Heinrich Kley

The relationship of humanity to the natural world is receiving a bit more attention these days, as it becomes clearer that we’re not cleaning the big cat-box we’ve made of our Eden. Artists are often quicker to notice these things than others and some have been pointing out that strained relationship for a long time.

Heinrich Kley was an Austrian artist with a background in portraying modern industrial life around the turn of the last century, when the industrial revolution had made that separation of humans from nature stand out in sharp relief.

Kley’s brilliant satirical drawings often portrayed humans unclothed and other animals in finery or in anthropomorphic situations, pointing out the similarities and differences, often in a way that was not flattering to the human side of the equation. He was adept pointing out our foibles with a simple image and perhaps a brief caption.

Kley was a wonderful draughtsman, whether drawing highly rendered pen and ink compositions or conveying sophisticated ideas with a scant few lines, his beautifully fluid ink line glides across the page like marks left by the movements of a graceful ice dancer.

Kley’s bizarre and imaginative juxtapositions of humans and other animals, engaged in social situations, dancing, eating or in bizarre dream-like and surreal situations, were printed in Simplizissimus and Jungend, popular satirical magazines of the time. Kley also illustrated several books.

He often portrayed mother nature as a woman, either offering comfort to humans or subject to various indignities at their hands, and many of his drawings have an erotic tinge to them.

Walt Disney was introduced to Kley at one point and became an avid collector of his work. The influence is dramatically clear, particularly in works like Fantasia, where you can see Kley’s drawings of women dancing with alligators translated into the beautiful and hilarious “Dance of the Hours” sequence which featured hippos waltzing with alligators (brilliantly animated by Preston Blair — more on him in a future post).

As a quirky pen and ink artist from the turn of the 20th Century, Kley is the kind of artist who is often lost from view. Fortunately good ol’ Dover Books comes through again, keeping his work in print in a terrific and very inexpensive edition, The Drawings of Heinrich Kley (a steal at $15). The second volume, More Drawings of Heinrich Kley is out of print but you should be able to find it used.

There is also a nice tribute online, courtesy of the good folks at Coconino World, and a few other web resources. It’s worth looking for the books, though, even if in the library. The online images tend to be too small to get a real feeling for his beautiful ink line, and the books offer translations of the captions, which often brings the point of the drawing into focus, despite cultural differences between the modern world and Austrian society of 100 years ago. (The image above, top, is captioned “Inspiration”.)

In a career path that is something of the opposite of many artists today, Kley started as a gallery artist, moved into cartoon drawings and editorial illustrations and then into other areas of commercial art. The satirical drawings for which he is most renowned were largely the product of a ten year span.

Karl Kofoed (update)

Karl Kofoed
This weekend in Philadelphia science fiction fans will be buzzing around Philcon, The Philadelphia Conference on Science Fiction and Fantasy, a venerable sci-fi convention (excuse me, conference) that is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year.

The artist guest of honor at this years convention is Karl Kofoed, a visionary creator of alien worlds that I profiled in this post back in July.

Kofoed is a veteran science fiction illustrator and the creator of The Galactic Geographic, a remarkable “coffee table book from the future” that is one of the more thoughtful and provocative explorations of the possibilities of life on other worlds.

Kofoed works in both traditional and digital media and is a writer in addition to being an artist, with two novels to his credit, Deep Ice, and the recently published JOKO.

Convention goers (er,.. conference attendees) will have a rare opportunity to meet Karl and see his original art first hand in the con’s art exhibit. Here’s the info on con registration.

Julian Merrow-Smith

Julian Merrow-Smith
You will often hear people say that artists, in particular the Impressionists and post-Impressionists like van Gogh and Gauguin, found the quality of the light particularly appealing in Provence, that area in the south of France that was the first province established by the Romans outside of Italy.

I have to say that I was skeptical of this until I visited the region around Arles a few years ago and experienced it for myself. There really is something extraordinary about the light there and the effect it has on the appearance of color in the area’s beautiful landscape, and I can easily understand why artists find the region particularly appealing.

Julian Merrow-Smith is an English painter in Provence. (Sounds like it should be a Sting song, doesn’t it?) He paints in a direct, Impressionist influenced style that is spare on details and rich in color and light.

His deceptively simple compositions are wonderful expressions of how much can be suggested with a minimum of brush strokes. (The image above is actually one of his more elaborate paintings, I just happen to really like it.) He pulls short of flattening his compositions into planes like Cezanne, who is obviously an influence, and leaves enough suggestion of detail to keep them vibrantly three-dimensional; creating in his landscapes scenes that are at once inviting to walk into and yet obviously paint on a surface.

He paints the countryside in and around his adopted home of Crillon le Brave, a small village in the hill country in the south of France, with an eye to the extraordinary in the ordinary. He has recurring theme that I particularly enjoy of compositions that find rich contrasts in the shadows of trees laying across roads or paths in the warm light of the Provence sun.

Merrow-Smith also paints still life and portraits, but as much as I like his other work, particularly his small scale still lifes, it is the Provence landscapes that I enjoy the most.

His portraits have a rough-hewn appearance, as if the paint were applied like a sculptor adding clay with his thumb. His still lifes range from very simple compositions of a few objects to the more formal large scale paintings that were commissioned by Cunard to hang in the Britannia Restaurant aboard the Queen Mary 2.

In a practice that goes back almost as far as, and I think is independent of, Duane Keiser’s “Painting a Day” project, Merrow-Smith has been posting his small postcard-sized paintings on his “Postcard from Provence” blog. Although not strictly daily, he has kept pretty close to that, and, more importantly, kept a high-level of quality and consistency.

Like Keiser and the growing number of “painting a day” adherents who are following in their footsteps, Merrow-Smith puts his small paintings up for sale on the blog as he creates them. Unlike Keiser, (and much to my amazement) he has not allowed demand to raise his price much and still offers his small works at $120. He sends out notice of new paintings to a mailing list of subscribers where they are, not surprisingly, snapped up within minutes of being posted. He also sometimes photographs the works and makes them available as limited edition prints.

The paintings on the Postcard from Provence site can be viewed by category, so you can contemplate his serene still lifes and intimate flower studies, relax by the Mediterranean or talk a walk through the sunlit fields of Provence.

Moira Hahn

Moira Hahn
Moira Hahn was born in Boston and moved west, both physically and artistically, until west met east. She moved to California at one point to continue her education, studied animation as an addition to her BFA and, after working in animation and illustration for time, studied Japanese art in Hawaii and Japan for several years.

Her enthusiasm for Asian art extends to Persian, Tibetan, indian and Chinese art, but it is Japanese woodblock prints that most seem to inform her current gallery paintings, particularly Ukiyo-e (“pictures of the floating world”) with their colorful depictions of city life, entertainment and pleasurable pursuits.

Hahn’s work brings together the formal compositions, colors, dress, architecture and decorative elements of those prints with a very modern juxtaposition of elements. In most of the current images in her online gallery you’ll find paintings that almost look as if they could be traditional woodblock prints, except that the houses, rooms and landscapes are populated with animals, anthropomorphically dressed in the stylized and elaborately patterned kimonos and robes of traditional Japanese society at the time of the Ukiyo-e prints.

I don’t know enough about these prints, or others of the time (see my posts on Hokusai, Yoshida and Hasui) to know how accurate any of these representations are, but I do know that Hahn’s work is often laced with liberal doses of humor. Just the images of birds and cats in formal dress can be funny, but they’re made more so by the fact they the animals themselves, particularly the cats, are rendered with the kind of stylistic exaggerations usually assigned to images of tigers and lions.

You’ll also find pop culture references, like Astro Boy and Godzilla, popping up in her images (and in her titles, the image above is titled “A Three Hour Tour”). There are also humorous stories suggested in the relationships and situations portrayed in the images.

Hahn’s online gallery is arranged by time period, so you can follow back from the present (or forward from the 80’s) and watch her work progress through several phases and degrees of influence from various Asian arts.

Hahn also has a blog called sink hole on which she discusses art, exhibitions, travels and anything else that crosses her mind.

Link via recogedor.

John Uibel

John UibelThe term “concept art” is most often associated with movies and games, where the look and feel of characters and environments have to be established before they can be realized in costuming, sets and special effects. In fact, it’s even more important in the planning stages, when the effectiveness of a look is being judged in making choices about visual direction that will achieve the best effect for the story.

In a similar way, creators of entertainment theme parks and resorts need to visualize and assess the intended look of environments for their physical spaces, with much the same intent, the amusement and visual entertainment of their patrons. So it’s not surprising that theme park creators also employ concept artists to help them craft their particular form of entertainment.

John Uibel is a concept artist an designer who has done work for films and television, but specializes in design concept illustrations for theme parks and resorts. His quickly realized color sketches seem to be somewhere between movie concept illustrations and architectural renderings. They are colorful, often very simple, and concentrate on the atmosphere created in addition to the physical characteristics of the proposed environment or structure.

His site is in blog format and he often posts his most recent images and discusses work in progress, at times with multiple versions of the images. He works primarily digitally in Photoshop and sometimes gets specific about technique in his descriptions.

Uibel is the co-author of a new book on Photoshop techniques, Introductory Adobe Photoshop CS2 BASICS: Adobe Photoshop CS2 BASICS along with Karl Barksdale, Cheryl Beck Morse and Bryan Morse.

Uibel’s portfolio includes work from several projects, including film and TV work, story boards, matte paintings, drawings and sketches as well as the more rendered concept illustrations.

I like the tagline for his site: “Not for the feigned of art”.


Greg Newbold

Greg Newbold
It’s easy to assume that illustrators in the U.S. live near the centers of of publishing, like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. While that may be true for a high percentage, the modern era of instant communication, web site portfolios, FedEx and FTP delivery of digital image files makes it practical for illustrators to live almost anywhere and still be part of the illustration mainstream (at least once they are established).

Greg Newbold is an illustrator living in Salt Lake City, Utah and his work feels like it has strong roots in the midwestern character of the nation. His gently undulating landscapes carry echoes of Thomas Hart Benton and other great painters of the heartland. His boldly delineated figures can seem almost monolithic in their strength of contrast and modeling, as if descended from the hearty strain of pioneers who pushed west in the days of expansion. His palette seems strong in earth tones, clay reds and harvest orange.

He does wander far afield in his subject matter, however, illustrating fantasy or science fiction topics, scientific subjects, food, mystery novels or even opera posters.

Newbold has won numerous awards from The Society of Illustrators, The American Institute of Graphic Arts, Communication Arts, Spectrum and others. His clients include Simon & Schuster, Random House, Harper Collins, and Sony Pictures. He has also illustrated children’s books like The Touch of the Master’s Hand by Myra Brooks Welch and Winter Lullaby and Spring Song by Barbara Seuling.