Zac Retz

Zac Retz
Zac Retz is an illustrator, color artist and character designer for film, based in Rochester, NY.

Though you will find a few color guides and model sheets, most of the work on Retz’s blog and website appear to be personal digital sketches, sometimes sketched from life, but more often flights of fancy.

In his personal work, Rets likes to play with light and shadow, often giving his pieces dramatic focus with theatrical lighting effects, juxtaposing light and dark passages as well as setting passages of dense texture against areas in which detail has been supressed.

Eye Candy for Today: E. Phillips Fox’s The Ferry

The Ferry, E. Phillips Fox
The Ferry, E. Phillips Fox

Link is to zoomable images on Google Art Project; downloadable high-resolution file on Wikimedia Commons; original is in the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Fox was an Australian artist who studied and worked in Paris, adopting the brilliant color and free brushwork of the French Impressionists. Like his counterparts, the American Impressionists, Fox did not share the French painters’ urgent rejection of academic values, and applied his color and style to an underpinning of traditional draftsmanship. His approach reminds me in particular of some of the brighter Impressionist-inspired paintings of American painter Edmund Tarbell (also here).

The Ferry is probably Fox’s best known work, based on his visit to a resort in the north of France, and made an impact on other Australian painters when it was shown in Sydney in 1913.

Mike Worrall

Mike Worrall
Originally from the UK and now living in Australia, painter Mike Worrall is essentially self-taught.

His work shows a range of fascinating influences, from Velázquez — particularly evident in Worrall’s fascination with those bizarrely wide gowns seen in portraits of the Spanish royal family — to other 17th century painters, to Surrealists like Paul Delvaux, René Magritte and Max Ernst, and perhaps magic realists like George Tooker and others.

In many cases, Worrall makes direct reference to the work of past painters — such as his obvious homage to Magritte shown above. Worrell, however, tends to be more visceral in his presentation of the textures of the real world in his dream-like images than Magritte or most of the original Surrealists.

Worrall has worked at times as a concept artist for the film industry, bringing his dream state imagination to such films a Alien III.

The galleries on Worrell’s website are arranged by year, and extend back to the mid-90s; There are brief interviews with the artist on Combustus and Nightmare magazine.

I’m particularly fascinated by Worrall’s compositions involving storefronts, with their intricate reflections, ghostly faces or figures, and a sense they create of their facades as transitional points for other planes of space and time.

[Via beinART Collective]

[Note: some images on the linked sites may be NSFW]

Eye Candy for Today: John Everett Millais’ Ophelia

Ophelia, John Everett Millais
Ophelia, John Everett Millais

Link is to zoomable version on Google Art Project; high resolution downloadable version (22 MB) on Wikimedia Commons; original is in the Tate, London.

Prompted by yesterday’s post on the mezzotint print by John Stephenson after this painting by Millais, and the fact that I last mentioned the painting back in 2006, I thought it might be enlightening to compare the two more closely. I’ve taken basically the same detail crops I took of the mezzotint print in my images above.

I have not yet had the pleasure of seeing the original, though I have seen some of Millais’s originals in the excellent collection of Pre-Raphaelite painting in the Delaware Art Museum, so I have some idea of the level of finish and attention to the detailed representation of nature for which Millais, and this painting in particular, are renowned.

I have to say that in addition to finding it very interesting and informative to compare Stephenson’s approach — which by its nature must focus on value and texture, rather than color — to Millais’ full painting, I was frankly surprised to find there are passages in which I actually find the print has surpassed the painting — particularly in making areas of foliage and the water plants into visually appealing textural elements.

Millais’ painting, however, is striking and memorable on many levels, not the least of which is the tragic figure of Ophelia, borne away as much by her grief-induced madness as by the waters of the stream.

The painting (as well as many others by other artists) was inspired by a passage Shakespeare’s Hamlet (Act IV, Scene VII). The scene is not acted out in the play, but conveyed in a poetic description by Queen Gertrude:

There is a willow grows aslant a brook,
That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream.
There with fantastic garlands did she come
Of crow-flowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples
When down her weedy trophies and herself
Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide,
And, mermaid-like, awhile they bore her up;

After painting the background, with its astonishing level of fidelity to nature, for an extraordinary number of hours on the Hogsmill River in southern England, Millais painted the figure of Ophelia in his studio, modeled by 19 year old Elizabeth Siddal — who was a frequent model for several of the Pre-Raphaelite painters, and would eventually wed Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood co-founder Dante Gabriel Rosetti. Millais had her pose in a gown laying in a bathtub full of water in his studio for hours on end.

Reportedly, the oil lamps Millais was using to keep the tub warm in the chilly studio went out at times, and when Millais, engrossed in painting, didn’t notice, and Siddal didn’t complain, it resulted in Siddal coming down with an illness (either a severe cold, or perhaps pneumonia) for which her family held Millais responsible and insisted he pay for her medical expenses.

For more, there is an entry on Wikipedia devoted to the painting, and I go into the background of the painting a bit in my 2006 post on Sir John Everett Millais.

Eye Candy for Today: Ophelia, Stephenson mezzotint after Millais

Ophelia, James Stephenson, after John Everett Millais, Mezzotint, etching and Stipple,
Ophelia, James Stephenson, after John Everett Millais

In the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Mezzotint, etching and Stipple, roughly 21 x 34 inches (53 x 86 cm).

In a kind of artistic collaboration that was not uncommon at the time, highly skilled etcher and engraver James Stephenson has interpreted as a print what is perhaps the most famous work by Pre-Raphaelite painter John Everett Millais.

You can see a high-resolution zoomable image of the original painting on Google Art Project.

Millais’ extraordinary attention to the observation of nature is carried over into Stephenson’s delicately handled print. The result is quite astonishing, really, not just in the detail and fidelity to the painting, but in Stephenson’s wonderfully delicate and subtle handling of the medium, and his superb control of value throughout the composition.

Mezzotint, a process related to etching — and more closely to drypoint — is a method of creating halftones by texturing the surface of an etching plate with tiny dots that will receive the ink. (See the Met’s essay: The Printed Image in the West: Mezzotint, the London National Portrait Gallery’s Early History of Mezzotinet, and Wikipedia for more information.)

For more on the original painting, see my post on John Everett Millais.

Lucas Graciano

Lucas Graciano, fantasy illustration, dragons
Southern California artist Lucas Graciano has worked in concept design and visual development for the gaming industry as well as illustration for books and games.

His website and blog focus primarily on the latter, particularly showcasing his fantasy themed illustrations for “Magic: The Gathering”.

Both sources provide some reasonably large images in which you can appreciate Graciano’s nicely painterly style. Unlike many of his contemporaries in the field, Graciano works in traditional media, specifically oil on board, rather than digital painting.

I enjoy his portrayals of dragons in particular, resplendent with spines and leathery wings, and rendered, like much of Graciano’s work, with attention to textural variation that gives a feeling of physical presence.

His blog includes preliminary drawings, versions of printed work and sketches and paintings done for the classes he teaches at the Watts Atelier of the Arts.