Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Miyazaki at Work

10 Years with Hayao Miyazaki is a 4-part documentary that's currently free to stream online. 

It follows the legendary animation director's creative struggles as he develops the Studio Ghibli films Ponyo and The Wind Rises. Chain-smoking and irritable, Miyazaki tolerates a single cameraman, who follows him through his daily routine, including his life at home and his role at studio meetings.

With spare narration and a vérité spirit, the documentary doesn't shy away from the dead ends and frustrations, even for such a successful and productive artist. For Miyazaki, each film begins as a lonely and personal journey before it becomes a collective group enterprise.

"Miyazaki works in a constant cloud of doubt and anxiety," the narrator comments. When visiting London, Miyazaki is struck by Millais' Ophelia, and he feels his work is at a dead end. He shifts his working place to a new house and experiments with new materials to refresh his approach. In the end, the lesson is to trust your heart...and trust the process.
10 Years with Hayao Miyazaki from NHK World
Episode 1: Ponyo is Here
View Episodes 2-4

Book: The Art of Spirited Away
Via Cartoon Brew

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Brangwyn's Reference

For his British Empire murals, Frank Brangwyn (1867-1956) went to the trouble of posing models and setting up a grid to transfer the drawing. 

But he still changed what was in the reference to make it please him as a decorative design. Note the way the fingers of the right hand arch outward, and the way he completely invented the drapery.

Do you like the changes he made? Did he overdo it, or did he achieve a pleasing geometry?

Monday, June 24, 2019

How They Made "Big Heads"

"Big Heads" was a game show for British TV where ordinary contestants wore giant celebrity heads while trying to accomplish slapstick challenges.

Adrian Teal, designs for Prince Harry for "Big Heads"
To make the big head masks, producers began by commissioning drawings of each celebrity from multiple angles.  

This making-of video (Link to YouTube) shows how the drawings were interpreted in 3D clay sculpts. They cast the sculpts into lightweight shells that were a base for flocking, felt, paint, and wiggly eyes.

Sculpt in process by Plunge Creations. 
The heads had to be strong, light, and safe because contestants routinely had to fall on them.

Here are some highlights from the show, which aired on the ITV network. (Link to YouTube) Unfortunately after all this work, the show proved a disappointment, and was canceled after its first season.
Caricaturist Adrian Teal's website
Lots more pictures and info at Plunge Creations website.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Gericault Watercolor Sketches

Théodore Géricault (1791-1824) is best known for oil paintings such as Raft of the Medusa, and for his oil studies, but he often used watercolor for his animal sketches.

He sketched from life using pencil and watercolor, plus sometimes a little gouache. He was always obsessed with horses, and traveled to London, where he traveled to the wharves and markets sketching horses pulling coal wagons and carts.

Attributed to Géricault, Horse in a Loose Box,
watercolor with highlights over pencil.
Watercolor lends itself to quick studies, and to fine work at a small scale. This horse study is just 5 x 8 inches.

This work horse is about 8 x 10 inches. 

Even a couple of simple light washes can make a sketch of a dog come to life.
Théodore Géricault on Wikipedia
Gericault An Album of Drawings in The Art Institute of Chicago
French Drawings from the 15th century through Géricault (Drawings of the masters)

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Diwakar Karkare's Bollywood Posters

Diwakar Karkare was one of the leading artists for Bollywood movies, back in the day when hand-painted posters were crucial to marketing films to rural India.

One of his most important posters was for the 1975 film Deewaar, which helped establish actor Amitabh Bachchan (in the red shirt above) as an 'angry young man' film star.

Diwakar Karkare often painted with palette knives and he produced many of his posters in gouache.

His posters are popular not only in India, but also in China, Russia, and other countries where American movies were blocked from import, but Hindi-language movies were allowed in.

In the 1990s, most of the art switched to photos and Photoshop. Consequently, collectors now prize the handmade images of the earlier era.
Bollywood Posters (Thames and Hudston)
The Art of Bollywood (Taschen)
Bollywood in Poster (Om Books)

Friday, June 21, 2019

Gouache Adventure: The Green Footpath

Let's head out on a new adventure with the husky dog "Smooth." 

The Green Footpath leads us back into the woods, and I decide to paint the sun on the overgrown road. (Link to Video on YouTube)  

Nature writer John Burroughs (1837-1931) wrote in his essay "Footpaths": 
"An intelligent English woman, spending a few years in this country with her family, says that one of her serious disappointments is that she finds it utterly impossible to enjoy nature here as she can at home — so much nature as we have and yet no way of getting at it ; no paths, or byways, or stiles, or foot-bridges, no provision for the pedestrian outside of the public road. 
One would think the people had no feet and legs in this country, or else did not know how to use them. Last summer she spent the season near a small rural village in the valley of the Connecticut, but it seemed as if she had not been in the country : she could not come at the landscape ; she could not reach a wood or a hill or a pretty nook anywhere without being a trespasser, or getting entangled in swamps or in fields of grass and grain, or having her course blocked by a high and difficult fence; no private ways, no grassy lanes; nobody walking in the fields or woods, nobody walking anywhere for pleasure, but every-body in carriages or wagons. 
She was staying a mile from the village, and every day used to walk down to the post-office for her mail ; but instead of a short and pleasant cut across the fields, as there would have been in England, she was obliged to take the highway and face the dust and the mud and the staring people in their carriages."
Read Burroughs 1881 essay Footpaths
Cat's Tongue Brush

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Tomb of Merlin

Tomb of Merlin by Joseph Michael Gandy, 1815

In this architectural watercolor by Joseph Michael Gandy, Merlin's tomb glows in the center of the dark undercroft of Rosslyn Chapel. Merlin was a wizard from the Arthurian legends who helped initiate the Quest for the Holy Grail.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Eduard Thöny's Caricatures

I always encourage young caricaturists to study the masters of the past, rather than looking too much at the contemporary scene.

Eduard Thöny (1866-1950) was a German caricaturist best known for producing as many as 3400 drawings for the political satire magazine Simplicissimus. 

He was the son of a woodcarver. Many of his silhouettes seem carved in wood.  He studied in Munich and Paris. He traveled with his artist friends to Marseilles, Algiers, Tunis, Naples and Rome.

The graphic impact comes from simplified shapes and well organized tones. He liked to contrast two different characters: young vs. old, rich vs. poor, man vs. woman. According to Kunkel Fine Art:
"In his illustrations for Simplicissimus he depicted figures from all walks of life – members of the aristocracy and the proletariat, military figures and the bourgeoisie, bohemians and the elite. Themes like social vanity, intellectual blindness and moral neglect abound in his work but his drawings were never designed to injure or harm the characters depicted. His intention was that of an anthropologist, using ink, pen and brush to capture the character type behind each individual."

Look at the long toes on this guy and the repeating round forms on the woman.

The cropping of the man's pose makes him seem bigger and closer. He experimented with novel techniques in drawing, combining India ink with opaque white gouache, and laying down tones with a spray technique lends many of the caricatures a painterly quality.

Drunken ladies surround a rich old man, and they have playfully switched hats. Who is in charge of this situation?

The printed work of the day encouraged a limited palette of flat colors defined by a few selected lines.

Eduard Thöny, Munich Largesse, 1911
Mixed media on paper laid down on cardboard, 33.5 : 27 cm
For most of its run, Simplicissimus was tolerated by the government, but over the years, artists, writers, and editors were occasionally fined or jailed for mocking the clergy or the Kaiser. News of these sanctions increased circulation, and the magazine flourished until it began to reinforce the official party line. It went into hiatus in 1944.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Flagg Paints the Instrument Makers

In 1907, American illustrator James Montgomery Flagg found a newspaper clipping about a remote town in Germany called Markneukirchen, where they made some of the world's best musical instruments.

He decided to travel there to paint the craftsmen at work. It was a remote destination far from the train lines, requiring days of arduous travel. 

When he arrived, he didn't have an introduction, nor did he speak German, and they didn't know who he was. At first no one wanted to pose for this strange artist. 

But eventually he managed to meet the right people and get permission to set up his art supplies in the instrument makers' workshops. 

(Painting by Flagg, courtesy the Markneukirchen Musical Instrument Museum.)
He painted a portrait of Heinrich Theodor Heberlein Jr., known as the "Modern Stradivarius."

They made not only violins, cellos, and basses, but also brass instruments. The fumes in the brass shops were so overwhelming he had to sit outside under an umbrella. One model "held a six-foot iron ladle full of hot lead for a half hour, without resting it against anything!"

Everyone in the village, even older men in their 60s, stayed up until 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning, talking and singing. Then they woke up at six the next morning to get to work. When they weren't making instruments they were playing them.
"The workmen in the town have numerous bands of their own, and the instruments they play on are those made by themselves. There is a young boys' band which marches quickly through the streets on certain occasions, followed by scores of children. They play one tune for miles, it seems—no sooner finishing it than they start over again, much to their own joy."

Learn more
• Flagg published his sketches and recollections in an article in Scribner's Magazine. You can read the article online at this link.

• There's also a more detailed summary of Flagg's sketching adventure at this instrument maker blog.

• Wikipedia on James Montgomery Flagg (1877-1960)

• A profile of Flagg is included in Fred Taraba's book: Masters of American Illustration: 41 Illustrators and How They Worked...

• There's an illustrated monograph about James Montgomery Flagg.

• Markneukirchen is still a center for instrument making. See what the factories look like now on this YouTube video.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Inside the Brooder Box

Huddled under the warm light of the brooder box is a lively new clutch of guinea fowl keets.

(Link to Facebook video) I set up my stool and dive into the scene in watercolor.

The keets doze off most of the time in the back of the box, and they scramble around when they're startled.
Previously: Guinea Fowl and Donkeys