Saturday, January 31, 2015

thevaultofretroscifi:Paul Lehr, The Fury From Earth [feedly]

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gingerjuju: SKIN: a chart - SUPPLEMENT IMG by navate Working on... [feedly]

gingerjuju: SKIN: a chart - SUPPLEMENT IMG by navate Working on...
// Art and Reference point


SKIN: a chart - SUPPLEMENT IMG by navate

Working on some black & hispanic characters right now and found this great skin tones chart. Thought it'd be great for anyone else who need help.


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Jan Karwot [feedly]

Jan Karwot

Jan Karwot - Dusk:Twilight, 1975Dusk/Twilight, 1975
 Jan Karwot - Anxiety lAnxiety 1

Anxiety was scanned out of an old book on Polish art that I've since forgotten the name of. Dusk/Twilight was found here.

A few more paintings from this obscure artist can be found here.


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Salem's Lot [feedly]

Salem's Lot
// Muddy Colors

David Palumbo

Last year, I had the opportunity to work on several really fun properties/projects, but the just recently revealed special edition of Steven King's Salem's Lot by Cemetery Dance might take the prize. 

To begin, I'll say that the illustrated novel as a concept is possibly my favorite niche of the sprawling illustration world.  It's a tiny niche these days, but the old classics have always grabbed my attention.  Mead Schaefer, Howard Pyle, and Frazetta made some of my favorites, but N.C. Wyeth's Treasure Island is my pinnacle.  I've looked at those paintings for inspiration and guidance time and again, and never more than when working on images in a series. 

In modern publishing, you can count on one hand the number of imprints making illustrated novels with any consistency and they are generally created as limited collector's editions.  Which is to say, jobs like that don't come along too often.  This has been my second to date.  In a strange coincidence, the offer came in within a week of my having finished reading The Shining (love love loved it) and MAN was I on their wavelength.

One of the really exciting aspects of an illustrated novel is that, unlike so many typical jobs, most of the artwork is hidden inside.  This means that the images are not just trying to grab a potential customer's eye from the rack, but more to reward the reader as they enjoy the book.  The images are not chained to type and design elements either, giving you total control over your composition without compromises.  Most importantly though, the interiors need to be on tone with the story and hopefully unfold at a pace which adds to the experience rather than diminish it. 

The first thing to figure out was what scenes to depict.  Salem's Lot is fairly crowded with great visual moments and I wanted to choose those which most spoke to my own natural aesthetic.  I also had to be mindful of them not being too bunched together so they would be reasonably distributed through out the book.  My assignment asked for only four interiors, but I started with a list of about a dozen that stuck in my memory.  I noted page numbers and began boiling it down to help divide the four final scenes into early, middle, middle, and late.  There was one scene in particular (Ben with hammer and stake in the Marsten house cellar) which I knew had to be included, and so I built outward from there.

A theme began to surface in my thumbnails.  As I came to the final selection, it seemed clear to me that each of the four interiors would reflect a moment of dread.  Though I wanted to make the four moments relate to the four most important characters, spacing them out was problematic and in the end I decided to let Ben, Matt, and Father Callahan have their scenes and give Mark's (which was only ten or so pages away from Father Callahan's) to a minor character early in the book which better fit the progressing visual storyline.  Additionally, I am a big believer in the "don't show the monster" theory of horror, so I aimed to keep the focus on our human victims and place the monsters and gore out of frame (and still firmly in the imagination of the reader).  I absolutely did not want to show Barlow.

This first scene ended up being Mike Ryerson, the grave digger, looking up the hill at the ominous and lonely Marsten house.  Waking from a strange trance, he realizes that the day has passed and a feeling of dread seizes him. 

I wanted for the scene to have the muted blue tones of dusk.  The figure stands out in silhouette but the dark is closing in on him all around and beginning to swallow him in the lower portion of the picture.  Also, to add to the mystery and stillness of the moment, I turned his face away from us as he looks hopelessly at the gloomy distant house.

The next scene shows Matt, our first hero to encounter the vampires, preparing to climb the stairs to his 2nd floor guestroom where he knows something horrible is waiting for him.  He holds a small crucifix but is overwhelmed with dread.

I loved this moment of a character dragging himself towards something that scares the crap out of him.  I think I particularly related to this scene because of the universal experience of kids (and adults) facing a scary basement or attic or any other spooky place.  I actually still get creeped out every single time that I vacuum my staircase (which is semi-regularly with three cats in the house) because I feel that weird sensation of a figure standing at the railing above and behind me, watching. 

So for Matt's big moment, I saw an opportunity to box him into this prison of bars and shadows, thrown off balance with a Dutch tilt.  He is leaving the warm comforting light of the known (the only warm and comforting light in the series) and stepping to darkness and unknown.  The upstairs has the same purple/blue tinge as the rest of the series, which means terror.

And now we come to the scene of Ben in the cellar, hammer and stake in hand, confronted with doing the unthinkable.  For me, this is the purest moment of dread in the whole book.  Terrible things happen to everyone else, but those are generally external circumstances or events beyond their control.  This one, this moment, it is a choice and so he must take the guilt along with the pain of it.

I wanted to really drive home that this is not a triumph.  In most stories, staking the vampire is grim but also has a sense of victory.  In this case, it is only regret and sorrow.  My initial sketch was not quite finding the emotion, so I pulled in closer.  In the final, I removed the figures from the background to keep the focus on Ben and his pain.

For the final interior, Father Callahan learns that, as he had feared, his faith is brittle.  There is hope in the beginning but, as he faces off with Barlow, he hesitates and knows in that moment of dread that he will fail.

This painting was one that I was very excited for.  I loved the idea of the priest lit by the glowing cross.  He is small, weak, and alone in a sea of shadow.  There was a problem though which I was not sure how to solve until I shot my reference (always shoot reference!).  I wanted him to be consumed by the shadow of Barlow, but in the sketch it is not entirely clear.  It looks a bit like the shadow is his own, which not only ruins the story of the image but also is inconsistent with the light source.  On shooting my reference, however, I saw how I could layer the actual cast shadow of Callahan over the shadow of Barlow and, in the end, it became my favorite piece of the whole project.

Besides the interiors, I was also asked to create two wrap-around covers: one for the regular edition and a second for the deluxe edition.  A panorama showing the Marsten house with the town in the distance was something which the publisher and I both felt should be one of them.  The second cover wasn't as easy to nail down though.

For awhile, I wanted to do a companion piece to the view of the house and show the town streets full of undead with the house looming in the distance.  I still really like the concept of this, but my sketches never found that right beat.  Some ideas looked cool, but felt off tone.  After a healthy pursuit in this direction, I decided to step back and, instead, focus entirely on the tone.


The vampires of Salem's Lot are not sexy.  They are beasts.  They are violent, merciless, and hungry.  So many modern vampire stories romanticize the monsters, but that was not King's choice.  I wanted to find a concept that spoke to that.  This was how I ended up with my second cover.  I wanted an image which was abstract enough to represent not a specific character or scene (the interiors already did that) but present the overall story.  I wanted it to be simple and on a human scale.  What better than an anonymous vampire exposing the throat of an anonymous victim, half a second before the kill.



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The Action Art of Mort Kunstler [feedly]

The Action Art of Mort Kunstler
// Gurney Journey

On Thursday we visited the exhibition "Mort Kunstler: The Art of Adventure" at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.  
Mort Kunstler, "Buried Alive for Four Months," Stag Magazine, 1965.

The exhibit spans his entire career, celebrating his well-known Civil War paintings, but I'd like to focus here on his earlier work for the men's action magazines, which doesn't get exhibited as often. 

When Mort Kunstler started doing illustrations in the early 1950s, he said that the field of mainstream magazine story illustration was already beginning to die away. "Color photography and television was coming in," he says, and advertising money was going to television. Dramas were broadcast on TV instead of being published in magazines.

But there were over 130 separate titles of men's adventure magazines still going strong, catering to veterans of World War II. The magazines had names like Adventure, Real, True, Saga, Stag, Swank and For Men Only

The illustrations were often printed in limited color palettes, such as red and black, and they required tight deadlines. Kunstler produced a vast output of complex images, usually staged with maximum drama and sex appeal. Most of these early paintings were executed in gouache on board.

Still at the easel in his 80s, Mort has remained busy for all these decades, with one assignment or painting idea following another. He has done it all: movie posters, plastic model box covers, commercial advertisements, and limited edition art prints.

He painted this spoof on Jaws for Mad magazine. He wasn't sure if it would alienate his fans, so he signed it "Mutz," just one of his pseudonyms.

In the 1970s, after the era of men's magazines was over, he painted paperback covers, such as "The Kansan," above. He switched to oil paint, and found his main calling painting scenes from American history, particularly documenting epic moments from the Civil War. 

All these aspects of his career are well represented in the three large rooms of the exhibition, along with examples of his preliminary sketches, comprehensive drawings, and tearsheets that show his process.

The exhibition "Mort Kunstler: The Art of Adventure" will be on view at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts through March 8. 



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Colorful New Architectural Watercolors by Maja Wronska [feedly]

Colorful New Architectural Watercolors by Maja Wronska
// Colossal











Polish watercolor artist Maja Wronska continues to paint explosively colorful depictions of European architecture, most recently in Poznań, Poland. Wronska is an architect herself, a skill that greatly enhances her artwork. She first renders each piece as a detailed drawing and then adds layers of watercolor, an unpredictable medium that can be difficult to control, making her paintings all the more incredible. You can see much more over on Behance, and several of these are currently available as prints.


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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Eye Candy for Today: E. Phillips Fox’s The Ferry [feedly]

Eye Candy for Today: E. Phillips Fox's The Ferry
// lines and colors

The Ferry, E. Phillips Fox
The Ferry, E. Phillips Fox

Link is to zoomable images on Google Art Project; downloadable high-resolution file on Wikimedia Commons; original is in the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Fox was an Australian artist who studied and worked in Paris, adopting the brilliant color and free brushwork of the French Impressionists. Like his counterparts, the American Impressionists, Fox did not share the French painters' urgent rejection of academic values, and applied his color and style to an underpinning of traditional draftsmanship. His approach reminds me in particular of some of the brighter Impressionist-inspired paintings of American painter Edmund Tarbell (also here).

The Ferry is probably Fox's best known work, based on his visit to a resort in the north of France, and made an impact on other Australian painters when it was shown in Sydney in 1913.


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Links From Class 1/28/15


Zinc White Vs. Titanium White

Marsala, color of the year

Munsell's BOOK
Munsell HUE


Gamblin Navigating Color Space
Analogous Color Wheel

The Green Problem

Saturday, January 24, 2015

thebristolboard: Original cover painting by Bill Sienkiewicz... [feedly]

thebristolboard: Original cover painting by Bill Sienkiewicz...
// Hyperwave


Original cover painting by Bill Sienkiewicz from Dune: the Official Comic Book paperback edition, published by Berkeley Books, 1984.


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sleekfuture: Ralph McQuarrie [feedly]

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Taking a big bite - part 1 [feedly]

Taking a big bite - part 1
// Muddy Colors

I think there is great value in taking on projects that are ambitious.  You don't have to look beyond Muddy Colors to see some great examples.  Donato's incredible large scale Tolkien paintings, Justin Gerard's massive battle scenes filled with hundreds of characters, Arnie and Cathy Fenner starting Spectrum (remember to enter!) and building it into the institution it is today and many other works and projects come to mind.  Dan Dos Santos is working on a killer large painting right now as well, I can't wait to see it when it is done!

It is inspiring to see people reach high and then keep climbing.  I have found that I go through phases where I take on fairly safe work and then I build up a little ambition and bite off something a little harder to chew.  When I do that, I really grow.  Those pieces mark periods of greater change and progress... and stress.  The stress goes away though and the progress stays with you!  I highly recommend it.

I recently started a large painting (large for me).  It is 60"x60" and has 30 figures in it, just under life sized.  It is going to be similar in presentation to Norman Rockwell's painting The Golden Rule.

My wife has been helping me with this project by finding models and costumes of kids from many different countries and ethnicities.  I have had a photoshoots in two different states, coordinating with models, wrangling costumes and working out the composition as I go.

I have been doing studies of each of the faces as well as a full sized drawing.  Here are some of the studies done so far along with :

Lola, 11"x14"

And a quick time lapse of the study:

Silje, 8"x10"


Isla, 8"x10"


Starting the painting.  Canvas is toned, drawing is transferred, first pass on face begun.

Below is the underpainting pass for one of the faces.  I will do a second pass to refine the painting, add more texture, color and detail.

A few more faces with the underpainting complete.  The face on the right has a quick flat wash that I will paint into to finish the underpainting.  I can do the underpainting for two faces a day and will spend another day to do the refining pass.

That is it so far.  I will update more in the future.  I have learned a lot on this piece so far and I am just getting started!

Now my question for you.  Do you have any projects that have been too big or overwhelming at first, but have been instrumental in your growth?  Share links and experiences in the comments!


Howard Lyon


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