Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Maxfield Parrish ~ Landscapes ~ 1931-61 [feedly]

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Jonathan Bartlett [feedly]

Jonathan Bartlett
// lines and colors

Jonathan Bartlett, illustration
Jonathan Bartlett is a New York based illustrator, whose clients include Wired Magazine, The New York Times, Rolling Stone, The Atlantic, Ralph Lauren, Tor Books, Penguin Random House and many others.

Bartlett's approach involves a wonderfully effective combination of textural rendering and dramatic, theatrical lighting, along with a controlled use of color, in which certain colors — often reds — are held in reserve for key passage within the composition.

I particularly enjoy his works in which the majority of the composition is dark, punctuated with glowing areas of illumination.


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Links from class 8/5/15


Clark Ashton Smith

Like arabesques of ebony,
The cypresses, in silhouette,
Fantastically cleave and fret
A moon of yellow ivory.
Like orient lamps the rays illume
A leafy pattern manifold,
And all the field is overscrolled
With curiously figured gloom.
Like arabesques of ebony,
Or like Arabian lattices,
For ever seem the cypresses,
Before a moon of ivory.

Life Aquatic:
The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)

World’s First Bionic Eye Implant Restores Central Vision of British Pensioner [feedly]

World's First Bionic Eye Implant Restores Central Vision of British Pensioner
// Industry Tap

Try closing one eye and keeping it closed for 10 years. Losing vision in one eye is severely debilitating for anyone, particularly for those who are active, engaged, and involved in the world. Now, an 80-year-old British pensioner, Raymond Flynn, of Manchester, has become the world's first bionic eye implant recipient. For Mr. Flynn, who had partial […]

The post World's First Bionic Eye Implant Restores Central Vision of British Pensioner appeared first on Industry Tap.


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Danish illustrator Rune Fisker’s clean, windswept surrealism [feedly]

Danish illustrator Rune Fisker's clean, windswept surrealism
// It's Nice That


Not only is Rune Fisker one half of the independent animation studio he started with his brother, Benny Box, but when he's not storyboarding, focusing on character design or working on title sequences for TV and advertising, the Danish Design School graduate is busy building a portfolio of distinctive drawings. Working mostly in black and white with occasional experiments in colour, each of his illustrations is like its own self-contained world where strange, suited figures with shadowed faces struggle through tilting angles and windswept interiors. The Copenhagen-based illustrator's angular style puts an emphasis on line, playing with geometry and shading for his chaotic but clean compositions, and with their elongated shadows and strangely placeless settings, Rune's drawings remind me of Italian surrealist Giorgio de Chirico's haunting paintings.

Read more


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Artist James Merry Embellishes Sportswear Logos with Embroidered Plants [feedly]

Artist James Merry Embellishes Sportswear Logos with Embroidered Plants
// Colossal





As part of a recent series of embroideries, artist James Merry softened the bold logos of sportswear companies by adding stitched flora to vintage clothing. For instance a glacier flower and moss grow from an old Nike sweatshirt, and a FILA logo is topped by a mushroom cap. Merry is a longtime collaborator with Björk and creates many of her extravagant costumes for stage and music videos, and you can read a recent interview with him over on i-D. (via Quipsologies, Booooooom)


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Michelangelo on Struggle and Creative Integrity [feedly]

Michelangelo on Struggle and Creative Integrity
// Brain Pickings

"I do not know which is better, the ill that helps or the good that harms."

Italian Renaissance sculptor, painter, poet, architect, and engineer Michelangelo (March 6, 1475–February 18, 1564) is celebrated as one of the greatest and most influential artists of all time. In 1505, thirty-year-old Michelangelo was commissioned to build a tomb for the newly elected Pope Julius II in Rome. It was an arduous process marred by constant interruption and interference by the pope, a bona fide micro-manager. Today, as scientists are finding that it takes our brains 23 minutes to recover from an interruption, Michelangelo's tenacity and his ability to carry out his creative vision despite the maddening meddling seems triply worthy of awe.

Indeed, he knew value of undisturbed creative labor and protected it fiercely, unafraid to stand up to the most powerful man in Europe. Unable to bear the interruptions any longer and determined to do his work on his own terms, he left Rome and returned to Florence, where he could work on his sketches and sculptures for the project in peace. In one of the missives collected in Poems and Letters: Selections, with the 1550 Vasari Life (public library) — an invaluable glimpse of the inner workings of Michelangelo's genius, from his daily struggles to his most elemental creative credos — he writes to the pope's head architect, defending his departure:

If I stayed in Rome, my own tomb would be made before the pope's. And this was why I left so suddenly.

Now you write to me on the pope's behalf, so you can read the pope this: let His Holiness understand that I am more willing than ever to carry on with the work; and if he wants the tomb come what may, he shouldn't be bothered about where I work on it, provided that, at the end of the five years we agreed on, it is set up in St Peter's, wherever he likes; and that it is something beautiful, as I have promised it will be: for I'm sure that if it's completed, there will be nothing like it in the world.

Michelangelo makes an impassioned, even indignant, case for what we now call remote work, half a millennium before cars and commuter rail and Skype:

Now if His Holiness wants to go on with it, he should place the deposit for me here in Florence and I'll write to tell him where. And I have many marbles on order in Carrara which I shall have brought here along with those I have in Rome. Even if it meant a serious loss to me, I shouldn't mind so long as I could do the work here; and I would forward the finished pieces one by one so that His Holiness would enjoy them just as much as if I were working in Rome — or even more, because he would just see the finished pieces without having any other bother. For the money and for the work I shall pledge myself as His Holiness desires and give him whatever security he requires here in Florence. Whatever it is, I'll give him that security before all Florence. Enough.

Although the project was scheduled to last five years, Michelangelo labored at it for four decades and never completed the tomb to his satisfaction — no doubt in large part due to the pope's unrelenting meddling. But as is often the case in creative culture, a small side project assigned to him shortly after the original tomb commission ended up becoming Michelangelo's most timeless legacy and one of the greatest works of art ever created: the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, on which he worked almost incessantly between 1508 and 1512. And as is also often the case in art, Michelangelo's compensation was a pittance compared to the magnitude of his enduring gift to humanity.

In a letter to his father penned in September of 1512, as the Sistine Chapel project was drawing to a close, he writes:

I must warn you that I don't have a penny and that I'm barefoot and naked, so to speak, and I can't get the balance owed to me until I've finished the work; and I suffer the worst of hardships and toil. So, when you have to put up with some hardship yourself, don't be distressed, and as long as you can help yourself with your own money.

A month later, he sends his father a most understated, matter-of-fact, even wistful report on what is substantially one of the greatest masterpieces in the history of art:

I have finished the chapel I was painting: the pope is very happy with it, but other things haven't turned out as well as I hoped. I blame the times, which are so unfavorable to our art… I don't have what I need in order to do what I want to do.

Later that month, he writes to his father again:

I live in penury and think nothing of life or honors, that is of the world; and I live with immense toil and a thousand cares. And I have been like this for about fifteen years, without an hour of joy… I'm ready to do the same again for as long as I live or as long as I can.

It should be noted that Michelangelo tended to dramatize his poverty — he was actually made quite a lot by the era's standards. The Pope agreed to pay him 3,000 ducats for the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Even though Michelangelo was to buy his own materials, which cost about 1,000 ducats, the remaining 2,000 was a substantial amount — historians equate it to about $52,000 in today's money. (For a comparative reference point, his contemporary Leonardo — who died with 600 ducats in the bank — kept a careful log of expenditures in his notebooks and often listed the prices of common commodities: 11 ducats for a haircut, 13 for a shirt, 20 for a pair of glasses, 1 for a salad.)

Still, in the relative context of his cultural contribution, Michelangelo was practically robbed — consider, for instance, the exorbitantly greater sums contemporary architects are paid to build, say, a World Cup stadium where a very different form of modern worship takes place.

Separation of Light from Darkness: Michelangelo's fresco of The First Day of Creation, located above the altar of the Sistine Chapel

In a supreme twist of irony, Pope Julius II died just a few months later and was succeeded by a pope from the Medici family, history's greatest patrons of the arts — and yet Michelangelo's most enduring and beautiful work was done under financial strain and creative limitation. One is reminded of Kierkegaard, who observed that "the more a person limits himself, the more resourceful he becomes." Indeed, despite his complaints, Michelangelo was unperturbed by practical constraints and was carried forward by the truth of his creative vision, an "agent of transcendent power." He captured this universal credo of creative geniuses with simple sincerity in another letter:

What counts is that I shall do what I promised, come what may, and with God's help, I shall create the finest work ever made in Italy.

To be able to do that, Michelangelo continued to defend his creative autonomy. In 1524, while still working on the tomb, he wrote directly to the Medici pope Clement VII. However piously and humbly worded, his letter is essentially a telling-off, insisting on freedom from interference and interruption in his creative process:

Since intermediaries often cause serious misunderstandings, I make bold to write directly to Your Holiness about the tombs here in San Lorenzo. I must say I do not know which is better, the ill that helps or the good that harms. Witless and unworthy I may be, but I am certain that if I had been allowed to carry on as I started, all the marbles for these works would be in Florence today, blocked out as I need them and costing much less than they have so far; and they would be of admirable quality like the others I brought here.

Now I see that it is set to be a long business and I do not know how it will go on. If, therefore, something happens that displeases Your Holiness, I beg pardon, for I do not feel that I can be guilty where I have no authority. And if Your Holiness wants me to achieve something, I beg that you should not set other men over me in my own art, but have faith in me and give me a free hand; then Your Holiness will see what I can do and what account of myself I shall render.

That power of the artist's free hand, and the resoluteness with which Michelangelo defended it all his life, remains his greatest legacy. Befittingly, he depicted God separating light from darkness with his hands on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel — and what is the artist's role in human life if not to separate, with his free hand, light from darkness?

Michelangelo's Poems and Letters is a magnificent read in its totality. Complement it with the illustrated life of Leonardo, Picasso on not compromising in your art, Jane Austen on defending your creative vision against commercial pressures, and Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson on creative integrity.

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Inside Rembrandt’s Studio [feedly]

Inside Rembrandt's Studio
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10 Things...Overlap [feedly]

10 Things...Overlap
// Muddy Colors

Any battle scene will force an artist to overlap figures, otherwise it seems too organized.

Greg Manchess

Not many artists think that mere overlapping elements in a painting can make a marked difference in the strength of a concept, but my own paintings became much stronger once I understood how important it is to a composition. I'd understood it for years and wasn't really willing to try it. After all, if it's that simple, how could it add to what I already had?

So I learned the hard way: by making the same mistakes over and over again until I noticed that most of the artists I admired used some form of it. The sooner you utilize this principle, the sooner your work will grow in interest, too.

Or you can keep putting everything all bright and shiny dead-center in your composition and lull your viewers to sleep.

Interesting paintings are not so much about presenting the subject, as they are about revealing it.

1. Push and pull.
It's that easy. Pull elements of a composition together more than you are comfortable with. Overlap elements you are afraid may lose their detail, their shape or form. Watch when your brain resists taking that risk and make yourself do it. You will see composition potentials you hadn't thought of. 

Train yourself to do it and you will learn it…naturally.

In this crowd scene, Cornwell moved his figures, pushing some together and pulling others apart.

2. Foreground.
In general, the best kept secrets are right in front of you. Just because something is in the foreground doesn't mean it's the most important thing or the subject to look at. Sometimes we look past what's unimportant to get to the subject. Light can draw us in, or value, or shape.

Think of the shapes that can drive the eye. You use it all the time when you put flowers or long grasses or branches along the sides of a piece and expect people to look past it. Foreground figures can guide the viewer past them and allow the focus to fall on the subject. They can frame the subject within the frame.

Talk about putting something in the foreground that's not the subject, Coby Whitmore pulls it off boldly.

The carriage is NOT the subject in this piece by Noel Sickles, but it sets the stage and adds to the time period.

 Tadahiro Uesugi puts the foreground right in your face in these pieces, and gains amazing depth from flat forms.

3. Middle ground.
Most artists place the subject in the center, in the middle ground. (This has worked fine, by the way, for centuries.) But the middle ground can have quite a large range to deal with and the point of the picture can get lost. That range can be covered quickly by the way foreground objects overlap the main subject, as above.

Don't allow the middle ground to become sacrosanct. Get off the average six foot height perspective and move your p.o.v around to imbue this area with interest. Overlapping subjects will enhance the interest in even an average painting.

Frank Brangwyn masterfully uses the lower foreground to drive the composition here.

4. Background.
It's odd how the background, which seems limitless, has the least amount of area in most pieces. It doesn't need much to give the feeling of space. Landscapes recede into the background, and as they do, elements like rocks, trees, mountains, and clouds compress into a smaller area. Let them overlap, and study the combined shapes they make; atmospheric perspective is built from overlapping layers, layer upon layer.

Whitmore overlaps the flower stand with the figure, giving a flat picture more depth by puling it close to the subject.

Just a hint of background to tell more story with...not showing everything, and keeping the focus on the couple.

Sergio Martinez pushes our eyes up the stairs to the background subject. 

In this painting of mine, I not only overlapped waves, boat, and sub, but values as well and gained a ton of atmosphere. 

Norman Wilkinson did the same, long before me.... 

And Uesugi uses it perfectly.... 

He also used it to push the focus to the background by placing an out-of-focus hand in the foreground.

5. Maintain the subject silhouette.
If nothing overlaps, pictures feel static. Conversely, too much overlap can obscure your subject, like too many branches or too many mechanical structures, or too many figures. The viewer must be able to spot the important silhouette of your main subject and discern it's shapes and importance.

Seems simple, yes? It will eventually get that way. But you'll only learn to recognize it by experiencing it, and most artists fear that challenge. To get a grasp on this, while sketching overwhelm the subject to know just how much to edit, or get away with. (battle scene)

The subject is pulled away from the main army, maintaining the silhouette; the opposite effect is used on the leader, silhouetted against the dark flag.

6. Think 3D.
We see depth in a three dimensional world because we have two perspectives, one from each eye, which we blend in our minds to perceive dimension. (it's amazingly simple, and yet astonishing)

Get out some binoculars, or a long lens and study your surroundings. Notice how they reduce the feeling of depth, and flatten some elements like trees (cutouts!) and how they cover other things; how you have to move around to 'unveil' what you are trying to see. (you can train yourself to see how these lenses see, but it takes a little time to recognize it.) You can use those spatial clues to design interesting compositions.

Don't clean up the world in your pictures. Things naturally overlap other things. This will bring a sense of authenticity to your compositions.

A shot I took at the Met in NYC....overlapping multiple heads.

An excellent composer, notice how flat he keeps the shapes, almost like seeing them through a lens. 

Layers overlapping still more layers....

7. Tangents
Because tangents are everywhere, they will plague you as you go along, especially once you reduce reality to two dimensions. Once you understand them, once you see them, they seem viral. How close does a finger get to a face; where does the sword tip end up; does this figure nearly touch that figure, etc.

Think of the picture plane as a cube: from front to back, side to side, top to bottom. To fit things well into space, you have to pay attention to how much you inadvertently keep them from overlapping. Then push them over edges to overlap them comfortably. 

This painting I did for National Geographic was capable of becoming a tangent nightmare, but I kept moving figures until it read properly.

8. Positive or negative: it's a space problem.
Tangents can make empty or negative spaces. These spaces can commandeer the subject and become positive spaces to the eye where you don't want them. This is why negative and positive spaces are so important and why you hear artists talk about them all the time. It is important to a balanced composition.

Learn to spot them and control them. An artist who misses this doesn't get to communicate what they want because these problems will zap a picture's strength.

It's not that hard. Study the artists you love and notice how they use space. The answers are right. there.

Uesugi pushes the boundaries here, but pulls it off.

9. Don't get cornered.
Corners are convenient. Corners are important. And generally there's four of 'em. "Gee, look at all that empty space I can fill just for the hell of it." Resist filling space because it's there. You'll need those corners to add to the overall space a subject sits inside of.

Again: front to back, side to side, top to bottom.

Clean and perfect by Coby Whitmore.

10. Overlap light.
Yes, light sources can overlap, too. Multiple lighting creates depth; know when to use it or lose it. Lighting from one direction can supersede or support another source. For instance, a figure in the woods can be lit by the sun, and the bounce light from a tree or the ground can lighten the shadows. 

Cinematographers go to great lengths to create this depth and get light to read naturally. Be careful when lighting your subject in the studio. You can create conditions which don't seem natural. You are an entity on this planet, walking about in different lighting conditions, so you already know when something feels 'off.' Trust the amount of years your brain has been recording this.

Even so, paintings don't have to be correct all the time. Knowing how to mimic natural light, you'll also be able to create situations where you can use light to give an unsettling perspective. It just needs to be believable in the condition you created to communicate with the viewer.

Check out the bounce light up into the trees and leaves...and whatever else NC needed to show.

11.Think better than average.
How many people can come up with the idea you just used? Answer: most of them. (that's ok...we all have similar ideas at times) But, think of the idea, then to make it more personal, more unique, overlap your intentions: blend average ideas with different ideas and create something unique to you.

Overlapping elements in a painting create intriguing, thought-provoking space. Once you play with it, you'll see solutions arise you couldn't have come up with out of the aether. Your genius talent won't give you what practical methods can, and with them your confidence just might encourage you to take risks.


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