Thursday, July 30, 2015

Jonathan Levine Gallery - infra:REAL - IMAGINATIVE REALISM

Left:   Unseen   by  Brad Kunkle                                       right:  Passages  by  Dorian Vallejo
infraREAL - The Art of Imaginative Realism 
August 05 - 22, 2015

Jonathan LeVine Gallery 
529 West 20th Street, 9th floor
New York, NY 10011
557C West 23rd Street
New York, NY 10011
Curated by Patrick Wilshire

Next week will see the opening of a new exhibit at the Jonathan Levine Gallery, representing another step toward the recognition of Imaginative Realism as a major undercurrent in contemporary figurative art.  While this show only touches the surface of the incredible talent working within the field, it offers a wonderful survey of the pluralistic voices of artists which have made this genre their home for decades.  Below are a few thoughts from the gallery and an article from the website WideWalls.

Red Sugar  (in progress)  by  Rebeca Leveille Guay
Patrick Wilshire Curates infra:REAL - The Art of Imaginative Realism at Jonathan LeVine Gallery
Anika D. 
One of the most voluminous shows in the field of imaginative realism will be on view at Jonathan LeVine Gallery in New York during the month of August. If you’ve ever wondered how visions of metaphysical, subconscious and surreal can come to life through detailed objective and realistic representation, thirty-seven international artists, brought together for infra:REAL – The Art of Imaginative Realism exhibition, are bound to demonstrate through their extensive line of artworks. The exhibition will be guest-curated by Patrick Wilshire, historian, collector and imaginative realism specialist.
Pagan   by   John Jude Palencar
Imaginative Realism in Contemporary Art
The art of realism depends on the artist’s observational abilities and his technical skills in visual repetition of objects as they are seen in their nature-like forms. This representation of ‘natura naturata’ in Spinozian terms, is seriously challenged once it comes to the artistic styles that keep their connection to the aesthetic of realism but represent objects or landscapes that can’t actually be found in the real surroundings. The art of imaginative realism at infra:REAL exhibition is dealing with this kind of artistic engagement, exploring the way in which visionary and imagined objects can be transposed into realistic imagery. The works of the participating artists vary in their individual style but some shared motifs or inspirations can be singled out, such as their inclination to mythical and archetypical imagery and exploration of subconscious symbolism in individual and collective terms. These artists depict our shared memory of the past as well as the visions of the future with the common thread being the use of traditional and classical techniques in representation of narratives, whether they are imaginary or real.  

Haven   by   Michael C. Hayes

The Artists of Imaginative Realism
Some of the most illustrious contemporary artists, creating their works in the field of imaginative realism, are invited to participate in the staging of this monumental exhibition. The line-up for infra:REAL exhibition is vast, and we are bringing the list of names in whole. The roster will feature the following artists: Allen Williams, Anthony Palumbo, Billy Norrby, Bob Eggleton, Boris Vallejo, Brad Kunkle, Brom, David Palumbo, Donato Giancola, Dorian Vallejo, Eric Velhagen, Greg Hildebrandt, Ian Miller, Jeffrey Watts, Jeremy Mann, Jim Burns, Jim Pavelec, John Harris, John Jude Palencar, Julie Bell, Justin Sweet, Kirk Reinert, Laurie Lee Brom, Marc Fishman, Matthew Stewart, Michael C. Hayes, Michael Whelan, Patrick Jones, R. Leveille-Guay, Rick Berry, Robh Ruppel, Scott Burdick, Stephan Hickman, Thomas Kuebler, Vincent Villafranca, Virginie Ropars and Wayne Haag.
Opening Reception with the Artists
August 5th (two locations)
557C West 23rd Street : 6-8pm
529 West 20th Street: 7-9pm 

Promethean Costs   by   Donato Giancola
Imaginative realism is the cutting edge of contemporary realism, combining classical technique with postmodern narrative subjects. Focusing on the unreal, the unseen, and the impossible, this genre offers visions of humanity’s mythic past, its unexplored future and, in some cases, its terrifying present. Just as science fiction serves for many as the archetype of postmodern literature with its fascination with the “other” and the unknown, imaginative realism brings this same narrative to the figurative arts. 
infra:REAL is a group exhibition in the most classical sense, presenting the width and breadth of imaginative realism under a single banner. The exhibition features the work of thirty-seven artists, all of whom share a fascination with the narrative of “What if?” and have a strong connection to the mythic taproot that burrows deep into our collective subconscious. Their technical approaches vary, from academic to avant-garde, but all are among the finest realist artists in the world, turning your vision “infra-real” and giving a glimpse above, below, and beyond the reality that both comforts and restricts us all.     —Patrick Wilshire, Curator

Lord Kashaol   by  Brom

Moon Children    by   David Palumbo

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


-By Jesper Ejsing

Here is a magic card illustration I did a while back for the Origins set. The setting is Thereos, a Greek inspired world. The description asked for a spiked-ridged boar charging out from a cave mouth, the bones and remains of fallen heroes scattered around the canyon bed. I had not much to play with for the setting to sell the Theros world placement since I had no buildings or people. I settled on the very clear helmet flying in the air and a strong sunlight adding a lot of bouncing light.

This is one of the rare paintings where the steps went smoothly from one to the next and with me hardly changing anything.  The thumb is simple and clear. I wanted the cast shadows from the cliffs to cover part of the pig to make him emerge from the shadows. It is also a very nice tool for adding, almost a flashlight-like spot, to the focal point.  When sketching the cliff sides I tried to think more on shapes and compositional direction rather than detail. The shapes function as directionlines for the movement of the pig. I think these lines are very important. But I must also be very clear that they are not something I make up before hand and let the drawing be dictated by them. The easiest way is for you to be open for them to be able to recognize the ”good” lines while the happen during thumb process and use them, and even enhance the rythm they give to the sketch. Often you will have to clean up lines or elemnts that ”muddies” the image to make the lines you keep more important.

Recently I have found this cleaning up proces very rewarding. Less is more. But also, at the same time as I have been simplifying my drawings ( less elments, stronger shapes, better direction lines ) I have instead enhanced the detail levels within the shapes. Take the head of the Boar as an example. I have added nothing since the initial thumb sketch in form of shape, but instead added all kinds of skin texture and color details and smaller wrinkles and folds. These details makes the image seem rich, even though it has been tidied up to an almost boring detail level.

As ususal I transfer the sketch to a watercolor board by smearing a blwn up version of the thumb with graphite and pushing the lines down onto the board. I try to only transfer the most important lines and then I redraw the whole thing on th eboard to keep it fresh. Then I ink it with a waterproof pen and adds greytones for values.

I masked the figure out using frisket film and started on the background. I pulled out my Grand Canyon book and found a photo of some stones with lots of bounching light.
In creating the stone texture I try to just let the brush dot away on its own. I stab and push some paint around until it creates shapes I can use as rock formations. When I have some shapes I begin to enhance the structure by adding the light and colors from my photo ref. In this case lots of orange and yellow in the surfaces pointing down and almost white/yellow for direct sunlight. Notice how little of the cliffs is on the transfered sketch and how much is happy accidents. I think rock shapes can easily becomes to dead if they are planed carefully. I used a purple tone for depth in the rocks since I needed an area to fall back into the distance. To be able to read the hind legs as dark I had to add a mist to the lower part of the rocks. The Boar I chose to paint in a slightly bluish tone to have a good contrast to the orange/yellow background.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Should You Get a Master Degree?

-By Scott Bakal

Are you finding yourself pondering about going back to school for a Masters degree?

Frequently from students when I do lectures for illustration programs around the country and occasionally professionals as well, I am asked questions about going into a Masters program and whether it’s a good idea or not. It’s a topic sometimes revolving around a bad job market or fearful about making a living starting out as an illustrator and wondering if these sorts of degrees will help their chances getting work or help them improve as artists and illustrators. It’s a fair question.

My own story of how I decided to go into a Master’s program and which one I decided to select is complex and would require me to double the length of this post. If there is enough expressed interest, I may post about it. I spent years dismissing the thought of working toward anything higher beyond my BFA from School of Visual Arts. I finally made a decision when many variables lined up properly and it made sense to seek out a program and I choose one that would work for me.

These are some of the various questions I’ve collected that I’ve been often asked. Hopefully, this will help give some light on different facets of the decision to move forward and how to choose a program. If there are other questions, I will try to answer them in the comments below.

Do I need a Master's Degree as an illustrator?

No, of course not. There are many artists that lack even Bachelor Degrees who have done quite well as illustrators.

When teaching, I tell students that they will likely go through their entire life as an illustrator and not a single client will ask about their grades or their schooling. If they do, it’s probably more conversational than a test. Art buyers want to see good work and a history of doing good work. Your art is what is going to get you hired, not the degree.

I’m not suggesting undergraduate or graduate education is pointless. A new artist does have to learn their craft somewhere if other sources are unavailable. In most cases, there just isn’t enough information to high school students or from their families to go out and find other educational angles to achieve the same goal outside the norm.

Do I need a Master's Degree as a new illustrator?

Many students are thinking about going right into Master's programs as they finish walking across the stage to collect their BFA degree. I’m often surprised about this. My usual comment about this is ‘before you jump right into a Master's Program, are you sure you want to be or are even going to be an illustrator?’ I often get a giggle when I say this but it is a very important question, especially when we see the realities of how many illustration students do NOT remain illustrators.

I've recently spoke to someone I've known for a long while and she was a graduate from a top 10 art school.  She got a full-time job in a related field in New York City while she got her act together to start illustrating.  After a few years seeing first hand how the business works, she told me that she was going to end up in another field other than illustration.  She met too many illustrators that just couldn’t earn enough and she wanted to, and I quote: “have a normal life…and that requires money”.

My usual recommendation for any student just leaving an undergrad program is to wait a couple of years and make sure that it’s where you want to be before you incur additional student loans which is a consideration and part of the equation.

There are exceptions to the rule. Everyone has his or her own path. I know quite a few current illustrators that went right from BFA to MFA and are doing well. But, I could count them on two hands compared to the thousands that graduate every year who don’t do well.

I might want to teach. Do I need a Master's Degree to be a teacher?

The simple answer is no. The complex one is ‘maybe’.

At many schools around the country like my alma mater, School of Visual Arts; most teachers don’t need Master’s degrees because they are all considered ‘adjuncts’ at the school and professional experience is more important than a degree. To be an adjunct, a terminal degree is generally not needed. Also, a school like SVA is a private school so that system can be more flexible. It gets tricky if you want to teach at a university or state school. In those cases, yes, there may be rules in place that require all teachers, full time or even adjunct to have a Master’s. Some private schools are getting stricter about this rule as well because of rising accreditation standards.

If you want to teach full time, then most likely, yes, you’ll need a Master’s degree. At the very least you may need to sign up for an MFA program as part of the terms to getting hired. To reiterate, it’s largely dependent on the school and their policies.

In short: a Master’s degree is becoming more and more important for getting hired as a teacher. If you want to have a wide range of possibilities and choices in selecting where you work if you decide to teach, then a Master’s is probably the best way to go.

But then you have to ask the question...

Do I even want to teach?

Teaching is not for everyone. Oddly, I’ve had conversations with illustrators who wanted to get a Master’s for teaching but never taught. I know artists who discovered they do not have the patience for teaching and/or academic environments. I strongly recommend teaching as an adjunct at one or two schools for a few years before making any decisions about an MFA for teaching purposes.

Which program should I sign up for?

Each program runs on its own logic and has its own strengths and weaknesses. There aren’t too many major MFA in Illustration programs out there so it should be fairly easy for anyone to research, visit and figure out what they want as artists and what the program can offer to fulfill those needs.

There were two schools I was considering and each offered what I wanted in different ways but for one of the programs, I would have had to be there consistently every week for the entire duration of the program. That was a problem. I’ve been away from the ‘student lifestyle’ and working as an illustrator for 10 years when I decided to go for it. I had life expenses that would require me to continue working so cutting any income out just couldn’t happen.

I decided on a ‘Low Residency’ program after honing it down to two schools. I chose the University of Hartford. NOTE: I actually started at Syracuse University but finished in Hartford – another complex story for another time.

The ‘Low Residency’ model is meant to be a program for working illustrators and considered a ‘professional’ program. This means applicants are preferred to have (but not a rule) 5-10 years experience working in the field. Coming into that program, it was usually under the assumption that you had a significant client base and understood the business already. It’s not necessarily a program of drawing and painting classes either. If you want to improve on that, you certainly could but most wanted to expand themselves creatively in their own way and develop their businesses.

Figuring out what you want for yourself is very important and will help dictate which program you enter and whether it fulfills those needs. Do you want to improve artistically? Improve your business? Expand your teaching role? Each program tackles each of those questions differently. Being honest about yourself and what you want to improve in yourself will not only help dictate a program that works for you, but define what you want to leave a program with.

When I started a program a little over 10 years being a working illustrator, I was very keenly aware of what I needed and wanted to get out of a program which drove me to make sure that I got the education I wanted. This knowledge and experience made the costs and time commitment worth it.

Reflecting back 10 years since I started the MFA program, I can say that it was one of the best choices I’ve made as an illustrator.

If you’d like ask other questions, I’ll try to answer them in the comments below.

Scott Bakal is an award-winning illustrator, including being honored with the 3x3 Magazine’s Illustrator/Educator of the Year. He is an Associate Professor at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Some Basics About Publishing Part 5

Above: Rebecca Guay funded her art book via Kickstarter and the results were far beyond what may have been possible if it had been available from a traditional publisher. It's simply too "deluxe" for it to have been produced the same way for the mass market. This Wednesday (July 29) she's going to have a "flash sale" for the remaining copies she has on hand: hit this link for details.

by Arnie Fenner

Doing It Yourself

Everybody these days seems to be using Kickstarter (or some other crowd-funding method) to finance their self-published art books. I had briefly mentioned KS in an earlier post so I thought I'd take a shotgun approach to discuss a few additional points.

Let's assume you've got a book you're aching to do and for one reason or another you've decided to forego pitching it to a publisher and plan to print it yourself with the help of a few hundred on-line supporters. I guess the first thing to do is hit this link and familiarize yourself with the process…

Read it? Great. Now you've learned that not every project proposed to Kickstarter gets accepted (they have to make a profit after all) and not every accepted project gets funded. Like everything else in life, there are no guarantees. Beyond that there are some key things to think about:
  • First, the most humbling question to ask yourself straight out of the gate is: Do people actually want a book of my art? Have I created a body of work people will pay to have preserved between covers? Do I have the rights to publish the art in a book? (Remember my previous post about copyright and Fair Use: you are legally responsible for everything you put into print so make sure what you include does not infringe on anyone else's rights.) Or, if I'm going to create new work for this project, have I built an interest in what I do for people to want more? And perhaps most importantly can I produce what I'm promising when I say I will? 
  • If your answers to the above questions are "yes," the next step is to do your research and figure out the details. Assuming scans are available of all the art, how many books am I planning to print and how much will it cost to print them? Am I going to sell extra copies printed above what's needed to satisfy my obligation to supporters and what will be the retail price? Who will print them (domestic or overseas)? Who will design the book, me or will I have to hire someone (if you've never designed a book before, there's a lot to it)? How long will it take to deliver a finished product to backers? How much will it cost to ship them to backers? Where will I purchase shipping materials (boxes, bubble wrap, etc.) and how much will they cost? And who is going to be doing all of that packing and shipping? Believe me when I say that schlepping packages to the Post Office or UPS is awful and takes up a lot of time and energy. You have to plan how to handle every aspect of your project from initiating the idea to getting the finished product out the door, and that planning has to include the labor needed to get the job done. All of the negative costs have to be factored into the dollar figure you're hoping to raise if you want to avoid nasty surprises further down the road.

Above: The amount Brom & Flesk Publications raised for their book project set an impressive Kickstarter record (since broken, I think) that had the community buzzing and more than a few envious tongues clucking. What the jealous failed to comprehend was that Brom's huge international popularity and John Fleskes' savvy marketing are a rare combination; their success is incredibly hard to duplicate and shouldn't be a yardstick for your own project or color your expectations. 
  • Be realistic in the amount you're trying to raise. The goal is intended to cover the expense for doing your book, either simply or with as many bells & whistles as you can come up with. And, sure, if you can turn a profit from the git-go no one is going to seriously complain. But have a certain amount of humility and don't overreach if you want support. Many look at the success of the KS project for Brom's book a few years ago and figure, what the hell, I'll expect a quarter million, too! While anything's possible (look at the Potato Salad project) the thing to accept is…there's only one Gerald Brom and he is in a rarified position of respect, demand, and popularity. The rest of us ain't him. Keep your expectations modest and if you hit your goal, for God's sake be happy; anything extra is just icing on the cake.
  • Remember that there are fees attached to the funds raised. Kickstarter takes 5% of the gross and other processing fees can take up to another 5%—meaning that if your goal/production costs is $10,000 and you meet it (are "funded") at the end of the cycle, you're going to get $9000 not the whole $10K. Plan on seeking slightly more than what you'll need to produce your book so that you can cover the fees and don't come up short at the end.
  • Also remember that what you raise via crowd-funding is not free money: it is income. The tax man will know exactly what you got and, at some point, will expect their cut, quite possibly at a higher tax rate than what you're used to. Every negative cost associated with your book/project is a business expense that can be deductions, but you'll have to keep receipts and account for everything to receive them come tax time.

Above: The Feds came down semi-hard ("hard" would have been jail) on Erik Chevalier after he failed to deliver on a game he successfully raised $122,874.00 via Kickstarter to produce. The government obtained a judgement against him for $111,793.71. As more incidents like this occur with crowdfunding, the penalties will probably increase as prosecutors get used to the process. Only C'thullu knows where the 71¢ came from.
  • You have to deliver. Duh. Simple enough, right? Unfortunately, not everyone does and in the U.S. the Feds have started to crack down on deadbeats. There are repercussions for not giving people what they've paid for so be conscientious.
Hooray: you crowdfund, you publish, you deliver to your supporters, and you have extra copies to sell at conventions or through your website. But does that mean you'll now be able to hook up with a distributor and get your book into every bookstore and comic shop in the land?


Oh, sure, as I mentioned earlier anything is possible, but let me just say the odds aren't in your favor. You can most certainly hand-sell books "the old fashioned way" to local stores and independent retailers like, say, Bud Plant and Stuart Ng, at anywhere from 40% to 60% discount off the retail price, but the door to both national distributors and to national retail chains is closed no matter how popular you are or how good your book is.

Why? Well, distribution (like bookselling in the 21st Century) is…complicated…and tedious…and frustrating…and a post unto itself. Let me just say that chain bookstore buyers deal only with the sales representatives of distributors and professional publishers, not with individuals with one title to sell; likewise distributors only represent professional publishers with lines of product. It's all matters of accounting, tracking, profit, and quantity: dollars and sense (not cents). Distribution and mass bookselling are cumulative businesses not geared to—or profitable with—a single book that's been self-published. Entering into "onesy" agreements with individuals simply does not make financial sense.

Anyway, I guess the thing to take away from all this is that regardless of the way you've financed your book you have to treat it as a business—because that's precisely what it is, whether it's a one-time deal or the beginning of an empire. It's governed by the same rules and considerations as any business: research the market, pay attention to costs, get everything in writing, keep records. Too many have been overly optimistic with their expectations and wound up with a basement full of very pricey unsold paper. Be cautious when it comes to deciding on the quantity for your book: if it's successful, it's easy enough to go back to press.

And in case you're wondering if I have ever supported books via Kickstarter, I have indeed. Do I have reservations about the whole crowdfunding approach to publishing and self-publishing in general? Absolutely. Maybe I'll talk about them a bit sometime in the future. 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Favorite Studio Tools: Bar Clamps

-By Dan dos Santos

There is a surprising amount of equipment in my studio that I use daily, much of which isn't even art related. I thought I would take the time to show a few more of my favorite studio tools that have become invaluable to my working process.

In my spare time, I enjoy woodworking, usually building bookshelves for the studio or some such thing. Any good woodworker can attest to the value of a good clamp, which is why I initially bought these Irwin 'Quick Grip' Bar Clamps.

These clamps have a mouth that can expand extremely wide, which makes it great for attaching to large pieces of furniture, like easels. The mouth closes via a trigger grip and closes quickly and easily to a amazingly fit. They also have rubber heads, which makes them gentle enough to use on art pieces without damaging the surface.

I have found them so useful, for so many things, that I've purchased a lot of them and use them for a multitude of tasks around the studio. I probably have 6 or so floating around, and I still never seem to have enough of them.

I use them most commonly to provide a rod support for paper towels so I can always have them within reach.

But I also use them to clamp large sheets of unstretched canvas to my drafting table.

Or I use them to sandwich watercolor paper flat while it dries.

Sometimes, I have guests in the studio who want to paint too, so I just clamp a light onto the spare easel.

But probably the most unexpected and helpful use I've found for them, is opening those stubborn wide mouth gesso containers. Once the paint seals those lids shut, you need to have the hands of a giant to twist them open. But the clamp makes for a wonderful lever, opening the lid with ease.

These clamps, or at least very similar ones, can be found at any good hardware store and are available in a variety of sizes, from just a few inches, to several feet in length. A medium sized one will cost you about $10, but I highly recommend getting a variety of sizes.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Art and Humor

***more comics added at the bottom that were submitted by readers***

Today's post is a little on the lighter side, though it still contains some wonderful art.  I am also hoping that it will be collaborative with you.  I am sharing some cartoons about art that I think are funny.  We can all use a little more humor in our lives these days.

Let's make this post a collection of great cartoons about art or artists.  If you have one to share, email it to me at or link in the comments and I will add it to the post!

I hope something here makes you smile today.  :)

by Pablo Helguera

by David Sipress

by Bill Watterson

by Bill Watterson

by Bill Watterson

by Mark Anderson

by John McPherson

by Gary Larson

by Gary Larson

by Chris Madden

by Mark Anderson

by Pablo Helguera

by J. di Chiarro

Don't forget to send me your favorite and I will add it to the post!

Howard Lyon


From Lindsay Gravina in the comments section:

From John Jude Palencar via Arnie Fenner's FB page:

From Nik Love-Gittins in the comments:

by Kelley McMorris.  Kelley comments here on MC from time to time.  Great comic Kelley!
From Spalding's Art in the comments.  The wonderful Charles Addams:

This next one is just fantastic!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Dear Art Director

-By Lauren Panepinto

I have something fun to share with you today. A little experiment that the secret team of Art Directors at Drawn + Drafted have been working on. (Oh, you thought it was just me & Marc? Not by a long shot.) We've got a lot of projects in the works, from the Make Art Work book, to all the Art Business Bootcamps we've created, to revamping the convention portfolio review process at Spectrum, and we've started a little experiment to help us get a little audience participation. It will help us fine-tune the bootcamps and make sure the book is absolutely covering everything about art business you need to know to have a healthy career as an artist.

So what is this little project? it's called Dear Art Director. Or "Dear AD" for short. Modeled on the "Dear Abby"-style advice columns of old, this is a place where artists can ask all their questions, and a secret panel of Art Directors will answer them one by one. Why a secret panel? Because Art Directors tend to be nice, and we sometimes pull our punches when we talk to you. On Dear AD, we will be talking to you straight and unvarnished. It's as close as you will ever get to overhearing what ADs say when there aren't any artists around. We are going to be laying the heavy truthbombs on you. Be prepared! We may even get a little snarky. But we will lighten the blows with humorous gifs, in true tumblr style!

Ready to play? Check out all the questions and answers that have already been posted.

Then ask your question here.

There aren't any strict rules, but we have developed some friendly Do's and Don'ts during our trial run and first batch of questions:
—DO read the questions that have already been answered so you don't ask the same thing.
—DON'T get annoyed if you get a short answer, or a link to a relevant article.
—DO remember that the art directors are volunteering their time solely to help YOU, the artists.
—DON'T assume you know which code name goes with which art director (we're sneaky).
—DO get ready for a lot of Supernatural gifs.

We've gone outside of the Fantastic Art scene and recruited a number of art directors from The Real World, so answers may vary a bit due to whether that particular AD is from publishing, editorial, gaming, or another field. However, all the advice is applicable, and we are all sharing our notes.

We also have a snazzy custom header in the works, but for now you'll have to make due with my fabulous stock-art stylings. Enjoy!

Daaamn, we're off to a running start. Check out that archive for July posts!