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Showing posts from June, 2009

THE ILLUSTRATION ACADEMY

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This week I played hooky for a few days to sit in on lectures at the Illustration Academy in Sarasota, Florida. The Academy assembles some of the most talented and successful illustrators in the country to discuss their work and teach young artists in hands-on sessions.

I had the pleasure of listening to presentations by
Mark English:



Sterling Hundley:



Gary Kelley:



Anita Kunz:



and
George Pratt:



If you tried to single out some distinguishing characteristic that accounted for the success of these illustrators, it was certainly not the way they marketed their services. (They had very different techniques.) Nor did they work in a common style-- they used a wide variety of approaches. It was not the stage of their careers (their ages range from 33 to 76) or the medium they used (some painted with computers and some painted with roofing tar). It was not their geographic location (they came from all around the US and Canada) or their gender or their politics. Yet, this group repeatedly won t…
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This drawing is done in vine charcoal, a medium I rarely use because it so easily falls off the page before it's sprayed with a fixative. I tend to prefer compressed charcoal for it's ability to grip the paper and make dark darks, but I find myself coming back to vine charcoal from time to time for it's delicate quality.
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Sunflower. 15"x 20" on arches cold press watercolor paper.
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SELLING OUT

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Norman Rockwell recalled quite clearly the first time he sold out.

Humiliated by his family's poverty, Rockwell resolved to make money any way he could. It didn't take him long to learn about what he called "the depths of commercialism:"
Jack Arnold, my cousin, came home from Annapolis one holiday and offered me fifty cents to take my girl and him out in my boat. And I did it; I rowed facing the front of the boat while Jack and my girl hugged on the rear seat.Rockwell quickly realized there were things he should not trade for money. Perhaps he was still smarting over his loss when he began sketching concepts for Saturday Evening Post covers a few years later:


Many people are quick to accuse commercial artists of selling out (unlike true Artists who never compromise their artistic principles). Personally, I'm not impressed by such claims. For one thing, charges of "selling out" are rarely leveled by people who have made meaningful contributions to the arts.…

Color Workshop this Saturday

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This Saturday, June 20th, I'll be giving an all day workshop on color theory for subjects of all kinds including landscape, figurative and entertainment arts. Here's what we'll cover:
The fundamentals of color theory for painters (traditional and digital).
The emotional impact of various color combinations to create mood and environment.Principles for organizing the complexities of color into pleasing harmonies.Color exploration exercises.Painting from a costumed model in a colored light environment.To enroll contact the Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art at 877-695-2232. Their site is www.laafa.org.

ILLUSTRATING INFINITY

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"The unutterable and the formless must needs be concealed"
.................--the Pythagorean brotherhood, circa 500 BCE



Saul Steinberg
Illustration art is commonly faulted for its "low" subject matter. Critics complain that, compared to fine art, Norman Rockwell's subjects were cheap and sentimental. Illustrations for the fiction in women's magazine or for shoe advertisements could never compare with "fine" art, where the artist has the freedom to address the most profound subjects.
But of course, there is no limit to the possible subject matter for an illustration.

Michelangelo's illustration of the Book of Genesis

In fact, the subject of an illustration can be more profound than the subject of so-called "fine" art, especially in an era like ours where fine art so often gravitates toward minor themes. Here is the art of contemporary art superstar Jenny Holzer:



Holzer takes platitudes fit for a fortune cookie and converts them into art by …
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Oil on Canvas. 18"x 28"
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DRAWING WITHOUT ELECTRICITY

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The painter Margaret Keane married a real jerk.

Early in her career, Keane created a popular style of painting children with huge, sad eyes. Although artistically dreadful, the paintings became wildly popular in the 1950s and 60s.



Keane's domineering husband Walter boasted that he painted the pictures, and he persuaded her to go along with his lie. For twelve long years, Walter took credit for Margaret's work. When their marriage dissolved and his meal ticket seemed about to disappear, Walter insisted that he owned the rights to the art, and even challenged Margaret's legal right to continue painting using the now famous "Keane" name. In court, it was his word against hers.

Then the judge came up with the ultimate test: he asked both Margaret and Walter to paint in front of the jury. Margaret successfully painted one of her trademark portraits. Walter claimed he was unable to paint due to a sore shoulder so they kicked his ass out of court.

There is no test of an art…
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Final frame from the animated film The Road to El Dorado (2000).




Color key for the background painting. It was originally meant to be a backlit scene but as you can see in the final version we brought the light around to the front.



Painted foreground element.





Final background painting. All images Copyright DreamWorks Animation.

And for those of you who have been asking for a gouache landscape sketch demo, I have one up over on Landsketch.
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Pieter Brueghel's masterpiece, The Tower of Babel, 1563


I do not call one greater and one smaller,
That which fills its period and place is equal to any.
..................................-- Walt Whitman


John Singer Sargent's preliminary design for his portrait of the Wyndham sisters

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