Friday, November 28, 2014

Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving


I thought I would bring you a Norman Rockwell day after Thanksgiving feast.

Cousin Reginald Catches the Thanksgiving Turkey - 1917
Classic Rockwell humor done early in his career at the age of 23.  This is the largest image I could find.  If you know of a better scan, let me know and I will replace it in this post.  That goes for any of the images here!

Thanksgiving - 1919

The Wishbone - 1921

Couple Uncrating Turkey - 1921

A Pilgrim's Progress - 1921
Ye Glutton - 1923

Chef with Thanksgiving Menu - 1942

Freedom From Want - 1943
Freedom from Want wasn't published as a Thanksgiving image.  Rockwell had originally intended it to be one, but it became part of the Four Freedoms images instead.    
Thanksgiving: Girl Praying - 1943
Published in the same year as Freedom from Want this is a powerful contrast.  A cold refugee of war kneels among ruins and gives thanks over what looks like a rather simple small meal.

Thanksgiving: Mother and Son Peeling Potatoes - 1945
Published a couple months after the end of World War 2, this painting must have been full of wonderful sentiment for a country still celebrating the return of its' soldiers.

Saying Grace - 1951
This was the last of Rockwell's paintings to be used on the cover of a Thanksgiving issue.  It is my favorite.  I have had the chance to see it in person.  The light in the painting is awesome.  The textures and drawing are perfect.  The scene through the window is painted so thin you can see the pencil through it, while the foreground elements use a subtle impasto to great effect.  This, for me, is Rockwell at his best.

Thank you Dan for inviting me to contribute to Muddy Colors, for the others who write for Muddy Colors and for you, the readers, who create discussion and give feedback!

Thank you,

Howard Lyon


Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving, Artfully Plated


-By Lauren Panepinto

Since it's Thanksgiving today, I'm going to take a break from the Seven Deadly Art Sins series. (Although, damn, I really should have saved Greed/Gluttony for this week.) If you're in the U.S. then eat your face off and take a nap and try to be thankful for everything you have that is good. If you are not in the U.S. then eat your face off and take a nap and try to be thankful for everything you have that is good. If you have a day job tell your boss I said it's ok to allow for said nap.

I am going to eat my face off, then take a nap, then probably try to catch up on Supernatural.

We'll be back tomorrow with your regularly scheduled art posts, but for now, please enjoy a selection of Thanksgiving Dinner, plated by artists. You can see the whole series at Hannah Rothstein's page. Buy a print, and the proceeds go to a Food Bank. Double awesome.


Piet Mondrian

René Magritte

Vincent Van Gogh

Georges Seurat

Jackson Pollock

See more (Cindy Sherman is especially funny) here: Hannah Rothstein

Thank you to Tora Stark, because I totally stole this off her Facebook post.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Painting Alla Prima with Greg Manchess

George Harrison, recent demonstration painting for Neil Shigley's Illustration Class at San Diego State University

Coming up this February 6th - 8th, I'm going to do a three-day painting workshop in Seattle, presented by TLC Workshops.

Tara Chang and I have put together the kind of workshop where all of us attending will jump right into painting. We'll work from photos, a model, and on the last day, reference that each attendee brings. This way, we'll be able to compare different aspects of working and not limit ourselves to one absolute approach.

This will be a raw, put-the-paint-on-the-surface-and-deal-with-it direct application of paint.  No questions are taboo and I encourage each attendee to come prepared to ask the most simple questions or to get answers for those questions they've felt awkward about asking. Let's get to the bottom of this!

We're focusing this workshop for painters who want to take the next step to developing their painting approach and looking to work for deadline. The class is limited to 12, and spaces are filling up.

Painting is a joy, and we'll be laughing all weekend, for certainly the most serious painter doesn't need to look serious.

Hope you can make it!

The Opening


Greg Manchess

The Opening debuted in Paris on October 17th, at Galerie Daniel Maghen. A charging knight, riding full-tilt right at the viewer, was a challenge offered by a friend who was excited about the show.

It was a tempting subject. Armor, like helmets, continues to evolve from knights to special forces. I like that history. The straight-on charge though, wouldn’t allow me to show much of the knight I wanted to paint, so I adjusted it to be a little offset. Question was, how do I start this thing? I don't have much access to knights or horses.

The entire drawing was built from about 10 different pieces of reference: helmet, arms, legs, lighting, color, drapery, horse head, horse body, horse hooves, etc. I tried projecting a couple parts, but finding it warped and accuracy compromised, I opted to freehand it all into position.

Part of the problem with action pieces is that the longer you work on them, the less you can feel the movement, and it gets difficult to discern whether it has that fresh moment. I had to keep referring back to the sketch, where initially all the life of the moment was captured.

This was painted with a palette knife and a big fat brush over several hours. Very little noodling. Then it sat on the wall for weeks while I studied it. The advantage of the palette knife is that less is more. I can’t get particular with it, and most times it will obliterate the drawing structure underneath.

But if I can live with it, just for awhile, I come to accept the strokes, both deliberate and jumbled.



Tuesday, November 25, 2014

My 10,000 Hours

-By Dan dos Santos


The general rule of thumb amongst creatives, is that it takes about 10,000 hours of practice before you become masterful at your craft. Even working 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, that's still 5 or 6 years of constant work. That's a lot. And when you do that much work, you end up with, well, a LOT of work.

I am in the process of moving to a new state, and I had to clean out my basement. Hiding down there was a stack of drawings I've had since college. This stack of drawings, was a result of YEARS of life drawing.

The original stack was actually several thousand drawings, but during my previous move, I culled them down to just several hundred. Since then, they've done nothing but rot in my basement.

Rather than move them all again, my assistant was kind enough to photograph them all for me, so that I could finally dispose of them.

A lot of people find the notion of throwing away old art horrifying, but it's actually pretty liberating. After all, their value lies in the education these drawings provided me and not the final product. That knowledge will always remain with me.

I thought I would share with you a small sampling of what my 10,000 hours looked like.








If you liked these, stay tuned for more. I have plenty of horrible paintings to share too!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Afterglow

What happens when you make snowsuits made of lightbulbs and film some of the world's best skiers wearing them at night?

Amazing things happen.

Afterglow is honestly one of the most spectacular feats in lighting I've ever seen.



For an even better appreciation for just how impressive this undertaking was, read about the making of the film right HERE.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Of Struggle and Doubt


David Palumbo

We often talk about the difficulty in creating art.  The careful attention to concept, craft, and all the little things that have to come together to make strong work.  We talk about how these challenges do not go away over time, that the life of an artist is (hopefully) one of constant growth and evolution.  Every so often, however, a good or even great piece might just… happen.  Like, almost on its own.  No stressing, no careful finessing, just smooth easy flow.  It is what we always want and, when we get it, will never trust.  It is a complicated feeling.

A year or two back I was talking with a friend who also happens to be one of my favorite living painters.  At some point we got on to talking about those odd moments when a sketch or painting just seems to tumble effortlessly onto the page and the subsequent distrust of these images.  He specifically mentioned a piece which, despite drawing praise from others, he felt conflicted over including in his web site because “it just felt too easy.”  Does that sound familiar?

Though I don’t imagine all artists feel this way, I suspect this is a feeling artists of all disciplines and skill levels will recognize.  I know for sure that I feel it and I always try to keep it in check but it usually gets the better of me and has caused me to under price, not show, or otherwise neglect certain paintings.  When I have shared them, it was with a sort of embarrassment because I felt like I just got lucky.  I didn’t actually earn that one.

The funny thing is at the same time I also feel that, in other people, those pieces which jump right out of an artist can often be their more genuine and interesting works.  In other people, those are the moments when the creative lightning is just flowing through them without second guessing, and that is cool to see.  So why do we, when it comes to our own efforts, feel it is only legitimate if we beat our head on a wall, even just a little bit, before seeing a satisfactory result emerge?

One possible answer is that most artists have a talent for magnifying the faults in their own work which is sort of how we ever get to actually be any good.  When it happens so fast, it is only natural to suspect that we have somehow missed something, let some critical mistake slip through.  Then, when not finding one, we dismiss the good qualities in the work as a fluke.  We’re embarrassed to stand behind the work because we worry that someone might … might what?

I think for me, it is a worry that it will look like I didn’t care.  There is probably some critical flaw in the design or the concept is hollow and I didn’t bother working harder to improve it.  This is firmly attached to the concern over what other people might think.  If it seems that we are not trying, not locked in endless battle with our demons (or at least our medium), will it diminish the result?  Strangely, while I can feel this in my own work, I will watch other artists and admire how gracefully and apparently without struggle they produce incredible images.  If fact, I prefer work which flows over that which appears labored.  When artists talk with admiration of others, it often might touch on this idea that their paintings seem effortless.

Another frustration in this is that I don’t enjoy the difficult parts.  I don’t want to struggle, but am suspicious when it is absent.  Don’t misunderstand this to be an essay on how painting is actually really easy but we have to pretend that it isn’t.  Most of the work which I’m really proud of was certainly difficult in one aspect or another and some were painful from start to finish.  Seeing those through to the other side brings with it a degree of satisfaction.  In some way, I’m sure that I learned from those how bearing the discomfort is worth it in the end and so I am suspicious when the struggle never quite materialized.

I think this can lead to a danger as well, which is the habit which some people have (not just in their art but in their lives) of adding unnecessary difficulties.  Besides under-valuing results which came easy, we might over-value work which took a great effort and so some will place unnecessary obstacles in their own path.  Again, this is easy to see in others and not so easy to find in ourselves. 

Of course, as mentioned in the beginning, an artist seeks growth and struggle is an inevitable step towards growth.  I‘d like to think that, so long as the struggle in the work is about pushing ourselves to better achieve our intentions and discover something more personal and unexpected rather than just for its own sake, the struggle is healthy.  Perhaps, in the end, that is what sits at the root of any embarrassment towards those occasional easy wins.  That fear in the back of our thoughts that, if we allow ourselves to be satisfied with the ones that come easy, we might stop working towards that ever elusive next level.

Maybe it is best to always invite the struggle of growth, to always make room for the discomfort of self-improvement, but to also accept those moments of easy success as a reward and a sign that we are indeed moving forward just a little bit further each time.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The 13 DOCTORS (a 52 Weeks Project series)

by Greg Ruth



As part of my ongoing self-assigned weekly drawing thing I do under the title, THE 52 WEEKS PROJECT, I decided to take on a series of portraits of everyone's favorite Time Lord, the Doctor himselves. Aside from my geeky admiration for the series, especially of late, (sorry folks, I know it's the fashion- not a Moffatt hater), The character brings everything you'd want to a portrait series like this: a consistent, theme specific group of completely distinguished individual characters. So. I had the subject in place, but the real motivation was in fact me trying out the full extent of what I could do with my newfound love for the marvelous Blackwing Palomino graphite pencils, and wanted to see how far I could take them. Since I have a rather unhealthy knack for hyper-detailed drawing, which my usual tool of the sumi brush helps keep in check, I wanted to explore the idea of super-realism and manipulating the photographic qualities it invokes by manipulating some basic darkroom and camera notions of depth of field, focus and visual attention. The first go at this you see here below in the form of a portrait of Bela Lugosi as Dracula. I wanted to shorten the depth of field so much that something the tip of a nose, or in this case, an ear, would come forward us as sharpened and in focus leaving the rest of the face to fall away into a fog of space and blurriness. All of this really then is an experiment in a new technique, but its opened up a lot of doors to new ideas and other projects. The rule of the regular 52 Weeks Project remained the same: A new portrait posted live each and every monday morning without missing a deadline. To date in now four iterations of this exercise, I have not missed a week yet, (knock wood). But instead of emailing them out- because email has both been subverted by messaging apps and the horrible terrible assault of spam, I created a web page devoted to the series and posted to facebook, tumblr and twitter. I do miss the email responses the old way provided, but things change and we must adapt.

Peter Capaldi
William Hartnell
I decided to start with the latest iteration, Peter Capaldi, and then do William Hartnell as the second piece so I could set me goal posts between the two. And while the differences between these two are stark, the rule got cheated when the content demanded it, as you will see below.

I'm all for fences and rules until the get in the way of purpose, then they should be scuttled. Especially when I'm the one making the rules. I mean if you can't enjoy being boss, then what's the point right? This is after all, a self-assignment and as long as I stick to the consistency of medium, size and shape and delivery date... the rest is flexible case by case. My favorite turned out to be Matt Smith, perhaps because of all the Doctors, his is the face I loved the most. A quirky madcap nutty professor man-child time-God will always win the day with me. Plus he made fezzes and bow ties cool again (as if they ever weren't).

Matt Smith


I wanted to make sure to capture each of these characters at their most essential, get them at their best so to speak. But also to avoid duplicating an exact already present portrait. Each also needed to be the same, front-facing approach and to the same scale. So this meant sitting down in front of certain episodes and compositing a final set of traits for each. I am familiar with most of these fellows, but not all. The most difficult tended to be the middle three or four- mostly the post- Tom Baker era to Christopher Eccelston. Getting a grip on those guys was rough at times. Especially for those like Sylvester McCoy who began their tenure in a vastly different place than where the ended up. Researching these turned out to be best kind of fun, and thankfully since so much time has passed, there was more than enough perspective and insight as to their place and context in the long line of those that came before and after. So like most curious undertakings, I ended up coming away learning a lot more about the subject of the series as well as the new technique for executing them.

I also decided to cheat the canon slightly with Moffat's cheating by featuring John Hurt's War Doctor as the proper #9 off setting the following four's count as a result. Its a storyline that came forward when Eccelston arrived and had been an underlying character burden for every iteration after making him the sole survivor of a race of people he himself killed off. It added a darkness and a core to his purpose that haunted every action and explained his travelling. One of the themes for Well's TIME MACHINE that I've always loved to see crop up was this notion of time and catharsis. Can you move through enough days and weeks to escape regret as if it were a locale rather than a simple emotion? Could a genocide like the Doctor ever outrun his actions or save enough people to reconcile that genocide? It's dark stuff but it's one of the aspects of the character I really love: The Doctor is a bit scary and spooky. And I do love me some spooky. 

As a disclaimer, I also really came back to the fold of Who via R.T. Davies' return with Eccelston. These Nu-Whos are the ones I much prefer to be honest. And of them all I am a Moffat man all the way. That said one of my favorites of all really was Patrick Troughton's, and it follows given my Matt Smith love as in many ways he is Smith's precursor. Troughton also had I think the greatest burden to carry. He was the replacement for the show's iconoclast, William Hartnell and because of him we have the whole idea of regeneration to begin with. If he'd had blown it with his audience the show would have died soon with him. Instead he did what is rarely ever done well: He took a role set in marble by a previous actor, and re-owned it for himself. He may well be the first popular actor to really do this, and set the stage for all that followed as a result. His being so different in character also meant that difference was sought after, despite the knee-jerk desire to see the same type repeated over and over... Pretty damned impressive I think. 

While I grew up seeing Baker's back in the 1970's, it was always by accident late at night on pbs mostly because it scared the hell out of me. With his portrait I truly cheated the rule of blurriness. He should be a good deal more fuzzy than he is here, but as much as his hat and scarf and crazy hair are icons of his person, those wild mad-house eyes and chompers could not be ignored. So I sharpened focus on these areas specifically letting the need of the content rule over the rules of the project. 

Tom Baker

So. How were these made? Well I had some nice cotton rag paper cut into 8 1/2 x 11 sheets, and after some quick mapping marks and under-sketching, set out working on them in earnest. I never had time while doing these to scan progress shots or step by steps I'm afraid. I seem to only think of doing that kind of thing long after its too late- like now. But with the earlier portraits, I would find the areas of most detail and begin there. I always like to start with the eyes, because that's where it all swims or sinks, really- especially in portraits (and taxidermy). You blow it with the eyes, the rest doesn't matter. And there were times where I had to tear it up and start anew- I think I had to do David Tenant at least three times to get him right to be honest. In any case, once decided, forever learned. I tened only to have to redo one of these once more after this )I spilled single drop of water on the face of John Hurt right after I finished it, and it meant having to do him all over again. Or live with what looked to be a sizable zit below his eye. Which I could not.

David Tennant

It would be the latter ones that made the challenge of drawing out of focus the most tricky. Largely because it robbed the pieces the usual crutches of detail to denote who they were. I honestly wasn't sure if they'd "read" at all given this technique. How blurry could you get before they simply got lost to the cloud of graphite? Turns out with these distinctive fellows, you could really out there and the center would hold. Hartnell was the most obvious success of this in that he's almost entirely identifiable in silhouette given his hair, gate and costume. With these and the bliurriest aspects of any of these portraits I used the side edge of a sharpened pencil to lay down, very gently, the marks. Once that was done I would immediately use the high tech studio tool and secret weapon of all of these... my finger, to then rub the hell out of those areas and blue them.


John Pertwee


So in the end, we have our family. I confess after doing the last of these it made my eyes water as they consistently attempted to focus the out of focus drawings. Something which I was happily surprised with. I love conceptual theory and science around how we see and perceive the world, and this pointed out and wiggled a weird little part of how we see. We as a hunter species have our perceptual vision centered around focus and isolation- this comes from our ancient survival necessity to pull prey and threats out of an environment so that we could properly eat or run from them. We still carry that legacy with us today as seers, and it uniformly dictates how we see the world on a daily basis. That said, this habit can be suspended or at least unlearned for short periods of time, the greatest surprise from these was how it tickled that singular aspect. I love how it makes me squint even though I know squinting will not bring them into focus. The art bites back. Every time I do these

So this is certainly a thing I plan of taking further, and while we now leave 
these Doctors behind, I look forward to seeing how far this new method can go. For all of you who rode this road with me, thanks for keeping to it. If you'd like to pick up the last remaining portraits you can do so by visiting the gregthings.com shop... HERE.

If you'd like to see the permanent online archive of the whole series, please visit HERE