Friday, April 28, 2017

The Portrait Society Conference - 2017

by Howard Lyon

While what seemed like every single person I know on Facebook was at Spectrum, I was at the Portrait Society Conference in Atlanta.  I had to limit my time on social media so I wouldn't be reminded of how much fun you were all having!

Fortunately the Portrait Society Conference is pretty wonderful in it's own right. It is full of impressive art, demos, art material suppliers and some great panels and lectures.

Below are three of the many fine paintings that made it to the final round.  The portrait portion of the painting directly below was stunning, but I think I loved the landscape even more.  It was on par with the best I have seen. Anywhere.
Ming Yu
First Place Painting
"In Bvlag," 15.75x19.69", oil on linen by Ming Yu - First Place Painting

Mary Sauer - Caitlin - 36" x 48" oil on canvas

Gregory Mortenson - The Butterfly Effect - 14" diameter, oil on linen

The conference takes place over 4 days, kicking off on Thursday night with the portrait "face-off".  I really enjoyed this part of the conference.  15 artists all painting from 5 different models at the same time.  3 artists to each model.  There were many different approaches used.

It was apparent that some of the artists were not direct painters.  I myself an not a very accomplished alla prima painter (working on it though), so it gave me a little comfort to see some excellent painters struggle a bit and I admired their courage to paint in such a public forum.

Jeff Hein, Casey Childs and Anna Rose Bain really stood out to me.  You can see shots of the face-off portraits over on Matthew Innis' excellent site - Underpaintings.  A quick plug - His site has some free content (like the Portrait Society coverage) but I recommend paying the annual fee to support his efforts.  I have found a huge amount of inspiration from his site and he works hard to provide a regular stream of articles and news.  Worth every penny.

Here are some of the face off paintings.  Photographs used courtesy of the Portrait Society Facebook Page.

Jeff Hein

Casey Childs

Anna Rose Bain

Friday things took off with some break-out panels and workshops.  I attended the "Choosing the Path to Selling Your Art" panel with Scott Jones, Bart Lindstrom, Beverly McNeil and Mary Whyte.

It was very informative.  Scott Jones is the director of the three locations of the Legacy Galleries.  They have a focus on western art, but carry a broad variety of work. Beverly McNeil is from Portraits, Inc.  Portraits, Inc is really fascinating to me.  They sounded quite particular about the artists they take on, but then you have access to some really high end portrait clients.  Impressive work. Bart Lindstrom is a portrait artist who works with Portraits, Inc and Mary Whyte is a very impressive artist who served as the moderator.  Mary creates some of the most beautiful watercolor paintings I have seen and did a stellar demo from life that was one of the highlights.  She was also featured on a CBS news segment for her Working South series.

Here are three of Mary's impressive watercolor paintings

Scott Jones shared a couple points that were surprising.  More than half of their work is sold online and 85% of nudes are purchased by women.  Bart Lindstrom said while building your career get your work in front of as many people as possible.  People usually remember two images from you, your best and worst. He suggested keeping the 10 paintings you most admire on hand as prints and whenever you finish a painting throw it in with the 10 and see how you measure up. Sounds like a good exercise.

Johanna Harmon - Messengers - 12"x18" oil on linen

Ricky Mujica - Father - 30"x58" oil on canvas

Pramod Kurlekar - Determination -  35" x 36'', oil on canvas

That night, they had a fun tradition where faculty and former finalists contribute a 6"x9" unsigned painting to be sold at a fixed price of $250, with the proceeds going to the scholarship fund. You don't know for certain whose paintings are whose (but some educated guesses can be made) which adds to the excitement.  After a 15 minute preview, you can put your badge in for a lottery for one painting at a time.  The paintings are distributed among 15 or so sections, so you have to decide what you want to try for the most.  At best you can try for about 10 paintings because while you are putting in for one painting another 15 are being decided.  It is very exciting and fun to cross your fingers that your badge is drawn.  I tried on 6 or so paintings but they were all high demand and so 20-30 others were also making the attempt.  Lots of fun, win or lose.  Underpaintings comes through again with shots of all the entries if you are curious.

Sookyi Lee - Bridget - 18" x 24" charcoal on paper

Tracey Ference - This is Marshall - 23"x21" pastel

The third day of the conference I attended a lecture by Daniel Sprick titled Finding Your Unique Vision.  I have admired Daniel's work for sometime, but I came away an even bigger fan. If you know me or have read many of my posts you know how much I admire the classical influences in art. I find that a lot of contemporary fine art leaves me wanting more, but Daniel manages to create works that feel both classical and contemporary at the same time.  He showed some work where he had procured a dead horse, boiled it down for the skeleton, re-assembled the skeleton, put a real human skeleton on top and then created a four-horsemen of the apocolypse piece.  12 feet wide.  Jaw-dropping in the ambition and execution.  Unfortunately, I don't think he has released images of it, at least I couldn't find any online.  So until I do, here are some of his other works:

The afternoon presentation was titled Masterful Influence -  with Kathy Anderson, Scott Burdick,
Michelle Dunaway, Daniel Keys, Susan Lyon and Molly Schmid.  It was a touching tribute to the influence of their mentor, Richard Schmid.  Schmid was there and had a few pieces in tow.  Inspiring as always.  I took some cell phone pictures.  Not my best work, but still show some neat detail.

That night was the awards banquet and presentation of various honors.  David Kassan was the overall winner and his portrait was powerful.  I as surprised at the impact it has in person.  There is a powerful sense of light in his flesh.  It is very detailed with all the wrinkles and spots and imperfections handed with equal diligence and care.  I had picked out his piece and Casey Childs as the two favorites to win so I was happy to see that one of them ended up taking it.

David Jon Kassan
Draper Grand Prize
"Love and Resilience, Portrait of Louise and Lazar Farkas, Survivors of the Shoah," 46x42", oil on panel

Casey Childs
Third Place
"Take These Broken Wings," 48x24", oil on linen

The last day ends with a inspirational hour early in the morning, this year by Michelle Dunaway, followed by a couple more presentations with the conference ending by lunch.

I had a wonderful time. I was surprised at how many people there, that I introduced myself to, were readers of Muddy Colors.  MC's reach goes well beyond our fine circle of the fantastic and sci-fi friends!  I hope to attend again next year and am crossing my fingers that it doesn't happen at the same time as Spectrum Live because it has been too long since I have seen many of you.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Troll Tactics

By Lauren Panepinto

At Spectrum this weekend we had a panel called Fight Club, during which we discussed a bit about social media and how to deal with trolls. It's important for artists (of any gender) to know when someone is trolling them, so that they don't waste their precious art-making time dealing with voices online who are only there to be destructive. Ain't nobody got time for that. So I thought I'd list some of the most frequently-used troll tactics, so you can recognize them and avoid/block when you have to, and engage with caution when you have the time and energy to battle some trolls.

First, let's define terms: there's a difference between a troll and an ignorant person, or a jerk. You cannot be a troll by accident. Trolls know they're trying to mess with you, frustrate you, and waste your time. If your whole day is shot because of them, that's their true victory. The only way to prevail is to deny them attention.

From Urban dictionary:


One who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board or to someone's social media accounts with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument.
The important point here is to realize a troll is more than just a jerk. A troll is trying to actively eat your time so that you don't get anything done other than focusing on the trouble they're causing. 
Sometimes it's hard to tell if a person is a troll or just a person who may be decent but confused and coming off as more aggressive than they realize. Many artists find themselves reluctant to block someone that they're not 100% sure is a troll because they don't want to lose that fan. But I'm here to shed some light on the most common sneaky trolling tactics, so you can recognize them sooner. And if you do not consider yourself a troll, but find that you do these things often, you should realize that it is very possible that people are interpreting your comments as trolling, and you should be aware that you're coming off like a troll and you should probably take a look at how you're interacting online.
The New York Times did a pretty in-depth look at people who become internet trolls and why, so check it out. And here's 99U's Confessions of a Former Troll.
And here's some tactics of the common Internet Troll, so you can recognize them sooner, and block them before they wreak havoc on your pages.



(ex: Mansplain, Geeksplain) When a person that thinks they are superior to you and will proceed to inform you of all the details possible of a subject you already know quite well. A "Mansplainer" will tell women that they know what a woman feels better than the woman does. A "Geeksplainer" will find out your favorite fandom, then proceed to tell you all about it in detail as if they were the expert, and you weren't a fan at all. In an art context, this would be someone who is not even an artist trying to tell Donato how to paint a figure.


Repeated and relentless questioning, often times after the question has been explained in detail multiple times. The sea lion will insist they are acting perfectly civilly, but they are really just trying to delay you as long as possible and derail the conversion. The name comes from a webcomic frame (see below).


Bringing up incendiary and controversial topics to overwhelm a post and/or moderator, who has to deal with finding and policing every post.

—grammar police

Not caring about the content of your post or comment, but insisting your spelling and grammar must be perfect or you can't possibly make a valid argument.


Someone who returns as much as possible to keep commenting on a thread. Even if you do block them on social media. They'll make new accounts and keep making comments to follow you until you are convinced they are right.


When someone posts on your page but they repeat the same thing over and over, just to destroy the ability to have a conversation with anyone else. Usually it's something like "lol" or something NSFW, or just childish and taunting.

—hate monger

That person that goes straight for the incendiary words and name-calling—or right for the death thrusts and rape threats—even when the thread or comments didn't warrant that level of response. Drives all your sane commenters into a rage frenzy and the conversation immediately turns into a melee. I mean, you KNOW this one is a troll. Don't engage, just delete and block as quickly as possible.


…So those are the most prevalent types of troll attacks that come through our community. There's many more on this website. Definitely check it out, and if you notice people using these tactics, prepare to block them!

Depending on your gender, your race, and the topics of your artwork, you may or may not get trolled. It's not a given, nor a necessary sign of success, so if you are not getting trolled, please do not believe that it doesn't exist. Please do not assume that because trolls haven't targeted you that a troll attack is not as bad as people report. Although I've never been targeted to the extent that Gamergate targets have been, I've still gotten more than a few death threats and rape threats. You can't stop it from happening, but you can keep yourself as safe as possible.

If you have been targeted, check out these resources:

Feminist Frequency: Online Safety

Wednesday, April 26, 2017


--Greg Manchess

This is a quick portrait study of one of the characters from my novel, Above The Timberline.

I suppose this old bear, Grim, has been with me for most of my painting life. It showed up in art school when I found that painting the yellow-white fur of polar bears offered me great insight into painting with white pigment. In different types of light and in different temperatures, white can become the most fascinating of colors.

So perhaps the discovery of the subtle use of white became characterized in something animated that lived in all forms of light. An anthropomorphized color. This time, in a polar bear.

The bears of my story, though, do not talk and certainly do not wear armor. They are dangerous and wild, and yet, a little more than one would expect.

Painting this little portrait was an exercise in capturing character with quick pigment.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Spectrum 24 Award Winners

Photo © JJ Torres

This past weekend was Spectrum Fantastic Art Live. Aside from being an amazing convention full of demos, panels, artists and friends, the real highlight of the weekend was the Spectrum 24 Awards Ceremony. Held at the beautiful Folly theatre, we were treated to an evening of stand-up comedy, live dancing, and some amazingly heartfelt speeches.

In addition to the book awards, Kristine and Colin Poole awarded their Spectrum Rising Star Award, and we got a sneak peak into J. Anthony Kosar's process of creating this year's Spectrum Award, which is a jaw dropping work of art.


Alessandra Pisano


Silver Award: Greg Ruth, "Daredevil"

Gold Award: Bayard Wu, "Hunting"


Silver Award: Edward Kinsella III, "Danneee"

Gold Award: Brom, "Lamia"


Silver Award: Dave McKean, "Black Dog: The Dreams of Paul Nash"

Gold Award: Jeremy Wilson, "Chimera Brigade #5"


Silver Award: Iain McCaig, "Minion 5"

Gold Award: Sean Murray, "Court of the Dead: Voxxingard"


Silver Award: Akihito, "Nephila"

Gold Award: Jesse Thompson, "Dress-Up Frog Legs"


Silver Award: Galen Dara, "Seven Salt Tears"

Gold Award: Tim O'Brien, "Beyonce 'Lemonade'"


Silver Award: Ed Binkley, "William Finds Some Flowers and a Giant"

Gold Award: Bill Carman, "Ms. Hatter and a Smile"


Silver Award: Jeffrey Alan Love, "Orange Skies"

Gold Award: Karla "Oritz" Ortiz, "The Death I Bring"


Bill Sienkiewicz

Monday, April 24, 2017

Guest Blogger: Victor Adame Mínguez

-By Jesper Ejsing

I met Victor Adame Minguez half a year ago at a GP in Rotterdam. I had admired his work for awhile but seeing it all spread out on the table in form of huge posters and playmats I really fell in love with his style. I love his sense of colors and vibrancy to light and atmosphere. His shadows are always filled with colors and the light he paints seems to bounch all over the place. But it wasn´t until this last set of Magic the Gathering: Amonketh that I had my jaw drop. When the mummy procession painting was revealed, I said to myslef; "How the hell did he get the light so believable and cool? I gotta know! but I cannot just ask him. I will sound like a stalker or a fanboy or a fellow artist trying to rip his style and Technic..." Then it dawned on me. I would ask him to write an article for muddycolors about that specific painting and it will not sound weird. Well here it is. in his own words...


Hello everyone! My name is Victor Adame Mínguez and I work as a freelance artist for Magic, the Gathering. Today we’re going over the process of creating one of my favourite pieces of magic art I’ve done; Anointed Procession, for the egiptian-inspired mtg set Amonkhet. Before we dive in I would like to thank Jesper Ejsing and our host Muddy Colors for the opportunity.

A little disclaimer, this was a “simple” piece for me to make, all the elements fell into place smoothly during the initial stages, I was confident with the direction I was going to take and the art description was quite fitting for my style, and goes a little like this:

A procession of servant-mummies are carrying corpses of defeated warriors from inside the monument. The bodies hang limp -- they are clearly dead. It looks almost like a funeral procession, except that the dead are being carried so callously, like taking out the trash (not to mention the fact that they're being carried by undead mummies!). Somewhere in the frame, the Planeswalker GIDEON witnesses this procession of the dead. He is just now learning about this world's callous treatment of its dead, so maybe he looks deeply concerned, brow furrowed in dismay.

Focus: The procession of dead bodies
Mood: Living warriors went into the monument... dead warriors come out.

Pretty cool right? So one thing I was practicing the most during that time was the making of both thumbnails and maquettes, thumbnails are essential to figure out the composition on a piece and work especially well here since the final outcome is a 4 x 5 cm image. Unfortunately I did not keep an image of the thumbnail but it’s pretty close to what the underpainting looks like:


For this one I knew I wanted to use a muted palette and limit it as much as I could, for those who follow my work know I like to go all out on color so this was a welcome change of pace, it would also contrast well with the previous world of Kaladesh. The bright but scattered light, fog, and neutral tones are very reminiscent of the early morning, which was the feel I wanted to convey here, to make a funeral procession an everyday thing, something calm and quiet, mundane for the people in his plane but alien to the eyes of the spectator, and speaking of which, the figure that stands out is that of Gideon, we did not only want to place the planeswalker in this foreign, uncomfortable environment, but rather place us the viewer there, in the place of Gideon watching the scene in awe and horror. After throwing in some lines this is the sketch I sent:

Line art

It was approved only with one change in Gideon’s armor. I like sketching this way because it gives me a better understanding of limits and shapes, the lines also help me out posing objects while I shoot reference, which brings me to reference; what I use for the most part are maquettes and models, I often pose myself or have friends pose, this one I had a friend serve as Gideon and the mummies were those 5 dollar anatomic dummies you get in art supplies stores, except painted white and dressed with some toilet paper drapery and cloned times 20 with the magic of photography. How well you use reference will dictate the outcome of the piece, it will provide the light, shapes and even proportions to turn the final image into something believable.

I favor real life reference over 3D, first because I don’t know how to do 3D, second, it allows me to take time away from the screen for which my eyes are thankful, and third, it gives me a better understanding of three-dimensional objects, to go around them, hold in your hand and see how they react to different sources of light will help you have a better feel for those things.
Lastly the final image, this was done digitally like most of my work.

“Anointed Procession” for Magic: The Gathering, ©Wizards of the Coast 2017, Art Director: Cynthia Sheppard.

And the card itself. I’m quite happy with the outcome and response from the player base, the colors play well with the white borders of the card, it is readable at that size which is imperative to the success of any MtG painting and to the card itself, the player is able to recognize the card and what it does with just a simple glimpse of the art which speeds up the game. (note that I also play mtg and I shamessly admit that this card being so, so good makes me quite happy as well).

- Víctor

You can see more of Victor's work at: