Friday, October 9, 2015

The 52 Weeks Project presents: THE WHITE LODGE

-By Greg Ruth

So. I am an OG Twin Peaks fan. The show landed like a weird hammer blow at just the right time for my generation back in the early 1990's- I remember how each and every saturday night at ten pm how the Pratt campus shut down for an hour or two as everyone scrambled to any classmate's dorm room that had a working tv, piled on top of each other and went graveyard silent watching the show- and busting out in loud boisterous rantings during the commercial breaks.  We didn't know it then, but we were sharing one of the last fully united pop cultural moments like we did when Thriller came out, or Rock N Roll existed. Now this show was CBS, (this was a conservative third-tier network when we only had three real networks. I cannot express how insane it was to see a show that even by today's standards is one of the strangest, darkest and most terrifyingly brilliant tv narratives to have ever hit the small screen. Yet there it was. I had only just began to come to appreciate David Lynch as a director, so this was my first real deep dive into what he could bring to a story. It blew our minds. It was a total national phenomenon. The pilot episode alone is one of the most accomplished in tv history- test this by pausing it after about 15 minutes and count how many characters you've been introduced to, and their relationships to each other. It's nuts. Though our tv narrative landscape is MUCH improved and vaster and more specific, the themes, characters and shows still deeply resonate.

For me the series taught me the essential value of character in story making. When I tuned in to see the show I was in many ways there for the characters as I was there for the mysterious tangled plot. It was literally a town I wanted to visit, and people I was simply happy to spend time with. I got to know Dale, Harry, Pete, Andy, Donna, Audrey, Shelly, Bobby Leo and all the others with relish and dreamed of one day trying to craft characters of my own as deep and rich and looney as these kooks were. In many ways THE LOST BOY is the most reflective of this maybe even more than SUDDEN GRAVITY was- despite the fact that SG was originally inspired by the creepy hospital in Twin Peaks. Walter Pidgin is like a young Dale Cooper, talking to no one and to us via his back pack tape recorder with a stoic determination and curiosity for the strange and dark worlds he ventured into. So it was no real surprise to take this show on in a series of portraits, I guess. I had over the last few years thought of doing something like this but never found the right moment or avenue. It seemed bent for a daily series, rather than the 52 Weeks Project rules of weekly drawings. The sum ink wasn't ethereal enough I think, and so it got put off over and over. Until now.

Having literally just completed drawing all the 250 principle story pages for INDEH, my massive graphic novel with fellow collaborator Ethan Hawke, I wanted to take a break. I promised myself to take a whole week off from work and go.. I dunno... lie in the sun, or read a book. Something the terrible last 15 hour days, 7-days a week schedule to finish INDEH utterly prevented. Instead, since I am clearly an art addict, I decided to do this. One drawing a day each and every day for about a week. Small pieces, as the graphite drawings are far slower to execute than the sum work, and basically straight on, face-front portraits of each of the main characters. I had assumed I could only survive a week of this so it would be just the most essential characters, and really it was all about who might be the most interesting to draw a picture of. The first one of course, had to be Laura. The girl around which the whole series spun showed up dead in the pilot, and then we got to find out who she was. Cooper and Laura's mother, Sarah Palmer were next. I wanted to give the recently adapted blurry-graphite drawing technique to a more narrative purpose for these next two.

Each drawing was only about 6" x 6" and so that forced a basic limitation of scale and scope that was interesting to play with. So things began to change as to how best to approach each one. Doing a bunch of standard face front photos didn't quite seem enough to be interesting to me as the captain of this goofy ship- and if it's dull to me it can't be interesting to any of you. So I tackled Leland in his mad frenzy state- and did two of him, took on probably the biggest missed opportunity of the series in Rosette Pulasky and tackled after a series of failed attempts, the fan favorite ingenue, Audrey Horn. The series was beginning to find it's sea legs and with the passing of the first week, it was clear I wasn't near done fooling around with these people.

Next up, I tried a sort of statuesque negative portrait of the Giant, knowing I had in mind a straight up portrait later, and another Audrey where I felt like I finally grabbed a bit of her character. And then of course Mike, the dancing dwarf and sort of chief operating officer of the Black Lodge where Bob lived.

Next was Donna, Bob and the second Giant picture- the latter a total homage to my favorite portrait of Matt Smith from the 13 Doctors series previously. Donna was all about how she started to find out who she was after her beast friend's death, and Bob... well Bob was all about the darkness.

Next was a return to Leland in his most ferocious glare a sort of practical reverse of his previous portrait. A very handsome blurry picture of Bobby Briggs and a post-fire survivor, Pete Martel.

I was no easily pushing past a second week of these to my great surprise and felt like it was still humming on all cylinders and since I hadn't yet broken my habit of waking up at 5 am to start my workday, was able to get these tackled and out of the way well before 7am when the work-work had to begin. I had finally decided to stop waiting to take on Margret Lanternman, The Log Lady herself from whom I was inspired to quote in a previous 52 Weeks Project series offering up funerary pre-mortem portraits of some of the handsome firewood we burned to keep warm during winter, LOGS I HAVE KNOWN. This one was the weirdest in that I learned just three hours after her picture was completed and posted, that Catherine Coulson had died. A very weird moment of coincidence. Spooky. But it seemed part and parcel of this feeling that the series was now self steering. It was a thing determining its own fate, governed now by forces not from me as all long form art projects do when they're done right. Next was posting Annie, who was oddly the very first actual drawing I did for the series. It seemed funny to start with her, so she waited patiently for her time.

Largely, at this stage, the choice of drawings became more about how they might respond to their previous and post neighbors. Pulling back to a more full bodied Log Lady meant it was a good time push in on a close face, male to female to male, etc... Dark to light. I wanted each one to be both unique to their characters, rather than simply drawing the actors who played them, and unique and apart from each other as well crafted individuals are.

Next up was the Giant's avatar in the real world, The Waiter, Chief Gordon Cole in one of the best cameos on screen ever as played by David Lynch himself. And finally Agent Cooper's former partner now turned enemy, Windom Earle- whom could not be drawn without including the game of chess in some form.

As the full cast of the series started reveal themselves it became clear I could literally run this series well past the Christmas Holidays if I wanted to, but I felt determined to establish a proper endpoint before that came to pass. It had been 25 years since the show concluded, and the new one was gearing up. 25 years was the promise from both Mike and Bob/Leland that he'd see us again, so 25 portraits seemed exactly right for a stopping point. Since the goofy picture of Deputy Andy and his personal nemesis Scotch Tape was done, it was time to tackle Shelly. And it was time to start thinking about how to end things. I had originally thought to do another bigger scale portrait of Dale Cooper, and may still do later, but I needed to tackle a few other otherwise undiscovered portraits. The Owl was one done simply as a lark, not really thinking but just drawing a forest shrouded by fog... then the owl showed up and as I was finishing the drawing it told me it wanted curtains beneath. Turned out to be one of my favorites int he series and of them all the most narrative in terms of capturing the ethos and spirit of the project as a whole. Next, to counter the owl was Sheriff Truman- a fairly flat and simple character thrown into a world he just couldn't cope with.

Moving on I realized I was going to blow past my initial 25 mark a touch... but you know when you're the boos you get to break the rules without consequence. And Nadine Hurley needed her time. I confess I put her off for a good long while as it was far too easy to just draw her and her insane eye patch... so instead I thought to go to that moment where her grief came to a head at the season one finale, and her suicide-by-pills turned her into a psychotically strong woman who thought she was still in high school. Her sadness made her a superhero! I had decided to do another portrait of Lynch for the final piece because it was at its best times a single vision of his work with Mark Frost. A nod to Gordon Cole from the prequel film, Fire Walk With Me, when he was describing his mother's sister's girl. And at least a final Mike, joyously reflected in a cup of fresh hot coffee, black as the night.

In the end, like all good projects I leave it feeling like there was more to do. Leo never got a portrait, nor did Josie or Katherine, Benjamin or his brother, Black Rose, or the Renault brothers, or Deputy Hawk. Not even James showed up here. Maybe I'll get a chance to finish it with them all- seems a touch wrong to leave them out, but as with all these series unless theres a promised number or practical deadline, it's good to leave when the parties over. It felt like it had done it's thing: allowed me space to draw everyday something that had nothing to do with Apaches, and allow me to further expand my techniques with the graphite pencils. Each drawing was in keeping with the project's spirit, far below my usual price for original graphite drawings, but still managed to fill in some financial gaps left by too long focused on Indeh. And yet another series in the bag of the codified act of playing hooky that The 52 Weeks Project is at is heart. We may be getting very close to enough work now for another book collecting all of these. I hope so.

So thanks for following this series as it unfolds. They rarely do so with the kind of intent and planning you all deserve, but I think it's kind of fun to sit with you and watch it unfold being just as surprised by it as you might be. The 52 Weeks Project was never meant to carry on this long, and is not the longest running single effort I have ever done in my entire life as an artist- and I already have at least three more series to take on in the coming months and years, so it doesn't look to be going anywhere soon. But being able to show this work to you all is what makes it int o art in my book, so thanks again for being such an important part of it all.

There are still a handful of originals available in my online storefront, and the last three will be posted there each day thru Sunday at noon sharp. You can get there from here, by clicking, funnily enough,  HERE.

If you'd like to see the pieces in a clearer higher rez format, please be sure to visit the project's homepage by clicking HERE.

I will be setting up a new, devoted page to collect all the various sub projects of The 52 Weeks Project drawing series, but it's a massive thing to tackle and will take some time. Hopefully it can be completed by the new year- until then- get out there and draw something, every day.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Breaking Rules

-By Donato

Omega Corps - Page 6,  Donato and Steve Ellis   1991

The best way to break a rule is to learn how to carefully, precisely, follow it at first.  Through mastery of form and execution, you learn where the dials are that allow you to tweak a rule, modify it, and push its limits until it appears to break.  Such has evolved my approach to the use of architectural forms.

In the beginning I adhered tightly to the rules of linear perspective, laying out a grid and forcing my content to fit within that illusionistic guideline.  Mostly these rules were exercised within the comics I created while in college and the book cover art of my early professional career.  One point, two point and three point perspective worked wonders (and still does!) creating an incredible sense of depth to the imagery while proving a reassuring framework upon which I could safely fall back upon in times of compositional insecurity.

Omega Corps,  Donato Giancola, 1994
But there are times when the composition and emotional needs of a work trump the formality of a predicable, organized rule of illusion.  Let me state that I think there are no right nor wrong ways to approach color, line, design or balance.  Nearly anything goes these days.

Each image provides its own internal truths, a map or plan on how the artist and the audience read and absorb the image.  Some maps are predicable, some obscure, others familiar, and others at times indecipherable - such is the pluralistic language of the arts!  An artist may develop and mature a visual style/language which can be recognized as unique, while another may pursue a path of concealment, masking intent behind walls of aesthetic references and allusions. Viewing art can be a pleasure and frustration to behold and critique as one attempts to glean the intent of the artist.

It is with this in mind that I vary my approach to realistic illusion.  I hang much of my viewers expectations on historical assumptions around issues of lighting, color, edge effects, anatomical precision, and numerous other 'classical' forms, all while leading them into an area of
distortion and visual and narrative challenges.

Below are the progress steps for the painting of Arya Stark for the 2015 A Song of Ice and Fire Calendar with George R.R. Martin - The House of Black and White.  I began my initial abstract/thumbnail exploration following the rules of linear perspective, but knew something was missing.

Arya Stark  -  Roughs       8.5" x 11"   

This is a point in the story when Arya's world is in turmoil.  She has no home, no friends, and no where to turn to for a possible bright future.  She is adrift in a sea of uncertainty, and in my artistic eye, not a world best represented by rigid perspective.  I decided to shake up the conceptual space a bit, tweak the structure and make the ground 'move' beneath her feet.

By twisting the camera angle and using an upward and inward left-handed flow to the lower steps, I created a strong contrasting movement with the doors as they tilt backward and upward to the right.  Not a dramatic cubist distortion, but enough to make you feel unsure of your relationship to the architectural structure around Arya.

Where is the horizon line?  Where is the vanishing point?  I am not sure myself, but know it feels right for this moment with Arya.

Some rules are made to be broken...

Arya and Tyrion roughs    11" x 14"

The House of Black and White 
18" x 18"  Graphite and Chalk on Toned Paper
Collection of George R.R. Martin and Parris McBride

The House of Black and White  
 30" x 30",  Oil on Panel
Collection of George R.R. Martin and Parris McBride

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

First Steps

-By Jesper Ejsing

I hate the internet!

All of a sudden I am able to see the best 5 illustrations some guy or girl on the other side of the planet is posting. It is always the best paintings that rises above the normal haze of art posting on the internet. And I get the feeling that everyone everywhere is being better, more genius, wild and daring than me. Not to mention the simple fact that they all seem to be way better technically than I am, or at least feel.

Back in the days it was different. Mainly because expensive art books or magazines were my only way of discovering new fantasy art.

I still remember the day I decided I wanted to be an acrylic painter. It all happened because of Dermot Power. I was frequently buying Duelist, a magazine about playing Magic the Gathering. This specific issue had a very engaging cover painted in the way/school of Glen Fabry, Simon Bisley and Kevin Walker, all some of my favourite artists. But in this issue there was on the back of the cover a little text about the cover artist. It said among other things, that Dermot was painting acrylics and that he was 27 years old! I turned the page; the cover was awesome and I had that strange voice within me saying; You should have painted that cover Jesper, You could have made that painting. just get to it. What are you waiting for?"

Right, then the more logical part of my brain kicked in, as it sometimes do once or twice a year, and I calculated that I had about a year to learn how to paint acrylics. Luckily a friend of mine Jan Kjær just got back from a School in US and he taught me the way of acrylic illustration.

I painted this Angel as my trial painting and I felt that the medium was welcoming me home... I also felt that a year might not be enough to get there.

My first acrylic painting

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Unveiling Visions

-By John Jude Palencar

A couple of months ago I was invited to participate in an art event titled, “Unveiling Visions”: The Alchemy of the Black Imagination - Art & Design Exhibition.

Curators John Jennings (Artist/ Illustrator, Associate Art Professor) and Reynaldo Anderson (Author, Historian, and Communications Professor ) have designed an exhibition exploring black imagination in popular culture. The exhibition is comprised of prints and original art encompassing a variety of genres from the visual arts - from comics to book covers as well as personal works.

More than eighty artists are represented in this show, and I am honored to be included in this wonderful creative event.

For Octavia Butler's "Wildseed", Acrylic on panel by John Jude Palencar, Private Collection

For Octavia Butler's "Mind of My Mind", Acrylic on board by John Jude Palencar, Private Collection

Here are few photographs from the opening and exhibition:

Art: Craig Singleton

Artist Sheeba Maya (Column Art) and her mother

Unveiling Visions: The Alchemy of the Black ImaginationThe Schomburg Center For Research in Black Culture,  The New York Public Library 
October 1st - December 31st 2015

Unveiling Visions: The Alchemy of the Black Imagination is sure to satisfy the sci-fi/fantasy nerd in all of us. Curated by artist John Jennings and Reynaldo Anderson, this exhibition includes artifacts from the Schomburg collections that are connected to Afrofuturism, black speculative imagination and Diasporan cultural production. Offering a fresh perspective on the power of speculative imagination and the struggle for various freedoms of expression in popular culture, Unveiling Visions showcases illustrations and other graphics that highlight those popularly found in science fiction, magical realism and fantasy. Items on display include film posters, comics, t-shirts, magazines, CD covers, playbills, religious literature, and more.

Participating Artists:

Goni Montes, James Eugene, John Jennings, John Jude Palencar, Stacey Robinson
David Palumbo, James Lewis, Jason Reeves, Jennifer Crute’, Jiba Molei Anderson,
Duane Deterville, Jon Moody, Pierre Droal, Tim Okamura, Julie Anderson, Julie Dillon,
James Mason, Craig Fusco, Kari Gunther, Ken Patterson, Maurice Mosqua, Lalo Alcaraz, Krista Franklin, K.F. Anderson, Loic Zimmermann, Manzel Bowman, Marque Strickland, Shawn Martinbrough, Matthew Clarke ,Tristan Roach, Rivenis Black, Mathieu Saunier, Stanford Carpenter, Paul Deo, Micheline Hess, Miranda Meeks, Cedric Peyravernay, Bryan Christopher Moss, Afua Richardson, Mshindo Kuumba I, Eric Battle, N. Steven Harris, Obi Ud, Quentin Vercetty, Eric Wilkerson, Eric Orr, Hyoung Taek Nam, Art Jones, Tim Fielder, Toujour, Richard Meril, Sheeba Maya, Ron Wimberly, Paul Lewin, Nettrice Gaskins, Sharon L. DeLa Cruz, Shomari Harrington, Shawn Alleyne, Tansie Stephens, Vigilism X Ikire Jones, Vincent Sammy, Tony Puryear, Adam Roush, Alex Batchelor, Alex Huchiwood, Andre Leroy Davis, Ariel Jackson, Ben Passmore, Bizhan Khodabandeh, Black Kirby, Craig "C Flux" Singleton, Chuck Collins, Charlie Goubile, Damon Davis, Dave Crosland, Dave White, Mike and Mark Davis, Dawud Anyabwile, Gil Ashby, Maya Smith, Edison Moody, Denys Cowan, Geneva "GD Bee" Benton, Brandon Palas, Andrew Dalhouse, Brian McGee.

"The Black Fantastic" event run concurrent with this exhibition and includes films, readings, poetry and performances.

For more information, visit the links below:

Monday, October 5, 2015

Dr Dave

by Arnie Fenner

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Dr. David Winiewicz is, without question, the Frazetta expert. Though I had spent a lot of time over the years with Frank and his wife Ellie (and their kids, too), have written thousands of words about Frank, and edited a batch of books with Cathy about him…I'm a piker in comparison when it comes to Dave's knowledge and personal experiences.

He was, after all, Frank's best friend and probably knew him better than anyone (family included).

Oh, plenty of people might make—and have made and are making—the same claim following Frazetta's death in 2010, but they're mistaken. Frank and Dave understood each other; even though they came from wildly different social backgrounds and despite an age difference of around twenty years there was a unique commonality that ensured an abiding friendship. They spent a tremendous amount of time together and talked frequently on the phone about virtually everything and everybody; they struck deals and made trades and did favors for one another; Dave was Frank's trusted confidant.

Which, eventually, didn't set well Ellie. The whole Frazetta story—the true story, not the myths and baloney endlessly repeated—is, well, complicated. The Frazetta household was always mercurial and you were never quite sure whether you were entering a love nest or a battlefield when stepping across their threshold (or know when one might morph into the other)—but Dave always knew and that created something of an uneasy dynamic when he, Frank, and Ellie were under the same roof. People have been shocked by some of Dave's memoirs detailing various incidents—his blog site was even hacked and taken down for a time by an incensed sycophant after one particularly revealing post—but anyone who actually knew the Frazettas and spent any time with them merely nodded and acknowledged the accuracy of Dave's stories.

Above: On the left is the poster announcing the auction that was distributed at SDCCI featuring Frazetta's gouache cover for Tarzan the Invincible (Ace Books, 1963). On the right is the catalog cover featuring an ink drawing from Tarzan and the Castaways.

Frank and Dave were talking on the phone one day in 2001 while Ellie was out when Frank suddenly collapsed with his second major stroke; Dave's quick response got an ambulance on the way in time and Frazetta lived nearly another nine years, thanks to that phone call. Long enough to see the resurgence of interest in his work. Long enough to see a series of retrospective books published and become bestsellers. Long enough to be the subject of a documentary. Long enough to see his museum built and attract visitors from around the world. Long enough to spend time with his grandchildren. Long enough to see one his illustrations sell for a million bucks.

Yeah, when I say that Dr. Dave was Frank Frazetta's best friend, there's a lot to back it up.

Above: One of the iconic interior drawings from the 1965 Canaveral Press edition of Tarzan and the Castaways. Frank was at the peak of his skills with brush and ink when he illustrated the book. Though they pack a big punch (the Canaveral illos have been regularly reprinted in one place or another over the last 50 years), the actual drawings are very modest in size. This one is about 8"x10".

Dave's passion for Frank's art is second to none and his collection—with its primary focus on Frazetta's ink work—is the finest outside the family's various holdings. I mean, his trade of a ridiculously gorgeous and rare and extremely valuable watercolor of Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson for a 1950s drawing Frank did of Flash Gordon left me incredulous. Not only are any Watterson originals in private hands few and far between, but this watercolor was simply one of Bill's best. "It was the only thing the collector would take for it," Dave calmly told me, "and I wanted that drawing of Flash."

THAT'S how much he loves Frank's brush work.

Above: "Kubla's Anguish," a plate from the Kubla Khan Portfolio [1977].

So obviously I was very surprised when he dropped me a note telling me he had decided to auction everything: all the art, all the photos, publications, and ephemera. "I turned 65 in May," he told me, "and realized it was time."

Dr. Dave contracted with Profiles in History to auction everything lock-stock-and-barrel December 11. Deep-pocketed collectors have been circling since the sale's announcement at the San Diego Comicon in July and several have tried to strike pre-auction deals directly with Dave without success. "Everyone will have to wait," he says.

While they're waiting, they can order a catalog (which includes the backstory on each of the works being offered) from the auction house at the link above and…wait for December 11.

Above: Two more works based on the fiction of Edgar Rice Burroughs. The one on the left is also for Tarzan and the Castaways while the one on the right was painted as the cover for Tarzan At the Earth's Core [Ace, 1962]. This is "the famous 'dried-in-oven' painting" which bowed so severely that it broke in half when Frazetta tried to flatten it. Frank quickly repainted the art and delivered the second piece to Ace to use for the cover; the first (shown here) was repaired by Frazetta and is considered by many to be the better work, crack and all. 

Above: This is an unpublished comp Frazetta considered painting for the cover of Conan the Buccaneer for Lancer Books. He wound up taking a completely different direction for the final art. 

Above: A Flash Gordon drawing. No, not the one Dave traded the Watterson original for.
He says, "I suspect it was earmarked to be published in the early Heritage fanzine that was
devoted to Flash Gordon, but Frank never made the deadline."

Above: How does Dr. Dave really feel about Frazetta's art. Well…watch.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Absurdly Hi-Res Poster Art

by Cory Godbey

The other day I ran across this collection of absurdly hi-res film poster art by Imgur user joinyouinthesun.

Not all of the posters in the 80 piece collection are illustrated but many of them are, featuring the likes of Drew Struzan, Richard Amsel, Roger Kastel, John Alvin, and many more.

As a bonus, they're textless! Many of these (possibly all of them?) I've never seen without any text before and it's great getting the chance to let the image stand alone.

I pulled a few of my favorites here but you'll have to click over and find your own! At very least you got to go click on a few just to see how terrifically high the resolution is on many of them (some much more so than others but they're all pretty big images). Enjoy!