Zahra’s Paradise

Zahra's Paradise
Working under assumed names for obvious reasons, writer “Amir” and artist “Khalil” chronicle events in Iran in the wake of the disputed elections of 2009 in an ongoing story called Zahra’s Paradise.

Zahra’s Paradise is a graphic story that is being published as a webcomic in installments every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It just started on February 19, and will continue to include current events as they happen in the context of a fictional story. It follows a young Iranian blogger’s search for his brother, who has disappeared following his participation in the post-election protests.

The author is an Iranian-American human rights activist and the artist is a sculptor, ceramics artist and cartoonist who is taking on his first graphic novel.

The webcomic is being published simultaneously in English, Farsi, Arabic, French, Spanish, Italian and Dutch. First Second Books will publish the story in book form in 2011.

The site conveniently opens on the first page of the story (unlike the majority of webcomics, who open their site with the most recent page on the mistaken assumption that convenience for current readers is more important than orienting new ones.)

The art is clear and straightforward, with enough touches of style to add visual charm without distracting from the storytelling. Simple tones and hatching, along with well spotted blacks, provide depth and visual balance.

The characters are immediately accessible, even to Westerners who might assume they have little connection to people and events in Iran. As we follow along with the search for Mehdi, we may find out more about how similar, and different, our lives are.

[Via BoingBoing]


Edward Sorel

Edward Sorel
Edward Sorel’s wonderfully loose and gestural cartoon illustrations have been featured on the covers and interiors of magazines like The Atlantic, The New Yorker, Harpers, Forbes, The Nation, Esquire and The New York Times Magazine for a number of years.

His pen and ink and watercolor images capture personalities, places and situations with wry humor and an uncanny sense of place.

Sorel studied at Cooper Union and was one of the co-founders of the legendary Push Pin Studios. He has had a number of one-man shows, including a 1998 multi-room show at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC (see my post on The National Portrait Gallery).

A collection was published in conjunction with the show, Unauthorized Portraits from 1997. He has also illustrated a number of books and created numerous posters.

There is an interview here, conducted by artist Zina Saunders, along with Saunders’ portrait of Sorel. (Here’s my post on Zina Saunders.)

Sorel’s work has been compared to other modern masters of caricature like David Levine, and even to historic figures like Daumier and Hogarth.


William Wendt

William Wendt
In an essay for the Laguna Art Museum, Michael McManus referred to the wave of American painters who brought the influence of the French Impressionists to California in the early 20th Century as “Impressionism’s Indian Summer”.

Impressionism flowered late in California because it was largely a remote area before the turn of the century. The artists who came there early found a largely unspoiled and non-industrialized landscape, ideal for their endeavors. (For more on the timeline of California Impressionism, see my post on Guy Rose.)

Along with his friend George Gardner Symons, William Wendt was one of the Chicago area artists who came to California on the rail line that was completed in the late 1800’s.

Unlike Guy Rose, who was actually a student of Monet, Wendt only indulged in the all-out Impressionist dissolution of form in a flurry of paint strokes for a brief time. For most of his career, he painted in a more restrained palette, heavy in greens and browns, with broader strokes; to my eye more in keeping with some of the other American Impressionists like William Merrit Chase.

Though his colors were not as dazzling as those of some of his contemporaries, they were perfectly suited for his subjects. Wendt’s paintings carry a fresh, open feeling of the California countryside, rendered in the immediate style of paintings started, if not always finished, on location.


Jordu Schell

Jordu Schell
Jordu Schell makes monsters; icky, scary, grotesque and hairy, monsters, aliens, creatures and beasties of all manner and configuration.

Schell is a sculptor and concept artist working in the film industry. His credits include Avatar, Leigon, War of the Worlds, Hellboy, Galaxy Quest and many other feature films.

Schell is primarily a sculptor, working in clay and other physical materials, not 3-D CGI sculpture. His studio creates masks, maquettes, busts, full size sculpture and other three dimensional visualizations of imaginary monsters, creatures and alien life forms for film concept design.

Like many sculptors, Schell also works in two dimensions, drawing sketches both as preliminaries for sculptures and as an end in themselves. His Monster of the Day seems to be primarily for his own amusement.

Schell’s site has galleries of his studio’s work in many areas. Be aware that most sections have multiple pages, accessed by a row of small numbers to the lower right. The Illustration and Monster of the Day sections in particular go on for many pages.

The sculpture sections often feature many images of the piece both preliminary and finished, in multiple positions. Some of his preliminary pieces have a nice “sketch like” quality, if you can apply that term to clay.

There is also a blog, on which he posts the Monster of the Day sketch as well as posting about more finished works.

Unfortunately, I just missed telling you about Schell while there was a show of his work at Gallery Nucleus, in California. The gallery still has pieces for sale, however.

If you like fun scary monsters, beautifully done with great attention to surface texture and color, as well as nicely imaginative sketches of wildly bizarre monster concepts, Schell’s work should keep you happily knee deep in monsters for hours.

Addendum: There is an article on Schell in issue #2 of Dan Zimmer’s HorrorShow Magazine.


Jos van Riswick

Jos van Riswick
Jos van Riswick is a contemporary Dutch still life painter, living in Nijmegen, Holland, and working in the general tradition of the Dutch still life painters of the past.

Van Riswick is a self-taught painter, originally having studied and then taught physics. He started painting in an Impressionist style; but then, after becoming familiar with some contemporary Dutch realists, started to reach back and study the masters, and moved to a more finished realist style.

His subjects are often fruit, vegetables, china and glassware; items that have been the staples of still life painting tradition, as well as tin boxes, tools, and other household items.

Van Riswick employs a controlled, subdued palette, with careful attention to lighting and shadow in his compositions. Though his handling is fairly finished, he leaves enough painterly surface to convey the appeal of visible, tactile paint. Texture is also an important element in his portrayal of physical objects; he captures the surfaces of wood, metal, glass and, of course, the various food items, with subtle visual clues and brief notation of variations in color and value.

His web site features his studio work. He also has a blog, Postcard from Holland, that features his more immediate small paintings, supplemented with a secondary web site that archives those smaller works.

There is an article on his site about technique, and he also posts videos to YouTube that are in instructional time-lapse records of the process of painting some of his small daily paintings (image above, bottom left, with finished piece, bottom right). These are very direct and simply done, and as such, are some of the more useful still life painting instruction videos on YouTube.


Thom Tenery

Thom Tenery
If you look at enough concept art, particularly within the gaming industry, much of it can come to feel repetitive and even formulaic; which why I was so pleased to discover the concept art of Thom Tenery, which is delightfully imaginative, unique and wonderfully realized.

Tenery studied Architecture at the University of Texas, Austin, and worked designing architecture and interiors for a number of years.

He studied illustration and concept design at the Art Center College of Design, and moved into that field. His work is included in the book, In the Future…: Entertainment Design at Art Center College of Design.

Tenery has done work for companies like Sony Entertainment, Propaganda Games and Spacetime Studios; and is currently Senior Concept Artist at ID Software.

His web site has a long, single page gallery of concept art from various projects; which are not identified. His sketchblog, lab luna, has additional concept images, plus sketches, speedpaintings and plein air paintings in gouache.

There is also a gallery on the site, and an interview with Tenery conducted by Irene Gallo.

Tenery is featured prominently and is co-author of the new book Alien Race: Visual Development of an Intergalactic Adventure.