Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Enchanted Brush

If you need proof that not every cool art event takes place on the east or west coast, you'll definitely want to visit Ohio's Mazza Museum Lea Gallery on the campus of the University of Findlay for the "Enchanted Brush" exhibition. Curated by the multi-talented Dan Chudzinski, the show features works—many of which are for sale—by 14 artists exploring jungle-themed stories and runs until August 5. You can read a little more about it here and see a handful of the pieces below.

Above: Some background about the show.

Above: "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi" sculpted by Rich Klink.

Above: "Tarzan of the Apes" by Jeremy Wilson.

Above: "Tempest" by A.M. Sartor.

Above: "Only Fear Shall Follow Thee" by Michael Manomivibul.

Above: "The Huorns" by Ed Binkley.

Above: "Kong" by Allen Douglas.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Autumn Fae

-By Dan dos Santos

I was in Seattle last week, teaching my recent TLC Workshop on the illustrative use of Light and Color. Much of our class time was spent doing small exercises to help with our basic understanding of light, and how it can create form and mood. The last day was spent trying to apply some of that knowledge to an actual piece of art.

We looked through a slide show showing a lot of different artist create use of color to make an illustration more interesting. Artists like David Grove and Kazuhiko Sano came up time and time again. So for my demo I decided to showcase a method very similar to those two artists.

Illustration by Kazuhiko Sano

The painting started with a simple line drawing based on a photo I took. This particular process actually works a lot better if you trace or transfer your drawing (which both aforementioned artists did regularly). This allows you to draw the shapes of the shadows without actually filling in their value. This is important since the process is all about creating luminosity through the use of transparent layers and unique color choices. I did not have a projector with me, so I just used a graphite rubbing to transfer my drawing to the board.

Once the drawing was finished, I coated the image with a clear coat of Matte Medium. I mixed some Modeling Paste into the Matte Medium and applied it with a stiff bristle brush to create more substantial textures. These textures are hard to see at this phase, but will become more prominent as glazes of color begin to settle into the cracks.

I started the painting with a simple wash of oil paint and turpentine. I applied it quite thickly and with very little fuss. This is where the all the real color selection happens. As the paint starts to stiffen, you can wipe it away with a brush, a rag, or more turpentine. This allows you to work reductively and actually use the white of the board to create the impression of highlights. Wiping out also has the added benefit of making the paint dry very fast when compared to working opaquely.

The first layer is pretty much all transparent. Because this process relies so heavily on the drawing beneath, progress happens very quickly. In fact, the majority of what you see here was achieved in just 2 hours work.

I liked what I had started in class, so I brought the painting back home with me to finish it up. I  worked into the face with a little opaque color to create a more modeled and refined effect.  Now you can start to see how those preliminary textures really show through and create the illusion of very thick paint, despite it actually being extremely thin.

This painting is still very much in progress (I need to do quite a bit of work to the flowers,), but I am enjoying the process of picking away at in my spare time. Most of my commercial work is much more planned out and refined. So having a small experimental piece that allows me try out some unfamiliar methods is a really fun reprieve. I will be sure to post more pics once the image is complete.

I will have this completed painting, along with several others, on exhibit at this coming Dragon*Con in Atlanta, GA.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Spectrum Fantastic Art Live 2017: Goin' to Kansas City

-By Arnie Fenner

Did you miss having a Spring show this year? We sure did!

Cathy, I, or John Fleskes have explained elsewhere, but there seems to be some ongoing confusion about the what, when, and why of Spectrum Fantastic Art Live's (SFAL for short) dates and location so I thought I'd talk about it a bit here on Muddy Colors today to help clear things up.

When the local comicon sniped our traditional May dates—theirs had always been in March—and made an already compacted and crowded convention season in Kansas City even more crushing, we felt compelled to plan a move to San Francisco (the neighborhood of Flesk Publications) in association with the Academy of Art University…but early on it never felt quite right.

The location that was offered to us by the school was far from ideal: it was in an industrial part of the city far away from hotels and restaurants and access would have been via the university's extensive shuttle bus service from downtown. Parking was virtually nonexistent for attendees, the October dates that the school insisted we use for the show unfortunately conflicted with other events, and the expense to stay, drink, and eat for everyone would have been seriously higher. Alternatives to the school’s venues, both in SF and San Jose posed serious challenges as well (ask us about the deal The Woz struck with San Jose  to squeeze out perceived competition to his convention sometime).

Anything is possible if the desire is there, but everything comes with a price tag and the subsequent tough decision to back away from plans to hold the show in San Francisco in association with the AAU was not made lightly. Spectrum Fantastic Art Live has always been about benefiting the entire art community—the creators, the patrons, and the fans—and everything with the show has to make sense, including the dates, the costs, and the venue. We had heard from a great many exhibitors and attendees who enjoyed the convenient, casual and friendly atmosphere of Kansas City and were actually disappointed by the move out of the midwest, which pleasantly surprised us.

We've always known that doing a convention isn't just about our bottom line, but about everyone else's, too, and we pay attention to what's happening in the marketplace. Some might remember that we had originally planned to start the Spectrum Live convention way back in 2008 but delayed it as the recession hit with a vengeance and held on. Customers aren't lining up to buy anything, much less art, when they've either lost their jobs or are worried about losing them. As the economy improved, as consumer confidence returned, we felt the time was right to try to increase the appreciation for our field. The attendance to SFAL has grown each year since we began in 2012, despite our having to address various obstacles that would always spring up unexpectedly, so we know that we have not yet fully achieved the potential of growing the audience for the fantastic art community. Spectrum, after all, has always been about opening doors, not closing them—and we’ve always believed the health of our field depends on reaching new people, not just in preaching to the choir.

Above: The Gallery Gerard set up at SFAL4 in 2015. Boy oh boy I wanted Annie Stegg's
painting (third from the left), but was too far back in the line of collectors competing for it.

As with past shows, sales of originals and prints at SFAL in May 2015 were great for some, good for others, and not so hot for a few—that's pretty much the way it always is for every convention, big or small.

Last Autumn sales were reportedly very disappointing for exhibitors of Fantasy-themed art at several conventions. Many felt that the poor sales might have been due to a recent Heritage auction which included another portion of Jane and Howard Frank's immense art collection. Personally, I don't believe that one really had anything to do with the other.

Speaking bluntly (as is my wont), original art is a luxury item and sales are often tied to the cycle of confidence and stability. The current political climate and tone of the Presidential campaigns (the Brexit hasn't helped) have had a significantly negative impact on art purchases as people worry about the economy and the future in general. Shoot, even the 1% have cut back on their buying. With a convention there is always the temptation to "keep going full steam" and ignore the lookout's warning that there's ice ahead, but rather than bull through and make SFAL happen someplace sometime in 2016 regardless, we opted to take a breather, let the dust settle, and optimistically hope things get back to normal after November.

All though it might seem like we’ve taken a year off we’ve actually been talking and planning nonstop on how to better make Spectrum Fantastic Art Live serve the community. The Spectrum 23 awards ceremony May 7 at the Society of Illustrators in New York was a modest way to stay connected and was most definitely fun, but…there’s no place like home.

Spectrum Fantastic Art Live will take place April 21-23, 2017 in Kansas City, MO.

We will be utilizing the Municipal Exhibition Hall—301 W. 13th St—a grand and unique space that is part of the Kansas City Convention Center. There will be two primary entrances to the exhibit floor on 13th Street and 14th Street; all exhibitors will be in the same room with the Artist Alley tables encircling the booths on an open Mezzanine; the 13th St. entrance opens directly into Artist Alley while the 14th St. entrance opens directly onto the main floor. As in years past the venue is within 1 block of the hotels, the theater, restaurants, and bars. There has been a lot of construction going on downtown and the amenities continue to increase (including the addition of free streetcars). Wendy Prather and the crew at Liberty Exhibition Services will once again set the floor and provide support for exhibitors throughout the show. Free WiFi is available in the hall; Greenwave will again provide additional electrical and high-speed internet options for those who need it (at a fee) and Harvest will provide AV options.

The Spectrum 24 awards ceremony will take place Saturday April 22 at the historic Folly Theater. If you've attended past ceremonies, you'll know it's a special night at a special venue and you'll like what we have in store for 2017. Lazarus Potter will once again be the stage manager.

While providing a positive atmosphere for creatives to learn, socialize, and network, our primary goal is to get as many art customers for exhibitors through the door as possible and with that in mind we’re exploring all options to attract them. Despite increased attendance, Spectrum Fantastic Art Live still maintains an intimate and friendly atmosphere; we know there’s room for growth without sacrificing everything that makes SFAL inclusive and special.

Above: Kansas City has added streetcars that run downtown from the River Market to Crown Center
every 10 minutes from 6am to 2am on weekends. And...they're free.

As we have for previous shows we will, of course, advertise via print, television, radio, and social media, but we’re also being creative with our guests, programming, demos, workshops, and even the price to attend and shop (figuring that the more money thats's in an attendee’s pocket, the more they’ll have to spend on a print, book, or original). There will be much more news—including attendee ticket prices, hotel information and special rates, and special activities during the show—forthcoming and I encourage everyone to check the SFAL website  and the SFAL Facebook page often for updates.

Yes, artists can share booths or tables. Yes, we will need volunteers. Yes, we’re always interested in listening to your ideas, concerns, and suggestions (just contact us via the website). And yes, the floor details are still being finalized, but there will be approximately 100 prime 10’x10’ booths available and approximately 60 Artist Alley tables: half the booths and tables are already sold. If demand exceeds space we will create a wait list.

Above: The Special Guest line-up for 2017. Brom, Laurie Lee Brom, James Gurney, Iain McCaig, Wendy & Richard Pini, and Terryl Whitlatch are sponsored by SFAL. Flesk Publications is sponsoring Special Guests Frank Cho, J.A.W. Cooper, Terry Dodson, and Gary Gianni. We've got some special activities up our sleeves planned with our guests.

If you're interested in exhibiting, what to do first? Easy: submit a query for a booth or table via the form on the website (it’s pretty straight forward). Applicants will be quickly vetted, not to exclude but to ensure that each exhibitor is an artist or is art-centric (art dealers, art publishers, art reps, or educators). Once vetted an agreement will be provided and payment taken.

And then the countdown begins. SFAL can't exist without you: this is your show and it can only succeed with your active support. If you want an event that is focused on the artists, one that is cost effective and inviting to all without prejudice or pretension, please plan to exhibit—and then promote your appearance to your patrons and fans. We hope to see everyone in Kansas City in 2017!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Spectrum 24 Poster

By Justin Gerard

I recently had the opportunity to work with John Fleskes on the Spectrum 24 Call for Entries poster. It was a great project to work on and today I'm going to share a bit about the development of it with you.   

Development Comp

The scene is inspired by Tolkien's depiction of the fall of Gondolin in The Silmarillion.  

In the above comp I have drawn from several other development drawings that I created while immersed in the story. I don't always have such detailed comp work for my images, but I had the benefit here of a few years of drawings that I had created before I was ready to attempt the scene.  
In truth, there have been a lot of false starts and failures along the way. Perhaps I just wasn't ready to paint it until now. Perhaps I was lacking some small technical ability that has eluded me until now. 

OR perhaps I was cursed. Which is why I have placed all of my miserable little failed thumbnails in a locked box, wrapped that box in chains and even now plan to sink that box to the very bottom of the sea, so it's wretched existence and my humiliating defeats are known only to the muddy denizens of that vast watery grave. 
Or maybe I will throw it in a giant volcano of doom, and make it my scapegoat for all my artistic failures and we will have a good harvest this year. 
Anyway, all that to say, that painful failure is a wonderful teacher and i had all the near-hits to draw on for this one. And I had a really good feeling about the thumbnail pictured at the upper right of the comp. 

Toned Study 
of Elf knights having a bad time.

Tight Drawing 
on Strathmore 500 bristol


The painting itself was drawn on paper (using Caran D'ache Pablo pencils) and then watercolored. It was scanned at high resolution and brought into Adobe Photoshop. Photoshop is great because I am practically blind and it allows me to zoom in 1000%.  It also offers some wonderful tools for painting and working with lighting which feel not so different from their traditional counterparts.  The digital aspect of the painting begins with working in shadows, then highlights, then colors, then details.

Shadow Layers

After adding the shadow layers to achieve the level of darkness I want, I add highlights using a light grey tone on a screen layers. Working this way feels the most like adding the whites in the dutch flemish manner of underpainting. (Which is the only painting method that makes any sense to my brain) 

Highlight layers

Working in the initial highlights is one of my favorite moments of the whole painting process. Using screen layers allows me to not only lighten focal areas, but also add sharp details to them at the same time. Comparing the above image to the previous one you can see the figures crystalize and leap out from the shadows. I love this moment.  

This effect of using a screen layer to recapture lost highlights and also sharpen details is one that I will use several times throughout the painting whenever areas get too muddy.

Detail Layers

Color and details are added next using a variety of layer types: normal, multiply, color dodge and color using both normal and mixer brush types of my own sinister design. And while the colors and little highlights are important, the main statement of digital phase is made in the shadow and highlighting phases and I consider this the most important part of the digital painting phase.  

Final Painting

The Final Spectrum Poster will be going out in the fall. For more information on the contest and Spectrum in general visit them at

We will also be selling prints later this year at Details on that and Sketchbook 2016 soon!

Friday, July 22, 2016

"On Form" by Scott Waddell - Review

I had the chance to study at Grand Central Academy (now Atelier) several years ago and took a class from Scott Waddell.  Scott is an excellent teacher.  He is thorough, approaching art instruction like science.  He provides ideas, examples and demos that bring clarity to complex principles.

I have reviewed a previous tutorial from Scott before with his release of The Portrait Course.

In his video On Form, Scott has taken his explanations even further. He has refined his instructions so that they are easier for beginners to understand. For more advanced students, the video solidifies ideas that might be intuitive from experience.

One aspect of his videos that I love are the diagrams that he creates to illustrate a principle.  They are very well thought out and drive home the ideas discussed.

Most painting videos show an artist working on a painting, talking while you watch them paint. Scott has taken the time to script his videos and explain what he is thinking about while he paints. He states the principles implemented and why.

What is included
Main Feature - On Form - 26 minutes
Appendix - 13 minutes
Demonstrations - closer look at process that include two 30 minute videos
PDF file with a transcript, illustrated glossary and guide

The Main Feature - In this video Scott covers:
  • Imagined and Observed From - How we see form and imagine form
  • Appearance of Form - How light interacts with form
  • Material of Form - How texture impacts light upon a form
  • Applying, Interpreting and Creating Form
  • Evaluating Form - How to view your work in an accurate manner

Appendix - The Appendix video is broken up into small explanations of important concepts

  • Geometric Forms - Scott explains how the understanding of primitive forms can be applied to more complex forms.
  • Shadows - Scott's explanation of shadow color is definitive and excellent
  • Blending Form - How to see angles of form and contour and translate them into paint.
  • Alternative Ways to Paint Form
  • Color Mixing

Demonstrations - Scott includes two excellent videos that show him painting four faces or figures. These demos are well scripted with clear thoughts and explanations. This is what really sets his videos apart from most others. Rather than a stream of conscious approach, the information is well edited and refined ahead of time and then recorded over the video.

The PDF included has a well illustrated and written glossary of terms used in the different videos.  It also has a written transcript of the main feature.  This was very thoughtful of Scott because a LOT of information is presented and to be able to read it helps comprehension in addition to seeing and hearing.

The video is a very reasonable $39 dollars.  You pay and can then download it instantly.  I recommend it for the knowledge, but also to support Scott's comprehensive and generous sharing.

The trailer for On Form:

I don't know if we have an official rating system established yet for Muddy Colors, but I am starting a new one.  I give this video 5 out of 5 tubes of mud colored paint!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Going Back to Your Roots to Find Success (and Cocktails)

By Lauren Panepinto

It seems this summer all my Muddy Colors posts are timed to being away at Conventions. And this post is no exception. As some of you know, every July — when most of the SFF world is setting up at San Diego Comic Con — I head to a very different kind of convention: The Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans.

Cocktails as art form

It's my 5th? 6th? year at Tales (things get blurry at a cocktail convention), and I go for a few reasons. First, I'm a big cocktail nerd and love the history and creativity in the spirits/liquor world. I've posted about that before. Second, I've done a lot of graphic design in the cocktail world, and I like to keep tabs on what's going on in a sphere of design outside SFF and book covers — it's kind of a hobby, if you can consider something in design still a hobby to me. Third, it's actually really refreshing to attend at least one convention a year as an attendee, rather than as a presenter, organizer, and/or portfolio review target. I get to experience how a con runs from the other side, and I think it makes all my work on the organizing side of cons a lot better and more effective.

The fourth reason I go to Tales is because it never ceases to amaze me how similar the conversations between bartenders and brands and ambassadors are to the conversations artists and art directors have at every art con I attend. Today at Tales I attended a seminar that was so eerily applicable to all the writing I do about Art Careers that I am going to give a ton of notes below, and at no point have I needed to change "bar" to "art" or "bartender" to "artist".

The seminar was called: Going Back to Your Roots to Find Success and it was a conversation with 2 career bartenders/bar owners that have become stars in the industry for their successful bars, their influence, and the varied projects they have done in their careers. If you're into cocktails you might know their names, or their bars, but it doesn't really matter. Just trust me, Jim Meehan, most famous for the bar PDT (Please Don't Tell) in NYC, and Ryan Chetiyawardana (known as Mr. Lyan), best known for the many bars he's opened and been involved with in London. The panel was a look back at the course of their careers and an attempt to break down and explain what foundations they had, and choices they made, to lead to success and renown.

Jim Meehan and Mr. Lyan

What was fabulous about the seminar was it was really well-structured into the essential parts of a good career, and then Jim & Ryan talked to their specific experience with each point.

The Essential Parts of a Successful Bartending Creative Career:

1) EDUCATION: What I found fascinating about both speakers (and goes for most of the successful creatives I know) is that neither began their careers as bartenders. Meehan was in pre-med, and Lyan got an art degrees and a philosophy masters. Both stressed that higher education wasn't critical to success, but higher education taught you how to succeed when you need to jump through institutional hoops. They felt peers that hadn't had the experience of higher education crumbled when they were faced with difficulties later and hadn't ever had to rely on themselves to pass or fail. They also felt the wide base of their learning and interests were what was important, not specifically what they learned. They learned how to learn, and that was the most important thing.

We're not in the booze business, we're not in the bar business, we're in the relationships business. — Jim Meehan

2) EXPERIENCES: Both stressed travel as critical to getting "out of your own bubble" and gaining perspective. And if you could travel and work for a time, rather than just travel as a tourist, all the better. The most important experiences both of them highlighted were times they failed at projects and had to learn how to get around that failure the next time. They both stressed that experience teaches you to embrace fear — to the point that if you aren't scared of your next career move, you probably shouldn't take it. Choose your next steps by challenges that terrify you, and surround yourself with bosses and peers that scare you with how talented they are. If you feel completely confident about your next move, you're not pushing yourself hard enough.

Furiously taking notes through the seminar...all for you guys!

3) CONNECTIONS: The advice here was not to worry overmuch about traditional "networking" but to cultivate random connections. Lyan especially stressed that talking about what you're doing, and what you're interested in (in a blog, in press, etc) will bring interesting people out of the woodwork to talk to you, and they'll bring collaborations and ideas you never would have thought to seek out.

Broadcast your intentions and interesting people will come to you —Mr. Lyan

4) ORGANIZATION: Both swore they had a kind of organization by chaos, but under examination, it wasn't quite true — they both had built systems that kept them organized, but they were built around an honest look at their strengths and weaknesses, and stayed open and flexible enough to allow for enough freedom to be creative. Although neither mentioned it by name, it was clear that they both adhered to the 80/20 principle: Focus your energy on what you're good out, outsource what you're bad at to experts who are better at it.

Are creative people great problem-solvers or are great problem-solvers creative people? (It's the same thing) —Mr. Lyan

5) CREATIVITY: This, of course, was a fascinating and long part of the conversation, but the general gist for Meehan was that his creativity stemmed from not just looking at the thing he was interested in, but also the culture surrounding it. At the edges of that culture is where he's found the most creative ideas and opportunities. Lyan then talked about unconscious or subconscious idea generation — that you, as a creative person, are taking in data and stimulus all the time, and you need to give your brain time to digest it and play with it, and spit out ideas that don't quite work, and mull them over, and let them stew, and then they'll pop out almost by magic when you're in the shower or someplace you're relaxed and not trying to work.

"It's not about perfection, it's about excellence." —Danny Meyer, quoted by Jim Meehan. Perfection has no room for failure or learning from failure. Excellence accepts that people are going to make mistakes when they're trying to grow past their comfort zones, and you need to encourage that.

6) NON-WORK: Both Meehan and Lyan (and the moderator) agreed that if you're going to be at the top of your field there is no life/work balance. Meehan talked about the 20 years he was most successful — yet he wasn't the best friend, neighbor, son, or husband he could be. Once his daughter was born he knew he had to leave NYC to force himself to focus on his non-work life for a time or he would regret it. But he couldn't have done that earlier and been as successful. Lyan agreed, in a slightly more positive way, and said to be truly successful in your field, there is no life-work balance, you have to do for work what you would want to do anyway if it wasn't for work. He would want to travel, design, mix drinks, and open bars whether it was his job or not, and thus he didn't feel he was missing out. That's the blessing — and curse — of a creative career.

So that's my report for now. See what I mean? As applicable to Art as it is to Mixing Drinks, Writing Novels, Composing Music, and any other creative endeavor. Now back to the convention. Four more days of convention (and cocktails) to go!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Update 6: Above The Timberline

Greg Manchess

Still at it, Muddies! Counting down from 60.

I've been drawing like crazy for the past two weeks, preparing multiple spreads for the novel. This is where most of the time for each painting is spent. The painting goes relatively quickly once I know where I'm going, and that usually depends on visualizing the lighting and value.

Most of the painting time is spent making decisions about balancing values. I have the color and light worked out already before starting a piece. This saves time, but also agony. To do that demands much planning.

Altogether, I have about 20 pieces going at once, working to get a new one established during the day, and continuing or finishing a couple in the evening. This doesn't always work so smoothly.

I find that my energy lags when I'm conceptualizing as there are so many decisions to be made. I pick up energy when the drawing goes down and enthusiasm builds to see the finish. But sometimes there are things unforeseen that tend to take time to manage or correct. 

All of the shifts and changes are based on my own desire to showcase something or capture a mood, a motion, a condition. And I've only myself to answer to. Sometimes I can be a brutal taskmaster.

The finished shots of the work are starting to come in now and I'm ready to feed more to my photographer.  Many of these images are professionally shot, and I can get that crisp, white background.

More in 2 weeks!

An example of the sketch to canvas...the is figure a combination of projection and freehand; 
the bear is freehand to canvas with blue pencil, then redrawn with graphite