Winter Solstice 2013

Winter paintings: John Henry Twachtman, Gustave Courbet, Caspar David Friedrich, Antoine Blanchard, Ivan Bilibin, Neil Welliver, Alphonse Mucha, Ivan Shishkin, Maxfield Parrish, Andrew Wyeth, N.C. Wyeth, Toshi Yoshida
A few winter images to mark the winter solstice today.

If you want more, revisit Irene Gallo’s “Picturing Winter: A Solstice Celebration” from 2011.

Images above: John Henry Twachtman, Gustave Courbet, Caspar David Friedrich, Antoine Blanchard, Albert Bierstadt, Ivan Bilibin, Neil Welliver, Alphonse Mucha, Ivan Shishkin, Maxfield Parrish, Andrew Wyeth, N.C. Wyeth, Toshi Yoshida)

 
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Piranesi’s Imaginary Prisons at Princeton University Art Museum

Piranesi's Imaginary Prisons at Princeton University Art Museum
Carceri (“Prisons”) is a series of 14 (in a later state, 16) copperplate etchings by the 18th century Venetian artist Giovanni Battista Piranesi. These are wonderfully detailed architectural fantasies, full of the suggestion of dramatic scale and lavished with fascinating details.

What appears to be a complete set of the 16 plates in their later state, in which many of the etchings have been darkened and rendered with even more detail, is currently on view at the Princeton University Art Museum in new Jersey until the end of December, 2013.

The museum has provided a page from which you can access images of the prints. (I’m not sure how long this page will be in place; if it’s not functional, you can use the website’s search page.)

Though it’s not immediately clear, the museum has provided nicely high-resolution versions of the images on the site. Click on the thumbnail to go to the dedicated page for each image, then click again to view a larger image in a pop-up, then look for the small download arrow at lower left of the pop-up to view or download the high-res image.

For more, see my previous posts: Giovanni Battista Piranesi and Piranesi’s Prisons: Architecture of Mystery and Imagination.

 
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Koji Morimoto animated sequence

Koji Morimoto animated sequence fo Lexus
As I mentioned back in 2007, Koji Morimoto is one of my favorite animation directors, though he has done far too little animation in recent years for the liking of his fans.

Morimoto has recently animated a brief sequence as part of a short film directed by Mitsuyo Miyazaki, and sponsored (with lots of product placement) by Lexus: A Better Tomorrow.

You can see both the full 12 minute, mostly live action, film and the isolated animated sequence by Morimoto, as part of this article on Cartoon Brew. You can also find the animated sequence on Vimeo.

 
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Eye Candy for Today: Vigée Le Brun portrait

Portrait of Marie Gabrielle de Gramont, Duchesse de Caderousse, Elisabeth-Louise Vigee Le Brun
Portrait of Marie Gabrielle de Gramont, Duchesse de Caderousse, Elisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun

On Google Art Project, also available on Wikimedia Commons. Original is in the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

I think Vigée Le Brun likely “sweetened” her portraits a bit — flattering the sitter — but I’m a complete sucker for it. I just love the way she paints. Look at the soft, painterly edges of the face, hands, forearm and fruit, contrasted with the rough texture and harder edges of the scarf, ribbon and hat.

 
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Journey, Aaron Becker

Journey, Aaron Becker
When I was young, I had a wonderful book called Harold and the Purple Crayon, by Crockett Johnson (see my article here), about a boy with a magical crayon that becomes a pathway to adventures by bringing what is drawn with it to life.

It was one of my favorite books as a child. It was the kind of book that tugs a reader’s imagination off into their own flights of imagination — in short, the very best kind of children’s book (if not the very best kind of book in general).

I found the concept inspiring, and it remains a favorite on my bookshelf today. I have to assume the same can be said for illustrator and author Aaron Becker, who has taken a similar concept and spun his own magical story — and a beautifully illustrated one at that — in the form of his new book, Journey.

In a way, Becker takes the core concept — a drawing instrument that produces its own reality in the hands of an imaginative child — and extends it into an additional dimension, both in the level of the art, which is a beautiful blend of line and color, and in the depth of the story.

The story, by the way, is told wordlessly — a particularly demanding level of graphic storytelling — and Becker manages it with aplomb. It’s a prime example of how aspects of painting like value, contrast, controlled color ranges and compositional placement of key elements, can be used as storytelling tools.

There are sample illustrations on Becker’s website that give a taste of the book. Fortunately, these are reproduced fairly large (in the Prints section) — as they are in the delightfully-sized book itself — to give a broad canvas for the detail and finesse with which Becker has created them. I have to emphasize, however, that part of the joy of these images is how they work together in sequence to tell a story — something you don’t get from seeing them in isolation.

There is also a video trailer for the book, that Becker animated, and a “Making Of” video, along with a portfolio of Becker’s film design work, reflecting some of the 10 years he spent as a concept artist in Doug Chiang’s studio.

You can also find a discussion of the process of creating the elaborate castle illustration in a post on Gurney Journey. In addition, there is an extensive process oriented interview with Becker, with lots of images, on Seven Impossible Things.

There is also a blog, devoted to the release and promotion of the book.

The care Becker has taken both in the wordless presentation of the story, and in the structure, design and rendition of the images themselves, lends the book its most marvelous quality: Journey is not only a beautifully illustrated book that invites lingering and re-readings, but a platform for the reader’s own flights of imagination — in short, the very best kind of children’s book (if not the very best kind of book in general).

 
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