Category Archives: Illustration

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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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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W. Heath Robinson (update)

W. Heath Robinson, illustrations, cartoons, contraptions, watercolors
William Heath Robinson, who signed his pictures “W. Heath Robinson”, was an English illustrator, cartoonist, author and watercolorist known in particular for his wry cartoons and his series of drawings depicting unlikely and complicated contraptions for accomplishing mundane tasks.

Here in the U.S. we associate the latter with American cartoonist Rube Goldberg, but Robinson was the original, and Goldberg… well, lets just say he “borrowed” the idea from Robinson. Robinson’s elaborate nonsense machines were also the inspiration for Nick Park’s delightful Wallace and Gromit animated films.

W. Heath Robinson’s brothers, Charles Robinson and Thomas Heath Robinson were both well known illustrators, as was their father, Thomas Robinson.

W. Heath Robinson was active in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, during the “Golden Age” of illustration. He is not as well known here in the U.S. as contemporaries like J.C. Leyendecker, N.C Wyeth, Arthur Rackham, Franklin Booth, Elizabeth Shippen Green and Maxfield Parrish, and Robinson doesn’t really get the recognition he deserves, even among aficionados of classic illustration.

Also, Robinson’s cartoons, as delightful as they are, often overshadow his achievements as an illustrator in pen and ink and in watercolor, and he sometimes is thought of more as a cartoonist than an illustrator. I love his cartoons, but I think it’s unfortunate that many miss out on his superb book illustration.

For me, one project of his stands out as a high point in the annals of pen and ink illustration, up there with the best of the best, and that is his illustrations for Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (images above, top, bottom and several of the more complex images in between).

The project also included several color illustrations (image with the reflecting pool above), but it is the ink drawings from the book that have always captured my fascination.

Exhibition at Delaware Art Museum

As much as I have long admired them in print, I was astonished to find how beautiful the original drawings are when I had a chance to see some of them — along with a wonderful selection of Robinson’s other work — at a new exhibit that opened recently at the Delaware Art Museum.

The exhibit is a retrospective drawn from the collection of the William Heath Robinson Trust (UK), and it covers the breadth of his styles and length of his career. It is beautifully arranged and presented, and the selections of his work are superb.

Wonder and Whimsey: The Illustrations of W. Heath Robinson is on view until May 21, 2017.

I intend to go back as I have the chance.

Books

There is not a catalog accompanying the exhibition, but there is a nice book from Dover titled Golden Age Illustrations of W. Heath Robinson that makes an acceptable substitute, and gives a nice overview of Robinson’s work. It was authored by Jeff A. Menges, who wrote the terrific book on 101 Great Illustrators from the Golden Age that I recently reviewed. Dover also publishes an edition of A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Robinson’s illustrations.

There is a new book of Robinson’s clever contraption illustrations, Very Heath Robinson, coming from Sheldrake Press in the UK; I don’t yet know if it will be available in the U.S.

A general Amazon search will bring up many more titles either by or with illustrations by W. Heath Robinson.

Online images & articles

As far as online resources, the selections are not as wide as I would hope. The Delaware Art Museum offers a modest gallery of a few of the images from the exhibit. The websites of William Heath Robinson Trust, Heath Robinson Museum offer image galleries, but the images are frustratingly small, and in the case of the Trust, defaced with watermarking.

The best and most extensive source I’ve found for Robinson’s images is Poul Webb’s Art & Artists, which features 20 extensive articles filled with Robinson’s cartoons and illustrations.

You can start with the first article and look for links to the others in the sidebar under November and December, 2015; or you can do a general search for W. Heath Robinson. If doing the latter, keep clicking through the “Next Posts” links at the bottom of the pages; there are 20 articles, but not presented in order when viewing that way.

I’ve linked to some additional articles, image sources and biographical information below.

 
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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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101 Great Illustrators from the Golden Age, 1890-1925

101 Great Illustrators from the Golden Age, 1890-1925
Discovering art that you love by artists whose work is new to you can be a little like meeting a person to whom you’re romantically attracted — there’s an initial rush of infatuation that is so pleasurable the feeling can be addictive.

Growing up in northern Delaware (in a house a few hundred yards from the home of O.C. Darley), I developed an early appreciation for some of the great illustrators of the late 19th and early 20th centuries — notably Howard Pyle, N.C. Wyeth and other artists of the Brandywine School.

But when I started to expand my exploration of the amazing work produced in that era, and discovered the work of other American and European illustrators active at the same time, I became so dazzled and entranced that I started searching out any books I could find on these amazing artists. Each new discovery was jolt of artistic pleasure.

As I haunted used bookstores and university libraries, looking to discover more artists from this astonishingly fertile period of great illustration — rightfully known as the “Golden Age of Illustration” — I occasionally came across books that were motherloads of treasure in this respect, compendiums of artists from the era with reproductions of their work, books that were a pleasure in themselves and as well as a gateway to more discovery.

There have been several books of that sort over the years, and I’m happy to have some of them, but I’ve often had to hunt and pay more than I would like to get them. Overviews of great illustrators tend to be released and then go out of print quickly, leaving the searcher looking longingly at overpriced rare book listings.

I was delighted, then, to recently receive a review copy of a new book from Dover Publications that is exactly such a treasure.

101 Great Illustrators from the Golden Age, 1890-1925 is not a rerelease but a brand new book in the grand tradition of overviews of great illustrators, and it is one of the best of the lot.

Author Jeff A. Menges has done a superb job of choosing a fantastic array of artists, providing representative and dazzling examples of their work and presenting them with succinct, erudite commentary that introduces you to each artist and puts them in the context of their time. Every illustrator has at least two pages devoted to images of their work, in some cases four.

I addition to including favorites like Howard Pyle and N.C Wyeth, the book features a who’s who of Golden Age illustrators — Walter Crane, Edmund Dulac, Maxfield Parrish, Arthur Rackham, James Montgomery Flagg, Harvey Dunn, Charles Dana Gibson, Charles R. Knight, Edward Penfield, Frederic Remington, J. Allen St. John, Elizabeth Shippen Green, Violet Oakley, Alphonse Mucha, Jessie Wilcox Smith, J.C Leyendecker, Edwin Austin Abbey, Franklin Booth, Joseph Clement Coll and… well, I’m going to run out of room before I run out of fantastic illustrators to list.

Each article can leave you torn between reading on to the next great illustrator, or rushing out to look for more work by the fantastic artist you just discovered (or rediscovered).

This is a “gateway” book if there ever was one, a path to discovery and a beautiful joy in itself. If you have any feeling for Golden Age illustration, you will “fall in love” several times over in the course of going through its profusely illustrated pages.

Dover has done an amazing job of delivering an effective and pleasing book design and high production values that showcase over 500 images of beautiful illustration, both color and pen and ink, in a 250+ page volume — and somehow kept the price to $35.00 (not a typo — thirty five). [Note: If Dover’s ad is still running in the right column as you read this, you can use the code at the bottom of the ad to get an extra 25% off on this book along with other Dover fine art books.]

The Dover website gives more detailed information about the book, though it doesn’t offer a preview; the Amazon listing has a preview of some of the pages.

I’ll make the usual disclaimers and point out that Dover is an advertiser on Lines and Colors, and provided a free review copy, but if they hadn’t, and I found this in a book store, I would have bought it the instant I saw it and gleefully run home with it tucked under my arm like the treasure it is.

 
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Nico Delort & Teagan White at Gallery Nucleus

Nico Delort & Teagan White at Gallery Nucleus
Beautiful work by Nico Delort and Teagan White — both of whom I have featured previously on Lines and Colors — is currently on display at Gallery Nucleus in Alhambra, CA until March 5, 2017. Many of the originals have already sold, but some pieces are still available.

If you’re not familiar with these artists, see my previous related posts for more information and images, as well as additional links. Both are quite wonderful.

(Images above: Nico Delort, top six; Teagan White, bottom five)

 
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