Frezzato (Massimiliano Frezzato)

Massimiliano FrezzatoMassimiliano Frezzato, (usually referred to, Elvis-style, as simply Frezzato) is a highly regarded Italian comics artist. Frezzato was born and lives in Torino, site of the current Winter Olympics. (how’s that for a topical tie-in?)

Although he has worked an a number of projects and short features he is best known as the artist of two major series, Margot, written by Jérôme Charyn, and in particular, Les Gardiens du Maser, written by Nikita Mandryka.

Frezzato seems to have been influenced by anime (occasionally his characters will exhibit the large doll-like eyes and head proportions seen in anime and manga), but his main influences are probably major European comics artists like Moebius and Enki Bilal.

Like Bilal, and to a lesser extent, Moebius, Frezzato’s work seems to be a mixed-media affair, combining pencils, inks, paint and colored pencils, crayons or chalks (image detail at left).

His work is at once realistic and cartoon-like, highly rendered and quickly gestured. His draughtsmanship can be restrained and straightforward and wildly exaggerated, often within the same story or even on the same page. (The image here shows him at his most restrained.)

There is a site devoted to the Maser series, with French and English versions, although the English version is offline as of this writing. It’s worth checking out, though; it contains some large (but watermarked) Frezzato images in the form of downloadable wallpapers, and the Albums section has thumbnail images that you can mouse-over to see small but beautiful previews of whole pages.

There is also a Frezzato gallery on Myrdhinn’s site, and the BDNet site (in French) includes a sample comics page linked from the detail page for most of the titles listed.

You can find the English translation versions of the Maser series in many U.S. comics shops and book stores. Here is an Amazon link to the first volume of the series: Second Moon (Keepers of the Maser Series, Volume 1).

There is also a Frezzato Sketchbook available, which I really enjoy. It contains preliminary drawings and penciled pages for his comics albums, as well as character drawings, random sketches and flights of fancy.

His work also occasionally appears in Heavy Metal, a comics magazine based on the French Metal Hurlant comics magazine.


Heavy Metal also publishes the U.S. versions of Frezzato’s comic albums.

Belinda Del Pesco

Belinda Del Pesco is a watercolorist from California who has a terrific blog, Belinda Del Pesco Fine Art, in which she not only posts her work, but describes her working methods along with images of the work in progress.

She has the kind of approach to watercolor that I admire: clear and fresh color built on a solid foundation of traditional draughtsmanship. She pays particular attention to contrasts of light and shadow and deals often with transparent and reflective objects, which I particularly enjoy.

The image shown above is from a post about building value in layers, which was preceded by related posts about watercolor glazing and watercolor washes. She also posted a preliminary painting of a similar composition.

Del Pesco often likes to work in monotype, prints made by painting or drawing on a non-absorbent surface (e.g. plexiglass) and transferring the unique image to paper, and monoprints, prints in traditional graphic media for which each impression is unique, (which she usually combines with watercolor). She has several instructive posts about various approaches to these processes, including this one about creating a soft-ground miniature etching with watercolor.

Here are several other informative posts about her working methods for various media: a monotype and watercolor, another monotype and watercolor, a woodcut and watercolor, a linocut, and a miniature monotype.

Del Pesco also has a web site where you can see a gallery of her work.

Stephan Martiniere

Stephan Martiniere
Stephan Martiniere has done concept and production art for films like Star Wars, Episodes II and III, I, Robot, Red Planet, Dragonheart and others.

He has also done concept design for theme parks and animation as well as doing book and magazine illustration. During his three year stint at CYAN he was visual design director for Uru “Ages Beyond Myst”.

His work is rich in detail and and sparkles with light and atmospheric effects. His science fiction illustration and space themed concept art carry delightful echoes of John Berkey’s classic illustrations, at once loose and intricate. Martiniere doesn’t shy away from tackling images of enormous scale, and he can pull it off with masterful control of atmospheric perspective and color range.

The galleries on his site contain illustration, production and concept art in pencil, marker, charcoal, paint and digital media (Photoshop). Images in the gallery can be viewed by theme (characters, environments, etc.) or by genre (feature films, theme parks, illustration etc.)

Individual images are often marked with a blinking dot, indicating a print is available, there is also a separate section of the Prints for Sale.

There are past articles about Martiniere archived on CGNetworks, Starlog, and Gamasutra.

Martiniere’s work has been featured in several Spectrum fantastic art, and Exposé digital art collections.

There is a book of Martiniere’s work called Quantum Dreams: The Art of Stephan Martiniere from Design Studio Press, (Amazon link).

Chris Ware (F.C. Ware)

Chris Ware
It’s possible that some of you have not heard of Chris Ware, particularly if you’ve been living in a refrigerator box somewhere. His books of comic art have been reviewed and written about in all levels of the press lately. It’s a little more likely, though, that you have heard of him but may not have seen good examples of his work unless you’ve actually picked up one or more of his books. (I say one or more because if you like Ware’s work, it’s hard not to want more of it.)

Until recently it was easy to find reviews and articles about Ware on the web, but difficult to find much in the way of posted examples of his work, except for disjointed snippets or images that are too small to get a real flavor for why so many find it so appealing.

Just recently the New York Times began publishing comics for the first time. The first comics artist they choose to publish was Chris Ware. They are serializing his Building Stories (image above), and offering the pages online in PDF format. They’re in actual postscript PDF, which means you can zoom them large enough to read Ware’s occasionally tiny panels and get a feeling for the astonishing amount of work he invests in his comics stories. His comics pages, novelty ad parodies and book designs exhibit an attention to detail and devotion to craft for which “obsessive” is a mild word.

Like a cross between Gasoline Alley, Hergé and the flat pictographic panels of comic-style instructional pamphlets, Ware’s work is usually devoid of the hatching or rendering found in most comics (except when he’s deliberately cultivating the look of woodcuts). His drawings are mostly outline filled with color. Linear perspective is often flattened or replaced with orthographic projection; and Ware sidesteps atmospheric perspective in favor of utilizing color for design and mood.

His colors are carefully chosen, often muted and always in careful relationship not only to the other colors in the panel, but also in relation to the entire page as a work of design. Many of the elements, whether panels or actual drawn objects, are abstracted to the point of becoming elementary geometric shapes.

Sometimes his images seem not so much drawn as meticulously constructed; as if a 19th century master draughtsman had programmed a difference engine to draw comics with a series of precision pantographs.

Ware also plays with the conventions of comic art page design and storytelling, playing with panel and page layout and the normal presentation of linear time in remarkable ways. The level of design work and detail can actually be a bit overwhelming.

Despite the intricately appealing look of the art , Ware’s stories are anything but cheerful. Most of his humor is in the packaging, the parody retro graphic design and the mock ads (some of which are hilarious). The comics themselves are rarely “funny”, usually dealing with themes of loneliness, isolation, regret and the looming emptiness of modern life. But don’t let that description convince you his work is a downer. The emotional effect is balanced by the beautiful art, superb design and toy-like fun of the endlessly detailed features and comic strips. His books are more lavishly detailed artifacts then simply books of comic art. Ware’s running gag of the whole of his work being the product of “The Acme Novelty Company” is perfectly appropriate.

Ware’s own site is devoted to his interest in collecting Ragtime ephemera and doesn’t mention his own work. Here are some other links for Ware info on the web: some small reproductions of pages from Jimmy Corrigan, a small gallery of individual panels, an audio interview with Ware, a bio on NNDB, the Wikipedia entry, a review of Jimmy Corrigan, review of Acme Novelty Library 15, The Fantagraphics Books listing for many of his books, an online exhibition of black and white graphics and pages, and some wonderfully large images of pages for sale (or sold) at the Hammer Gallery.

Here is an excellent unofficial Chris Ware page with information and links to other Chris Ware pages and resources on the web. These may give you a slight taste, but you really need to pick up one of his books to get a real feeling for his work.

Though he has received acclaim for his graphic novel Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid On Earth, and there are many volumes of his work in print, I might suggest starting with his recent collection of material which offers a variety of his styles as well as being a prime example of his maniacal, designed down to the last square millimeter package:The Acme Novelty Library Final Report to Shareholders and Rainy Day Saturday Afternoon Fun Book.

Rather than try do describe this remarkable feat of comics art, design work and publishing craft, I’ll point you to Douglas Wolk’s excellent description and review on Salon.

To borrow a phrase from his own Cut Out and Fold Miniature Working Acme Novelty Library: Chris Ware’s work is “A Rewarding and Insightful Amusement for All Those who Attempt to Master its Intricacies”.

Gustave Caillebotte

Gustav CaillebotteGustave Caillebotte is one of my two favorite “ignored” Impressionists. (The other being Alfred Sisley, who simply doesn’t get the respect he deserves.) Like Sisley, I find Caillebotte to be less formulaic and slavish to the “ideals” of Impressionism, and more likely to paint directly, leaning a bit more toward Courbet’s realism than the “major” Impressionist painters.

Caillebotte was a man of means and was a patron and collector of Impressionist art as well as a painter, and organized (read “financed”) many of the Impressionist exhibitions. He is also credited with introducing Impressionist art to museums by posthumously donating many of the great pieces in his collection to the French government, which accepted the controversial art very reluctantly.

He was also different from the other impressionists in his choice of subject and light conditions. Although he would occasionally paint the kind of sun-drenched countryside and riverbank scenes that were staple subjects for the “painters of light”, Caillebotte often chose a darker palette and was actually more likely to paint landscapes and city scenes in overcast conditions, or even when it was actually raining or snowing, something more common in Japanese and Chinese art at the time than European art.

He also often painted interiors in which, like Degas, he would challenge the formal compositions of the Academic painters by showing a large area of floor and a small area of the rest of the room, as in The Floor Scrapers and The Floor Strippers. Although not the draughtsman that Degas was, his figures and portraits also brought him closer to Degas than to the other Impressionists who did figurative work.

Caillebotte is responsible for some of my very favorite Impressionist images, such as Rooftops under Snow and Riverbank in the Rain (above left). His most widely recognized work depicts a Paris street in the rain; that and the rooftops are usually the only images of his you see in books on Impressionism, if he is mentioned at all.

While he was working Caillebotte was reviled by the art establishment along with the other Impressionist painters. When the art critics finally woke up and realized the power of Impressionist works, he was still dissed off as “minor” and mentioned more as a patron then a painter. Fortunately Caillebotte is receiving renewed interest in recent years from the people who actually matter (i.e. you and I) and the art establishment is sluggishly coming around to recognizing him as the major painter that he was. Who knows, maybe there’s hope for poor Alfred as well.

There is an excellent volume on his life, work and working method, Gustave Caillebotte by Kirk Varnedoe, as well as several other books out there about him. I give several links below to galleries. There are brief bios here and here.

After being dazzled by Monet’s explosions of light and color, it’s easy to miss the quiet, subtle magic that infuses Caillebotte’s paintings. Give him a chance and he’ll wow you with the haunting beauty of subdued light, mist, rain and cloudy skies.


Virgil Finlay

Virgil Finlay was one of the greatest science fiction and fantasy artists. He started working for Weird Tales in 1935 and continued to work for that magazine and others for over 35 years. He was a prolific artist and created more than 2,500 images.

Although Finlay created many color cover paintings for magazines, the majority of his images, and what he was renowned for, were stunningly rendered black and white illustrations.

Finlay was a master of pen and ink. Obviously influenced by pen and ink greats like Joseph Clement Coll, Edwin Austin Abbey and Franklin Booth (see my post on Flesk Publications’ volumes on Coll and Booth), he developed his own unique style and range of ink drawing techniques.

Finlay worked in a combination of hatching, the use of small lines to create tone in pen and ink, stipple, the application of hundreds (or thousands) of tiny dots to create an even smoother and almost photorealistic tone, and scratchboard, the application of ink to a clay-coated white board which is then scratched away with a sharp instrument to reveal white lines.

Many artists would work in any one of these techniques; Finlay’s unique approach was to combine them in the same drawing, giving him the ability to utilize an extraordinary range of tone and texture. He was noted in particular for his beautiful and elaborate stipple work.

He also had an amazing range of imagination, his drawings included delicately rendered classical beauty, wild science fiction, startling fantasy and wonderfully rendered astrological images (in the latter part of his career, he did work for several astrology magazines).

The astounding level of detail he lavished on his drawings indicated an intense devotion to his work, particularly given the short deadlines and low pay rates that were characteristic of working for the pulp science fiction magazines.

I give several links at the end of the post, The first is to a gallery of smaller images, but some of his better ones, the other two are to galleries with nice large images. None of them, however, give you the real flavor of Finlay’s extraordinarily fine detail work like a good high-resolution print image can. They also don’t demonstrate the broad range of style and subject matter an don’t include many of his most famous and striking images.

There were some excellent and inexpensive books of his work published in the early ’90s. Though out of print now, they were popular enough that you can find copies on Amazon, eBay, and Alibris.

Here are a few titles in that series: Virgil Finlay’s Strange Science, Virgil Finlay’s Phantasms, Virgil Finlay’s far beyond, Virgil Finlay’s Women of the Ages, and not in the series, but also a nice inexpensive volume of his work for astrology magazines, Virgil Finlay: An Astrology Sketch Book. At the very least, try to find some of his books in a public or university library just to get a glimpse of what his work looks like in print.

You may have gleaned from my attempt to utilize every superlative in my word-box that Finlay is one of my favorite illustrators. I think he is just amazing. If you like pen and ink drawing and/or classic science fiction and fantasy illustration, don’t miss out on Virgil Finlay.