Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Artist of the Month: Diebenkorn

William O'Connor

After WWII in America abstract expressionism ruled the art world.  Rothko, Newman, Hoffman and of course Jackson Pollock, who was on the cover of Life Magazine in 1949, being called "The greatest artist in America."  Undoubtedly these artists helped to transform the art world, and along with mid century modern architects, musicians and designers, the aesthetic of the post war world dramatically changed.  Figurative and representational art had not only become unfashionable, it was taboo.

Artists who bucked this trend often faced ridicule and obscurity from the art establishment.  O'Keefe, Freud, Neel, A. Wyeth, Khalo, etc, all had to wait decades and the advent of the post modernist movement for their work to be noticed.  One of the most influential of these artists was Richard Diebenkorn (1922-1993)

Diebenkorn had returned from WWII and begun his career in NYC embracing the new abstract expressionism.  Traveling and teaching he eventually settled down in California in the mid sixties and began to work figuratively. In 1967 he began his famous Ocean Park landscape series which he would work on for almost twenty years and produce more than one hundred paintings.

Diebenkorn's landscapes are a beautiful bridge between abstract field paintings and traditional representational art.   Deeply inspired by artists like Matisse he has simplified the environment focusing on the forms of bright sunlit California color.  Like looking out a window he breaks the space with architectural elements, swimming pools, roads, trees and even figures, into harmonious compositions.

Today Diebenkorn's paintings grace the collections of some of the most prestigious museums and fetch millions at auction.  I still often look to Diebenkorn to better understand composition, dividing the canvas into simple forms and colors.  I highly recommend any student or artist interested in composition to take look at Diebenkorn's work.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Scott Gustafson: 2015 Spectrum Grand Master

by Arnie Fenner

Last month at the Spectrum 22 Awards ceremony (during Spectrum Fantastic Art Live), Scott Gustafson was presented with the 2015 Grand Master Award. It should surprise no one that I believe the honor is richly deserved.

The first time I saw Scott's art was in an illustrated edition of Peter Pan in 1991: I was honestly amazed when I first opened the book and encountered his depictions of Neverland, the Lost Boys, and Captain Hook (his painting of the battle between Hook and Peter is a classic). Those feelings of astonishment and excitement about his art still come rushing back whenever I pull my well-thumbed copy off the bookshelf.

Above: Only four of many limited edition prints featuring Scott's art that have been produced through the years by the Greenwich Workshop.

A graduate of the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, he originally planned to be an animator; while I'm sure Scott would have been successful working in the film industry, I think he actually answered his true calling. As modest as he is skilled, Scott is without question one of the finest painters to ever work in our field. Almost impossibly lush and impeccably rendered, his work is engaging, affecting, thoughtful, sensitive, and unforgettable. There is no one quite like him—and, like every other artist to receive the Grand Master Award, there has never been anyone that has created art quite the same way Scott creates, no one else who can see things the way he sees them or could replicate what he does.

Best known for his illustrations and gallery art based on fairy tales, fables, and children's literature, he's also been known to create pieces inspired by Star Wars (early in his career), Robert E. Howard's Breckinridge Elkins, and the Wachowskis' Shaolin Cowboy comic. The Greenwich Workshop has produced an extensive line of limited edition prints and collectible figurines and Scott has even written (and illustrated, naturally) a novel for young readers, Eddie: The Lost Youth of Edgar Allan Poe.

Above: Scott did not know that he was going to receive the Grand Master Award during the Spectrum 22 awards ceremony. So he was surprised to see his best friend Gary Gianni take the stage and start to tell a story about the creative process and someone he knew quite well. The last shot is of Scott and his wife Patty greeting well-wishers in the Folly Theater lobby immediately following the ceremony.
All photos courtesy of Sampsel Preston Photography.

Dan dos Santos spotlighted Scott here on MC several years ago and I encourage those not familiar with his art to hit the link for some insight and exceptional art. I'd also suggest visiting Carl V. Anderson's blog Stainless Steel Droppings for a quick profile. Of course, you should also visit—and bookmark—Scott's website for more info, art, and news.

Above: As mentioned earlier on MC, Spectrum Director John Fleskes came up with the idea of redesigning the awards this year ("Let's make the new awards a classic work of Fine Art!") and worked with renowned sculptors Kristine & Colin Poole to create the beautiful bronze Muse you see on the left. Several additional figures were added to the base to reflect Scott's career illustrating fairy tales. The photo of the award and the portrait of Scott are by Greg Preston.

The Spectrum Advisory Board will start to talk about next year's honoree in the coming months (criteria: must be living, must have a career exceeding 20 years, must have created a body of work of consistently high quality, must have influenced other artists with their work and professional attitude) and, naturally, we're always open to suggestions from artists and readers.

But in the meantime let's celebrate the accomplishments of one of our best, one of our own: 2015 Grand Master Scott Gustafson!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

"The Death of Day"

by Eric Fortune

I was invited by The Cotton Candy Machine Gallery to contribute to this years Tiny Trifecta Show.  The point of the show is to do three pieces at 6x6" or smaller all to be priced at $100.  It's a great opportunity for people who want to collect art with a limited budget to get some pretty nice work from some great contributors(if you're willing to camp outside the gallery the night before the opening).

In my mind it's less about making a piece of art that I would value at only $100.  If I did that coming out of school I'd never get better and I'd never get better paying work.   Well, maybe I would, who knows?  In my mind this is about giving people and fans of your work a chance to get some nice art. The size does make it easier to price it so low but I don't like half assing my art work.  Especially if I feel it has a deeper emotional connection or social commentary.  So I chose to do the best I can for this show.  Also, because my color work tends to be very tedious, working at a small scale in black and white with pencil was such a nice break from the norm that I think I'll do some more in the near future.

Today I'm going to be presenting some progress shots.  In a later post I'll show the other two pieces and share a some of what inspired me to make these pieces.

One of these days I'll do better sketches... just kidding.  I refuse.

I usually go from sketch to transferring a final.  Though sometimes it feels appropriate to figure out proportions better.  Probably because I don't often do more well known faces and I don't think doing likenesses is really a strong suit of mine.

Another challenge for me was working from very limited pictures of  Billie Holiday that I could find online and still tweak to fit my composition and style.

"The Death of Day" Final
pencil on paper 6x5"

Friday, June 26, 2015

Magic: the Gathering Origins Artwork

It has been a while since I have posted some of my illustrations for Magic: the Gathering.  The most recent set, Origins, is being spoiled currently.  Each day a few new cards and artwork are released until the entire set is revealed.

I had the chance to four images for this set.  I will include some of the rough sketches as well.

Valeron Wardens

Three pilgrims make their way to the great Obelisk of Bant.  I don't paint a lot of landscapes.  I need to paint more.  Both for proficiency and enjoyment.  I love creating spaces to explore.  I want to walk down this path and stand in front of the obelisk, feel the sun on my face and watch the clouds float by.  I love my job.

As you will see below, I made some major changes between the sketch stage and the final to the poses, especially the one in the foreground.

Enshrouding Mist

In this card, the woman has cast a spell that causes her opponents weapons to pass harmlessly through her body.

Conclave Naturalists

Two Dryads enter the battlefield and wipe away an enchantment.  They stand in the middle of a temple grove, drawing strength from the trees and plants around them.

Conclave Naturalists promotional version

This take on the same card is going to be used for promotional purposes.

From the launch site: "The weekend of August 8–9, 2015, stores all around the world will be holding Magic Origins Game Day. Just for participating, you can receive this full art Conclave Naturalists."

And this is how it will look on the card.  Go to your local gaming store and participate in the launch August 8th and 9th and you can get a copy of the promo card below!

Thanks for giving this post a read!

Howard Lyon

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Con(fidence) Game

-By Lauren Panepinto

Julie Baroh from Krab Jab Studio is working on Part 2 of her Demystifying the Gallery World series, so stay tuned. Meanwhile, we return to my usual rambling thoughts… 

Also I know this is a family friendly blog, so beware, strong language occurs inside...

This column is about confidence, and the con games we play with ourselves that can either erode, or develop, that confidence. I've done a lot of thinking on confidence - or more accurately, on the lack of it - because I've been doing a lot of writing and giving bootcamps* on the issues that women face in an art career, and in the greater world. Confidence is a big problem, but it's far from just a women's issue. Men and women both suffer from insecurity. Lack of confidence can keep you from promoting yourself, it can keep you from networking effectively, it can stop you from making the best of opportunities that come your way, and it can keep you from getting the mentor and peer input that could really push your work.

I'm very lucky - I was raised by my parents to be extremely independent and confident, and to be able to work a room, and I'm very extroverted, so I am more comfortable interacting in crowds and with strangers. But even I get insecure sometimes. I've often been hit with Imposter Syndrome in my career. (If you don't know Imposter Syndrome, in a nutshell, it's the irrational fear that you are a fraud and "they're" all going to know you're a fraud, that you couldn't have possibly earned what you've gotten. And who the hell are "they" anyway?)

So regardless of where we fall on the confidence scale, there are going to be times when we need to force ourselves to be more confident. So how the hell do you do that? Here's a few things that help me:

1 — Know it's all in your Head:

Like I said, everyone is insecure sometimes. And a little insecurity is good - it keeps us from getting arrogant, but too much makes us entirely too self-conscious. When we get self-conscious we imagine that other people are constantly judging us harshly. We've all done it - imagined thoughts in other people's heads disliking us, and criticizing (or worse, laughing at) what we're doing.

But you know what? Most of the time, other people notice and judge us a lot less (and a lot less harshly) that we judge ourselves. Those voices in our head aren't what other people are probably thinking - they're us. And we are our own worst and nastiest critics. And that means we have the power to control our inner voices, and teach them to be nicer to us. 

And if you really are worried about what other people will think of you, then you need to learn The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck. We only have so many f*cks to give in the world and we need to hoard them for ourselves, we can't just give them away to everyone who walks by. We need to save them for ourselves and for the people that have earned them. Don't get me wrong, it's not about not caring about what you're doing. "Not giving a fuck" seems like it implies apathy, and that's not what I mean at all. It's more about saving the energy you're wasting on imagining what other people think and using it on yourself and your awesome projects. I'm researching better terms than "f*cks" to use that don't imply apathy…I'll keep you posted.

2 — But the Body plays a big role as well:

There's two physical things that immediately boost our confidence: our posture, and eye contact. It's been proven that "power poses" actually boost testosterone in the body, giving us a little hit of confidence juice that reinvigorates us. Watch Amy Cuddy's Ted talk to learn which power poses actually work on your body chemistry, then check out this more in-depth article.

3 — Remember it all comes back to fear:

Confidence is the lack of insecurity. Insecurity is all about fear. Don't let fear stop you from doing things you want to do. What's the worst that could happen? Some stranger laughs at you? (See #1 again). Or that you fail? (Manchess already covered that this week).

So what's the "con" in "confidence? Well, sometimes you have to con yourself into feeling confidence. Fake it til you make it is the name of the confidence game. Some people don't like that idea, it feels fake to them, it feels like lying, it feels like you're a fraud (imposter syndrome again) but think of it this way: There is nothing different between a confident person and an insecure person except how they feel about themselves. Not success, not fitness, not money, nothing. The only difference is in your head. So in a way, there is no "faking" confidence. You start acting like a more confident person, you slowly start to make it a habit. You practice it, and you realize that people really do start to pick up on that confidence shift in you (and are not calling you out for being a fraud), and it feels good. And slowly, it sticks. That's not to say we don't all have insecure times — before every Spectrum panel and bootcamp I was "faking it" until I got started and more comfortable. But self-confidence becomes your default, and that's the most important foundation you can have to then go out and make and do awesome things.

*Yes, we'll be uploading the bootcamp one-sheets for everyone soon.