Saturday, August 27, 2016

Painting Progression - Yuki

by Vanessa Lemen

Since my posts on Muddy Colors and happen to fall on the same day this month, I thought I'd post a bit about my painting and show some progression images. This painting is oil on board, 5x7”, and is titled Yuki.

beginning stages - making marks
These first 9 images (above) show the different tools I used to make some initial marks on the surface. The surface I used (shown in image 1) is a 5x7” pre-gessoed masonite panel with a smooth finish. In image 2, I covered the panel with a tiny bit of linseed oil and a combination of a few new tubes of paint that I wanted to try out made by Rublev – Transparent Mummy, Hematite, Van Dyke Brown, Ultramarine Blue (Green Shade) – I mainly used these colors because they were new tubes of paint that I just got, and they all have different consistencies/viscosity/textures/thicknesses. It was fun to first just mess around with how the different colors felt in terms of their viscosity and textures. After experimenting with that for a few minutes, I used a small spatula (shown in image 3) to scrape away and smear, making marks by picking out back to the original surface. Because the surface is smooth/slick and not porous, it wipes away very easily with the silicone spatula. To make various marks with a spatula, it's all in the pressure sensitivity (to pick out) and tilt control (to smear). Next (image 4), I used a big soft brush to soften the marks I made with the spatula using a very soft touch so as not to wipe away but just to soften. The different paint's viscosity and textures were pretty evident when using this brush to soften in this stage as well. Next (image 5), I used a faux finishing comb to pick out over the softened surface. Pressure sensitivity, tilt control and direction I pull the stroke is also key to making this tool create various marks. Next (image 6), I splattered mineral spirits with a big chip brush while the surface is laying flat. To make small splatter marks, and I flick the brush with my finger, and to make bigger splatters, I fling the brush (fling the wrist/arm that's holding the brush) or tap it with my other hand (*note* the brush appears as if it's touching the surface in this image, but it is not – it's held above the painting). Image 7 shows one of the many stages that combine the different mark-making. In this image, I should also note that I accidentally spilled the small cup of mineral spirits I had next to it onto the surface - as much as it made for some pretty interesting effects, it was very wet and messy and I ended up wiping it a bit with a towel and adding more paint to start some new marks. Image 8 shows a build-up of varying marks using all the tools mentioned above. Then (in image 9), I decided to add some marks by using a big rubber stamp as a pick-out tool by laying it on the surface with the marks from image 8. The painting needs to be at just the right wet/dryness in order for the stamp to pull paint from the surface. It was still wet, but it had paint and mineral spirits and a bit of linseed oil mixed and manipulated on it, and had been sitting for about 20 minutes or so.

mid stages of the painting
Image 10 shows the abstract marks I ended up settling on for what would be the marks I would paint into. (I say settling, but I really loved this little abstract, actually). Sometimes, I do several of these and let them dry in order to paint into them at any given moment. This abstract was left over night, and I worked into it the next morning. Because the painting was still wet meant that any new marks I made on top of them had to be very sensitive in order to preserve the marks that were already there on the surface. I saw a face in the marks, and began to paint into the marks in order to begin pulling the face forward from the abstract. The very beginning phase of this is shown in image 11. I painted into the large planes of the face that I saw as being the lighter areas using a thin opaque mix of slightly greyed white (using the colors I mentioned above). In image 12, I continued with the light areas and built some of the darker planes in shadow as well as some half tones. In image 13, I continued to build the light, mid, and dark planes while also trying to preserve some of the abstract marks. I was mainly just trying to keep a good balance between abstract and rendered areas as I continued to pull the realized image from what I initially saw there in the marks. To get better coverage in some areas, I mostly used my brush in a toeing fashion (tapping 'dry' paint lightly using the tip of the brush) so that it didn't wipe away the wet layer underneath.

finishing stages
In image 14, I had rendered the face quite a bit, and then decided to pick out a little across some of the area I rendered using a different rubber stamp, the spatula and a smaller pick-out tool also used for sculpting (also shown in image 16). Image 15 shows the very small brush I used to paint into the smaller areas. I used the mahl stick (on the right of the image) to keep my hand and arm steady. Image 16 shows some of the marks I made with the small pick-out tool, trying to emulate the other marks that I had made previously with different tools by using the wedge-cut end and turning it as I pulled it to create a calligraphic mark. In image 17, after losing some of the marks I had made by brushing some thin darks over the top of them, I used my spatula to pick out across the lower two corners of the painting. These made for some really nice marks because the painting was starting to dry enough in some areas from the abstract stages done the day prior that it pulled some paint off in some areas and left hints of some there in other areas. ..Aaand that about wraps it up for this painting. Here is the finish:
finished painting

Friday, August 26, 2016

Movie Posters!

Greg Ruth

I grew up in front of the Creature Double Feature, Planet of the Apes Sunday Spectaculars, and Saturay morning westerns and have always adored movies and the Dollar Cinema was a bike ride away and a veritable museum of film art inside. IF you asked nice enough on Thursday afternoons when they were taking them down for the next run of films, they might even give you one. Now all grown up, one of my favorite aspects of my job is getting to tackle book covers, and lately even more so, movie posters. Some are fully licensed public ventures, others private individual commissions, some still are via directors or publishers... but all of them are opportunities to take a big narrative, and reduce it to a single image or theme. It's a challenge to do this and each one is challenging in a different way. It prods me to really filter down to the heart of a given film narrative, or take a single aspect or moment, and the more iconic the film, the harder this can be. And the more fun. Here below are a handful of some of the ones from the last two years.

One of the most powerful films of my life and one of the greatest films in history, To Kill a Mockingbird, has and remains one of the most successful posters I've done, and was in fact the very first to do for the commissioned silk screen efforts. I had no idea what I was meant to consider with regards to separations for this silkscreen poster, nor whether or not my original drawing would upscale in an un-horrible way, but somehow thanks to help from Mo at Last leaf, Dayan and I managed to get it to come out pretty well.

Breakfast at Tiffany's was a totally different direction to swing the bat for me and was a chance to really go for something closer to the french poster designs of the 1930's, It gave me the opportunity to try a full sumi ink style effort, and a sense of playful color and design that went outside of my usual wheelhouse. It was also the first moment I really started to realize, unlike with book covers where the AD held the power staff of title and text treatments, that I now had this particular power.

One of my favorite films and one of the trickiest images to create was this one for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Primarily because in many ways the film requires and demands a Nicholson portrait, but also wants to be something weirder and more psychological. For this I looked to the truly bizarre Yugoslavian and Polish film posters of the 1960's and went right to this one. I thought it would be fun to let the cracks be the negative space for the drawing and well.. it wasn't. Since the original drawing is on a cream colored bristol, and was slotted to go to a buyer I didn't want to wreck it with paint or white out to cheat these crags. It came together in the end but not without a few tears and hand aches.

 The John Carpenter film, The Thing, is a perfect film to tackle and the easiest to get wrong. For me a film poster should be graphic and immediately recognizable and for this film it's too common to go after the image of the mutated anthropomorphized creature. So invoking my "before or after" rule of comics storytelling I decided instead to go with something before that and make it a more totemic thing to express the film, And got to do two versions of it to boot. Turned out I much prefer the alternate piece at top here.

Andrei Tarkovsky is one of my all time favorite directors, so getting to tackle his first film, Ivan's Childhood for Black Dragon Press, was a pure delight. I originally went for something to take on one of the most perfect moments in film history, the battlefield kiss, but the estate wanted to go in a different direction and so we did.

For some where there was never a majorly catching poster created for Good Will Hunting. It's largely a character piece and all about conversation and in a way lacking in any major visual cues or distinctive moments other than the core characters. Since the first thing I want to avoid in doing these is replicating the typical headshot poster you get from the studio ad houses, this went through many different approaches before we got to where it belonged.

For me personally the Hitchcock films are the most exciting and the most intimidating. They're so iconic and there's been so many incredible posters created, both in their original production but also in the more recent silkscreen poster craze bringing in some of today's best artists going to the 9s. Plus Saul Bass.... friggin Sal Bass is a mountain no one wants to fight with. This ongoing series is a special one to me as a personal project and I can't wait to tackle more on the coming months.

While we have a lot of visual cues to the Godfather films, we never really saw much of set of posters for them that ever did the film justice. The logo design itself became the iconography for the films, and the books alike, so in many ways there was a lot of freedom to taking the trilogy on. The characters are so mythic at this point, it's hard to avoid just executing head-shots, or the dreaded, horrible head-flower approach. So instead I decided to pin down the iconography specific to each film and make a more surreal symbolist approach. These are still among my favorites, but we caught hell like you would not believe on the outset for them... after the initial shock though, everyone pretty much came around.

Sometimes I get assigned a gig, like I did with King Hu's epic wuxia films, A Touch of Zen and Dragon Inn for Criterion. I'd done work for their release of Zatoichi and Tree Outlaw Samurai, but this was the first time they were making big full scale posters out of my work, so it had to really come together well. Plus it was a killer deadline to make the screening release. They are among the few companies today that will actually make a special edition series of printed full scale movie posters to accompany their short run screenings or releases and it's always an honor to work for them and with the insanely prolific and brilliant Eric Skillman.

I was commissioned by Jason Blum and Ethan Hawke to do a series of posters for their forthcoming spaghetti western, In a Valley of Violence by Ti West. This was a film I knew of and watched develop from script to final so had a much deeper and more intimate perspective on it as compared to others. I can't remember whether it was Ethan or myself, (as per usual probably both simultaneously), who came up with the idea of stringing them altogether so the doggy footprints tracked across them when lined up alongside... but of course it was a perfect notion.

Rosemary's Baby remains one of my favorite Polanski films, (following closely to The Tenant of course) and turned out to be one of my most enjoyable and instantly achieved posters to date.This is the one my manager/agent/spirit animal, Allen Spiegel really dislikes the most- "it spoils the ending!" he would cry. My reply being "It's been fifty years, I think we all know how the movie goes". And round and round we tumble. 

I was commissioned by by childhood chum, Stiles White and his wife/creative partner Juliet Snowden, the writers for The Possession, (previously known as Dibbuk Box) as a giveaway to Sam Raimi after the film wrapped up. Sam is a huge comics enthusiast so Stiles thought it would be fun to do a splashy garish EC comics style comics cover for it complete with logo bar and CAC imprint. 

Needless to say of all the work I do professionally, or even when it's simply a private commission or for myself, I cannot express how much I enjoy taking these on. it marries two of my favorite things in this world together, but I also find it a supremely effective thought experiment and the kind of challenge that helps feed back into my usual labors. Plus as a bonus I get to revisit these movies and see them as if new, which is of course, fantastic. Most of these were generated only within the last two or so years and a lot more are currently forthcoming, so keep on the lookout.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Chasing Dragons

-By Donato

Puff the Magic Dragon - animated TV film still   1978

This evening as we discussed what new (or old) films we would be interested in viewing together as a family, the subject of Puff the Magic Dragon came up.  As I browsed through the lyrics and had a listen to the song by Peter, Paul and Mary for the first time in nearly 15 years (a song my wife cannot stand, but I love!), I reflected upon how powerful a simple statement like this song can be as a motivator and mirror to the choices and passions we have in our lives.  In light of a recent award from the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists I was going to post today about undertaking  challenges in art in order to achieve great goals and recognition.

But what I realized is that the driving force behind much of my critical success was not the sole need to achieve great things (awards, sales, etc), but rather the desire to bring forth and share the passions I have grown with since being a child. Obviously I have enjoyed the recognition and praise that comes with peer awards, but true critical, artistic excellence is founded on the deep desires of expression.  It is from these wellsprings that the perseverance, determination, and sacrifices needed to bring forth bold expressions in our art are found, sustained and nurtured.

The notes to this song and story are fixed deep.  For inside me is that little boy who listened to this song as a child, grew up with it as a young man, and now contemplates it as an aging adult - forever feeling joy at 'frolicks in the autumn mist' and sadness creeping as 'Puff ceased his fearless roar.'

I think of the rollercoaster ride my life and career has been, alternating between the ups and downs of emotions, developments, choices, celebrations, defeats, etc... You cannot select only the high points and live for those.  The journey is unpredictable, unknowing.  What keeps me coming back to the drafting table again and again, is the unending passion and joy in sharing a story I care about.

Chase your Dragons.  Seek them out and continue to play with them, no matter how, no matter where you are at in your career.  For when you put aside your joy of play, the dragon creeps away to silently die...

Beren and Luthien in the Court of Thingol and Melian -  Donato Giancola  -  114" x 60"  Oil on Linen   Chesley Award for Best Unpublished Work 2015

Peter, Paul & Mary 

Puff, The Magic Dragon

Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee,
Little Jackie paper loved that rascal puff,
And brought him strings and sealing wax and other fancy stuff. oh

Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee,
Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee.

Together they would travel on a boat with billowed sail
Jackie kept a lookout perched on puffs gigantic tail,
Noble kings and princes would bow whene'r they came,
Pirate ships would lower their flag when puff roared out his name. oh!

Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee,
Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee.

Dragons live forever but not so little boys
Painted wings and giant strings make way for other toys.
One sad night it happened, Jackie Paper came no more
And Puff that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar.

His head was bent in sorrow, green scales fell like rain,
Puff no longer went to play along the cherry lane.
Without his life-long friend, puff could not be brave,
So puff that mighty dragon sadly slipped into his cave. oh!

Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee,
Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Sanctifier of Souls

-By Jesper Ejsing

Today  I would like to share with you a new Magic card illustration. The card is called Sanctifier of Souls and is from the new set called Eldritch Moon. The process was something totally out of my comfort zone. Let me get to that.

As always I sketch a couple of thumbs and decided on one very simple and clearly readable pose. I was inspired by some of Brom´s very symmetrical compositions. I think symmetrical and clear poses are good for good guys. So started sketching the priest more detailed and ended up with a real great face...Just not for him. The feedback I got from my art director was that the pose was fine but he looked way too sinister and evil. I looked again and completely agreed.

In my sketching for a cool looking face, I completely forgot what kind of figure I was drawing and ignored the fact that he was supposed to be a good guy. "Duh" palm to face, and back at the drawing board. The more I sketched the more I felt the pose falling apart. When I tried adding the spirit woman, who I up until now, had ignored completely I noticed another rookie-mistake. "How could I not have taken into consideration that a symmetrical composition is going to be utterly ruined by a figure to the right"? I sketched the main figure without the second figure in mind and when I tried combining the 2 it all felt wrong. "Duh" palm to face again.

So, I had a good sketch for the secondary figure and an unsatisfied main figure already transferred and sketched up on the watercolor board - and the feeling of failure in the gut. So I erased the main figure. And here comes the part that I have always warned everyone, including myself, about. I resketched a completely different figure directly on the board.

The reason why I never do this, is that I normally take a bunch of different tries to get the gesture and the angle right. I search for the absolute best way to describe the figure and the mood of the illustration. In sketching directly to the board there is no room for these searching and changing angles and so on. I always think the "direct" approach makes for a weaker solution than when I get there by trial and errors. But in this case I luckily created a figure with a more dynamic twist to match the secondary figure. I happily drew a facial expression that I liked, and I settled for a somewhat diffuse and not very defined lower body and legs that I decided to cover up with some smoke and cloth.

I am positive that it was mostly out of luck that everything went well. Still I reflected that it might also have something to do with me having been drawing digital for while. The digital sketching allows you to not take line so seriously. The mindset that you can always go back and erase and add newer and more refined layers, gives you a believe in your own drawing skills, that to me is a brand new thing. Perhaps some of that mind set trickled into my skull and allowed me to be less restrained when sketching in pencil.

In the end I am really glad I did not go for the symmetrical composition. The billowing capes and prayer banners adds motion and beauty to the background. Last thing I did after I scanned the original was adding the orange light to the underside of his hat. I really like that part but didn't dare doing it in acrylic.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Help Us Grow!

For the past 6 years, Muddy Colors has been dedicated to providing a free online resource for aspiring artists interested in the Fantasy Art field. In that time, we have never accepted single dollar in revenue from advertising nor have we ever charged our readers for content. In fact, all of our contributors donate their time each and every day completely free of charge for the benefit of our readers. Instead of getting paid, our members have actually spent their own money to help grow this blog into what it is today.

None of that will change.

But Muddy Colors is looking to grow our community even further, and we are asking for you to help us do it. As of today, we are launching a Patreon page.

We are using this Patreon as an opportunity to ask our readers for support in our endeavors. We will use these funds to provide better content for our readers, maintain website fees, and support aspiring artists through Muddy Colors programs and scholarships.

The money we raise will not go into our pockets. We promise to use your donations with care and consideration, and will put those funds right back into this blog.

We receive over a quarter of a million views ever month. If each reader donated just a single dollar per month we could do some absolutely amazing things! We could produce better quality articles, put on workshops, purchase equipment for live video streams, pay special guests to write tutorials for us, and provide even more scholarships and exhibition space at conventions for our readers.

Unlike the typical Patreon format, we will not be taking content away from non-contributors simply because they can not afford to support the blog. The blog will remain exactly as it is, with informative daily articles, subscription-free. Instead, we are asking that those who can contribute, do so, so that we can bring the very best content to every artist that wants it, regardless of location or wealth.

As an incentive for your donations, we are offering a some unique rewards for our patrons. These rewards include access to a monthly livestream, where you can watch one of our members paint live in their studio, as well as a monthly raffle where will be giving away prints, books, and even original art!

We are also offering a very special reward for our highest tier of patrons... A personalized, monthly critique from one of our members, complete with a paintover.

This is a fantastic opportunity for aspiring professionals looking to expand their skills by receiving professional feedback on a piece of art they are currently working on.

This reward, however, is quite time-consuming for our members to provide, so we only offering 3 critiques a month. Those who are interested should not delay.

So please, take a look at our Patreon page HERE, and do what you can to help. Even if that help is simply spreading the word, we sincerely appreciate it.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Politically Speaking

"There were dragons to slay in the old days. Nixon was a good dragon."
—Pat Oliphant

by Arnie Fenner

"Man at the Crossroads," "Guernica," Liberty Leading the People," "The Problem We All Live With": politically-themed art used as social commentary is nothing new. Neither are political cartoons: artists have been lambasting, ridiculing, and generally making fun of elected officials (and the public's foibles, failings, and predilections) since, most likely, the days of the Pharaoh. The British weekly satirical magazine Punch is credited with coining the modern term "cartoon" in the mid-1800s; until that time "cartone" was used to describe a finished preliminary sketch of a mural on a large piece of cardboardPunch humorously appropriated the term to refer to its political cartoons, and the popularity of the Punch cartoons led to the term's widespread use.

Since that time cartoonists around the globe have acted as the public conscience and attempted to "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable." Sometimes mean-spirited, sometimes blindly partisan, sometimes damn funny, but always with a definite point of view intended to make the viewer think, they also just as often piss people off who tend to blame the messenger for the message. Cartoonists have been harassed and insulted and jailed and threatened and (as we saw in the 2015 shooting at the Charlie Hebdo office in France) murdered.

The power of the mind behind the pen. The power of art.

So since this is the Perpetually Silly Season and we've been getting hammered nonstop with political yattering for the past year, I thought I'd do a call-out to some thoughtful, biting, and, yes, funny artist commentators (past and present).

Above: Professor of Art History Albert Boime wrote of Thomas Nast [1840-1902], "As a political cartoonist, Thomas Nast wielded more influence than any other artist of the 19th century. He not only enthralled a vast audience with boldness and wit, but swayed it time and again to his personal position on the strength of his visual imagination. Both Lincoln and Grant acknowledged his effectiveness in their behalf, and as a crusading civil reformer he helped destroy the corrupt Tweed Ring that swindled New York City of millions of dollars. Indeed, his impact on American public life was formidable enough to profoundly affect the outcome of every presidential election during the period 1864 to 1884." When William "Boss" Tweed attempted to escape justice in December 1875 by fleeing the country, officials in Spain were able to identify the fugitive by using one of Nast's cartoons. Thomas Nast is widely considered to be the "Father of the American Cartoon."

Above: During World War II Arthur Szyk [1894-1951] skewered the Axis dictators; the painting above is entitled "Satan Leads the Ball." First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt wrote in 1943, "...I had a few minutes to stop in to see an exhibition of war satires and miniatures by Arthur Szyk at the Seligman Galleries on East 57th Street. This exhibition is sponsored by the Writers' War Board. I know of no other miniaturist doing quite this kind of work. In its way it fights the war against Hitlerism as truly as any of us who cannot actually be on the fighting fronts today."

Above: As has been mentioned in a previous post, Jack Davis [1924-2016] transitioned 
from EC comics to editorial illustration. He produced many politically-themed covers
and illustrations for Time among others

Above: Grand Master Don Ivan Punchatz's [1936-2009] portrait of the accident-prone
successor to Richard Nixon, Gerald R. Ford, for the cover of the National Lampoon.

Above: A pair by C.F. Payne. On the left is Nancy Reagan and the head of White House Chief of Staff, Don Regan. Nancy reportedly orchestrated Regan's "resignation" when he was unable to contain the political damage from the Iran/Contra revelations. On the right, of course, is Saxy Bill Clinton. 

Above: Two by the legendary David Levine [1926-2009]. Ronald Reagan (left), of course, and his extremely controversial drawing of Henry Kissinger for The Nation. Publisher & Editor Victor Navasky said, "...only once (in the spring of 1984) did the staff march on my office with a petition (signed by 25 people in an office that I had thought employed only 23), demanding in advance that we not publish something — and that something was a caricature of Henry Kissinger, in David Levine's words, 'Screwing the World.' "

Above: Robert Grossman's take on Ronald Reagan.

Above: Thomas Fluharty delivers political satire with a painter's panache. His painting of Hilary
(top right) received a Gold Award in the Editorial Category of Spectrum 12 in 2005 after a very lengthy jury deliberation about what was and wasn't fantastic art.  Since, at the time, the likelihood of a woman President looked to be some years in the future (SF, you know), "was" won.

Above: "Where were you when the Blitt hit the fan?" wryly asked artist Mark Summers
about Barry Blitt's controversial cover for The New Yorker. As you might imagine the piece
got a whole lot of internet attention in 2008.

Above: Steve Brodner is unquestionably one of the most fearless of today's political cartoonists. If you can track down a copy of his book Freedom Steve also edited a book Cathy and I worked on a few years ago, Artists Against the War.

Above: Ann Telanaes (whose animation-influenced style I find absolutely wonderful)
was present to sketch the Benghazi hearings for The Washington Post.
Of the last drawing she wrote, "Okay, Clinton really didn't take a drink from a cocktail glass
but if I were sitting in her place, that's what I would have wanted to do."

Above: Over the last few years Jason Heuser has been doing a series of
ridiculously funny Badass President paintings that he offers as prints. Rumor has it that
there are some folks out there that take them seriously...which might explain a lot these days.

Above: There's nobody like Pat Oliphant. I've had the opportunity to meet him several times over the years and, let me just have to be at the top of your game to keep up. Oh...and his bronze sculptures of presidents are just as pointed and memorable as his cartoons.

These are all Americans, of course, and there are naturally many, many other artists, both here and abroad, with a full spectrum of outlooks and sensibilities that have prodded and keep prodding and pricking the public's consciousness with their observations and cartoons. How many and where are they? Well, for starters you can hit this link to start your research.