He who knows how to appreciate colour relationships, the influence of one colour on another, their contrasts and dissonances, is promised an infinitely diverse imagery.
- Sonia Delaunay
Colour is my day-long obsession, joy and torment.
- Colour is my day-long obsession, joy and torment.


Friday, July 15, 2011

Mark Schultz: Various Drawings Volume 5

Posted by Charley Parker at 7:48 pm

Mark Schultz: Various Drawings Volume 5
It’s customary for many comic book artists and illustrators to publish “sketchbooks”, collections of sketches and drawings of varying degrees of finish, which are frequently more of interest to their dedicated “must have anything” fans than to the more general readership.

And then there’s Mark Schultz.

Flesk Publications, a small artbook publisher who has a record of publishing beautiful volumes of work by terrific illustrators and comics artists, has been publishing collections of his drawings for some time.

It’s worthwhile noting that these collections have been titled “Various Drawings” rather than “sketchbooks”, and very appropriately so; not only are Schultz’s sketches and preliminaries more highly developed than many artists’ finished drawings, his finished drawings are exquisitely finessed.

These volumes include both — Schultz’s beautifully finished brush and ink drawings, and preliminary drawings, usually in pencil, that were done in preparation for the final.

The subject matter follows Schutz’s fondness for adventure fantasy, pulp novels, science fiction and, of course, dinosaurs.

For the uninitiated, Schultz is the creator of the wonderful comics series Xenozoic Tales, a version of which was known for a time as “Cadillacs and Dinosaurs”. I reviewed Flesk’s beautiful collection of the strip last December. The book has since then sold out of its initial press run, but Flesk has just announced that it is again available in a second printing.

Fan’s of Schultz’s comic art, among which I certainly count myself, have long waited for him to return to the series, which is still unfinished. Until he does, there is great delight to be taken in these collections, and they would also be of interest to anyone who enjoys superbly realized action adventure illustration.

I was delighted to receive a review copy of the latest collection, Mark Schultz: Various Drawings Volume 5, which continues to maintain the high level of terrific drawings showcased in the rest of the series.

Some of the drawings are commissions, many referencing existing adventure fantasy characters and stories, including Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, for which the image above, third down and the detail crop below it are of one of several preliminary drawings. The finished brush and ink drawing is presented in the book as a stunning double page fold-out.

All of these collections are an absolute treat. Mark Schultz: Various Drawings #1 and #2 are sold out, volumes #3, 4 and of course this new volume #5, are still available and can be ordered through the Flesk Publications store, along with the Mark Schultz: Blue Book (a collection of his preliminary drawings in non-photo blue pencil), a Xenozoic Tales print and the new printing of the Xenozoic collection.

In addition to the preview images available on the publisher’s pages for the individual titles (which have fortunately been getting a bit larger in more recent presentations), there is a general gallery of Schultz’s work on the Flesk site. Schultz, as far as I can determine, does not have a dedicated website or blog of his own.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Terry Strickland

Posted by Charley Parker at 4:12 pm

Terry Strickland
Terry Strickland is a Birmingham, Alabama based painter who studied Graphic Design at the University of Central Florida. Before transitioning into gallery painting full time, she worked in turns as an illustrator, silk screen artist, courtroom sketch artist and teacher.

Strickland primarily paints portraits, though not as a commission portrait artist, but rather one who chooses portraits as her favored subject matter.

Her pieces often include her subjects in costumed roles or in series with themes that include references to fairy tales or Shakespeare plays, and a series of compositions on shaped canvas called “Awakening” (image above, top) that deal with the transitional period between teenager and adult.

In addition to the gallery on her website you will also find some larger images in the High Resolution and Works available for purchase sections.

Strickland also maintains a blog where she features new paintings, works in progress and often detail images that are somewhat more detailed than those on her website. The latter is nice in that her work, though she appears to bring it to a high degree of finish, often has interesting brush marks and textures when seen close up.

I particularly enjoy her use of backlighting, uplighting and chiaroscuro that gives many of her works a feeling of dimensionality and visual drama.

[Strickland has been on my list for some time, but a tip of the hat to Parka Blogs (@teohyc) for the reminder]

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

For the first time: Rembrandt & Degas

Posted by Charley Parker at 11:23 pm

For the first time: Rembrandt & Degas
Edgas Degas, the member of the French Impressionist circle who adhered most closely to classical and academic traditions, took great inspiration in the works of Rembrandt, as did many other artists, and as Rembrandt himself took inspiration in other masters before him.

As part of their series of yearly exhibits focusing on the inspiration the Dutch masters of the Golden Age provided for later artists, the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam is presenting an exhibition titled For the first time: Rembrandt & Degas in which they explore the impact that Degas’ study of Rembrandt had on his own work.

They are doing this with works from both artists shown side by aide, and they have on their website an interactive that delves into the similarities of some works, notably self portraits but also other portraits, both in paintings and etchings.

The exhibition is on view in Amsterdam until 23 October 2011, and then travels to the U.S., where it will be on display at The Clark Institute in Williamstown, MA from November 13, 2011 to February 5, 2012, and then at the Met in NY from February to May in 2012.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Dale Chihuly

Posted by Charley Parker at 3:53 pm

Dale Chihuly
Dale Chihuly is an American sculptor who does amazing and beautiful works in colored glass.

His works range from small pieces to large scale installations, both outdoor and indoor, often accompanied by the striking effects of dramatic lighting.

A large part of the appeal of his work, aside from the beautiful character of the material and the colors and patterns within it, is the inspiration he takes from natural forms. His graceful, fluid objects echo forms from plants, birds and even undersea life. The natural origins of his shapes are frequently emphasized by installations in which his sculptures are placed in natural settings, notably in botanical gardens.

Chihuly studied glass at the first program of its kind at the University of Wisconsin in the 1960′s. He had the opportunity to work at the famed Venini glass factory in Venice. He continued his studies at the Rhode Island School of Design, where he later returned to establish and teach a glass program for 10 years, and cofounded the Pilchuck Glass School in Washington State.

Chihuly’s work is in a number of museums, both small and large (I frequently get to see his installation at the Delaware Art Museum, above, second down) and has been the subject of numerous exhibitions, one of which is a major exhibition now running at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston: Chihuly: Through the Looking Glass, that is on view until August 2, 2011.

The museum has several videos and a slideshow feature on their website. Chihuly’s own website has several galleries, though the navigation is not as convenient as it might be. Take the trouble to drill down into subcategories like Exhibitions: Gardens or Glass Series: Fiori: Indoor to get to the actual galleries of work. There are also galleries of his preliminary drawings (above, 3rd down).

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Everything is its own reward: An All Over Coffee Collection, Paul Madonna

Posted by Charley Parker at 10:43 pm

Everything is its own reward, All over coffee by Paul Madonna
Even before seeing it in person, I will without hesitation or reservation recommend Paul Madonna’s Everything is its own reward: An All Over Coffee Collection, the second collection of his remarkable feature in the San Francisco Chronicle, All Over Coffee.

For more detail, see the review on Parka Blogs.

For more of me raving about this wonderful and unique combination of thought provoking words and beautiful wash drawings, see my previous post: Paul Madonna: All Over Coffee.

The pages on the site of publisher City Lights for his first collection of All Over Coffee and this collection both feature downloadable PDFs of the cover and first several drawings from the volume.

Do yourself a favor and download them to see the drawings above and others reproduced larger.

Then grab the books.

Then check out his new collaborative features in which he works back and forth with other writers. (See numbered links in right column.)

Then find the latest feature on the SFGate page for All Over Coffee, then check out the Archive, and then come back again and again, waiting for the next entry.

Posted in: Illustration   |   5 Comments »

Friday, July 8, 2011

Toon Books

Posted by Charley Parker at 11:56 pm

Toon Books
Now here’s a terrific idea. Toon Books is an imprint of Candlewick Press dedicated to “Easy to read comics” aimed at early readers. Divided into three levels for grades K-1, grades 1-2 and grades 2-3, the comics are meant to be tools to encourage reading both in the home and in the classroom.

Titles include Jack and the Box, by Art Spiegleman, known for Maus and the Raw anthologies; Little Mouse Gets Ready, by Jeff Smith, creator of Bone; Mo and Jo: Fighting Together Forever, by Jay Lynch and illustrator Dean Haspiel, Otto’s Orange Day by Lynch and cartoonist Frank Cammuso; and Zig and Wikki in Something Ate My Homework, by Nadja Spiegelman and cartoonist Trade Loeffler, artist/creator of the delightful web comic, Zip and L’il Bit.

The Toon Books website has sections on each of the titles, with preview pages and author bios. There are also additional features, a Cartoon Maker online interactive, an online reader in which the authors read from their titles and links to iPhone/iPad versions of some of the titles, that are (currently at least) being offered free.

[Via GeekDad]

Posted in: Comics   |   1 Comment »

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

PaintWorks eMagazine, Summer 2011

Posted by Charley Parker at 1:05 pm

PaintWorks eMagazine, Summer 2011
I was provided with a review copy of PaintWorks, a new eMagazine from Interweave, the parent company of American Artist and their corresponding website Artist Daily.

The debut issue of PaintWorks is Summer 2011 and the theme of the issue is “The Essentials of Still Life Painting”.

The eMagazine itself is an application, with a version for Mac or Windows (see the note below on compatibility). I downloaded the installer for Mac (364mb). It installs as an Adobe AIR application; I assume that users without Adobe AIR will be prompted to install that initially.

The installer can be set to open the eMagazine automatically when installation is complete. A brief introductory video drops you on the “cover” (home page?) of the issue, without a clear prompt or indication of where to go from there.

Poking around in the control/navigation bar at the top reveals a menu of contents, zoom control, help feature and forward and back arrows. (I think they are using an eMagazine package from Adobe, which has been providing them for a number of publications, and I assume any navigation issues are to be laid at the feet of Adobe, rather than being specific to PaintWorks.)

I found the eMagazine best enjoyed at full screen.

PaintWorks eMagazine, Summer 2011
Following through in sequence, the structure is familiar and magazine-like, the initial page after the cover features an Editor’s Note, masthead, table of contents and link to a User’s Guide (which should have been provided on the cover page, but I’m being picky.)

The fact that it is an electronic magazine starts to become apparent with the Editor’s Note, which is a video. In it, editorial director Michael Gormley provides a brief introduction to the issue and its features, along with short clips of some of the featured artists giving their thoughts on the issue’s topic. The table of contents items are links to the sections, and a menu of them is always available as a pop-out from the left side of the interface. There is also a hidden pop-up navigation slider accessed by moving your cursor to the bottom of the interface.

The next page is an ad (clearly labeled as such in the table of contents) for American Artist’s print publication.

Next up is a 360° panorama of painter Nelson Shanks’ studio. There is an apparently unrelated section of “Tips on how to equip your own home studio” on the left, which is essentially an ad for Dick Blick artist materials. The pictures of particular brushes, paints, etc. are links. Clicking on them suddenly leaves the eMagazine, opens your web browser and takes you directly to the product pages on Blick’s online store.

I don’t so much object to the ad (though it should be labeled as such) as I do to the disconcerting jump from one application to another without warning. To me, this is simply poor interface design.

PaintWorks eMagazine, Summer 2011
Next is the first actual article, and at this point the “next page/previous page” paradigm breaks down and you’re expected to scroll down to the article’s accompanying interactive features.

The first of these is a completely pointless bit of rollover text, a prime example of how most print publications don’t know how to use interactivity properly; but the second is a reasonably effective gallery of works from the article’s co-author, Sam Adoquei. The feature includes a “detail loupe” (my phrase, not theirs) in which you can move around the selected work to see small sections in more detail (image above).

The next article is a photographic essay on arranging and lighting a still life subject, with links to downloadable PDFs of the photos and an invitation to paint them and submit your paintings to them via Facebook.

The next section is another bit of pointless “interactivity”, with pop-up speech bubbles over photos, where simple captions would actually have been better; giving the feeling that the editors were struggling to make things “interactive” to justify the eMagazine format.

PaintWorks eMagazine, Summer 2011
The next actual article, Draw it First, is another in which you scroll down for the article’s interactive features, in this case a nicely done step-by-step through a beautiful pencil drawing by the article’s author, Patricia Watwood. This includes the “detail loupe” feature used in the Sam Adoquei gallery (image above).

There is also a quote from another artist, Sadie Valeri (my post here), that is a link. Clicking on it again unexpectedly yanks you out of the eMagazine and into a browser, where you’re taken to an article on the Artist Daily site.

Next up is another interactive ad for one of the “Free eBooks” they’re constantly promoting with pop-ups on the Artist Daily site (they really need to get rid of those pop-ups, but I digress).

The next article, “All About Color” is another scroll-down article, thin on content and heavy on pointless rollovers.

PaintWorks eMagazine, Summer 2011
Next is an article on Painting with Complementary Colors (image above), which consists of a series of short videos by painter Kristin Künc. These are instructive and well done, and provide more of a feeling of substance than some of the other articles.

Next is another interactive ad, this one for videos from C.W. Mundy. In this case, the video previews in the ad actually contain some useful information. The ad includes a link that again yanks you out of the eMagazine and into a browser where you are whisked to the Artist Daily online store.

PaintWorks eMagazine, Summer 2011
Then another article in which the actual valuable information is in the form of short videos, these from artist Martha Erlebacher. Again, the videos are instructive and well done (though supplemented with another unnecessary “interactive”, with rollovers of the names of colors on her palette where simple labels would be more helpful).

PaintWorks eMagazine, Summer 2011
The magazine rounds out with a gallery of very nice still life paintings from 16 artists, most of whom I found worth following up on (including David Ligare, who I recently featured), though this is lacking the detail magnification feature found elsewhere.

The last page is an ad for the American Artist Weekend With the Masters workshop and conference in California in September, 2011.

I’ll give American Artist and Interweave credit for jumping into the uncharted waters of digital publishing, and try to keep in mind that this is their first effort, but they don’t quite have it yet.

This is a publishing medium with exciting potential, but the editors haven’t learned how to use it to advantage.

The most valuable information is in the familiar format of instructional videos, while the instructive potential of interactive features has gone essentially untapped. Instead we’re presented with an array of unnecessary rollover text and other unhelpful “interactivity”.

The format holds great promise, but they need to hire experienced interactive designers to take advantage of the medium.

Think of what could be done with an interactive color wheel that shows artists’ colors in different views for complements, value range, chroma or mixing gamut. How about step-through demos in which the final piece can be moused over to reveal underpainting steps, videos of process and original sketches as layers in a single image? What about interactive color charts in which sliders reveal tints, shades and complementary mixes?

You could have interactive demos of how different brush angles produce different paint strokes, or painting demos in which information about the color, brush type and mixing palette are available as pop-up extensions to the main image. You could use sliders to show a work with the hues removed as a study in values, or instructional videos with integrated links to still images of the work in various stages for closer study.

There are lots of possibilities that could make the eMagazine format shine for an instructional art magazine. Rollover speech bubbles aren’t among them.

They also need to restrain the urge to link out to the web without warning. If you want to constantly link to web resources, put the primary content on a website. If you’re making a separate downloaded application, make it self-contained. Even the advertising, if there is work put into it, could be instructive and entertaining, and actually feel like valuable content. (Advertisers would expect a link out to their website via the user’s web browser, just label it as such.)

The potential is there, the editors just need to learn to use this new publishing medium for its real strengths. Hopefully, future issues will take the strong aspects of this issue, abandon the weak ones and build from there.

That being said, the editors certainly do know how to select excellent artists with valuable painting knowledge to impart, even if it’s mostly in the videos at the moment, and there is a beautiful selection of still life painting on display in the issue.

PaintWorks eMagazine, Summer 2011: The Essentials of Still Life Painting is available from the Artist Daily shop for $9.99 USD. There is a description page with a preview of the table of contents and some introductory videos.

Requirements, from Interweave: “To view this eMag, your computer needs to have these requirements: PC with Intel Core Duo or faster processor or Mac OS X v10.5 or v10.6, plus 512MB of RAM or greater available (1GB recommended). Note: Mac computers with PowerPC processors are not supported, and this version of the eMag is not compatible with the Apple iPad (but we’re working on it!).”

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Calum Alexander Watt

Posted by Charley Parker at 9:55 am

Calum Alexander Watt
Calum Alexander Watt is a concept artist and character designer working for a gaming developer in the UK.

He started out doing comics work for 2000AD, and briefly worked in graphic design before moving into his current role.

Watt starts with sketches drawn and inked in traditional media, using a blue mechanical pencil on tracing paper, over which he inks with a Staedtler Pigment liner. He then moves scans of the drawings into the computer for digital application of color in Photoshop. [Correction: Watt was kind enough to write and let me know that my information about his process is a bit out of date; he now works entirely digitally.]

I particularly admire his light touch, with fine linework and mist-like applications of color, opting for suggestion and atmosphere where others might be obsessed with detail.

Watt’s website has galleries of concept art and storyboards, as well as a section of miscellaneous work. His blog often has larger reproductions of the work linked to the images in the posts.

Though there is no biographical information on his site, there is a brief 2005 interview with Watt on the Character Design Blog.

[Via Francis Vallejo]

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