Monday, January 31, 2011

A Teaser

by Arnie Fenner
I try not to talk about Spectrum too much here on Muddy Colors—though sincerely appreciate it that others have and really want to deeply thank everyone that recently participated in #18—simply because we have an official website already (maintained by our capable son, Arlo Burnett, and administrative assistant, Jackie Miles).
But there are a couple of Spectrum-related things in the offing that are part-and-parcel with what we've been trying to do all along and which I think will be of interest to many visitors here. Honestly, I'm pretty excited about them. Though the second bit of news will have to hold for at least a few days until some of the niggling details are ironed out (it's worth waiting for, trust me), the first...well, the first is something we want everyone to start talking about. It's sort of a "preview" announcement, I guess, but with these sorts of things it's never too early to set the wheels turning—and part of that process is in reaching out. We want opinions. We want in-put. We want suggestions. Because Spectrum has always been about community, about all of the artists joining together to call attention to our profession, to what we do. And what is this great and mysterious something we want people to start talking about?
We've reserved the Grand Ballroom in the Kansas City Convention Center—46,000+ square feet of first-class exhibition space. We're also looking to rent either the adjacent Folly Theater or the nearby Midland Theater for a special event one night—the live presentation of that year's (#19's) Spectrum Award winners. Hotels and restaurants (cheap or expensive) and bars and theaters are all within short walking distance of the convention center. Our goal is to create an art faire for fantastic creators of all stripes and all sensibilities—a gathering of the tribes, so to speak—where they can sell their work to the public without competing with movie studios and Playboy bunnies and actors for attention. A central locale that won't break the bank to get to, show at, stay or eat at. A venue where artists can socialize with their contemporaries and peers, workshop, share, and promote. A place where fans and collectors of all manner of fantastic art—for comics and books and films and the gallery market—can meet their favorites and buy originals and prints. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for students to meet and be inspired by some of the legends in our field. A, once again, community...coming together to celebrate our field and our craft, to help tell people first-hand what the fantastic arts are all about. Details—the hows, the whys, the wheres, and, yes, the cost—will be released in the weeks ahead. But in the meantime, a question:
What do you think a "fantastic art convergence" should include?
Discuss. Please.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Francis Ford Coppola: On Risk, Money, Craft & Collaboration



I just found this awesome little interview with film maker Francis Ford Coppola (via Boing Boing).
http://the99percent.com/articles/6973/Francis-Ford-Coppola-On-Risk-Money-Craft-Collaboration

A lot of what he has to say is incredible apropos across many creative fields, including illustration.
He also hits on a lot of topics that we have been speaking about quite recently here on Muddy Colors.

"The cinema language happened by experimentation – by people not knowing what to do. But unfortunately, after 15-20 years, it became a commercial industry. People made money in the cinema, and then they began to say to the pioneers, 'Don’t experiment. We want to make money. We don’t want to take chances.'

An essential element of any art is risk. If you don’t take a risk then how are you going to make something really beautiful, that hasn’t been seen before? I always like to say that cinema without risk is like having no sex and expecting to have a baby. You have to take a risk. "

Friday, January 28, 2011

It's not too late!!!!

The Spectrum call for entries deadline is TODAY.


If you haven't sent out your entries yet, it's not too late... Entries need only be postmarked by the end of the day.

Don't have a quality printer?
Go to your local Wal-Mart with a CD, and print your images using the one hour service. Or, use the Kodak Instant Picture Maker. Both produce great quality prints, are quite color accurate, and relatively inexpensive. A single print will run you between $3 - $5.

The Kodak machine prints on extra glossy paper which can be a bit hard to view under certain lighting. Given the choice, I'd opt for the one hour service, which prints on a satin Fuji paper. For the first several years that I entered Spectrum (and got in), these are the type of prints I submitted.

Worried about packing your prints?
Use your local post office. The 8x10 photo prints will fit easily into a flat rate Priority Mail envelope.
You can fit a ton of them in there, as well as a sheet of cardboard for added durability, and it still costs just $5.

So go for it!
You've got 17 hours left, and times-a-wastin!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Inspiration: FASHION

-by Dan dos Santos

Costume design is an integral part of any good fantasy illustration.

A good costume can be the main driving force of a composition, or it can be used to add a deeper backstory to your character. Either way, it's importance is not to be understated.

I gained an intense interest in fashion starting back in High School. Though, you wouldn't guess it by looking at me now, since I rarely get out of my pajamas these days. I do however still maintain that interest, and try to implement it's influence in my work whenever I can.

Two of my favorite designers, by far, are Jean Paul Gaultier and the late Alexander McQueen.

Jean Paul Gaultier, born in 1952, is a staple in the world of fashion.  Pioneering the use of unconventional models, like those that are heavily tattooed, pierced, transgender and even obese, he made a huge impact on the fashion world in the 1980's. He is self-taught, and is best know for his edgy, almost futuristic look. Relying heavily on leather and often utilizing a lot of metal in his designs, his work is perfect inspiration for the SFF artist. It's no wonder he was selected as the lead clothing designer for films such as 'The Fifth Element' and 'The City of Lost Children'.

Some of my favorite Gaultier designs:






Another one of my favorites is Alexander McQueen. Alexander managed to make a major impact on the industry in a very short time before he committed suicide last year at the age of 40. For me, Gaultier is a master of texture... but McQueen is the master of textile. He could take fairly simple patterns, and make them absolutely extraordinary with just the use of color. Pure, unadulterated design. Alexander is the perfect example of the old adage 'Less is more'. It's a shame we won't get to see where he would have taken it.




Obviously the work of these two men span much more than what is shown here. I implore you seek out more. If you have any personal favorites, please share them with us in the comments section.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Showing At The Society of Illustrators

Gregory Manchess


For those of you who are near New York City, I’m having a small show of my work.

A selection of paintings will be hanging in the Members Gallery at the Society of Illustrators, opening February 1st. There will be about seven large paintings up, bridging the gap between mainstream illustration, science fiction, and fantasy work.
It has been a long, arduous road working between science fiction and mainstream illustration. It was difficult to make a mark in either part of the field, but the subjects are intriguing and my interests are quite diverse. I think this selection will highlight some of the pieces I had so much fun producing for a variety of assignments.
The Society of Illustrators is every illustrator’s home away from home. Shows constantly revolve through the newly refurbished main galleries, embracing all aspects and genres of illustration. Spectrum has held two retrospectives there, as well as numerous Art Out Loud events, and lectures. Each annual show is a must-see for every aspiring illustrator, and classic paintings from every decade for the last one hundred years continually grace the hallways and restaurant walls.
The Members Gallery is the most intimate of exhibit space at the Society, sitting directly across from the historic and quaint bar, overhung by one of Rockwell’s greatest pieces, The Dover Coach.
It’s always a chance to get up close and personal with many of my heroes’ work. I’m constantly coming away with new inspiration on each visit. It’s an honor to hang there and I hope you can come by during the month. And let me know what you think.
For those of you who aren’t near NYC, below is a visual list of the paintings in the show.
Members Gallery at the Society of Illustrators, 128 East 63rd Street, btw Lexington & Park. February 1st through February 26th.







Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Experimentation

By Justin Gerard

I am a chronic experimenter.
Most of the following test pieces were done between client projects. They are all victims of a continuing campaign whose goal is a better understanding of the mediums available to the contemporary illustrator.

Some of these experiments seem to give good results:


Oil, thinned with 80% Galkyd, 10% linseed oil, 10% OMS mixture* over Golden Heavy Body Acrylic underpainting on gessoed panel, sanded smooth.

While others seem to give rather poor results:


Oil, thinned with Galkyd Lite over Golden Acrylic Ground for Pastels, over FW ink underpainting, on paper glued to MDF.
MISSION FAILED.

Both cases help lead to a better understanding of the tools available, and how to use them.

This quest for understanding is complicated enough with the wide array of classic painting mediums that artists have used in the past and that are still available, but to make it even more complex, modern paint manufacturers add new mediums to this list every year.

Holbein has released an acrylic paint that can be lifted out after it has dried.

Winsor & Newton has released an oil paint that can be thinned with water. (You heard right: Thinned with water.)

And Golden releases new acrylic products every other week, all of which behave in new and ingenious ways, from drying instantly to a matte finish, to staying workable for days, to actually painting the painting for you while you eat french toast that it made for you.


Golden, you totally rock.

The same goes for supports, brushes and essentially any other tool a devilish cunning marketing division can conceive of.

While many of these new products may be just marketing fluff, some of them are quite useful and provide the artist with materials that are more archival, faster-drying and safer to use than tools of the past.

But do they result in better art? Or just more efficient art?


Is all this really necessary?


A critic of this approach might suggest that this chronic experimenting is a misuse of one's artistic energy. That the artist's energy is better placed in slowly perfecting his skills with a particular medium over the course of a career.
And truly, some of the greatest contemporary master's techniques are stunning in their straight-forward simplicity. Paul Bonner, whose amazing work looks like it must involve every medium ever conceived of, as well as unimaginable dark powers, says merely that, "Mostly I just mix up some watercolor on a dinner plate and start painting."



Oil, thinned with M. Graham's Walnut Alkyd Medium over Holbein's Acryla-Goucahe, on gessoed MDF.

Our critic might also suggest that this sense of chronic experimenting could lure the artist into believing in "silver bullets" that can somehow make up for deficiencies in drawing ability and craftsmanship.

We hear that an artist used some exotic medium and think, 'if only I had that exotic medium, my work would look as good as his.' Those of us who've tried this experiment are familiar with its generally dismal results. A special medium can offer small comfort to a poor composition.

However, while we must admit that the silver bullet is perhaps the wrong way of looking at it, there is something to be said for understanding the tools available to the contemporary artist.

And we may site examples like James Gurney, a painter who actually does appear to know a vast amount about every medium ever conceived of and uses each of them as necessary to achieve his artistic goals.


Tests showing varying degrees of success and failure
with Winsor & Newton's Artisan Water-Mixable Oil Paint and Mediums

When I do these experiments, I tend to keep tight notes as well as take photos of the various stages. In my notes I record details, like drying times, workability and surface quality.
Not only does recording the steps help me to remember how I did a particular piece, but it also helps me remember not to shoot myself in the face when I am half-way through another piece executed in the same manner. Often at the half-way point a piece reaches what some illustrators call "The Ugly Stage" where if the artist doesn't have a firm knowledge of how the piece will look at the end of this stage, he may literally kill himself.

While these experiments are not always helpful, and can result in some dismal failures, I find them extremely helpful in sorting which tools work for me and which tools don't.


Winsor and Newton Griffin Alkyd Oil Paints, thinned with a 75% Liquin, 25% OMS mixture* on MDF.


* Denotes a mixture that might well kill you dead without proper ventilation.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Dancing in the woods and other advice.

By John Jude Palencar On Friday Eric Fortune posted some artistic advice that resonated with a number of visitors to our blog. Most have read or leafed through the book "Drawing from the Right Side of the Brain". That book offers hands-on practical exercises for the artist to develop a way of seeing the world. The material Eric posted was a bit different. As artists we all know creating art is a bit of a mind game. While we all have fairly decent dexterity and can come up with solutions for a variety of projects. There is a point were we all get "blocked" or have stagnant periods in our creativity. Eric stumbled across the material he posted while working in the art department of a Midwest company. He didn't know the source of the material that he posted. After reading Eric's post something sounded familiar. I was sure that I had read these constructive suggestions before. Since I haven't read this book in a while ( I will have to revisit the material) I am about 90% sure that this is where Eric's source material came from... The book is titled "The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron (ex-wife of James?). Her book addresses many of the pitfalls and creative blocks that all creative people face. Now I must go dance in the woods.... Amazon Link "The Artist's Way

Friday, January 21, 2011

Tips and Tricks from an Art Slave

By Eric Fortune Actually this is not by me. Back when I worked as an in house illustrator at Gooseberry Patch......... ok, now that the chuckling has quieted down, one of my co-workers gave me a copy of some tips for freelancing. Although they make a lot of sense they aren't always easy to follow. Most of the artists I know are workaholics, not always a good thing. I wish I knew the source of this information so I could include it. Unfortunately, it's was handed to me as a copy of text on a page. I have transcribed it and will hand it to you. Go in prosperity and every now and then take a break. Tips and Tricks from an Art Slave The cost of a thing is the amount of what I call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.” – Henry David Thoreau You know the old saying, “Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it.” You marketed, you mailed, you contacted. Now you have all of these deadlines looming and you are overwhelmed. You get worried, you aren’t motivated, and ideas are not coming. So you work later and harder. Welcome to the world of an art slave. This is not where you want to be as an artist. After all, one of the reasons we love being an artist is the freedom that we have. But, if you are not disciplined, an art career can be just like any other job: stressful, mindless, paycheck motivated! Be an artist- not an art slave. Find a ritual that works for you. Stay connected to the river of ideas…your inner voice…your muse. Whatever you choose to call it, art is a spiritual process. If you aren’t cultivating a relationship to creativity, you probably won’t have one when you need it. Here are a few tips that work for many artists I know, including myself. The only problem is: you have to do them every day to make them work. 1. Get up happy. Say some affirmations. Get rid of the negative chatter in your head-that voice that says things like, “I’m not coming up with any good ideas. I’ll never make this deadline. I’ll never be good enough to do this job.” Instead, train that voice to say something positive. Reprogram yourself. “I am illustrating books that people love. I am happy with my art. My career is going great. I am a successful artist…” This might sound too simple, and you’ve probably heard it before from the self –help gurus. Have you ever actually tried it….consistently over a few months? 2. Exercise and stay healthy. This is not an option. When you feel healthy, you are more open and ideas come more quickly. 3. Sit quietly each day, do yoga, or meditate. Get calm and peaceful so that when the ideas come, you actually realize they are there. Worry, anger, fear, and other emotions actually block the ability to grasp those sparks of imagination. 4. Create a place and time to be at work. This is important if you are working at home. Your mind needs to understand, “I am now at work. I will now be creative.” So sharpen your pencils, put on music, sit before your drawing table and begin. 5. Don’t talk too much about your ideas; this depletes some of the magic. On a subconscious level, your wonderful idea has become a real thing in the world. It’s not real, and it won’t be, until you do it. So, instead of sharing your magnificent thoughts, go make the work happen. 6. Take time outs doing something you love. Go to a museum. Sit by a lake. Walk though the woods. You must replenish yourself. Fill the well. Don’t view this as goofing off…this time is very important. 7. Don’t be a workaholic. This is difficult, because you won’t know it, until it’s too late. Your friends and family will know it before you will. ONLY YOU CAN CONTROL THIS. Be the work police and set your own boundaries. Make a contract with yourself. “I do not wok on Tuesday and Sunday. I go on vacation without my work. I have lunch with a friend on Friday every week. I only work from 9am to 2pm. “Put up a sign. Remind yourself that you are free to set your own schedule. Work as late or as little or as early as you want, but make sure you’re enjoying the pace. Remember, somebody you know will be published before you or more often than you. They will be more successful. They will sell more books. They will get more speaking engagements. You think you will never make it. You won’t…unless you stop working so hard to catch up. Find your own pace. Find your own style. Do what works for you. Be patient. Change happens in incremental ways. When you consciously make these daily choices, you will see a big difference in your life over time…and you will be balanced enough to notice! 8. Don't believe all the ugly rumors about Eric Fortune. Most of them are NOT true.... Yeah, I thought this one was a little weird too. Oh well.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Life Models and the Art They Inspire

by Donato
Live figure drawing has been one of the greatest sideline pleasures I have experienced as part of a freelance career. What other job has you stepping into a studio in SoHo New York with dozens of other artists to pass away three hours of time in studious contemplation of the human form...and call it work!! (and write it off on your taxes !) These breaks from my regular studio time have been ways to recharge my creative batteries and revisit the human gesture which , when confronted by the amazing things live models can do, reminds us how little we know about the beauty in posture, lighting and the subtle power of gesture.
As a realist painter, I rely heavily upon my models to open the door in conveying emotion and gesture that I can never have dreamed of. Every time I sit down in that cellar studio, many times with artist friends, and watch the model twist, arc, and collapse, I am tongue-tied with the visual language I am still learning to speak. It is a humbling and motivating event every time, year after year...
I wanted to take the time to recognize a few of the models I have met through life drawing sessions at The Spring Street Studio and the art they have helped inspire. These are just a few of the projects which have flourished from the seeds planted at Spring Street.
So find yourself models or friends which will take your art to a new level, for it certainly has worked for me...
Model Richard Holly (above right and below)
The Hobbit: Expulsion
with Richard Holly as a few of the dwarves.
Model Francois Moret.
After meeting Francois at Spring Street studio and calling him in for a commission, I discovered he was a huge art and science fiction and fantasy fan. We quickly became friends and I proceeded to hire him for over 15 projects through the course of the years, from Magic cards to book covers. He was an amazing talent and an integral part of why these paintings were so successful and powerful.
I lamented the day he moved from New York!
Thank you Francois!
(and congratulations, as he is a father now)
Model George Liker
George had a stare that bored straight through you. It was kind of scary sitting in the room with him, imagination running as I attempted to decode what was going on inside his mind. Regardless of his internal workings, George was a stunning model...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Over the edge

You need to push yourself over the edge.

- By Jesper Ejsing

I never feel at ease with what I do. I think drawing and painting is damn hard and extremely difficult. I do not have a system or a basic training that I can lean on and that will help me along. Instead I have a blurred vision in my head of what the illustration should look like. My process is what I do to painfully squeeze that image out.

I try to keep myself on the path of improvement, even if that road is a bumpy one with tons of obstacles pitt-fals and enemies at every crossing. I stay on that path by setting goals for myself with every drawing I undertake. ”This one, Jesper, you have to do more dynamic than anything you have done before” or ”His face is gonna have to look 3D as if it was a hologram” or ” She should be so sexy, that people will blush just looking at the painting” or ”Pull yourself together, Jesper and do a detailed background for once, you lazy bastard”. If I didn´t yell at myself every single time, I am affraid I would loose my creativity.

What I do to avoid the great abyss called repetation or routine, is I force myself, with all the will I can muster, to do something new or something a bit more difficult everytime I start a new illustration. It is easy to just do the drawings the way I am used to. Solve the problems the same way as lasttime. I could easily do yet another fighter in cool outfit looking cool and powerfull at the wiever. But even if the art assignment is somthing like: ”A fighter looking angry and threatening at us”, I try to squeeze something else out of it. I just got assigned 6 covers in a row with figures basicly just standing there. What I did was consentrating on getting the poses interresting. I had the figures pose in a slightly different way than simply up and down. The head to the site, the hand twisted, the weight a little off. Most time I stand up and place myself the way the figure is standing, to try and get a feel for the pose. I got a mirror. I look silly. But I get a sense of it that is useful. Even if the giving motive is something I have done many times before, I can put at least 10% into it that is new to me. 10 % that I haven´t tried or dared try before. That is the only way to improve and keep improving.

It is also damn hard. It is the reason I am never at ease and always dread comming into the studio every morning getting that fresh eye at the painting I am doing. Because I am never totally in control or knows exactly where it is going.

"I remember with the Griffin, that I wanted to make a figure with a clearly readable silhouette to make for a better illustration in cardsize. It was a magic ard illustration for Shards of Alara." "With the female sorcerer I tried to concentrate on a really crazy outfit along with a powerful pose fitting an evil super-being"

Cover Browser


Here is an awesome website for all the comic fans out there: COVER BROWSER.

Cover Browser is a massive database of over 450,000 comic covers, starting at, well.... the beginning I guess. You'd be hard pressed to think of a popular comic that you can't find on there.

Some of the scans are a little low-rez, but that's OK. For me, they mostly serve as inspiration. When I start to get frustrated with a book cover assignment, telling myself that it's the vertical format that is preventing me from excelling, I simple take a look though this site... where there are half a million examples proving otherwise.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Wild Side

-By Dan dos Santos

A little while ago I was commissioned to do the cover to an Urban Fantasy anthology called 'The Wild Side'. One of the great things about anthologies is that you tend to have a lot more freedom with the subject matter, since you need to capture the flavor of multiple stories. In this case, the Art Director gave me an unprecedented amount freedom, and let me do whatever I wanted, provided that the image screamed of 'urban fantasy' and had a strong sex appeal.

I actually struggled with the concept way more than I thought I would, most likely because I had TOO much freedom... I just didn't know where to start. I am definitely one of those people that comes up with more creative solutions when I have a few restrictions to push against. Eventually I just started drawing every UF cliche I could think of; tattoos, guns, breasts, vampires, alleyways, etc. Before I knew it, this was what came of it.


At the time, I was drooling over Petar Meseldzija's colors, and thought I would try out his process on this piece. He had mentioned to me at IlluXcon that he starts his pieces with a reddish-umber underpainting. Since this was before he had started his blog, I had no idea what color he really meant, so I guessed... It turns out I was WAY off. My underpainting was really saturated, and caused a lot of problems for me, but it also provided me with some unpredictable (and pretty cool) results.


I was able to throw absolute mud on top of the orange underpainting, and it created a very weird sense of depth. The cool/warm contrast made the upper layer absolutely vibrate off the surface. It doesn't come through very well in this photo, but in real life, it almost hurt my eyes.


It took a few coats to finally cool down the faces to where they needed to be. But ultimately, the orange underpainting served me well. I managed to get a really intense sense of light by just letting the underpainting show through.


I knew my composition was going to require some unusual type placement, so I included some sample type in my sketch. The client actually liked it enough, that they decided to let me do the final type as well. That gave me the opportunity to really cater the image to the suit the design, like leaving the forearm area really simple and dropped into shadow so that the type would pop more. It is really rare that I am given this much freedom for a commercial commission.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Arts & Letters

by Arnie Fenner
This post is inspired by Greg's previous entry about the expressiveness of handwriting and using it to help form an identity. Taking it one step further, hand-lettering, calligraphy, and type manipulation can be great ways to capture some attention in the marketplace.
Boring, clunky, inappropriate, or badly designed title treatments can kill a book cover—and doncha know that every time a vaguely-fantasy-flavored typeface is introduced, everybody and their brother slaps it on whatever they're doing (Papyrus is a recent example of a way-over-used face). Alphabets with alternate swash caps and lowercase letters are deadly in the hands of an amateur designer or art director.
When Greg's painting got the nod as the cover for Spectrum 17 it seemed to call for something special; we turned to a good friend who happens to be one of the country's leading calligraphers, Rick Cusick (who, unfortunately, doesn't have a website—though his significant other and fellow artist Jill Bell does). Rick explored several options before hitting on a direction that clicked: the result, I think, shows how expressive hand-lettering, when matched to an equally expressive painting, can make for a compelling book jacket. Or movie poster. Or advertising spread.
Above: Some of Rick's initial approaches to the title treatment for Spectrum 17. The last was inspired by J.C. Leyendecker's lettering style.
Above: The finished cover.
Above: From time to time in my career I've done hand-lettering for various logos and title treatments. I've done a lot of work for Harlan Ellison through the years and, lemme tell you, he keeps me on my toes. Happily so.
Above: I designed the cover for the limited edition of Stephen King's novel and incorporated hand-lettering and manipulated type: having a painting by the incomparable Phil Hale to work with made my job way too easy.
Above: Various hand-lettered titles, logos, and misc. I've done through the years.