Stephan Martiniere (update)

Stephan Martinier
Since I wrote about Stephan Martiniere a couple of years ago, he has updated his site, and his career, with numerous additions.

Martiniere is a concept artist, art director and science fiction artist with a fertile imagine, superb skills as an artist and long, impressive resumé. In addition to his many stunning book covers and beautiful concept work for films like The Fifth Element, Star Wars II and III, I Robot and Star Trek XI; he has moved headlong into the gaming industry, “shapeshifting” his career, as his current bio puts it.

Martiniere has worked for three years as visual art director at Cyan, on their visually lavish games like Uru: Ages Beyond Myst, Uru: The Path of the Shell and Myst 5. He has now assumed the role of Creative Visual Art Director for Midway Games.

His expanded web site is a cornucopia of strikingly imaginative works in all of his areas of endeavor, including work for animated cartoons and theme park environments. Martiniere has a fresh crisp drawing style in his sketches and roughs, and a remarkable talent for projecting scale, atmospheric distance and detail in his more finished works. You can see where he has been influenced by greats in the field like John Berkey and Syd Mead.

There are two collections of his Martiniere’s work available, Quantum Dreams: The Art of Stephan Martiniere and the recent Quantumscapes: The Art of Stephan Martiniere, as well as the more specific Art of Midway: Before Pixels and Polygons.

If you are fond of concept art or science fiction illustration, be aware that his site can be a major time-sink. It’s easy to get happily lost in Martiniere’s dazzling visions of other worlds.


Carl Zimmer’s Science Tattoo Emporium

Carl Zimmer's Science Tattoo Emporium, Jeremiah Drewel's Dienonychus tattoo
Quick, think of a subject for a tattoo!

Did an image of a skull come to mind?

I mean, skulls can be cool, and I’ve seen some rather amazing skulls in the course of looking at tattoo art, but if you see enough tattoos, you begin to get a feeling of “C’mon now, how many &@$%#! skulls can we look at?”.

Well, what if the skull was a scientifically accurate Australopithecus skull, or a triceratops skull? Now we’re getting into interestingly different territory.

Carl Zimmer is a science writer, a contributor to the New York Times, National Geographic, Science and Scientific American; as well as the author of six books on scientific subjects.

In addition to his blog, The Loom, “a blog about life, past and future”, Zimmer has developed a fascination with scientists who have tattoos related to scientific subjects, and writes another blog, Carl Zimmer’s Science Tattoo Emporium in which he posts about this novel topic.

Didn’t think of geeky scientists as likely to offer up their bodies as canvasses for tattoo art? Think again.

The choice of a tattoo, an image to be permanently (in essence) inscribed on the wearer’s body, is undeniably a reflection of that person’s self image, or ideas of what is important, enjoyable or of primary interest. Scientists, it seems, often choose subjects that attempt to distill the essence of some concept or idea that they feel is central to their take on the natural world and its varied phenomena.

In Zimmer’s posts you will find tattoos of diatoms, galaxies, prehistoric cave paintings, microscopes, fossils, geometric solids, logarithmic spirals, scientific laws and maxims, chemical formulas for lysergic acid diethylamide and valium, maps of the solar system, carbon atoms, dna structures, partial and complete renderings of the periodic table of the elements, mathematical formulas for quantum physics, fluid dynamics and the golden ratio, Dawrin’s ship, the ascent of man, apes, lizards, fish, squid (with anatomical labeling), jellyfish, trilobites (always a favorite of mine), all manner of other animals; and, of course, dinosaurs.

The above image is a tattoo of Dienonychus sported by University of Alaska geology student Jeremiah Drewel.

Skulls, you say?

[Link via The Ink Nerd}


Ambera Wellman

Ambera Wellman
Ambera Wellman started experimenting with oil painting in 2004 at the age of 22. She has just moved from being a self taught artist to being a student at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design last year. She already seems to be finding a mature voice, at least in one series of paintings.

If you browse back through her blog you will find paintings, and a few drawings, of a variety of subjects, but it is her series of paintings of skies and clouds that immediately grabbed my attention.

Great sheets of cloud masses, in turn glowing with brilliant color or dark with more subtle tones, roil and billow across her canvasses. Some of her skies are luminescent with reflected light, almost as if the clouds were generating their own light. In the darker canvasses, they have the opposite feeling. as though the cloud forms were devouring the light.

In her older works, the landscape above which the clouds do their stuff is more varied and often busier with foreground objects; in her more recent work, she keeps the foreground in check and lets the clouds and skies dominate.

Wellman also has a dedicated web site, in which, in addition to her land/cloudscapes, you will find her photorealistic portraits as well as an interesting selection of reproductions, in which she has replicated well-known paintings.

Unlike the more common factory-like process of churning out reproductions of the same painting over an over (see my post on Dafen, China), Wellman has made the copying of these paintings part of her learning process. I don’t know if she chose the paintings to reproduce, or if they were commissioned on request, but they vary from Ingres to Modigliani to Vermeer to Chagall to Delacroix, and she apparently picked a few things about skies from her study of Monet and N.C. Wyeth.

In preparing for a new exhibit of her cloud-themed landscapes at the Black Duck Gallery, in Lunenburg, NS, she recently asked her blog readers to give her feedback on which of five paintings to choose for the advertisements to accompany the show; perhaps indicating that though she is mature enough as a painter to have a clear voice, she is young and open minded enough to step back and look at the response her images elicit from others in judging her path.


Stephen Magsig

Stephen Magsig
Stephen Magsig is a Detroit painter whose blog, Postcards from Detroit, is a “Painting a Day” style painting diary inspired by pioneering daily painters Duane Keiser and Juilan Merrow-Smith.

Magsig focuses on urban landscape, and most of his paintings are of urban scenes in Detroit and New York, where he is a part-time resident. He studied at Ferris State College and the College for Creative Studies, but considers himself essentially self taught as a painter.

His large scale gallery paintings are almost photo-realist in approach, but his smaller, more immediate works have a wonderfully painterly quality that works particularly well for his subject matter of industrial scenes, abandoned buildings, empty houses and architectural details.

There is something particularly appealing about the way Magsig applies his paint in quick, brusque strokes that seem to have a texture just right for the rough surfaces of the neglected buildings and weathered industrial structures he revels in portraying.

I particularly enjoy his Hopperesque portraits of abandoned houses, sometimes boarded up, surrounded by weeds, and surprisingly rich in color. I also like his beautiful industrial nocturnes, reminiscent of Whistler’s atmospheric images of the River Thames. You’ll also see echoes of Charles Sheeler’s industrial geometry in Magsig’s angular compositions of smokestacks, factory walls, bridges and gantries.

When browsing through his site, you’ll find more variation as you go back in time, with occasional forays into still life and traditional landscape. Be sure to click on the blog images to get to the large versions in which you can see the texture and application of the paint.


Frank Frazetta’s Funny Animal Comics

Frank Frazetta's Funny Animal Comics
OK, I know I haven’t done a dedicated post about Frank Frazetta yet (I’ll get to it, I promise), but I couldn’t resist writing about this material when I found out it was available online.

For those of you who might not be aware of Frank Frazetta, I’ll simply say that, along with less well known compatriots like Roy Krenkel, he set the standards for fantasy, and particularly “sword and sorcery”, illustration during the second half of the 20th Century. Though basically retired now and dealing with health problems, he continues to work on artistic projects.

Frazetta has also been an outstanding comics artist during his career, turning in stunning work for E.C. Comics and producing his own newspaper strip, Johnny Comet. He also worked as an assistant for Al Capp on L’il Abner, Dan Barry on Flash Gordon and Will Elder on Little Annie Fanny for Playboy. Some of his comic book work was done in collaboration with Roy Krenkel and Al Williamson.

What many people, even some dedicated Frazetta fans, don’t realize is that Frazetta was primarily a comics artist for the early part of his career, starting in professional comic book work at the age of 16.

Some of his earliest work was for so-caled “funny animal” comics, in which anthropomorphized barnyard animals careen through loopy nonsensical misadventures in emulation of the popular animated cartoons in the same genre.

Tapping the visual lexicon of Disney, Warner Brothers, Fleisher Studios, Walter Lantz and other classic animated cartoons from the 1930’s and 40’s, the young Frazetta drew stories for characters like Hucky Duck, Dodger DeSquoil, Munchy Squirrel and Barney Rooster. Though the characters weren’t memorable, Frazetta’s art for them was, showing an uncanny and precocious talent for draftsmanship, calligraphic linework and expressive comics storytelling.

Frazetta’s funny animal work (which he often signed “Fritz”) didn’t go unnoticed; and he received an offer to work for Disney, but turned it down for personal reasons.

Someone (unnamed, as far as I can tell) has posted a complete Frazetta Barney Rooster story on the Comicrazys blog, giving a rare opportunity to see the early Frazetta at his best. If you’ve seen other funny animal comics from the time (or since, for that matter), you’ll immediately see Frazetta’s work stand out, with a visual punch and clarity that belies its apparent simplicity. His use of line weight, judicious additions of texture and masterful spotting of blacks give the drawings weight and force without detracting from their manic freedom.

Some of Frazetta’s funny animal comics were collected in a book, Small Wonders: The Funny Animal Art of Frank Frazetta in 1991. Originally intended to be a two volume set, of which I’ve never seen a second volume (I don’t think it was published), the book included a knowledgeable overview of Frazetta’s early comics career in an introduction by William Stout. It is unfortunately out of print, but you may be able to find it used through Amazon or other book search services.

I have a notion that the online strip was scanned from the book, but any opportunity to look as Frazetta’s comic book work is a treat.

[Link via Journalista]


Arthur Frank Mathews

Arthur Frank Mathews
Athur Mathews was a California painter active in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.

Mathews is sometimes thought of as an Art Nouveau artist. He and his wife Lucia Mathews, also an artist and one of his former students at the Mark Hopkins Institute of Art in San Francisco, brought together influences from the European Art Nouveau artists, the burgeoning American Arts and Crafts movement (of which they were an influential part) and the ideals of classical art, and created a style that came to be called the California Decorative Style.

Arthur Mathews was trained as both an artist and an architect. He studied painting at the San Francisco School of Design and later at the Academie Julian in Paris. There, like many American painters of the time, he was exposed to the creative explosion of avant-garde European art. Unlike most of his compatriots, he did not become enamored of the techniques of the French Impressionists, but took his inspiration from the graceful elegance of Art Nouveau (see my post on Alphonse Mucha) and the sublime tonalism of Whistler. (It’s sometimes hard to remember that Art Nouveau and Impressionism were essentially contemporary, Mucha and Gauguin shared a studio for a time.)

Mathews returned to California and became director of the San Francisco School of Design; and brought his various influences to bear on the creation of brilliantly colored and elegantly naturalistic California landscapes. He became an influential teacher and, though he was not a proponent of Impressionist ideals, counted among his students major figures of California Impressionism and plein air painting like Granville Redmond.

Arthur and Lucia produced a range of artistic and decorative works — stained glass, carved frames, furniture, graphic design and illustration. After the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, they joined with like minded artists and artisans and tried to make their part in rebuilding San Fancisco a guiding and enlightening role, with the dream of making the city a cultural utopia.

Unfortunately, there aren’t lot of high-resolution images of their work on the web just yet. As their influence and importance is rediscovered, that should change.

Those in the Ohio area can see an exhibit currently at the Akron Art Museum (originally organized by the Oakland Museum of California) called California as Muse: The Art of Arthur and Lucia Mathews that runs until September 7, 2008.

For the rest of us, there is a new book created to accompany the exhibit, The Art of Arthur & Lucia Mathews by Harvey L. Jones.

There is a nice post about Arthur Mathews, with several images, on the 2blowhards blog, and I’ve listed what other resources I could find for you below.

[Exhibit link via Art Knowledge News]