Tuesday, September 16, 2014

New Work for Illuxcon

By Justin Gerard

Illuxcon 7 is nigh!
And we are about to leave for it. This year, along with some of our existing work, we will be bringing a lot of new work as well.

Some of the new drawings that I will be bringing:

And while I have been screwing around with watercolors and pencils, Annie has been hard at work on some amazing new oil paintings that she will be debuting this year at the show:


Stop by and say hi at the Illuxcon Main Show, September 17 - 21 at the Allentown Art Museum in Allentown, PA!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Artist of the Month: Tiepolo

-By William O'Connor

One of the oldest influences in my career has been Giovanni Battista Tiepolo.(1696-1770).

When I was a young man I can still remember ascending the grand staircase of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC and entering under the arches into the Tiepolo Gallery. These paintings were so overwhelming to this young artist that he inspired me to want to make pictures. In Europe his paintings were titanic, covering domed ceilings with trompe l'oile pink cupids and goddesses floating on clouds. As an art student I drifted away from this fantastic, pastel surrealism towards more realistic artists.

Although he is often dismissed because of his garish over-the-top rococo murals I later came to re-introduce myself to him not as a painter, but as one of the finest draftsmen of his generation. This was the real artist. Where the murals and frescoes were being produced by an army of apprentices his mixed media sketches are inspiring and look almost like Rodin sculptures reminiscent of Rembrandt and are completely different than his paintings. His sketches have an emotional immediacy that his paintings lack, with a very expressive quality lost in the scale of his mural-sized finished work. What I find most educational is his dramatic compositions. Grouping figures into forms and balancing design with architecture effortlessly.

An artist worth a second look, and under appreciated for his sketches and works on paper. I've attached a few of my favorites, but explore him for yourself.


Saturday, September 13, 2014

Total Commitment

David Palumbo

In the documentary Pumping Iron, there is a scene in which then-reigning Mr. Olympia Arnold Schwarzenegger is advising a young bodybuilder on his posing technique.  The young man, going through different poses, tries out one in which his torso twists into profile and his left arm is extended with his hand pointing forward.  Arnold immediately jumps on him for looking too timid:

Schwarzenegger: “Remember one thing when you pose.  A lot of little guys, they have one habit, and they hide away when they pose.  When they do an arm pose, they do like, like this [he hunches his shoulders forward and tucks his chin and elbows in].  Okay?  And a big guy will come right out with his arm [flexes his bicep high with a tall, confident posture].  So never do that.  Never hide away … Show them the whole thing.  Make the move.”

I think this is powerful advice and easily related to being a visual artist.  In a sense, this is about confidence, which certainly makes a tremendous difference, but it goes beyond that.  The deeper issue this gets at is giving total commitment to your choices.

I was told something similar by one of my mentors when I was a student creating my very first portfolio pieces.  I was doing a painting of a dragon and this dragon had little dragon horns coming off of his head.  My mentor took out a piece a tracing paper and laid it over top and started drawing big impressive fearsome horns, telling me “if you want to put horns on your dragon, really go for it.  Don’t make these little horns, make them big.  Always see if you can push it further” and he then went on to do the same with the wings.  Big, bold, decisive shapes.  My shy little dragon suddenly looks believable.

I think about this on nearly every painting that I do.  It does not only relate to designing creatures by far (something which I do fairly little of) but every aspect of designing a picture.  You want to make a particular portrait in the composition your focal point?  Push it.  Do it with full commitment!  Don’t just use contrast, bring in some leading lines.  Bring in some color cues.  You want to set a piece in the Victorian period?  Push it.  Don’t just put the figures in generic Victorian clothing, research some interesting and striking costume ideas.  Design the hell out of the background.  Furniture, architecture, wall paper patterns, hairstyles.  Total commitment.  Emotional mood in a painting, interesting lighting, design of characters, creatures, costumes, objects, compositional choices… every step of the way you need to eventually get out of the middle of the road and make decisions. 

Don’t be timid, lazy, or uncertain.  When you have considered various options and are ready to make a choice, put all of your faith and enthusiasm into it and always test if you are pushing your decisive moments far enough.

Just as in bodybuilding, the “little guys” in illustration hold back.  The champions step forward and hit us with bold, authoritative work.

Show them the whole thing.  Make the move.

Friday, September 12, 2014

THE 52 WEEKS PROJECT returns with 13 DOCTORS

By Greg Ruth

20x36" lead pencil drawing in frame c. 1881

In the late 19th Century as the advent of photography ushered in an entirely new visual language that we still can see echoing through our times in the 21st Century. In those nascent days of the medium, one couldn't take a favorite tintype and enlarge it, you had to hire a draftsman to make a pencil or charcoal likeness of the photograph. (At the time they could only make contact prints or directly expose chemically treated plates of tin or glass).

SO. In an act of current procrastination, and an honest attempt to jumpstart my work ethic after some time off at the end of August, I decided to finally take the plunge and apply my admiration for the hyper-realistic pencil drawing towards another  (long overdue) series in my ongoing act of playing hooky, THE 52 WEEKS PROJECT. We had been up on the north coast of Maine, running around Schoodic Peninsula, my favorite place in the world and the combined rocky vastness and infinite fog of the place made its mark in this series to be sure.

Cover for the hardcover book collecting the first two years of the project.

I had a commission that afforded me my first go at this, one of Bela Lugosi the most famous of Draculas on the big screen. Rather than doing a standard likeness I wanted to see about picking an area of his head to focus in on and let the rest drift back into the fog. I knew his iconic face had to be obscured, and wanted to see how much it could be done without losing his identity. The end result succeeded so thoroughly I couldn't wait to get started on the rest.

FUZZY BELA (commission piece 10"x12")

Moving on into the new series, the  first step was picking a subject to experiment on. It had to be a limited series of portraits, all of recognizable characters (this I will explain later), and they had to have distinctive faces. Choosing to depict Doctor WHo in all his thirteen faces was an obvious solution, especially since this initial solution to replace a faltering actor has over time become an integral aspect of the character's personality- almost more so than any other aspect. He his as a result, a sci-fo Kali, a God with many faces. So clearly perfect fort his. So I set three rules for the project: the materials had to always be the same-

1). Blackwing Palomino pencils, and eraser on paper, 8 1/2 x 11", no photoshop trickery allowed.

2). They had to be the same pose and not a direct reiteration of any previously existing portrait.

3). They had to begin with the now, and go back in time as we counted down to William Hartnell, the very first Doctor.


I had for a while no this idea of doing a series of portraits with an extremely limited depth of field, The distance from the tip of the nose to the beginning of the ear would feel like miles like a mountain range falling back into a foggy horizon. Nut whether or not it would work would be the real test. 
Getting started with Capaldi was the best bit- he is the newest and least known and has more than any other in recent memory, had the task of shaking things up in a deeply profound way. It also afforded me a bit of time to figure out how to make the blurry doctors... blurry. In absolute contrast to my usual method of sumi ink and paper, a medium of utter gesture, slashing strokes and contrasts, the graphite was going to be soft, detailed and photographic in its feel. I had done a few piece for Tor.com recently in the medium as beginning to get a grasp of it, but this was going to be a real test. It made me nervous but my absolute belief is that if making art doesn't make the artist nervous, the artist isn't doing it right. 
In this first portrait I discovered that the best tool on this earth for achieving the blur was right there at the end of my hands. I had ten of them even. It allowed to delineate light and tone in a way I found surprising and gave a stronger grip on the reigns in forcing the viewer's eye where I wanted it to go. It also did something funny to the eyes when approached with a fully blurry picture: the eyes couldn't stop trying to force focus on it. That was of particular interest to me as all perception experiments are. It immediately had me creating a new and fourth rule/challenge:

4).  As we counted down from the 13th to the 1st Doctor, each portrait would become more and more uniformly blurry.


How fuzzy could things get before identity was lost? How much would the eye compensate for the lack of clarity, and would it make the viewer more or less comfortable in seeing it? How fine to get or should I retain some sense of the mark and the artist's hand? All of these will be answered over the course of the next few weeks. More questions I am sure, will rise. But in any case the die was cast and I remembered the feeling I got from the initial run of the 52 Weeks Project: fun regardless of time and assignment. So, for the next several weeks, each and every monday look for a new and increasingly blurrier portrait of our madman Doctor. And as a special treat to our Muddy Colors community, I give you the final portrait twelve weeks early: 


 If you'd like to follow the series, you can do so via these online outlets. Only the originals will be for sale- no prints, (though there may very well be a folio series collecting all 13 Doctors when we're done for SDCC) but the originals are at less than half their baseline prices in keeping with the Project's continuing ethos:

The series will post on my website first and be archived there. Originals for sale in the storefront, each purchase will enter the buyer into a raffle to win the WHO TOTEM a 20" x 8" original sumi ink drawing created in the pre-Capaldi lands of 2013.

WEBSITE: http://www.gregthings.com/#!13-doctors/c1a60

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/pages/THE-52-WEEKS-PROJECT/250705653920
TUMBLR:  http://gregthingscom.tumblr.com/

To purchase a signed copy of The 52 WEEKS PROJECT vol. 1 hardcover:

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Art Out Loud

Above: Dan dos Santos and David Palumbo. Photos by Greg Preston

This Saturday at the Society of Illustrators, Irene Gallo and  Kate Feirtag will be hosting Art Out Loud in conjunction with the Spectrum Exhibition. MC's Dan dos Santos and Dave Palumbo along with Julie Bell and Charles Vess will be painting live all afternoon and answering questions from the audience. This is a great opportunity to watch artists at the top of their game work. Hit this link to purchase tickets (proceeds go to the Society's student scholarship fund).

Above: David Palumbo

Above: Julie Bell

Above: Charles Vess