Saturday, May 6, 2017

Eye Candy for Today: Theodore Rousseau pen and wash drawing

Village and Church of Beurre, Franche-Comte, Theodore Rousseau
Village and Church of Beurre, Franche-Comté, Théodore Rousseau

Pen and brown ink, with brown wash and touches of green and red-brown watercolor, over graphite; roughly 7 x 10 inches (17 x 26 cm); in the collection of the Morgan Library and Museum, which has both a zoomable and downloadable version.

19th century landscape painter Théodore Rousseau, one of the key figures in the Barbizon School, here portrays a charming scene of the French village of Beurre, near the border with Switzerland.

Rousseau has captured the trees and buildings with quick, gestural pen strokes, filled in with loosely applied touches of tone. I get an impression of him sitting at the edge of the road, taking in the full essence of the scene and its key value relationships with the most economical notation at his command.

I love the way he has suggested the nature of the shallow water in the foreground without laboring over the usual visual clues of reflections and downward strokes. He simply noted it as he saw it — the reflections mere scribbles with splashes of tone — but his grasp of the immediate appearance of the area reads true as water.

 
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Thursday, May 4, 2017

Olivier Pron (update)

Olivier Pron , concept art and environments for feature films, Guardians of the Galaxy, Cloud Atlas, Jupiter Ascending, Dr. Strange
Olivier Pron is a concept artist, originally from London and now working with Method visual effects studio in Los Angeles as Supervising Art Director and Head of the Art Department.

When I initially wrote about Pron in 2014, he had just started his blog, and did not have a great deal of work available online. Since then he has established a new website that highlights his concept design work for major feature films, including his pre-production designs for the much talked about shifting reality city scenes in Dr. Strange.

I also particularly enjoy his designs for Jupiter Ascending, which demonstrate to good advantage his ability to convey enormous scale, a visual concept that is in great demand in contemporary fantasy and science fiction films.

On his new site, you can also see Pron’s concepts for films like Guardians of the Galaxy, Cloud Atlas, Suicide Squad, Thor – The Dark World, Wathcmen, Hellboy 2, Harry Potter – The Deathly Hallows Part 2, and others.

I don’t see any information on his process, but it looks like he is using a combination of digital techniques to achieve his final visualizations.

It’s worth pointing out again that when you see concept designs for popular movies, you might unconsciously think of them as interpretations of the familiar film scenes, forgetting that you are seeing the original artist’s visualization on which the scenes and effects in the film are based.

 
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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Eye Candy for Today: Franz Xaver Winterhalter pencil portrait

Portrait of Baroness Gudin, nee Margareth Louis Hay, Franz Xaver Winterhalter, pencil portrait
Portrait of Baroness Gudin, née Margareth Louis Hay, Franz Xaver Winterhalter

Graphite, roughly 15 x 11 (40 x 29 cm); in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In this deceptively simple, sensitively realized pencil portrait, 19th century German painter Franz Xaver Winterhalter has given particular attention to nuances of value changes in the shadowed side of the face. These are actually easier to see at first in the smaller reproductions; you can then identify them in the closer crops.

Specifically, I admire his handling of the uplighting under the woman’s chin, and to a reduced extent, on her cheek — contrasted with the darker plane of the top of the cheek between the eye and the nose. The light picks up in the indentation at the side of the mouth, and again above the eye.

Also particularly appealing are the soft edges and close value relationships in the rendering of the lips and nose, where the artist has resisted the temptation to push the dark contrasts in these areas.

In the closer views, Winterhalter’s deft, confident application of tone appears to reflect a degree of tooth in the paper.

 
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Monday, May 1, 2017

Stephen Magsig (update)

Stephen Magsig, cityscape and industrial landscape paintings, NYC and Detriot
Maybe it’s because I grew up next to a steel mill in Northern Delaware, or from my current wanderings in and around Philadelphia, but like many who live in the industrial northeast or upper midwest, I find a particular appeal in the industrial landscape of warehouses, factories, refineries, bridges and railways that were created during the manufacturing heyday of the U.S. in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Painter Stephen Magsig, who I initially profiled back in 2008, has long been mining these subjects in his paintings of Detroit and New York City.

To say that his paintings have a strong geometric basis is something of an understatement. But it’s more than just the the visual power of geometric shapes that can make these scenes attractive to a painter; it’s also their rich array of textures and colors, particularly in the older structures that have become rusted and weathered. Magsig embraces both in his explorations of industrial subjects.

In his latest series, he focuses on storefronts and building facades in New York City. He often features buildings that appear to have the kind of fascinating architectural details offered by the cast iron fronts that were common in cities like New York and Philadelphia in the 19th century, prior to the widespread use of modern structural steel. These are sometimes brightened with modern paint and at other times show the weathered and graffiti marked fate of less well maintained buildings.

These subjects, along with a number of other scenes of New York, will be highlighted in the show of Magsig’s work that opens at the George Billis Gallery on May 2 and runs until May 27, 2017.

The gallery has a selection of his paintings online, most of which will presumably be in the show.

You can find more of them on Magsig’s own website, along with a section on paintings of Detroit — in which you will find more of the industrial landscape subjects — as well as western landscapes (also strongly geometric), pantings from Italy and prints in drypoint, mezzotint, monotype and linocut.

On Magsig’s his long running painting blog, Postcards from Detroit, you will find hsi small, immediate daily paintings, as well as in the related section on his website and on his store on Big Cartel.

 
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Sunday, April 30, 2017

Eye Candy for Today: David Cox – The Opening of the New London Bridge


The Opening of the New London Bridge, David Cox

Watercolor, roughly 15 x 9 in. (38 x 24 cm).

Link is to zoomable version on Google Art Project; downloadable version on Wikimedia Commons; original is in the Yale Center for British Art.

British landscape master David Cox, who I admire in particular for his watercolors, gives us a view of the celebration for opening the new London Bridge in 1831.

I like his use here of shadows cast by bright sunlight — against the walls of the inset buildings, under the awnings on the buildings and the rims of the tents, and defining the space under the arches of the bridge.

I find it interesting that the shadows in the foreground — those under the bridge — are uncharacteristically lighter than those against the more distant row of buildings on the river bank, (as a commenter has pointed out — likely catching light reflected from the water).

 
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Saturday, April 29, 2017

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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