Monday, November 30, 2015

Books for your Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Krampus/Festivus List

-By Arnie Fenner

Sox and underwear as holiday gifts? Forget it! I'd rather have a book—and I bet you would, too. With that in mind, here are a few suggestions for your wish list to Santa, just in case you missed them.

The third volume in the White Cloud Worlds series showcasing New Zealand artists is as electrifying
as the first two. Paul Tobin has put together a collection of visionary art (accompanied by creator statements) that is unforgettable. This might be a little hard to come by, especially since it was Kickstarter-funded, so I'd suggest visiting the WCW website quickly to ask about availability. 

Trying to describe Bill Carman's Imagery from the Bird's Home is an exercise in futility. Eccentric, energetic, thoughtful, often funny, and slyly subversive, Bill's art is always engaging. I'd love to sit in on one of his classes at Boise State just to watch the reactions of his students. Simply put, he's never boring…and neither is this collection, which means you should add a copy to your shelf. Pronto. 

Some books just sell themselves without a lot of hoop-la—and Tony DiTerlizzi's Realms is one of those. Regardless of whether you're a roleplaying game enthusiast or not, you'll absolutely love this collection of Tony's memorable and affecting fantasy art.

 Of course I have to recommend the first-ever collection devoted to women creators of fantastic art, past and present, edited by my too-good-for-me wife Cathy and featuring an intro by my fellow Muddy Lauren Panepinto. Whether anyone realizes it or not, the perception has long been that fantasy & SF art (much like comics) was something of a guys-only club; this book is a nice reminder that perceptions are often false. Women of Wonder is a rock-solid collection of excellent work that should make all fans of fantastic art, regardless of gender, extremely happy.

Okay, the movie didn't do well at the box-office, but it was gorgeous and Crimson Peak: The Art of Darkness nicely chronicles its visual splendor. Lauren gave a peek at the book back in October and those who saw that post already know that this can provide tons of visual inspiration for artists.

The last collection of Steve Hickman's art came out way back in 1989, so Empyrean is both long overdue and particularly welcome. Stephen is one of the artists who refined his craft drawing for fanzines (with Bernie Wrightson, Michael Kaluta, and Jeff Jones among others) in the 1960s and eventually became one of the field's most prolific cover painters. Fans both new and of long-standing will appreciate this new compilation.

And speaking of Jeffrey, Robert K. Wiener has produced a collection of all of Jeff's Idyl and I'm Age strips (from National Lampoon and Heavy Metal respectively). Beautiful drawings combine with a wry and cynical sense of humor to make Jeffrey's comics as fresh today as they were when they first appeared decades ago. Getting a copy was a no-brainer for me.

In the late 1970s and early '80s there were a plethora of books devoted to faeries, dwarves, gnomes, dragons, and, yes, giants. Petar Meseldzija's The Book of Giants isn't a reworking of the familiar, but rather is an entirely fresh telling of a myth, all beautifully accompanied by Petar's paintings and drawings (some of which he sneaked here on MC). A thoroughly lovely example of fine book making.

Matt Gaser has worked in the film and game industries, helping to bring the characters and landscapes of Middle Earth and Star Wars to life. Fantastical beautifully celebrates his accomplishments while expanding our own sense of wonder.

Any new book by James Jean is a cause for excitement. Pareidolia is a 288 page retrospective, featuring art that is both familiar and new, that ultimately leaves me wearing a great big grin. 

Daren Bader collaborated with writer Lance HaunRogue on this eye-popping graphic novel. A fully-realized story (which Daren talked about some months ago here on MC), a well-defined fantasy world, and beautifully painted art makes Tribes of Kai a must-have.

Ilya Repin was one of the most celebrated—and controversial—painters of his generation; this volume collects his dramatic narrative art that was an influence on the Russian revolution.

Nekro's digital art is at once exciting and a bit unsettling—which is the effect good art should always have on viewers. This first arresting collection is, I think, going to generate a lot of buzz.

I had talked about Mark Schultz's two new books earlier this year, but both are too good not to suggest adding to your shopping lists. Storms at Sea is a profusely illustrated hard-boiled science fiction fantasy crime story…uh...okay, it's hard to describe. Other than to say that it's a well-written adventure that features Mark's stunning art. And Portfolio? It's just a jaw-dropping collection of masterful pencil and ink drawings by the creator of the influential Xenozoic Tales series, that's all. You need a copy. Really. 

Rebecca Guay's Evolution may be a little hard to come by since it too was a Kickstarter-funded project; not a mountain of copies were produced. But want it you definitely will and I'd suggest visiting Rebecca's sit to see if you're on the lucky list and can still snag one.

Multi award-winning editor Stephen Jones put together this ghoulish volume of all manner of things that go bump in the night. Featuring works from pulps, books, comics, and films by a whose-who of illustrators past and present (From Finlay and Bok to Whelan and Gogos), this is one of those juicy compilations that's great fun to flip through on a dark and stormy night. 

Last but certainly not least, the second volume of Spectrum under John Fleskes' calm and assured guidance is yet another amazing gathering of the best art produced in the field in 2014. Featuring work by industry giants side-by-side with bright-eyed new-comers, Spectrum is an exuberant celebration of the entire fantastic art community without pretense or prejudice. The competition for Vol. 23 is now open for entries and if the results are anywhere near as good as #22 we've all got something special to really look forward to next year.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Inspiration not Embarrassment

-By Lauren Panepinto

Happy Thanksgiving, for those of you who celebrate, and for all of us: Remember you don't need (and shouldn't wait for) a holiday to list all the things you're grateful for.

One thing we should all look back and be thankful for is: Ourselves. For the work we have put into our art, for the practice, for the blood and sweat and tears and pencil shavings and eraser dust inhaled directly into our lungs. For the eyestrain and frustration. I think as artists we all focus on what we haven't done yet, or have yet to achieve. I think that's an important attitude to keep us going and improving - but every once in a while let's look back and celebrate what we have accomplished. It's also helpful to remember that just like we look upwards to artists who have mastery above ours for inspiration - we are also inspirational to someone struggling behind us on the same ladder.

Kelley McMorris

And now there's a great tumblr, started by Kelley McMorris, called Anyone Can Improve At Drawing and it's not only a great place to celebrate your success, it's also already being shared around the internet and social media as an inspiration for others. I always wanted to do a "childhood art" group post on Muddy Colors but this is so much better. So Submit Now and inspire all of us. I'd love to see this tumblr flooded with professional artists' past and current work.

Ilse Gort

Some artists are embarrassed to show their earlier work, and don't want to admit that they have worked through stages and had struggles. I think everyone wants to look like the one for whom art has always come easily, the Natural. I think it is way more honorable, and more inspiring to admit the work you've put in. All 2,000 or 5,000 or 10,000+ hours.
Jenn Tran 

Rebecca Flaum

Joie Brown

It's a little hard for me to compare old and new design projects in the same way, but I'll just leave this here, and I'll totally go scan some childhood art next time I'm at my parent's house.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Small Habits Lead to Big Changes

-By Howard Lyon

My handy SketchWallet
Is there a habit that you want to develop?  Start small and tie your efforts to something else you already do each day.  

Developing your artistic skills (or any skill) can be daunting and frustrating.  It takes time to approach competence and then the chase for mastery is often a lifelong pursuit.  It requires perseverance and patience.  I have been teaching a workshop in my studio, and have also opened up my studio on Wednesday nights for a 3 hour portrait session.  I tell my students that come to the class to be patient with themselves, forgiving of stumbles and to celebrate their victories, small and large.

Becoming better at something usually isn't all that complicated.  At the end of the day the most important factor is focused and consistent time put in.  It often takes a change of habit, or developing a new habit so that you don't have to decide to work, it just happens because you have made it part of your routine.

Something that I have been wanting to do more of, is just sketch for myself.  I sketch and draw nearly  everyday for clients and different projects, but I don't really take the time to doodle or sketch with no real purpose other than to explore what is in my head.  I do it from time to time but have been wanting to make it a daily habit to take no more than 10-30 minutes.  My hope from it is that it will expand my creative range a little more, or at the very least just start the day with some creative fun time.  Inktober provided a good start and I wanted to keep it going into November.

I knew that if I were going to take the time each day, I needed to stay small.  Keep my sketches tiny so that I wouldn't get too caught up in the time invested.  If that happened, I would start skipping days under the rationale that I couldn't afford the time.  I also felt that I needed to keep it at a certain time of day if possible.  I let it be a reward for getting all my emailing done each morning!

I was given a SketchWallet to try back in September, but I had not really put it to use more than a couple days until November.  It is a great size, small enough to put in your pocket and keep it with you everywhere you go.  It is also small enough that it fit my desire to not have something so large that I could get carried away with it.

After a month of trying to implement some personal sketch time, I feel like it has become a sustainably habit that doesn't pull too much time away from my work.  Each morning when I am done responding to email my mind immediately moves to my little sketchbook.  Here are my sketches from November (mostly, there are a couple in there from early October).

The good, the bad, the ugly... one or two exceptions

Some of the sketches are ugly, some are good and few I am really happy with.  Some are from life, some from photos and some are from imagination.  It has even spawned a few ideas that I think I will do oil paintings of.  The best part is that I didn't miss a day the whole month of November and I think I have established a routine that will keep me going for as long as I want it to go.  Mission accomplished, now to see where it takes me.

What is it that you want to develop further?  Decide what small task you can add to your day and then attach it to something you are already doing, like eating or reading Muddy Colors :).  Maybe each time you take a bathroom break, take 5 minutes after and draw a few hands.  After a month, you could probably fill a little sketchbook with hands... depending on how much water you drink.

My other recent goal is to paint more from life so I started hosting painting sessions in my studio each Wednesday night.  By putting on my calendar and inviting others, it has helped me be consistent.  My goal is to do 48 portraits from life over a year.  after 10 weeks, I have 8 paintings (I spent multiple weeks on two of them).  I will share them all at the end of a year.

Start a small habit today.


Howard Lyon

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

From everyone at Muddy Colors, we're thankful to have you as a reader.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Perfect Passage

Greg Manchess

Continuing my study of exquisitely painted portions of favorite paintings, here’s another group of perfect passages by brilliant painters. My comments come from the heavily biased approach of a working painter.

In the piece above by Paul Lehr, the soft edges of the main eye are given great transparent depth by the contrast between the primary and secondary reflections.

The edge of the palm against the lighter white flesh of the breast is so close to the same value, yet just  enough of a shift to give the hand weight. That sharp line is the focal point of the piece, by Jeffrey Catherine Jones.

The bounce light floods the bottom of this ship with bright value, but is still dark enough to read as mass against the clouds of the planet. The bottom edge is everything. John Harris.

In Frazetta’s work the detail gets all the credit from most viewers. But here, Conan’s back is applied with such wonderful, free strokes, it captures for me what is the best part of his work.

This fantastic battle scene by Ruan Jia is full of lively areas, but the way the light bounces from those shields and helmets in the middle ground is just....perfection.

Sculpting Demos by Philippe Faraut

Here are two wonderful sculpting demos by Phillippe Faraut. Philippe constructs his sculptures in a very anatomical manner, progressing from the inside out, using large geometric shapes. I find this additive process makes it particularly apropos to a visual artist, as it gives a deeper understanding of the underlying forms of the figure.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Other Side of the Mirror at Gallery Nucleus

By Justin Gerard

The Gallery Nucleus show for the Other Side of the Mirror is up now through November 29th.  The show features oil paintings, drawings and inks from the story.  If you are in the area give it a look!

To see some of Annie's painting process for her figurative work please check out these videos:

Also! If you are in the market for some Christmas gifts, Annie and I are running a small sale for prints on our site! The prints are guaranteed to warm the heart of even the meanest scrooge on your list. (Unless he specifically asked for widescreen television. In which case we cannot guarantee it will warm his heart. In fact he will probably be upset, but the prints are otherwise fully guaranteed to warm hearts!)  

Monday, November 23, 2015

Limited Edition Book: Dean Cornwell

-By Dan dos Santos

The Illustrated Press, the publisher responsible for 'Illustration' Magazine and the stellar 'Golden Age' book I mentioned here, are publishing a new Limited Edition book on Dean Cornwell.

There is already a book on Dean Cornwell's art called 'Dean Cornwell : Dean of Illustrators'. And although just about every illustrator I know already owns this book, it is unfortunately quite old. Originally published in 1978, most of the book is in black and white, and what is in color isn't reproduced very well.

This new book is looking like it may be the Dean Cornwell book we've all been waiting for. It will showcase over 260 works of art, all in full color, and most reproduced from the original paintings. If this book is anything like the other books the publisher offers, it should be a no-nonsense look at the artist's body of work, consisting of full page art and very little text.

Now for the bad news...
This hardcover book is limited to 1000 copies only, most of which have probably already been claimed.

If you are interested, I strongly recommend pre-ordeeing the title, as I suspect very few, if any, will be available come release date.

More information, and ordering info can be found here: