Pose Maniacs (update)

Pose Maniacs
Pose Maniacs, which I wrote about in 2007, is a Japanese web site that features 3D models of human figures, rendered with superficial musculature, for sketching and drawing reference.

A high percentage of them are in an interface that allows you to turn them 360° on their vertical axis for a complete rotation of point of view (image above, original here).

Others are animation sequences that can be stopped in a particular position, say, in the middle of a run cycle, which can be very helpful for animators.

They have continued to add to their considerable catalog of hundreds of poses; and the site, which was originally only in Japanese, has been translated into English.


Lucong (Cong Hua Lu)

Lucong (Cong Hua Lu)Born in Shanghai, China during the “Cultural Revolution” (a time in China that could more accurately be called the “Cultural Wasteland”), Lucong (Cong Hua Lu) moved with his family to the American midwest at the age of 11. [Correction, he grew up in the period just after the Cultural Revolution, see this post’s comments.]

He was always interested in drawing and art, but in following the expectation that he would go into the sciences, his BA in art was earned at the University of Iowa while simultaneously pursuing a degree in Biology.

Lucong followed his desire to be an artist first on leaving school, moving to Denver and teaching himself to paint in oil, and achieving recognition relatively quickly.

His oil portraits have a fascinating feeling of delicacy in their Ingres-like attention to line, and the use of muted value and hue relationships within the faces. His faces are often set against a subdued background in similar tones, leaving the subjects’ hair in striking, almost graphic, contrast.

At other times, he uses more dramatic value contrasts between the face and background, but still keeps the color carefully restrained. He sometimes poses his subjects in front of other works of art.

I noticed an almost Gothic simplification of the shapes of eyes; which, along with the sometimes formal poses, gives the portraits some of the penetrating stillness found in pre-Renaissance art.

The portfolio of works on the site is divided into painting and drawings. The drawings, though apparently drawn from life, are more interpretive, almost caricatures, with heads large in proportion to bodies and a pleasantly cartoon-like handling of line.

On Lucong’s blog, you will find the works described in more detail, with dates and sizes. Clicking on the blog images reveals larger versions of the images (lacking in the regular portfolio) that let you appreciate the handling of the surface and marvelous details of the work. There are also pieces there that are not in the portfolio section.

There is a wistfulness to the expressions of his sitters, perhaps exemplifying what he describes in his statement as a longing for something undefined that can never be fully obtained.

[Contains some images that could be considered NSFW]

[Update 2014: Lucong seems to have discontinued his website and blog, and is using a new Tumblr blog: http://lucong.tumblr.com/]


Evelien Lohbeck

Evelien Lohbeck
Noteboek, an animation by Evelien Lohbeck that recently won the prize for best NOFF-film 2008 a the Netherlands Film Festival, is one of the cleverest and most amusing animations I’ve seen in a while.

Taking off from the notion of a sketchbook in which a computer keyboard and screen have been drawn, it goes on to self-referentially show a hand-drawn YouTube interface on which a series of Lohbeck’s other short animations, also very clever and amusing in themselves, are shown. Several of them feature the sketchbook in other whimsical roles.

Lohbeck studied animation at the Academy of Arts, St. Joost in the Netherlands (Breda), and also studied interactive design and 3D design.

Her web site, which, in keeping with her award winning film, is designed as a hand-drawn computer interface, features her short films as well as other work. She also has a blog on which she discusses her projects and other topics of interest.

Unfortunately, the films aren’t available on her site at the moment, but you can see many of them on YouTube, including an earlier version of Noteboek.

[Via Articles & Texticles]


Mick McGinty (update)

Mick McGinty
I’ve been writing about the “painting a day” phenomenon for about three years now, along the way looking at a number of painters who aren’t trying to maintain the strict “one painting a day” routine, but are instead painting on a regular but less frequent schedule. Often, these painters can devote themselves to larger and more elaborate works than the small (usually postcard-size) paintings favored by those keeping the daily routine.

A case in point is Mick McGinty, who I wrote about early in 2007.

McGinty has a blog called Twice a Week, on which he posts new paintings with about that frequecy. These are larger, and brought to a higher degree of finish, than the pieces by most of the daily painters, including many of those who are also posting on less than a daily basis. This is partly because of the less frequent schedule, and partly because of the impressive painting skills McGinty developed in his years as a professional illustrator.

His subject matter is also more complex than the often simple still life compositions that lend themselves most readily to the daily routine, varying from complex still life subjects to dramatic landscapes from the Rocky Mountains, and more intimate urban park scenes from his trips east to New York.

McGinty has a terrific command of value and atmosphere, and his tonal contrasts give his landscapes an inviting dimensionality. He also has a great ability to render and suggest textures, whether of the rough edged rocks of mountain passes, the sunlit waters of streams and lakes, or the concrete and cobblestone paths of Central Park.

Texture plays another part in painting, of course, not only the suggestions of texture in the image, but the actual texture of the painted surface. McGinty is one of the few painter/bloggers who posts images large enough to actually see the texture and brush strokes, something I’ve been recommending to other painters for a while. I think it adds considerably to the appeal of a painting to a prospective buyer, who must judge a painting without being able to see the original in person.

As with most painters offering their work for sale directly through a blog or website, McGinty places each work up for auction, in his case (as with most others) on eBay.

I recently did something I haven’t done before and bid on a painting online, one of McGinty’s landscapes, Wandering Creek (image above, with detail below, blog post here, larger version here). To my surprise, and delight, and I won the bid.

I was surprised in that my budget was quite low, as was my winning bid. Like many other painter/bloggers, McGinty has apparently decided on a relatively low minimum, perhaps with the thought that keeping the paintings selling is easier than trying to offer them for sale a second time, or leaving a backlog on eBay.

On receipt of the original, I was again surprised, as I would expect a painting of this size and quality to sell in a gallery for at least three times what I paid for it. (Some of this may also have to do with differences in expectations of gallery prices for art in different parts of the country, I don’t know. I’m on the East Coast, McGinty is in Arizona.)

I was delighted with the surface quality and painterly nature of the piece and very pleased with the color. (Though McGinty’s photographs are good, it’s always difficult to match color in an image. In this case, McGinty has balanced the tone for Windows gamma, which means that for those like myself viewing the image with a Mac, the image will appear lighter and less saturated than the original.)

I was also pleased with the little touches that often not as obvious in the online images; in this case nice little accents of red-brown on the edges of the creek and the underside of the trees where reflections from the sun picking up the color of the creek bottom throw light up under the branches and exposed roots, the subtle blue greens in the background and the varied colors in the stone of the bridge.

Even though McGinty is one of the best at presenting his work online (many suffer from too-small images or make the mistake of offering only a link to eBay, without the advantage of a preview image hosted locally on the blog), I’m still struck by the difference between an online image and the much more immediate charms of an the original work.

It makes it all the more interesting to me how artists like McGinty are to a large extent bypassing the traditional gallery structure and taking their work directly to their buyers through the web.


Yutang Yang

Yu-Tang Yang
Chinese artist Yutang Yang draws intensely intricate pen and ink drawings of landscapes, in which his detailed approach creates evocative representations of the visual textures of trees, bark and grasses.

This approach is particularly effective in his depictions of winter forest snow scenes, like Bewildering (image above, with detail, larger image here), in which the white of the paper becomes the smooth surface of snow covered ground.

I’m not certain I have a correct grasp of his artist’s statement about Realistic Penart, but I come away with the impression that he feels his approach has as much in common with the way paintings are composed as they do with traditional pen and ink (bringing to mind Franklin Booth’s reputation for “painting with a pen”), and holds the practice as worthy of comparison to painting.

Yutang was born in Chung-chuen in northeastern China, and though showing artistic ability at an early age, he failed the entrance exams to art college twice. He worked for a time on a farm camp during the Cultural Revolution, later went to work for a design firm; and eventually set out on his own as a freelance artist.

He went to Japan to study, was deeply impressed with the training, and delved into his intensive research in to pen art. He returned to China and began his series of drawings of the Chinese landscape. He published two books on the subject, Detailed Analysis of Penart Technique and Collection of Penart.

There is a gallery on the artist’s site, with works arranged by year. (The images are slightly marred by watermarking, but it’s not too intrusive.) There is a high resolution image on the Art Renewal Center (scroll down).


Ford Madox Brown

Ford Madox Brown
Ford Madox Brown was a Victorian painter who is often mentioned or included in books and articles on the Pre-Raphaelites.

Though he was lifelong friends with Dante Gabriel Rossetti, the leader of the Pre-aphaelite Brotherhood, and was philosophically in keeping with many of their ideals and artistic aims, he was never actually a member of the Brotherhood. He got on less well, evidently, with other members William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais.

Brown’s artistic predilections came largely from the influence of the Nazarenes, a group of German painters, including Johann Overbeck and Peter von Cornelius, who were established prior to the Pre-Raphaelites and who shared many characteristics with them in style and artistic philosophy.

Brown was in opposition to the Royal Academy, which dictated artistic acceptance in England at the time, and was one of the first painters to mount one-man exhibitions. Rossetti was actually a student of Brown’s for a short time, but quickly changed to study under William Holman Hunt. It seemed to have little effect on their friendship.

Brown’s most renowned painting, Work (image above, top, larger version here, detail here), is notable for it’s detail and technique, but to my mind is weighted down with its ambitious attempt to essentially represent all aspects of life in Victorian England. The subjects within the painting and its historical context are fascinating, though. The city of Manchester Art Gallery has an interesting interactive, aimed at grade schoolers, that examines some of the social aspects the painting.

One of the notable characteristics of Work is that it was painted in part on location, an unusual practice particularly for work of this kind. The painting took thirteen years to finish.

It was also in Manchester that Brown completed the series of murals that would be the major achievement of his later career (many are viewable on Wikimedia Commons).

Another notable painting of Brown’s was The Last of England, showing a family forced to leave the difficult conditions in England in search of a life elsewhere, a situation facing Brown himself until sale of the painting kept him afloat.

A notable earlier work is The Pretty Baa-Lambs (image above, middle with detail, bottom, large version here), which is mentioned as a pre-Pre-Raphaelaite work (if you’ll excuse the expression), debuting in 1852 and painted on a white ground, instead of the customary browns, for unusual vibrancy of color. The same painting is sometimes mentioned as a precursor to Impressionism as well, in that it was painted largely on location and with an uncanny fidelity to the look of natural daylight.