Saturday, July 23, 2016

Spectrum 24 Poster

By Justin Gerard

I recently had the opportunity to work with John Fleskes on the Spectrum 24 Call for Entries poster. It was a great project to work on and today I'm going to share a bit about the development of it with you.   

Development Comp

The scene is inspired by Tolkien's depiction of the fall of Gondolin in The Silmarillion.  

In the above comp I have drawn from several other development drawings that I created while immersed in the story. I don't always have such detailed comp work for my images, but I had the benefit here of a few years of drawings that I had created before I was ready to attempt the scene.  
In truth, there have been a lot of false starts and failures along the way. Perhaps I just wasn't ready to paint it until now. Perhaps I was lacking some small technical ability that has eluded me until now. 

OR perhaps I was cursed. Which is why I have placed all of my miserable little failed thumbnails in a locked box, wrapped that box in chains and even now plan to sink that box to the very bottom of the sea, so it's wretched existence and my humiliating defeats are known only to the muddy denizens of that vast watery grave. 
Or maybe I will throw it in a giant volcano of doom, and make it my scapegoat for all my artistic failures and we will have a good harvest this year. 
Anyway, all that to say, that painful failure is a wonderful teacher and i had all the near-hits to draw on for this one. And I had a really good feeling about the thumbnail pictured at the upper right of the comp. 

Toned Study 
of Elf knights having a bad time.

Tight Drawing 
on Strathmore 500 bristol


The painting itself was drawn on paper (using Caran D'ache Pablo pencils) and then watercolored. It was scanned at high resolution and brought into Adobe Photoshop. Photoshop is great because I am practically blind and it allows me to zoom in 1000%.  It also offers some wonderful tools for painting and working with lighting which feel not so different from their traditional counterparts.  The digital aspect of the painting begins with working in shadows, then highlights, then colors, then details.

Shadow Layers

After adding the shadow layers to achieve the level of darkness I want, I add highlights using a light grey tone on a screen layers. Working this way feels the most like adding the whites in the dutch flemish manner of underpainting. (Which is the only painting method that makes any sense to my brain) 

Highlight layers

Working in the initial highlights is one of my favorite moments of the whole painting process. Using screen layers allows me to not only lighten focal areas, but also add sharp details to them at the same time. Comparing the above image to the previous one you can see the figures crystalize and leap out from the shadows. I love this moment.  

This effect of using a screen layer to recapture lost highlights and also sharpen details is one that I will use several times throughout the painting whenever areas get too muddy.

Detail Layers

Color and details are added next using a variety of layer types: normal, multiply, color dodge and color using both normal and mixer brush types of my own sinister design. And while the colors and little highlights are important, the main statement of digital phase is made in the shadow and highlighting phases and I consider this the most important part of the digital painting phase.  

Final Painting

The Final Spectrum Poster will be going out in the fall. For more information on the contest and Spectrum in general visit them at

We will also be selling prints later this year at Details on that and Sketchbook 2016 soon!

Friday, July 22, 2016

"On Form" by Scott Waddell - Review

I had the chance to study at Grand Central Academy (now Atelier) several years ago and took a class from Scott Waddell.  Scott is an excellent teacher.  He is thorough, approaching art instruction like science.  He provides ideas, examples and demos that bring clarity to complex principles.

I have reviewed a previous tutorial from Scott before with his release of The Portrait Course.

In his video On Form, Scott has taken his explanations even further. He has refined his instructions so that they are easier for beginners to understand. For more advanced students, the video solidifies ideas that might be intuitive from experience.

One aspect of his videos that I love are the diagrams that he creates to illustrate a principle.  They are very well thought out and drive home the ideas discussed.

Most painting videos show an artist working on a painting, talking while you watch them paint. Scott has taken the time to script his videos and explain what he is thinking about while he paints. He states the principles implemented and why.

What is included
Main Feature - On Form - 26 minutes
Appendix - 13 minutes
Demonstrations - closer look at process that include two 30 minute videos
PDF file with a transcript, illustrated glossary and guide

The Main Feature - In this video Scott covers:
  • Imagined and Observed From - How we see form and imagine form
  • Appearance of Form - How light interacts with form
  • Material of Form - How texture impacts light upon a form
  • Applying, Interpreting and Creating Form
  • Evaluating Form - How to view your work in an accurate manner

Appendix - The Appendix video is broken up into small explanations of important concepts

  • Geometric Forms - Scott explains how the understanding of primitive forms can be applied to more complex forms.
  • Shadows - Scott's explanation of shadow color is definitive and excellent
  • Blending Form - How to see angles of form and contour and translate them into paint.
  • Alternative Ways to Paint Form
  • Color Mixing

Demonstrations - Scott includes two excellent videos that show him painting four faces or figures. These demos are well scripted with clear thoughts and explanations. This is what really sets his videos apart from most others. Rather than a stream of conscious approach, the information is well edited and refined ahead of time and then recorded over the video.

The PDF included has a well illustrated and written glossary of terms used in the different videos.  It also has a written transcript of the main feature.  This was very thoughtful of Scott because a LOT of information is presented and to be able to read it helps comprehension in addition to seeing and hearing.

The video is a very reasonable $39 dollars.  You pay and can then download it instantly.  I recommend it for the knowledge, but also to support Scott's comprehensive and generous sharing.

The trailer for On Form:

I don't know if we have an official rating system established yet for Muddy Colors, but I am starting a new one.  I give this video 5 out of 5 tubes of mud colored paint!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Going Back to Your Roots to Find Success (and Cocktails)

By Lauren Panepinto

It seems this summer all my Muddy Colors posts are timed to being away at Conventions. And this post is no exception. As some of you know, every July — when most of the SFF world is setting up at San Diego Comic Con — I head to a very different kind of convention: The Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans.

Cocktails as art form

It's my 5th? 6th? year at Tales (things get blurry at a cocktail convention), and I go for a few reasons. First, I'm a big cocktail nerd and love the history and creativity in the spirits/liquor world. I've posted about that before. Second, I've done a lot of graphic design in the cocktail world, and I like to keep tabs on what's going on in a sphere of design outside SFF and book covers — it's kind of a hobby, if you can consider something in design still a hobby to me. Third, it's actually really refreshing to attend at least one convention a year as an attendee, rather than as a presenter, organizer, and/or portfolio review target. I get to experience how a con runs from the other side, and I think it makes all my work on the organizing side of cons a lot better and more effective.

The fourth reason I go to Tales is because it never ceases to amaze me how similar the conversations between bartenders and brands and ambassadors are to the conversations artists and art directors have at every art con I attend. Today at Tales I attended a seminar that was so eerily applicable to all the writing I do about Art Careers that I am going to give a ton of notes below, and at no point have I needed to change "bar" to "art" or "bartender" to "artist".

The seminar was called: Going Back to Your Roots to Find Success and it was a conversation with 2 career bartenders/bar owners that have become stars in the industry for their successful bars, their influence, and the varied projects they have done in their careers. If you're into cocktails you might know their names, or their bars, but it doesn't really matter. Just trust me, Jim Meehan, most famous for the bar PDT (Please Don't Tell) in NYC, and Ryan Chetiyawardana (known as Mr. Lyan), best known for the many bars he's opened and been involved with in London. The panel was a look back at the course of their careers and an attempt to break down and explain what foundations they had, and choices they made, to lead to success and renown.

Jim Meehan and Mr. Lyan

What was fabulous about the seminar was it was really well-structured into the essential parts of a good career, and then Jim & Ryan talked to their specific experience with each point.

The Essential Parts of a Successful Bartending Creative Career:

1) EDUCATION: What I found fascinating about both speakers (and goes for most of the successful creatives I know) is that neither began their careers as bartenders. Meehan was in pre-med, and Lyan got an art degrees and a philosophy masters. Both stressed that higher education wasn't critical to success, but higher education taught you how to succeed when you need to jump through institutional hoops. They felt peers that hadn't had the experience of higher education crumbled when they were faced with difficulties later and hadn't ever had to rely on themselves to pass or fail. They also felt the wide base of their learning and interests were what was important, not specifically what they learned. They learned how to learn, and that was the most important thing.

We're not in the booze business, we're not in the bar business, we're in the relationships business. — Jim Meehan

2) EXPERIENCES: Both stressed travel as critical to getting "out of your own bubble" and gaining perspective. And if you could travel and work for a time, rather than just travel as a tourist, all the better. The most important experiences both of them highlighted were times they failed at projects and had to learn how to get around that failure the next time. They both stressed that experience teaches you to embrace fear — to the point that if you aren't scared of your next career move, you probably shouldn't take it. Choose your next steps by challenges that terrify you, and surround yourself with bosses and peers that scare you with how talented they are. If you feel completely confident about your next move, you're not pushing yourself hard enough.

Furiously taking notes through the seminar...all for you guys!

3) CONNECTIONS: The advice here was not to worry overmuch about traditional "networking" but to cultivate random connections. Lyan especially stressed that talking about what you're doing, and what you're interested in (in a blog, in press, etc) will bring interesting people out of the woodwork to talk to you, and they'll bring collaborations and ideas you never would have thought to seek out.

Broadcast your intentions and interesting people will come to you —Mr. Lyan

4) ORGANIZATION: Both swore they had a kind of organization by chaos, but under examination, it wasn't quite true — they both had built systems that kept them organized, but they were built around an honest look at their strengths and weaknesses, and stayed open and flexible enough to allow for enough freedom to be creative. Although neither mentioned it by name, it was clear that they both adhered to the 80/20 principle: Focus your energy on what you're good out, outsource what you're bad at to experts who are better at it.

Are creative people great problem-solvers or are great problem-solvers creative people? (It's the same thing) —Mr. Lyan

5) CREATIVITY: This, of course, was a fascinating and long part of the conversation, but the general gist for Meehan was that his creativity stemmed from not just looking at the thing he was interested in, but also the culture surrounding it. At the edges of that culture is where he's found the most creative ideas and opportunities. Lyan then talked about unconscious or subconscious idea generation — that you, as a creative person, are taking in data and stimulus all the time, and you need to give your brain time to digest it and play with it, and spit out ideas that don't quite work, and mull them over, and let them stew, and then they'll pop out almost by magic when you're in the shower or someplace you're relaxed and not trying to work.

"It's not about perfection, it's about excellence." —Danny Meyer, quoted by Jim Meehan. Perfection has no room for failure or learning from failure. Excellence accepts that people are going to make mistakes when they're trying to grow past their comfort zones, and you need to encourage that.

6) NON-WORK: Both Meehan and Lyan (and the moderator) agreed that if you're going to be at the top of your field there is no life/work balance. Meehan talked about the 20 years he was most successful — yet he wasn't the best friend, neighbor, son, or husband he could be. Once his daughter was born he knew he had to leave NYC to force himself to focus on his non-work life for a time or he would regret it. But he couldn't have done that earlier and been as successful. Lyan agreed, in a slightly more positive way, and said to be truly successful in your field, there is no life-work balance, you have to do for work what you would want to do anyway if it wasn't for work. He would want to travel, design, mix drinks, and open bars whether it was his job or not, and thus he didn't feel he was missing out. That's the blessing — and curse — of a creative career.

So that's my report for now. See what I mean? As applicable to Art as it is to Mixing Drinks, Writing Novels, Composing Music, and any other creative endeavor. Now back to the convention. Four more days of convention (and cocktails) to go!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Update 6: Above The Timberline

Greg Manchess

Still at it, Muddies! Counting down from 60.

I've been drawing like crazy for the past two weeks, preparing multiple spreads for the novel. This is where most of the time for each painting is spent. The painting goes relatively quickly once I know where I'm going, and that usually depends on visualizing the lighting and value.

Most of the painting time is spent making decisions about balancing values. I have the color and light worked out already before starting a piece. This saves time, but also agony. To do that demands much planning.

Altogether, I have about 20 pieces going at once, working to get a new one established during the day, and continuing or finishing a couple in the evening. This doesn't always work so smoothly.

I find that my energy lags when I'm conceptualizing as there are so many decisions to be made. I pick up energy when the drawing goes down and enthusiasm builds to see the finish. But sometimes there are things unforeseen that tend to take time to manage or correct. 

All of the shifts and changes are based on my own desire to showcase something or capture a mood, a motion, a condition. And I've only myself to answer to. Sometimes I can be a brutal taskmaster.

The finished shots of the work are starting to come in now and I'm ready to feed more to my photographer.  Many of these images are professionally shot, and I can get that crisp, white background.

More in 2 weeks!

An example of the sketch to canvas...the is figure a combination of projection and freehand; 
the bear is freehand to canvas with blue pencil, then redrawn with graphite

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Tom Lovell : Illustrator

The Illustrated Press, the same company that recently released the new book on the Art of Dean Cornwell, has just announced the release of a new art book on the art of Tom Lovell.

There is already a fantastic book on Lovell's work available, but it covers very little of his illustration career, and instead focuses on his Western themed art. This new book will focus much more on his illustrative work with hundreds of reproductions.

Just like the other books Illustrated Press has released in recent years, this book is being sold via Kickstarter and is limited to 1000 copies. Once the fundraiser ends, it is unlikely additional copies will be easy to find for long.

You can learn more about the book here and even flip through a low-resolution preview of the entire book:

Also, be sure to check out our previous article showcasing the work of Tom Lovell here:

Monday, July 18, 2016

Creatives Are the Hidden Gems of Society

-By Arnie Fenner

I always enjoy listening to Andy J. Miller's Creative Pep Talks, partly because they're entertaining, partly because it's always good to get a little insight as to how other artists approach their work. I thought this talk for the Creative Mornings Lecture series in Louisville, "Creatives Are the Hidden Gems of Society", was particularly good. I think you will, too.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Artist Inspiration - Herakut

by Vanessa Lemen
I can share with you my memories of freedom, but how to get there we all need to figure out on our own."

I've been sick for almost a week now, and I'm just now starting to feel up to doing much of anything. Though I am feeling much better, the combination of having been sick and more tragic world news just has me feeling a bit deflated and at a loss for words.

So, speaking of words and the outside world having an effect, I've decided to share another favorite artist of mine – actually, a graffiti artist duo – that goes by the name Herakut. The name is a combination of the aliases Hera (Jasmin Siddiqui) and Akut (Falk Lehmann). I am moved by their art every time I see it, even if I've seen it many times before. If I had to describe it in just one word, I think that word would be “truth”. Since their art very much speaks for itself, I think I'll leave most of that to them here in my post. Enjoy.

"Every wall is a door."

"I can show you how to see a world where others see a wall."
"Monkey see, Monkey do."

"Who is to blame???"

"Another attempt to impress the high-horse-club. I cracked their backs. Will you forgive me?"
"Warrior Goddess"

"Dress for Less"

"He had a hard time explaining that not every costume we chose would help."
"Sometimes it's hard enough to stay human - almost impossible to stay graceful."

"real recognize real"

Left: "Love to my bother from another mother." Right: "Always last. But at least not a quitter."

"weak becomes hero."
"there are certain things traveling along no matter how far I run."

"You built the bomb yourself."

"I'll teach you about resilience said the rat to the tank child."
"At least thoughts are free."
"That was when I decided to never ever let anyone come close again."

"You know what the war taught me? All die alike."
"There is something better than perfection."

Lower left corner: "In our moments of need, we rely on the family of humans. I wished we remembered these bonds in our moments of strength."

"But after I had killed all the heathens and the sinners, God did not reward me.  Instead he cried and said 'Son, you've understood nothing about my Greatness!'"
"Maybe I'd regret this one day, but it just felt wrong to keep all the magic to myself when there was such a need for beauty."
"Angels come in various sizes."

"If you can change, I can change too."

"Why do we paint?  To fight loneliness.  Does it work?  Yes."

Herakut's artwork can be seen on walls in many places all over the world, and their books “The Perfect Merge” and “After the Laughter” are beautiful collections that also include sketches, words, and collages of lots of found objects and other wonderful bits and pieces. Also, going to a gallery show of theirs is similar to their books such that when you enter, you are entering a world that they exist in while creating. All worth taking in, if you get the chance. They also joined creative forces with Lucent Dossier a few years back, which was an amazing show all around. Click below for their website where you'll find a ton of amazing stuff, including wonderful drawings, paintings, sculptures, videos (be sure to watch the videos!), and other projects they've taken part in such as the Giant Storybook Project and AptART collaboration, working on different creative concepts to help brighten the days of Syrian refugee children.

Herakut's books: The Perfect Merge and After the Laughter