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Showing posts from May, 2008
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THE BOOK OF FLOWERS

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Nearly 1,000 years ago, Lambert of St. Omer summarized all of human knowledge in a book called the Liber Floridus (Book of Flowers). Lambert spent 30 years filling his book with fabulous illustrations of beasts, plants and subjects "biblical, chronological, astronomical, geographical, theological, philosophical and natural."







The Liber Floridus even explains how the world will end: when a descendant of the Emperor Charlemagne climbs Mt. Zion, the antichrist will appear and do battle, triggering the Second Coming.



This is where I first learned that the antichrist owns a pet, the antidog.



Today, a modern equivalent of the Liber Floridus is being compiled. The scientist E. O. Wilson is working with the Smithsonian Institution to compile the Encyclopedia of Life, a database of all knowledge about the world's 1.8 million known species of plants and animals (including several hundred species of ants).



You may note that the illustrations in the EOL look different from those in the L…
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Eva. Charcoal pencil on strathmore paper.
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ONE LOVELY DRAWING, part 19

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The legendary Will Elder passed away last week at age 86. He had a long, glorious career as a founding artist for MAD Magazine, TRUMP, Humbug and Little Annie Fanny. Working from these platforms, he made a deep impact on the youth of America (especially teen age boys).

For me, Elder's great contribution to humanity was not an original style or a sensitive line or brilliant designs. His work offered no profound insights into human comedy or tragedy. Instead, his strength was slapstick. Note how Elder equipped the menacing space creature with a glass cutter to get access to the space cutie:



Look closely and you will see that her helmet is also a gum ball machine. Elder's unruly imagination wouldn't have been effective without the technical skill to draw so convincingly. Yet he never gets bogged down in the detail; his gags never interfere with the fluidity of the picture.

Here you can see Elder's craftsmanship close up:



In order to keep a consistent value on the girl's…
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After we finished production on The Prince of Egypt, I was asked to paint a series of children's book covers to coincide with the release of the film. Here's an example.

Copyright DreamWorks Animation SKG.
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THE BREATH OF ROBOTS

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Henry Reuterdahl (1871-1925) painted this lovely illustration for one of the earliest science fiction stories:



Just months after the Wright brothers made the first airplane flight in 1903, Rudyard Kipling wrote "A Story of 2000 AD" predicting a world of huge flying airships. In this scene, a ray of light strikes an airship over the ocean at night: "She falls stern first, our beam upon her; slides like a lost soul down that pitiless ladder of light, and the Atlantic takes her."





Reuterdahl worked in an era when artists still painted machines as if they were a new kind of flower.


Turner's painting of an early locomotive: " Wind, Rain and Speed"

But the world was changing. The scientific revolution had spawned the industrial revolution, which would soon lead to the technological revolution. The breath of robots was beginning to be felt across the world.

As machines became more familiar and less mystical, they lost much of their organic beauty in the eyes of a…

TIME AND CHANCE HAPPENETH TO THEM ALL, (part 2)

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The artist's dilemma: you can't accomplish anything without compromises, but compromises distort what you hoped to accomplish.



One heartbreaking example of this is animator Richard Williams' 25 year struggle to bring his masterpiece, The Thief and the Cobbler to the screen.

Williams was the artist behind such films as Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and A Christmas Carol. An uncompromising perfectionist, Williams set out in 1964 using his own money from commercial assignments to make a complex and sophisticated animated film based on ancient Arabian stories. As one web history reports:

Williams had a fearsome reputation for doing things his way, more so now with a pet project designed to showcase the intricate possibilities in hand-drawn animation. He was ferociously dedicated to his dream. Each and every element which could be animated would be animated. And he was ruthless with his newly-expanded crew, hiring and firing incessantly. He had a vision and only the very best would be…
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A watercolor of Clark Allen from a couple of years ago.
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REPIN

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One reason to take a second look at the great Russian illustrator Illya Repin is that art critic Clement Greenberg didn't think Repin was worth a second look.




Scene from the underwater adventures of the Russian hero Sadko

In his famous essay Avant-Garde and Kitsch, Greenberg sneered at Repin's art, explaining that an "ignorant peasant" prefers Repin while "cultivated" people prefer abstract artists such as Picasso:
[W]hen an ignorant Russian peasant... stands with hypothetical freedom of choice before two paintings, one by Picasso, the other by Repin....[i]n the first he sees, let us say, a play of lines, colors and spaces that represent a woman.... He turns next to Repin's picture and sees a battle scene.... Picasso [is] austere and barren in comparison. What is more, Repin heightens reality and makes it dramatic: sunset, exploding shells, running and falling men.... Repin is what the peasant wants, and nothing else but Repin. It is lucky, however, for Re…
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Jenny, charcoal on strathmore paper. 1 1/2 hour sitting.
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