Franz von Stuck

Franz von Stuck
German symbolist and Art Nouveau painter Franz von Stuck (sometimes simply “Franz Stuck”) began his career as an illustrator and cartoonist for popular magazines; but after winning a gold medal at his first painting exhibition, and experiencing subsequent critical success, he began to devote himself to painting, engraving and sculpture, as well as architecture.

Von Stuck studied at the Munich Academy, and later returned to take up his role as a professor, counting among his students noted modernist stars like Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky and Josef Albers.

Stuck was one of the founders of the Munich Secession, a group of like minded artists who withdrew from the official auspices of academic art and established styes outside the mainstream (the most widely recognized of these groups was the Vienna Secession, which included Gustav Klimt).

Von Stuck was highly successful and critically well regarded in his time, though his fame and influence faded toward the end of his life. He is sometimes compared to Arnold Böcklin, by whom he was greatly influenced. The comparisons are often unfavorable, but Von Stuck went his own way and was responsible for wonderfully intense interpretations of mythological subjects and literary subjects, like his portrayal of Lucifer (above, third down).

He designed and constructed his own frames, which he considered an integral part of the work. He was a talented sculptor as well as a painter, at times applying both skill sets to works like his striking painted relief of Beethoven (above, bottom), based on a mask of the composer once thought to be a death mask, but later established as a mask made from Beethoven’s face during his lifetime. Von Stuck’s portrait evokes the kind of fiery intensity we associate with “Ludwig van’s” stirring work.


Jamie Burton

Jamie Burton
Indiana born, Seattle based illustrator, painter, comic book artist and 3D gaming environmental artist Jamie Burton studied at the John Herron School of Art in Indianapolis, and then at the Joe Kubert School of Art in New Jersey, where he prepared for subsequent work as a comic book inker for DC Comics.

Burton transitioned into concept and environmental art for the gaming industry, but still likes to let his imagination roam freely with his paintings and poster designs.

His website has sections for paintings, illustrations, ink drawings, sketches and posters. In the paintings section you will find examples of his wonderfully wild and offbeat depictions of characters, animals, environments and all manner of flights of fancy.

There is also a Merchandise section on his site with prints and originals. He also has a blog where you can find pieces not included on his site, and sometimes larger versions of works that you will see there.

Burton uses a high-chroma palette, often casting entire elements or groups of elements in an almost monochromatic scheme, punched up with lots of complimentary color relationships and set off with deep value contrasts, to make his pieces “pop”. He works in a variety of media — pencil, ink, acrylic, oil and digital.

In his paintings he mixes in areas of patterns, frequently with an Aztec or Mayan feeling, suggestions of masks and bizarre costumes, to create a fun visual mix, zapped with electric colors and delivered with a good dose of humor.


Walter Gotschke

Walter Gotschke
Walter Gotschke is one of the names intimately linked with the early history of automotive art, a subset of illustration that followed the rise of the importance of automobiles themselves in the 20th Century.

Gotschke was born in the Czech Republic, but spent much of his career in Germany while it was under nazi rule and was drafted into military service during WW II. His portrayals of German cars, including many advertisements for mercedes and Diamler, were accompanied by illustrations of WW II era aircraft and other non-automotive subjects.

His illustrations of various automobiles also included Italian, American and other car makers.

Gotschke is perhaps most often associated with his lively, sketch-like gouache illustrations of classic racing cars, roaring around tracks, their distinctive grilles punching through dust and smoke, as daredevil drivers coaxed the machines through twists and turns.

These were often briefly noted, with crisp strokes of gouache, hazes of wash and bright but not preternaturally intense colors. Gotschke also created more developed paintings, some of which you will find on the official website under “Art Prints: Cultural History” (image above, top).

The site itself suffers a bit from awkward navigation, and you’ll find that searching through the Picture Library quickly moves from the English language areas into the German language part of the site.

A little digging, however, will uncover many examples of Gotschke’s watercolor and gouache representations of the 20th Century’s obsession and fascination with the automobile.

[Suggestion courtesy of David Teter]



Like many of the online interactive color visualization and color picking utilities, ColorJack offers multiple interfaces with different options and capabilities.

The most interesting of these, and most popular of the ColorJack options, is their Color Sphere, or Color Theory Visualizer (image above, top). More than simply a color picker, this displays the secondary, tertiary and multiple other colors in some of the most common color harmony relationships (complimentary, split-complementary, triadic, etc.); and allows you to dynamically see their relationship in the color space as you move the chosen color within the sphere, or adjust one of the color’s characteristics in the bars to the right of the sphere.

Another interface is the Color Galaxy (above, second down); it displays the color wheel position of various named colors, displayed from a color index chosen from a drop-down menu at top left. This would be more useful to painters if there were a choice traditional painters pigments, though you will find some of them in the “CNE” choice. There are choices for Munsell’s catalog listings, though you need to be familiar with his cryptic indexing system for it to be particularly useful.

Other options include the obligatory swatches feature, an online drawing app they call Sketchpad (above, third down), other color pickers, color relates articles, and a blog (image above, bottom).

Navigation between the sections is inconsistent, but you’ll find interesting features if you’re willing to flip around and investigate.


Marc Gabbana (update)

Marc Gabbana
Since I last wrote about illustrator and concept artist Marc Gabbana back in 2005, his website has been revised and expanded with many more of his wonderful concept illustrations for films like Matrix Reloaded, Martix Revolutions, Star Wars Episode I and II, Monsterhouse, War of the Worlds, Beowulf, and the recent Disney production of Dicken’s A Christmas Carol.

Gabbana has a versatile style, ranging from atmospheric realism to highly rendered but delightfully cartoony flights of sci-fi whimsey. He also works in a variety of media, preferring digital for his recent concept illos, but working in acrylic, pencil, ink and marker for older pieces.

One of the things I enjoy most about his acrylic paintings and some of his more playful digital paintings (images above, middle), in addition to his terrifically fun use of brilliant colors and dynamic value relationships, is his approach to texture. Look for the detail crops of some of his robots and machines in which he delights in the pitted surfaces of worn metal.

His portfolio also includes illustrations for advertising, various publications, comic book covers, model kits and other products, as well as personal images in which he lets his imagination run wild.

Gabbana now has a blog, called Black Hammer, and has just released two instructional DVD’s through Gnomon Workshop, Visual Development with Marc Gabbana Volume One and Volume Two. You can see a couple of excerpts from them on Sketch Theatre.

He also did the recent cover for Airbrush Action magazine’s 25th Anniversary issue (May-June, 2010, digital version orders here), that includes a ten page article on Gabbana. In addition he created the illustration for the Spectrum 15 Call for Entries (images above, top, see my posts on Spectrum 14 and Spectrum 13).

As you explore his site and look back through the film concepts, be sure not to miss Gabbana’s beautiful pen and marker concepts for the Star Wars movies (above, bottom).


Rembrandt’s Self Portrait as the Apostle Paul

Rembrandt's Self Portrait as the Apostle Paul
Rembrandt created one of the most extraordinary visual autobiographies in the history of art in the form of over 80 self portraits in paintings, drawings and etchings.

At times he used himself as a model for a historical or Biblical subject, in this case as the Apostle Paul, seen with the characteristic manuscript and sword (the hilt of which is visible under his cloak).

Here we see Rembrandt exhibiting his astonishing skill as a painter.

From the deft rough strokes that define the head wrapping to the physical texture of the scumbling on the intensly rendered face, Rembrandt applies shockingly modern contrasts of color and texture, pulling the face from the darkness of the background in a mastery of chiaroscuro second to none (I won’t get into the Rembrandt vs. Caravaggio arguments – grin).

Rembrandt is about 55 here, the painting is dated 1661. It’s interesting to compare this work with some of his other portraits, like this one at his easel eight year later.

You can see more of Rembrandt’s self portraits in a selection here on the Rembrandt van Rijn site created by Jonathan Janson, who is also responsible for the wonderful Essential Vermeer site (see my post on Essential Vermeer).

The original of this work is in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam (large version here).

There is a nice book of Rembrandt’s self portraits, Rembrandt by Himself by National Gallery London Publications. You may have to look around a bit to find a copy.

Rembrandt looks weary here; once the most successful and sought after painter in Amsterdam, his fortunes were fading. The year before he was forced to sell his house and etching press and seek more modest accommodations. He had made antagonists of the Painter’s Guild, who had made it difficult for him to ply his skills legally; a problem he circumvented by placing his wife and son as owners of his business; and his latest commission for city hall, granted because the painter originally contracted had died, would be rejected.

Rembrant’s visual autobiography is a tale of both triumph and tragedy; but the telling, the paintings themselves, are undeniable high marks in the history of art.