The Vadeboncoeur Collection of ImageS

The Vadeboncoeur Collection of ImageS
I’ll let you in on a little secret.

Some of you may be under the impression from my posts on the subject that I’m an expert on the field and history of illustration, but that’s not the case. I simply know a little bit about some terrific illustrators that I’ve come across over the years. Compared to a real expert, like Jim Vadeboncoeur Jr., my knowledge is like a creek compared to a river (it might be the Brandywine Creek, but a creek nonetheless).

But that’s not the secret I wanted to let you in on. The secret is The Vadeboncoeur Collection of ImageS, at least it’s more of a secret than it should be (and no, the capital “S” is not a typo, that’s the way it’s written).

Since 2001, Vadeboncoeur has been publishing a periodical, I hesitate to call it a magazine because it defies the conventions of most magazines, featuring beautiful images from some of history’s greatest illustrators, both well known and obscure; as well as work from artists from the same time period as the Golden Age of illustration.

It’s a secret because, unless you frequent BPIB (formerly Bud Plant Illustrated Books), a web resource to which I have occasionally sent you in reference to the history of great illustrators, chances are you haven’t seen the modest link to the ImageS pages.

The web site itself is a little, um… stuck in the 90’s, (when entering the site through the home page, choose “No Frames“, because frames suck), but the heart of the site is a wonderful collection short but of terrific, and often definitive, articles on great illustrators, from Edwin Austin Abbey to Newell Convers Wyeth.

You could spend hours here lost among the articles and (unfortunately somewhat small) images from these greats, but why settle for that when you can get Vadeboncoeur’s beautifully printed collections full of stunning, high-resolution images of works that you just won’t find anywhere else.

These collections, (again, I hesitate to call them magazines, and they’re not quite books) are printed larger than most magazines (9″x12″), are up to 44 pages each; and, in recent issues, feature amazing reproductions by way of Stochastic printing (a process that eliminates the traditional limitation of process dots and looks amazingly like a photograph).

The early issues are starting to disappear, but a number of back issues are still available, including the special Black & White ImageS Annual Collections, which showcase some of the most amazing pen and ink illustration ever produced. These are thicker than the color collections, up to 112 pages, and the fourth one was just released. Like the color collections, these are printed on 100 lb paper and the reproductions are superb.

Unfortunately, the web site doesn’t do a very good job of presenting the collections, with a small, too-quick, GIF animations of a few pages, that you can’t even focus on for more than a second, as the only preview.

Vadeboncoeur should take a page from Dan Zimmer’s Illustration Magazine previews, which give a thumbnail of every page in the magazine (see my posts on Illustration Magazine); or, better yet, feature two or three large images to give some idea of how beautiful these pieces really are.

In the meanwhile, lacking better previews, take my word for it. These collections are head-spinningly beautiful and a must-have for any serious fan of Golden Age illustration.

But don’t let too many people in on our little secret, at least not until we get a chance to snap up those back issues.

Richard Parkes Bonington

Richard Parkes Bonington
Richard Parkes Bonington was one of the great English landscape painters at the height of the grand era of landscape painting in the 1800’s, and a notable figure in the English watercolor movement.

He is credited with carrying the influence of both of those artistic waves to Continental Europe and inspiring many European painters to take up the practice of painting with watercolor, including Delacroix.

In his tragically short life of twenty six years, and a career as a painter that lasted only ten, he produced a notable body of work; with fresh, atmospheric paintings that bent the rules of what was acceptable in painting at the time, and helped lay the groundwork on which later sharp breaks with tradition (i.e. Impressionism) would be based.

He preferred to work outdoors, and took his compositions from modern life rather than composing “history paintings” in which the landscape was subservient to some concept of classical antiquity or religious significance.

His paintings are notable for their sweeping skies, atmospheric haze and quick suggestions of texture in place of labored rendering.

Mark Bischel

Mark Bischel
Mark Bischel is another of those illustrators whose work I’ve encountered, but about whom I know little. His web presence is minimalist to a fault, consisting of a series of (unfortunately horizontally) scrolling thumbnails and the larger images they link to; which can also be navigated (fortunately) by forward and back arrows.

His images range from dark and thickly textured monochrome charcoal drawings to brusquely textured oil paintings to graphic and somewhat monochromatic silkscreen, and what appear to be ink and watercolor paintings.

As fascinating as the slikscreens are, it’s the ink and watercolor pieces I find most appealing. They have a a loose, fresh feeling, and carry the best qualities of an on-location sketch, with free line work and lightly applied areas of color.

A brief search for Bischel produced little additional information other than the fact that he is a graduate of the School of Visual Arts. He has also been in the Communication Arts Illustration Annuals, which is where I encountered his work.

Perhaps Bischel will update his site at some point with additional images and maybe even a little information.

American Artist’s Self-Portrait Competition

American Artist's Self-Portrait Competition: Ted Burn, Dianne Panarelli Miller, Virginia Blechman, Daniel van Benthuysen, Peter Nuchims, David Frank, Johanna Uribes, Jim Kilmartin, Koo Schadler, Cesar Santos, Spencer Sharp, F. Michael Wood, Ying-He Liu
I’ve always been fascinated by self-portraits (not that I’ve done that many myself). Here is not only the artist’s personality expressed through their work, but through their own inner or outer vision of themselves.

Many of history’s great paintings have been self portraits, from Durer and Rembrandt to Sargent and Van Gogh, artists have made self-portraits into powerful statements with the full force of their personality and artistic skills.

One of the most intriguing things about self-portraits is the variety of approach, in terms of materials, the nature of the composition, attitude of the artist as sitter, and the background, setting and objects an artist can choose to surround themselves with.

American Artist, the venerable artists’ magazine, has opened the entry process on this year’s Self-Portrait Competition, in which the selected winners will have their self-portraits published in the magazine. The magazine’s web site has a slide-show of recent entries, about 70 of them at this point, which already constitute a colorful (in more ways then one) assortment of approaches and interpretations of the idea of self portraiture.

In addition, they have provided an inspirational gallery of self-portraits from the history of art, including some greats like Durer’s Christ-like advertisement for his painting skills as a young artist, Chardin’s lifted-eyebrow self-appraisal of his scarfed head, three of Rembrandt’s always remarkable self-images, Sargent’s dignified banker-esque stare, Élisabeth-Louis Vigée-Lebrun’s beautiful 3/4 length portrait with palette, brushes and full-dress finery, Anders Zorn’s frank self-appraisal, several of Ergon Scheel’s stark, gaunt visages and van Gogh’s hauntingly electric, blue and green study of intensity and emotional chaos.

That said, you can submit your own portraits, haunting or otherwise, to the competition for their entry fee of $20, and $5 for additional entries. The info page has general information and the registration page has the terms and conditions. The deadline is May 1, 2008 and entry is limited to U.S. residents.

I don’t know how many pieces will be displayed in the magazine. At any rate, it should be worth checking the recent entries page occasionally just to see the the variety and range of the entries.

(Image above, left to right, Row 1: Ted Burn, Dianne Panarelli Miller, Virginia Blechman; Row 2: Daniel van Benthuysen, Peter Nuchims, David Frank; Row 3: Johanna Uribes, Jim Kilmartin, Koo Schadler; Row 4: Cesar Santos, Spencer Sharp, F. Michael Wood, Ying-He Liu. The unfortunate shadow at the top of each image is the product of the cheesy slide show application the magazine has, for reasons that are beyond me, chosen for this display.)

Une Semaine de Bonté at the Albertina

Une Semaine de Bonte - a Week of Kindness - Surrealist collage-novel (or graphic novel) by Max Ernst
In 1934, Surrealist Max Ernst created an extraordinary collage novel (or, as I pointed out a few years ago, “graphic novel”), composed of collage images constructed of cut-outs from popular French periodicals and catalogs of the time.

The result is a fascinating, spooky, wondrous and eye-opening excursion into the mind of a Surrealist master on the cusp of World War II. Here is my post about Une Semaine de Bonté, ou Les Sept Éléments Capitaux (A Week of Kindness, or the Seven Deadly Sins) from 2005.

This month, the Albertina museum in Vienna is displaying some of Ernst’s original collages for the book (how many is unclear). This is the first time the works have been exhibited since 1936. The show runs until the 9th of April, 2008. The museum’s site has a 6 thumbnails posted of images in the exhibition, though, inexplicably, no larger versions. I’ve found corresponding images in my files and posted them above.

Though I consider it legitimately a “graphic novel” (and long-time lines and colors readers will know I’m cranky about the inaccurate use of that term), it is not arranged in comic-strip form, as my composite above might suggest. Each of these images is a full page, but they are part of a narrative sequence (the images above are out of sequence from various parts of the book). The narrative is loose and dreamlike, or “stream of consciousness”, if you will. This is actually in keeping with the Surrealists’ prose and poetry, and could more correctly be called “stream of unconsciousness”, as one of their professed aims was to create art directly from their unconscious minds.

For those of us for whom a trip to Vienna is not practical, good old Dover Books is still keeping their delightfully inexpensive version, Une Semaine De Bonte: A Surrealistic Novel in Collage, in print after all these years (as well they should, it’s a classic, despite their slightly off title). I’ve had my dog-eared copy since I was a teenager, and the work still manages to surprise and delight me with repeated viewings.

When I wrote my previous post, there was an online version of the entire book available that has since disappeared. But, as the Internet giveth and the Internet taketh away, there is now a version on Google Books that looks reasonably complete.

You will also find some images, often with larger versions, on Giornale Nuovo and La Boîte à Images.

If you are at all intrigued, though, opt for the print version.

Robin Chyo

Robin Chyo
We catch concept artist Robin Chyo at the very beginning of his career. A graduate of Academy of Art University with a BFA in Illustration, Chyo is working to build a career in the gaming and/or film industry as a concept designer and illustrator.

He has begun by establishing a presence in publications like the Spectrum collections of fantastic art (Spectrum 13 and 14, which is where I encountered his work), Ballistic Publishing’s Painter digital art showcase and D’artiste: Concept Art collection, as well as ImagineFX and 2DArtist Magazine.

He has also created a reasonably extensive portfolio, showcasing his abilities in the major areas of concept design for gaming and special effects centric movies, such as characters, environments, props, creatures and mechanical devices.

He has also, wisely, created a web site to make his portfolio readily available. Though it isn’t fancy (probably also a wise decision), he’s done a good job of providing the essentials — bio, resume, contact information and galleries of work that can be viewed by either thumbnails or Previous and Next navigation. He has also added a subtle id mark of his web site address to his images without marring them with ugly watermarks (are you listening, all of you watermarking fanatics?). (I should point out, though, that the “http://” in URL on the image is unnecessary.)

The baseline, of course, is that all of this is in support of very nice work. Chyo’s concept designs show a youthful verve and freedom of imagination that is sometimes more subdued in older veterans in the field. His creatures, in particular, seem more truly alien and less clichéd than most. His mechanical devices, props and character accouterments often have an interestingly organic feeling.

There is a certain brusqueness to his rendering that I find appealing, with an emphasis on textures and a muted palette with highlights of more intense hues.

Chyo lists a number of 2-D and 3-D digital graphics applications in his resume, along with traditional media like pencil, oils and acrylics. It looks like the majority of work in his portfolio is relatively straightforward digital painting in Painter and Photoshop.

All in all, it looks like he’s doing a lot of things right, and it’s probably only a matter of time before we see credits for gaming or film projects on his resume. I just hope that working within industry standards doesn’t take away his imaginative wild streak.