusetts College of Art, where he is now Professor Emeritus, by literary luminaries like John Updike, who wrote an essay In Praise of George Nick, and by major museums, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Hirschorn Museum, the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, which have his works in their collections.

Nick applies brusque, textural brushwork to an unapologetically direct depiction of his subjects, whether architectural aspects of Boston, rural landscapes, Venetian canals, simple room interiors or unstintingly honest portraits and self portraits.

I think reviewer John Goodrich gets what I like most about Nick’s work when he describes a “…spirited approach — call it an Impressionist’s love of light, delivered with Expressionistic panache…“.

Nick has a fascination with geometric patterns in both the forms of his subjects and in the areas of light and shadow within and around them, and his energetic application of paint brings that forward in addition to adding its own dimension of textural visual pleasure.

He can be in turns more or less refined, seeming over the course of his career to be experimenting, restless but always observant. He likes to work onsite, even with large canvasses, and conveys that plein air immediacy in his interiors as well as his landscapes and cityscapes.

Nick is represented in Boston by Gallery Naga. There are a few other sources for his work online, mostly articles, some illustrated with his work, including a six part interview on Painting Perceptions. There is also an informative essay by Nick’s former student Christopher Chippendale, Enroute with George Nick.

The largest reproductions of his canvasses I’ve found are the two in the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

The most extensive collection of his work online, however, is a terrific site at This is an unofficial site assembled and maintained out of respect and admiration by one of Nick’s former students, Larry Groff.

[Via Mike Manley]


Blacksad (Juanjo Guarnido)

Blacksad (Juanjo Guarnido)
There is a genre of comics and animated cartoons called “funny animal”, referring to animal characters that have anthropomorphic characteristics. Even if the genre name is unfamiliar, some of the characters are among the best known, e.g. Mickey mouse and Bugs Bunny.

Much less familiar to the general public is a sub-genre, sometimes called “furry”, “furries” or “anthropromorphics”, in which the animal characters are anthropomorphised to a greater degree, often taking on basically a human form with an animal head, as well as human gender characteristics (the latter is sometimes emphasized, to put it politely).

I can’t say this is one of my favorite comics genres, as I often find the the concept silly to the point of detracting from the story.

However, there is a series of comics albums from Europe called Blacksad that have upended my take on the subject, simply by being so superbly done.

The creators, writer Juan Díaz Canales and artist Juanjo Guarnido are Spanish, but the books are published in French by French publisher Dargaud for the extensive comics market in France and Belgium, where they have been tremendously popular, and later released in Spanish language and other editions.

Fortunately for those of us who speak English, Dark Horse Comics has collected an published in English translations the first three volumes of the series, in a hardcover edition simply titled Blacksad (Amazon link).

The story is essentially a film noir hard-boiled detective series, John Blacksad being the lead character in that role, who just happens to be portrayed as a black cat.

Other characters are portrayed as various animals, weasels, hippos, dogs, whatever the authors saw as appropriate for their character. The stories are adult in nature, not children’s fare.

What swayed me from my usual reluctance to read comics with this kind of characterization was Guarnido’s stunning comic art, wonderfully realized characters, animal heads or no, and beautifully rendered backgrounds and settings.

Fortunately, there are a number of sources for previewing the pages, both from the Dark Horse book and the European editions, so you can see for yourself what I mean.

Linked from the Dark Horse page for the book is a 4 page preview. You can also view a preview flip book that is a bit more extensive (though smaller and hampered by one of those annoyingly stupid page flippy widgets).

There is also an 8 page preview of the Dark Horse volume on Hypergeek, and the listing has a 6 page preview, with covers and additional inner pages.

There is a site, which may or may not be official, I don’t know, as well as fan site, Blacksadmania. Both are in French and feature sketches, preliminary art, pencilled pages and more. There is another fan site here, and some non-Blacksad work by Guarnido on The Drawing Board.

Spanish site Guía del cómic has a page about the newest Spanish language volume, Blacksad #4: El Infierno, El Silenco (French edition is titled Blacksad #4 L’enfer, le silence). They have a 9 page preview, the first three of which are posted larger than the other page previews.

Additional large pages from that volume have been posted, along with other pages and additional art, on a blog called Blacksad Gallery, another offshoot of the Character Design Blog and The Art Center that I wrote about recently.

[Suggestion courtesy of James Gurney]


Sir Frank Dicksee

Sir Frank Dicksee
Sir Frank Dicksee was an English painter and illustrator active in the Victorian era.

Originally taught by his father, artist Thomas Dicksee, along with his brother, Herbert, and sister, Margaret, who were also artists of note, Frank Dicksee went on to study at the Royal Academy. There he learned from renowned painters like Frederick Lord Leighton and Pre-Raphaelite master Sir John Everett Millais.

Like the Pre-Raphaelites and other Victorian painters, Dicksee took much inspiration in literary works, in particular Shakespeare, interpreting scenes like the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet (image above, top) more than once.

Dicksee’s lushly colored, richly detailed works evoke the romance of his literary sources, as well as projecting romance into his elegant portraits.

He was a staunch believer in the traditions and beauty of Victorian High Art, and was vehemently opposed to the dissolution of those traditions at the hands of the early 20th Century Modernists.

The Google Art Project (see my post here) features a zoomable image of Dicksee’s The Two Crowns from the Tate Britain (image and detail, above, bottom). While not as high resolution as the larger images on the project, it’s probably the largest reproduction of a Frank Dicksee painting you’ll find on the web. (The reproduction is a bit murky; I’ve taken the liberty of color correcting it here.)


The Art Center (blog)

The Art Center blog: Florian Satzinger, Rad Sechrist, Hat Lieberman, Mark McDonnell, Louie del Carmen, Leighton Hickman, Sam Nielson
The Art Center is a blog devoted to, as the tagline says, “Sharing Ideas and Tips from Artist to Artist”.

An offshoot of the Character Design blog, which is devoted largely to interviews with artists working in the film, gaming and illustration fields, The Art Center features tutorials, walk-throughs, how to videos and discussions of process and technique for character design, concept art, storyboarding an other aspects of related visual art.

It also includes basic tips on painting, drawing, composition and rendering in various media, including digital painting.

You’ll find a list of the contributors, all working artists in related fields, on the left side of the blog, and a list of topic and artist tags on the right. The artists list is linked to the contributor’s blogs and websites, so you can click through to see more of their art.

You’ll have to put up with poke-your-eye-out graphic design, trying to read bright green text and bright red titles on a black background (what are they thinking?), but for those working in this vein, the tips and techniques are worth the effort.

(Images above: Florian Satzinger, Rad Sechrist, Hat Lieberman, Mark McDonnell, Louie del Carmen, Leighton Hickman, Sam Nielson)

[Via Dave Gibbons on Twitter @davegibbons90]