Marcos Mateu-Mestre

Marcos Mateu
There are some people who draw in a way that looks like they load their pens with pure liquified fun.

Concept artist Marcos Mateu-Mestre has a wonderful character of line and a jaunty, casual style that makes it look like the lines danced out and created the image of their own accord.

His loose, relaxed application of color, which careens between brilliant lights and rich, atmospheric darks, just adds to the visual treat.

Mateu-Mestre started out doing adventure comic strips for a newspaper in his native Spain. He went to work in London doing backgrounds and layouts for Amblimation-Universal Pictures and then moved to LA and worked on Dreamworks’ The Prince of Egypt and The Road to El Dorado.

He now has his own studio and has done production design for animated films like The Three wise Men for Animagic Studios and Totó Sapore for Lanterna Magica.

His site is filled with production design drawings and paintings, character designs, background renderings, storyboards and even a couple of comics pages. You’ll be delighted by the variety of approach, color scheme and materials handling throughout the galleries. There is a wonderful consistency, though, in his elastic, confident linework, excellent draughtsmanship and vivid imagination.

Mateu-Mestre’s drawings have just the right touch of exaggeration to give them extra visual appeal; lines are given an extra spring, forms bent out just a bit, and figures swirled into motion in a way that gives everything a sense of verve and life.

Along with Marcelo Vignali and Armand Serrano, who I recently profiled, Matau-Mestre is also part of Sketchclub and is a participant in the El Pacifico collaborative improvisational comic book experiment.


Regino Gonzales

Regino GonzalesI’ve talked before about some art forms that are disrespected by the art establishment and artistic community, like comics, architectural rendering, medical illustration, botanical illustration and paleontological reconstruction art. None of them, however, collect the artistic disdain reserved for that intentionally lowest of lowbrow art forms, tattoo art. Yowsa!

Regino Gonzales appears to be a tattoo artist by trade, but his site also includes paintings, illustrations, sketches, fashion graphics and digital comic coloring. Some of his sketches and studies would seem at home on the web site of a more traditional illustrator or painter. Gonzales may be an interesting artist to allow those put off by the very idea of tattoo art to creep across the border into outsider territory and take a peek at what the other side creates.

Some of Gonzales’ tattoo images are of what you might consider “typical” tattoo subjects, skulls, snakes, dragons, etc., while others are more unusual, with Aztec themes, rendered images of the Buddah, naturalistic plants or faces and figures that look almost classical. Some are heavily rendered and over-the-top, but some of them are graphically spare, nicely drawn and would elicit a very different reaction from us if they were presented on paper in a frame and matte rather than on the sweaty arm of the drummer from the thrash band down the block.

Many of his images, the tattoo images in particular, are intentionally unsettling, created to provoke a reaction, and are probably successful at that.

There seems to be a certain mindset in much of the tattoo culture, a carry over from the biking and punk subcultures, that says that if a tattoo isn’t depraved enough to send Mom-n’-Pop-n’-Buddy-n’-Sis from whitebread middle-class America screaming back to their Barc-A-Loungers in mindless panic, it isn’t a proper tattoo.

At its most basic, however, a tattoo is a graphic image, pattern or decoration applied to a surface. The fact that that surface happens to be human skin is enough to bother many people in itself, but people in various cultures have been decorating their bodies in both temporary and permanent ways since the dawn of recorded history, and probably long before.

The fact that the surface, or “canvas” if you will, is a human body presents other challenges for an artist in addition to the obvious ones. The human body is composed of curved surfaces. Not only is this challenging in terms of working on the drawing, but the design and proportions must compensate for the curves in order to be perceived correctly as a coherent image.

I know a couple of tattoo artists, and the good ones work as hard at their craft as any illustrator I know. I even designed a simple tattoo myself, at the request of someone I know, and did not find it simple to do. Like the 19th century illustrators whose work had to be interpreted for printing by woodblock engravers, I had to design for someone else to create the final piece. I also had to consider that someone would make this drawing a permanent part of their body, a sobering thought. It was enough to give me some respect for tattoo artists and what they do.

So start with Gonzales’ Studies and Sketches, look through the Paintings and Sketchbook and, when no one’s looking, take a peek through the fence at the Tattoos.


Hergé (Georges Remi)

You will occasionally hear me rant about the misuse of the term “graphic novel” in reference to trade paperback collections of comic books in America. (Watchmen is a graphic novel, Akira is a graphic novel. The last six issues of The Uncanny X-Men collected into a squarebound paperback isn’t any kind of a novel. It may be a graphic album, a collection or, if you’re lucky, a graphic story, but a novel it’s not.)

Belgian comics creator Hergé (a pen-name based on the French pronunciation of “RG”, Georges Remi’s initials in reverse) was a pioneer and master of the long form comics story, i.e. graphic novel. Though he created a number of characters and features, his major work is a series of stories of The Adventures of Tintin, which began in 1929.

Tintin is as familiar in Europe as Superman or Mickey Mouse is in America and is one of the most popular European comics of the last century. Basically a super-adventurous boy scout whose travels spanned the globe rather than the local woods, Tintin along with his dog, Snowy (Milou, originally) and his companion Captain Haddock, fascinated readers through a series of adventures to places like Russia, China, America (an exotic place to someone in France), India and fictional countries in the Balkans, South America and South East Asia.

His stories, while primarily adventures peppered with humor, carried echoes of the political and social world at the time, some of which were naive and kind of silly in their treatment of non-European races and cultures, and some of which, as time went on and Hergé matured, were astute and sensitive to the appreciation of other cultures, particularly China.

Hergé’s ligne claire, or “clear line”, style has been tremendously influential on European and Japanese comics artists and American newspaper comics artists from the early and mid 20th Century. His characters are simply and effectively drawn, while his backgrounds occasionally are quite detailed and often reflect careful research into real places and landmarks.

His stories have been translated into dozens of languages and if you scope around the net, you’ll find a great deal of Hergé and Tintin material, toys, posters, fan sites and webrings as well as mention of the Tintin movies and stage plays.

Hergé created 24 Tintin stories, the last one of which was left incomplete on his death in 1983. My favorite of them is Tintin in Tibet, in which Tintin’s unrelenting search for his Chinese friend Chang is an echo of Hergé’s own lost contact with his good friend of the same name during the Second World War.

The PBS program POV is due to air a story on Tintin called Tintin and I tonight (Tuedsay, July 11) at 10pm. (It’s certain to be repeated.)

There are wonderfully inexpensive albums of the Tintin stories available on Amazon or in most bookstores and comic stores worth their salt. gives a nice, colorful overview of the characters and stories. Discover Tintin is a good fan site. is a kind of central point for links to other Tintin resources.


Armand Serrano

Armand Serrano
Armand Serrano is a visual development artist for Sony Pictures Animation. He started out with FilCartoons, a subsidiary of Hanna-Barbera, on projects like The New Adventures of Johnny Quest, Young Robin Hood and Pirates of Dark Water. He then moved to with Philippine Animation Studio (PASI), supervising layout for Marvel TV animation like X-Men and Fantastic Four. Then it was on to 7th Level, Inc, a multimedia and gaming company and then to Walt Disney Feature Animation Studio, where he worked on on Mulan, Tarzan, Lilo and Stitch and Brother Bear.

He occasionally works in ink and wash, Photoshop and even oil, but most of his production work is nicely toned and atmospheric work done in graphite on paper or Priamacolor Pencil on vellum.

His site includes galleries of production art, layouts and illustrations, as well as a few landscape drawings and a section of life studies. The gallery setup is not the best (see my comments below), but Serrano also has a blog on which it is easier to see some of his images.

Serrano is also part of Sketchclub and is a participant in the El Pacifico collaborative improvisational comic book experiment along with Marcelo Vignali and Marcos Mateu.

Link via John Nevarez


Draw the Pirate

Draw the PirateAvast, ye swabs! If ye’ve ever bin a’wonderin ’bout them “Draw the Pirate” ads fer them mail-orderin’ art schools that be testin’ yer art talent afore they’ll train yer carcass ter be an artist, here be an amusin’ little film fer yer by Jeff Hopkins.

Yer never know, matey, yer might have talents! Then agin, yer might knot. Arrrrgh!

Link by way o’ Karl “Scourge ‘o the High Seas” Kofoed


Frits Thaulow

Frits Thaulow
One of my favorite painters is a relatively unknown Norwegian painter and engraver named Frits Thaulow.

I only discovered Thaulow because the Philadelphia Museum of Art happens to have a stunning painting of his in their permanent collection called Water Mill. It is a large work (32 x 47 5/8 inches – 81.3 x 121 cm) that is strikingly beautiful both from across the gallery and up close. It has been one of my favorites in the museum, and a “must visit” when I’m there, for a long time (image above, bottom left). Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a larger reproduction of this painting on the web to show you, but I have found some others.

Thaulow is another of those artists I favor who walk the line between realism and Impressionism. He is obviously influenced by the French (and perhaps Russian) impressionists, and displays their bright palette, plein air approach and fresh open brushwork, but never lets his canvasses dissolve into the blizzard of separate brushstrokes that became the hallmark of Impressionist technique.

Like Gustave Caillebotte, he works within the structure of realism. He was actually more strongly influenced by French realist art than Impressionism, in particular Jules Bastien-Lepage as well as Swedish painter Carl Skånberg. He originally intended to be a marine painter, and many of his early works are of the sea and shore, but he moved his subject matter inland and became a master of smaller bodies of water. He does the most wonderful paintings I have encountered of one of my favorite subjects, small streams and slow-moving rivers.

He is astonishingly skillful at portraying the complex relationships of gently swirling water as a reflective surface for sky and landscape. His water, particularly in the painting at the Philadelphia museum, is simultaneously reflective and translucent.

Thaulow’s use of color is at once brilliant and restrained, again as if he had gone to the brink of Impressionism and pulled back, and is wonderfully evocative of time of day, season and weather.

Prior to the expansion of the Internet in recent years, I had difficulty finding any information him, even in university libraries. There are a couple of books available through Amazon: Frits Thaulow: October 11-November 16, 1985 (exhibition catalog), Frits Thaulow: 10 November-6 December 1986, the Fine Art Society, London (exhibition catalog) and Frits Thaulow: 1847-1906 by Vidar Poulsson.

[Update: 30 October, 2010: I have since written two other posts about Thaulow, a post specifically about Water Mill in 2008 and a general update on Frits Thaulow in 2009 that has many more links and resources than listed here.]