Inspirations, M.C. Escher tribute by Cristóbal Vila
Inspirations is a beautifully realized and wonderfully conceived short CGI animated film by Cristóbal Vila.

It is a homage to the works of artist M.C. Escher, conceived as Vila’s fanciful imagining of the artist’s workspace, filled with objects that refer to aspects of Escher’s work

On his website, Etérea Studios, Vila provides information about the short, including stills and annotation about the sources of objects and concepts used in the film, and a page about the referenced artworks by other masters.

I particularly enjoy the highpoint of the piece, in which one of Escher’s images that suggests three dimensionality emerging from a flat surface, itself emerges from a flat surface.

Vila also created the beautiful short, Nature by Numbers, which I wrote about here.

[Via io9]

Tran Nguyen

Tran Nguyen
Born in Vietnam and raised in the US, Georgia based artist Tran Nguyen studied illustration at the Savannah College of Art and Design (if I’m interpreting the info page of her website correctly, her name is pronounced “tron wen”).

Nguyen’s illustrations combine elements of realism, magic realism, art nouveau and perhaps symbolism, and frequently include geometric patterns.

Often employing muted, carefully controlled palettes and subtle textures, she creates works that invite contemplation, seeming to reveal emotional content in layers.

She frequently works “out of the box”, playfully extending parts of her images beyond the apparent bounds of their background, as well as suggesting dimensional qualities of her geometric elements as though some of them floated above the surface of the picture.

Nguyen is represented by Richard Solomon, Artist’s Representative in New York. Their website includes a brief description and step-through of her working process, which involves colored pencil and delicate glazes of transparent acrylics.

[Addendum 2016: Her student website is no longer active. Her new website is here: ]

Closer to Van Eyck

Closer to Van Eyck: Rediscovering the Ghent Altarpiece
Closer to Van Eyck: Rediscovering the Ghent Altarpiece is an online presentation of the results of a research project that examined the artist’s extraordinary masterwork in extreme detail, both to assess and record its condition for conservation.

The site opens up with a full image of the panels of the altarpiece; from there you can drill down into individual panels to levels of wonderful detail. You can also bring up images from the various panels in split screen view for as many as four at once and zoom in simultaneously.

The images include not only macrophotography, but infrared macrophotography, infrared reflectography and X-radiography, which reveal the master’s underlying layers and aspects of his working process.

See my previous post on Jan van Eyck.

[Via peacay, by way of MetaFilter]

Simon Dominic

Simon Dominic
Simon Dominic (who you will sometimes see referred to as Simon Dominic Brewer) is an English illustrator and concept artist.

Like many contemporary concept artists and illustrators working in the science fiction and fantasy vein, Simon works digitally, painting his compositions in Corel Painter and Art Rage Studio Pro (see my 2011 review of Art Rage 3 Studio Pro).

He makes a point of using the “natural media” characteristics of those tools (which emulate the effects of traditional media like oil, gouache, watercolor, etc.) to give his work a more painterly feel.

Dominic has a wonderfully eccentric imagination, with creatures and characters that step outside of the expected stereotypes. He often works with constrained color palettes and sharp value contrasts to give his compositions visual drama, and also makes excellent use of texture and atmospheric perspective.

Dominic’s work has been featured in a number of collections of digital and fantasy art, such as the Exposé series, the Fantasy Art Now books and Digital Art Masters.

As a promotion for Volume 5 of Digital Art Masters, the publishers extracted a chapter showcasing Dominic’s how-to for one of his digital paintings and made it available as a PDF so potential readers could sample the book. As of this writing, it’s still available here (click on the “Free Chapter!” banner at the bottom of the main image).

There is a 2011 interview with Dominic on Inside the Artist’s Studio.

[Via Concept Art World]

The Public Domain Review

The Public Domain Review: Giovanni Paolo Pannini, Eugène von Guérard, Rick Guidice (NASA), from books by Frederik Ruysch (uncertain of artist), Limbourg brothers (for Très Riches Heures), Arnoldus Montanus, Harry Clarke

I’d like to talk (well OK, rant) for a minute about copyright and the principle of public domain.

“Public domain” is a term referring to works that have passed out of copyright, or have been deliberately assigned to the public domain on creation (for example when created for the U.S. government), and therefore now belong to the public, i.e. all of us.

This is an excellent idea and has been part of US copyright law from the beginning. Copyright laws vary, sometimes confusingly, by country, but I think most or all allow for works to pass into public ownership over time.

As a creator and copyright holder myself, I will be the first to say that copyright is basically a Good Thing, allowing legal protection for the creator of a work from unauthorized use and distribution of their creation for their lifetime — and some years beyond. However, the U.S. Founding Fathers viewed ownership of intellectual property as a kind of monopoly, and felt that it should be limited for the good of the public.

The basic idea is that once the creator of a copyrighted work has died, and his or her heirs (who did not actually create the work) have had a sufficient time to profit off of their relative’s efforts, the work passes into the public domain and belongs to all of us — to copy, rework, disseminate and create variations of to our hearts content, and much to the enrichment of the culture.

Some public domain characters, for example, would include Robin Hood, King Arthur, The Three Musketeers, Snow White, Jack and the Beanstalk, Alice in Wonderland, and so on. Think of all of the inventive variations and stories we have from just those few examples.

Most artwork from history is in the public domain (though photographs of the artwork can be copyrighted by the photographers who took them or institutions to whom copyright for photographs has been assigned).

The copyright/public domain balance is a pretty good arrangement — the creator is protected for their lifetime, the relatives get to ride their coattails for a while, and then we all benefit from a richer public culture when ownership eventually passes to us.

Unfortunately, copyright laws that were originally meant to protect creators can be twisted into tools for advancing corporate power and greed, and the legislators who create and revise our laws seem easily manipulated by those with money and influence.

The large international media conglomerates (the same ones who have been trying to push the U.S. congress into ceding control of the internet to them with travesties of legislation like PIPA and SOPA), are also doing their best to defeat the original intention of the copyright laws, and keep pressuring legislators into extending the “sufficient time” that copyright extends past the creator’s death, to protect and advance their corporate profits.

Originally “life of the author plus 50 years”, the provision was extended to “life of the author plus 70” years by the 1998 Copyright Extension Act, not coincidentally just before the copyright for Disney’s Mickey Mouse was due to move into the public domain. Many referred to it as the “Mickey Mouse Protection Act”.

Those who are cynical about this process, myself included, assume that the time that copyright extends past the creator’s death will be extended again, not coincidentally before the profit making power of Mickey Mouse can be threatened with passing into public domain under the 70 year limit, with pressure applied to legislators by the same monied interests that extended it the first time (and it’s not just Disney that wants this, it’s all the big media conglomerates).

This would effectively mean that nothing that is not deliberately put into the public domain by its creator will ever again pass into ownership of the public, and that the principle of public domain as envisioned by the framers of the U.S. system of government has effectively been defeated.

There have even been a number of attempts by media corporations to claim ownership of public domain material, effectively stealing from us.

The history of the publishing, recording and other media industries is littered with cases of big companies stealing copyrights or copyrighted material from the original creators, or forcing them to give up their rights in order to be paid.

It’s another shameful example of wealth and power trumping the public good, and something that should always keep us wary of the intentions of these corporations (particularly when they’re promoting legislation to “protect creators” — cough cough).

That said, we still have an extensive backlog of material already in the public domain that we can share and enjoy; which, having had my little rant, brings me to the actual subject of the post, The Public Domain Review.

The internet (at least for the time being) is a cornucopia of public domain material; sites like Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons, The Internet Archive, Project Gutenberg and hundreds of others offer a bounty of public domain material.

The Public Domain Review seeks to be a kind of curated guide to some of this material; its contributors offer articles on interesting finds and good sources of material. There is a page on the site about The Public Domain Review, that also talks about the principle of public domain.

There are sections for collections of topics, one of which is images. Though not yet extensive, as the site as just one year old, the collection is promising and will likely continue to grow. The selections are already nicely eclectic, as the examples above demonstrate.

(Images above: Giovanni Paolo Pannini, Eugène von Guérard, Rick Guidice (NASA), image from book by Frederik Ruysch (uncertain of the artist), Limbourg brothers (for Très Riches Heures), Arnoldus Montanus, Harry Clarke)

[Link via MetaFilter]

Mary Jane Ansell

Mary Jane Ansell
UK artist Mary Jane Ansell has been a finalist in the prestigious National Portrait Gallery BP Portrait Award in 2004, 2009 and 2010 (see my post on the 2011 BP Portrait Award).

Her portraits and other figurative paintings are elegant and highly refined, both in their paint handling and in her use of light to reveal form and texture. They can also feel intimate and, when she has her models engage the viewer directly, as she often does, they can be subtly piercing.

Most of her subjects are young women, though her formal portrait commissions are sometimes of men and she occasionally takes on still life subjects.

In all of her work she has a keen ability to use light and subtle color to focus your eye exactly where she want it and carry you through the composition in a very deliberate manner.

Many of her paintings have an narrative undercurrent, hinting at a story behind the moment.

Ansell’s website offers galleries of her work both current and from previous years, as well as a small selection of etchings. Though there is some discussion of her procedure for commissioned portraits, there is little information about her approach as a painter, save that she works in oil on panels.

Ansell is represented by the Fairfax Gallery and is a member of the PRISMA Artist Collective.