Thursday, April 17, 2014

Artists' Favorite Quotes on Art, The Universe, and Everything

-By Lauren Panepinto

I've been having kind of a rough week. Feeling overwhelmed, defeated, incapable, and just all-around un-awesome. It happens to everyone—and we all have our own personal ways of shaking it off and inspiring ourselves again. If you've had a chance to see one of my sketchbooks, you know I always copy a few pages of my favorite quotes in the front. It's not only good to copy them by hand every time and really etch them into my brain, it's also a great reference for days I need a quick injection of inspiration. I'm going to include some pics of pages out of various sketchbooks...don't judge, I do a lot of doodling in meetings...
Since this is Muddy Colors, I wanted to focus the list on quotes about Art...and then I realized there's a hell of a lot of quotes about Art that are really just about Life, and vice versa. I knew I wasn't the only quote-a-phile out there, so I reached out to some other artists to see what quotes they keep close to their heart. I think it tells you a lot about a person. And now I've got a whole new treasure trove of inspiration for the next time I land in the dumps. Enjoy!  Thank you to everyone who contributed to this list. And feel free to add your favorites in the comments!
Some of my favorites: "The secret of change is to focus all your energy, not on fighting the old, 
but on building the new." — Socrates

"The secret of getting ahead is getting started." — Mark Twain
"The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are stronger in the broken places." 
— Ernest Hemingway "Always be a first-rate version of yourself and not a second-rate version of someone else." 
— Judy Garland "Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." 
— Anaïs Nin "He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how." 
— Friedrich Nietzsche

"If you're going through hell, keep going." —Winston Churchill

"Where the needs of the world and your talents cross, there lies your vocation." — Aristotle

"You become who you pretend to be." — Kurt Vonngegut

"I don't know where I'm going from here but I promise it won't be boring." — David Bowie

"I'd rather be someone's shot of whisky than everyone's cup of tea" — ?

"A ship in the harbor is safe, but that's not what ships are for." — William G. T. Shedd

"We cannot cure the world of sorrows, but we can choose to live in joy." — Joseph Campbell Julie Bell: Here are some of my favorites.  While they might not seem like they are "about art", they are exactly about art to me: "Remember always that you not only have the right to be an individual, you have an 
obligation to be one." — Eleanor Roosevelt "The heights by great men reached and kept Were not attained by sudden flight, 
But they, while their companions slept, Were toiling upward in the night." 
— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
"The problems of this world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics whose 
horizons are limited by the obvious realities.  We need men who can dream of things 
that never were." — JFK "All the knowledge I possess everyone can acquire, but my heart is all my own." — Goethe "Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart...Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens." — Carl Jung "Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead."
— Oscar Wilde "We'll weather the weather, whatever the weather, whether we like it or not." 
— Old Farmer's Almanac Dave Palumbo: "What is to give light must endure burning" — Viktor E. Frankl

Travis Lewis:
"I'm never satisfied with my work. I resent the limitations of my own imagination." 
— Walt Disney "Do whatever you do so well that they'll want to see it again, and bring their friends."  
— Walt Disney "The way to get started is to quit talking, and start doing." — Walt Disney "I don't make pictures just to make money. I make money so I can make more pictures." 
— Walt Disney Arnie Fenner already did a great Muddy Colors post a few years back on this, so check it out. And he added a few more: "If you could say it in words there would be no reason to paint." – Edward Hopper "Knowing what to take out and what to leave in is what separates the men from the boys." 
– Frank Frazetta "Artists today think of everything they do as a work of art. It is important to forget about what you are doing – then a work of art might happen." – Andrew Wyeth And, to preserve his reputation, he added: "Yippee ki-yay, motherfucker!" – John McClaine Lars Grant-West: Here are some of my favorites - all from Robert Henri, who wrote The Art Spirit. Someone made me read it at SVA, and it's been one of those things I have to open and read a few pages out of whenever my eye hits it. “The object isn't to make art, it's to be in that wonderful state which makes art inevitable.”  “We must realize that artists are not in competition with each other. Help the young artists—find for them means to make their financial ways easier, that they may develop and fruit their fullest—but let us not ask them to please us in doing it.” “An artist must have imagination. An artist who does not use his imagination is a mechanic.”

This Huxley quote always goes on the very first page of my sketchbooks...
  Donato: "Do or do not, there is no try." —Yoda* "I can paint you the skin of Venus with mud, provided you let me surround it as I will." 
— Eugene Delacroix Randy Gallegos: This first one is notable because my first business card out of college was a folding card, with an extended quote screened back behind the relevant info: "To speak of these things and to try to understand their nature, and having understood it, to try slowly and humbly and constantly to express, to press out again, from the gross earth or what it brings forth, from sound and shape and color which are the prison gates of our soul, an image of beauty we have come to understand--that is art." 
— James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (And then I went on to paint goblins and the undead in the greatest example of aesthetic incongruity) More recent (in my life anyway), is this one:
"A scream may attract attention, but then passes on. A whisper, if it attracts, retains." 
— Herbert Draper  Rebecca Guay (copied this from a recent Facebook post): "He who works with his hands is a laborer. He who works with his hands and his head is 
a craftsman. He who works with his head and his head and his heart is an artist." 
— St. Francis of Assissi

I know this is from Steve Jobs, but not sure if he was the first to say it

"I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine 
o'clock sharp." — Somerset Maugham Scott Brundage: "The most important drawing is the next one"  
— heard it from Steve Brodner, not sure if it is originally his. Eric Fortune: "I am interested in art as a means of living a life; not as a means of making a living."
— Robert Henri Gregory Titus: "If I'd have asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse." 
— Henry Ford Kristina Carroll sent a whole word document full! (Woman after my own heart): “There are no bad ideas, only good ideas that go horribly wrong.” – Jack Donoughy “The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize.” ― Robert Hughes "I don't think there's any artist of any value who doesn't doubt what they're doing." — Francis Ford Coppola It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it. — Lena Horne “The chief enemy of creativity is good sense.” 
― Pablo Picasso "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." — Wayne Gretzky “When things get tough, this is what you should do. Make good art.” – Neil Gaiman “Parameters are the things you bounce off to create art.”
― Neil Gaiman You won’t find your style. If you are authentic to who you are, your style finds you. 
– Greg Manchess “The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short;  
but in setting our aim too low, and achieving  our mark.” – Michelangelo “If people knew how hard I had to work to  gain my mastery, it would not seem so  
wonderful at all.” – Michelangelo "You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club." — Jack London

Toni Foti: "Don't let mistakes leave the kitchen" — Gordon Ramsey "Don't try to develop style. Ignore style. Just concentrate on drawing and style will just occur." — Richard Williams “Don't wish for "secrets" of the masters, either. There are none worth fooling with. 
They had no special mediums or paints, nor special brushes that made their work great." — Richard Schmid
Kari Christensen: Hearing Greg Manchess saying "take a risk" probably a hundred times has been such good advice. It has helped me go from being stuck and wishing I could go in a certain direction with my work to taking jumps (or sometimes careful steps) into the unknown and making that path happen. The second is "Kill your darlings". It's so easy to get attached to a certain element of a piece, but it is not what the whole composition needs. It's been attributed to everyone from Faulkner to lesser known author named Arthur Quiller-Couch. Noah Bradley: "Work always as if you were a master, expect from yourself a masterpiece." — Robert Henri "A success is one who decided to succeed and worked. A failure is one who decided to succeed and wished." — Wm. A. Ward

Sara K. Diesel: “Do not fear mistakes — there are none.” — Miles David “The object isn’t to make art, it’s to be in that wonderful state which makes art inevitable.”
— Robert Henri  “Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything 
self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things.” 
— Ray Bradbury 
"If I find 10,000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward." — Thomas A. Edison
"I write one page of masterpiece to ninety one pages of shit – I try to put the shit in the wastebasket." — Ernest Hemingway
"To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong." — Joseph Chilton Pearce
"If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. 
And guess what they have planned for you? Not much." — Jim Rohn
"Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere."
— Carl Sagan
"Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will" — Karim Seddik Lauren K. Cannon: "Talent is for sissies!" — Greg Manchess So, in summation, we've learned we should probably all get a copy of Robert Henri's The Art Spirit if we don't already have one. And Greg Manchess has to be careful what he says late nights at IMC, because everyone is taking notes, ha.

And again, thanks to all the artists and friends who respond so quickly to my "Eep need help with a Muddy Colors post" emails. Love you guys. * Extra credit for geek quotes. And if you want more geeky quotes that relate to art, check out my post on procrastination, illustrated with Dune quotes.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Outer Limits

The avian alien of "Second Chance"

Greg Manchess

The original, fabulous old TV show, The Outer Limits is 50 years old. My favorite of all those productions, it was shot in black and white, and didn’t affect any of my fascination with a show that was primarily science fiction stories every week.

Lately, Creature Features in Los Angeles celebrated those years with an exhibition and invited artists to participate. I caught word at the last minute, and had to paint something. The attraction was too strong.

The only difficult decision was deciding whether to paint in black and white or color. Since I had no idea what the color of some of the characters were in the show, I just made it up, thinking of these as a series of 12"x12" paintings.

The man of super intelligence from"The Sixth Finger"

One of my favorite episodes was “The Sixth Finger,” starring David McCallum of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. fame. A man of average intelligence is advanced into the future, his brain developing at an alarming rate, and uses the power of his superior mind to manipulate the now primitive world he sees around him.

“Second Chance,” starring Simon Oakland, is about an amusement park ride pretending a trip into outer space. Oakland plays an avian-like alien that has turned the ride into a real one. First time I realized the vacuum of space will kill you instantly.

“The Bellero Shield” starring Martin Landau, featured the most gentle, and wise, alien. I was affected by the creature’s benevolence in a violent situation. And everyone could use a Bellero Shield.

The alien of "The Bellero Shield"

These were so much fun to re-watch and then paint. If you’ve never seen the show, forgive it for it’s limited budget FX, but praise it for the stories and serious make-believe.

Other favorite shows include: two Martians that come to Earth to study a murder by slowing it down with a time-dilator; a down-and-out human is changed into an alien to spy on crash landed aliens; a pilot is thrown forward into time by only a couple minutes and must get back; two soldiers of the future cross time to fight it out in our present time (the story was the basis for Terminator, and written by Harlan Ellison).

The Outer Limits exhibit has just closed. But check out the other shows that Creature Features has coming up this year. Contact them and see if you can submit. This year they’ll celebrate with shows on Godzilla, and the Planet of the Apes series, from books to movies. Can’t wait!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tales from the Wilder Forest Kickstarter

By Justin Gerard

Friend and fellow MuddyColors contributor Cory Godbey is running a wonderful little Kickstarter for a project that I am very jealous of.  It is called Tales from the Wilder Forest. A Collection of fantastic little bonfire short stories by Cael Jacobs which Cory is currently illustrating.

The Kickstarter has already hit (and more than doubled) its original goal and is now taking the last of the orders for the project. You should check it out.  It may be the only way to get a hold of the books. And it ends April 15.  THAT IS TODAY. TODAY IS LITERALLY THE LAST DAY.  Leave now and check it out on the Kickstarter page.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Comic Book Coloring — Part 1 of 3

Ink on bristol board with digital color, 11 × 17″.

For my next 3 posts, I'm going to focus on the art of digital comic book coloring. Although a rather narrow subject, I hope to address some broader concepts that apply to color in general. Today's post, however, will be a bit of a primer since many of the topics will be on the technical side.

I almost always color myself, but that's not the case with most comics, especially those produced by the major publishers. More often than not, the tight deadlines necessitate a division of labor in which the colorist and letterer are the last people on the assembly line. For our purposes, we'll begin with an inked page.

The process starts with a good scan. The typical comic book page is drawn on 11 × 17″ bristol board, on which a template has been printed. I scan pages at 400 pixels per inch (ppi). Since my inks usually have blue-line pencils underneath, I scan in full color, which means they can easily be filtered out. (I have a Photoshop action to automate this process, which I hope to make available soon.)

Daredevil #10, Page 15. 2012.
Ink(ed by Joe Rivera) on Marvel board, 11 × 17.25″.

Cropping, although fairly simple in concept, can streamline the overall process if done consistently. I have a crop tool set to the desired dimensions, 4125 x 6262 pixels, with the "Perspective" option checked. Since this allows the corners to be dragged independently, I can match them precisely to the corners of the printed border. Aside from keeping all your page files consistent, it keeps everything perfectly aligned — this is especially helpful when matching up digital elements with analog artwork, i.e. panel borders, logos, or 3D models. You can read more about the cropping process here.

raw scan vs. bitmap TIFF, 200% zoom

Although our original scan is 4125 x 6262 px, the final color output will eventually be 2/3 that. That's because inks are saved in a different file format, a bitmap TIFF, which reduces the colors in the image to just 2, black and white. (You can control the specifics of this transformation under Image > Adjustments >Threshold.) While this saves a ton of memory (a typical page is under 500 KB) it requires a higher resolution to avoid a pixelated look.

Flats without inks

I then send the file to my assistant, Orpheus Collar, who colors the image on a separate layer. This process is called flatting, its purpose being to break up the the image into shapes, rather than to produce a finalized color scheme. Flatting makes it easy to select and alter patches of color. What he returns to me is an RGB file with at least 2 layers, more if there are "special effects," pictured below.

Elements that will "glow" can be isolated on a separate layer.

There are plenty of tutorials on-line, and even some automated plug-ins, but I'd like to go over the basic concepts. The inked page goes on the top layer, the mode set to "Multiply," which makes all the white pixels transparent. The "flats" layer goes below that. The key to easy selection is making sure the flats aren't anti-aliased, meaning that no 2 colors are blended at the edges.

Brush vs. Pencil

In order to preserve those hard edges, I use the Pencil tool when editing the flats (as opposed to the Brush tool). If I use the Magic Wand to select pixels or the Bucket to fill them, the tolerance must be set to "0" to avoid blending colors.

Ink on bristol board with digital color, 11 × 17″.

Lastly, I color every page at full resolution, just in case I ever need a bigger version. It's also to avoid a mistake I sometimes see colorists make. If you downsize your inks in their native, 2-color format, the inks will look pixelated when printed. Also, if you downsize your flats before coloring, it may not preserve the hard edges you worked so hard to create. While there are a few ways to avoid those issues, saving reduction until the last step makes everything easier.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Observations from the Old School

-By Tim Bruckner

If you want to be a commercial sculptor, you’ll need to know Zbrush. That, as far as can see, is the current reality. More and more companies require it. And more and more of my colleagues are using it or are learning how to use it. Zbrush has changed the way product is created, which in turn, has changed the way it looks. But at what cost?

Traditional sculpture is very inefficient. It takes way too long, requires way too much effort and can be frustrating for an Art Director or Product Manager in that changes to a piece require the services of a hands-on sculptor. You can mouse click on a traditional sculptor all day long and nothing happens. You can mouse click a function in Zbrush and you’re done.

Just to be clear. I am old school. Any more old school and I’d be churning my own butter and waiting for Edgar Burgen and Charlie McCarthy to come on the radio. I’d be buying war bonds and reading Photoplay.

In the old days, before a piece was started, a traditional sculptor (TS) would have a conversation with their AD (art director) or PM (product manager). A conversation over the phone. In real time. Over the phone. Both the TS and the AD or PM would review the art/design for the sculpture. They’d discuss interpretation and engineering. How to make the piece factory friendly. Separate at the shoulder? Are the hands part of the arms or do they plug in. What about capes? You ask any TS what their least favorite thing to sculpt is and capes will be near the top of the list. They are a pain in the ass. Aside from trying to make the thing look as if it’s in motion (which is often what its supposed to look like it’s doing.) there’s the issue of tolerances. A cape for a cast resin piece will need to be made differently than a cape produced for PVC. There’s weight, support and factory production issues to consider.

Then, there’s reference. Before the proliferation of image hosting sites, the TS, with their AD’s help, would compile as much reference as possible. This ref would come from books, magazines or comic books. Typically, a TS would have a cork board or some such thing, covered with reference.

Sometimes, an ambitious TS would scan images to create image sheets. The down side to this method of reference accumulation was the time and effort it took. The up side of this method was the time and effort it took. The TS was forced to spend a lot of time with an array of images. And the more time they spent with them, the better they understood what they were looking at and the relevance of some of the design preferences of the artist. Every artist has a bias. A stylistic imperative. It’s up to the TS to recognize it and incorporate it if they can.

So, armed with a game plan, work can begin.

A TS starts a piece considering the practical. First step, an armature needs to be built. No two TS’s build an armature the same way. The only consistent factor is, it will need to be rock solid and contend with a fair amount of abuse. A TS will only build a weak, unstable armature once. There are few things more frustrating that laying up clay on an armature that wiggles or wobbles or worse, starts to fall apart. The key to building a good armature is for it to be solid enough to support the clay and be flexible enough to be easily repositioned.

Ok. Armature built. Now, its clay time. These days, there’s such a variety of clays available, it’s a little intimidating. In the old days, the rotary dial days, there were maybe three or four. Once a TS found their clay, They were reluctant to switch. Why? Because they’d developed and intimacy with it and switching would be akin to breaking up with a lover or abandoning a loyal pet. And am not kidding. Its not that a TS won’t switch. But it ain’t easy. Often, they’ll consider changing clays because their needs have changed. The way they work will have changed and they’ll need a material to respond to that change. A TS may find a brand they like but may use different firmnesses based on the job. A softer clay for larger pieces and a more firm clay for smaller pieces. So far, I’ve been talking about traditional oil based clays. But many TS’s use a polymer clay, like Sculpey or Fimo and will mix them for a specific density. And then there are specialty clays and water based clays. A TS working today has more choices for sculpting material than any other time in history.

Regardless of the clay a TS uses, the relationship between artist and material is unique and personal. It’s a collaboration. I’m not the first one to admit that there have been times when the clay is smarter about the job I’m working on than I am. As a TS develops a piece, they’re responding to the way light plays over the forms, how shapes relate to shapes. As a TS draws their thumb through clay, something happens. In that draw, a flow of motion is created, a character is indicated. Something so subtle can change the course of the way the piece develops. I’ve worked on pieces absolutely determined to sculpt hair a certain way. And then that unexpected shape presents itself and I’ve had to rethink the entire design. Is the clay actually smarter than I am? Probably not. Probably not. But there’s been times when a piece will want something different from what I intended and I’d have to pretty damn dim, not to pay attention to it.

And then there’s the TS’s relationship with light. Real, coming through the windows, shinning through the skylights, sunlight. Or, an array of studio lights. Either way, its real. The ability to see the piece in its natural environment is invaluable to the TS. No art is more affected by the fluctuation of light and shadow than 3D. With 2D, every element is controlled by the artist. With 3D, unless a TS comes to your house, with a flashlight and a reflector, the way their piece is lit is entirely up to the collector. Low angle light changes the look and character of a piece as does over head light or side sourced light. As the TS works a piece, they reference it under a variety of lighting conditions and those variables inform the piece.

Working with clay invites the TS to explore the vagaries of the human condition. The tilt of the head, the poise of a hand, the turn of a foot and the importance and necessity of aysetmery. And why is that? Because, often a TS will work through the action physically. The character in the sculpt is supposed to be wielding a sword. Want to know what the arms do in relation to the hips? Get up, grab a broom handle and wave it around and you’ll know. What if your character is supposed to be standing heroically. Hands on hips perhaps? Cape blowing in the wind of resoluteness? No better way to know what that looks like then to do it. Physically becoming the character helps inform it. And having the clay, right in front of you to work those issues out, grounds it in what we identify as a living gesture. As a TS, I can tell you, when you do act out your character, its best if you do it alone. It is rife with potential humiliation for a senior TS to be caught twirling around his backyard trying to get a sense of how it would look for Supergirl to experience flight for the first time.

Working a piece in clay gives the TS a greater opportunity for reflection and critical evaluation. At the end of the day, the TS will cover their piece and leave the work behind. Its not that they have stopped thinking about it. But they’re not looking at it. They come back, a gallon thermos of coffee and what could maybe pass for breakfast and see the piece with a different set of eyes under different light, at a different time of day. This reevaluation isn’t exclusive to TS’s. Every artist reflects on a piece in progress in their own way. The difference between a TS and a Digital Modeler, is that with the DM, the conditions under which they last saw the piece are exactly the same. The play of randomness is removed.

When it comes right down to it, Zbrush is a tool. Whether a sculptor uses a rake or a stylus, the quality of the art is the result of the skill and imagination of the artist who uses it. Good art is good art, it don’t get much more simple than that.

So, maybe the days of the TS working as a commercial sculptor are numbered. They probably are. Budgets are shrinking. Deadlines are being tightened. Many of the properties destined for product live as digital flies already. But there will always be place for traditional work. Maybe it will survive and thrive with smaller companies interested in exploring properties not tied to the pulse of now-media. Or, maybe traditional sculpture will find its renewed relevance in the exploration of characters alive in the pages of cloth bound books. It could happen…

In the late seventies, early eighties, acoustic music was considered on its way out. Why would you want to hire a musician to play something you could mimic on a synthesizer? Whole records were produced where the only living thing on them was the vocalist. But things settled out, as they always will. And this will too. We are too intimately tied to the human condition not to want to see it reflected back at us in our art. And somewhere that reflection will be created by a human with hands knuckle deep in clay.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, my buggy awaits…