Thursday, January 19, 2017


-By Justin Coro Kaufman

Hello good people of the muddy colors! First off let me say it's a huge honor to be able to contribute to such a great blog. Quite a few of my art heros on here (Manchess, I’m looking at YOU), so I'm pretty excited to be rubbing virtual shoulders with such a prodigious group of picture making giants.

Figured as a first post, id go ahead and give a little background on myself. Gotta be honest. I feel like a bit of an odd duck here since this blog is mostly print artists who do amazing book covers, posters and magic card illustrations, and generally create more finished paintings than I typically get to make for work.

For the past 16+ years I’ve been working primarily as a concept artist for video games and entertainment media. While its been a lot of robots, barbarians and dragons, the intent has usually been more to serve as visual guides for 3D game assets and vfx, camera framing and pacing, etc.

I tend to have less of a “signature style” than a lot of more established illustrators. Back when I was in school, I struggled a lot with what kind of an artist I wanted to be. I’d always enjoyed painting subjects from life, but also very much enjoy pulling stuff out of my head and not using reference at all.

I’d always been kind of all over the place in terms of approach and “style," which eventually became something of an asset when we started our art studio, Massive Black, years ago.

At MB, my role as Art Director required me to become sort of a “swiss army knife”. I was often tasked with figuring out best practices and approaches in order to create art that consistently fell outside of my comfort zone. I’ve been lucky to have not only learned countless lessons along the way, but have also had the good fortune of contributing visuals to a large number of entertainment licenses in varying capacities.

The last 5 years or so I’ve also been more and more involved in providing visual support to more “real world” and research-related efforts, working with organizations like DARPA, SRI and Google. These tend to be a bit less linear in process and I rarely ever get to show any of that stuff. However, I really enjoy this type of work since it involves collaborating with insanely smart folks that I wouldn’t normally get to work with in the entertainment realm, helping them to visualize emerging technologies and other real-world endeavors.

I’ve done my best to try to balance out the corporate work with personal projects as much as possible. I am a firm believer that an artist should draw their inspiration from the world around them. I lived in downtown SF for many years, which eventually led to a 4 year long graphic novel project about homeless people called “Transient”. I based it in SF and drew inspiration from folks id see in my neighborhood. Id never done comics before, and it was a very rewarding experience. Comics are HARD to make. You have to juggle so many balls. I walked away feeling like I’d learned more than in art school.

Shortly after the completion of Transient we had our first son, Melvin. With his arrival, I started to feel this need to explore more autobiographical themes in my personal work. I had always been a fan of Andrew Wyeth. there’s an honesty to his work that appeals to me more and more as I get older. There’s a vulnerability about painting your life. It makes you extra careful to make sure you get the details, and more importantly, the feeling right.

I fell in love with oil paint back in art school, and though I rarely got to use it for work, I never stopped doing little personal studies and whatnot. It made sense to approach these more autobiographical themes in oil, and that’s kind of where I’ve been applying my personal efforts these past few years.

We moved our family out to rural Washington State in 2014, which pushed me even further into this direction, painting the fields and trees that surround our place in addition to the kids that lived inside. Its become very much about personal narratives for me. I can approach this stuff in a way thats not possible to do when painting something meant to sell a product or intellectual property. Different intent. Different level of attachment.

Don’t get me wrong, I love commercial work. Not sure If I could function without it a this point. I enjoy the psychology behind it. Arranging pictorial elements to best sell an idea, creating a specific mood or feeling, and in general being able to help pinpoint what a client is after never gets old. Or it hasn’t yet! It's rarely easy, but incredibly rewarding.

In a lot of ways I see the professional/personal stuff as kind a yin/yang type thing. Concepts and approaches learned from one always feed into and inform the other. In the end its all just information that can be applied to solve visual problems, regardless of style or subject matter.

Looking forward to sharing more on here. If anyone has anything in particular they’d like me to blather about in future posts please let me know!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Painting Obama

-By Greg Manchess

A painting demo should do a few things at once. It should be informative, it should drive toward a finish, and it should be lively without trying to entertain.

That said, I end up feeling that we’ve come through it together and that’s kind of entertaining.

Entertainment is not the order of business though. I enjoy giving the viewer inside information about my personal approach as it usually breaks down into general painting concepts that most anyone can use. When that happens, the questions get better because they get more global.

All the specific questions are easy and quick to answer, such as what size brushes do I use, what’s my palette like, and what kind of paint do I work with. But as we go along, the questions fall more into emotional and philosophic queries.

And that gets fun.

Recent demo for my SmArtSchool class of Richard Schiff as Toby, from West Wing

This Saturday, I’m doing a live painting demonstration right here on Muddy Colors. I’ll start with projecting my reference onto the canvas and you’ll see how I sketch the image to be painted. Then I’ll seal the drawing and begin painting.

My subject will be President Barack Obama. Yes, Barack Obama will be sitting in my studio while fourteen choppers hover outside and Secret Service agents surround the building.

Er, uh, no. I lied. But wouldn’t that be sweet? I know, right?!

John Lennon, from a Boskone demo

I have adored watching The First Family these past eight years, and I thought this demonstration painting would be a fitting farewell to a historic presidency.

If you can stop by at 3pm EST, Dan, our contributors, and I would love to get a chance to have you there, and take some questions. Or compliments.

I’m counting on the compliments.

That’s if no cats jump on my painting or something else goes awry.

Just sayin’.

If you're a Patreon supporter of ours, we hope to see you there!
If you're not a supporter yet, but want to check out the demo, a donation of $5 or more will get you access to the event. Just click here:

New admissions will be cut off at 2pm EST the day of the event.
All Patrons will receive a link shortly before the event.

David Bowie, from another SmArtSchool class

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Artist Spotlight: Edward Robert Hughes

by Cory Godbey

Edward Robert Hughes is one of those Pre-Raphaelite painters that I should have known about sooner. 

While I'd certainly seen a piece or two in the past, it's only very recently that I'd had the chance to do any study about the man himself and his work. The quiet grace and (I'm not sure exactly how better to put this) the intimate otherworldliness strikes a certain tuning fork within me. I was compelled to dive further into his work and I'm here now to bring you a look at what I discovered.

Hughes was born in 1851, London. Young Edward studied under his uncle, the celebrated painter Arthur Hughes, until he entered the Heatherley School of Fine Art.

Afterwards, Hughes was accepted into the Royal Academy School at the age of 17. He went on to have a distinguished career in portraiture as well as academia.

Beginning in 1888, he served as a studio assistant to William Holman Hunt, a position he held until 1905.

Throughout his lifetime Hughes earned many prestigious titles. He gained membership in the Art Workers Guild (also in 1888) and in 1891 he was elected to Associate Membership of The Royal Water Colour Society. Ultimately, he became the Vice-President of the Society.

He died in 1914, just before the outbreak of the Great War. According to Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery curator, Victoria Osborne, Hughes was something of a "lost" artist. 

After his death, Hughes "began to plummet into critical obscurity. He did not have a one-man show in his lifetime and his work was not seriously re-examined for more than 60 years." 

In light of that, I find it incredibly touching that shortly after his death some of Hughes' friends formed what they called the E. R. Hughes Memorial Committee. 

They gathered up the equivalent of £13,000 and purchased two paintings from Hughes' widow, Emily Eliza, and donated them. The above painting, Night with Her Train of Stars, was donated to the city of Birmingham. The second painting, Blondel's Quest was given to the Ashmolean in Oxford. 

Speaking of Birmingham, at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, currently there's an exhibition featuring more than 70 pieces, evidently some of which hasn't been seen for the last 100 years. It opened back in October and will close next month, February 21st. 


This being my first Muddy Colors post of the New Year I wanted to say thanks again to you, the reader, for your support! While I've done this every year so far, I didn't think to do it back in December with my final post of 2016 -- I've complied a handy guide to look back at all my posts from last year. Enjoy!


One final housekeeping note, if you need more Muddy Colors in your day you can follow us on Twitter and Instagram! We're @muddycolors on both. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Monster and a Lady

-By Jesper Ejsing

This here is an illustration I did for a charity project at Emerald City Comeic convention. The theme was very simple. A monster and a Lady.

My first idea was to draw a giant, eating a lady like she was a snack, but I had trouble showing the giants face, since the lady covered up all the good parts I wanted to paint in the facial areas.

I sketched a Falconeer-like barbarian girl with 2 dragons on her shoulders and even started painting it before it started to bore me. Mostly because it was more or less just a girl with dragons: No story no setting or anything.

Then came an idea  to create a scene of a woman being attacked by a forest wurm. But; I wanted the scene to be an everyday in the forest scene. She, ofcause is almost naked, only barely wearing a fur bikini. Not because I am an old fart who only likes to paint naked woman, but because the large amount of skin seems tender to the huge teeth of the wurm and enhances the drama...
...and I like to paint half naked women.

I gave her a knife so that we would have a certain uncertainty to the outcome of the scene.

The two things I had most fun doing, was the reflected colors of her skintone and the twist and turns of the wurms body.

Pencil Sketch

The wurm I chose to have cirkular mindless eyes to create a figure of rage and also cos I wanted the woman to be able to outsmart it. If it was too cunning the outcome was just her about to get eaten. I gave it some body parts resempling leaves and chose the colors of the skin to be liek the forest around it, to make certain that we knew it was the wurms turf. She is the intruder here, and what ever happens is because she came to close.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Live Event!

We are really excited to announce that Gregory Manchess will be doing a portrait painting demo for this month's Live Event.

Greg will execute a portrait of Barak Obama, from start to finish, while answering questions from our viewers. Don't miss it!

Painting A President
Gregory Manchess
Saturday, January 21st, 3-5pm EST

If you're a Patreon supporter of ours, we hope to see you there!
If you're not a supporter yet, but want to check out the demo, a donation of $5 or more will get you access to the event. Just click here:

New admissions will be cut off at 2pm EST the day of the event.
All Patrons will receive a link shortly before the event.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Portraits and Skin Tones Part 2

Hello and Happy New Year to you all.

I am going to keep the writing here somewhat brief.  I will let the images do most of the speaking for me.  

I moved further up in Longitude with regards to the skin tones this month.  Here are the reference photos I used.

For the first painting of this series done several weeks ago I focused too much on completing the image and while I feel like I learned something interesting from it, it was too focused on quality of finish and not focusing on the target color system used from the palette.  This time I did two very quick sketches, about 35 minutes each while the color mixing of each took about an hour per painting and I think it was much more successful in this exercise.

From last months painting, the majority of the hues used were at the very bottom of the color wheel, many were from the purple family, some greens and some blues for reflected lights,  and a few deep reds.  This time the majority of hues I mixed came from the Green and Blue Green families.  The girl indirectly lit had many more blue greens mixed into the reds to cool them down while the girl lit by the sun had many more warm greens mixed into the reds and oranges to subdue them chromatically or drop their chromatic intensity while still keeping them colorful.  Here are the colors that were mixed.

Here is a close up of the palette

Both color strings show a series of warm flesh tones but both are cooled off using the range of cools at the bottom of the color wheel image.  With just the right percentage mixed into the oranges, orange reds, reds, and red purples, the greens and blue greens do not do anything more than drop the intensity of the hue, but leaves it completely recognizable with its intended hue.

Here is the palette after painting both portraits.  Most all of the mixing is done on the canvas, the only additional mixing on the palette was tinting certain hues and or warming or cooling them off further than the original mixture.

Here are both of the sketches.  The lighting is awkward in my studio and I shot these as well as I could but they do not look as accurate as they are live, especially the second painting which feels much bluer and darker than it should but any attempt at brightening it up made it really noisy and hard to read as an image.

The intended goal of these sketches was to show the difference in the skin tones between the indirect lighting and the direct lighting and how the light source is the primary agent causing the skin tones to "feel" the way they do.  The cool light (blue and blue green hues) was added to all the local hues within the lit spaces and gives the skin tones a very different feeling or appearance than the girl that is lit by the sun.  All of the directly lit hues on the sun lit girl have warm greens or warm hues mixed in with them that resembles the sun light (Oranges, Orange Reds, Reds and Deep Reds or Red Violets mixed with their respective value counterparts).

When I have enough of these faces painted I will give an overall palette assessment and the differences in the hues that are being used for each tonal range and color of skin.  There is an interesting development that I am finding with this color theory color palette and mixing skin tones.  I do not think it will make much sense now with only a few examples painted.  I really need to paint a series of skin tones all the way to the palest of skin for this theory to really make sense.  

I am really excited to share this theory along with another amazing property that I discovered with Colorism after painting the first portrait.   This is something I have never read and no one ever told me about it before and I think many of you will really find fascinating.  I hope you find it fascinating enough to want to try it to see the effect as well.

Back to the easel to get as many of the other different flesh tones finished as I can.  Hopefully they will be close to finished by the next post, as long as I can remember to keep them sketches.

If any of you have any questions about this subject please feel free to leave them below.  I know this post was semi cryptic but again I think it will make better sense once several more different studies have been completed.  Take care and happy arting into this new year.

Friday, January 13, 2017

"The Circle of Flame" Time Lapse

By David Palumbo

It was about a year ago that I last posted a time-lapse video, that one being a 12x16 inch figure study, but I don't know that I've ever shared a process video for a full scale narrative piece  Documenting something large that spans multiple sessions comes with a lot of additional challenges, so I wanted to include a few notes that I expect people might be curious about while watching:

The size of the painting is 18x36 inches and I'm working in oils on gessoed Masonite panel.  My brushes are all square tipped Loew Cornell watercolor brushes and my paints are assorted brands with the following palette: Titanium White, Alizarin Crimson, Cadmium Red, Cadmium Orange, Scheveningen Yellow Deep, Nickle Titanium Yellow, Winsor Green, Cobalt Turquoise Light, Ultramarine Blue, Kings Blue Light, Lamp Black.  My medium is a mix of turp and linseed oil, which I use sparingly.

The board is prepped and underpainting already in place in this video but you can see the Window Light video (linked above) for more info on that step.  Everything else is shown at 55x actual speed and was recorded in two sessions (with several days between to allow the first layer to dry).  The break between days happens at about the 4:22 mark and you can see me oiling out the board there before getting back into it.  This brings the value and color back and gives the surface just a little bit of glide.  As you can see, the main thing that I'm doing overall is laying in thin fields of paint and building thicker on top of that as my mark making gets more specific and my color/value choices more certain.

Additional thoughts:
The most glaring thing that occurred to me while getting this video together is that, for me, execution is much easier to show and describe than the conceptual stages.  In many ways, I also feel it is easier to do and that the real work is largely done before I'm ready to pick up a brush.  At the very beginning of everything, there are infinite possibilities and every choice narrows that field until the final brushstroke, when it is done and has become a definite specific thing.  In the future, I'll try to find a way to document those earlier steps.  Going backwards, there tend to be massive gaps between a rough thumbnail, some reference photos, and a fully composed painting.  If watching the final execution gives the sense that it has a smooth effortless flow to it, that it builds to completion in a linear and predictable way, that's only because I can never accurately record the improvisation heavy chaos of building my roadmap.

All recording, editing, and music by me.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

"I suck."

-By Scott M. Fischer

First off it is an honor to be a regular contributor to Muddy Colors for 2017. Thank you for having me.  If you had told the artist that I was back in 1990, (freshman year of Art School), that a place like Muddy Colors would exist- A place where you could get this level of knowledge and inspiration from some of the greatest artists working- on a DAILY basis, I would have thought, "Yeah maybe in the afterlife. But Van Gogh and I will tip a glass of wine to all you suckers still on the earthly plane trying to sling a brush."

Beyond that, if you had told 1990 Scott that he would be here, not just as a visitor, but actually contributing to a place like Muddy Colors, he would have thought you were the Devil, with a little piece of paper for him to sign in blood (and I would have signed it). Because 1990 Scott sucked. (And was Metal!)

Shall we take a look at his 4 years (1990-1994) at Savannah College of Art and Design?

Especially pay attention to year one and two. (top) I wasn't the only one who thought I was sub-par. If you asked my freshman art school pals down in Savannah GA, if they thought I'd be here today, writing this, they probably would have said, "Scott? Um, no. I mean he has a lot of grit, but doesn't have the chops to go all the way." And they were right, I didn't have the 'chops', and many of them did.

But few of them are still around today, over 25 years later.

Because the most important thing in the 'made-up' reply above, isn't the word 'chops'. It is the word 'grit'. I simply would not f'n give up.

And the power of grit shows in retrospect. Though none of them are great, there is an improvement from year one to year four. And by senior year, I got a little plaque from SCAD saying I was the 'Best Painter of the Year' (Which I think had more to do with my ideas than my 'chops'.) How? Simple. No social life. No parties. Total focus. I studied Bridgeman. I studied Hogarth. I studied Rembrant. I cussed at my paintings. I threw brushes at them. I fought for every new revelation. The bottom line is I worked my ass off. Literally, I have no ass. Just a flat plane back there from back to thigh. (Bridgman would have hated drawing me.)

To sum it up, you have to put the work in. You all know this. It takes YEARS. But as Kevin Smith says, I'd rather be a 'will-over-skill' player than the reverse. Don't f'n stop. Butt in chair. Draw.

So, to 1990 Scott, I'd say, " Dude we still have a ways to go. We never stop. But it feels pretty amazing to be among this group of artists. I hope we do Muddy proud. (And we are still f'n Metal!)" Then I'd throw up the devil horn salute. 

(Note: The first image is a collaborative portrait between photographer Allan Amato and myself for Temple of Art.)