Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Humans Team Up with Computers to "Breed" Images

Here's a piece of digital art made by ArtBreeder, a website that generates images by machine learning, and then lets you "crossbreed" them to create new offspring.

Here's how Recomendo describes the process: "Using deep learning (AI) algorithms it generates multiple photo-realistic “children” mutations of one image. You — the gardener — select one mutant you like and then breed further generations from its descendants." 

"You can also crossbreed two different images. Very quickly, you can create infinite numbers of highly detailed album covers, logos, game characters, exotic landscapes."

The software currently doesn't "understand" the meaning of writing, but only the appearance of typographic letterforms, so the system churns out images that resemble evocative album cover designs.  

You can also create landscapes that look almost plausible, or combine dissimilar environments and see what results.

Some images appear to morph organic textures with humanoid forms, like this "feather-boa yeti." You could start with an image like this as reference, and then elaborate it with your own old-school sketch process.

Because the judgment of flesh-and-blood humans assists the computer in shaping the evolution of these images, the process yields different results than a generative adversarial network acting alone.

If you want to play with the software, it's free at ArtBreeder.
Thanks, Dan

Monday, September 16, 2019

The Posters of Ludwig Hohlwein

Ludwig Hohlwein (1874-1949) produced simple and recognizable poster designs that influenced many graphic artists in his time.

From the perspective of design impact, his work has remarkable graphic power, with organized values and strong silhouettes.

Hohlwein's work was part of a poster tradition known as "Plakatstil" (German for 'poster style') or "Sachplakat."

The posters were characterized by bold, flat colors, and playful lettering, a reaction to the subtlety and complexity of the Art Nouveau style.

Forms are simplified into a finite number of value steps. White shapes spill over into other white shapes, and the modeling of form leaves out any unnecessary detail.

Unfortunately, and perhaps unsurprisingly, he also produced Nazi posters, so his legacy is associated with that history.

However, during his time, Hohlwein's posters influenced many designers and artists in Germany, including Edmund Edel, Ernst Deutsch-Dryden, Hans Lindenstadt, Julius Klinger, Julius Gipkens, Paul Scheurich, Karl Schulpig and Hans Rudi Erdt, and they were admired by contemporary illustrators in the USA, including Edward Penfield and Coles Phillips.
Ludwig Hohlwein (1874-1949) on Wikipedia
Flickr collection of his posters
Search results on DuckDuckGo
BooksHohlwein Posters in Full Color
Ludwig Hohlwein, 1874-1949: Kunstgewerbe und Reklamekunst (German Edition)

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Nihonga Painting

Nihonga painting by Takeuchi Seiho
Nihonga is the name for a a water-based painting tradition from East Asia that uses some opaque pigments.

Madaraneko (斑猫, Tabby Cat) by Takeuchi Seihō, (1924)
Nihonga painting was introduced to Taiwan during the Japanese colonial era of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It came into its own during the Meiji and Showa eras in Japan, and is still being practiced.

It has similarities and differences with gouache painting in Europe and America. Pigments are made from natural minerals such as shells, corals, and semi-precious stones, ground to powders of different densities. The binder is a hide glue called nikawa, which, like gum arabic, can be reactivated after it dries.

The paint also uses powdered calcium carbonite called gofun that serves as an opacifier, which is used in the ground, underpainting, or the surface color. The paintings decorate hanging or folding screens, but more often they're made on stretched paper and framed under glass.
Article: Taipei Times
Wikipedia: Nihonga painting
Blog: "Nippon Dreamz: Nihonga"
Book: Nihonga: Transcending the Past : Japanese-Style Painting, 1868-1968

Friday, September 13, 2019

A Dinotopia Procession

Here's an unpublished Dinotopia painting. I painted it as a possible cover design for an FAO Schwartz catalog. But we went with another image for the final catalog. 

As I look at this painting, I can't help thinking how loud it would be for the girl with the red hair.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Wildlife Art Exhibition in Cincinnati

An exhibit of over 250 pieces of original wildlife artwork by 80 contemporary artists—including three of my dinosaur paintings—opens tomorrow, September 13, at the Cincinnati Museum Center in Ohio.
Khaan mckennai, oil on board by James Gurney
Artists in the show include: Greg Beecham, Robert Bateman, Guy Coheleach, James Gurney, Mort Solberg, Kent Ullberg, John Seerey-Lester, Jim Coe, Suzie Seerey-Lester, and John Ruthven.

The contemporary artwork was all created in the last three years, and most of it is available for purchase.
T. rex Family Bathing, 14 x 18, oil on panel
The show is called In the Audubon Tradition, recognizing that all contemporary wildlife artists — including paleoartists —  owe a debt to the pioneering work of John James Audubon (1785-1851).

T. rex in Forest, 14 x 18, oil on panel
The Museum's website says: "Explore Cincinnati Museum Center's 200-year history through the artwork of John James Audubon, John A. Ruthven and the next generation of wildlife artists. The exhibition features original works of art, including all four volumes of Audubon's Bird of America and charcoal sketches and paintings from Ruthven. Accompanying the treasured artwork are scientific specimens immortalized on canvas by the artists, including the Great Auk, an extinct bird painted by both artists."

Here's a promo video. (Link to YouTube video)

The exhibition closes January 5, 2020.
Museum website

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Dark Crystal: Behind the Scenes

When Netflix released the fantasy series "Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance," they also shared a behind-the-scenes documentary called "Crystal Calls: The Making of Dark Crystal." 

Image from Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, courtesy Netflix

The feature-length program explores how the new production builds on the vision of Jim Henson's original film from over 30 years ago. 

In some initial tests, producers explored the idea of realizing the main Gelfling characters with CGI, pairing digital characters with real puppets for the reptilian Skeksis

But the CGI and physical puppets didn't pair up convincingly onscreen, so they decided to make them all as physical puppets.

Most of the movements and expressions are manipulated by the performer. There's also some radio control and cable control, and a few of the blinks and other expressions are added digitally. 

The production enlisted some of the best puppeteers at the top of their game, and even had a guest appearance from Barnaby Dixon, who has invented a new way to puppeteer with his fingertips. 

In addition to making all the puppet characters, the production required elaborate handmade sets and props.

Several of the key creative people from the original Henson production were recruited to the Netflix show, including Brian and Wendy Froud, who sketched and sculpted concepts for the characters and costumes. All images ©copyright their respective owners.
On Netflix: 
"Crystal Calls: The Making of Dark Crystal"
• The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance: Inside the Epic Return to Thra
• The World of The Dark Crystal
• The Dark Crystal: The Ultimate Visual History
Exhibit: Creatures from the Land of Thra: Character Design for The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance
Courtesy of Netflix

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Cure for Studio Fatigue: Polka!

Randall asks: "How do you keep awake and concentrating during long work stretches?"

James Gurney: "First I try some yoga stretches, then I take a walk, and then I have a cup of coffee. If those don't work, I resort to polka. 

Here's the Finnish favorite Säkkijärvi polkka"), also called the "Karelian-Finnish Polka." (Link to YouTube)

As you listen to it, you have to turn up the volume, get up out of your chair, jump around a bit, and shake your hands around.

Helene Schjerfbeck (Finnish, 1862 – 1946) Dancing Shoes
The lyrics to the polka are about the young and the old dancing together to celebrate life under the open sky. The people are also sad that they lost some of their beloved forests to enemy invaders. Even the horses are "clenching their teeth and lamenting." But at least they have their polka, the song says.

The Swingle Singers also did a mysterious and lively a capella version. (Link to YouTube)

Monday, September 9, 2019

William John Leech

William John Leech (Irish, 1881-1968) often asked his first wife, Elizabeth Saurine, to model for him. Several of his paintings feature her elegant profile.

William John Leech "Girl with a Tinsel Scarf."
Leech studied in Paris before traveling to visit regional areas of France, where many artists combined Impressionist sensibilities with accurate drawing.
William John Leech "The Sunshade" c.1913
Oil on canvas, 81 x 65 cm
According to the National Gallery of Ireland: "In the background, the tall stems of lilies are visible. The setting may be the garden in Concarneau, where Leech painted his well-known picture A Convent Garden, Brittany (c.1913; National Gallery of Ireland). The parasol filters the sun and casts green shadows on the woman’s face. Both the bold colouring and the patches of light are characteristic of Leech’s Post-Impressionist style."

William John Leech "A Convent Garden in Brittany"
National Gallery in Dublin
The National Gallery says of this famous work:
"In this picture, Leech’s first wife Elizabeth poses as a novice of the Soeurs du Saint-Esprit, looking up contemplatively from her prayer book, as nuns from the same order, their heads bowed in prayer, process through the shadows in the background. The setting is the walled garden of the nuns’ hospital and convent in Concarneau, in which Leech had convalesced in 1904, having contracted typhoid fever. Elizabeth wears the Breton bridal costume traditionally donned by novices on the day they took their final vows.
The painting reflects an interest in the religious devotion of the Breton community that Leech shared with many visiting artists, but also the artist’s particular love of sunlight and pattern."

Cincinnati Museum to Host Wildlife Art Exhibition

A special exhibit of artwork by contemporary wildlife artists, including three of my dinosaur paintings, opens on September 12 at the Cincinnati Museum Center in Ohio.

T. rex Family Bathing, 14 x 18, oil on panel
Artists include: Greg Beecham, Robert Bateman, Guy Coheleach, James Gurney, Mort Solberg, Kent Ullberg, John Seerey-Lester, Jim Coe, Suzie Seerey-Lester, and John Ruthven.

T. rex in Forest, 14 x 18, oil on panel
Most of the items, including mine, will be for sale. 

Here's more:
"In the Audubon Tradition" Exhibition - This fall the newly renovated Cincinnati Museum Center is celebrating the 200th anniversary of its Museum of Natural History & Science. Founded in 1818 as the Western History Society, its doors opened in 1820. Its first employee was famed naturalist and artist, John James Audubon. To help commemorate the 200th anniversary of Audubon’s amazing creative efforts, the Susan Kathleen Black Foundation is sponsoring a unique exhibition at the Cincinnati Museum Center, “In the Audubon Tradition“ Exhibition & Sale… featuring the birds and wildlife of North America, September 12th, 2019 - Jan 5, 2020. The exhibition includes nearly 100 of today’s most celebrated and accomplished painters and sculptors, following in the artistic tradition that John James Audubon began 200 years ago."
(Link to YouTube video)
Museum website

Museum website