Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Perfect Passage

Greg Manchess

Continuing my study of exquisitely painted portions of favorite paintings, here’s another group of perfect passages by brilliant painters. My comments come from the heavily biased approach of a working painter.

In the piece above by Paul Lehr, the soft edges of the main eye are given great transparent depth by the contrast between the primary and secondary reflections.

The edge of the palm against the lighter white flesh of the breast is so close to the same value, yet just  enough of a shift to give the hand weight. That sharp line is the focal point of the piece, by Jeffrey Catherine Jones.

The bounce light floods the bottom of this ship with bright value, but is still dark enough to read as mass against the clouds of the planet. The bottom edge is everything. John Harris.

In Frazetta’s work the detail gets all the credit from most viewers. But here, Conan’s back is applied with such wonderful, free strokes, it captures for me what is the best part of his work.

This fantastic battle scene by Ruan Jia is full of lively areas, but the way the light bounces from those shields and helmets in the middle ground is just....perfection.

Sculpting Demos by Philippe Faraut

Here are two wonderful sculpting demos by Phillippe Faraut. Philippe constructs his sculptures in a very anatomical manner, progressing from the inside out, using large geometric shapes. I find this additive process makes it particularly apropos to a visual artist, as it gives a deeper understanding of the underlying forms of the figure.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Other Side of the Mirror at Gallery Nucleus

By Justin Gerard

The Gallery Nucleus show for the Other Side of the Mirror is up now through November 29th.  The show features oil paintings, drawings and inks from the story.  If you are in the area give it a look!

To see some of Annie's painting process for her figurative work please check out these videos:

Also! If you are in the market for some Christmas gifts, Annie and I are running a small sale for prints on our site! The prints are guaranteed to warm the heart of even the meanest scrooge on your list. (Unless he specifically asked for widescreen television. In which case we cannot guarantee it will warm his heart. In fact he will probably be upset, but the prints are otherwise fully guaranteed to warm hearts!)  

Monday, November 23, 2015

Limited Edition Book: Dean Cornwell

-By Dan dos Santos

The Illustrated Press, the publisher responsible for 'Illustration' Magazine and the stellar 'Golden Age' book I mentioned here, are publishing a new Limited Edition book on Dean Cornwell.

There is already a book on Dean Cornwell's art called 'Dean Cornwell : Dean of Illustrators'. And although just about every illustrator I know already owns this book, it is unfortunately quite old. Originally published in 1978, most of the book is in black and white, and what is in color isn't reproduced very well.

This new book is looking like it may be the Dean Cornwell book we've all been waiting for. It will showcase over 260 works of art, all in full color, and most reproduced from the original paintings. If this book is anything like the other books the publisher offers, it should be a no-nonsense look at the artist's body of work, consisting of full page art and very little text.

Now for the bad news...
This hardcover book is limited to 1000 copies only, most of which have probably already been claimed.

If you are interested, I strongly recommend pre-ordeeing the title, as I suspect very few, if any, will be available come release date.

More information, and ordering info can be found here:

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Color Mixing

-By Ron Lemen

Hello again and hope you are all doing well.  My last entry 2 weeks ago I had mentioned that I would post some tips I learned about palette organization and use and some color theory information I learned with Sebastian Capella in this entry.  I had to build the information in these worksheets.  I can organize my thoughts easier when it comes to lots of different points and factoids if I build a worksheet of this sort.  This would have taken me way to long to organize as a blog entry.  If the files are too low-rez to read I have links to high rez versions in a dropbox folder.

The below examples are using the palette system above and doing small color studies pushing the chroma potential in the paintings.  The colors are not made up, they are observed from what color changes are noted in the images.  These are both high rez files that I worked from, and although any image we work from will not be perfect, these have quite a lot of extra color information in them that was captured by the cameras used.

The image on the left is a sunlit reference and the image on the right is a north light or indirect lighting example.

Friday, November 20, 2015


Greg Ruth

Carl Theodor Dryer's eternal masterpiece of black and white minimalism, THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC
I struggle with the cold hard fact that at the end of all things, I am a black and white guy. I  love it. It's  never once led me to believe there is some limit to it, nor even the hint that there ever will be. The ability to wow in black and white is for me far more impressive than to engender the same response with color much in the same way that a rocket ship built by NASA isn't necessarily as impressive as an Apollo Booster built by some guy named Rupert in his garage workshop. It's the limitations of black and white that are it's most essential strengths. This is not to say there's anything at all wrong with color, and that there is no citation where either approach is perfect 100% of the time. These things are situational. I do in fact do color work all the time. comics, book covers, children's picture books... But if given the choice in a perfect world, I'd probably prefer black and white. Simply put, I think and see more tonally than I do in color. So full disclosure: I'm based towards tonal work more than color. But even so the world loves it's color, and I confess I do as well.

Vincent Van Gogh
As much as I cheerlead for black and white there is nothing to require it to be seen as a missive against color. Color is emotion. In comics this is more true than almost anywhere, though it's rarely utilized as it should and could be. Mostly books and comics are in color because we have culturally trained ourselves to value color over it's lack. Something in black and white is just waiting to be colored. Black and White has become the underwear to color's ball gown. Color has a place and a merit all its own and has earned its dominance to a certain degree in art, but I think our cultural bigotry against black and white stems more from our being trained by the technology advances of film and tv rather than from within the realm of art where black and white work has been knocking our socks off for centuries, and as an artist I think it's deeply important we recognize this and don't let it get in the way of seeing why color can also be a distraction. Personally I love color work as most or all of us do. Though I am not a color person myself, but rather a tonalist. It doesn't come as natural to me as it does to say, Scott Morse, or Dave Stewart or NC Wyeth for that matter. I have to work at it, to invent the wheel of color every time I take it on, because I think terms of tonal values more than color. Full disclosure. Nevertheless this doesn't mean there isn't an actual benefit to thinking tonally. Here's why:

Joseph Clement Coll
Looking at art is a basic act of perception. We see a thing, we then ascribe to this thing attributes and reductions to understand and change what we're looking at. Our perception is a predator's perception, so it's based around the notion of reduction rather than expansion (predators pick out of the myriad of forest, the prey it seeks, whereas prey animals take in all the world in order to spot and avoid the hunter). We even go further as to hang upon this thing we are seeing with our own emotional and localized levels of meaning like the way we hang clothes on an empty coat hanger. Working in black and white removes the automatic triggers of emotional meaning and then as a result, encourages us bring our own more. We come to rather than it comes to us. Black and white work is more work for us to do as viewers. It is more definitionally obvious as a thing and avoids the trickery of it being real. A perfectly executed color painting creates a world, and a reality, a black and white one can too, but it doesn't wear its reality on it's sleeve int he same way. It's more interpretive and less directed. This is what the old cinematographers are talking about when the lament the advent of sound- that it provided a crutch for lazy storytelling to lean and become the norm when they were in the throes of revolutionizing the way stories could be told in pictures. It's not that sound is inherently bad, it's just such a directly easy entry it takes away the need to work as hard at telling a story in pictures. This is essentially my point when I call out artists to look at and make black and white work that is more than just prep or prelim to a "finished" color piece, but a value in and of itself. You can  get away with a less effective authentic image of that scream because the red carries a lot of the weight. Do it in black and white and you as the artist have to work harder to make your scream really SCREAM, but in the end the work put into that piece makes the piece better. If you decide to add color after to bring it further, you're doing so on a solid foundation, but here's the trick of it: you don't have to.

Still from KLUTE as Roy Scheider gets creepily tender/threatening with Jane Fonda. 
One of the oldest refrains of cinematographers is the lament against the arrival of sound in film when it came. "If only we'd had another ten years, we'd have really changed the face of cinematic storytelling..." opines Caleb Deschanel as evidence of what could have been. This isn't because there's something evil or turgid about talkies, but the advent of synchronized sound in film  marked removal of an obstacle that had created a visual narrative language entirely unique to itself and largely un explored... that took generations to recover. You no longer had to tell a story with pictures or expressive actions by the players, or tonal variances, framing, etc... Now you could stand in a room and blurt it all out. This is why so many of the earliest talkies are dreadfully boring to watch. It's as if the surrendered entirely the need to tell a story by showing one, and instead stood there wooden repeating scripted dialogue until the curtain fell. Suddenly films were staged static sets with people yammering away and we lost something we were only just starting to build. Not every assumed layer to how our art is seen, heard or felt, or how our stories are told, are intrinsic to their mediums. Stripping the color from, say, KLUTE, and watching it in black and white actually surprises you with how much it was filmed to be a tonal noir- a reality lost by the assumption of color draped upon it.

The cave paintings in Lascaux, France
Art and storytelling didn't have a technological revolution moment like this with regards to color, but the lament against sound in film speaks to the same basic issues. I suppose to arrival color film and even more acutely, color tv screens could be called to this, but in art, we've been playing with color since we began scribbling art on cave walls, and so our relationship with color has been eternal. There's a deep long history of examples of strength of color and that of black and white work. A Van Gogh HAS to be in color because that's what all his work is all about. You lose a great deal by seeing his work in black and white not because there's anything wrong with black and white but because the entire point of Vincent's art is the powerful storm clouds of color he utilizes and a direct line to his anguished emotions and sense of infinitely outward beauty and light. Goya's bullfighting etchings, for example, are the exact opposite. They are entirely of and about the forms and tones and light and shadow of the piece. Color would just crude drapery hiding his lines and forms. Egon Schiele is more a draftsman than a painter and as such it's his drawings that thunder the table more than his paintings. I far prefer Ingres drawings to his paintings. And so on and so forth...

Franklin Booth
That doesn't mean color doesn't carry a deficit, and further, doesn't mean we have a great deal to learn by removing it from our tool chest as creatives. In fact I'd go as far to say that removing color from your work is an essential revolution in any artist's development. It reveals the naked truth and strengths/weaknesses of your piece. Aside from just simply applying a new perspective to it the same way holding it up to a mirror does, it removes the distracting layers of color and shows whether or not, at its most simplest edge, how strong your values are. This to me is where I love black and work the most: it is entirely honest and naked. To convince a reader to respond emotionally to a piece that lacks the push button emotional crutches color carries inherently is an impressive achievement. To break dance well is awesome, to do so with just one leg is something more. I don't ever want to read Lone Wolf and Cub in color. There's no need to gild that lily.

Karla Ortiz
gLargely if you are working in any form, gallery or commercially, you will be encouraged to do color pieces over black and white. People like color more. A great film presented today in black and white will inherently do less business than that same film shot in color. It is what it is- I don't particularly respect that attitude but I live in the world and this is one of its realities. That said, there are tremendous things being created by artists today without the aid of color. And you know what? You can often sneak in a black and white piece where color is called for simply by showing them how good it can be on it's own. If you're making book covers, and the knee jerk response to the myriad of vibrantly colored covers not he shelves is to go louder and more vibrant with color, go the other way and see how much more it pops out from the noise. This is particularly true of comics. If you can conduct an orchestra with just your pencil, you can then do so with any other tool. Color has its place but that doesn't mean we must once again as with awards, force a sports metaphorical way of reducing what we do by needing to pick a first place winner. There is no actual inherent value scale other than the one we put upon it, so why bother doing it at all? Again, to me to see the line as drawn, the smudge on the paper of the artist's thumb or elbow, the way that charcoal or graphite sits on the surface of paper or board is where it's at in my book. We had originally intended to do INDEH as a full color painted book, and I am SO glad we didn't. Utilizing that narrative tendency black and white comics have as a basic tenet of its storytelling can in fact deliver a more powerful story than if it were full colored in some way. Its where we all start and sometimes it can be where we stay.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Artists Illustrating Artists

-By Donato

Queen of Demons   Book cover    1997     Guest appearances by Dorian Vallejo, Steve Ellis, Steve Youll and myself.
I find that other visual artists make for some of the best figurative models as they are consciously aware of the shapes their bodies make.  They also have an idea what another artist may be seeking in their posing and take directions extremely well:

Tilt your head a little to the left,
Bend your right elbow and keep the hand at the same level,
Show me more of your back, break your wrist,  etc....

The paintings below offer a broad sampling of artists and friends I have used over the course of my career as models for commercial commissions.  These are not portraits of my friends but rather their likenesses are used in the service of my narrative work. Considering no one has 'seen' these characters before, models used to interpret characters within these narratives are all strangers to my audience. Therefore I find it fun and a challenge to capture the likeness of each of my friends as a tribute to their help in advancing the quality of my work.

As I know I am not alone in this venture, do you have any like images of artists to share??

Journey to the Center of the Earth, 1993
Michael Mrak model (and roommate at the time) and now Design Director at Scientific American

Psychohistorical Crisis,  book cover,  artist Dan Dos Santos (posing twice) and Carey Johnson (my wife) as models, 1999

Saint Crispin's Day - Right panel for the Battle of Agincourt triptych   2007

Red Sonya - Lover's Quarrel    artist Kelley Hensing model   2011

The Night's Watch , artist Tony DiTerlizzi, writer George R.R. Martin and a host of others as players in a Game of Thrones , 2014

Fortune and Fate , book cover,   artist  Kristina Carroll model ,   2007

Alien Crimes, book cover, artists Owen Weber, Rebecca Solow and Scott Murphy models,   2007

Reader and Raelynx,  book cover,  artist Scott Murphy model,   2007

Cartographer from Magic: The Gathering    artist Claudia Rodriguez model    1999

Joan of Arc - On the Field    art director  Irene Gallo model    2010

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

In Lucca with Claire Wendling

-By Jesper Ejsing

The Comic and Games con in Lucca is a fantastic convention. It has around a quarter of a million attendants and takes place within the walls of an Italian medieval town in Tuscany. I was invited down for signing Magic cards and painting live in the performance area of the convention. As a bonus, I knew that my favourite artist; Claire Wendling would also attend, so I tried to set up a meeting before I left for the airport. We agreed to meet when we got there, but it turned out to be more difficult than I expected.

The city was so packed with fans of games and comics that just leaving the area I was at, and get to the tent Claire was at, for the few hours she was signing was too complicated. I got stuck in the crowd when trying to go into the city and had to go back to be at the painting area for the time when I was announced to paint. The day after our schedules had no overlapping lunch breaks and the evening came without us having found each other. Later there was a Gala show in the old Theatre of Lucca. It was all in Italian and I understood nothing. Suddenly I was dragged up to the stage with the rest of the invited artist and there, on the other side of the stage, was Claire waiving at me. "Okay, I will find her outside when the show has ended", I told my self, but when the crowed was leaving the Theatre I looked everywhere and couldn't see her. Our phones did not work, no wi-fi, no Facebook. After half an hour I went to dinner with friends.

The next day at lunch we set up an appointment at a small cafe outside of the city walls and finally we could get to meet and talk a little about art.

When I arrived Claire had come early and had time to do a little drawing in red pencil that she gave me as a present.

"You did this one for me?", I said. I was acting cool but tears were forming in the corners of my eye.

"Sure Jesper, I was waiting and had to sketch something".

I gave her a crushing viking-hug as opposed to the French and Italian cheek-kissy-kissy, that I can never seem to do right, and used the chance to wipe the moist from my eyes. I ordered a lot of espresso and food and we talked a bit about the convention and what had happened since last time we met in Angouléme, before I started to ask some serious questions.

Try to imagine what you would ask if you had your all-time favourite art idol in front of you? It is really difficult. I wanted to avoid questions like: "How can I be more like you? Let me have some hair so I can consume your DNA? Teach me your secret! ( Which is more like an order and not even a question) What brush do you use?"... and so on. In the end I decided we should talk about process orientated issues. Something that is familiar to every artist. And possibly during that conversation I, and you, would get to know Clare Wendling a little better.

How do you push yourself out of your comfort zone?

I am pushed out constantly by doing commissions. I do not like to experiment too much while trying to complete a job for a client, but just the fact of doing a figure like Batman or Catwoman, somthing out of your own choosing is a huge step out of your comfort zone. I prefer to push myself at my own sketches instead. There I know it will be more useful and will fit me better. I try different subjects and will often switch materials to see the drawing from a new angle. I try to ink different every time. I do not feel I have a specific inking style. It has been many years since I inked comics. And I am never happy with doing the same thing time and time again. I try to adapt the inking to the drawing, I never know if it will work, but I feel the changing is very rewarding.

Do you feel you have a very solid style?

People say to me: Your style look like this one or that one. Sure, but what style are you talking about? which drawing? I have so many different styles or ways if you ask me? They try to define: who did I copy?

But you do seem very well defined within your own sketching style?

CW: Your think so? well you have to tell me what it is?
I try to change all the time. I can sketch so many different ways, but my natural way is that very loose line or soft line. But it also becomes boring. I like to surprise myself. Like when I pick up a drawing the day after and do not recognize that I did it. I like that.
I try different brushes and different paper to challenge myself into creating new stuff and to see if I can surprise myself.

So when are you going to do more colouring? You have been line sketching so much that it might be a new way of surprising yourself?

Maybe when I get a bigger table... ( she giggles)
It is a mater of thinking. I think I am still training a lot. I tend to think to much in line and edges that I never get to think about colour. I never get that many commissions for full colour work and I am happy with that because it takes ages to do colors. I try to do things, as fast as I can, before I loose concentration. I hold on fast to the pencil and go in there before I loose interest. I am a very impatience artist.

So every illustration is like a fight against yourself?

Gotta finish this before I do not like it

Is that why you havent finished the sketchbook publication? Because you want correct stuff all the time? Like Frazetta who went back into his own museum to fix his paintings?

Yes I totally get that. I will never let anyone reprint old illustrations from the past I do not like that. When I look at older drawings i think there is so much to change, so much I can do better.

Is that why you did the sketchbook Iguana Bay 2.0 with the redrawn versions?

Yes, But not out of vanity. It is not because I am embarresed about them or anything. You learn something about drawing them again and whatever I learn will help me for the next ones. I take my old sketches and look at what I missed and how can I make it better? I see it as a learning process.
I see it as a process. I will feel more satisfied by going back and re-thing the illustrations. Like in my sketch book, I often go back and draw on older sketches. Some I even leave undone on purpose to go back later and see what I can get out of it and thereby push myself.
The way I work comes from animation. My drawings are more like notes. Animation has helped me to explore more pose and angles to see which is best.

When are you super happy with an illustration?

You never know.

But is it the same thing every time that makes you happy?

No. Often it is not even the particular drawing. It is more when you are in the zone, not comfort zone but more like when you are in that perfect mindset and it just flows out of you. You feel like you are just holding on to the pencils and it is sooo pleasant and logic. Every thing feels logical. everything comes out from you so natural.
It is like a conversation between you and the drawing, like a dialog you are only here for that illustration. You have to connect to your emotions to get into that zone.

I paint in the area of 50 paintings a year and I only like about 2 of them.
Most of the ones I like are the once I did in one sitting. Like I barely remember how I did it, when I move away from the finished painting.

That is exactly what I mean

Do you ever wonder what it will take to go into that zone more often? Perhaps every day?

I would love that and I find that it happens more often with practice.

Or if you sit at the same place everyday, like that strange Cafe you asked me to meet you in France

It wasn´t stranger than this place you picked

True that. I sit at a studio. have been at the same place for 20 years. It helps me to go into the zone faster. But a bad day ruins the transit, if you will.

I struggle still with a lot of aftermath of my illness and with Tinnitus and headaches. When I have a bad day I cannot connect with myself and everything goes wrong and I hate all the drawings I did and feels like everything looks bad. So I know, when I feel good, I have to work. And get it out fast.

Uhhh! I think this is an essential thing about being a creative artist. I am happy to hear you have it like that. Sorry, not happy, you know, but relieved to find out that you and I react in the same way. When I have uncreative days I try to push through by working and working and forcing on, even if nothing works, and then suddenly it clicks.

...And when you feel bad about it all you have to accept it. Accept that it is a part of you. It is hard, but necessary. That wall of uncreativity is very difficult to explain to other people especially to clients. I cannot guarantee that, at that time, I will be able to do anything. Cannot say if I am able to connect.

It is awful that you know you can do a passable illustration at anytime, but your mind says: "Everything is shit"! When you are in that mood.

It feels like you are not present within yourself and I always fear that this is the moment where it will never come back. Because when I was sick I lost it for months and even years, and I still dread that time and feeling. fearing that it will be back.

But when you look back at a uncreative period, I always realize that it was all bad vibes from things that had nothing to do with the actual illustration. It was something from my every day life: Family troubles, unpaid bills or things I did not fix or attend to that keept me in a sour mood. Not the drawing, and it feels like waking up. I stare at the discarded sketches and find them actually useful, many of them. Only then it is that I realize that the draught has ended.

Yes and I often think: Why did I choose this life? I could have had a regular job.
Instead I spent my every waking hour thinking about drawings...Who cares?
After all why do I care that much? sketching is the only way I can feel better.
I am not looking for success or anything just happiness at my drawing table.
What if I was doing nothing in my life; would I be happy? I think I would, maybe.

I am not sure. Four days into any vacation I want to go back and paint something.

Really? I forget about work quickly, maybe I am lazy.

I have the urge to leave a giant nasty Ejsing footprint on the world when I leave.
Do you think you are more process orientated than results orientated?

Yes: To me it is more about proving that I am worth something to myself...
I am not envious off other artists work but of envious of their energy and drive to constantly create. I miss that energy.

But you have something I think many artist miss. You know what you want in drawing and have defined what makes you happy. Not just solving client work but focusing on your own style and artwork. Not many artist reach that point or make that conscious decision.

For now I want to close the chapter of the sketchbooks I have been working on so I can move on to different things. I have worked on those 3 sketchbooks for a long time.
The travelling I just did was great. I was away for almost 3 months. People gave me compliments all the time, it was great and I feel now stronger than I have felt for a long time, but now I feel the pressure of having to live up to all the nice things people are saying about my art.

You think that is the downside about drawing something personal? They are talking about you and not just the drawing.

Yes, But as long as I am happy doing personal drawings, I think it will show and shine through to my artwork. The happiness you get while creating is absolute. is when I am walking away from the café that I decide to start on my own personal painting project that have been tugged away in the back of my mind. Next year I will paint giants eating humans for no reason other than that I like it.