Saturday, February 6, 2016

SFAL : Date & Location Change

Announcing the Spectrum 23 Awards Ceremony & “Spectrum Fantastic Art Live 5” Date Change
Santa Cruz, CA, February 4, 2016 

With the goal of continuing the tradition of a spring awards ceremony, Director John Fleskes has announced that the honors for Spectrum 23 will be presented at a gala to be held at the historic Society of Illustrators in New York City on May 7, 2016. “For the previous four years, we were able to hold the awards ceremony in conjunction with the ‘Spectrum Fantastic Art Live’ convention,” says Fleskes, “but the plans to move the show to San Francisco prevented our doing that in 2016. Celebrating the achievements of the artists and providing an opportunity for the community to gather have always been our top priorities, and there is no better place to accomplish both than at the Society of Illustrators.”
The ceremony will be held on Saturday evening from 6 to 10 p.m. A complimentary small-plates buffet will be offered to attendees, and a cash bar will be available. Along with the presentation of Gold and Silver Awards in Spectrum’s eight categories, a memorial video will be shown, and the 2016 Rising Star and Grand Master honorees will be announced. Seating will be limited, and attendees will be asked to RSVP at a site to be announced the first week in April. The Spectrum awards are once again being sculpted and cast in bronze by Colin and Kristine Poole.
 The second announcement, after much deliberation with the Spectrum Advisory Board, is that we’re moving the dates for ‘Spectrum Fantastic Art Live 5’ to May 2017,” adds Fleskes. The event was originally planned for October 2016 in association with The Academy of Art University in San Francisco. A number of logistical issues could not be resolved, however, and the school will no longer be involved with the show in an official capacity. “We have a wonderful relationship with the university and instructors, and we look forward to continuing our collaborations with them in the future,” explains Fleskes. “A May date is preferable for many of our exhibitors and attendees, and the school’s schedule is full in the spring. We also want to hold SFAL5 in a space that is more convenient and inviting for everyone. Accessibility and amenities were both limited at the facility we had originally intended to use, which necessitated reconsidering our plans.”
Several exciting venues in San Francisco are currently under review. The intention is to announce the location and dates and to start taking booth reservations in early May. Spectrum co-founder Arnie Fenner says, “Anyone who attended any of the first four shows in Kansas City knows that, first and foremost, we care about the details of the event and the experiences of exhibitors and attendees alike. In order to do SFAL5 properly—in order to grow the opportunities for the artists and the community as a whole—it is taking us a little extra time to ensure that we get off on the right foot in a new city. Trust me when I say that SFAL5 will only be better with the few additional months we’ll be able to devote to its planning. Cathy, John and I will all be in New York for the awards ceremony on May 7 and look forward to answering any and all questions about the big show—as well as other activities we have planned in the future.
-John Fleskes

Spectrum: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art is the award-winning and internationally renowned art-book annual established in 1993 by Cathy and Arnie Fenner. The contents of each book is determined by a competition that is open to all artists. A jury of peers—different each year—selects the best works from those entered for inclusion in the book and presents awards in eight categories.

The prestigious Museum of American Illustration at the Society of Illustrators in New York City has hosted three exhibitions dedicated to Spectrum, shattering its special-event attendance records. It is a sponsor of “Spectrum Fantastic Art Live,” a yearly convention devoted to creators of all disciplines and sensibilities. Spectrum is published annually by the Santa Cruz-based Flesk Publications and is distributed globally by Publishers Group West.

To learn more about Spectrum, visit

Inspiration: Android Jones

It's always fascinating to watch Android Jones's immersive art presentations and learn about some of the thoughts behind them. Enjoy.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Painting on Aluminum Composite Panels

I have been trying out a new painting surface lately, aluminum composite panels.  Specifically, I have been using OmegaBond panels.  They also come under the name of DiBond from another manufacturer.  They are made for signs, constructed of two thin layers of aluminum sandwiched over a polyethylene core.  They are made to withstand heat and cold without breaking down and with minimal expansion or contraction.  I am starting to see them pop up more and more with artists.

Both the OmegaBond and the DiBond panels have a thin polyester layer on them that can be painted on directly (the DiBond is on one side, the OmegaBond is coated on both sides).  When sign companies use them, they will screen on paint over the polyester and it must bond quite well since it has to withstand all kinds of weather conditions.  You can also gesso them with oil or acrylic gesso, or adhere canvas or linen to them.

I brushed on some oil based gesso to add texture and test adhesion
I have been using them for my weekly portrait sittings for the last few months.  They are quite slick if you paint directly on the polyester, but the paint seems to bond well.  If painting directly on them, you want to use soft brushes, like Rosemary's Masters Choice line or a sable brush, at least for the first pass.

The Natural Pigments site says the following about preparing the panels.

Note: Use only the coated side of the panel for painting and mounting.
  • Remove the protective film from the coated side slowly and carefully to avoid static build-up.
  • Pre-clean the panel surface with ethyl or isopropyl alcohol, using non-colored cloth for best results. It is important not to use solvents, soaps or liquid cleaning materials as they may leave a film residue that can affect adhesion. Additionally, cleaners containing silicone can interfere with adhesion and are not recommended. A 70% solution of isopropyl alcohol is recommended as the only cleaning material.
  • Scuff the surface with abrasive paper, preferably using a grain size of 360 grit. Do not grind through the coating to the aluminum metal.
  • Remove dust with a lint-free cloth moistened with ethyl or isopropyl alcohol.
I have done some tests with them.  Not really all that scientific, or exhaustive, but my initial impression is that they work quite well as painting supports with no real preparation.  If you are concerned with the archival nature of them, you will want to test them with your materials to make sure they suit your needs.

Very smooth surface.  No preparation, just painting directly on to polyester surface.

I have scraped at a few paintings with a palette knife and the paint seems to grip the surface quite well.  It can be scraped off, but no easier than on masonite.  I have also taken packaging tape and duct tape to a couple dried paintings and ripped it off and no paint came off.  Not all that scientific and not a large test base, but it is encouraging so far.

Rebecca - 8"x10" oil on aluminum panel with oil based primer

 If you are looking for a perfectly smooth surface to work on that is archival and rigid, this might interest you.  If you can find a local sign supply company, you can get sheets up to 5' x 10'.  You can also find them at a few art supply stores online.

Stephanie - 11"x14" oil on aluminum panel
*** Full disclosure, my 16 year old son and entrepreneur is selling them on eBay after seeing how much I liked them.  I will include a link, but also include a link to Natural Pigments which sells plain panels as well as panels with linen.

Natural Pigments ACM panels 

Lyon Arts Supply

Lastly, here is a time lapse of the painting above for fun:

Thanks for giving this post a read!

Howard Lyon


Thursday, February 4, 2016

RESOURCES! Contracts, Copyrights, and Legal

By Lauren Panepinto

One of the hardest parts of the job for artists (and art directors) is dealing with legalities. Specifically Contracts & Copyrights. The "Getting You Paid" bootcamp Marc & I give as part of Drawn + Drafted has been one of the most popular (you can download the one-sheet and sample contract here) but there's no way we can cover every question and clause examples in one bootcamp.

So I was thrilled to stumble across (thank you, internet!) this fantastic resource maintained by Columbia Law School: Keep Your Copyrights

Look, I know contracts are scary, and registering your copyrights can seem overwhelming (it's not I swear). And when you have questions about contracts clients give you there needs to be someplace you can go and research.

So start here, and then also check out these other great resources:

Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts
—This is a link to the NYC chapter, but there's chapters in many cities/states that you can find by googling

Creative Commons
—Different levels of licenses you can add to your website, to signal to/remind people that they can't just use your art willy nilly.

—Sample contracts specifically for Illustrators

—A good site for educating yourself and to forward people to when they ask you to do spec work. Another good site is the AIGA Official Position on Spec Work

And last but not least, Drawn + Drafted is working on not only taking the Getting You Hired Bootcamp online next, but we're also getting our fantastic lawyers at Kushnirsky Gerber to work on a special Legal Bootcamp in the near future. Sign up for our mailing list at Drawn + Drafted to hear about those projects as they develop.

And if you need a lawyer that understands artists and visual/legal issues, then I could not recommend contacting Kushnirsky Gerber any more highly. Tell them I sent you. (I mean come on, how many lawyers have a cool illustration on their homepage, amirite?)

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Perfect Passage: Nocturnes

Greg Manchess

Night scenes are intriguing. The mood, the mystery, and the drama are a setup for more interest, more attention.

It took me a long time before I had the nerve to attempt a night painting. I figured the values alone would defeat me. But eventually I persevered and finally realized that a good night painting is a great lesson in the basics of painting.

It’s much different than doing just a ‘dark’ painting. Painting a nocturne is similar to a scene on stage, with everything controlled by the director. (That would be you.)

Don’t wait to try one. It’s a fantastic way to understand how to use dark colors, how to mix subtle values, and how to use black.

The painting above by Winslow Homer has got to be one of the all-time greatest nocturnes out there. This one single painting influenced my career and changed my portfolio. The blue on the horizon makes the water completely believable. But it’s the wave climbing up across that blue that’s sweet.

I use this Mead Scheaffer in my online classes for composition study, but it’s great for understanding value ranges as well. The guy in the middle, with the staff, is just perfect and holds my attention.

Not all night paintings have to be greyed down. Letting the background of the composition go dark can hold the scene for the light and color to show off. On this cover for Popular Mechanics by Herb Paus, the reflection on the engine cowling is just right.

There are not many religious paintings that I’m drawn to, but this one by Ottavio Mazzonis holds my attention. It’s interesting for it’s minimal, but fully recognizable, portrait of Christ. But that great hood on the figure capturing the moonlight is perfect.

It’s too easy to suggest that the window light in this piece by Charles Rollo Peters is the passage, but I’m attracted by what supports it, like the slightly warm value of the front steps, or the stroke of flashing on the chimney. The spot that nails it, though, for me, and it’s more of a dot, is the bright star on the upper left.

The Slav Epic by Mucha is a killer series, if you’re not familiar with it. And most of them are 15 to 20 feet wide. They’re gigantic. There are many perfect passages in this piece, but I love the way he’s controlled the value of the drapery running down from the main floating figure.

What in the heck is going on here? I have absolutely no clue, and don’t care. I can just stare at this piece by Sergey Kolesov and be awed. I’m fascinated by the way the spine moves up and bends gently to the right over the creature’s back.

Frank Tenney Johnson was a marvelous western painter, and specialized in night scenes on the range. This is one of many similar scenes. He had horse anatomy down solid, like the rear ankles here. The perfect passage is where the light rolls over the horse's shoulder, casting the shadow from his boot.

Ending with a grand nocturne from NC Wyeth for Kidnapped, "The Wreck of the Covenant." I like the fear and loneliness this painting projects. I fell the ship moving away. The moonlight that hits the sails is...perfect.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Shishkin's Trees

By Justin Gerard

I don't know about you, but it seems that life gets crazy after the holidays. We just barely got everything cleaned up from that crazy party, and now we are all back to work juggling projects and putting out fires and starting fires and managing the day to day chaos of our lives.

In times like this I like to consider the trees. And today I'd like to share the work of one artist in particular whose paintings of trees are a long meditation in tranquility and calm. And I don't mean the saccharine, sentimental dewdrops-on-a-thorny-rose type of artificial calm, but the genuine calm of being a kid again and feeling a warm summer breeze on your face and the soft brush of cool grass under your bare feet.

These quietly awesome trees are the work of Ivan Shishkin, a Russian painter from the 19th century working at the same time that Albert Beirstadt and Thomas Moran were in America. While the American landscape painters more often chose rocks and light in tumultuous, gigantic grandeur for their subjects, Shishkin chose simple trees, where he could study the play of light on a small scale. His landscapes make the common wonderful.

I cannot help but be a fan of both of these schools, but when life gets hectic Shishkin's paintings of trees are some of the most tranquil and serene images I could ever ask for.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Well Played

-By Tim Bruckner

If you’re a free-lance, hands-for-hire sculptor and you’ve been lucky enough to have a successful career, any personal work you accomplish is sandwiched between deadlines. I’ve been a free-lancer for forty-right years and have tried, as time permits, to explore my own vision and create art that reflects who I am and what moves, motivates, delights, confuses and confounds me. In putting together my solo show for Krab Jab Studio ( with Julie Baroh, I’ve been able to pull from work produced over the past fifteen or so years and to create new work specifically for the show. Every piece is like page from a diary. It chronicles who I was and where I was at the time. I was asked to write something about each piece in the show. Some were easier to review than others.

'He Who Laughs Last' (above) was a piece I explored three different times, and had been able to dodge the truth of what I was trying to do with the first two versions. I think it’s easier to deal with the mortality of others than one’s own. People come and go, and we mourn them and miss them. Part of who they were in our lives stays with us, becomes part of us. With the third and final incarnation I was able to own up to and deal with how I felt about my own mortality. Something I’d been able to avoid with the first two. Hiding from myself, I discovered, can be a sorrowfully easy thing to do.

Every piece tells a story and over time the narrative has shifted for me. 'A Little Mischief'  (above) and 'Something to Consider' (above) are both exercises in exploration of expression, an effort to engage the viewer in a conversation. With Mischief, we get a sense he’s settled on a course of action. And we see him weighing out. Something to Consider is him undecided. He’s listened. Some of what he’s heard makes sense. Now, needs to decide how much and what to do with it. These are my takes on these characters. My hope is that the viewer will engage in a conversation of their own, relative to their own personal experience.

'Anne Phibian', (above) is about the perception of beauty. Some pieces in the show are attempts to solve design issues or to expand the application of various materials. Some of are interpretations. Others are a wink and a nod designed to illicit a smile.

All the work in the show has a certain aesthetic that is intimately tied to the way I work, born out of the way I’ve made my living. The material and methods I’ve used is produce a Superman or Wonder Woman statue are the same ones I used to create each piece in this show. I’ve been told more than once that my work doesn’t look human made. It’s a little too slick, bears too close a resemblance to product. I don’t see that as a problem. Pieces like 'Fatal Attraction' (above) and 'Octopus Laments' ( below) deal with difficult issues. 'Fatal Attraction' addresses the issue of obsession.

When we invest a disproportionate devotion to a thing, a person, a situation, to the exclusion of reason, the price is often our own destruction. With 'Octopus Laments', its unrequited love. It can go a thousand different ways, but in the end, it comes down to the misery of what we think we need and what we cannot have. It’s been my experience that its easier to initiate a dialogue about difficult issues without shaking the disapproving finger and that’s what I’d hope to do with these two pieces.

One of the most significant things about doing work for the show has been how dramatically the design process changed for me. It started with the 'IMAGINE' (above) piece for the John Lennon themed show at Krab Jab last May. I had retired from doing commercial work and had time to think about what I wanted to do without having to worry about a deadline forcing my hand. It was a difficult adjustment. Surprisingly so. The first designs for the piece were influenced by the way I’d explored personal work before. Hurry up, get it done. That’s good enough. When I was able to settle back a bit and reconsider, the design expanded. And as the design opened up, it presented me with practical problems I hadn’t dealt with before and I gave myself the time to solve them.

And that led to 'I Am The Walrus' (above). We’ve all had that lightbulb moment. Hearing that song on the radio all those years ago was one of mine. It was the most visual piece of music I’d ever heard. It only took me forty-nine years to interpret it as a sculpture. Walrus is the most ambitious piece I’ve ever attempted. Once I’d finalized the design, it took days to figure out how to engineer it and just as long to figure out how to get to Krab Jab in one piece. If you know the song well, there’s lots of clues. If not, there still lots to look at and hopefully enjoy.

For an artist whose career has been focused on commercial work, this show dedicated to my personal work has been a dream come true. And it could never have happened without the vision and support of my friend and colleague, the remarkable Julie Baroh.

I have no clue what the future will bring. It’s unlikely I’ll be able to mount an exhibition like this again in my lifetime. I have thought about returning to illustration and to continue writing. Had not this show come about, I doubt I would feel as comfortable as I do about exploring other means of expression. A big thank you to my family and friends for their love and support over the years. None of the good I’ve been able to do would be possible without you.

Tim’s body of work sits in a strange no-man’s-land that most artist’s find frightening and uncomfortable: in the move from the world of working in a commercial setting to a fine art gallery setting, there is this pause point, a quiet spot. Artists have a hard time with this place (“Will they like me, will they want my work? Will they want to see more?”), and it’s where curators like me come in and gently lead the artist across. Viewers and fans must also be guided; this is new to them as well, and a little wonderful, but completely unlike what they expected. We curators understand the game of timing and patience: the pause is often followed by applause. 
With “Well Played”, Tim broke from the rigors of selling a product to searching for the narratives that sell a vision, in the form of sculpture in his case. It’s HIS story, not DC Comics, or another artists’ character he modeled into 3D. He’s at the top of his game here, and it’s clearly his best work. But gone are the familiar Supermans and Wonder Womans, replaced by the less familiar Something to Consider and Absolute Woman. 40+ years culminates in one room, created without a doubt by a Master, but now he spins the stories and we, we get to walk new territory with him. It’s an exciting place for me, this no-man’s land, and I was honored that Tim chose Krab Jab Studio as the launching pad for what is clearly the next level for both Tim and his fans, both the longtime ones as well as the recent converts. Encore, Maestro! Well Played! 
-Julie Baroh, January 2016

The Art of Magic: the Gathering

When you work on MTG, you receive what is called a 'style guide'. This book is full of concept art for that particular set of cards, and ensures that all the future commissioned artwork will maintain a consistent look. These style guides are absolutely stunning, as is all the work that comes as result of them. Every set of cards results in literally hundreds of works of brilliant art.

Just about every Illustrator I know that works on Magic the Gathering has asked themselves at some point... "Why is there no 'art of' book?"

Well, lo and behold, the wait is over!

Thanks to Parka Blogs (one of my favorite art book review sites), you can see a sample of the work contained in the book in the video below:

And the best part about this book, Amazon details it's description as 'Magic the Gathering (Book 1)', which I can only take to mean that there will be more of these books in the near future.

You can order your copy here:

Saturday, January 30, 2016

A Bit About Blending, Tiling, and Scrubbing

-By Vanessa Lemen

Some notes and tips inspired by observations made while teaching oil painting

I've noticed a lot of times when students' paintings become muddy-looking that it not only has to do with accurate (or inaccurate) color mixing and observation, but it has a lot to do with application as well. In classes, we go over observation of color, the mixing of pigment, and application of paint to the surface. Lately, it's come up that though students may be spending quite a great deal of time and effort to get the colors correct according to what they're observing in the set-up, they're still getting muddy paintings at the end of a 3-hour alla prima session.

I'd like to note that the term “muddy” is a relative term. Mixing colors in order to get browns or grays is definitely a way to work, and you can achieve an endless number of colors by mixing to indicate the subtlety of differences in hue and temperature. Those browns and grays aren't necessarily mud. The term “muddy” usually applies to a lack of color, or dullness – which can be relative to other colors that are adjacent to one another on a surface, or as an overall appearance on the surface – which a lot of times occurs from over-blending or scrubbing.

There can be many reasons for the tendency to over-blend - not only can it be due to a possible lack of experience, but it can also have to do with prior experience in painting. For example, students who are new to oil painting but have experience painting with acrylics have developed different routines in order to get the results they're intending. Because acrylics dry faster, those with acrylic painting experience that are new to using oils tend to blend as they go out of habit of working a certain way with the faster drying medium to achieve a certain look before the paint dries. Also, the time one has available to paint has much to do with approach or temperament. But the main purpose of this info and handout below is to demonstrate a few things about blending, tiling, and scrubbing in oil – and hopefully it can be useful no matter what your experience or temperament may be.

In alla prima painting, or wet-into-wet painting, there are many ways to approach the application part of the painting process, but knowing ahead of time what will happen and what your tendencies are can play a big part and help tremendously in the process. For example, if you intend to scrub or blend on the surface as you go, it would be good to know that often times the colors will dull in intensity by doing so, so it it would be best to start with a bit more chroma to account for the dulling when scrubbing or blending the colors on the surface. Or.. if you intend to paint in more of a tiling method, and blend only the edges between the tiles, then it would be best to spend the time mixing the colors on the palette first to have a solid gradient of color and value available to tap into as you paint. These are just a couple of examples.

I thought it might be helpful to share some info I've put together in a handout for this purpose here as well. I've made it a downloadable image, so that if you're interested, you can save it in your files to refer to. This handout demonstrates these aspects using a small still life set-up and observing the colors from life, but these points can be applied to other aspects of painting such as figure, portrait, landscape, and even abstract painting. I will try to post up more of these types of handouts in future posts. Happy painting!

click this image to view larger and/or download