J.W. Waterhouse: The Modern Pre-Raphaelite

John William Waterhouse
For those familiar with the English Pre-Raphaelite painters, the phrase “modern Pre-Raphaelite” may sound as much an oxymoron as the Surrealist phrase “Soluble Fish”, in that the Pre-Raphaelites named their group after their desire to return to the “pre-Raphael” purity of the early Renaissance.

John William Waterhouse was never a member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, he wasn’t born until the year of their first exhibition, but he was very much influenced by them, took on many of the same literary themes in his paintings and is often associated with them from the perspective of a century and a half into the future.

Unlike the Pre-Raphaelites, who made a point of breaking away from the Royal Academy and deriding it’s leadership, Waterhouse was completely comfortable with the Academy and was active as a member.

For all of his classical training and Pre-Raphaelite leanings, Waterhouse was indeed modern in his time, particularly in his later work, when he moved away from his more tightly controlled early style, somewhat in the vein of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema and other romantic history painters, toward a more open and lively handling of paint.

Influenced though he was by the Pre-Raphaelite painters in subject matter and emotional tone, Waterhouse differed in his approach to painting, specifically eschewing the detailed techniques that Millais at one point complained took a whole day painting an area “no larger than a five shilling piece”, and embracing instead the painterly, open brushstrokes of the French Impressionists and the English painters who had taken up their style. Not that Waterhouse painted in an Impressionist manner, but more of a lively synthesis of Academic and Impressionist inspired techniques, a sort of painterly and richly colored academic classicism.

If Academic painting, plus Pre-Raphaelite literary romanticism plus Impressionist color and brushstrokes sounds like an improbable combination to you, the images above, and many others, will attest to its success. Waterhouse is not only a favorite of mine, but of millions. His images are among the most popular and frequently reproduced in the canon of Western art.

J.W. Waterhouse: The Modern Pre-Raphaelite is an exhibition organized by the Groninger Museum, the Netherlands in cooperation with the Royal Academy of Arts and the Montreal Museum of Fine Art. It is the first major international exhibition of his work, and includes eighty painting and numerous drawings.

J.W. Waterhouse: The Modern Pre-Raphaelite is at the Royal Academy of Arts from June 27 to September 13, 2009, and will be at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts from October 1, 2009 to February 2, 2010.

There are numerous books on Waterhouse, including a new one that accompanies this exhibition. I haven’t seen that one, but I can recommend J.W. Waterhouse by Peter Trippi. The latter volume, while perhaps not the most luxurious with illustrations, shows a curator’s keen eye in their selection and accompanies them with well thought out text that gives them a depth and artistic history many art books lack.

I don’t know if the images I’ve chosen above have any relation to the exhibition, I’ve just picked them to be representative of Waterhouse, both in his most familiar and somewhat lesser known forms.

For more, see my previous posts about John William Waterhouse and The Pre-Raphaelites.

[Via Art Knowledge News]

Mattias Adolfsson

Mattias Adolfsson, Star Wars,the baroque version, houseflower
Mattias Adolfsson, skyscraper prototypeMattias Adolfsson is a 3D artist living outside of Stockholm, Sweeden and currently working for gaming developer Simbin Development Studios.

Having apparently put aside traditional drawing for a while, Adolfsson returned to regular drawing when he started his sketchblog Mattias Inks, in 2006. Since then he has populated it with a wonderful and fast growing assortment of whimsical drawings on a variety of subjects and themes.

Usually drawing with a Namiki Falcon fountain pen and Noodler’s American Eel ink, and often in the pages of Moleskine sketchbooks, Adolfsson draws charmingly offbeat characters, animals, robots and architectural fantasies, as well as more straightforward sketches of his surroundings.

He often fills out his drawings with watercolor to varying degrees, usually with light touches that leave the feeling of the ink drawing intact.

For someone who has only been drawing recently for a couple of years, Adolfsson has been prolific; his Flickr galleries go on for dozens of pages.

He also has a web site with galleries of his drawings, doodles and sketch books; as well as an Etsy shop in which he sells original art.

One of his excursions into fanciful imaginings is his interpretation of “Star Wars, the baroque version” (expanded page version here), with a curly-wig helmeted Darth Vader, blunderbuss and balloon-pak equipped Bobba Fett, and Han Solo being harassed by the puritan police at the base of his eminently baroque Millennium Falcon (top, left).

I particularly enjoy Adolfsson’s architectural imaginings, like his houseflowers (top, right) and ornate, leaning, single-room-stacked “skyscraper prototypes” (left).

Mattias Adolfsson is giving a workshop in drawing this July 29-31 (more information here, in Swedish); and is currently working on a children’s book titled Till mitt barnbarn.

[Via ‘skine art]


Clark Hulings

Clark Hulings
In addition to receiving a degree in physics from Haverford College in 1944, and an appointment to work on the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos, Clark Hulings studied art with George Bridgeman (whose books on anatomy are among my favorites) and influential teacher Frank Reilly (see my post on Frank Reilly) at the Art Student’s League in New York.

Health issues prevented Hulings from joining the atomic bomb project and he turned to his love of art for his career.

He started in portraiture, but the demands of sitters made him more inclined to a career in illustration. Even as he established a successful career as an illustrator, his desire to pursue easel painting, particularly landscape, led him to study in Florence, Italy for three years, and on his return to the U.S. he pursued landscape painting while continuing his illustration career.

Hulings eventually transitioned from illustration to gallery painting full time. He became an accomplished and well respected painter. His careful observations and tonally complex compositions make for evocative images from his travels across the globe, but particularly shine in his portrayals of rural Mexican village life, from colorful markets to humble shelters to quiet domestic scenes.

Hulings’ paintings interweave patterns of light, often brilliant white against walls and the sides of buildings, with areas of more subdued contrast that are rich with visual texture.

The intricate interplay of light and texture, and his attention to visual detail, can make his paintings seem tighter than they actually are when seen in reproduction, an impression that is unfortunately not dispelled by the small images on his own site and elsewhere on the web. However, if you take a look at the zoomable image of this painting on the Sotheby’s auction site, you can see the actual loose and painterly quality of his work.

Also unfortunate is the fact the the Flash slideshow on the Painting Gallery section of his web site doesn’t function properly (image sections overlap and cover other sections); however there is an older Image Gallery still linked from the Contact page, that is more straightforward.

There also images on the Store page. In addition, there are books and DVDs available directly from his web site; and others, some out of print, available from sources like Amazon.

There are a few videos on YouTube and Hulings’ Facebook page that are audio excerpts of his lectures at the Art Students League, as well as an additional gallery on Facebook.

[Suggestion and links courtesy of James Gurney]

Which Art Student Are You?

Which Art Student Are You? - Chuck Dillon
Cartoonist and illustrator Chuck Dillon, who teaches at the Hussian School of Art here in Philadelphia, has condensed some of his observations about students over his 10 years of teaching, and produced cartoon drawings/infographics of 20 student “types”.

Inspired in part by Daniel Clowes Art School Confidentaial, a graphic story (made into a movie by Terry Zwigoff) that did a bit of similar classification of art students, Dillon came up with 20 classifications, like Student 1.0, the Anime Student, the Snob/Fine Art Student, the Mom Student, the Comic Book/Geek Student, etc.

Dillon posted them on his blog, 30×30, asking “Which Student are You?“.

You may be disinclined to identify, as most of his characterizations are negative and drawn from the inevitable frustrations of a teacher who is trying to communicate something through the barriers people often erect in the name of identity, but it’s amusing to see his take on them.

Personally, I found it difficult to identify for another reason. Enough years have passed since I was in art school that many of his types don’t resonate with me, largely because the social/pop culture phenomena to which they’re tied (anime, metal, gaming) didn’t exist at the time. Other types with which I might have identified (60’s counterculture types) no longer apply. Also I went to a different kind of art school, Hussian is a small commercial art school, a sharp contrast in some ways to the medium sized fine arts academy that I attended.

Still some things are universal, and even though we all know it’s not a Good Thing to classify people by their appearance, it’s fun to sort into “types”.

It’s also fun to compare Dillon’s categorization of student types with his assessment of himself over time in a two part series called “Through the years…” and “Through the Years (part2)“, which preceded his student types, and was inspired by the Draw yourself as a teen meme started by webcomics artist Dave Valeza (see my post about Draw yourself as a teen).

The rest of Dillon’s blog varies from posts about his process to train sketches to various finished and unfinished projects, like his Philadelphia Zoo Annual Report Comic Strip. Dillon also has a web site which showcases some of his other work.

[Via Drawn!]

Zdeněk Burian

Zdenek Burian
Yesterday’s more or less paleontology art themed post (DinoMixer: on creating art for an iPhone app) reminded me that I have been wanting for some time to write a post about Chezk artist Zdeněk Burian, a pioneering paleontological reconstruction artist, natural history painter and book and magazine illustrator.

Zdeněk Burian (pronounced, according to William Stout via Jim Vadeboncoeur: “Zeh-DEN-yeck BURR-ee-yahn”), was, along with Charles R. Knight and Rudolph Zallinger, one of the most influential paleontological artists in the history of the field.

His detailed compositions showed prehistoric landscapes populated by fantastical animals that were simultaneously dramatic and, given the scientific knowledge at the time, painstakingly accurate. In spite of their attention to scientific detail, his paintings are lively, colorful and painterly, often with dramatic skies alive with roiling clouds.

Many of his dinosaur paintings have become iconic, well known even beyond the paleo art community; and he created images of many other periods of prehistoric life, including prehistoric mammals, extinct giant birds, ancient seas, early humans and human ancestors.

Burian studied at the Academy of Graphic Arts in Prague and begain selling illustrations while still in his second year, though not successfully enough to support himself or to prevent dropping out of school. Taking up odd jobs to support himself, he continued his own study, working on “adventure illustrations’ and eventually getting work illustrating western adventure fiction.

He was apparently not only prolific, but quite fast, a fact that was exploited by unscrupulous publishers, who demanded much and paid little.

Burian’s early interest in prehistoric life and paleontology, fueled in part by an admiration for Charles R. Knight’s paintings, bloomed when he partnered with paleontologist Josef Augusta to do prehistoric life reconstructions that provided art for numerous books, articles and museum exhibits.

It’s estimated that Burian created over 15,000 works — drawings in various media, paintings and illustrations, including illustrations for over 500 books.

Burian’s work was not widely seen outside Czechoslovakia until the 1960’s, when a series of books, many of them aimed at a popular audience, were published in the U.S. A number of his books are still available in various states of new or used.

Those who are mostly familiar with modern images of prehistoric animals, particularly dinosaurs, will find his images of upright iguanodons, tail-dragging tyrannosaurs and and giant sauropods with languorously curved necks and ground-hugging tails oddly quaint, but they were rigorously correct according to the best paleontological reconstructions of the day (interpretations of the appearance of long-extinct animals based on fragmentary fossilized bones, trackways and bone fragments is a constantly shifting landscape, new evidence is literally being uncovered daily).

What doesn’t get outdated, however, is Burian’s command of painting technique, his dramatic compositions, evocative landscapes and viscerally tactile suggestions of the textures of prehistoric life.

William Stout, himself a paleo artist of note (see my posts on William Stout) has published a Zdenek Burian Sketchbook – Volume One: Prehistoric Life, a nice companion to his Charles R. Knight Sketchbooks (here’s a mention of both on Paleoblog).

DinoMixer: on creating art for an iPhone app

DinoMixer, dinosaur mix and match app for iPhone and iPod touch, art by Charley Parker
Regular readers will know that I rarely feature my own projects or work on Lines and Colors, but once in a while I’ll be indulgent (as on my birthday, which happens to be today), particularly if I have a project going that is of interest.

I tend to be involved in many things — web site design, web comics, Flash animation, cartooning, sketching and painting, among others.

I also have a long running fascination with dinosaurs and paleontological art. Recently, I had the opportunity to combine several of those skill sets and interests; and, along with a two friends of mine, programmer Leon Stankowski and artist/sound designer Bruce Gulick, created an application for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

If you ever wanted to put a tyrannosaurus head on a pachycephalosaurus body and add a stegosaurus tail — there’s an app for that!   It’s called DinoMixer.

DinoMixer is an amusement, in which kids and dinosaur art fans of all ages can mix and match dinosaur heads, bodies and tails to make crazy mixed-up dinosaurs, or un-mix them to match up the real dinosaurs.

I designed the app and did the illustration for it, which proved to be an interesting process.

Any form of illustration has its intended method of final display, from paperback book cover to CD jewel-box to computer monitor to console game screen. The iPhone is its own display paradigm.

If you haven’t seen one in person, the screen is very nice, it’s 480×320 pixels displayed in a relatively small area, so the the actual pixels-per-inch resolution is sharper than most computer displays (160ppi vs 103ppi or less for monitors) and the color is excellent; so even though the screen is small, the image is detailed and sharp. It’s a nice platform to do art for.

I had to do a little digging to find out the preferred image format. Though the iPhone will display a variety of image files, PNG is the native image file-type for the device. PNG (Portable Network Graphics) is an underrated and terrific image format that allows both a wide color gamut of millions of colors and a full channel of alpha transparency.

Beyond those basics, though, I had given myself a challenge simply in the design of my particular app. To make the dinosaur parts match up, I had to divide the screen proportions into a grid, one that would accommodate the disparate body sizes and shapes of the various animals, and allow them to meet up at critical junctures where the illusion of joining them together could be accomplished. In addition, I wanted the dinosaurs to be relatively large on the screen, and use the small area to best advantage.

Fortunately, I’ve had this idea in one form or another percolating in my brain pan for several years (originally intended as a web feature, in dHTML or Flash), so the grid was a matter of adaptation to the iPhone screen proportions and refinement. But it was still quite a challenge to draw the animals so that they fit the grid, matched against one another and still retained a degree of scientific accuracy (there is no one quicker to notice discrepancies than a 10-year old dinosaur fan).

Once the dinosaurs were penciled to fit within the grid, I inked them, and in saying “penciled” or “inked”, I’m speaking of the digital equivalents, using a Wacom tablet and Corel Painter. I then applied digitally painted color and texture using Painter and Photoshop, in much the same method as I have used for the 15 years I’ve been doing my Argon Zark! digital web comic.

The use of ink lines filled with color wasn’t just a choice from my comfort with the technique, but vital, I realized, to producing the sense of unity necessary to make the dinosaur “mixes” work — the outlines connect precisely at their juncture points and form a whole.

I also took pains to blend the colors to an extent. While I wanted the colors of the dinosaurs to vary, to provide eye-pleasing variety, I also wanted some relationship between them. Though it’s difficult to see in the reduced resolution images, I found that working multiple colors into each dominant color, a technique often used by painters to produce overall harmony, was useful in giving the different colored dinos a bit of additional visual “glue”. Each of the dominant colors had accents and highlights of several of the other dominant colors within them.

In addition, I had to design a background that would showcase the animals and also connect them to the ground with a shadow, one that would meet the feet of all of the different shaped dinosaurs and serve as a universal shadow for all of them.

Lastly, I was not just creating illustrations that mixed and matched with one another, I was creating an application, and interface, with room for branding and functional controls, and the images had to work within that.

The final images, in particular the dinosaur heads, bodies and tails, had to be saved out as set-sized PNG files with transparent backgrounds, that would line up precisely with one another and allow the background to be seen behind them.

I created the original art at a much higher resolution than the target screen (3000 x 2000 pixels), both to give myself lots of leeway in creating detailed art, and to allow for repurposing the images (perhaps for T-shirts or other uses). I do the same with my web comic, create the original art at many times its intended display size.

10 dinosaurs (divided into 30 parts), a background, splash screen, nav bar and application icon later, I’m happy to say the resulting app works well, and has been getting good reviews. The seemingly simple premise took a lot of work (I conservatively estimate 200+ hours just on my part), but part of that was uptake on learning how to design and publish an iPhone app.

You can see the DinoMixer web site here, which includes screen shots as well as a short video, and those who use iTunes can see the DinoMixer app page in the iTunes App Store (link opens in iTunes).

I just submitted a new upgrade version of DinoMixer (v1.1) to the App Store yesterday, with features that include an additional dinosaur, multiple backgrounds and a dinosaur name box that pops up when you match a dinosaur correctly. If all goes well, it should make its way through the App Store approval process and be released in about a week.

Like many iPhone and iPod Touch apps, DinoMixer will be contine be upgraded with free revisions that add features and functionality. In my case, I’ll be drawing and adding new dinosaurs and backgrounds (as well as other features) for weeks to come. I can also update or revise the existing art whenever I want to invest the time and effort. It’s an illustration project with no set end or limit, something that makes it particularly appealing.