Mark A. Nelson

Mark A. Nelson
Mark A. Nelson is an illustrator, comics artist, concept artist and art director. He has worked for Dark Horse Comics, Marvel Comics, DC Comics, Kitchen Sink Press, Wizards of the Coast, TSR and many other publishers, as well as gaming and visual development companies like Raven Software, Sega Games and Pure Imagination Studios.

Nelson has a graphic style, largely in pen and ink, that emphasizes beautifully effective line work and linear textures. In addition to his confident drawing style, the linear character of his work gives it a particular visual appeal that owes much, I think, to his background as a printmaker. The lines are controlled, emphasized and varied in weight in a way that gives the renderings a wonderful surface character.

Many of the pieces on his website appear to be for personal projects, or just the fun of sketching — and they are a treat. Nelson seems to have a endless array of imaginative creatures, drawn from a fascination with natural forms.

I particularly enjoy his ink drawings on toned paper, which are highlighted with what I take to be touches of white chalk or pastel, and perhaps gouache. Nelson also works in color, and you can sometimes find the same piece in both a monochrome and later color stage.

You can also find his work on his deviantART gallery.
There is a short video interview with the artist on YouTube.

There are several print collections of Nelson’s work available from his website store.

Nelson is married to painter and illustrator Anita C. Nelson; they share the Grazing Dinosaur Press studio and website.

[Note: some of the images on the linked sites should be considered NSFW.]


Saturnino Herrán

Saturnino Herran
Though the internet has greatly facilitated the exchange of cultural information between nations in recent decades, there are still large gaps in the general awareness of art between some nations.

With the exception of one famous couple, few painters from Mexico are well known here in the U.S. — despite its proximity and rich cultural history.

A reader was kind enough to bring to my attention the terrific 19th century Mexican painter and illustrator, Saturnino Herrán, for whom I had only previously seen one painting.

Saturnino studied art at the Academy of Fine Arts of San Carlos in Mexico City. Diego Revera and Roberto Montenegro also studied there at about the same time, but I don’t know if Herrán was acquainted with them.

Herrán later became a professor at the Academy. He also was a book and natural history illustrator.

His major painting influences seemed to be from Spain and Catalan, as well as a number of European Symbolists, and he brought those sensibilities to the portrayal of Mexican subjects.

Herrán had a particular fascination with the Mexican indigenous cultures, and was working on plans for a large scale mural called “The Gods” (or “Our Gods” — I’m not certain) at the time of his premature death at 31 from an illness.

Unfortunately, I can’t find as many sources for Herrán’s work as I would like, and many of them repeat some of the same images. One of them, however, is a high resolution image of his stunning painting The Offering on the Google Art Project and Wikimedia Commons (image above, top, with detail).

Some of Herrán’s contemporaries criticized his style, calling his paintings “painted drawings”, but I think it is his superb draftsmanship of the human figure that provides the strength of his best work. His drawings are notably strong as well. (In some of them, particularly his preparatory mural drawings, he reminds me of the terrific American illustrator Dean Cornwell.)

There was a Google Doodle, with an interpretation of The Offering, to celebrate Herrán’s 126th birthday in 2013, but I believe it was only shown in Mexico.

There are a couple of out of print Spanish language books on Herrán that appear to be rare and expensive, but may be worth keeping an eye out for in used book sources.

[Suggestion courtesy of Lucía Cano]


Noëll Triaureau

Noelle Triaueau, Hotel Transylvania concept art
Noëlle Triaureau is a visual development artist and art director working with Sony Pictures Animation.

Her credits include Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Surf’s Up and the upcoming as yet untitled Smurf movie; but I was particularly struck by images of her beautiful work on Hotel Transylvania, for which she also served as Art Director.

In these she demonstrates a remarkable sensibility for the theatrical character of light in a cinematic context, with dramatic framing of near-silhouettes in pools of light or contrastingly bright subjects against dark shapes.

It would be easy to be heavy-handed with this approach, but Triaureau’s handling is subtle and nuanced — all within the context of artwork that is meant to serve as a guide for film production, not as finished work in itself.

Triaureau’s blog has some of her visual development pieces, fortunately reproduced large enough to see some of the refined nature of her approach. There is also a selection on Concept Art World.

There is a print interview with the artist on Animated Views and a brief video interview and descriptive talk on YouTube about the Smurf movie project, on which she serves as Production Designer.


Eye Candy for Today: George Inness landscape study

Landscape Study, George inness
Landscape Study, George inness

On Wikimedia Commons. As far as I can tell, the original is in a private collection.

In this small but strikingly beautiful study (9×13 in; 23x33m), we get an uncharacteristic glimpse of Inness wielding the brush. The brief notations of the animals and buildings are remarkable for their naturalistic appearance when viewed from a slight distance.


Online art supply as a resource for pigment information

Online art supply as a pigment info resource
This is not a review or endorsement of any online art supplier; I think all of the well known ones are probably fine, and each has their plusses and minuses.

This is about a resource that a particular art supplier, Dick Blick, offers as part of their online catalog. When browsing for paints — whether oil, acrylic, watercolor, gouache, pastels or other — the Blick site offers the ability to drill down into information about the pigments used in various paint colors.

The pigments in some paints are fairly straightforward. When you buy a tube of Chromium Oxide Green, you can reasonably expect the primary pigment to be oxide of chromium. The metal cadmium (cadmium sulfide or cadmium-zinc sulfide) is likewise the expected pigment in Cadmium Yellow.

The constitution of other paint colors is often less clear. True Naples Yellow, for example, was classically made with lead, and only a few select paint makers offer a genuine Naples Yellow (an example would be Vasari Colors). Most paint manufacturers feel at liberty to call a paint “Naples Yellow” that is made with any number of other more contemporary pigments.

By the same token, a color like “Paynes Grey”, though it has historic formulas, is a blend open to a variety of modern interpretations. So-called “Permanent Alizarin Crimson” is never actually that, but a formulation of other colors (that should more properly be called “Alizarin Crimson Hue”), the recipe for which is different from brand to brand.

So those like myself who are often curious about the constitution of various paint colors are left to wonder about what pigments are in a given paint. Sometimes the manufacturers will give that information on their websites, but it’s scattered and inconsistent.

This is where I find the resources for individual paint colors on the Blick website useful.

When you browse the Blick website for any given paint type and manufacturer — for example, Winsor and Newton Watercolors — you’re presented with a list of small color swatches and names. What’s not made obvious is that the item number in the left column (though oddly, not the paint name itself) is linked to a detail page for that particular paint color.

This is further divided by tabs into a general description with a small photographic paint swatch, a “Color Swatch” tab with a larger swatch — usually with tints or dilutions of the paint, and a “Pigment Info” tab.

In the latter, Blick has provided a list of the pigments used to make up that particular color, as well as a descriptive background on those pigments, their chemical composition, transparency, lightfastness, toxicity, history and alternate nomenclature.

Caveat: I have to assume that Blick has collected this information from the manufacturers, but I have no way to determine how accurate or consistent it may be. I offer it as something interesting and possibly useful for those who are interested to know what’s in a given paint.

Also, this only includes information on those manufacturers who deal with the large art materials suppliers, and doesn’t include independents like Vasari Colors, Robert Doak, RGH and Blue Ridge Oil Paints, but it can give you a general picture of the variety of pigments in given colors.

In the images above, I’ve used some well-known manufacturers of watercolor to provide an illustration of the variety of pigments in their formulations for the same color name.


Martin Wittfooth (update)

Martin Wittfooth
Martin Wittfooth is a New York based painter who I first wrote about back in 2008.

Wittfooth applies his lifelong fascination with classical art to paintings in which animals serve as the subject of sometimes overt, sometimes enigmatic musings on the state of the planet.

No humans appear in his paintings, but the influence of mankind’s activity is evident in his frequently dark-edged compositions. Wittfooth’s semi-mythical creatures exist in a netherworld of human creations and influence, both in the form of technological artifacts and the hybrid flowers cultured by generations of our preferences.

There seem to be touches of East-Asian thought mingled with his classical European painting approach; Many of the animals have literal or suggested “third eyes”, perhaps implying that there is more to see beyond the veil of what we are shown.

There are interviews with the artist on BeinART Collective and ClawClaw, and a video interview on YouTube, as well as a brief time-lapse of him painting.

Wittfooth’s work will be on display in New York at the Jonathan LeVine Gallery in a solo exhibition titled “Offering” that runs from October 17 to November 14, 2015, with an opening reception October 17 from 6-8pm.