Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Battle of Five Armies: Round 2

by Justin Gerard

As some of you may recall, a few years ago I took a stab at a battle scene which was inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien's Battle of Five Armies from "The Hobbit."  

I had originally decided to do a version of "the Hobbit" for myself, both out of love of the story, and also so I could nail down my own ideas about it before Peter Jackson and the good folks over at Weta released theirs, (and risk having it possibly influence, or even replace, my own ideas). 
To see the original series I did on "The Hobbit," visit the collection here.

Now it is several years later and Jackson and co. are about to release the third and final installment of their films based on "The Hobbit." This one will almost certainly feature a particular scene that I have always wanted to paint.  One that Bilbo never even sees, but that nonetheless was one of the most interesting little side events from the story.  

Beorne's final showdown with Bolg

It's only mentioned very briefly, but yet it always held my imagination. I've always wanted to paint it.

So now I am going about drawing all of my various heroes, villains, miscreants and warriors.  There are so many interesting little moments to work with in a battle scene like this.  Especially a battle scene where so much interesting development has occurred throughout the book leading up to this moment.    

I'm hoping to have the painting finished long before the final installment hits...  but after working out my rough sketches, I am realizing that I have more than 50 figures performing some kind of action in the scene.  Maybe I've lost my mind... I mean, there comes a point when you have to ask, 'how many goblins is too many goblins?'
But I can't wait to jump in and start painting them.  

The Battle of Five Armies 2014

One last note for those wondering: We finally have our print store back up! Check them out at GalleryGerard.com.  

To follow the developmental work from my original series on "The Hobbit," visit the Hobbit posts on my old blog at quickhidehere.

Monday, September 29, 2014

One Fantastic Week with Donato Giancola

Muddy Colors' Donato Giancola recently did an interview for the 'One Fantastic Week' Week podcast.

Check out what Donato has to say about conventions, running a successful business, and pursuing your passions in the video below.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Graphic L.A. (book review)

David Palumbo

I wanted to use this Saturday entry to point people towards some incredible compositional and design inspiration in two parts, but Greg totally snaked me yesterday on the B&W Raiders of the Lost Ark link!  So far as that goes, all I can do is encourage those who still have not watched it to take two hours out of your day and soak it up.  Raiders is one of my all time favorites and watching it like this blew me away.  I felt like I’d never actually seen it before.  Really amazing.

But never mind that, the main item I wanted to bring out is something which I’ve been sitting on since San Diego Comic Con.  Robh Ruppel has a new book from Design Studio Press of his digital plein air paintings which I highly highly highly recommend.  I was fortunate to get an early copy in July, but they didn’t go on sale officially until a week or so ago.

Keeping the composition and design inspiration train rolling, Robh has put together a fantastic collection of work which is almost entirely dedicated to those subjects (well, also value, shape, some other good stuff, it’s all pretty damn good).  What really struck me was not just his exceptionally well executed landscapes, but the inclusion of process shots, thumbnails, and text to help follow the design thought process.  This feels more like a process journal than artist monograph.


The text is the real icing on the cake.  Every few pages there is a short blurb, almost like composition haikus, reinforcing in very direct language the basic principles of creating strong images and saying more with less.  The whole book flows so easy despite being packed with valuable thoughts, suggestions, and reminders on what really makes an image work.  Overall I felt it was surprisingly educational.

As a side note to the paintings themselves, I’m not a digital guy but I find it very refreshing when digital artists let their medium show with this much gusto.  Richard Anderson is another who come to mind.  I love seeing people embrace their tools like that and end up with such a powerful and personal result.


Friday, September 26, 2014

RAIDERS by Steven Soderbergh

by Greg Ruth

I am supplanting my intended post this week to bring you to the attention of a truly remarkable study in narrative storytelling I think anyone working in comics or any story-based medium needs to watch and study. I'm a particular admirer of Soderbergh, especially in the area of his storytelling edits and blocking. He manages to fold in character as a narrative force in his films that others that rarely come close to achieving. Raiders is one of the best examples of the Hollywood model at its most successful. It manages to perform perfectly as a simple adventure romp any kid over 8 years old can love, and has within it depth and artistry you could spend 80 years studying. Spielberg at his absolute height, and one of the most successful examples of his utilization of three spatial levels of action. This is more than a quick read off the internet. This is something to watch and study. You can access the film directly via Steven's own website listed right below. Beneath the pic is the article he posted explaining his thinking and what to watch out for.

Get learning, people! You won't be disappointed.

From the site:

I’m assuming the phrase “staging” came out of the theatre world, but it’s equally at home (and useful) in the movie world, since the term (roughly defined) refers to how all the various elements of a given scene or piece are aligned, arranged, and coordinated. In movies the role of editing adds something unique: the opportunity to extend and/or expand a visual (or narrative) idea to the limits of one’s imagination—a crazy idea that works today is tomorrow’s normal.

I value the ability to stage something well because when it’s done well its pleasures are huge, and most people don’t do it well, which indicates it must not be easy to master (it’s frightening how many opportunities there are to do something wrong in a sequence or a group of scenes. Minefields EVERYWHERE. Fincher said it: there’s potentially a hundred different ways to shoot something but at the end of the day there’s really only two, and one of them is wrong). Of course understanding story, character, and performance are crucial to directing well, but I operate under the theory a movie should work with the sound off, and under that theory, staging becomes paramount (the adjective, not the studio. although their logo DOES appear on the front of this…).

So I want you to watch this movie and think only about staging, how the shots are built and laid out, what the rules of movement are, what the cutting patterns are. See if you can reproduce the thought process that resulted in these choices by asking yourself: why was each shot—whether short or long—held for that exact length of time and placed in that order? Sounds like fun, right? It actually is. To me. Oh, and I’ve removed all sound and color from the film, apart from a score designed to aid you in your quest to just study the visual staging aspect. Wait, WHAT? HOW COULD YOU DO THIS? Well, I’m not saying I’m like, ALLOWED to do this, I’m just saying this is what I do when I try to learn about staging, and this filmmaker forgot more about staging by the time he made his first feature than I know to this day (for example, no matter how fast the cuts come, you always know exactly where you are—that’s high level visual math shit).

At some point you will say to yourself or someone THIS LOOKS AMAZING IN BLACK AND WHITE and it’s because Douglas Slocombe shot THE LAVENDER HILL MOB and the THE SERVANT and his stark, high-contrast lighting style was eye-popping regardless of medium.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Forging the Iron Throne

by Donato

Over the past year I had been creating oil paintings for the recently released 2015 George R.R. Martin A Song of Ice and Fire Calendar.  As you can imagine, it was a thrill to tackle twelve images for this collection celebrating the world of Westeros.  With each painting, I wished to tackle visions and themes which may have not been attempted by other artists, interpreting the words of Mr. Martin in a unique manner.

Building upon the recent theme of lectures to my students on Painting Between the Lines, the final painting for the calendar showcased the forging of the Iron Throne, an act frequently referred to within the novels, but never visualized.  I love these chances to get into the narrative, mine the meaning of the author, and add to the experience beyond just bringing words to life.  George had worked with another artist, Marc Simonetti, who created the 2013 Calendar, to realize an image of the Throne which was closer to his vision.  Honoring the wishes of the author, it is this throne from which I based my interpretation from.

Enjoy!  And now back into the studio to finish a Red Sonya portrait languishing since the Illustration Master Class back in June...stop reading and start painting!

Forging the Iron Throne    2014   Oil on Panel    Donato Giancola

Rough Drawings      Tywin Lannister & Forging the Iron Throne

Marc Simonetti and George Martin's Iron Throne

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Awesome to the Max

-By Jesper Ejsing

The other day I fell over this illustration. Somebody posted it on facebook and I clicked the link.
It absolutely blows my mind!

I have no idea who painted it. It looks like World of Warcraft except the orc is not green. ( If you are out there and are reading this, please mail me and tell me who you are...I think I might be able to bear your children)

As many of you know, I love dynamic illustrations and try in every way to push my drawings over the top in case of dynamic action. This illustrations has it all. Tilted perspective, fish eye lens, ultimate forshortnings, blury vs sharp and forced perspective lines almost acting like the lines behind a character in a manga comic when they are running fast or jumbing or what it is they do all the time.

I tip my hat and bow in honor of you, mysterious artist, who made this. May your cintiq never be scrathed and your hand never go numb.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Fables: Book Nine

-By Dan dos Santos

A little while back, I was contacted by DC/Vertigo to create the cover for their upcoming Deluxe Edition of Fables. I have picked up the series at Volume #9 (where James Jean left off), and will hopefully continue to work on these graphic novels on for the foreseeable future.

Because this cover is for a compilation of issues, and not just a single issue, we wanted to capture a LOT of different aspects of the story.

Below are some of the thumbnails showing other possibilities.

Ultimately, the AD decided to go with a combination of the sketches, and asked for me to show Boy Blue prominently in the foreground, as he is the main protagonist of this particular story arc.

The changes posed a few problems, because I had initially planned on giving Boy Blue a much more dramatic cape and using it as a framing element. But now that he was in the foreground, a big flowing cape would have covered up too much of the composition. I had to settle on a more heroic (and somewhat more static) pose to pull it off.

The final image is acrylic and oils on board, and is approximately, 20x30 inches.

Fables Deluxe Edition #9 will go on sale October 7th.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Some Basics About Publishing Part 1

Above: The book that got our hearts pumping in 1975.

by Arnie Fenner

While it might seem like there have always been volumes devoted to illustration readily available, the concept of an art book specifically featuring genre work is a relatively new one. For that matter, the whole idea of distinct programs, categories, and genre-specific imprints really only emerged with the advent of the national bookstore chains in the late 1960s/early '70s, most notably with the now defunct B. Dalton Booksellers. Oh, sure, most publishers produced science fiction, westerns, or mysteries (and many still do) following WWII and the popularity of the paperback as part of their fiction lines, but they were all small slices that made up a whole; the editors and art directors worked on a wide variety of titles all across the board. Booksellers tended to group books by subject as a matter of course, but it also wasn't unusual to see everything racked together, alphabetized by author.

Art books tended to be few and far between, exclusively devoted to Fine Art, comparatively expensive, and almost never entirely in color (because of the cost of printing same).

The creation of national book selling chains changed that; distinct categories helped organize the stores, made restocking easier, and helped customers find what they were looking for. There had been small press genre-specific imprints like Arkham House, Shasta, and Donald M. Grant since the 1950s which produced books in editions of anywhere from several hundred to several thousand and sold them largely through the mail, but it wasn't until Donald Wolheim left Ace to form DAW Books in 1971 that there was a mass-market publisher devoted exclusively to SF and Fantasy. Other companies followed suit.

With a plethora of fantasy and SF art being created for magazine and book covers it was inevitable that some enterprising publisher would think about putting out some sort of collection—but it wasn't exactly an easy sell. Fiction finds an audience based on subject and/or author recognition; art, whether as a book or on a gallery wall, sells for a whole variety of indefinable reasons: subject, nostalgia, and name recognition can all figure into the marketing/purchasing equation, but the deciding factor for opening up a wallet was and is personal taste. With art—and by extension art books—the customer's response is immediate: I like what I see or I don't like it. How could a publisher attract enough customers with similar tastes to a new type of book that came with relatively high production costs? There were plenty of science fiction readers, but were they also fans of the art? And if they were fans, who would be the artist they'd be willing to plunk down their dollars to get a book by featuring just their work?

A big problem facing publishers early on was name recognition. No artist working in genre was known outside the relatively small fan community (and this was a time when conventions, comics or SF, averaged attendance in the hundreds, not thousands); art books were reserved for "serious" artists, not lowly illustrators who were working largely in anonymity.

Ian and Betty Ballantine changed all that with the publication of The Fantastic Art of Frank Frazetta and The Western Art of James Bama in 1975 by Bantam Books (under Ian's & Betty's Peacock Press imprint). Frank Frazetta, of course, always had a good fan following, thanks in no small part to the poster business his wife Ellie ran (another first); his appearance on the cover of American Artist Magazine [1976] and as the subject of a major article in Esquire [1977] kept book sales perking, broke Frazetta into the mass-market, and created opportunities for other illustrators following in his wake. The first Frazetta monograph (priced originally at $6; reprints increased in price) sold something north of 200,000 copies and opened the door for H.R. Giger's Necronomicon in 1977 and Chris Achilleos' Beauty and the Beast in 1978 (which sold about 100,000 copies world-wide).

Above: Ian & Betty Ballantine

[Aside: Sometime I'll tell the story about how the titles for the Ballantine editions and, a quarter century later, the titles for the Frazetta documentary and the Underwood trilogy came about.]

These days, genre art collections are fairly common; not as numerous as other types of books, of course, for some of the same reasons mentioned earlier (name recognition and individual consumer taste), but there's a pretty wide selection if you know where to shop.

So…let's say you've been working for awhile and you've got stacks of art work piling up—or you have a great story that you'd love to tell—and you think, "Other people do art/illustrated books: why not me?" Why or why not you is a valid question.

I'm going to be talking about some of the basics of publishing over the next few MC posts, with the key word being "basic": publishing can be both simple and very complicated and as such there aren't a lot of absolutes. I'm going to be very casual and anecdotal in these essays: view them as friendly conversations rather than gospel.

Above: Ridley Scott saw H.R. Giger's first book in 1977
and immediately hired him to work on his film Alien.

Okay: publishing. Certainly you could forgo all the rigamarole and self-publish out of your own pocket (and sell via your website or at conventions), offer a collection as print-on-demand via Lulu or another avenue, or take the Kickstarter or Indiegogo route and publish with the help of crowd funding: plenty are these days. Self-publishing is perfectly fine, particularly if you have the finances and energy to be chief, cook, and bottle washer. The buck stops with you and you are responsible whether you succeed or fall flat. Accept from the git-go that your reach will be limited to who you can personally hand-sell your book to, whether that's to individuals or independent booksellers—distribution is complicated and the chances of getting a national chain to buy copies of a single title from a one-time publisher are slim and none—but if you keep your expectations modest and watch costs there's no reason why you can't turn a profit over time. Likewise with POD publishing, your overhead will be as modest as your market reach and there are limitations as to quality and what print-on-demand can physically produce; a financial return on the time invested can be elusive but there are always success stories.

Honestly, when it comes to Kickstarter I'm sorta of two minds. I've supported many campaigns and been very happy with the resulting books, but what niggles me is the same thought that I have about a lot of self-published projects: it's playing to a relatively small group of supporters. It's preaching to the converted, so to speak, and doing very little to grow an artist's audience or the appreciation for the field. I feel the same way about comics shops that limit their orders to a modest but devoted group of customers' pull list and place little on their racks to be discovered by casual visitors; I feel the same about events, conventions, or raves-masquerading-as-workshops that hit up attendees for high prices which do little for the community as a whole but do a dandy job of enriching the organizers' bank accounts. I've said many times that prosperity for artists comes by growing the awareness of and appreciation for what they do. The bigger the audience, the more opportunities there are: the smaller the audience, the easier it is to satisfy and quickly lose it. I want more people to like what we do, not fewer.

At the same time I'm a realist and understand that the market for a book (or comic or poster or any other art-driven product) by this or that artist might not be big enough for a publisher to take them on and, in those cases, a Kickstarter or other crowd-funding campaign might be the best way to go. As with traditional self-publishing it can be a lot of work with plenty of extra expenses (not the least of which are packing materials and shipping costs), but it can wind up being worthwhile at the end of the day.

But let's say you want to go the traditional publishing route. What do you do? How is it done?

Above all, the first thing is to remember one simple truth: publishing is personal. Even with contracts spelling out the minutia, it's based on relationships and trust. It's about people working together. There's a lot of give-and-take; there are compromises; intuition and feelings are major factors; there is a foundation of belief and faith and hope that, yeah, there's an audience waiting for this particular project. Publishing is an investment from both sides of the table and each side's investment requires mutual respect. Adversarial relationships almost never pay off and usually have long term and inadvertent consequences.

How do you get on an editor's or publisher's radar? Market yourself. Doing good work, of course, is hugely important—but isn't enough these days. Let's face it, there are thousands of illustrators and painters with virtually the same skill-set. How do you stand out? How do you create an interest and a demand for, let's say, a collection of your art? How do you convince a publisher to take a risk on you (and without question, publishing anything is a financial risk)?

Above: Chis Achilleos first collection from Dragon's Dream in 1978 was another
early success story for books featuring the art of contemporary illustrators.

Art is your calling, sure, but it is also your commodity and you have to make customers want it. I suppose it sounds pushy, but as Greg Spalenka has been teaching for years you have to build your brand and make sure people know you created the art they're looking at; you have to build your audience and nurture it once you have it. With websites, blogs and social media; with appearances at conventions and art shows; with targeted mailings and promotions; by networking with fellow artists and industry professionals. And it all has to be done with balance and a sense of grace: you treat every encounter as an opportunity to make a good impression and increase an appreciation for your art and you personally. It doesn't happen overnight: "instant" successes are deceptive and belies all of the work that had been done unnoticed which ultimately led up to the recognition. Lauren and Marc address the need for self-promotion in their various Muddy Colors posts and bootcamps and I heartily recommend revisiting them. Frequently.

In future posts I'll talk about creating a project (and pitching same), finding a publisher, working with agents, advances and royalties, rights and permissions, the book market as a whole, and other sundry topics as I think of them. If any of you have specific questions, ask them in the comments thread and I'll do my best to answer them (or find someone smarter than me to).

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.


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.


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

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.