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Showing posts from June, 2007
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My time at PDI/Dreamworks in Redwood City has come to a close. It's back to LA for my wife and I. We loved the area and the studio, especially the PDI art department. You'll never meet a more solid group of artists. These are the people who designed the Shrek world and Madagascar and I got alot out of my time with them.
This gouache sketch was done from the back parking lot of the studio building at sunset. To see more sketches from around the studio at lunch breaks and such, click the Land Sketch link.
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The STUDIES OF EDWIN AUSTIN ABBEY

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Many people know the work of Edwin Austin Abbey from his famous murals in the Boston library. Still more people know him for his slightly fussy pen and ink illustrations that were so popular in the 19th century.



However, if you want to see what Abbey is really made of, check out his wonderful sketches and studies.



Note in the drawing above how Abbey draws with his eraser as much as his charcoal, in order to create the right values.




I prefer these studies to most of his finished drawings. They are very revealing and they have a powerful, mystical feeling to them.








Very few people ever see these studies. Many are locked up in the Yale University collection. However, I think they are almost as important as the Boston murals themselves when it comes to appreciating Abbey as an artist.

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I continue to sketch the waterfowl here in the bay area. I'll post more of those later. This one was done in the studio.
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CHEAP SENSATIONALISM OF THE OLD MASTERS

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Cultured people are often offended by the vulgarity of illustration. Rocket ships blasting off, bombs exploding, damsels in distress-- such uncouth material could never qualify as fine art.

Yet, Homer, Chaucer and Shakespeare loved sex and violence just as much as the authors of lurid pulp magazines did. Simone Weil noted in her famous essay on Homer's Iliad, "The true hero, the true subject matter, the center of the Iliad is force." She could easily have written the same thing about a Superman comic book.


Many great artists have been fascinated by the aesthetic possibilities of force:


Explosion by Leonardo da Vinci, circa 1515

Leonardo da Vinci had a fondness for drawing explosions and cataclysms. His 16th century efforts to conjure up violent, powerful images seem almost quaint today. Here, Leonardo draws a picture of two battling armies:



Then he tries drawing a picture of a great big violent storm:



Then he says, "Ah, I know! How about if I draw two armies battling dur…

MORE LEYENDECKER, LESS TALK

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By popular demand:







I love the way Leyendecker studies water in the next three images. He never stops looking.





LEYENDECKER: FINDING POETRY IN REALISM

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I'm sure I have alienated all of the James Bama fans out there by asserting that Bama belongs to a group of highly skilled, realistic painters who ultimately are less than successful as artists because they lack a strong sense of design, composition and other judgmental attributes of good artists. Instead of continuing to blather about what I find missing in Bama's pictures, I thought it would be better to share concrete examples of painting that I believe does go beyond mere realism to display design and grace and charm.



These are studies by the great J.C. Leyendecker. They have never been seen by the public before, but I think they are splendid and merit a wider audience.



Note that these are more than just realistic hands. Leyendecker is not simply copying a photograph he likes. He records visual data about shapes and colors and shadows, but he is also seeking out nature's designs and patterns. He is establishing priorities about what "feels" right. There is el…

THE STEM CELLS OF ART

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Psychologists tell us that children's drawings exaggerate shapes in ways that reveal the child's inner feelings about their subject. For example, this drawing shows the importance of hands to a child reaching out to pick flowers.


In this and other ways, children's art reveals our first pure perceptions of a world unconstrained by logic or physical appearance.

This world is sealed off forever to adults. Mature brains process visual information and spatial relationships differently. Our neurological systems have learned to mediate between vision and perception, and it is hard to unlearn what we know.

Of course, artists still recognize that pictures can be more effective when feelings alter physical appearance. They ain't exactly picking flowers here, but Jack Kirby and Hokusai both show that they remember how to enhance a picture by exaggerating body parts:





But going beyond mere exaggeration, it's interesting that the artists who strain the hardest to return to the purit…
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Here's another acrylic painting from a life drawing session. This was done during the same time and circumstances mentioned in the the last post.
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PRIORITIES

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It is difficult to paint realistic, detailed pictures. However, artists don't really begin to earn their money until they start deciding which details to leave out.

This brilliant portrait by Chris Payne is a good case in point. The face and hands are tightly rendered, even down to individual hairs.



Yet, other parts of the picture are highly simplified and flat.



Payne recognized that it would be distracting to paint the man's coat with the same intensity as the face. Adding buttons and threads would subtract from the picture. Contrast Payne's portrait with this different approach by the illustrator James Bama:


Bama is so intoxicated by his ability to paint realistically that he doesn't know when to quit. Here, the shirt receives as much attention and intensity as the face. Everything in the picture is equally important, so nothing is important. This is one of the weaknesses that prevent Bama from being a good artist, despite his obvious technical skill.



I'm not sayin…