Monday, February 28, 2011

Shaun Tan wins Oscar !

By John Jude Palencar

A big congrats to fellow illustrator (now also director) Shaun Tan.
Shaun won for the "Best Animated Short" based on his bestselling children's book "The Lost Thing". Donato Giancola, Greg Manchess, Irene Gallo and myself had the pleasure to have dinner a few years ago with Shaun. Those who know Shaun, know how unassuming and humble he is. I can't think of a better artist/ illustrator more deserving than Shaun.

Links Here and Here

View the film Here.

Sunday, February 27, 2011


by Arnie Fenner
Since Mr. Giancola hasn't mentioned it yet, I'll take the opportunity to. Last year Underwood Books released Middle-Earth: Visions of a Modern Myth, a collection of the gorgeous paintings and drawings that Donato has been creating (some as commissions, but many on his on time and dime) for a number of years. Not only has he been scrupulously faithful to Tolkien's descriptions in his works, not only does Donato share his reasons and methodology for the scenes he's chosen to illustrate, not only do John Howe and Ted Nasmith pitch in to comment on the art, but, let's face it, $25 for a full color hardcover is a bargain-and-a-half these days, particularly for one this attractive.
But if you're a hardcore book collector, someone who prizes limited editions and who wants something unique, I thought I'd point out that there is a 26-copy leather-bound edition of Middle-Earth available. It's naturally signed by Donato and comes enclosed in a particularly lush laser-etched wooden box; as if the limitation isn't enough to make it desirable, Donato has taken it a giant step beyond by doing an original watercolor pencil drawing on special tipped-in paper in each copy (shown here are some of the drawings he's already done for the books). 26 copies, 26 totally different originals: limited editions don't get get much more unique than one-of-a-kind. Having been lucky enough to see many of Donato's original drawings, I know I want one. Which means now that there are only 25 available to collectors...or is that 24? Or 23...?
(Priced at $500 @, interested collectors should contact Donato via his website to find out how to reserve their copy.)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Happy 25th Birthday, Link!

This week marked the 25th anniversary of the release of The Legend of Zelda. I'm guessing a ton of you have already seen this image, but if not, here is a pretty spectacular piece that a young artist know simply as 'Ag+' created in commemoration of the event.

Two lessons should be taken from this piece:
1. Never underestimate the power of the internet to make you famous overnight.
2. If you're going to spend a year making a piece this ambitious, please take the extra 10 seconds needed to sign your work!

And here is a video showing Ag+'s process (Thanks Eric!)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Update: Terryl Whitlatch

***I just discovered that Terryl has several FREE VIDEO TUTORIALS on the Academy of Art University's website!***

Also, here is some additional info on the signings/demos I mentioned in Thursday's post:


Born in Kyoto in 1972, Odani Motohiko studied sculpture at Tokyo University of the Arts and Music.  Since graduating, he's had at least 7 major exhibitions to his name, most recently 'Phantom Limb', which is currently on display at the Mori Art Museum in Japan. The exhibition, which has been up since late November will be coming down this weekend. The exhibition is already scheduled to travel to two more museums, though as far as I know there are no plans for it to leave Japan as of yet.

The sculptures seen below are all part of the current exhibition. Despite my research, I have absolutely no idea how some of these have been created, as their medium is simply listed as "mixed media".

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Interview: Terryl Whitlatch

-By Dan dos Santos

Terryl Whitlatch was born in Oakland, California, and started drawing at less than three years of age. Blessed with a mother who was, and still is, a talented artist-illustrator, and a father who taught biology, her fascination with animals started early. Countless weekends were spent visiting zoos, aquariums, and museums, and her father was constantly bringing home mounted skeletons, creatures preserved in jars, and living animals as well - chicken hatchlings, bullfrogs, iguanas, and insects.

After studying illustration at the California College of Arts and the Academy of Art University, Terryl began a career that has spanned over 25 years. She has worked with many major studios and effects houses as a highly sought after creature and concept designer. Clients include Industrial Light and Magic, Lucas Film Ltd., Pixar, Walt Disney Feature Animation, PDI, Entertainment Arts, LucasArts, Chronicle Books, and various zoos and natural history museums.

She also teaches courses in animal anatomy and creature design at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, and is the creator and illustrator of three books, The Wildlife of Star Wars: A Field Guide , The Katurran Odyssey, and the newly released Animals Real and Imagined.

I am a BIG fan of Terryl Whitlatch's work, and as many of you know, a certifiable art book junkie. So it should come as no surprise that I jumped for joy when I heard that Terry had a new book out called, Animals: Real and Imagined.  The book far exceeded my expectations. It is over a 150 pages, beautifully printed, and is jam-friggin-packed with art from cover to cover. It literally took me about 2 hours to go through it all on my first sitting. When I was done, I felt that jittery combination of simultaneous discouragement and inspiration that only really great art can instill in you. I think it's safe to say that the combination of Terryl's creativity and her comprehensive knowledge of animal anatomy is unparalleled in this industry.


Originally I had planned to do a simple post showcasing Terry's work and touting the brilliance of the book (which I strongly encourage ALL of you to check out), but instead, I decided to step it up a notch and try to get Terry herself to answer a few questions for us. Luckily, she was kind enough to oblige me.

Dan: Seeing as 'The Katurran Odyssey' was a collaboration with writer David Weiger, and your 'Wildlife of Star Wars' was all commissioned work now owned by Lucas, I believe this is your first book that you can truly call all your own. Congratulations. Do you feel that personal freedom has shown itself in any way in your newest book? 

Terryl: With every book that I have worked on, it’s always a team effort. That includes not only the author and illustrator, but the publisher, editor, designer, the list goes on. With this most recent book, my associate Gilbert Banducci wrangled in over 3 decades of artwork, categorized it, organized it, and acted as art director. While he respected my opinions, he oversaw the layout and design of the book, and his hard work kept it on schedule. I owe a great deal to him.

Dan: Many professional artists dream of the day they will be able to work on a personal project of this scale, but rarely find the time to do so. How did you manage to accrue such a large body of work during your personal time? Was this a project in the works for a long time, or did you take time off of work to specifically work on this? Any tips for others wishing to do the same?

Terryl: For others wishing to do likewise, if you are a busy artist, and working with deadlines, you really need to have help to do a book like this, whether it be friends, a spouse, etc. I was really blessed in that Gil is a professional art director and producer, as well as being a good friend.

Dan: Please tell us a little bit about your process. It is obvious that you are drawing your work traditionally, but it is difficult to discern your coloring process at times? Is this traditional as well, digital, or a combination of the two?

Terryl: I have worked both traditionally and digitally, depending up on the project. I do indeed draw traditionally, with pencil and paper, and then scan it if working digitally. However, I have been doing mainly traditional work over the last 5 years, as there is something very visceral and dimensional about tangible artwork, in that it exists in real space, and will not “go away” or get lost if the computer crashes. I’ve never missed a deadline. I’ve been exploring high tech markers such as Copics very intensely, the effect they give can look very digital, or traditional, depending on how one handles them—they are exciting, fast, and addicting to work with, they are so hands on and gorgeous!

Dan: Working in the field of concept art, which seems to be primarily dominated by digital artists, have you felt any pressure (due to deadlines or otherwise) to go entirely digital as well? If so, what is your reasoning for not doing so?

Terryl: No, I have not felt pressured to go digital as I’ve had no problems making deadlines. Quite the contrary—the response to the marker work has been extraordinary, and also keeps one’s work from looking like all the other digital stuff out there. Traditional knowledge and practice also in turn makes one a better digital artist as well.

Dan:  You have a LOT of impressive film credits to your name.
Is there a particular project you enjoyed working on most, and why?

Terryl: Gosh, that’s a hard question. All of the productions were unique and special. Star Wars, of course, was an tremendous and exciting ride, and I loved every minute of it. Brother Bear was also fun, but in a different way, more quiet and intimate.

Dan:  Being a concept artist, part of your job means working as a team. Sculptors and 3D modelers need to work from your drawings. Do you have any knowledge of these other techniques, and does that inform/restrict your work in any way?

Terryl: Yes, I have a basic working knowledge of these techniques, and while it is helpful, it is not absolutely necessary. The main thing is to be able to draw well and accurately, and also access the situation concisely, and give the artists what they are asking for.

Dan: What is your favorite drawing in the whole book and why?

Terryl: Well…if I could only choose one or two, I would choose the painting “Nebula”, and the developmental stages leading up to the Marine Mare. But then, I’ll always be biased towards horses! I also like the color acrylic sketch of the little squirrel monkey perched on a branch.

Dan:  Anything else you would like to add?

Terryl: It was really neat seeing this book come together. Sometimes, it was hard, as all artists see things they would like to redraw or “fix”. I’m no exception.

Thank you Terryl for taking the time to speak with us! 


Terryl currently has three books out from various publishers, as well as 4 instructional DVDs from Gnomon Workshop. To purchase her newest book, Animals Real and Imagined, please click HERETo learn more about her instructional DVDs, click HERE.

Terryl will be doing book signings and demos at the Gnomon Workshop, Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Ca., and Stuart Ng Books (aka: art-geek heaven), on March 17th, 18th and 19th, respectively. More info HERE.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Working As An Art Judge

Gregory Manchess

It’s almost time to fly to Kansas to help judge the next Spectrum Annual. None of it would happen without the vision and grand efforts of Cathy and Arnie Fenner. Great effort is expected from all of us: time, money, energy. It’s exciting because as a group, we get to help highlight other lovers of fantastic art out there. 
Yet there’s another reason. For me, it’s an honor. I take great pride in being a part of the process. As with any artist’s career, it’s takes years to build the skills necessary for this job. I respect this role by giving it my full attention.
As a judge, it takes considerate effort to scan and absorb thousands of images and give them all as much attention as possible, however, there are many artists who consider it a day off from work, to just ‘flip through pictures.’ Apparently, they think that they can scan images quickly enough to judge pieces on-the-fly, without so much as a second glance because, as some have told me, they ‘knew what they were looking for.’
If an artist goes into a judging situation having already decided what it is they want to see, and what they are going to approve, why would anyone trust their opinion, much less invite them to return?
Judging is hard work. What makes it so is exactly what’s difficult about judging your own work: keeping a fresh eye. One has to allow the mind to be refreshed, to lose it’s prejudice, in order to detect with objectivity what makes a piece stand out. As artists, we recognize this endeavor and know how hard it is to stay objective. This effort, stretched across so many entries, is exhausting for the mind.
It takes preparation, like an athlete: good sleep, proper food, clear undistracted thinking. Multitasking is the bane of good judgement. (There is much research on this topic of late.) Recently, I’ve watched judges texting, emailing, and taking calls while judging.
Here’s my commitment to all who entered:
I’ll get rest and stay focused.
I won’t text.
I won’t check email.
I won’t conduct freelance business, or call the office.
I’ll stay as unbiased as possible: not just vote for the type of work I do, or want to see.
I will be fair to all styles and attitudes.
I’ll remember my early days and what I wanted to achieve.
I’ll remember to be open and try to understand what an artist is saying, revealing, expressing.
I’ll remember the difference between influence and outright image theft.
I know most of the judges this year. They are very skilled and generous with their votes. We’ll be at the top of our game when we’re there. I hope you entered. I want to see what excited you about work last year.

I wish you (and me!) all the best.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

New Painting Demo

What is the word of the day? Progress(be it slow and arduous) Here's a close up of what I've been working on. I'm also showing you the ref of the hand I'm using. Thank you all my friend/models. Again, I'm a big photo ref/ref in general advocate. At least until you've gained a better understanding of anatomy, light, form color etc where you can start to manipulate it more successfully. Something I constantly try to improve on. And I also have a new video of here with a close up and explanation of my process and technique. If something is not clear feel free to ask questions. And for a small fee I'll answer them;) I jest.

Illustration Process: Traditional Work

-By Justin Gerard
For this post and the next I will take a break from shameless self-promotions to share some process work.
Over the years, my process has mutated from the clear and straightforward approach of my early childhood:
Step 1: Tear page from coloring book.
Step 2: Turn page over and apply crayon directly to back of paper.
..And turned into an overly-complex and technically absurd mess that it involves hundreds of extra steps and expensive, new-fangled products.
So, I will break this into 2 parts to keep things more manageable.
Today's post is the traditional side, the place where I begin most of my work, and my next post will focus on the digital side, the place where I end most of my work.
Ink on napkin
The conceptual stages are generally just exploring ideas to help find a compositional arrangement that seems pleasing. The tools used for this change from image to image. For concept-work I go with whatever works.
Rough Drawing
#7 pencil on copy paper
Once I establish a rough drawing that I like I do studies of most of the faces and figures. I will try to really nail the expressions that I am after. I always consider this one of the most important elements of the image. As Rockwell pointed out, "if you get the face and hands right, they'll forgive you for the rest." So if I have a face in the image, I try to make sure I have it established in a study somewhere.
And if it hasn't already been determined, these studies will help me to decide which lighting arrangement will be the most advantageous for the characters.
General's HB Pencil on Strathmore Vellum
Tight Drawing
Pencil on Strathmore Bristol
For the watercolor stage I stick very close a process laid out by Peter De Seve in his excellent Step-by-Step Graphics article (Vol.10, no. 6) about his technique. (I highly recommend it if you can find it.)
De Seve's overall method in the article carries a great emphasis on preserving the drawing, which is one of the most alluring aspects of it for me. You can see from his work how well it allows him to play up his characters expressions and designs.
I will sometimes (and this is one of those times) apply workable fixative to the drawing before starting the watercolor. Fixative will leave the surface a little less workable for the watercolor, (the surface tends to be less absorbent) but will keep the drawing much more intact. Since I weep bitter tears to see the drawing slowly disintegrate, I am generally willing to risk it.
Watercolor over Pencil
The watercolor process begins with washes of earth colors to tone the paper, applied wet into wet. Then after this has dried color and value are slowly worked up with about ten thousand tiny washes applied wet into wet or wet into damp.
One of the nice things about this approach is that it allows folks like me, who have a foggy command of color at best, to experiment a lot as they work. If a color doesn't look right it is really easy to adjust.
After this I panic and then throw all the old illustrator tricks at the piece in a last desperate effort to save it.
These tricks include, but are not necessarily limited to: Ink, pencil, acrylic, markers, badgers, lawsuits, incantations, harsh language, oaths, gouache, threats and even blows.
Final Traditional Painting
Next Post: Digital Trickery

Monday, February 21, 2011


-By Dan dos Santos

Irene Gallo just posted my cover for the upcoming novel 'Endurance' over at'Endurance' is the sequel to Jay Lake's 'Green'. If you are a member of Tor's site, you can get a nice hi-rez wallpaper of the image that shows a lot of detail. Otherwise, stay tuned here, as I'll post some details and progress pics of the piece in the next few days.

Suggestion Box

By John Jude Palencar

Over the past few months the members of Muddy Colors have posted a variety of topics and subjects.

Dan Dos Santos has instituted an online critique. I'd like to take additional suggestions to further creative dialogue and knowledge building for Muddy Colors. Perhaps there is a subject, question or topic that we have not covered. Something that you would like to see or something we have not touched upon ... a subject that could be explored more thoroughly etc...

As the Amish say "Hands to work, hearts to God".
Let's use our happy hands for some great suggestions.
We will try our best to address any suggestions that we feel are applicable.

Friday, February 18, 2011

This Weekend

by Arnie Fenner

If you live in the Boston area, why not go see Greg Manchess and Irene Gallo at Boskone this weekend? They'll be sitting on panels, Greg will do a painting demo, and I think there's even supposed to be a display of 30 or so Manchess originals; combine that with all the other convention activities and a good time is almost certainly guaranteed.

Work in Progress

By Eric Fortune I have a fast approaching deadline so today's post will by fairly short. Here's a work in progress of what I'm currently painting on. This painting is for the upcoming Hi Fructose Show opening Mar 11th at Roq La Rue Gallery in Seattle. For some other wip pix check out my personal blog here. I'm back to working in acrylic on watercolor paper and I must say it feels pretty good. I'll continue to post work in progress shots on my personal blog as I go for anyone interested.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Live from the Met!

by Donato

One of the reasons I moved to New York City at the beginning of my career was to be around its great museums, from the Metropolitan Museum of art, to the Frick, to the Pierpont Morgan Library, to the Museum of Natural History, and many others. I make regular trips to all of these in order to spend a few hours in bliss, inquiry, or research.

I was up at the Met this weekend for the later cause, taking in the sublime landscapes of Albert Bierstadt and Frederick Church to prime my pump for a new commission. I wanted to experience the works first hand and determine just how large I needed to tackle my future project. Needless to say I spent a good half hour absorbing these beautiful paintings, some of the greatest landscapes ever created.

Albert Bierstadt
The Rocky Mountains, Lander's Peak
73 1/2 x 120 3/4 in. (186.7 x 306.7 cm)

Frederic Edwin Church (1826–1900)
Heart of the Andes
Oil on canvas
66 1/8 x 119 1/4in. (168 x 302.9cm)

I also made a visit to the orientalist room in the 19th Century wing to evaluate my technical progress on another commission on the table. I have a long road to travel before I come close to the technical and compositional brilliance of Pasini...some days I should just hang up the brushes...

These visits keep me very humble.

Enjoy the high res scans!

Alberto Pasini (Italian, 1826–1899)
A Mosque
Oil on canvas
35 x 26 1/4 in. (88.9 x 66.7 cm)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Trick of the Trade

-By Jesper Ejsing

I just wanted to tell you about this little trick of mine. It is a neat way of blending wet colours that I use all the time.  I learned it from an animation background painter from back when that stuff was still made in acrylic or gouaches. You'll need: A badger brush (It is a thick fanned brush that has a round tip instead of a pointed one), and an Airbrush with a large cup, preferable with a lid on it. Fill the reservoir with water. 

The idea is this: with a quick hand you add the 2 colours you want to blend thickly up against each other. With the airbrush you mist the surface with water to keep it from drying while you work on it. with the badger you then let it gently touch the area between the 2 colours, thus mixing them or blurring them together. When needed, you can spray more water and brush in and out of the 2 colors to add shapes or broader fading.

I use this technique primarily for skies and for mixing soft edges in lets say clouds or smoke or mist. The great thing about it is that I can keep semi hard shapes and forms but blend the edges to a soft line. In the end it has more strokes than had I airbrushed the whole thing, but it has less hard strokes than had I done it in brush only. Acrylics is kind of a hard medium in the shape of the strokes, and this little trick allows me to keep areas of a painting smooth and thus lacking focus, creating calmness to the eye and by then adding focus to the areas that are hard and edged. 

On the Ice Giant cover I have added small arrows to show you where I have used the water fusing technique. 

In the 2 magic card illustrations it is clearly visible in the sky.

Well, that was my best kept secret... if you do not count the alien abduction or the crossdressers for the Satan Country Club.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

FREE Webcast with David Kassan.... right NOW!

David Kassan, a damn fine figure painter, will be hosting a free webcast HERE, demonstrating a charcoal portrait study. The webcast starts in just 2 hours, 5:30 EST. Thanks to Matthew Innis for the heads up.

Crit-Submit Reminder

Just a reminder, this is the last day to enter a piece for the Crit-Submit.
More info here:


-By Dan dos Santos

Quite a few people expressed envy about having a budget for models in the comments section of my invoice post. Yes, most large Publishers will pay for a professional model. But even if you aren't doing a professional commission, there is no reason you shouldn't hire a model.

Having a good model will greatly improve the quality of your reference, and thusly your painting. Quite often, I have had models come up with poses and ideas that I never would have thought up, and it ends up making the painting for me. Yeah, you could pose for yourself, or have your buddy or girlfriend pose... But having a really beautiful person in front your lens is an incredible inspiration all it's own. Plus, you don't have to spend all that time guessing what it would look like if you actually stuck to that sit-up regiment like you promised you would!

One of my favorite resources for models is a website called Model Mayhem. Unlike a lot of other modeling websites, MM is totally free to join for both models and photographers. The result is a really large pool of talent to pick from.

No matter where you live, there is likely someone who would like to pose for you. Many of the models, being amateurs themselves, are even willing to pose for free. These people will be listed as willing to work for TFP... meaning: Trade For Prints. This means they are willing pose for a reasonable amount of time, and in exchange you provide them with portfolio worthy photos. It's a win-win for all.

Obviously, the pickings will be slimmer the further away from a big city you live. But don't underestimate the talent available. I live in a very small town of just 5000 people in Connecticut, and below are some of the amazing models I have had the great pleasure to work with.

As you find better models, their rates will likely be higher than those just starting out. Typically, a professional model in NYC gets paid about $150/hour for a commercial illustration shoot (If they are doing an advertising campaign, and the final product is a photo where their likeness will be obviously recognizable, it is a totally different thing and I believe they get paid differently). Here in CT, I pay my models anywhere from $50/hour to $100/hour depending on their skill level and how difficult the shoot is. However, if both the artist and the model are amateurs, you could likely spend $25/hour and still find a great model.

Doing a professional quality painting is a major time investment, and you are doing yourself a great injustice if you are not willing to spend a little on good reference. In the end, the time (and frustration) you save yourself by having good reference is well worth the time expended acquiring it.