Saturday, November 1, 2014

Battle of Five Armies 2014

By Justin Gerard

This is the third post on Beorne and Bolg at the Battle of the Five Armies. We are about 95% Finished!  Still a few odds and ends to tweak but it is getting to a nice stage of pleasant mayhem.

This time, instead of trying to explain how we went from here to here:

I am attaching a GIF to show the stages that the painting goes through.

I like making GIFS. Sometimes when I paint I feel like I am actually going backwards, making the piece worse minute by minute.  Seeing the actual progress of it can be really encouraging.

In the GIF you can see I am working values first before ever really getting into saturated colors.  That is because saturated colors are evil.

They are like petting a cat....

Everyone is purring and having a nice time when suddenly he whips around and tries to bite your hand off.
That is what working with saturated colors is like.

I am still working on some of the fine details, and of course my signature. (Everyone knows that the quality of one's painting is directly proportional to the size and complexity of the signature.)

After it is finished we plan to make prints of it in time to be released alongside sketchbook 2014...
Stay tuned!

For previous posts on this painting check out:

Post #1: Concept work
Post #2: The Tight Drawing

Phedre's Rose

More than a decade ago John Jude Palencar painted the cover for Jacqueline Carey's newest book 'Kushiel's Dart', and on it, portrayed the iconic tattoo design that would henceforth define the best selling series for years to come.

Jacqueline Carey has asked Allison Hourcade, of RockLove Jewelry, to recreated the tattoo design in the form of a sterling silver necklace.

Ms Carey is donating 100% of proceeds from this signature necklace to the Saugatuck-Douglas District Library, which is raising funds for a new facility.

If you're interested in helping support the fund raiser, and snagging yourself a beautiful work of art in the process, just click the link here:

Friday, October 31, 2014

Learning to Juggle

-By Howard Lyon

For the last few years, I have been branching out in both subject and market.  I have continued to illustrate, painting for Magic: the Gathering and other clients in the fantasy/sci-fi market but have also started to do some religious work and am also preparing work for galleries.  It has been a challenge.  This article isn't about religious painting or fantasy illustration, but about working and promoting yourself in two very different genres.

Initially, I kept my religious work and illustration work on two different sites, but this last year I launched a new site where they sit side by side.  I still have separate stores and blogs, but it is hard to miss.

Some days I am relieved to have my hands in multiple markets.  I enjoy the creative variation as well as the opportunity to diversify financially.  I have broadened my market and opened up new opportunities that might not have ever been presented otherwise.

Ashcloud Phoenix - Magic: the Gathering
Then at other times I worry that I am diluting my "brand", softening the impact I could potentially make in either market.  There is only so much time in a day and the fact is, I am doing half as much illustration work and I could do twice as much gallery/fine art if that were my sole focus.

The truth is, I have never been happier.  I have come to the point that I don't sweat what might be for what is (most days).  As long as I am improving, working hard and smart, I find this work to be increasingly gratifying.

Feed My Sheep - 11 x 14 oil on panel
I have often heard the advice to pick something and go after it 100%.  I can't disagree with that but what if you have a drive to do comics and gallery work or children's book illustration and horror?  I can only speak to my own experiences so that if you are considering engaging in what might be seemingly divorced markets you might do so with a little less trepidation.

Here are the benefits/insights I have found:
  • When I switch from one kind of work to the other, I come back each time with a renewed and increased energy.
  • My audience has doubled over the last few years.  Google Analytics has given me good insight into how my audience has changed and what they come to my site for.  On and average day traffic is nearly a 50/50 split between my religious work and fantasy work.  
  • Producing work consistently for a market is key to keeping it moving forward.  Regular releases help to keep your audience engaged even when there is less work coming out.
  • The two markets I have been producing work for have offsetting seasons.  I focus a little more on promoting my illustration in the spring and summer and my religious work in the fall and winter.  If you should work in a couple markets, that might be something to consider.

Master the Way - Magic: the Gathering

Here are some challenges:
  • I sometimes feel that I have to sacrifice one opportunity for another.  That being said, when I was solely doing contract work, I felt that way all the time.  
  • Some customers have expressed concern or disdain at my spectrum of work, from both sides.  I suppose there is a further risk of not being taken seriously by some as long as I have a foot in both markets.  
  • There is an added measure of stress.  I can't pin it down exactly, but there are more things to juggle.  Even if I did the exact same amount of work, with two markets to feed and grow it is more hectic.
  • I keep more inventory on hand as far as prints go, so that I can ship quickly.  This requires ongoing investment that is greater than when I was fulfilling one audience.
  • My social media relationship... "it's complicated."  Building your social media presence takes time and regular effort.  If you want to keep your social media separate, it can take a lot more time.

King of Kings - 36" x 48" oil on linen
If you are currently working happily in one field, but want to dip your toes in another area of work I offer this advice.  Be patient.  Connect with artists working in that market and ask for advice with shows and marketing.  Schedule time each week to do research/promotion and stick to it.  Accept that this is a compromise.  Prepare to work a little harder at first.  Enjoy every day you get to work as an artists, whatever it is you paint/draw/sculpt/create.

I can't say that I will always split my time between these two fields.  The road I think I am on seems to change as I traverse it.  Check back with me in 50 years and I will let you know how things worked out.

For fun, here is a time-lapse of my Feed My Sheep piece.

And to balance that out, some gifs showing the progression of a couple Magic cards.
Master the Way
Warden of the Eye
Thanks for giving this post a read.  I would love to read your thoughts and experience in the comments!
Howard Lyon
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Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The 7 Deadly (Art) Sins: WRATH

-By Lauren Panepinto

I'm back this week with #3 in our series on The Seven Deadly Sins, as they apply to Art and Artists. This week, we're going to tackle one I know we've all had to deal with from time to time (and some of us more often than that)...the big doozy: Wrath. Rage. Anger. Ire. I think Wrath has a nice biblical ring to it, so we'll stick with that.

This is one I don't think I need a dictionary definition for. No question, we have all felt the burning fire of wrath in relation to our art. Maybe it was after a hard critique in an art class. Maybe it was infuriating client feedback. Maybe it was a late or lost invoice and an unhelpful accounting department. Maybe it was an Art Director who killed one of your pieces. Maybe it was an artist who pushed their deadline and then still delivered sub-par work. You'd have to be a saint to truthfully say you've never felt the flames of ire and a need for vengeance urging us on.

And as an art theme this week, I am giving Bosch & Blake a well-deserved break, and illustrating this post with some of my favorite depictions of Medusa from art history. Medusa is the mascot of the sin of wrath. In some tellings of the myth, she was so consumed by the fire of rage that she was turned into a monster, with poison-spitting snakes for hair. I invoke Medusa here for an even more specific reason, because she was, in my opinion at least, unjustly wronged. In Ovid's version of the story, she was a beautiful maiden priestess of Athena. Poseidon desired her and, as Greek gods were apt to do, raped her in Athena's temple. That's enough, in my book, to become poison-spitting mad, but the story is that Athena got so pissed at the defilement of her temple that she turned Medusa into a monster who would turn everyone she looked at to stone. That's Medusa doubly wronged in my book, (talk about blaming the victim) and she had every right to be pissed the f#*k off.

Medusa and Perseus by Laurent-Honoré Marqueste, 1876
No matter which version of the story you want to follow, Medusa was turned into a monster by the sin of Wrath. But when your anger feels righteous, it's sometimes the hardest to control, because it is a justified anger. But it will still burn you.

I keep using fire analogies for a reason, because I am going to talk about two more: "Flaming" clients and "Burning" bridges.

Flaming someone has been around since long before the internet, but the audience was in most cases small, and controlled. Even if you got drunk and loudly complained about a client in a crowd of people, chances were you knew who had overheard. If you wrote a scathing review of another artist's work, it was usually contained to a pretty insular audience. But it wasn't a good practice then, and now, with the exponential growth of our own personal audiences, it's nothing but a lose-lose situation.

Medusa by Caravaggio, 1597
No one says you can't rant, or vent, when you have been wronged...just keep it to a controlled audience. We all have safe spaces. I have trusted colleagues and friends that I can bitch to when I need to. We all need to, sometimes. However the internet is not a safe space. You cannot control your audience. Whether you are writing on a website or blog or on social media, the evidence of you losing your shit is there for anyone to see. Forever. And sure, your friends may know that the client (or AD) completely deserved to get chewed out...but are you going to be there defending your side of the story to everyone who happens to read that post? Even if you are always in the right, and miraculously you are also always perceived by the casual observer to be in the right, it still paints a pretty dangerous picture of you as an artist who will fly off the handle and start a smear campaign if something goes wrong.

I'll be honest with you, the first thing I think about when I see an artist horribly flaming a client online is "Wow. What if a job they do for me goes awry (as sometimes jobs do, no matter what you do to avoid it)...will I be the next rant target?"

Does it keep me from working with an artist entirely? Maybe not — it depends on how ugly that rant was — but I will certainly hesitate before I assign them something of mine.

Medusa by Bernini, ca. 1630 
Ripping someone apart on in a public place shows a lack of self-control, and more importantly, a lack of empathy. I am absolutely not saying that the client is never wrong. I am also not saying that if I see one or two frustration-fueled rants on the internet that I am going to hold it against someone. But if I see a LOT of nastiness and negativity coming from a person who especially goes so far as to name the other party publicly, well then yea, I admit it, I am not going to want to work with that person.

Also remember, email to an AD or client is also not a safe space to flame someone. I've said it many times before: ADs all talk to each other. And clients network too. If you rip someone a new one in print — whether it is on social media, OR in a "private" email, or heck, even in a written letter — you are burning more bridges than you know.

Medusa and Perseus by Antonio Canova, ca. 1790
This is going to sound unfair to a lot of you, and I'm sorry, it's not fair. A wise man once told me, freedom of speech is not freedom from other people judging that speech.

Sometimes the best thing is to get it out of your system. Write that nasty email, and then leave it in the drafts folder for at least 24hrs. Rewrite it the next day when you've calmed down. Send it to one of those trusted peer friends. It's almost never worth the potential of burnt bridges. The worst part is, you'll probably never know that's why you're not getting the commissions you want. Trust me, it's not worth taking the chance. There's always a firm but professional way to say what you need to say.

And then go out with a few friends (and maybe some whiskey) and get it all off your chest in private.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Upcoming Art Books for November 2014

-By Dan dos Santos

The month of November is proving to be a stellar month for new art books... particularly November 11th for some odd reason (perhaps our resident publishing expert, Arnie Fenner, can shed some light on why that is).

These books aren't out yet, so I can't personally attest to their quality, but they've peaked my interested enough to place them all on pre-order. I thought I would share with you some of the ones I am most excited about.

Spectrum 21

What more do I need to say? Spectrum has become the definitive source for great Fantasy art every year. If you're not buying these annuals regularly, you're honestly doing yourself a great disservice. This volume will be the first volume not edited by the Fenners, and I am super excited to see what changes (if any) John Fleskes has in store for us.

The Art of the Simon and Kirby Studio

I'm a big fan of comics, and of Kirby in particular. And although there are a lot of books on Kirby's and Simon's work out there, most are just sub-par reproductions of sequential work that they've done over the years. I'm hoping this book will finally be the book that does their work justice. The book is oversized, at nearly 10x13 inches, and almost 400 pages thick. Supposedly, much of the artwork contained within is scanned from the original drawings, and not just old comics.

Inside the Art Studio

I'm a sucker for a pretty studio. Not only do I find workspaces inspiring, but it's always cool to see other artist's work setups in the hopes that their clever solutions can inspire you to make your own space more efficient. This book will take us on a tour of 37 different artist's studios, from many different disciplines.

Drawing Beautiful Women: The Frank Cho Method

Oh man. Frank Cho is brilliant, and Flesk is a great publisher who always puts pride into their work. It's a great combo. There is no way this book isn't going to be great. At 120 pages, this is an instructional art book which outlines Frank's method for drawing attractive figures, specifically delving into anatomy, mediums and even storytelling.

The Art of Robert McGinnis

There are already 2 other books out there on McGinnis' art, but one focuses on mostly his Western paintings, and the other is a catalog of thumbnail sized images which hardly does his work justice. Until now, there has not been a book that truly focuses on showcasing his illustrative art. I love McGinnis' fine arts, but I love his paperback covers and movie posters even more. This is probably the book I am most excited about on this list.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Flight Line

Greg Manchess

This is the last week of my show in Paris at Galerie Daniel Maghen, ending on Halloween night.

The opening was a great success as I sold quite a number of the new paintings I’ve been sharing here on Muddy, and the gallery is eager to do another show in about two years. I already have plans to paint large, grand themes!

Initially, the gallery’s request was for me to paint whatever I wanted. Who wouldn’t love to hear that? But it also means that it comes with the responsibility to produce work that excites people. I’d learned many years ago that if I can focus enough to excite myself about a subject, then it’s more likely that a client will respond to that same excitement if I can get it across in the painting.

Flight Line was the first piece on my board, derived from my interest in raptors, aviation, and pilots. Combining a classic mythical creature with this theme seemed out of place, but oddly made sense. I made several sketches and still wasn’t sure that anyone would appreciate what I loved about it.

The image’s seed was planted from watching so many movies about WW1. The pilots rallying for their sortie. Similar to the canvas biplanes waiting along the dew grass flight line of the Lafayette Escadrille, the gryphons pull against the restraints of the mechanics who prep the beasts for launch, awaiting their individual pilot-trainers.

To build the image, I sketched each gryphon and pilot separately, then combined the pilots with their birds. I traced these sketches onto separate sheets of tracing paper and then laid them onto a main sheet so I could move them around, to find just the right composition. I projected that final sketch onto my canvas and traced it off. The finished piece is about 48” across and took several days. Lots to cover. 

I’ve got a new world to write about now. The visual tease is enough for me to create the background history to flesh out the story. This is how stories start, especially for artists, and especially for the new crop of artist-authors that are coming up.

Flight Line was also the first painting to sell in the show, followed by Night Patrol which is also part of this same world.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Inspiration: Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret

Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret was a French Naturalist painter. Born and raised in France in the late 1800s, Pascal studied at the École des Beaux-Arts under the tutelage of Alexandre Cabanel and Jean Leon Gerome.

Pascal was one of the first painters of his time to implement the use of photographic reference, allowing him to bring greater detail and a heightened sense of realism to his works. The medium was relatively new at the time, and Pascal's use of it influenced many of the more traditional French Academic Painters to begin using it as well.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Seven pieces of good advice that stayed with me

as usual, interpret this image however you please
David Palumbo

Last week, while recording an interview for an upcoming episode of Creative Trek, I was asked to share a piece of advice which has stayed with me over the years.  A few jumped to my mind at that moment and then later that day I kept thinking of others, so I thoughts I’d jot a few down here on Muddy Colors. 

1: Be prepared to pay your dues

I grew up in a family of artists, so it is inevitable that much of the good advice I’ve received over the years would come from my parents.  This was one that I heard again and again before I even began learning to paint.  Basically, be grateful for every job you can get because it takes a long time to climb the ladder.  Not every job is going to be fun and/or easy, so be ready to tackle the low rent and uninspired jobs with a professional attitude.  Looking back, I find this to be very much a tightrope.  On the one hand, you don’t want to be taken advantage of and there are plenty of people out there looking to exploit you as far as you will let them.  Opposite that, you need to be humble and know that, at least when starting out, you should be following up as many opportunities as possible.  Finding the balance is hard and I think most of us only get it after several stumbles, but a humble attitude will help a great deal.  I’ve seen several people with tremendous potential wash out because of their egos and an attitude that the world owed them some kind of special treatment.  This is not really a business for prima donnas. 

2: Don’t teach yourself the mistakes of others

Early on, I had some ideas about working as a comic artist and was fortunate to have a portfolio review by Joe Quesada.  After looking at my (in hindsight) very crude pages, he told me that he felt I was looking too much at other comic artists and not enough at real life.  He told me that, while you can learn a great deal by copying the work of those who inspire you, the vast majority of your study should be direct observation.  When you copy another artist, you are copying their mistakes and teaching yourself their bad habits.  Working from life, on the other hand, lets you train without that baggage clouding up the picture.  You are much more likely to develop your work into something unique if you learn from the world unfiltered.

3: Lead with the work

About the time that I graduated from PAFA, I was exploring fine art and had a meeting with Neil Zukerman who runs the CFM Gallery in Manhattan.  He was kind enough to talk with me not only about my work but about making contact with galleries cold.  Basically, when someone walks into a gallery off the street and requests a review of their work, the automatic assumption is that it will be either a poor fit for that gallery or just simply horrible.  To save everyone a lot of time (and to avoid the automatic brush-off), he told me to introduce myself while simultaneously handing the curator a sample (print, postcard, etc.) of my very best work.  Maybe they will be interested and maybe not, but it will get things right to the point and hopefully let you lead with a good first impression.

4: Don’t worry about being fast, just worry about being good

In my first (of several) portfolio reviews with Magic the Gathering art director Jeremy Jarvis, he wondered if I might be rushing my work.  Many aspects were sloppy and would have been much stronger if I’d simply slowed down and taken my time.  Speed comes from the confidence of experience and, if I wanted to be fast, I first had to learn how to slow down and get good.  Nobody is impressed that you turned out a bad piece quickly, but they are impressed when you turn out something really good.

5: Don’t forget to push the design

A year later, I sat down with Jeremy Jarvis again at that same convention for another review.  My new portfolio had all new work which I had taken my time with and paid close attention to strong technique.  What I’d failed to pay attention to was my character, costume, and environmental design.  Jeremy pointed out in piece after piece where I could have pushed things to be more interesting, more lived-in, more unexpected, and just MORE.

6: Don’t be scared to be different

As I was starting to get work more steadily, I began feeling frustrated in my process and technique.  I had always felt that, to be a fantasy artist, I should be working in a tightly rendered highly detailed and polished style.  After all, that is what fantasy art usually looks like, right?  My frustration was that I was growing more and more interested by painterly work along the lines of NC Wyeth and other early 20th century illustrators and this was at odds with the mainstream looks.  I was lamenting this to Greg Manchess, one of the few current fantasy artists I knew who did work outside of that tight render box.  After going on and on about how I wished I could work looser but was worried about this and that and the other thing, he just said something along the lines of “well, yeah, I don’t know, why don’t you just try it?”  I was struck by how simple that made it seem and how ridiculous it was to have not realized this myself.  It was a few years before I really changed my process, but in that time I was working on personal pieces and experiments which ultimately proved to me that I needed to shift direction.  The first and most important step was to stop worrying and just do something.

7: Make your work with purpose

This last one was not advice given specifically to me, but something which I’ve heard Rebecca Guay say to students many many times.  Whatever you make, you need to make it your own in some way.  Find something to love in every piece, find something personal to contribute to every assignment, and always know what you want for the viewer to feel when they look at your work.  If you don’t make your work with purpose, it will have no impact.