Jose Emroca Flores (update)

Jose Emroca Flores
Jose Emroca Flores is an illustrator and a senior concept designer at Activision/Blizzard Highmoon Studios in California who has done work for companies like EA, Vivendi Universal and Nike and whose work has been featured by Spectrum, Computer Arts and the Society of Illustrators, among others.

Since I last wrote about him back in 2007, his website has been revised and updated with new material, including sections for professional and personal work as well as a “process” section that features sketches and concepts.

His professional section showcases his game work, which is often kinetic and action packed, sometimes with a bright palette but often with controlled colors punctuated with brighter, more intense passages for emphasis and focus.

My favorite pieces on his site, however, are found in his gallery of personal work. These have a loopy eccentricity and are often imaginatively whimsical, as well as having a playful drawing and rendering style.


Claude Lorrain: The Enchanted Landscape

Claude Lorrain: The Enchanted Landscape
Claude Gellée, also known as Claude Lorrain (from his birthplace, the Duchy of Lorraine, once an independent nation in what it currently northeastern France), or simply as “Claude” (rhymes with “road”), was the most important landscape painter in the 17th century, and one of the most important and influential in the history of the genre.

Though born in France, Claude spent most of his life and career in Rome, where he bacame fascinated with the ruins of the empire and created the genre known as “classical landscape” combining those architectural artifacts with his love of the natural world.

As much as I admire his paintings, it is Claude’s drawings that I find particularly wonderful, particularly those drawn in pen and wash in a manner somewhat similar to Rembrandt’s wonderful landscape drawings.

Claude was also noted as a printmaker. There is a new exhibition at the Städel Museum in Frankfurt that features a broad overview of his career and his work in all three mediums. Claude Lorrain: The Enchanted Landscape is on display until 6 May, 2012.

Unfortunately, the museum’s website doesn’t have a gallery of works from the exhibition, though there is a video on the exhibition page (in German with English subtitles).

There is also a new exhibition at the National Gallery in London that focuses on Claude’s influence on the English Landscape master J.M.W. Turner. Turner Inspired: In the Light of Claude is in display until 5 June, 2012.

The occasion gives me a nice excuse for an update post on Claude, for whom a number of additional internet resources have been added since my previous post.

There are two web exhibits that accompanied previous museum exhibits and feature his drawings: Claude Lorrain: The Painter as Draftsman, Drawings from the British Museum at the Clark Institute in 2007 and Claude Lorrain: The draftsman Studying Nature from the Louvre in 2011.

The latter is particularly of interest for its large reproductions of Claude’s drawings. There is even one in which you can see his perspective construction lines (images above, bottom, with detail, from here).

Claude was known for his intensive outdoor studies in which he strove to capture the light of the landscape for later reproduction in his large studio works, and as such not only influenced Turner’s search for light, but that of the later French Impressionists.

(The images above aren’t necessarily in the exhibition, I just picked them because I like them.)


Chuck Jones shows how to draw Bugs Bunny and other WB characters

Here are a few short videos (on YouTube) in which the ever brilliant Chuck Jones shows how he draws some of his iconic characters: Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Pepe le Pew, Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner.

“…learn how to draw a carrot, then you can hook a rabbit onto it.”

“Depending on what our budget is, we can use three or two whiskers.”

[Via Kottke]


John Morra

John Morra
Contemporary American painter John Morra paints elegantly refined still life canvasses of both common and unusual subjects.

His website has galleries of his work in categories like Still Life, Food, Mixers and “Mertz” as well as Plein Air landscapes and Portraits.

Morra says in his artists’ statement that he was influenced by Vermeer, and in particular, Chardin. The influence of the latter is evident in his paintings of crockery, aged metal pans and similar Chardin-like subjects found in the “Still Life” section.

He also has a fascination with the forms, colors and textures of food mixers, particularly those that appear to be from the mid 20th century.

My favorite compositions of his, however, are to be found in the section he calls “Mertz”. I don’t know the derivation of the word (though it seems rather Dada-like), but these are wonderful paintings of complex arrangements of mechanical, electrical and wooden or metal objects that include old fashioned light bulbs, vacuum tubes, glass power line insulators, plumb bobs, vacuum cleaner parts, wooden spindles, musical instruments, funnels, kitchen utensils and, of course, mixers.

He often sets these arrangements against skies or suggestions of skies, presenting them as landscapes of still life objects, and portrays them as bathed in soft light or in muted overcast.

You might call the subjects “found objects” or “junk”, I call them the contents of my parents basement, and I love them for that as well for his beautiful handling of the subjects.

Morra has taught at the New York Academy and the School of Visual Art in New York, and, though I don’t know his current involvement, he is listed among the instructors for The Grand Central Academy of Art, the Teaching Studios of Art in Brooklyn and Oyster Bay, Long Island, and the Gage Academy of Art, Seattle. The latter site has a more extensive bio than his own site.

There is also a brief bio and a gallery of his work on the website of the Eleanor Ettinger Gallery.


Jean Giraud (Moebius) 1938-2012

Jean Giraud (Moebius)
I spent some time trying to select the right images for this post. I found the top one particularly appropriate; if there’s any artist that I associate with magic coming to life from the pages of a book, it’s French comics artist, illustrator and movie concept artist Jean Giraud, more commonly known by his pen name, Moebius.

I was saddened to learn that Giraud died today, March 10, 2012, at the age of 73.

Of all of the fantastic artists and illustrators who have worked in the medium of comics, from the Golden Age newspaper greats to the present era of “graphic novels”, Giraud is my favorite. He is also one of my favorite illustrators, and for that matter, one of my favorite artists of any kind.

I’ve often said that he demonstrated more imagination and creativity in a few of his offhand sketches than many professional comics artists and illustrators will display in their entire careers.

Prolific, inventive and restlessly experimenting with variations of style while following his own individual path of artistic exploration, Giraud left us with a wealth of extraordinary images, from the outrageous to the sublime.

Unfortunately, he isn’t as well known here in the US as he should be, partly because he didn’t (with a few exceptions) draw spandex-clad superheroes or saucer-eyed manga girls, and partly because the publishers here didn’t quite know what to make of him.

Admittedly, his own writing style, which at best could be called “stream of consciousness”, didn’t lend itself to coherent stories as much as flights of wild visual fantasy. He worked best as a storyteller when he put his brilliance in the service of more straightforward writers, notably collaborating with filmmaker and author Alexandro Jordorowski on a long science fiction series called The Incal.

As much as I admire his fantastically imaginative science fiction illustrations and comics (for which he adopted the name “Moebius” and made well known contributions to the original Metal Hurlant anthologies in France), I actually think Giraud’s best comics work was his most restrained, in the service of the superb western series Blueberry, set in the post-Civil War American west and written for most of its run by Jean-Michel Charlier.

Giraud lent his imagination and artistic and character design skills to a number of well known films, including Alien, Tron, Willow, The Abyss and The Fifth Element.

Giraud’s impact on other comics artists, illustrators and concept artists can’t be overstated. Even if not a household name to the American comics reading public, his impact was widespread among the artist community.

In France and Belgium, and the rest of Europe for that matter, he is much better known. France named him a “national treasure” and his work was recently the subject of a major exhibition at the Foundation Cartier Pour L’Art Contemporain in Paris (also here).

Unfortunately, Americans who want to purchase books of his work are at a disadvantage. Though Marvel Comics published a good series showcasing his work in various areas (including a nice run of Blueberry) in the 1980’s, and their Epic imprint followed with a nice hardbound series of art books in the 90’s, and Dark Horse Comics published a nice series of black and white titles in the 90’s (though in an inexplicably small format), these are out of print and in many cases unreasonably priced from used book sources.

Here are reviews of some of the titles available on Amazon. American readers might try to order through an importer like Stuart Ng Books, where a few Moebius volumes can be ordered for reasonable prices.

The official Moebius website, though worth a browse, unfortunately does not do a very good job of showcasing his art.

The best source I’ve found for his work on the web is an unofficial Tumblr blog called Quenched Consciousness, that has posted numerous files in a wide variety of his work. It’s not particularly organized, as explained here, but wonderful to look through nonetheless. (Frankly I’m surprised it’s still up. My advice is to enjoy while you can.)

There are also smaller galleries on Contours, Comic Art Community and Comic Art Fans (also search).

[Note: some of the images to be found on these sites, and perhaps in other sources of Moebius images, are distinctly NSFW and not suitable for children.]

Another way to get a glimpse of his work is to simply do a Google image search for Moebius or Jean Giraud.

There is a three part BBC documentary on him on DailyMotion (part two and three), a brief video of him drawing on a Wacom Cintiq at a 2009 convention in Angoulême and a 1987 interview in The Comics Journal.

I had the pleasure of meeting Giraud at the Philadelphia Science Fiction Convention in 1991. He was a delightful, soft-spoken and modest gentleman (in the best sense of that word), and was generous enough to do a wonderful convention sketch for my wife (above, second from bottom).

I also had the pleasure at the time of looking through a small sketchbook that he carried with him. He used it, along with pen and a portable watercolor kit, to do beautiful color drawings of scenes he encountered on his travels.

I think what impressed me most about that meeting, in which he was doing numerous (free) sketches for those who asked, was the almost casual way he seemed to draw, as though he had simply connected his unconscious mind to his drawing hand and turned off everything in between.

My long time fascination with his work bears out the overall impression I have of Giraud, that he was (similar to my assessment of Rembrandt) someone who drew and painted as naturally as most of us breathe.


Gabor Svagrik

Gabor Svagrik
Hungarian born Gabor Svagrik immigrated to the US with his family and studied at the American Academy of Art in Chicago. He has also studied independently with a number of other painters.

He now conducts workshops at the Tucson Art Academy, which he founded, and through that venue brings many well known painters to the area for both studio and plein air workshops (see my recent post on Matt Smith).

Svagrik has created several instructional DVDs, which are also available through the Tucson Art Academy site. There are sample excerpts of the videos on both sites.

His website contains a selection of his available paintings, which show his strong compositional sense, carefully controlled color palettes and effective use of texture, along with a number of economically rendered oil sketches on paper.

Svagrik also maintains both a personal blog and a Tucson Art Academy blog.

(I was interested to note that in addition to Matt Smith, the roster of workshop instructors on the Tucson Art Academy site lists a number of artists I have featured here on Lines and Colors, including: Ken Auster, Kenn Backhaus, John Budicin, Joseph Paquet, Ray Roberts and Colley Whisson.)