Thursday, January 19, 2017


-By Justin Coro Kaufman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Painting Obama

-By Greg Manchess

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

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

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

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

And that gets fun.

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

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

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

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

John Lennon, from a Boskone demo

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

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

I’m counting on the compliments.

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

Just sayin’.

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

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

David Bowie, from another SmArtSchool class

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Artist Spotlight: Edward Robert Hughes

by Cory Godbey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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