Category Archives: Comics

Nestor Redondo

Nestor Redondo, comics art and pen and ink illustration
In the 1970’s the scope of style in American mainstream comic book art was suddenly expanded by the “Phillipine Invasion”, the advent of a number of highly skilled Filipino comics artists establishing themselves with the American comic book publishers.

These artists, already established in the Philippines’ active comic book market, owed as much to the influence of Golden Age pen and ink illustration and early 20th century American newspaper comics as they did to the contemporary comic book styles of the time, and they had a distinct impact on the styles of many American artists.

Many of them became well known, like Alfredo Alcala, Ernie Chan, Tony DeZuniga, Rudy Nebres, Francisco Reyes and Alex Niño, among others.

My favorite from this group of artists — and one of my favorite comic book artists in general — was Nestor Redondo.

Redondo first came to my attention when he was drawing short stories for DC Comics’ anthology horror titles like House of Mystery. He then did a knock-out run on six issues of Rima, The Jungle Girl, bringing to the title a flair reminiscent of the 1930’s newspaper adventure strip Jungle Jim by the great Alex Raymond.

Redondo really knocked my socks off, though, by doing the impossible — following up on Bernie Wrightson’s landmark run on the first ten issues of Swamp Thing; not only maintaining the extraordinary standard Wrightson had set, but bringing his own sensibility to the series and hitting it out of the park for thirteen more issues.

In addition to his numerous projects for the Philippine comics market and several other projects for the American publishers, Redondo also brought his solid but fluid inking style to collaborations with other artists, notably on one of my favorite lost gems of 1980’s comics, Doug Moench’s Aztec Ace.

I’ve long thought Redondo’s comics work and pen and ink illustration worthy of a collection, and though it has been a long time coming, we finally have one courtesy of the always remarkable Auad Publishing, who also published a collection of the work of Alex Niño (unfortunately, sold out). Auad was kind enough to provide me with a review copy of the new book on Redondo’s work.

The Art of Nestor Redondo (images above, top, with details, and bottom three rows) collects a variety of the artist’s comics art, ink drawings, splash pages, sketches and pencil drawings in an inexpensive, but high quality, 80 page black and white volume.

It’s paperback with nicely stiff card covers and high quality paper; and the printing is beautifully sharp and crisp, showing the details in Redondo’s ink drawings to best advantage. Most of the art was scanned from the original drawings.

The book is available directly from Auad for $24 USD. If you click on the cover in the listing on the Auad site, you will get a pop-up preview gallery of images from the book. Auad is a small publisher, and most of their past titles are sold out. If you want a copy of this one, you should probably order it sooner rather than later.

For those who aren’t familiar with Nestor Redondo, it’s a nice introduction to his style and abilities; for those who are already fans of Redondo, it is, of course, a must-have.

For me, the primary appeal of Nestor Redondo’s style is in his solid draftsmanship, the careful balance between areas of detailed hatching and open white space, and the key element of strategic openness in his line work. Unlike many artists who try too hard to lavish detail on their ink drawings, Redondo knew how to leave his outlines open in just the right places to let his figures breathe.

 
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Jim Woodring

Jim Woodring, surreal comics, illustrations and paintings
Jim Woodring is a comics artist and painter who delves into strange and wonderful imagery derived from dreams and a history of childhood hallucinations.

Woodring is known for his short comics stories, told wordlessly and in a stream-of-unconsciousness manner, that feature his recurring character, “Frank”.

Frank is something of an apparition in himself, a fever dream version of 1920’s anthropomorphic animal cartoon characters, who is the center of the dream and also a stand-in for the dreamer.

Woodring also does painting, in monochrome and in color. I’m not one to toss the word “surreal” around lightly — having read the Surrealist manifestos, and aware that true Surrealism is by definition drawn from the unconscious in the form of automatic drawing or dream-state imagery — but Woodring’s work is truly that: surreal.

As much as I enjoy his work in color, I find it most entrancing in the form of his black and white pen drawing. His thick repeated linear patterns and woodcut-like wavy lines create “colors” in much the way the gray inks of Chinese ink painting are said to have colors. This is wonderfully evident in his comics, which are dream-like in the telling as well as the in the imagery.

You can see previews of two of his titles in the comics section of his website.

I will be the first to suggest that Woodring’s work is something of an acquired taste and not likely to appeal to everyone. However, if you acquire that taste, you may find it irresistibly fascinating.

If you were not previously aware of Woodring’s work, and the small taste here has piqued your interest, believe me when I say the small online excerpts here and on his site don’t do justice to the way his drawings look in print.

There are several collections of his work: The Frank Book, which collects 10 years of his signature work; a follow-up: Congress of the Animals; a one-off treat for fans of 3-D comics: Frank in the 3rd Dimension; and the latest, Weathercraft, a full-length graphic novel, told — like most of Woodring’s work — wordlessly. You will also find other titles, most published by Fantagraphics Books.

There is currently an exhibit of Woodring’s work at the Frye Museum in Seattle, for which the museum commissioned a series of large scale pen drawings — drawn with a large scale dip pen created by Woodring — that is on display until April 16, 2017 (images above, bottom three).

 
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Tonči Zonjić

Tonci Zonjic, comics and illustration
Tonči Zonjić (pronouced TAWN-chih ZAWN-yitch, according to an article on Illustrator’s Lounge) is a contemporary Croatian comics artist and illustrator.

I make a point or mentioning that he is contemporary because of the wonderful feeling his work has for the classic comics artists of the past. His chiaroscuro ink style carries echoes of early 20th century greats like Noel Sickles and Milton Caniff, but melded with the sensibilities of modern European comics and perhaps a touch of Will Eisner.

The blend, however, is definitely Zonjić’s own, and his cinematic approach and visual storytelling skills have made him a favorite of many readers as well as admirers of comics artistry.

Zonjić signs his work “To Zo”, and you will see him under that name.

Here in the U.S. Zonjić is noted in particular for his work on Mike Mignola’s Lobster Johnson (Amazon link, preview pages here), which has a nice “Blackhawk” kind of vibe, and two spy thriller series with writer Nathan Edmondson, Who is Jake Ellis? (amazon link, preview pages here) and Where is Jake Ellis? (Amazon link, preview pages here).

There are lots of examples of his comics and illustration work on his website and blog.

He also has a Tumblr blog on which he produces a short feature that I particularly enjoy, called Not/But (images above, panels on colored backgrounds at bottom), in which he wryly addresses the anxieties and self-doubt that all artists face at some point.

 
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Bernie Wrightson

Bernie Wrightson, oen and ink Frankenstein illustrations, Horror comics, Batman, Swamp Thing

Bernie (Berni) Wrigntson was an American comics artist and illustrator known for his work on horror comics for DC Comics and Warren Publishing, on titles like Batman and, in particular, Swamp Thing.

Bernie Writghtson died on Saturday at the age of 68.

His work on Swamp Thing set new standards for horror comics art and was influential on other artists. Wrightson eventually left DC for Warren Publications, which was publishing black and white horror comics Creepy and Eerie that were printed larger than typical comic books, at magazine size.

Wrightson was a major figure in American comic book art, and at one point joined together with Jeffrey (Catherine) Jones, Barry Windsor-Smith and Michael Kaluta — like-minded artists who took inspiration from the great Golden Age illustrators — to share a joint space in New York called “The Studio”.

Wrightson was inspired by 1950’s horror comics from EC, and in particular the work of Graham Ingles and Frank Frazetta, but later in his career the influence of great pen and ink illustrators become more prominent, particularly the fantastic work of Franklin Booth. Those influences became evident in Wrightson’s acknowledged masterpiece, a series of elaborate and beautifully realized illustrations for Mary Shelly’s classic Frankenstein (images above, top two, with details).

This was not an assignment, Wrightson took on the project in his spare time out of love for the material. The illustrations were initially released as a limited edition portfolio. (A personal note: when I got divorced many many years ago, my ex-wife and I didn’t have any children or a house to argue over, but we wound up splitting joint custody, half and half, of the Frankenstein portfolio).

The drawings were later used in new editions of the Mary Shelly novel published accompanied by Wrightson’s illustrations.

Unfortunately, as far as I know, the book versions are out of print. Dark Horse still has a listing for their digital version, also for their collections of work from Creepy and Eerie that include some of Wrightson’s work. The print editions of Frankenstein may still be available used, though prices are likely to go up.

Wrightson and writer Steve Niles later followed with a comic book adaptation, Frankenstein Alive Alive! (images above, middle) which was published by IDW.

You may be able to find other Wrightson materials through used book sources, including reprints of some of his classic Swamp Thing issues.

The best currently in print source for his comics work is probably Creepy Presents Bernie Wrightson, a compendium of some of his work for Warren publishing, meant from the outset to be viewed in black and white, which is how I think his work is at its best.

Unfortunately, I don’t know of a good major online resource for viewing Wrightson’s work.

There is an official Bernie Wrightson website, with a bio and image galleries, unfortunately, the images in the galleries are maddeningly small and not well reproduced for the web, though they can still give you an overview of the range of Wrightson’s work.

There are a few original art pages still for sale directly from the family (as of this writing) through Comic Art Fans, as well as some from other sellers. Nakitomi has Cycle of the Werewolf box sets available.

Otherwise, I’ll point to some obits and tribute pages that feature some examples of his art. You can also simply try a Google image search.

Included in my row of example images above, bottom, is a little gem from my own collection — a Bernie Wrightson convention sketch gifted to me by Galactic Geographic artist Karl Kofoed.

 
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Lines and Colors is on strike today, January 20, 2017

Lines and Colors is on strike today, January 20, 2017

There will be no new posts today on Lines and Colors about art or artists, no lovely images of art to inspire or amuse you. This is perhaps a portent of things to come, but today it’s just a protest.

Lines and Colors is on strike today in support of the J20 Art Strike, calling for arts organizations and institutions to not do business as usual as a symbolic act of resistance to the looming shift in government power, and the potentially disastrous effect it will have on the arts, humanities and creative endeavor and discourse in general.

Yes, it’s a small, mostly symbolic gesture, but so are the recently announced plans by the incoming administration to eliminate funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, as well as the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

It would cut $296 million from the federal government’s almost $4,000,000,000,000.00 federal budget as a “cost saving” measure.

Even ignoring the fact that it’s been demonstrated that every Federal dollar spent on arts funding brings back nine or ten times that amount to the treasury in the form of increased economic activity and tax revenue, the amount of “savings” represents less than two tenths of one percent of the federal budget – for all practical purposes, statistically insignificant.

So this is really a gesture, a raised middle finger to the arts community to let us know how much they despise us.

Given the avowed intentions and previous actions of many of the legislators now taking control of the congress, this is likely just the first in a series of ongoing actions that will make the creation of art and the free exchange of ideas more difficult in the coming years.

In the past, I’ve tried to keep my political views in check when writing Lines and Colors, and have only expressed them in subtle ways.

That ends today.

These people have declared themselves the enemy of much that I care about, and are therefore my enemies.

Little acts like this, and anything I may say, are also likely statistically insignificant, but I have to make some kind of symbolic statement of resistance to avowed enemies of the arts, even if just for my own sense of self respect.

In writing for Lines and Colors, I’ll keep my expressions of concern related to the arts, but I’ll state them clearly. If you don’t like them, you’re welcome to comment, but I won’t tolerate flame wars, and I reserve the right to control what does or doesn’t appear on my own blog.

Lines and Colors is, after all, my opinions about art and artists — what I find valuable or of interest and consider worth sharing with others. If the expression of my political opinions as they relate to the health of the arts community in this country offends you, you’re welcome to seek inspiration elsewhere.

If you think I’m overreacting, you’re welcome to your opinion. Bookmark this post and put a reminder in your calendar to stop back in four years to see if I was wrong. (I desperately hope I’m wrong.)

That is, of course, if Lines and Colors is still here in four years.

One of the other announced initiatives of the incoming wave of big business uber alles is the elimination of Net Neutrality — from which control of the internet will be ceded to the telecoms and big entertainment companies.

This will happen so gradually you won’t notice at first, but it will change inexorably until the web becomes more like TV — a one-way flow of content and information from corporate producer to consumer, and a one-way flow of money in the other direction.

Oh, you’ll still be able to use Facebook and Twitter, but big content sites from the corporate providers will download like lightning (if you pay for them), and independent sites like Lines and Colors will start to load slower and slower and slower until they’re too painful to use.

If you don’t know what Net Neutrality is, or why it matters, see this handy explanation in comics form from Economix.

For more on the strike, see the J20 Art Strike page.

More to the point, if you want to know why I feel this way, see my plea to Lines and Colors readers prior to the election to vote in defense of the arts: “Vote like the future of the arts in the US depends on it“, in which I go into more detail on why I think this administration and the accompanying shift in power in the congress bode ill for the arts community in this country.

They’re just this day assuming office, and — sadly — I already have to say “I told you so.”

 
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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.

 
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