Category Archives: Illustration

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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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 jameschristensen.com, 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).

 
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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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Happy Leyendecker Baby New Year 2017!

Happy Leyendecker Baby New Year 2017!,  J.C. Leyendecker New Year's babies from covers for The Saturday Evening Post
As I’ve done every New Year’s Eve Since 2006, I’ll wish all Lines and Colors readers a Happy New Year with a few more of J.C. Leyendecker’s terrific New Year’s babies.

See that post for background on the origin of the Leyendecker New Years baby covers for the Saturday Evening Post.

Images above are from a three decade run of The Saturday Evening Post covers from the early 20th century. For more, see my previous links, below.

I wish you all a new year filled with beautiful, inspiring art!

 
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Another great Haddon Sundblom Santa Claus illustration

Another great Haddon Sundblom Coca-Cola Santa Claus illustration
Even though he is sometimes incorrectly credited with creating the modern visual interpretation of Santa Claus, that doesn’t detract from the beautiful job illustrator Haddon Sundblom did of interpreting the character in his 20th century illustrations for the Coca-Cola Company.

The image above is from an exhibition of Sundblom’s Santa Paintings at the Oglethorpe University Museum of Art in 2013, large version here.

The distinction of fleshing out a visual interpretation of Santa is spread through the history of several illustrators, starting with Thomas Nast, and with most credit for refinement of the image of the Jolly One closest to its current state going to J.C. Leyendecker, in my opinion.

For more, see my 2006 post on Illustrators’ Visions of Santa Claus, and my 2013 follow-up post, Illustrators’ Visions of Santa Claus (update), in which I show the illustrators involved in chronological order, including Sundblom.

See also my previous posts on Haddon Sundblom and Haddon Sundblom Santas, as well as some of the other illustrators who helped frame our modern interpretation, linked below.

 
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Henry Patrick Raleigh

Henry Patrick Raleigh, classic 20th century illustrator of the Gatsby era
Henry Patrick Raleigh was a classic American illustrator active in the early part of the 20th century. Raleigh is not as well known as many of the illustrators from the Golden Age and the mid-20th century eras that bracketed his career, and undeservedly so.

I can think of few illustrators, or artists in general, whose draftsmanship was more fluid and gestural. Raleigh’s ability to convey body language, expression and the sense of languid grace of figures in repose is just amazing.

In particular, he was a chronicler of, and enthusiastic participant in, the society high life of the “Gatsby era” in the 1920s. Raleigh was extraordinarily prolific, creating some 20,000 illustrations during his career. At a time when illustration was more highly valued than it is today, it gave him the wealth to move in the richest levels of society.

I think his remarkable output, continually drawing and working, also accounted for his high degree of artistic confidence, skill and economy of notation (look at the gestural representation of the flowers in the image above, fifth down). He was also an accomplished etcher.

He illustrated stories for many of the most prominent authors of his time, including H.G. Wells, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Agatha Christie, Stephen Vincent Benet, William Faulkner, Sinclair Lewis, and Somerset Maugham.

Raleigh was primarily a draftsman, and actually resented the advent of color illustrations, feeling that illustration was best as pure drawing. For all of that, when the demand for color became apparent, he incorporated it into his work with the same superb ability he devoted to his drawings, often using color in inventive and unusual ways. Some of his illustrations are monochromatic except for a single area of color; others use loosely applied color accents; and others are in full, brilliant color.

There is a wonderful collection of Raleigh’s work, The Henry Raleigh Archive, maintained by his grandson, Chris Raleigh. In the well designed and easy to navigate site, you will find biographical information, items for sale and a selection of Raleigh’s work with links to large images.

As beautiful as Raleigh’s work is in digital images, it is best viewed in the medium for which it was intended — print. There is a beautiful new book showcasing his work: Henry Patrick Raleigh: The Confident Illustrator, from Auad Publishing (images above, bottom) The text is provided by Christopher Raleigh, who evidently also worked with Auad to collect the images and provided access to the archives.

I was delighted to receive a review copy and the book is just gorgeous. This should be a must-have for aficionados of classic illustration, and really for anyone interested in fluid, gestural drawings of figures and clothing or the masterful use of tone and value in compositions.

At 130 pages, with even monochromatic illustrations rendered in color, the book is packed with Raleigh’s breezy, elegant and often amusing or dramatic illustrations — beautifully printed and with a tipped in print — for $35.00.

The book is listed as not yet released on Amazon, but you can pre-order it there. However, you can buy it now directly from Auad Publishing.

If you click on the image on the Auad page, you’ll get a pop-up with a short preview of the book. For a better idea of the content, most of the illustrations you’ll see on the Henry Raleigh Archives are in the book.

(Incidentally, Auad’s beautiful book on Al Parker is currently on sale for more than half off. Auad is a small publisher specializing in great illustrators and comics artists, and their small print runs often sell out.)

There is a nice article about Raleigh on Gurney Journey that gives some additional background on the artist and his life, and I’ll list some other articles in the links provided below.

 
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