Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Even White Trash Zombies Get The Blues

-Dan dos Santos

Here's a painting I just finished up. It's for the book 'Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues'. Which, in case you couldn't tell, is the sequel to 'My Life As A White Trash Zombie'.

You may remember me mentioning in a while back that I was referencing Norman Rockwell for a piece I was working on, particularly to examine the way in which he flattened space to create a more graphic effect. Well, this is the painting that I was attempting to achieve that look on.

Sequels are always tough. They have to look good on their own, but also need to compliment the series. The first cover in the series was particularly successful, but also a bit of a deviation from what I normally do. So it was a bit tricky for me to maintain that same flavor in this piece. Very flat color, very flat space. I still don't know if I was entirely successful or not.

My messy studio during some VERY long nights.
The job was a real rush, and I only had 6 days to complete it, concept to finish. The blues just would NOT dry in that short of time, so I added all the graffiti in digitally. Probably a wise choice anyways, since it is quite possible that I will need to rearrange things to accommodate the type (which will also be done in a graffiti style, primarily in the empty space you see).

Monday, January 30, 2012

Eiko Ishioka

by Arnie Fenner

Part of creating memorable fantastic art has to do with designing costumes for the characters that will seem both "right" for the story and unique. A shirt is a shirt, armor is armor, a crown is a crown, without the artist's contribution, without their vision.

So it's with sadness that I note the passing January 21 of Eiko Ishioka at the age of 73 from pancreatic cancer. A designer of everything from album covers to set designs for stage plays to costumes for Cirque du Solil and a host of Hollywood films, Ms Ishioka's style was instantly identifiable. Her work on The Cell was appropriately surreal and eerie while her recent designs for the Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark Broadway production were a definite highlight. Eiko received the Oscar in 1992 for her stunning costumes for Bram Stoker's Dracula. Director Francis Ford Coppola collaborated with her on a gorgeous book of her designs for the movie that can be ridiculously difficult to find in the collector's market.

Blending a heightened sense of the dramatic with an arresting color balance, Eiko Ishioka's work was inspiring and influential, particularly in our field. She will be missed.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Stephen Colbert interviews Maurice Sendak

This brilliant interview has been making the rounds, and rightfully so. I think it is hilarious, though perhaps not appropriate for everyone's tastes.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Uroš Predić (Orlovat 1857 – Belgrade 1953)

by Petar Meseldzija

Uroš Predić, one of the greatest Serbian painters, was born in 1857 in Orlovat , a village in the region of Banat, to the family of Petar Predić, who was a priest, and his wife Marija.  After finishing the grammar school in Pančevo, in 1876 he enrolled in the Academy of Arts in Vienna. Once settled in this magnificent capital city of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, Predić devoted himself to his studies very seriously. He studied under the respected Austrian artist Christian Grippenkerl, who was also the professor of Paja Jovanović.  Upon graduating, Predić was accepted into the professor’s “personal studio” and into a special school of the Academy, where he was given a position of an assistant. He also assisted the Professor Grippenkerl on the frieze with thirteen scenes of ancient history, in the Herrenhaus Hall of the new Parliament building. Unfortunately those pictures were destroyed in the bombing of 1944.

After some time he gave up his position as an assistant at the Academy and decided to go back to his homeland. During the next 10 years, depending on the jobs he had, he spent his time in different places, like Orlovat, Belgrade and Novi Sad. In that period he painted several important works, that would become one of the most loved and known paintings from the history of Serbian Art, paintings like “ Jolly Brothers” and “An Orphan upon His Mother’s Grave ”.
Jolly Brothers, 1887
His first and quite remarkable exhibition was held in Belgrade in 1888, and after that he became a very known and respected painter in Serbia. In 1889 he won the competition for painting the iconostasis for the monumental new church in the town of Novi Bečej.  From 1889-1894 he painted more than 60 paintings (icons), making a great contribution to the beauty of the lavishly engraved altar screen, which became one of the most remarkable Serbian iconostases of the last couple of centuries.

The iconostasis in the church of Novi Bečej
After finishing his work in Novi Bečej, Predić firmly decided not to accept any future commissions from the churches. He intended to further pursue a career of a painter who makes the paintings of people and for the people, something that he did in the 1880ies. However, the illness and the subsequent death  of his brother, and Predić’s deep concern for his brother’s family, among other things, made him reconsider his decision and forced him to accept the offer to work on the iconostasis in another church, which was a secure and well paid job. “Fulfillment of human duties offered an ample compensation for the abandonment of all ambitions of youth”, wrote Predić later in his Autobiography. In 1894 he moved to his village of Orlovat, and lived there with his mother for the next 15 years, which he later described as  “the best fifteen years of his life”.
During his long and prolific life, Predić painted a great number of religious paintings for the  numerous churches and private clients, becoming the greatest Serbian iconographer of the modern age. Predić also became a great portraitist and created a large number of portraits of kings and queens, wealthy people, politicians , scientists, artists , family members and friends. He loved his work tremendously and even at the age of 95 he daily had his painting brush and paints in his hand. After he broke his hipbone in spring, 1952, his health deteriorated and he died the following year on February 11, 1953.

Uroš Predić restoring his icons, 1931
I have always loved the paintings of Uroš Predić and felt emotionally connected to his art. His paintings, I think, possess a certain intimacy, warmth and the emotional depth, the qualities that come from his love for his art, dedication , persistency and hard work.  I must say that I sometimes miss this kind of emotional involvement in the paintings of Paja Jovanovic. His paintings are often grand, visually impressive  and superbly executed, but at the same time they sometimes lack the emotional depth, which I find in the paintings of Uroš Predić. However, I am a great admirer of both artists and I am grateful for having their paintings around me while growing up and developing my artistic skills and insights.

This blog post about Uroš Predić, and the previous  one about Paja Jovanović, are a token of my gratitude and a homage to these great painters.
And I thought it was time to announce the existence of their beautiful art to the wider world.

St. George, 1907

Bosnian Refugees, 1889

The Maiden of Kosovo, 1919

An Orphan upon His Mother’s Grave, 1888

The Girl at the Well, 1818/1936

A Nude, 1917

Iconostasis in the Grgeteg Monastery, 1900/1092

Christ, the icon from the Bečej iconostasis

Madona with Christ, Almaška Church, Novi Sad, 1905

Madona with Christ (detail), the icon from the Pančevo Church, 1909

St. Dimitrije, 1907

St. George Slaying the Dragon, 1930

St. Nicolas rescuing the shipwrecked, 1932

St. Nikola and Patriarch Lukijan, 1910

Bishop Irinej Ćirić,1923

An Angry Girl, 1879

Moravian Girl, 1879/1880

Milan Savić, 1900

Marko Murat, 1919

Queen Natalia Obrenović of Serbia

King Petar I Karadjordjević, 1921

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Comics Out Loud

This Saturday at the Society of Illustrators, NYC....

In a manner similar to the Society's acclaimed ART OUT LOUD events, COMICS OUT LOUD will feature top comic book creators - one from each discipline of the medium - demonstrating and discussing their work processes as attendees circulate around the room and watch the process of "sequential art" (as the great Will Eisner dubbed it) being made.

You'll get to watch writer LOUISE SIMONSON, penciler WALT SIMONSON, inker BOB WIACEK, colorist CHRIS SOTOMAYOR, and letterer JOHN WORKMAN as they ply their crafts. Each creator will be working on a current assignment, so that attendees will get a sense of how team-created comics come to be. Event organizer, and longtime comics editor, DANNY FINGEROTH, will be on hand to discuss and demonstrate the role of the editor in the comic book making process.

COMICS OUT LOUD will be a rare opportunity to see top creators doing (and speaking about) their work. You will have the chance to find out everything you always wanted to know about making comics, but were afraid (or didn't even know) to ask!

Saturday, January 28, 2012 1:00 - 5:00PM
128 East 63rd Street, NYC

$50 non-members, $40 members, $20 students
Food will be available for an additional $5.
Reservations are limited. Click here to reserve your spot!

**** In addition to checking out the great comic demos, you will also get to see the Annual Book & Editorial  exhibition at the Society, which just went up the other day and displays the year's best work in that field. (Including a few pieces that have been showcased here on Muddy Colors!) ****

Appreciating Rembrandt

-Justin Sweet

Here's a couple of my favorite Rembrandt's. Great pictorially in every way...

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Future of Painting

Gregory Manchess

The principles of physics, as far as I can see, do not speak against the possibility of maneuvering things atom by atom.
--Richard Feynman, Nobel Laureate

It’s entirely important for us to paint with our minds focused on today, as in-tune with our generation as possible, not ‘ahead of our time’ as the favorite saying goes.

The intelligent painter reasons that it would be a good thing for their work to look as fresh in the future as when they first laid down the brush from finishing it. The thought of our work being lost to the elements, or battered by time, turned to dust by mold, moisture, and neglect, is at best depressing, at worst, revolting. We want to leave our marks, and we want them to last. We spend a considerable amount of time studying, designing, developing, and practicing to make substrates indestructible, our paint long-lasting, cracks being the bane of a beautiful surface.

The field is full of art restorers, museum professionals, and smart, creative artists, as well as scientists, who have worked out excellent methods for elongating the rather tenuous life-times of our paintings. They make strides everyday to preserve our best efforts.

For example, there is a rather costly technique that can actually restore the rotten canvas backing from an old oil painting. The piece is laid face down on a platen pierced with tiny holes through which air is pulled. This vacuum securely holds the painting to the platen while a chemical is applied to the canvas back, loosening it from the painting. A new canvas is glued to the back of the old painting’s substrate. Amazing.

There will be more techniques coming for restoring artwork. Michio Kaku’s latest book, The Physics of the Future, is stunning for its cataloging of scientific advances over the next 100 years. Interviewing scientists on today’s cutting edge of breakthroughs, Kaku combined a boatload of the latest information with the latest speculation to give a glimpse of what’s in store for us. Especially miniaturization.
From the somewhat familiar world of nanotechnology comes the field of programmable matter. Scientists at Intel visualize matter that can change it’s shape, color, texture. (Think T-1000 from The Terminator.) Currently called ‘catoms’, they are basically computer chips in the shape of a grain of sand, manipulated by electrical charges that cause them to line-up in designated patterns.

This is entirely my own speculation, but with the miniaturization of techniques, no painter will ever worry again about paint cracking. It will simply be unnecessary as nanotechnology will allow paint to be rebuilt into these flaws. Duplicated color will be grown directly into the cracks, re-filling them from the substrate to the surface. But that’s for the old paintings we’re familiar with.

What’s even more advanced, and I dare predict this may happen perhaps before mid-century, is the redevelopment of pigment itself. Smart Pigment will be built of such small intelligent materials that it will not be made of ground substances, but myriads of microscopic pigment-techs made of molecular machines known as nanoparticles. We will not paint with toxic materials any longer. We’ll paint with artificial pigment that looks, acts, and applies like the old pigments, but it will have what we cannot possibly have at this point.

This paint will have memory.

We’ll be able to paint with this material as before, but we’ll also be able to back up, change, rearrange, reprogram, re-dictate, and re-watch our actual painting steps. We’ll be able to change color, change texture, change value, change thickness--on the fly. When we’re done, we’ll be able to take the same painting and apply it, much like an auto-print, to another surface, at any size, on nearly any surface. (...and there's no drying time...)

We’ll be able to take that same picture, or expression, and hand the sequence to a friend or client to allow them to have an exact copy made from scratch, stroke for stroke, from the surface up. And they’ll be able to watch it paint itself if they wish, over and over. The day when paintings are truly unfinished will have most definitely arrived.

This, of course, leads to questions about authenticity, and copyright protection. It will have to be developed as we go, as we’ve always gone, a little at a time.

Why is this question important to us today? Because it frees us, as living artists, once again, to focus on the creation, and not the attention. It’s far more important for an artist to concentrate on developing good visual images than to waste time figuring out how future generations will adore it, or us. If no one cares in the first place, your stalwart, indestructible artwork will just as likely be more of a nuisance.
Paint now. Wonder about the other stuff later.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Appreciating Rockwell, Pt. 4

-By Dan dos Santos

Norman Rockwell has undoubtedly had a great influence on the illustration world, but rarely do we consider those who influenced him.

James Gurney recently blogged about some similarities between Rockwell's work and some European painters, and I thought it would be nice to explore this notion further. Norman Rockwell has had many different styles throughout his long career (4000 paintings long, to be exact), and some of those styles show a particularly strong influence from other artists.

Norman is probably most well known for his Saturday Evening Post covers, which he started painting at the young age of 22. But before he started doing covers for the weekly magazine, artist J.C. Leyendecker had already been painting them for decades, and had established a well defined look for the magazine. Arguably the most popular illustrator of the time, J.C.'s influence was hard to avoid. His clean, graphic approach to picture making became a trademark of sorts, and Norman kept with that theme when he did Saturday Evening Posts covers as well. This was no great secret of course. Their run on the magazine overlapped for about 20 years, and the two became very good friends over that time. Norman was even a pallbearer at J.C.'s untimely funeral.

Leyendecker, 1926
Rockwell, 1928
But even when Norman wasn't painting Saturday Evening Post covers, J.C's influence on his work was quite apparent, especially in the early years of Norman's career.

'Men Reading', by J.C. Leyendecker, 1914

'U.S. Army Teaches Trades', by Norman Rockwell, 1919
Rockwell's contemporary influences didn't stop there. During the early 1900's illustration dominated the advertising market, but photography was quickly catching on. One of the most successful photographers of the time was Nickolas Muray. Early in his career, Muray specialized in celebrity portraits, but later turned his eye toward the much more lucrative market of advertising. Considered a pioneer in the field, Muray became well known for his sentimental depictions of family, amongst other things.

I thinks it's fair to say that both Muray and Rockwell were influenced by each other, since they were working at much the same time, and often dealing with the same subject matter. But Muray's work, seen in just about every major periodical there was at the time, no doubt had a strong affect on Rockwell. Together, they created what we now consider sentimental Americana.

Cover for McCall's Magazine, by Nickolas Muray, 1939
'Freedom From Want', by Norman Rockwell, 1943
Obviously, we are all influenced by our surroundings, and in the case of an illustrator, by current trends in the market place. But what about non contemporary influences on Norman Rockwell?

Norman Rockwell started painting at a very young age, and was well schooled in the arts, having studied under such legendary teachers like George Bridgeman at the Art Students League in NYC. A voracious learner, it's natural to assume that Norman was at least somewhat knowledgable about European painters as well.

I expect Norman was familiar with a Parisian painter named Jean-Eugène Buland. Buland, who died in 1926, ended his career just as Rockwell was beginning his. A lot of compositional similarities can be found between their works. These similarities are especially apparent in the way they both flattened the picture plane, and treated their subjects with a graphic quality by utilizing a 'neutral eye level' (which we discussed in Pt. 3 of this series).

'Propaganda Campaign', by Jean-Eugene Buland, 1889

'Jury Holdout', by Norman Rockwell, 1959
So what's the point of this post, and how exactly can we even consider this 'Appreciating Rockwell'?

I believe that to fully appreciate a thing, it's necessary to understand the context from which it came. It's also encouraging to know that even the greatest of artists are not without their influences. When I thumb through a book on Rockwell hoping to find inspiration, it's reassuring to think that he was doing the very same thing with his favorite artists nearly a hundred years ago.

The Forest Troll: Digital Trickery

By Justin Gerard

I am working in Adobe Photoshop CS5 for the digital final for this painting. (You don't always need the latest and greatest in software, but CS5 is amazingly stable by comparison to CS4 or CS3, both of which would crash regularly based on alignment of certain stars and lunar cycles. And on Tuesdays. And really just any time that they felt like crashing.)
Up until the halfway point I work in only multiply layers.  I am using these layers very much like thin transparent watercolor or acrylic washes.  

Digital Work In Progress: Midway Point

After the midway point I will switch into other layer modes, like screen and color dodge for highlighting. And some normal layers for opaque details. 

Final Digital 

You will notice that I added a few elements to the image at this stage, like the extra foreground foliage. These were decisions made after letting the painting sit for a few days and then coming back to it with a fresh pair of eyes.  It can be a risky business to always be going back and correcting an image.  Sometimes it is better to just leave your first ideas alone and move on to work on new projects. (You hear me Lucas?)  I will only do it if I feel I absolutely have to. In this case, I had lost some of the forest-ness of the scene, and wanted to recapture a bit of it.

Troll Detail

Dwarf Detail

Thank you everyone for all the support and really helpful feedback!