Friday, October 29, 2010

Hello, my name is Eric



A little background on what I've been up to. I had spent several years slowly working my way through the illustration field. A few years back, I had an opportunity to show my work in the pop-surreal/low brow gallery scene. I took the red pill...or was it the blue pill? I took some pills and jumped in with both feet.

My art has been kicking my ass ever since. There's been a lot of experimenting, a lot of mistakes, and a lot of pushing myself to be better than I was the month before. Getting better everyday is just too much to ask for. There's a real ugly side to my work. Mostly the 80% that resides between starting and finishing. It's full of doubts, insecurities, a lot of choices, and a lot of muddy colors. Every painting is a difficult journey. If it were easy I wouldn't appreciate the end nearly as much. Mistakes are fine. Failing is okay. Learning from these experiences and getting back on the easel is even better. From here on we hope to imbue you with a little insight into the thoughts and processes of our work.

A recent journey has lead me to this painting which is part of an upcoming show opening Nov 6th at LeBasse Projects Gallery.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Mud of Venus, Part 1

"I can paint you the skin of Venus with mud, provided you let me surround it as I will."
- Eugene Delacroix
A perfect statement to start off my presence here at Muddy Colors.
Delacroix compressed a great deal of art theory into that one sentence, and the most profound for me was that color is all about relativity. What clump of 'mud' you place next to another clump will impact all your color decisions thereafter; cool/warm relationships begin to evolve when even the subtlest of differences are managed between color and form. Nearly every painter comes to this revelation some point in their career, and the sooner the better!
The need to call upon the massive weapons of 'exaggerated-complimentary-color' to solve a problem is not always what is called for in an image. Many times the poetic harmony of similar values and hues
can deliver your message with greater clarity. I have certainly used both methods to great success over the years and evaluate each new project to determine what color system may best work for me to resolve the pictorial constraints of a new commission. There is no right nor wrong way to approach color, and as N.C.Wyeth and Monet have shown, exaggerated color can certainly be used with mind-blowing effectiveness.
But I want to talk about 'mud'.
From muddy cool reds to dirty warm greens, all of this can become the stuff of flesh and Venus. I think Delacroix had boasted with such bravado about his virtuosity with paint because he already knew that to paint flesh, an artist is really manipulating a bunch of mud! For next to any hue, a subtle shift cooler will allow any tone to appear warm. It is from these temperature (and value) changes that we infer mass and shadow as they play themselves out over a form. The slower and smoother these transitions, the softer and more diffused the light. It is for this reason of working with 'mud' that I am never able to answer the question -
'What colors do you use for your skin tones?'
For in its asking, I respond with questions of my own- what kind of skin are we talking about, Caucasian, African, Indian, etc...? Lighting effects? Source light color? Reflected surface colors? Overall saturation of the painting? Environmental concerns? Opaque vs. glazing techniques? etc... All of these and much more go into the choices made about skin tone. There is never a concrete answer nor singular starting point for generating these colors. It is all relative.
But a decision must be made in the painting process about where to start - what first dab of color to begin with. When I have made this commitment, usually through a color study or example I have found in another work of art or photograph, I am ready to create my 'mud'. From lights to darks, warm to cools, I attempt to blend and mix a full range of values and hues on my palette based upon observations with my model/reference and what color scheme I wish to bend towards. Rather than create a single string of blended color, I create a large puddle of mud, painting the model from lights to darks as if the model melted into a pile of mud. This is all without cleaning my brush to facilitate the neutralizing of intense colors. Beginning with a 'dirty' neutral tone created from umbers, reds, whites and ochres, I then expand out producing a line of darker and warmer tones. Parallel to that range, I create a similar cool string and then blend a portion of these together. A mirror image of these cool/warm strings plays itself out into the lighter tones.
This method provides plenty of paint on the palette ready to sample from with the option of warm and cool hues of varying values surrounding nearly any selection from this puddle. In the end I have arranged a complex color wheel constructed around paint I will use in the flesh and surrounding areas of the figure. A total mud pit! I invariably make modifications to this mixture, but find it a wonderful resource pool to dive into during the painting phase, without much worry about trying to remix the 'exact color' you just ran out of, because you never had any pure color to worry about. These mud colors also prove to be excellent sources for testing out background colors and values, as the test originates from a tight range of balanced relationships, and a sample from this source easily harmonizes the whole image.
Having read Delacroix's quote when I was a young painter, its insightful meaning could only be fully grasped after I had spent years discovering the truth in painting with mud for myself. I hope it comes sooner for many of you!
My next post will deal with the other insightful observation from Delacroix's statement. Until then..
Happy mud slinging!
Donato

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Syreian the Bonecarver

Hi everybody,

Before I get startet I think I need to introduce myself and apologize. The apology is for my bad mouth and poor English skills. I am from Denmark and English is only my second language. I was taught English in school, but mostly I learned it from from hip hop lyrics and old Clint Eastwood movies. So cut me a little slack if I sometimes sound like an aggressive, ignorant fool or an extremely impolite asshole. I assure you I am not an asshole.

I am Jesper Ejsing. I am a fantasy nerd. Ever since I played DnD for the first time I made the genre my own. When I read Lord of the Rings a whole new world opened up to me and I jumped right in.

Today I am glad I never listened or cared for the voices that told me to start drawing something else. ”When are you going to paint something serious, Jesper? And not just those big-boobed fantasy babes of yours?” Haven´t stopped yet and the practise, or stubbornness, has paid off.

I never wanted anything else but to draw and paint these scenes from a world that exists only in the minds those who play these games. I have been playing roleplaying games for so long that I almost feel like a resident of a medieval-like fantasy town. Or at least a regular visitor. When I illustrate things taking place there, I draw from memory or experience. Not artistic experience, but game experience, and I feel that is one of my strongest assets. I portray fantasy with an honesty, if nothing else. That is my humble mission. I think I succeed in one out of ten paintings.

Today i want to share with you a World of Warcraft card I did for Blizzard a year ago. Even if the illustration is somewhat classic and even naive, it represents a new beginning for me. I am perfectly aware how extremely stupid this sounds. Looking at the babe illustration you can only wonder what kind of a sad, simple mind Jesper has when he says it represents a new beginning, but let me explain...:

I have been doing these kinds of illustrations for so long that I finally became bored of them. Mean-looking dudes and babes with lots of weapons, ready to go; in every way, violently or sexually. I needed a new angle to make it interesting to myself again. But I didn´t want to change styles or anything. I decided that I wanted my characters to look more believable. Not naturalistic, that is certainly not for me. But more like a type, a real person, instead of just the ordinary Class A Barbarian. I began looking at H&M catalogs for small details like light under eyes, strands of hair or shapes of noses. Elements that would pull me out of my comfort zone. I also wanted the expressions to be more than just pornstar lips for women and clenched jaws for men.

This WOW character is the first one I did where I felt the face and the expression has something more than just looking cool. She has a small twist to the lips and a danger in the eyes. This may sound like something you learn the in the first semester of art school: Well I never went, and I only discovered this or realized that you could even do this, a years or so ago. Happy me... and why didn´t anyone tell me this from the start?

Anyway, I will show you the sketch and the final art work. The sketch has values added in Photoshop. I do this mostly for the art director - so that he can see the light and the shapes more clearly. Also it helps me figure out the values before I start painting. Having made you read all my sentimental ramblings about growing as a person, I would just ask you to be patient with me for a couple of moments longer. Notice the difference between the face from the sketch (clearly comical) and the final (more naturalistic; no that is not it... more believable; nah...well... better! Alright?)

It is acrylic on watercolor paper.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Dan Dos Santos: On the Importance of Being Stupid.

Welcome to day two of the 'Muddy Colors' blog!

I still don't know quite how I managed to do it, but I somehow convinced what I consider some of the best Artists in the industry to join me in creating this blog. A blog which guarantees to take their already packed work days and stuff them even fuller with deadlines, tech-savvy shortcomings, and even a little self-doubt. And in return for all their hard work... the risk of public humiliation. Yet despite all of that, everyone still generously said 'Yes.' Proving they are not just some of the most talented people I know, but some of the nicest as well. For this, I am truly grateful, and extremely proud to call them my friends. I don't know how long it will be until this experiment blows up in our faces, but until then, we promise to have something new for you guys every single weekday. So please, check back in regularly!

For what is technically my inaugural post, I'd like to briefly show off a new painting I just finished, and talk a little about what is quickly becoming one of coolest series I get to work on.

Daw books contacted me a little over a year ago to do the cover for a book called 'Touched by an Alien", by Gini Koch. The story revolves around a woman named Katherine (Kitty) Katt, who fights along side Armani-clad (and drop dead gorgeous) Alpha Centurions to defend the Earth from hostile alien invasion. The story is packed full of sex, violence, and surprisingly... humor.

Sex and violence? No problem! I've done a lot of that in my covers. But capturing humor was something that never came up, and quite honestly, scared me a little. This wasn't slapstick or something else that could be brashly depicted. It was a subtle campiness that pervaded the book, and really brought a lightheartedness to an otherwise intense story. Capturing this flavor was something I had little experience in, but I knew it was essential if this were to be a good cover.

After struggling for a while with the initial sketches, I ended up finding inspiration in movies like 'Army of Darkness' and 'Men in Black'. It occurred to me when watching these movies that I never actually feared for the safety of the heroes. I knew they would succeed, no matter how ludicrous and over-the-top their situation was. Why did I know that? Because they knew it. And therein lay the solution to my problem... stupidity. Nothing says 'campy' quite like an imbecilic lack of fear in the face of obvious danger. The more danger there is, the more fun it is.

This series of covers quickly became proverbial kitchen sinks; chock full of monsters, aliens, guns, exploding cars, clones, and even crocodiles?! I distinctly remember sitting at my easel in the early morning hours, really tired, painting this crocodile and asking myself "What the HELL am I doing right now?" Yet in retrospect, I wouldn't like the painting half as much if it weren't for that cute little guy. It seems the more I stuff in there, the better they get. Not only does this make the images more exciting to look at, but it makes for a really fun painting experience. The other nice thing is that it allows me to add a slew of narrative elements from the book. Elements, which I hope readers will pick up on as they come across them in the story.

The most recent addition to the series is "Alien in the Family". The book won't be out for sometime yet, so I can't mention the epic intergalactic bloodbath... But suffice it to say, it was super fun to paint, and promises to bring me yet another really cool painting to work on in 2011.

Oils on board, 20x30 inches.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Welcome from JJP

-By John Jude Palencar

I’d like to welcome everyone to the “Muddy Colors” blog. Hopefully this will be a place of informative and enlightening information not only about illustration but the the arts in general. Maybe even a bit of mud slinging will occur! Who knows? Many of us have our feet in both camps - the field of illustration and personal gallery work. An overview of this group indicates a preference for traditional methods for creating paintings. This does not mean we are not open and aware of other avenues of expression and technology - we prefer paint to pixels. All of us are well-seasoned pros in the field of illustration, art direction, art instruction, mentoring etc... and we have consistently produced award winning work over the years. We don’t pretend to know everything but will share our views, our accomplishments, limitations, knowledge and philosophies in regard to the ever changing field of illustration and the arts. Sure - we'll show in-progress work, where the work will be exhibited, tips, techniques and everything else associated with our experiences creating images. For patrons, fellow professionals and art students there may be opportunities to meet and attend any number of workshops, exhibitions, conventions and appearances by the participants of “Muddy Colors”.

Personally I don’t like to display my in-progress efforts in the studio (more on that later) but I do have a few thoughts in regard to a life in the arts. In some cases these thoughts are like the spaces between the brushstorkes. Painting pictures can be a rewarding experience and can also be fraught with pitfalls and discouragement. The thing is you have to be tenacious and passionate in your efforts. In the coming months I hope to direct you to various points of view that I think are noteworthy. I will also share some of my personal experiences and in general, pontificate on any number of subjects related to the arts. Let’s face it...There’s a lot of crap on the net but there are many individuals that offer sound practical advice and have noble intentions. I hope, in some measure to inspire an appreciation for the creative spirit and its humble origin's.

Robert Hughes
For your perusal - Robert Hughes - was the art critic for Time Magazine.

This man does knows what he’s talking about in regard to the state of the arts. He has produced a number of outstanding documentaries for the BBC and PBS. They are: “American Visions”, “The Shock of the New” and “The Mona Lisa Curse”. These can all be viewed on YouTube and are well worth watching. Most of these television documentaries have companion books published by Mr. Hughes and should be a part of any artist’s required reading. Knowing ourselves and our place in the larger world of art and creativity.... these documentaries offer a source guide to the artist and illustrator.




LOVECRAFT EXHIBITION - GALLERY NUCLEUS, Los Angeles, California.
AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS: A TRIBUTE TO THE WRITINGS OF LOVECRAFT
October 16, 2010 - November 8, 2010


TWO MUDDERS: Jon Foster and John Jude Palencar will be showing thier work in a group exhibition.


See links below:
http://www.gallerynucleus.com/
http://www.gallerynucleus.com/gallery/exhibition/249

Hit the Beach!

It's D-Day.
Several weeks ago I received an invitation from Dan Dos Santos to participate in a new blog devoted to fantastic art. He didn't have to ask twice.
The subject of fantastic—or "fantasy" or "SF" or "imaginative" or any other descriptive phrase you might want to use—art has always been near and dear to me. I grew up with it; I've created it; I've published it. And increasingly, as the years have passed, I've become more involved with the promotion of this type of art and been an advocate for the recognition of and the rights for the people that create the work.
Art by its nature is an act of communication and I believe one of the goals of the talented group contributing to this blog is to keep the conversation going, to see what might result from an open, on-going dialogue. I know and respect the work of all of the artists that will be posting in the days and weeks ahead and, like you, I'm looking forward to reading what they have to say about how and why they do what they do, to learning about their successes and (if they want to share) their failures. Too often as creatives we operate in something of a vacuum—and that vacuum can exist even if you're working in a corporate studio surrounded by other "artists"—and the best way to remain fresh and to keep growing is to interact with others. To reach out and share experiences. To swap stories and anecdotes and tips. Hopefully Muddy Colors will become a water cooler for the fantastic art community, a friendly bar where visitors will feel comfortable hanging out and sharing their own experiences and insights in the comments sections.
I believe everyone will introduce themselves in their own ways in the coming weeks. For my part...well, I'm undoubtedly going to wander all over the landscape with my posts. I've worked in publishing in one form or another my entire adult life and will probably talk about that (including the changes that are having an effect on artists) more often than not. But I also intend to post from the standpoint of an artist and of an aficionado and of a collector and of an advocate and of a historian. Whether it proves interesting or not will be for you to decide.
So...here we are. There's little else to say at this point except:
Welcome!