Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Dejah Thoris

Greg Manchess

Dejah Thoris will debut in Paris this October 17th, at Galerie Daniel Maghen. The show will exhibit my adventure paintings from literature, science fiction, fantasy, and historical subjects, as well as new narratives.

I wanted to make a classic portrait of Dejah as beautiful warrior, but with a hint that you might not be able to trust her. She’s a princess, but with a rebel attitude. She would do what it takes to protect her people.

I did a few thumbnail sketches to get the feeling and explore the pose, then I asked a favorite model to act the part. I did final sketches from there, and added the background once I felt her character was down.

There’s always some question about her being naked in the book, especially in the US, where no publisher would get away with showing what we consider today as being naked, i.e. not a stitch of clothing. I wasn’t worried about portraying her so very nude in the painting as it will show in France after all, where they don’t have problems with nudity in advertising...or anywhere else, frankly.

But I didn’t want her completely naked as a literal reading of the book might suggest. She’s part of a culture, whether written in obvious terms or not, and there would be some identifying characteristics on her person, such as a ‘frog’ to holster her sword, footwear, jewelry, etc. I didn’t overdo the accoutrements, but instead, gave her just enough to allow her to be Barsoomian.

I like the idea that she comes off a little ‘native’...and brazen.

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  

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.