Jesper Ejsing (update)

Jesper Ejsing, fantasy illustrations
Jesper Ejsing is a Danish fantasy illustrator living in Copenhaen.

When I last wrote about Ejsing in 2013, it didn’t seem like he was updating his web presence frequently. Since then, he’s been adding more of his wonderfully wild illustration to his website, Artstation portfolio, and the group blog, Muddy Colors, where he is one of several contributing illustrators and concept artists.

Ejsing’s dragons, warriors, monsters and elves are rendered with wonderful touches of texture, varied palettes from almost monochrome to brightly colored and have a particularly appealing dimensionality to them.

Many of the pieces on his Artstation page are accompanied by preliminary sketches.

For more, see my previous post on Jesper Ejsing.


Eye Candy for Today: Fantin-Latour – Still Life with Carafe, Flowers and Fruit

Still Life with a Carafe, Flowers and Fruit; Henri Fantin-Latour
Still Life with a Carafe, Flowers and Fruit; Henri Fantin-Latour

Link is to zoomable version on Google Art Project; downloadable file on Wikimedia Commons; original is in the National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo.

Somewhat larger than most of Fantin-Latour’s still lifes, this is a prime example of his beautiful approach.

Most striking here, I think, is his masterful use of value. The background is uncharacteristically dark compared to most of his similar compositions, and he has let the vase and carafe subtly emerge from the darkness, in sharp contrast to the white flowers.

The peaches and melon make up the middle range, with delightfully painterly handling on the former and fascinatingly textural representation of the discolored skin of the latter.

I think this is the fifth Eye Candy post I’ve done of Fantin-Latour’s still life paintings, and I have yet to do a post on the artist himself. I’m sure I’ll get around to it some time this decade.


Henry Ossawa Tanner (update)

Henry Ossawa Tanner
Henry Ossawa Tanner was a superb American painter, active in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, who I first wrote about in 2012.

Since then, I’m happy to report, online resources for viewing his work have expanded considerably, notably on The Athenaeum and Wikimedia Commons. You can find additional resources through Artcyclopedia and on my previous post.

Tanner was noted for landscapes, figures and portraits, but in particular for his portrayal of Biblical scenes and contemporary views of locations in the eastern Mediterranean that were of Biblical significance.

Tanner’s mother was born into slavery, but escaped by way of the Underground Railroad. Tanner was born in Pittsburgh and his family moved to Philadelphia while he was still a child.

There, he attended the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where he studied with Thomas Eakins, among others, and encountered other artistic luminaries such as Robert Henri.

Outside of his circle of artistic supporters, Tanner encountered so much racism in Philadelphia — and in Atlanta were he tried to establish a photography studio — that when he traveled to Europe and found acceptance as a painter, he emigrated and spent the remainder of his career there, with only brief visits back to the U.S.

Although Tanner downplayed his role as the first African-American painter to gain international recognition, among his notable portraits is the one shown above, third from the bottom, of pioneering civil rights advocate Booker T. Washington.

I have always been fascinated by Tanner’s painting The Annunciation — here in Philadelphia at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (image above, top) — with its striking representation of the Angel Gabriel as an otherworldly shaft of golden light. It wasn’t until I saw a stunning and extensive show of Tanner’s work at PAFA in 2012 that I realized how extraordinary was his use of light throughout his varied experiments with style and subject.

For more, see my previous post on Henry Ossawa Tanner.


Eye Candy for Today: Canaletto’s Porta Portello, Padua

The Porta Portello, Padua; Canaletto (Giovanni Antonio Canal)
The Porta Portello, Padua; Canaletto (Giovanni Antonio Canal)

Another architectural tour-de-force by the 18th century Italian master Canaletto – times two. The painting above in the top six images is in the National Gallery of Art, DC.

In the bottom four images is another version, with the same perspective but with different figures and harsher light, that is in the Museo Thussen – Bornemisza in Madrid.

There’s some question about the dating of the paintings; both could have been painted around the time of his documented trip to the city of Padua around 1740 or 1741, but some put the second painting almost twenty years later — perhaps as a “greatest hits” request from a patron. The Porta Portello is the main entrance to Padua for those traveling, like Canaletto, from Venice.

Even more visually entrancing than either painting is a preliminary ink and wash drawing that was a subject of a previous Lines and Colors post. It has been reliably dated around the time of the first painting, but presumably could have been used for both.

In both paintings, I love the contrast between Canaletto’s masterful painting of the architectural elements and his abbreviated shorthand notation for figures and things like grass texture and the surface of water. (Gotta love those little water squiggles!)


James C. Christensen, 1942-2017

James C. Christensen, 1942-2017, fantasy illustrations

James C. Christensen, a highly regarded illustrator and gallery artist who worked in the vein of fantasy, spiritual inspiration, and works tinged with the flavor of Renaissance portraits, died on January 8, 2017.

Though there is a, it’s a commercial gallery’s site, and the images are watermarked (though not terribly so). A better source is the Greenwich Workshop (note the links at page bottom to subsequent pages).

There are a number of books featuring or collecting Christensen’s work (Amazon link), including A Journey of the Imagination: The Art of James Christensen, which has an introduction by James Gurney.

For more, see my previous post on James C. Christensen from 2010 (which is more informative than this brief one).


Framed Perspective, Marcos Mateu-Mestre

Framed Perspective,  Marcos Mateu-Mestre
Just to put things in… context, the history of graphical perspective goes back further, but the system of geometric perspective we use today can be traced to an important point in the beginning of the 15th century, when Filippo Brunelleschi — the brilliant Renaissance architect and designer who solved the seemingly intractable problem of spanning the world’s largest cathedral dome space with an ingenious solution — codified a system of graphical persepctive that was immediately adopted by almost every artist who was made aware of it, and most artists since.

Like his solution for the dome of the Florence cathedral, the model of geometric perspective Brunelleschi demonstrated solved problems that had previously seemed impossibly difficult.

Artists and art students have either been thanking or cursing him ever since, depending on whether they see graphical perspective construction as an an incredibly powerful tool or as a burdensome learning process akin to school studies of math or chemistry.

Linear perspective study can seem difficult when ill-presented, but when taught properly, it can be a golden key to drawing and painting with a strength, solidity, accuracy and realism impossible to achieve without it.

Short of taking a course with a good instructor, those interested in mastering perspective are left to find their own way with books that are too often poorly presented, overly obtuse and almost as boring to look at as a mathematics textbook.

While there are some pretty good perspective books out there, I’ve just received review copies of a new two-volume set on perspective that has shot to the top of my personal list of best books on the subject.

Framed Perspective Vol #1 and Vol #2, are new books from Marcos Mateu-Mestre, a concept artist and illustrator who I have written about previously and whose drawing style I have always found particularly appealing.

As in his previous book: Framed Ink: Drawing and Composition for Visual Storytellers (link to my review), he tackles the the subject within the framework of real world use and practical application.

Also like that book, Mateau-Mestre has not only used real-world type examples to illustrate the concepts, he has also used them to make his books something that perspective books rarely are: visually appealing and entertaining.

Framed Perspective Vol. 1 is subtitled: “Technical Perspective and Visual Storytelling”. In it Mateau-Mestre starts at the ground floor (so to speak) and takes you from the basic concepts through solutions for some reasonably complex challenges, including multiple vanishing points, staircases, three-point perspective, arches and domes, and the application of perspective to freehand sketching.

At over 200 pages, it’s packed with information and techniques and a reality-based approach that stays focused on what’s really useful.

Framed Perspective Vol. 2 is subtitled “Technical Drawing for Shadows, Volume, and Characters”, and deals with the too often neglected subjects of applying shadows in perspective and applying perspective to the human figure, including the representation of clothing and folds, and the application of shadows to figures.

Though not as extensive as Volume 1, this one still weighs in at over 120 pages, and is jammed with useful information, as well as Mateu-Mestre’s wonderful drawings and illustrations.

Throughout both volumes, the illustrations, diagrams, text and book design are clear, concise and well thought out.

Any artist with an interest in comics, graphic storytelling, concept art or illustration — as well as painting and drawing of any kind that involves linear perspective — should look into these superb volumes.

If you’ve found books on perspective daunting and/or boring, Framed Perspective may open your eyes to a world of possibilities for understanding and using one of an artist’s most powerful tools.