Saturday, September 20, 2014

She Becomes: Part 2

-By Tim Bruckner

he Tree Paint Master: Her color scheme and the setting pretty much determined the pallet for the tree. The paint work on the tree had to compliment the stylization of the leaf sections. I chose muted purples with yellow-orange highlights to give the tree a kind of painterly quality. The more I worked the tree the more I realized that the leaf sections, as I’d imagined them, wasn’t going to work. They needed something. They were cast as flat pieces heated into various bends and curves. But they were still flat and I needed a way to indicate layers without having to add layers.

Rarely have I been more grateful for my reluctance to throw anything away. Tucked inside an old portfolio sleeve were several sheets of ancient Pantone/Letraset Color/Tint Overlay film. I spent a long afternoon cutting out individual leaves and applied them on the cast leaf sections creating a sense( I hope) of leaf over leaf patterns. When I had them secured in place and had finished the paint work on the tree, I gave the whole thing several coats of Lusterless Flat varnish and then went back in and painted each leaf section with a coat of semi-gloss/matte finish to bring out a little leaf sheen.



With the tree and SHE finished I needed a base. Something solid. Something with some weight. I asked my friend Master Carpenter, Doug Hougdahl to build me a base form. I made a mold of the wood base, cast it in resin and then ground out a space for the wiring from the bottom of the three to the back side of the base, giving me enough room to splice and seal the wires together. SHE was done.



Taking pix of the completed piece was at best a compromise and I’m just not a good enough a photographer to have made it work the way I wanted. In a darkened room, the cast leaf patterns over her body work pretty damn well. To photograph it to get that effect lost a lot of what the piece is. I shot each image three times and combined the images with lessening opacity to arrive at a compromise.




Friday, September 19, 2014

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood


I have long been an admirer of the artwork of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (PRB) though there is a little confusion out there as to who the Pre-Raphaelites were.  Not about the founders, they are consistently listed as: William Holman Hunt, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and John Everett Millais, but if you do a google image search for 'Pre-Raphaelite artists' you will get images from a big range of artists.  Who was officially in and who might have just been influenced by their ideas?  Before we answer that, let's go over why/when the PRB started and who was involved.

Origins

The founders were inspired by early Italian painters predating Raphael.  The frescoes at Camposanto at Pisa are a great example of the kind of art that inpsired their thinking.  The frescos were largely damaged or destroyed during WWII, but have been restored as far as what is possible.  They were also inspired by the Nazarenes, a German group of artists living in Rome who wanted to revive the great traditions of religious art.

They were also rebelling against the Royal Academy, believing that the Academy was full of trivial and vulgar subjects.  They wanted to paint scenes that were of more importance.  Millais said that the goal was to paint images that would turn "the minds of men to good reflections", desiring to inspire and uplift the viewer.  They also felt that the Academy, rather than teaching truthful representations, taught many tricks that lacked artistic integrity.  Sir Joshua Reynolds was referred to as 'Sir Sloshua' due to what the PRB called 'sloshy' painting or quick and rapid painting that celebrated the brushwork over the representation of the subject.

At their founding meeting in 1848, several others were invited to join the brotherhood; James Collinson, a painter, William Michael Rossetti, a writer and critic, Frederic George Stephens, also a critic, and Thomas Woolner, a sculptor and poet.  At this meeting William Rossetti recorded 4 stated goals of the PRB as follows:

  1. To have genuine ideas to express;
  2. To study nature attentively, so as to know how to express them;
  3. To sympathize with what is direct and serious and heartfelt in previous art, to the exclusion of what is conventional and self-parading and learned by rote;
  4. And most indispensable of all, to produce thoroughly good pictures and statues.

Much of what they believed can be traced to the ideas of John Ruskin, who wrote in Modern Painters that the artist should "go to nature in all singleness of heart" and "rejecting nothing, selecting nothing and scorning nothing; believing all things to be right and good, and rejoicing always in the truth." They also rejected the drama of artists like Caravaggio and the use of chiaroscuro as being false.  They felt that to capture truth, they needed to draw strictly upon nature and paint their landscapes outside entirely (rather than do a study and complete a larger finished piece back in the studio).

You can see this wrought out in the PRB landscapes where nature is painted in all it's minute detail and with a high degree of fidelity.  Just look at details from this landscape, Our English Coast, by Hunt.  You will see the bright colors, crisp and detailed brushwork that is typical of PRB works.

Our English Coast by William Holman Hunt
Their foundations were not really anything new, but the culmination of a tide of feelings in England towards the early style of Italian art and an adherence to nature.

Technique

The painting method of the PRB was to paint with pure colors over a brilliant white ground.  They didn't tone the canvas with a wash or imprimatura.  Many of their paintings are still rather jewel like in person because of this approach.  Compared to some of their contemporary paintings, it can be almost jarring.  I had the chance to go see a victorian show in D.C. back in the mid nineties and came upon "The Scapegoat" painting by Hunt.  It stood out in the room, with its fine detailing and bright colors.  It is a strange painting, but I kept coming back to it for another look because of its intensity.

The Scapegoat - William Holman Hunt

Timeframe and Demise

The official union of the PRB as rather short, starting in 1848 and ending in 1853.  The first paintings appeared in 1849 where the mysterious 'PRB' initials first appeared.  The group started out with some success.  Millais' painting, Isabella, received praise for his attempt to paint in the early Italian manner, but the odd perspective and the depiction of the man kicking Isabella's dog was derided.

The first publically exhibited PRB painting
The PRB initials carved into the bench
Poor dog getting kicked

All was not well though.  The group as a whole received little sympathy the following year.  Art reviews back then were brutal!  One paper, describing Millais depiction of Mary in Christ in the House of His Parents, said she was a "woman so hideous in her ugliness that... she would stand out from the rest of the compant as a Monster, in the vilest cabaret in France, or the lowest gin shop in England."

Remember, the PRB wanted to stay true to observation, so they painted with fidelity to their models.  How would you like to read that review if you were the model for Millais' Mary!?

Christ in the House of His Parents by Millais

Detail - I think the critique of Mary here was a little harsh!

In 1853, Millais was elected as an associate to the Royal Academy, the institution that the PRB rebelled against initially.  Hunt left for the Middle East the following year, effectively ending the Brotherhood.  Of this, Rossetti, who was moving away from the Brotherhood already, wrote "so now the Round Table is dissolved".  Millais, my favorite of the PRB, would later abandon the it's ideals and see the greatest success through his career.

My two favorite Pre-Raphaelite paintings are by Millais.  Ophelia and The Blind Girl.


Ophelia by Millais
The details and execution of this piece make this painting the masterpiece of the PRB.


The figure of Ophelia took nearly 4 months to paint.  Look at the wonderful details in the dress beading.


The painting rewards close inspection.  Note the little blue butterfly perched on the white blossom towards the top.  The layering of foliage and inclusion of every detail is almost overwhelming.


Another hidden creature, the little red breasted robin on the left.  Look at the remarkable renderings of all the twigs and leaves in this small detail from the painting.

The Blind Girl by Millais
 This painting, in all it's beauty is also rather heartbreaking.  We see the beautiful girl, eyes closed or closing, sitting on the side of the road with her sibling.  The smaller girl looks over her sister's shoulder seeing a beautiful rainbow crowning a beautiful landscape of green grass, rolling hills, a deep blue sky and animals at ease in their natural setting.  She holds her sister's hand and sits protectively under her shawl.  I love the very real and touching way the younger sister feels the hem of the shawl, rubbing it between her fingers.  This is something I have seen my own kids do with their blankets or their mother's hair when they were a little younger.


It isn't until you look closer that you see the tag pinned to her collar that identifies her as blind. It appears that she plays the concertina on her lap to earn her way in the world. She must be sitting very still, listening, feeling the sun on her face, because a butterfly has landed on her shoulder to rest.


Look how she feels the small blade of grass between her fingers.  She is trying to take in her surroundings as well.  The flowers, forget-me-nots, seem to be a message from the artist to not neglect or forget those that are in need, no doubt reflecting the feelings of the blind girl as well.


Impact and Legacy

Now we know who was a part of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.  That means that many of the other artists that we often see listed among them, (Waterhouse, Leighton, Tadema, Hughes...) were not actual Pre-Raphaelites.  If you did the search for "Pre-Raphaelite Artists" in Google Images though you saw that most of the first images to come up are all Waterhouse images.

I think it is much more accurate to put Waterhouse into the Romantic movement, though that doesn't mean he wasn't influenced.  If you look at the Millais above and compare them to the Waterhouse below, you can see that both in execution and style, their work is very different.  Waterhouse did not have the drive to faithfully render nature in all it's detail.  His work was more impressionistic.  It even contained the "sloshy" suggestive brushwork the PRB railed against.  His most famous painting, The Lady of Shallot, was more of a naturalist painting than anything the PRB would have done.

The Lady of Shallot - Waterhouse

Putting that aside though, the brief initial movement did influence many artists, spawning what is referred to as 'Pre-Raphaelitism' which occurred under the umbrella of the Aesthetic Movement that swept through England and Europe in the 1860's.  The attention to detail, historical accuracy, the goal of raising the artistic bar and having a social and moral voice were all ideals that the PRB gave fuel, and the influence extended beyond painting through the end of the 19th century.

Further Reading:
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Wikipedia entry on the PRB
Camposanto Frescoes

I also drew much information for this post from the book, The Pre-Raphaelites by Christopher Wood, which you can get in hardback for about $4 plus shipping at the time of this writing.  It is a great book with some excellent reproductions and writing.

Thanks for giving this a read.  I wrote this as an excuse to learn a little more about the Pre-Raphaelites and I did!  I hope you found it useful as well.


Howard Lyon
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Thursday, September 18, 2014

The 7 Deadly (Art) Sins: ENVY

-By Lauren Panepinto

I've decided to start a new series, based on the art applications (or implications?) of The Seven Deadly Sins. Or, if you're going old-school catholic school, The Seven Cardinal Vices. First up: Envy. I've been seeing a lot of great discussions going around in the art world on this topic lately, and I wanted to start my series of art sins there.

Before we begin, let's define terms. People use envy and jealousy interchangeably, but they aren't the same thing:

Envy is a "feeling of discontent or covetousness with regard to another's advantages, success, possessions, etc.

Jealousy is a "mental uneasiness from suspicion or fear of rivalry, unfaithfulness, etc., as in love or aims.

So, in short, you are jealous of the things you have, and envious of the things others have.

First of all, don't feel bad or guilty that, as an artist, you suffer from envy. Almost every artist I have talked with about this has suffered from envy at some point in their career (me too, of course), and for most artists it is a common feeling. But just because envy is a perfectly understandable thing to feel doesn't mean you need to let it rule you. A little envy is understandable, but being consumed by envy will ruin your career, and your life. Theodore Roosevelt said "Comparison is the thief of joy" and it is absolutely true in art and creating. How can you enjoy the process, if you are too wrapped up in how the end product is going to compete with others?

Giotta di Bondone "Charity and Envy" 


Let's break it down a bit, and I'll try to summarize what I've learned about each particular flavor of envy:

Envy of another's skill
There is a difference between appreciating someone else's skill (a positive, glowy, happy feeling) and being envious of that skill (a sinking, pit of the stomach, crappy feeling). The difference has nothing to do with the other artist. It has everything to do with you. That feeling comes from insecurity and self-doubt. Sometimes it's more of a whine: "It's not fair that it comes so easy to them." Sometimes it's despair: "I'll never be as good as they are." I have found it helps to flip your thinking from a passive place (what they are, that you have no control over) to an active place (back to yourself, which you DO have control over): "If they could do it, so can I. I just have to keep working at it until I get just as good."



Karel Dujardin "Athena visiting Envy"

Envy of another's success
I think it's easy to see a very competitive field and get scared that there are too many artists and not enough jobs. I'm going to be book-centric here for my example, but it applies across many art fields. "If another artist get a book cover, then that's one less book cover for me". That seems to make sense, but as an Art Director, I'm here to tell you that's not quite how it works. Trends ebb and flow, and nothing convinces Editors that Illustration is the new trend than an amazing illustration on a cover that really sells a book so well it becomes a hit. For example, I've never had an easier job selling my editors on commissioning illustrations than after the James S. A. Corey Expanse books took off, due in very large part to the amazing Daniel Dociu illustrations. The success of those covers made more opportunities for illustration commissions for other artists, not the other way around.

Every successful book cover illustration, every article in Hi-Fructose or Juxtapoz, every Spectrum annual, every gallery show that pushes SFF art into the mainstream makes more opportunities for other artists in the same community. So celebrate each other's successes, and pull each other along.

Theodore Gericault, "Madwoman with a Mania of Envy"
Envy of another's opportunities
This sin has been exacerbated in recent years with the rise of social media and the universal onset of FOMO. The Fear Of Missing Out. This is going to be especially relevant this week, with Illuxcon happening. Everyone there will be posting amazing pictures of all the artists, paintings, art directors, fun dinners, lobby hangouts, and general carousing. Everyone not there will be imagining all the great times they are missing out on. Now don't get me wrong, Illuxcon is fun, but it's also a lot of work, exhaustion, con germs, awkward conversations, and nasty hangovers. Through the lens of social media, you see all of the awesome moments and none of the crappy down times in-between. I know I am especially guilty of this sin, and it's not on purpose. Who doesn't like to celebrate the fun times? Who goes out of their way to post the bad pictures?

The important thing is to remember you don't see the whole story. This isn't just about cons and events. This is about seeing the artist getting a gallery show, but not seeing them struggle to make rent. Or seeing an artist's career take off, when their health or relationships might be self-destructing. No one is spared hardship and difficulty. I'm not saying we need to share the bad things on social media, in some depressing attempt to be more honest…I'm just saying look at your own life. There are great times and shitty times, and that's exactly the same for every person you are envious of, whether you see it or not. You don't know the whole story. Don't assume it's been a cakewalk.

Pieter van der Heyden "Envy (Invidia)"

Envy of another Envier
Ok, that sounds a little convoluted, but the fact is, many of the people who admit that they are burning with envy of another artist are very often the target of another person's envy at the same time. Sometimes the very artist that is envying another artist is simultaneously being envied by that same artist. It's ridiculous but it's true. I can't name names, but trust me, it happens more than you think. If it seems ridiculous to you that someone would be envying you, it's probably because your first response would be something like "well, if they only knew what I went through to get here…" Exactly! Take comfort in the universality, and comedy, of this circle of envy, and then try to brush it off.

Ok, let's summarize:

Envy = Awe + Insecurity.

If you take out the Insecurity, you're left with Awe.

Awe = fuel for Inspiration and Motivation.

Envy and Inspiration are two sides of the same coin. Just flip it over to the positive side, and it's no longer a sin, it's an asset.







Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Fog Rider


Greg Manchess

Fog Rider will debut in Paris this October 17th, at Galerie Daniel Maghen. The show will exhibit my adventure paintings from literature, science fiction, fantasy, and historical subjects, as well as new narratives.

This painting started with the landscape first. Researching wetlands and looking thorugh my myriad folders full of fog shots, a mysterious scene slowly appeared. Something’s coming out. Out of the mist. Some animal.

I used a small model of a rhino that I bought at a natural history museum and a rider came to mind. And a hint of culture.

Isn’t that always the way with these things? If you stare at it long enough, images tend to appear out of the white of the canvas. Painting is just wiping away the fog.

Only here, I just didn’t quite wipe enough away.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

New Work for Illuxcon

By Justin Gerard

Illuxcon 7 is nigh!
And we are about to leave for it. This year, along with some of our existing work, we will be bringing a lot of new work as well.

Some of the new drawings that I will be bringing:













And while I have been screwing around with watercolors and pencils, Annie has been hard at work on some amazing new oil paintings that she will be debuting this year at the show:






 


Stop by and say hi at the Illuxcon Main Show, September 17 - 21 at the Allentown Art Museum in Allentown, PA!