How to Paint a Portrait
(David R. Darrow)

David R. Darrow
Here’s an interesting take on the process of painting a portrait – from the subjects point of view. Geoff Bouvier had his portrait painted by artist David R. Darrow, who I profiled previously in the context of one of my earliest reports on the practice of creating a “painting a day” and a later related post on the Daily Painters Guild.

Darrow worked for many years as an illustrator, but has since moved into gallery painting and commissioned portraits. He received his formal training in illustration at the Art Center College of Design and later had the opportunity to study figure drawing with Fred Fixler.

Darrow has an immediate, painterly style and seems to revel in the physicality of the paint, with lots of luxurious brushstrokes in his subjects and broad swipes of textured color in his backgrounds.

Darrow has galleries on his site of figure paintings, charcoal sketches, his “Everyday Paintings” and a selection of recent works. He also has a page of information on how he approaches commissions, a subject that is explored in much more detail by subject Geoff Bouvier in a five page article he wrote for the San Diego Reader in June.

Darrow has since posted the article on his web site, filled out with larger images and some annotations and comments on the process.

The intention to write the article was there from the start, and the result is a talkative process in which Geoff asks Darrow about his methods in addition to observing them.

Although he takes some photographs for reference, Darrow is working from life in a traditional process that starts with a color sketch, then works from a charcoal drawing through the finished painting.

It’s enlightening to get the impressions of both the sitter and the artist on what is generally a non-verbal process. In the course of the article both reveal their thoughts about expectations, the likeness, the artist’s intention and the sequence of events in the course of painting a portrait.


Glen Angus

Glen Angus
It’s always particularly sad when my first post about an artist is to mark their untimely passing.

Glen Angus was talented illustrator, concept artist, designer and storyboard artist. He died suddenly last Thursday night.

Angus was a Senior Artist and major contributor to game developer Raven Software and there is a tribute page posted on their site, which includes an address for a memorial fund for his family.

His clients also included Wizards of the Coast, for which he created imaginative and fun illustrations for their popular Magic: The Gathering collectable card game.

His site includes galleries of paintings, pencil sketches, concept designs, storyboards and illustrations. The “For the Young at Heart” section includes children’s book illustrations.

His portfolio on CGSociety includes his delightful illustrations for a proposed children’s book Filling Valhalla as well as numerous drawings and illustrations.

There is page of his “Victory Gals” project on, in which he works in modern digital painting techniques in Photoshop and Painter in a series of themed images that harkens back to WWII aviation posters (image above, left).

The last part of Angus’s life was consumed with his efforts to secure treatment for his two year old son, Teddy, who was diagnosed with autism in December of 2006.

Children with autism respond to early intervention, but in many states, like Angus’ home state of Wisconsin, there is an unfortunately long waiting list for aid in acquiring the expensive therapy; and therapy is often critically delayed through periods when it could be of the most benefit to the child.

As part of his effort to change this and the unhelpful current policies of most medical insurance companies, both for his own son and other children, Angus created poster with his illustration of his son as he pictured him, as child trapped inside the barriers of his own mind, without voice (image above, right).

All of the interior pages on Angus’s site are now prefaced with his explanation of the situation, a large version of the poster image and some information on contacting the governor’s office in his state.

I don’t know much about autism, but I’ve tried to provide a couple of jumping off points for information in the links below, as well as a list of links to pages and galleries with Angus’ artwork. It’s now up to others to carry on his fight.

Addendum: The CGSociety has posted an extensive tribute page for Glen Angus.

[Information and links courtesy of Charles Morrow and “Dominus Elf“]


J.M.W. Turner

J.W.M. Turner
Joseph Mallord William Turner is often mentioned in the same breath as John Constable, as they were the two preeminent English landscape painters of the Romantic era, and two of the most important landscape painters period.

In the canons of modern art criticism, Turner is considered more important. His search for atmospheric effects and the emotional drama of color, which led to dramatic canvasses roiling with waves and clouds, are seen as a precursor to Impressionism and Modernism, and we all know that post WWII Modernism is the pinnacle of artistic achievement to which the previous 2000 years were a mere warm-up (he said, while rolling his eyes and making a rude gesture).

I like Turner; his work can be striking, dramatic, and dazzling; but I have to say that I find Constable just as interesting, more in fact; and I find more powerful antecedents to Impressionism in Courbet and, in particular, Corot (though Turner certainly set the stage for Whistler’s nocturnes). I just don’t see Turner as quite the turning point (if you’ll excuse the phrase) in the history of art that he gets credit for in the standard texts.

It will be interesting to see what Simon Schama has to say in tonight’s Power of Art (10pm on many PBS stations here in the U.S.), though somehow I think he will take the Modernist view of assigning Turner pivotal importance in the path to Modernism.

It might be helpful to look at Turner’s sources and influences. Constable apparently wasn’t one of them; reportedly Constable was interested in Turner’s work, but not the other way around (though there’s very little influence passed in either direction between them). You can see precedent for Turner’s great washes of sky and color in Claude Lorrain’s volumetric spaces bathed in light. Both Turner and Constable were probably influenced by Gainsborough, and perhaps even Caspar David Friederich.

Turner’s early work was richly detailed, his later paintings washed in color. In the middle the two blended, as in the history painting above, Dido Building Carthage, which I’ll offer in contrast to Slave Traders Throwing the Dead and Dying into the Sea – The Typhoon Approaches, the painting Schama will be focusing on.

Turner considered Dido Building Carthage his greatest work, and reportedly indicated in the first draft of his will that he wanted to be wrapped in the canvas when he was buried. He eventually thought better of that and donated the work to the National Gallery in London, apparently with the stipulation that it be displayed next to a seascape by Claude Lorrain that he found particularly inspiring.


Colin Stimpson

Colin Stimpson
U.K illustrator and concept artist Colin Stimpson lists early influences that include great Edwardian illustrators like Edmund Dulac and Arthur Rackham. He carries those influences into his snappy, nicely textured illustrations and a richly imaginative rendering style for his concept art and color guides for animated films.

Stimpson has worked on a number of Disney films like Hercules, Tinkerbell, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Emperor’s New Groove, for which he served as art director.

His web site has a gallery of his animation work that includes color guides and concept paintings for several of those projects. Unfortunately, the color guides in particular are reproduced way too small to get a good look at them. The most interesting work in his animation galleries is a series of beautiful monochromatic images for Kronk’s New Groove. These are imaginative and beautifully realized and have a wonderful sense of scale. The tone renderings have a dark to light drama that would be difficult to achieve in color.

In 2004 Stimpson returned to illustration when asked to illustrate a children’s book called The Poison Diaries for the Duchess of Northumberland. The resulting illustrations (image above) are the other highlight of Stimpson’s online portfolio. Again, his works in monochrome are outstanding in their subtle use of value and texture. There are also color illustrations associated with the book, but the tone images are just a treat.

[Link courtesy of Keith Holt]


Finding a web hosting provider

How to Display Your Art on the Web: Part 1 - Find a web hosting provider

How to Display Your Art on the Web: Part 1

[This is part of a series of articles for which the introduction and list of articles is here. If you haven’t read the introduction yet, it would be helpful to read it first.]

In a way the subject of the next article (registering a domain name) is more immediate, in that you want to do that as soon as possible, even if you’re not ready to put up a site. Domain names tend to get snapped up when you’re not looking.

However, even though web site hosting and domain name registration are two different things, they are often handled through the same companies, and it can be slightly easier to take adgvantage of that (not necessary, just a little easier).

Finding a web site hosting company takes a little work. I will not go out on a limb and directly recommend web hosting companies to you, because they all have their plusses and minuses, and some of you will inevitably come back crying to me that I recommended so-and-so to you and now you’re unhappy and it’s all my fault.

Look on sites like c/net for reviews of hosting providers. Be a little wary of sites devoted entirely to reviewing and listing the “best” web hosts. Many of them are legit, but some are shills for particular companies. At the very least, compare the opinions of several review sites. Ask friends, business associates and well-dressed strangers in the street about their experiences with their web hosting provider (assuming they even know who it is). You may at least find some to avoid.

There are hosting services who bill themselves as particularly Mac-friendly (though most UNIX-based hosting is OS agnostic) and there are even some hosts who aim their services specifically at illustrators and other creatives, like (run by the founder of LCSV4),, Laughing Squid and Huevia, though I don’t have direct experience with any of them.

There are also portal sites for gallery artists that offer site hosting as a benefit of membership; and illustration directories that offer a gallery space as part of your listing with the directory, though these are likely to be more limited than regular web site hosting, and can cost as much or more, in exchange for the service of inclusion in their directory.

“Free hosting” – Avoid any so-called “free” hosting that forces your site to display ads, banners, pop-ups or other forms of onerous limitations in exchange for the “free” service. It’s unseemly, unprofessional and will do your reputation as an artist more harm than good.

Blogs as free web sites – If you are absolutely so poor that you can’t afford $8 a month, consider that many national level blogging sites offer blog accounts for free, without forcing advertising (at least for now). If the blogging account allows the use of “pages” instead of “posts” (as does, for example), you can create a functional web site for free. It’s more restrictive than regular web hosting, and the URL is likely to be something like instead of, but it may do. Also, the blogging services offer default or third-party custom templates that make for a variety of free designs, even if you share them with other sites.

Cost – National level web site hosting providers offer basic “shared” web hosting (which simply means you share a web server with other sites, the normal arrangement) for $10-$15 a month or less, if paid for by the year, sometimes with a modest ($15 or so) “setup fee”. You can also arrange to pay for most plans by the month or quarterly, at a slightly higher cost; which may be worthwhile if you are unsure about the host. You can always opt for yearly payments later.

Basic “shared hosting” if fine. You don’t need anything fancy, and you probably don’t need a business account to start. Given a choice between “Windows Hosting” and “Linux or Unix Hosting” (meaning the type of operating system on the server where your site site hosted) I choose Linux or Unix, as it is often cheaper, I believe it to be more reliable and flexible (a personal bias) and the only advantage I see to Windows Hosting is that it enables the use of Microsoft Front Page, which I will strongly advise you against.

Extras – See if the options from the basic plan from one company appeal to you more than another. Do you want a blog as well as a web site? Do you want a discussion board? Do they offer the ability to host additional domains without charge (in case you want to have and point to the same site)? Take a look at the sample stats page, that shows your site’s statistics for number of visitors, etc., when comparing different hosting companies. What is the storage and bandwidth allotment? Most national level hosting plans offer more than enough, but if you plan to feature tons of huge image files, more may be better.

Control Panels – Most hosting plans include some kind of “Control Panel” that allows you to add and administer e-mail accounts, set up FTP access, password-protect directories, add features like blogs and discussion boards and so on. This is one area where hosting providers vary widely, so take a look at their Control Panel samples when comparing hosting providers.

Add-onsYou only need basic hosting. Many hosting providers (most, in fact) will confuse the issue by trying to get you to sign up for all kinds of bells and whistles at extra cost throughout the sign-up process. You don’t need them! Check for the services included in the basic package when comparing different providers, but don’t order fancy add-ons. You can always add them later if you really want to. Even eCommerce and shopping carts aren’t necessary at this stage. It’s actually easier to sell through PayPal initially. You can add a shopping cart later if you really need one. (However, you may want to compare eCommerce offerings when comparing providers.)

Templates and “site builders” – These have the appeal of promising to allow you to build a site with no web design or HTML knowledge. I don’t want to turn your off to them out of hand; perhaps there are good ones out there, but my experience with these things is that they are limited and inflexible, and enough of a pain to learn to deal with that the same learning curve would give you a basic working knowledge of HTML, something you can apply anywhere, not just to one proprietary template system.

Dynamic template systems offered by hosting providers are different than static HTML templates, which are just pre-made page designs. I’ll talk about those in a future section on design.

Your hosting info – When you arrange for your web hosting, they will normally send you an email with the detais of how you set up FTP access to your site, use the “Control Panel” and set up email accounts. Immediately print out a copy of this email and file it. Send a copy of it to yourself and keep both coipes in your email records. Send a copy of it to your fastidious Aunt Mille and ask her to keep it on file fo you.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked new clients about FTP access to their site pages and had them say “Oh, I know I got that, but I don’t know what I did with it. Do I need it?” You can always call up the provider and ask them to send you the info again. I just want to impress on you that the info in it, notably logins and passwords, is stuff you (or your web site designer, if you go that route) will need.

Registering your domain at the same time – As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, it can be slightly easier to register your domain name through your hosting provider, than to register it separately, and the sign-up process will ask you if you want to register a domain at that point, or if you already have a domain registered elsewhere which you want to assign to the new hosting account. I’ll go into domain names in more detail in the next post in this series.

Next: Registering a Domain Name


Robert Venosa

Robert Venosa
When I first saw Robert Venosa’s work reproduced on the web, I wondered if it was done digitally. Though he has recently begun to work in digital media, most of his paintings are in tempera and oil on board, utilizing the “Misch Technique” of Hubert and Jan Van Eyck that he was introduced to when studying with Mati Klarwein and Ernst Fuchs.

This technique begins with a bright tempera underpainting over which is laid a series of thin oil glazes that allow light to pass through several layers of translucent color and bounce off the underpainting and returning through the layers before returning to the eye. This is something that you find in many old master paintings that does not reveal itself in photographs.

The technique seems perfectly suited to Venosa’s subject matter.

His images are striking arrangements of rounded, translucent, vaguely organic forms that morph and blend into one another like melting liquid crystal. These are sometimes arranged as “landscapes”, sometimes as fields of dimensional forms and other times as objects, occasionally suggestive of faces, as in his painting titled “Hallucinatory Self Portrait”.

Sometimes his objects can have deliberately plant-like forms, at other times they are blocklike, filled with striations and crinolations that give suggestions of rounded rock formations, the intersection of microscopic cells or flows of solidified air currents.

Venosa’s paintings have ancestors in the Surrealist “landscapes” and polymorphous objects of Yves Tanguy and the wonderful decalcomania inspired visions of Max Ernst. You can also see the influence of Salvador Dali, with whom Venosa became acquainted when he moved to Spain. It was reportedly Venosa who introduced H.R. Giger to Dali.

I also see a similarity in Venosa’s work to certain work by Jean “Mobius” Giraud, though there it’s difficult to tell which way the influence flows. Venosa has also done some collaborative work with digital artist Stephen Miller of Mkzdk.

Venosa has applied his visionary images to concept art for movies like Dune and Fire in the Sky, and the upcoming IMAX film, Race for Atlantis.

Unfortunately, as is often the case, the images on Venosa’s web site are too small to get a good feeling for the work. You can find somewhat larger ones on The Society for Art of the Imagination, this unofficial gallery and the beinArt Surreal Art Collective.

There is a listing in the beinArt Surreal Art Blog about a solo exhibition of Venosa’s work at the Feneiro Gallery in Eugene Oregon from July 6 to August 2nd, 2007.

Addendum: I received a notice that Robert Venosa, and his wife Martina Hoffmann are conducting a series of workshops on Visionary Painting, the latest of which will be held this November 24th to 30th in Boulder, Colorado.

Addendum II: A new new collcetion of Venosa’s work, Robert Venosa: Illuminatus (Amazon link) has just been published. You can read more details on his site.