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Showing posts from 2008

THE END OF 2008

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George Bellows

2008 was a rough year for the type of assets that are vulnerable to market fluctuations.

40% of the value of the US stock market ($7.3 trillion) has simply evaporated. Major companies collapsed as the global credit system melted down and a wide variety of sophisticated financial instruments became untrustworthy overnight. Unemployment soared.
The world will face some excruciating economic hardships over the next few years.

But there are other assets that don't lose their value regardless of how much markets fluctuate. The strength and insight behind that remarkable Bellows drawing stayed with him, and colored his perception of life, regardless of what was happening in the stock market that day.


In fact, some of the greatest artistic periods in human history arose during periods of great turmoil and strife. The golden age of Greece was forged in a period of bitter feuds between warring city states, when invasion by outside powers threatened to snuff out Greece altogethe…

BLUE CHRISTMAS

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Happy Holidays!

This is the ogre Santa arriving in the Shrek household on Christmas Eve; an early concept piece painted for Shrek the Halls in photoshop.
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Copyright DreamWorks Animation.

WILLIAM APATOFF

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He was born and raised in the slums of Boston, the son of Russian immigrants. When he was still a boy, his father died, leaving Apatoff the sole support for his family. He rode a battered bicycle around town after school seeking odd jobs, and he worked nights as a janitor. His childhood was grim and filled with challenges, but through it all he dreamed of becoming an artist.

He put himself through the Massachusetts College of Art & Design, working nights. Here is his portrait of a cleaning woman he admired.





After graduation, he went to Chicago where he set up an easel in his apartment and taught painting at the Art Institute of Chicago. He married an Iowa farm girl and had children, who he adored. This is his portrait of me when I was three:


Before long, Apatoff found himself with six children to support and a lot of bills to pay. He put aside his fine art aspirations and became an art director in an advertising agency. Politically radical, he ruefully recounted that now his job was …

THE NAKEDNESS OF GOYA

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The world has gossiped for 200 years about Goya's twin paintings of the Maja-- one with clothes and one without.





When the secret nude painting was discovered, Spanish society was scandalized: did Goya really have an affair with MaríadelPilar Teresa Cayetanade Silva Alvarez de Toledo, the 13th Duchess of Alba (and wife of the wealthiest man in Spain)?? And gee, is that what she really looks like under all those fancy clothes????

Today the two paintings hang side by side in the Prado where visitors continue to ponder those same eternal questions.


From the flickr account of lapernas 2.0

The Maja certainly bared her secrets in this painting but Goya had a few secrets of his own, and he stripped himself bare in artwork that was far more revealing than his painting of the Maja.

For 40 years, Goya was a royal court painter who painted flattering portraits of aristocrats and nobles. But underneath he was the opposite; he detested the idle and corrupt aristocracy and painted passionate images s…

Painting process for The Prince of Egypt

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Color exploration.
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Color key.
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Completed background painting. Layout by Armen Melkonian.
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Final scene as it appears in the movie.

This week is the 10 year anniversary of the release of The Prince of Egypt, DreamWorks first animated film. All our work for the film was done in acrylic on illustration board or on acetate overlays.

Copyright DreamWorks Animation.

ONE LOVELY DRAWING, part 23

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God, I love comics.



This cover from a 1940 comic book is not so much a drawing as a riot of the themes inside the heart of an adolescent boy.

Anyone who ever learned to draw will recognize their first few faltering steps here: how to hide the feet you don't quite know how to draw; the temptation to squeeze in every cool trick you've learned-- a skull, a punch, a broken wall, an axe-- whether it fits in the drawing or not; and of course, a girl in a slinky dress, perfected during those agonizing years when it was easier to invent your own girl than talk to a real one.

The drawing, just like an adolescent boy, is an awkward jumble of overlapping themes with no perspective or coordination.

There may come a day when these childish impulses are no longer so benign-- the boy grows up, and the sweet patriotism of that Uncle Sam may lead to narrow minded jingoism; the infatuation with a punch may lead to pointless violence; and the tied up girl may lead to who knows what. But for now, it…
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Flowers from last Summer. Charcoal.
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Painted for Road to El Dorado (2000) in acrylic.

Copyright DreamWorks Animation.
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LORADO TAFT'S FOUNTAIN OF TIME

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Artists always dream of creating works of permanence. Perhaps they hope that "timeless" art will help them live on past their death.

Lorado Taft (1860-1936) was that kind of artist. A Chicago sculptor of monumental, heroic subjects, Taft worked from 1907 to 1922 on his life's masterpiece, a huge sculpture about mortality called The Fountain of Time. The sculpture was based on a line from Austin Dobson:
Time goes, you say? Alas, time stays; we go!
Taft created a 120 foot long parade of humanity with over 100 different figures symbolizing life's journey from birth to death.



This "march of the doomed" takes place in front of an imposing, 26 foot tall statue of Father Time.





Taft wanted his sculpture to have an eternal look, so he designed it in a classical "beaux-art" style. Unfortunately, by the time he finished, the beaux-art style was already unfashionable. It was replaced by abstract modernism. (Perhaps Time felt that Taft's ambition was impertinen…

COBY WHITMORE

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The great Coby Whitmore reminds us that a picture can be bigger when it doesn't fill up the whole page.

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Sci Fi_ish sketches in acrylic.

And since we're on the subject, how about another round of Science fiction recommendations from you. You gave excellent recommendations last time which introduced me to writers like John Scalzi and Peter Hamilton. And my favorite of recent reads: Spin by Robert Charles Wilson. I'd love it if you'd post more of your favorite science fiction novels in the comments.
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Mike. Watercolor and gouache in a 12"x 16" heavyweight craft paper sketchbook.
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FRED

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Andrew Wyeth called this painting "Marsh Hawk."



Having trouble finding the marsh hawk? Why, here it is way over at the edge, sitting on a post:



Harold von Schmidt painted this wonderful painting of revolutionary war hero William Dawes. Can't see him? If you are lucky, you might catch a fleeting glimpse of his butt.



This is Brueghel's painting of the fall of Icarus, the boy who flew too close to the sun. But Icarus is not exactly hogging the spotlight.



Here are his legs, way down here:



The literary critic Marvin Mudrick once said, If you're ever tempted to write a story called "The Secret of the Universe" or "Man's Inhumanity to Man," do yourself a favor and call it "Fred" instead.
For today's post, I was tempted to expound at length on the importance of avoiding obviousness in art.

But I think I won't.

BALANCING INSPIRATION AND PERSPIRATION

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Illustrator Chris Van Allsburg once said that he spent only a small percentage of his working time making creative choices. The vast majority of his time was spent on the manual labor of implementing those choices. He would spend days and days painstakingly drawing individual blades of grass and leaves.



Artist Bernie Wrightson seemed to work the same way. He spent a great deal of time mechanically implementing his initial artistic decisions:



(In my view, this often resulted in a mountain of effort for a molehill of a result.)

Illustrator Robert Vickrey had a similar laborious style. Once he designed a picture, he would spend weeks filling in backgrounds such as concrete surfaces and brick walls.



I was thinking about this trade off as I was marveling at the paintings of Dreamworks artist
Nathan Fowkes. Fowkes works at the opposite end of the spectrum.



Note the simplicity and economy with which he created that notch in the nearest line of mountains, or the way he conveyed important gradation…