Monday, January 31, 2011
Saturday, January 29, 2011
I just found this awesome little interview with film maker Francis Ford Coppola (via Boing Boing).
A lot of what he has to say is incredible apropos across many creative fields, including illustration.
He also hits on a lot of topics that we have been speaking about quite recently here on Muddy Colors.
"The cinema language happened by experimentation – by people not knowing what to do. But unfortunately, after 15-20 years, it became a commercial industry. People made money in the cinema, and then they began to say to the pioneers, 'Don’t experiment. We want to make money. We don’t want to take chances.'
An essential element of any art is risk. If you don’t take a risk then how are you going to make something really beautiful, that hasn’t been seen before? I always like to say that cinema without risk is like having no sex and expecting to have a baby. You have to take a risk. "
Friday, January 28, 2011
If you haven't sent out your entries yet, it's not too late... Entries need only be postmarked by the end of the day.
Don't have a quality printer?
Go to your local Wal-Mart with a CD, and print your images using the one hour service. Or, use the Kodak Instant Picture Maker. Both produce great quality prints, are quite color accurate, and relatively inexpensive. A single print will run you between $3 - $5.
The Kodak machine prints on extra glossy paper which can be a bit hard to view under certain lighting. Given the choice, I'd opt for the one hour service, which prints on a satin Fuji paper. For the first several years that I entered Spectrum (and got in), these are the type of prints I submitted.
Worried about packing your prints?
Use your local post office. The 8x10 photo prints will fit easily into a flat rate Priority Mail envelope.
You can fit a ton of them in there, as well as a sheet of cardboard for added durability, and it still costs just $5.
So go for it!
You've got 17 hours left, and times-a-wastin!
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Costume design is an integral part of any good fantasy illustration.
A good costume can be the main driving force of a composition, or it can be used to add a deeper backstory to your character. Either way, it's importance is not to be understated.
Jean Paul Gaultier, born in 1952, is a staple in the world of fashion. Pioneering the use of unconventional models, like those that are heavily tattooed, pierced, transgender and even obese, he made a huge impact on the fashion world in the 1980's. He is self-taught, and is best know for his edgy, almost futuristic look. Relying heavily on leather and often utilizing a lot of metal in his designs, his work is perfect inspiration for the SFF artist. It's no wonder he was selected as the lead clothing designer for films such as 'The Fifth Element' and 'The City of Lost Children'.
Some of my favorite Gaultier designs:
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Most of the following test pieces were done between client projects. They are all victims of a continuing campaign whose goal is a better understanding of the mediums available to the contemporary illustrator.
Some of these experiments seem to give good results:
While others seem to give rather poor results:
This quest for understanding is complicated enough with the wide array of classic painting mediums that artists have used in the past and that are still available, but to make it even more complex, modern paint manufacturers add new mediums to this list every year.
Holbein has released an acrylic paint that can be lifted out after it has dried.
While many of these new products may be just marketing fluff, some of them are quite useful and provide the artist with materials that are more archival, faster-drying and safer to use than tools of the past.
And truly, some of the greatest contemporary master's techniques are stunning in their straight-forward simplicity. Paul Bonner, whose amazing work looks like it must involve every medium ever conceived of, as well as unimaginable dark powers, says merely that, "Mostly I just mix up some watercolor on a dinner plate and start painting."
Our critic might also suggest that this sense of chronic experimenting could lure the artist into believing in "silver bullets" that can somehow make up for deficiencies in drawing ability and craftsmanship.
We hear that an artist used some exotic medium and think, 'if only I had that exotic medium, my work would look as good as his.' Those of us who've tried this experiment are familiar with its generally dismal results. A special medium can offer small comfort to a poor composition.
However, while we must admit that the silver bullet is perhaps the wrong way of looking at it, there is something to be said for understanding the tools available to the contemporary artist.
And we may site examples like James Gurney, a painter who actually does appear to know a vast amount about every medium ever conceived of and uses each of them as necessary to achieve his artistic goals.
While these experiments are not always helpful, and can result in some dismal failures, I find them extremely helpful in sorting which tools work for me and which tools don't.
Monday, January 24, 2011
Friday, January 21, 2011
Thursday, January 20, 2011
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
You need to push yourself over the edge.
- By Jesper Ejsing
I never feel at ease with what I do. I think drawing and painting is damn hard and extremely difficult. I do not have a system or a basic training that I can lean on and that will help me along. Instead I have a blurred vision in my head of what the illustration should look like. My process is what I do to painfully squeeze that image out.
I try to keep myself on the path of improvement, even if that road is a bumpy one with tons of obstacles pitt-fals and enemies at every crossing. I stay on that path by setting goals for myself with every drawing I undertake. ”This one, Jesper, you have to do more dynamic than anything you have done before” or ”His face is gonna have to look 3D as if it was a hologram” or ” She should be so sexy, that people will blush just looking at the painting” or ”Pull yourself together, Jesper and do a detailed background for once, you lazy bastard”. If I didn´t yell at myself every single time, I am affraid I would loose my creativity.
What I do to avoid the great abyss called repetation or routine, is I force myself, with all the will I can muster, to do something new or something a bit more difficult everytime I start a new illustration. It is easy to just do the drawings the way I am used to. Solve the problems the same way as lasttime. I could easily do yet another fighter in cool outfit looking cool and powerfull at the wiever. But even if the art assignment is somthing like: ”A fighter looking angry and threatening at us”, I try to squeeze something else out of it. I just got assigned 6 covers in a row with figures basicly just standing there. What I did was consentrating on getting the poses interresting. I had the figures pose in a slightly different way than simply up and down. The head to the site, the hand twisted, the weight a little off. Most time I stand up and place myself the way the figure is standing, to try and get a feel for the pose. I got a mirror. I look silly. But I get a sense of it that is useful. Even if the giving motive is something I have done many times before, I can put at least 10% into it that is new to me. 10 % that I haven´t tried or dared try before. That is the only way to improve and keep improving.
It is also damn hard. It is the reason I am never at ease and always dread comming into the studio every morning getting that fresh eye at the painting I am doing. Because I am never totally in control or knows exactly where it is going.
Here is an awesome website for all the comic fans out there: COVER BROWSER.
Cover Browser is a massive database of over 450,000 comic covers, starting at, well.... the beginning I guess. You'd be hard pressed to think of a popular comic that you can't find on there.
Some of the scans are a little low-rez, but that's OK. For me, they mostly serve as inspiration. When I start to get frustrated with a book cover assignment, telling myself that it's the vertical format that is preventing me from excelling, I simple take a look though this site... where there are half a million examples proving otherwise.
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
A little while ago I was commissioned to do the cover to an Urban Fantasy anthology called 'The Wild Side'. One of the great things about anthologies is that you tend to have a lot more freedom with the subject matter, since you need to capture the flavor of multiple stories. In this case, the Art Director gave me an unprecedented amount freedom, and let me do whatever I wanted, provided that the image screamed of 'urban fantasy' and had a strong sex appeal.
I actually struggled with the concept way more than I thought I would, most likely because I had TOO much freedom... I just didn't know where to start. I am definitely one of those people that comes up with more creative solutions when I have a few restrictions to push against. Eventually I just started drawing every UF cliche I could think of; tattoos, guns, breasts, vampires, alleyways, etc. Before I knew it, this was what came of it.
I was able to throw absolute mud on top of the orange underpainting, and it created a very weird sense of depth. The cool/warm contrast made the upper layer absolutely vibrate off the surface. It doesn't come through very well in this photo, but in real life, it almost hurt my eyes.
It took a few coats to finally cool down the faces to where they needed to be. But ultimately, the orange underpainting served me well. I managed to get a really intense sense of light by just letting the underpainting show through.
I knew my composition was going to require some unusual type placement, so I included some sample type in my sketch. The client actually liked it enough, that they decided to let me do the final type as well. That gave me the opportunity to really cater the image to the suit the design, like leaving the forearm area really simple and dropped into shadow so that the type would pop more. It is really rare that I am given this much freedom for a commercial commission.