Thursday, August 25, 2016

Chasing Dragons

Puff the Magic Dragon - animated TV film still   1978
by Donato

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.

I have no idea what the new film of Puff the Magic Dragon will be like, it may move some people deeply, or it may not.   For me, the notes to that story are already 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.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Jack Kirby: Story Teller

Jack Kirby is widely regarded as one of comic art's most prolific and influential creators. He is responsible for helping create and establish the look of many notable characters, including The Avengers, The Fantastic Four, and the X-Men, amongst many others.

Watch the complete documentary below to enjoy some artwork, and learn more about the man behind some of our generations most important mythological heroes.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Heritage Auction - October 2016 - Illustration Art

by Howard Lyon

Heritage Auctions is a great site for artists.  They post large images of the lots up for auction and they often get some stellar works.

The 2016 October Illustration Art Signature Auction has some wonderful illustrations for sale.

Here are some of my highlights but be sure to browse through.  There are some hilariously bad images there too (I am looking you Hunting a Dangerous Animal, Manhood Magazine cover).

** There are some NSFW images among the auctions lots.  Heritage hides lot previews that might be considered obscene, but there are also some pinup paintings and drawings that might not be welcomed in all work environments.

Be sure to click on the images to see the full size images.  Most are 3000 px in the larger dimension.

 Let's start with Tom Lovell.  BTW, if you haven't purchased a copy of the upcoming book from Illustration Magazine you better hurry and pick on up.  This one has to be close to selling out!

Tom Lovell - Christmas Morning
What a beautifully painted profile!  Her hair is wonderful too.  It has strong shapes, beautiful simplicity and texture.

Tom Lovell - Christmas Morning - detail 
Tom Lovell - The Quiet Wife
Strong dramatic colors. I love the subtle but powerful falloff of light from the woman's face to the corners of the painting.  Wonderful value control on top of everything else.
Tom Lovell - The Occupation of Paris 1943
I don't know what is up with this soldiers face/expression.  It almost looks like he is sneaking a look at the two women.  Maybe he is sympathetic to the downcast Parisians?  Whatever it is, I really like the simplicity of the way he was painted.  You can see the texture of the tinted ground coming through and a quick application of well placed brushstrokes to give him form and character.  Check out the single stroke of grey on his helmet to give it a dull sheen.

Tom Lovell - The Occupation of Paris 1943 - detail
Tom Lovell - The Man Across the Hall 

Tom Lovell - Son of the Coach
 Lumberjacks can always be counted on to save your bacon.  Though once you get to shore, they will tear you to pieces with hooks on sticks.  I think this is what is happening here.  I didn't read the story so I might be wrong.

Tom Lovell - Lumberjack Rescue
It is always a pleasure to see a large scan of an Arthur Rackham!

Arhtur Rackham - A Terrible Fellow, Little Brother and Little Sister

Robert Peak - I love the dynamic compositions and paint of Peak's work.

Robert Peak - Thrust and Parry
 Look at the wavy motion lines, sans Photoshop, coming off the hurdler's arm.

Robert Peak - One Step Ahead

Bernie Fuchs - Earl Campbell Houston Oilers
 Mead Schaeffer always makes me happy.  + shapes and values paired with great paint.  Reminds me of Cornwell!

Mead Schaeffer  - Couple in the Garden

Mead Schaeffer  - Couple in the Garden - detail
Haddon Sundblom

Haddon Hubbard Sundblom - A Talk in the Park
 What a great face!

Haddon Hubbard Sundblom - A Talk in the Park - detail
George Giguere - An artist I was not familiar with, but the great shapes and colors on this really pulled me in.

George Giguere - Anthony Visiting Celopatra
 Chesley Bonestall - Another new artist for me.  The starkness of the edges and shapes are very striking.  It feels almost like the wonderful litho pulled travel posters of the early 20th century but with more rendering.  It is quite beautiful, I would love to hang this one on my wall.

Chesley Bonestall - Taj Mahal
Thanks for giving the post a read.  I hope you enjoyed the images!

Howard Lyon