Cory Godbey

Cory Godbey
Cory Godbey is an illustrator and animator based in Greenville, South Carolina whose work utilizes elegant lines, stylized drawing and deep, carefully limited color palettes to achieve wonderful effect.

He makes use of these strengths, as well as a rich imagination, in his illustrations of classic children’s stories as well as contemporary themes. I particularly enjoy his playful use of illumination and light sources.

You can see in Godbey’s work his apparent admiration for classic Golden Age illustrators like Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac, John Bauer and Gustav Tenggren, as well as contemporary illustrators like Maurice Sendak.

The “Gallery” portion of his website redirects to his gallery on Behance Network, where you will find sections for work in various categories. In addition Godbey maintains a blog titled late night rains.

Godbey’s clients incude Random House, HarperCollins, Marvel and The Jim Hensen Co. He has also done comics work for the Flight comics anthologies.

Rembrandt’s Supper at Emmaus

Rembrandt's Supper at Emmaus
The Biblical story of the Supper at Emmaus, in which Jesus appears to, and later has a meal with two of his disciples after his resurrection, is a repeated theme in the history Christian art.

The most famous example is the striking composition by Carravaggio.

Rembrandt’s portrayal of the scene is less familiar, and is not one of the more commonly reproduced works in his oeuvre.

However, when I had the chance to see this painting in person at the Philadelphia Museum of Art last August as part of the Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus exhibition, I was fascinated by it and returned to it several times during my visit.

With no disrespect to Rembrandt’s intentions for the focus of the painting, it was not his figures that captured my attention in this instance, but the surroundings in which he placed them, most notably the table and simple still life objects, and the cloth on which they rested.

Seen close up, these simple subjects in Rembrandt’s hands seemed to me a tour-de-force in still life painting, the background a textural masterpiece and textbook example of how to use a background and lighting to set off a scene with figures.

The figures themselves, of course, were painted with Rembrandt’s unwavering strength as a painter, but I didn’t find them among his most compelling, in contrast to the scene as a whole. The tablecloths, in particular, are a marvel of subtle color blending, rich brushwork and the play of light across a complex surface.

The painting was probably based on this earlier etching.

This is the second of two very different takes by Rembrandt on the subject, the first is more stark and dramatic, with the figure of Jesus almost in silhouette in the foreground and great areas of sharp chiaroscuro forming the composition (images above, bottom).

The later painting, though less dramatic, is richer and more involving. The original is in the Louvre, which provides a reasonably high resolution image of the painting here.

Thomas Kinkade, 1958-2012

Thomas Kinkade
Longtime readers of Lines and Colors may be surprised to find me writing about Thomas Kinkade, as I normally only write about artists whose work I personally find appealing, and I wouldn’t be quick to put Kinkade on that list.

I do find him interesting as a phenomenon, however, and his untimely death yesterday at the age of 54 prompted me to mention him in that respect.

Thomas Kinckade was an American painter noted for his extraordinarily popular paintings of deliberately charming cottages, lush gardens, idyllic landscapes and townscape Americana, rendered in wide array of high-chroma colors.

On one hand, Kinkade has been the subject of derision from critics and art lovers as a purveyor of kitschy greeting card and calendar art sentimentality; on the other hand, his work is enormously popular in the U.S., and seems to hold a strong and almost magical appeal for some.

Kinkade is noted for his aggressive merchandising, in which a chain of franchise stores, usually in shopping malls, sell prints of various kinds and levels of expense, as well as a secondary line of merchandise, perhaps making him the “Martha Stewart” of art related merchandising.

I can be critical of Kinkade’s business practices, in which “semi-original” commercial prints are touched up with oil by him or by assistants, signed by him in special ink, tagged with a special seal like a collectable coin from the Franklin Mint and sold for prices beyond what many other artists ask for originals in mall-based galleries that offer financing to purchase them.

There is also the controversial nature of his company’s gallery franchise profit percentages, coupled with the relentless marketing of his work and, most annoyingly to me, his absurd attempt to trademark the phrase “Painter of Light” (which has historically been applied to J.M.W. Turner).

However readers familiar with my taste in art may be surprised that I’m not as harshly critical of Kinkade’s actual painting style as some might expect.

I find the wide popularity of his work, and in particular the intensity of the appeal it has for many, creates a fascinating angle on the question of what is “visually appealing” in a work of art, and how artists have deliberately pursued, or eschewed, that element.

The late 20th century Modernists, of course, rejected anything with visual appeal as base and intellectually shallow — art was, after all, the provence of the intellect, and more importantly, of the intellectual few sophisticated enough to appreciate the subtleties of the theories on which modernist painting was based.

Representational art has a history of wavering between visual appeal and intellectual or emotional content, with enormous variation. There are elements, however, that can be identified as having immediate visual appeal as well as emotional resonance.

But what makes a painting visually appealing, in the combinations of subject matter, color composition, value, paint surface… all of the elements painters bring to bear in their work, and why is there such difference between the perception of those elements by different individuals?

Resisting the temptation to jump on the bandwagon and dismiss Kinkade’s work as treacle, I find it fascinating that he was a painter who evidently pursued the the question of “visual appeal” with dogged singularity.

Though I don’t respond to the particular style of visual appeal Kinkade has pursued in the way his legions of admirers do (and some respond very strongly indeed, spending quite a bit of money to purchase multiple “semi-original” prints), I can see within it many techniques that can be found in other styles and genres of art that are designed to have “Eye Candy” visual appeal.

One is the use of paired complementary colors, frequently associated with the French Impressionists, and notable in contemporary film and gaming concept art (as well as in the subsequent movies and games — as a case in point, look at something like the “robot assembly line” sequence in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones and note the colors and lighting).

You can see the combination of complementary color pairs and strong value contrasts used by painters like John Atkinson Grimshaw and the post-Impressionist “Painters of Paris” like Antoine Blanchard and Edouard-Léon Cortès repeated throughout Kinkade’s work, sometimes overtly, as in the images above, bottom two, done under the pseudonym “Robert Girrard”.

You can also see nods to the 19th century history painters like Lawrence Alma-Tadema in Kinkade’s fanciful arcadian gardens and faux classical structures, as well as a take on Maxfield Parrish’s use of similar visual props.

Similarity to Disney cartoon background painting is evident in Kinkade’s cottages and gardens, and becomes obvious in his own series of official Disney homage paintings (which look perfectly in keeping with the studio’s aesthetic).

Kinkade has extracted that aesthetic, distilled it, and applied it to his cottage scenes in heavy doses, with warm light glowing from multi-paned windows — even in daylight, and smoke wafting from idealized brick chimneys emerging from storybook roofs.

You can also see Kinkade’s adoption of the stylized fantasy shrubbery of Eyvind Earle, as well as his intense color combinations, though even more exaggerated.

I tend of think of Kinkade essentially as a fantasy painter, despite the lack of overt elves and fairies, in that he presents his viewers with an escape into an alternate world where harsh reality doesn’t intrude, and magic has more sway than physics. In the process he also borrows additional techniques from fantasy artists in terms of adding elements of fantasy landscape “eye candy”.

If I look through Kinkade’s images, I have to admit there are passages that I find visually appealing, and might admire more readily in a different context, particularly if utilized in a scene with less “visual charm density” — notably the effects of dappled light and the look of backgrounds faded into textural renderings of mist and haze.

So whatever you think of Kinkade’s work, you may find it worth putting prejudices aside and taking a closer look at individual elements in his paintings in the context of Kinkade as a “Painter of Charm”.

[Addendum: I received notice that the first scholarly analysis of Kinkade’s work, Thomas Kinkade: The Artist in the Mall, edited and with writing by Alexis L. Boylan, has been published by Duke University Press. There is an article in the premiere issue of Pacific Standard Magazine.]

Kieran Yanner

Kieran Yanner
Kieran Yanner is a concept artist and illustrator working for a variety of clients in publishing and the gaming industry.

Originally from Darwin, Australia, Yanner now lives and works in Seattle, Washington in the U.S.

His clients include Hasbro, NCSoft, THQ, DC Comics, Marvel, Upperdeck Entertainment, Decipher, Wizards of the Coast, Wizkids, White Wolf, Vivendi Universal Games, Disney and Sony Online Entertainment.

Yanner works digitally and has a nice flair for visual drama, from the sweeping motions of dragons or sea monsters to emotional characters to dazzling special effects. He also demonstrates a flair for humorous illustration, as in his character designs for Save Dr. Lucky (above, fourth down).

His portfolio is divided into sections by project and shows the range of visual approaches and rendering styles he brings to the different kinds of projects he undertakes.

There is an interview with Yanner on 3D Total.

Google Art Project expanded

Google Art Project: Edouard Mane
Google has recently expanded and improved their already amazing Google Art Project, in which they use their Google Maps “Street View” tech to offer virtual tours of museum spaces, and, more importantly, offer beautiful, zoomable high resolution images of great works of art from world class museums.

Their recent expansion adds 150 museums and galleries to their list of participating institutions, including the National Gallery in London.

When I first reported about the Google Art Project in early 2011, they had roughly 1000 images available on the site, there are now over 30,000 (though not all in highest resolution).

They have also dramatically improved the interface, which was the weak point of the original implementation and sorely in need of revision.

Instead of dealing with that horrible little scrolling list (that never displayed right in browsers other than Chrome), you can now view actual list pages and look up Collections from museums and galleries, or browse by Artists or Artworks.

If you take the trouble to create a free account (you can probably sign in with a current Google account), you can keep personal galleries of favorites, not just bookmarked, but saved with a chosen zoom level and focus selection.

You can also browse a selection of User Galleries that have been made public (sort of like an art gallery specific Pinterest).

If you view the Details page for a given work there are often videos, audio commentary, maps and a range of text information about the work and the artist.

The interface can still be a bit slow and demanding of your computer and browser (and probably still works best in Chrome), but you may just need to be patient.

The Google Art Project was already an amazing resource and is now even better and more extensive by an order of magnitude.

It also gets my highest Major Timesink Warning.


(Images above: In the Conservatory, Edouard Manet from collection of Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin)

[Via The Guardian]

How Do Artists Protect Their Work Online? on Symbiartic

Dinosaur Cartoons, by Charley Parker
Writing for Symbiartic, a blog devoted to scientific art on Scientific American that he co-authors with Kalliopi Monoyios, Glendon Mellow recently asked several science related artists to comment on the question How Do Artists Protect Their Work Online?

Mellow asked me to participate, which I did in my role as the author/artist of Dinosaur Cartoons (also here).

I chose to talk about the issue of preventing people from downloading or otherwise accessing your images online (you can’t).

Read the entire article here.