Eye Candy for Today: linear perspective tour de force by Carlo Crivelli

The Annunciation, with Saint Emidius, Carlo Crivelli
The Annunciation, with Saint Emidius, Carlo Crivelli.

In the National Gallery, London. Use the fullscreen and zoom tools to the right of the image.

There is also a large image on Wikimedia.

The early 15th century saw both linear geometrical perspective construction and the medium of oil painting come into common use in European painting (see my post on Jan van Eyck).

Here, Crivelli has a field day with both, and despite his apparent struggles with the proportions of hands and the shape of eyes (see my post on Rogier van der Weyden), creates a striking image of the Annunciation.

I love the cornucopia of little details, the fanatical attention to texture, the luxurious use of color and the nifty way the composition has the ray of divine inspiration reach the figure of Mary through a portal in the building wall. (You buy it, even though the angle is completely wrong; but hey — master of time and space, right?)

And then, of course, there’s the apple and the pickle…

Another example of my assertion that these painters were the special effects wizards of their day (see my post on Antonello da Messina), creating stunning visuals that wowed the faithful in altarpieces that in themselves were reason enough to attend church services.



All Over Coffee on The Rumpus

All Over Coffee on The Rumpus, Paul Madonna
First of all, if you’re not familiar with Paul Madonna’s wonderful All Over Coffee, you may want to read my previous article on All Over Coffee, or my subsequent post on the second collection, Everything is its own reward, in which I struggle to find sufficient superlatives to describe the feature.

Though ostensibly classified as a comic strip, the weekly feature, which has run for years in the San Francisco Chronicle, is part beautiful ink and wash drawings, part poetry, part wry observations, part story, and part I-don’t-know-what-but-I-really-like-it.

The good news, for those of us who are familiar with the feature, is not only that All Over Coffee has continued and flourished, but it is now available in at least two more forms. In addition to Madonna’s own site and the Chronicle’s SF Gate site, All over Coffee is now available on The Rumpus (where it is perhaps easiest to browse), and the second collection, Everything is its own reward is now available as a free iPad app (iTunes link).

The iPad app, rather than just offering the collection in book format, is actually linear, stepping from image to image with the words slowly revealed, adding an element of time and contemplation. (Ideally, you would want both the app and the printed version.)

The Rumpus also hosts Madonna’s Small Potatoes, a more traditional and less extravagant comic strip, as well as an interview with the artist in which he discusses his recent (and very different) book, Album.

The Rumpus also features an eclectic collection of other comics, and Paul Madonna serves as the Comics Editor.

I’m delighted to see Madonna continuing All Over Coffee and broadening its reach in addition to pursuing other projects.

All Over Coffee, in any of its available forms, is simply a treat.

[Addendum: Reader MJ was kind enough to let me know there is a KQED video interview with Paul Madonna.]


Eye Candy for Today: Adolph Menzel watermedia

The Choirstalls in the Mainz Cathedral, Adolph Menzel
The Choirstalls in the Mainz Cathedral by Adolph Menzel.

Watercolor and gouache. 8 7/8 x 11 3/8″ (22.6 x 28.9cm).

In the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Use the “Fullscreen” link below the image and then zoom or download arrow.


How to Ship Paintings on red dot blog

How to Ship Paintings on red dot blog
Jason Horejs is the owner of Xanadu Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona.

In addition to running the gallery, Horejs provides art marketing advice from the point of view of a gallery owner — some of it dispensed freely through his red dot blog (named, if you didn’t catch it, for the small red dots that traditionally indicate sold paintings in galleries), and some in a book, “Starving” to Sccessful, that is available through the blog.

His latest entry on the blog is How to Ship Paintings: A Step-by-Step Guide for Artists and Galleries, in which he gives a detailed and painstaking approach to protecting paintings and other two dimensional art from the terrors of the shipping process.

In addition to packing, Horejs covers topics like carrier policies and insurance, as well as things to avoid (like packing peanuts).

From the article:

Don’t Allow Bubble Wrap to Come in Direct Contact with Your Art

Recently we received a painting the artist wrapped using only bubble wrap. As I mentioned above, bubble wrap is great for padding your art in transit, but it should not come in direct contact with the art.

When we unwrapped the painting we could see that the bubble had stuck to the varnish. Removing it left an imprint of the bubble wrap on the surface of the entire painting. From certain angles you could see the perfectly spaced imprints of the bubbles. We had to have the artwork re-varnished before we could present it to a client who had already purchased it.


Trail of Steel – 1441 A.D., Marcos Mateu-Mestre

Trail of Steel - 1441 A.D., Marcos Mateu-Mestre
The link between movies and comics is a strong one. Even without the obvious bridge of their wonderful merging in animation, they share numerous qualities.

Both are visual storytelling mediums, and share a common concern with establishing shots, close-ups, framing a scene, conveying the spatial relationship of characters one to the other and other elements of essential visual continuity from scene to scene.

Both involve the element of time and of visual compositions that change over time.

Both have a “director’s” viewpoint, and the impact of choices of lighting, contrast and visual mood cannot be understated in the effectiveness with which a story is told.

Storyboards, which are used to plan movies, television and animation, are in essence a from of comics.

It’s not surprising then that there is crossover between the two fields; a number of comics artists and writers have moved into the fields of film and television and visual development artists have ventured into comics.

Marcos Mateu-Mestre, who I have profiled previously, has moved back and forth — he started as a comics artist for newspapers in his native Spain, moved into production design for animation and is currently a visual development artist working at Dreamworks.

In his excellent book, Framed Ink: Drawing and Composition for Visual Storytellers, which I reviewed here, he applied his expertise in both fields to create a superb framework for narrative illustration.

In his new book, Trail of Steel – 1441 A.D., Mateu-Mestre places those skills in the service of a graphic story about mercenary soldiers in 15th century Spain. The artist provided me with a review copy.

The storytelling, as you would expect, is dramatically cinematic, conveyed in Mateu-Mestre’s wonderfully fluid drawing style. He has an uncanny ability to combine precision draftsmanship and free, energetic rendering. I’ve spoken before about the delight I take in his drawing style.

The real highlight for me, however, is his mastery of tone. To say that the drawings are in black and white and grays is to miss the point. Here is a story told in both subtle and dramatic value contrasts that would not have been as effective if rendered any other way.

Mateu-Mestre uses value here in much the way skilled film directors use black and white film in many classic movies, creating a mood and atmosphere that would actually be difficult to achieve in color. These are images in which color would be a distraction and actually lessen the impact.

He has posted some images from the book on his blog in which he plays with the application of subtle colors to some of the pages (images above, second from bottom). As much as I like them as images and interesting experiments, I much prefer the panels as presented in the book.

Even though this is a story, students of comics (and visual storytelling in general) could consider Trail of Steel effective as a continuation of the lessons in Framed Ink — a textbook use of cinematic comics storytelling and the application of light and dark in narrative illustration.

The book is appended with a few notes on process, preliminary drawings and thumbnail page layouts. It is available as both a European style hardcover album (the best format for comics, IMHO) and a trade paperback.

You can find more mentions of the book on Mateu-Mestre’s blog, along with more of his visual development work, including some beautiful tone and color images from his work on Puss In Boots.


Eye Candy for Today: Ilya Repin’s Sadko

Sadko in the Underwater Kingdom, Ilya Repin
Sadko in the Underwater Kingdom, Ilya Repin.

Link is to large image on Wikimedia Commons. Original is in the State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg. Sadko is a medieval Russian epic.

[Note: full size version might be considered mildly NSFW.]