Monday, November 30, 2015

Books for your Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Krampus/Festivus List

-By Arnie Fenner

Sox and underwear as holiday gifts? Forget it! I'd rather have a book—and I bet you would, too. With that in mind, here are a few suggestions for your wish list to Santa, just in case you missed them.

The third volume in the White Cloud Worlds series showcasing New Zealand artists is as electrifying
as the first two. Paul Tobin has put together a collection of visionary art (accompanied by creator statements) that is unforgettable. This might be a little hard to come by, especially since it was Kickstarter-funded, so I'd suggest visiting the WCW website quickly to ask about availability. 

Trying to describe Bill Carman's Imagery from the Bird's Home is an exercise in futility. Eccentric, energetic, thoughtful, often funny, and slyly subversive, Bill's art is always engaging. I'd love to sit in on one of his classes at Boise State just to watch the reactions of his students. Simply put, he's never boring…and neither is this collection, which means you should add a copy to your shelf. Pronto. 

Some books just sell themselves without a lot of hoop-la—and Tony DiTerlizzi's Realms is one of those. Regardless of whether you're a roleplaying game enthusiast or not, you'll absolutely love this collection of Tony's memorable and affecting fantasy art.

 Of course I have to recommend the first-ever collection devoted to women creators of fantastic art, past and present, edited by my too-good-for-me wife Cathy and featuring an intro by my fellow Muddy Lauren Panepinto. Whether anyone realizes it or not, the perception has long been that fantasy & SF art (much like comics) was something of a guys-only club; this book is a nice reminder that perceptions are often false. Women of Wonder is a rock-solid collection of excellent work that should make all fans of fantastic art, regardless of gender, extremely happy.

Okay, the movie didn't do well at the box-office, but it was gorgeous and Crimson Peak: The Art of Darkness nicely chronicles its visual splendor. Lauren gave a peek at the book back in October and those who saw that post already know that this can provide tons of visual inspiration for artists.

The last collection of Steve Hickman's art came out way back in 1989, so Empyrean is both long overdue and particularly welcome. Stephen is one of the artists who refined his craft drawing for fanzines (with Bernie Wrightson, Michael Kaluta, and Jeff Jones among others) in the 1960s and eventually became one of the field's most prolific cover painters. Fans both new and of long-standing will appreciate this new compilation.

And speaking of Jeffrey, Robert K. Wiener has produced a collection of all of Jeff's Idyl and I'm Age strips (from National Lampoon and Heavy Metal respectively). Beautiful drawings combine with a wry and cynical sense of humor to make Jeffrey's comics as fresh today as they were when they first appeared decades ago. Getting a copy was a no-brainer for me.

In the late 1970s and early '80s there were a plethora of books devoted to faeries, dwarves, gnomes, dragons, and, yes, giants. Petar Meseldzija's The Book of Giants isn't a reworking of the familiar, but rather is an entirely fresh telling of a myth, all beautifully accompanied by Petar's paintings and drawings (some of which he sneaked here on MC). A thoroughly lovely example of fine book making.

Matt Gaser has worked in the film and game industries, helping to bring the characters and landscapes of Middle Earth and Star Wars to life. Fantastical beautifully celebrates his accomplishments while expanding our own sense of wonder.

Any new book by James Jean is a cause for excitement. Pareidolia is a 288 page retrospective, featuring art that is both familiar and new, that ultimately leaves me wearing a great big grin. 

Daren Bader collaborated with writer Lance HaunRogue on this eye-popping graphic novel. A fully-realized story (which Daren talked about some months ago here on MC), a well-defined fantasy world, and beautifully painted art makes Tribes of Kai a must-have.

Ilya Repin was one of the most celebrated—and controversial—painters of his generation; this volume collects his dramatic narrative art that was an influence on the Russian revolution.

Nekro's digital art is at once exciting and a bit unsettling—which is the effect good art should always have on viewers. This first arresting collection is, I think, going to generate a lot of buzz.

I had talked about Mark Schultz's two new books earlier this year, but both are too good not to suggest adding to your shopping lists. Storms at Sea is a profusely illustrated hard-boiled science fiction fantasy crime story…uh...okay, it's hard to describe. Other than to say that it's a well-written adventure that features Mark's stunning art. And Portfolio? It's just a jaw-dropping collection of masterful pencil and ink drawings by the creator of the influential Xenozoic Tales series, that's all. You need a copy. Really. 

Rebecca Guay's Evolution may be a little hard to come by since it too was a Kickstarter-funded project; not a mountain of copies were produced. But want it you definitely will and I'd suggest visiting Rebecca's sit to see if you're on the lucky list and can still snag one.

Multi award-winning editor Stephen Jones put together this ghoulish volume of all manner of things that go bump in the night. Featuring works from pulps, books, comics, and films by a whose-who of illustrators past and present (From Finlay and Bok to Whelan and Gogos), this is one of those juicy compilations that's great fun to flip through on a dark and stormy night. 

Last but certainly not least, the second volume of Spectrum under John Fleskes' calm and assured guidance is yet another amazing gathering of the best art produced in the field in 2014. Featuring work by industry giants side-by-side with bright-eyed new-comers, Spectrum is an exuberant celebration of the entire fantastic art community without pretense or prejudice. The competition for Vol. 23 is now open for entries and if the results are anywhere near as good as #22 we've all got something special to really look forward to next year.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Inspiration not Embarrassment

-By Lauren Panepinto

Happy Thanksgiving, for those of you who celebrate, and for all of us: Remember you don't need (and shouldn't wait for) a holiday to list all the things you're grateful for.

One thing we should all look back and be thankful for is: Ourselves. For the work we have put into our art, for the practice, for the blood and sweat and tears and pencil shavings and eraser dust inhaled directly into our lungs. For the eyestrain and frustration. I think as artists we all focus on what we haven't done yet, or have yet to achieve. I think that's an important attitude to keep us going and improving - but every once in a while let's look back and celebrate what we have accomplished. It's also helpful to remember that just like we look upwards to artists who have mastery above ours for inspiration - we are also inspirational to someone struggling behind us on the same ladder.

Kelley McMorris

And now there's a great tumblr, started by Kelley McMorris, called Anyone Can Improve At Drawing and it's not only a great place to celebrate your success, it's also already being shared around the internet and social media as an inspiration for others. I always wanted to do a "childhood art" group post on Muddy Colors but this is so much better. So Submit Now and inspire all of us. I'd love to see this tumblr flooded with professional artists' past and current work.

Ilse Gort

Some artists are embarrassed to show their earlier work, and don't want to admit that they have worked through stages and had struggles. I think everyone wants to look like the one for whom art has always come easily, the Natural. I think it is way more honorable, and more inspiring to admit the work you've put in. All 2,000 or 5,000 or 10,000+ hours.
Jenn Tran 

Rebecca Flaum

Joie Brown

It's a little hard for me to compare old and new design projects in the same way, but I'll just leave this here, and I'll totally go scan some childhood art next time I'm at my parent's house.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Small Habits Lead to Big Changes

-By Howard Lyon

My handy SketchWallet
Is there a habit that you want to develop?  Start small and tie your efforts to something else you already do each day.  

Developing your artistic skills (or any skill) can be daunting and frustrating.  It takes time to approach competence and then the chase for mastery is often a lifelong pursuit.  It requires perseverance and patience.  I have been teaching a workshop in my studio, and have also opened up my studio on Wednesday nights for a 3 hour portrait session.  I tell my students that come to the class to be patient with themselves, forgiving of stumbles and to celebrate their victories, small and large.

Becoming better at something usually isn't all that complicated.  At the end of the day the most important factor is focused and consistent time put in.  It often takes a change of habit, or developing a new habit so that you don't have to decide to work, it just happens because you have made it part of your routine.

Something that I have been wanting to do more of, is just sketch for myself.  I sketch and draw nearly  everyday for clients and different projects, but I don't really take the time to doodle or sketch with no real purpose other than to explore what is in my head.  I do it from time to time but have been wanting to make it a daily habit to take no more than 10-30 minutes.  My hope from it is that it will expand my creative range a little more, or at the very least just start the day with some creative fun time.  Inktober provided a good start and I wanted to keep it going into November.

I knew that if I were going to take the time each day, I needed to stay small.  Keep my sketches tiny so that I wouldn't get too caught up in the time invested.  If that happened, I would start skipping days under the rationale that I couldn't afford the time.  I also felt that I needed to keep it at a certain time of day if possible.  I let it be a reward for getting all my emailing done each morning!

I was given a SketchWallet to try back in September, but I had not really put it to use more than a couple days until November.  It is a great size, small enough to put in your pocket and keep it with you everywhere you go.  It is also small enough that it fit my desire to not have something so large that I could get carried away with it.

After a month of trying to implement some personal sketch time, I feel like it has become a sustainably habit that doesn't pull too much time away from my work.  Each morning when I am done responding to email my mind immediately moves to my little sketchbook.  Here are my sketches from November (mostly, there are a couple in there from early October).

The good, the bad, the ugly... one or two exceptions

Some of the sketches are ugly, some are good and few I am really happy with.  Some are from life, some from photos and some are from imagination.  It has even spawned a few ideas that I think I will do oil paintings of.  The best part is that I didn't miss a day the whole month of November and I think I have established a routine that will keep me going for as long as I want it to go.  Mission accomplished, now to see where it takes me.

What is it that you want to develop further?  Decide what small task you can add to your day and then attach it to something you are already doing, like eating or reading Muddy Colors :).  Maybe each time you take a bathroom break, take 5 minutes after and draw a few hands.  After a month, you could probably fill a little sketchbook with hands... depending on how much water you drink.

My other recent goal is to paint more from life so I started hosting painting sessions in my studio each Wednesday night.  By putting on my calendar and inviting others, it has helped me be consistent.  My goal is to do 48 portraits from life over a year.  after 10 weeks, I have 8 paintings (I spent multiple weeks on two of them).  I will share them all at the end of a year.

Start a small habit today.


Howard Lyon

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

From everyone at Muddy Colors, we're thankful to have you as a reader.

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.