Jamie Caliri (update)

Though not the mini-masterpiece of its predecessor, the latest animated closing film credit from director Jamie Caliri is still a nifty piece of paper cut-out animation.

The closing credits for Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa can be viewed on a terrific site called Forget the film, watch the titles, that I’ve written about before here and here.

Caliri’s previous animated movie title sequence, the closing credits for Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events was one of the best short sequences of animation I’ve seen in some time; as was his wonderful ad for United Airlines called Dragon, which I wrote about in my previous post on Jamie Caliri.

There is a short on The Making of Dragon on the same page as the short itself on the United Airlines site, and some production photos and full credits on Caliri’s site.

There is also a page devoted to information about the Lemony Snicket credits.

All of them were done with paper cut-out stop-motion animation, a wonderful antidote to the overload of hyper-kinetic 3-D CGI animation that we’re being inundated with on all fronts; and a clear reminder that it’s imagination and skill that make good animation, not expensive technology.


John F. Carlson

John F. Carlson
I woke up to an uncharacteristic November snow here in Philadelphia, and my mind jumped to the beautiful woodland snow scenes of John Carlson.

Born in Sweden, John Fabian Carlson moved to the U.S. with his family at the age of nine. He studied art in the evenings and worked as a lithographer during the day, helping to support his family until he was 28.

He then moved to New York and attended the Art Students League on a scholarship, studying with Frank DuMond, and later with Birge Harrison at Woodstock. During his time in New York he also worked as an illustrator, but I’ve been unable to find images of his illustration work.

Carlson became associated with the Art Students League, serving as Birge Harrison’s assistant when the League began classes in Woodstock, and later succeeding him as director. He was later director of the Broadmore Art Academy in Colorado, but returned to Woodstock to found the John F. Carlson School of Landscape Painting.

Though not considered an American Impressionist, he shared their penchant for combining a strong academic foundation with free, painterly brushwork and bright, expressive color, particularly in his later work.

He became devoted to the subject of woods in winter, often in snow – a subject in abundance in Woodstock, in which he found rich variation in color, dramatic arrangements of value and composition, and subtle atmospheric effects.

It’s interesting to compare him to painters like the Pennsylvania Impressionist Edward Redfield, who pursued similar subject matter, and displayed an equally hardy devotion to winter painting out of doors.

Carlson codified some of his teachings into a book, still in print after almost 80 years, as Carlson’s Guide to Landscape Painting.

Despite the somewhat outdated tone of voice, the book is a treasure of landscape paintings fundamentals; and is one of those painting reference books that you come back to again and again, discovering more as your own understanding deepens over time.

Don’t be put off by the fact that the images are in black and white (though a color version would be a wonderful thought for some publisher to pursue), think of the book as akin to books by Hawthorne or Sloan, that are valuable without illustrations at all, and then think of the black an white images in Carlson’s book as a deluxe bonus.

The sections on atmospheric and linear perspective alone are worth the Dover paperback edition’s modest price of ten dollars.

I’ve found a scattering of Carlson’s paintings on the web. Though unfortunately none are large; they are enough to give you a taste of the beautiful atmosphere and compositional geometry that, combined with his mastery of tree forms and obvious love for his subjects, give his winter scenes deep visual and emotional warmth.


Ronald Kurniawan

Ronald Kurniawan
Ronald Kurniawan is a Los Angeles based illustrator who graduated from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena.

His highly stylized imagery combines animals and natural forms with geometric constructs, typographic elements, mechanical devices, odd characters and cultural ephemera into marvelous, collage-like visual smorgasbords.

His characters careen, gambol and fly through unlikely environments, alternately alive with insane glee or oppressed with the weight of imminent doom. Likewise his palette and textural range varies from grungy to pop-radiant, with lots of lively variations in between.

His clients include The New York Times, Time, Spectral Magazine, Men’s Health, Mother Jones, LA Weekly, INC magazine, Entertainment Weekly, Village Voice, Saatchi NY, McCann Erickson, LACMA, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Mattel Inc., Toyota, Turner Broadcasting System, Disney Consumer and Design Studio Press.

There are several sections of imagery on his site, along with sections of sketches, sculptures and available books of his work.

Kurniawan also does gallery work, and a number of his pieces will be on display as part of the upcoming Line Weight group show at Gallery Nucleus in Alhambra, CA from November 22 to December 7, 2008. Though many are already sold, there are items of his available in the gallery store.

There are interviews with Kurniawn on Websteem Art & Design and FMCS, and a profile on Illustration Mundo.

(Image above is a poster for the West Hollywood Book Fair, illustration by Ronald Kurniawan, graphic design by Ryan Ward.)


Urban Sketchers

Urban Sketchers - Alessandro Andreuccetti, Rob Carey, Gabi Campanario, Lok Janssen, Laura Genz, Matthew Cenich
I just discovered the Urban Sketchers blog a couple of weeks ago, and it immediately became one of my favorites.

I enjoy location sketches done in an urban environment, particularly travel sketches, and the blog has much of that feeling, even though the contributors are often sketching in their home city.

I came across Urban Sketchers by way of Katherine Tyrrell, who is one of the correspondents, and contributes from London (see my post on Katherine Tyrrell).

In addition to Tyrell, contributing artists that I have featured previously on Lines and Colors include Lok Jansen and Laura Frankstone.

Other contributors are from various cities in France, Spain, Italy, Denmark, Norway, Germany, Russia and other locations in Europe; a number of cities in the US, including New York, San Francisco, and Seattle, as well as cities in Canada and other parts of the globe, like Tokyo, Bangkok, Tal-Aviv and Sao Paulo. You can see the contributors listed by location in the side bar.

There is also a Meet the Correspondents page, on which some of the contributors give short profiles of themselves, their subject cities and their sketching practices.

There is a variety of approaches in medium, drawing style and subject matter, though some common themes, like the frequent use of the ubiquitous and oh-so-convenient Moleskine sketchbooks, and a consistently high level of quality.

The blog is an extension of the Urban Sketchers Flickr group started in 2007 by Seattle illustrator/journalist Gabi Campanario.

The subtitle of the blog is “See the world one drawing at a time”, and though the blog has only been up since October, with an “official” launch on November 1st, there is already a world of images posted from the multiple contributors.

Next to traveling and sketching yourself, what better way to see the world than through the eyes and pens of artists?

(Images above, left to right, top to bottom: Alessandro Andreuccetti, Rob Carey, Gabi Campanario, Lok Janssen, Laura Genz, Matthew Cenich)


Petar Meseldžija

Petar Meseldzija
Petar Meseldžija is a Serbian artist who started in comics, publishing a comic called Krampi in the comic magazine Stripoteka and working on a short licensed Tarzan series.

He then went on to study painting at the Art Academy in Novi Sad and began to take on illustration work, eventually abandoning comics for illustration and gallery painting.

Meseldžija works in a fantasy vein; his atmospheric and highly textured visions of other worlds have tactile presence and lively energy.

He frequently seems to control space with areas of the canvas, both objects and negative space, blocked out by dominant areas of color, within which there are more subtle variations.

His online galleries showcase both his illustration and gallery art.

His gallery paintings also often take on a fantasy motif, with touches of beautifully handled classical drapery and dramatic lighting. You will also find more traditional portraits and still life subjects as well as some nicely immediate and painterly landscapes.


Tilt-Shift Photography

Tilt-Shift Photography -
We have a tendency to think of photography as “realistic” because it often seems to reproduce what we see with reasonable accuracy, but photography and human perception often diverge significantly.

You may have noticed when looking at photographs of small objects, models, dioramas or model train layouts, that there is a limited range of the scene that is in focus. This is due to the limited focal length of camera lenses when focused at short distances.

A fascinating practice that has become popular in the last couple of years is “tilt-shift photography”, the use of techniques involving tilting the lens relative to the plane of the scene, often from a high vantage point, mimicking the way small objects are often photographed from above, and using a large aperture (lens opening), creating a shallow depth of field, to produce photographs of real scenes and objects that look like miniatures.

There is a good selection of this kind of photography in a recent article on Smashing Magazine that serves as a nice introduction to the phenomenon if you haven’t encountered it before; and a resource for further investigation if you have. The article also includes some tilt-shift videos and some links to related resources.

It’s uncanny how strong the effect can be. Even when you know the scenes or objects are real, it’s difficult to shift out of the perception that you’re looking at objects in miniature.

Something to think about the next time you’re tempted to refer to a realist painting as “photographic”.

[Images above: Tiltshiftphotography.net and Tilt-Shift Photography: It’s A Small World After All]