Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Oscar Reuterswäld, Master of Illusion

Oscar Reuterswäld (1915-2002) has been called the "father of the impossible figure." 

He created many drawings that looked solid, but that couldn't actually be built in three dimensions.

One of his best known illusions is the impossible staircase, made even more famous by Roger Penrose and M.C. Escher.
Oscar Reuterswäld on Wikipedia

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Watercolor of Another Artist by Polenov

Polenov's watercolor portrait of a another artist at work reminds us of a basic strategy in watercolor painting. In the dress, notice how he laid down the large dark shape first and then defined the smaller folds and wrinkles. Big shapes first, details second.

Vasily Polenov (1844–1927) Portrait of N. Yakunchikova

She's using a wooden box hinged open with an upward extension, and she has her painting surface (probably oil on panel) almost vertical. 

Monday, January 17, 2022

Spectrum Fantastic Art Quarterly

The new book called Spectrum Fantastic Art Quarterly takes a fresh look at what's already been published about Frank Frazetta. 

Instead of just adding to "The Legend" of Frazetta, publisher and author Arnie Fenner documents the behind-the-scenes story of how Frazetta and his wife Ellie created and maintained the legend. 

We hear from Frazetta's sisters Carol and Jean, his children Bill, Holly, and Heidi Frazetta, granddaughter Sara, plus collaborators Steve Gordon, Bill Stout, and me. 

I share a few reminiscences about working with Frazetta on the animated film Fire and Ice. The whole article is 18 pages long and includes plenty of unpublished art and photos.

In another feature, artist Kristine Poole interviews award-winning sculptor Forest Rogers.

There's a 10 page article where Cathy Fenner interviews Hugo-Award-winning artist Elizabeth Leggett. 

And the book includes;
• Q and A with Lauren Panepinto, Creative Director of Orbit Books
• 28 page feature on Dan dos Santos about his covers for the Mercy Thompson series of fantasy books.
• Gregory Manchess shares ten secrets to painting a successful book cover.
• And remembrances of fantasy masters who have passed this year: Richard Corben, Stephen Hickman, Ron Cobb, and Rowena Morrill

Spectrum Fantastic Art Quarterly is a full color, 92-page 12 x 12 inch softcover book-like magazine. It's edited by Cathy and Arnie Fenner. The print run is only 1000 copies, there's no online or electronic version.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Self Portrait with Sleeping Baby

There's nothing like a sleeping one-month-old baby to make a new dad sit still for an hour or two. Yeah, that's me, minus 34 years.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Sculpting a Bobble Head Dog

I made a little bobblehead sculpture of Smooth to give my son for his birthday. (Link to YouTube)


There are basically two types of bobble head designs: 

1) Head on a loose, bouncy spring, which works for upright human characters.
2) Head on a counterweight, which works best for animals.

With type 2, the trick is to make the head light enough to balance against the lead weight, so I used craft foam for the head. You also have to sculpt the hollow body with enough space for the counterweight to swing freely up and down and side to side. 

All the materials are linked in the description of the YouTube video. 

Friday, January 14, 2022

Koolasuchus Named Victoria's State Fossil

Car-sized monster amphibian Koolasuchus has been chosen by public vote as the state fossil emblem of Victoria, Australia.

It was one of the subjects of the "Australia's Age of Dinosaurs" stamp issue that I designed for Australia Post.

Museums Victoria: Victoria's 'kool' new State Fossil Emblem Koolasuchus cleelandi

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Anisotropic Material

Some surfaces reflect a different value depending on the angle they're seen by the viewer. This surface property is called anisotropic.

Such materials include brushed stainless steel (above), horse hair, velvet (below), wood grain, or a wet road. 

Bearded Man with a Velvet Cap, 1645, Govert Flinck Dutch, Met Museum, NY

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Bongo, the Plesiadapis

Bongo is a good animal to have on your team. He's 3.5 feet long and likes to eat frogs and nuts. He's good at rock climbing, with a good hand with the lasso. In his backpack tool kit he's got a rope, a grappling hook and a hammer, and he knows how to use them.

In Dinotopia: First Flight, I was excited to include some of the mammals from the fossil record, such as Plesiadapis, since we tend to fixate so much on dinosaurs. I was inspired by Joseph Campbell's idea of hero partners with specific skills and talents who join you on a quest.


Dinotopia: First Flight (signed)

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Under a Freezing Waterfall

This Japanese woodblock print by Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861) shows a man sitting under a waterfall. 

Here's an explanation: "The priest Mongaku Shonin doing thirty-seven days penance under the freezing Nachi waterfall near Kyoto. He is helped by Fudo Myo-o’s two attendants Seitaka and Kongara seen here top right. This act of self-mortification is because he accidentally killed his beloved cousin Kesa." Source of quote 

The water effects are stylized into four zones: 
1. Vertical curtains of falling water.
2. Radiating spray from his head.
3. Splatters of foam in front of him.
4. Blue billows of water.

The stylization yields a powerful graphic impact. Even if your goal is a realistic approach, it's good to analyze your subject for thematic groups of visual elements.

Book: SAMURAI-YOKAI WARS: Monsters, Ghosts & Demons By Kuniyoshi (Samurai Ghost Wars)

Monday, January 10, 2022

How to Edit an Art Video

The upcoming issue of International Artist Magazine has my top tips for making art videos.

For example, here's what I suggest in the section on Editing:

Don’t waste the viewer’s time.
✅ Do cut anything that doesn’t advance the story.

Don’t hide your reference.
✅ Do show a short video clip of the scene you’re looking at or the photo you’re working from. To save cutting, put the subject and painting side by side in split-screen mode.

Don’t use gimmicky transitions.
✅ Do use straight cuts, dissolves (to suggest time passing between similar shots), and fade-to-black (for an interruption or shift in story).

Don’t leave out key steps, but at the other extreme, don’t be tedious.
✅ Do capture the key moments when you make noticeable changes. Show the steps along the way, without any large leaps. If there’s a part of the process that’s repetitive or boring, just include a representative segment of it, and then dissolve between clips of it at various stages, or speed up the playback.

Don’t just show off and make it look easy.
✅ Do share your mistakes. Show how to fix them. It goes against the presenter’s instincts to switch on the camera when things screw up, but it makes for better instruction and better storytelling. As YouTube community member Travis Noble said: “Watching an expert make mistakes is the best part of an art tutorial, because you learn truly what makes the difference between an expert and beginner is not in the mistakes but how they recover from them.”

I learned a lot from the 200+ user comments from on my YouTube Community page. Thanks to all who contributed.

The article is in issue #143 (Feb/March 2022) of International Artist Magazine.

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Louise Wright Paints a Fashion Illo

It's rare to see step-by-step sequences for illustrations done over a century ago. 

British illustrator Louise Wright (born 1863) creates a fashion plate with two female figures, and the process was captured by Percy Bradshaw in a book called The Art of the Illustrator

Stage 1: "The figures are lightly touched in with pencil on Roberson’s Fashion Board, B surface (extra smooth), the board measuring 14 inches wide by 21 inches high. The design of the costumes is original, and was suggested by certain characteristic details which were in fashion at the time when Miss Wright commenced the drawing."

Stage 2: "Brush work is commenced, Lamp Black and Sables of various sizes from No. 0 to No. 5 being used. Faint washes of tone are introduced into the face seen in profile, for instance around the eyes, nose and chin, while in the other face light washes can be seen across the forehead, down the nose, mouth and shadow side of the face, beneath the chin, and on the neck of the front view."

Stage 3: "The modeling of the faces is carried considerably further, by stippling up the light tones previously introduced. Dead white is still left over the major portion of the heads, but the strengthening of tone which would be noted in the reproduction is accomplished by a delicate cross-hatching with the point of the brush used comparatively dry. This cross-hatching needs very dexterous manipulation, and wherever it is possible to obtain the effect by fresh washes it is preferable."

Stage 4: "
The artist has been chiefly concerned here with the strengthening of tone all over the outdoor costume, while the Evening dress is taken a stage further by the introduction of some fresh, simple washes. It was noticed, in working upon the outdoor costume, that the drawing of the left hip created a somewhat ugly line, and the outline has consequently been reduced or flattened here by the introduction of a little Chinese White. A flat light wash has been taken all over the cloth portion of the dress, the folds at the left arm and the outline of the bust have been more definitely shaded, and the sash in the centre very considerably increased in color."

Stage 5: "The drapery of the sleeve has also been emphasized by outlining each of the shadows with this opaque white, a wash has been carried over the edge of the sleeve to form a frill, and further broad touches of white added to give transparency to the material. A bunch of flowers has been broadly indicated, chiefly with a wash of tone, the petals of the white rose being indicated with the opaque white, the dark flower with a wash of half tone, the shadows being filled in with black. The high lights on the waist-band have also been emphasized with the Blanc d’Argent and the outline of the band defined in the same way."

Stage 6: "The hair has been slightly strengthened in color, the outline of the face altered by introducing a slightly fuller chin, and rather more prominence and fullness in the lips, which formerly suggested a rather simpering mouth. These alterations have been made with Chinese White. The eye and eyebrow have been introduced more heavily, the lips strengthened in color, the line at the back of the neck more definitely drawn."

On Percy Bradshaw "The Art of the Illustrator"

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Color in French Art Prints

The Clark Art Institute in northwestern Massachusetts is presenting an exhibit of French printmaking called Hue and Cry: French Printmaking and the Debate Over Colors. It examines how color found its way into the world of black and white prints. 

Philibert Louis Debucourt, The Climb, or Morning Farewell, 1787, 
Color engraving on paper. The Clark Art Institute, 1955.1897.

The earliest prints were all black and white, using methods such as woodcut, wood engraving, and etching. When the technology made it possible to print in full color, tastemakers in France dismissed them, arguing that they were cheap and low-class. 

The exhibit includes fine examples of these early intaglio color prints, such as the one above.

When color lithography was developed, artists embraced it as a fast and efficient method that was perfect for large public posters. The show includes many prints by Jules Chéret, the master of the show poster.

Jules Chéret, Lady with a Mask [Comedy], c. 1891, Lithograph in sanguine on paper. The Clark Art Institute, 1955.2391.

I was also impressed by the informal sanguine prints by Jules Chéret, where he explores different arrangements of carefree figures. 

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, An Englishman at the Moulin Rouge

The exhibition also includes prints by Pierre Bonnard, Mary Cassatt, Paul Cézanne, Maurice Denis, Camille Pissarro, Edouard Vuillard, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.  

I was hoping the show would include printed works by Alphonse Mucha. He was Czech, technically, but he was the major star in the Paris print scene, and his graphic works were extremely influential. Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen and Eugène Grasset were also notably missing from the show, perhaps because the Clark doesn't have good examples of the color prints in their collection. 

A secondary exhibit called "Competing Currents" about Japanese prints of the 20th century makes a perfect enhancement to the show. I'll share more about that on a future post. 

Hue and Cry: French Printmaking and the Debate Over Colors closes March 6. Admission is free for the month of January.

Friday, January 7, 2022

Jim Lawlor's 'Remember When'

Jim Lawlor ran the "Remember When" shop and soda parlor in Germantown, NY. It was full of memorabilia of the grand old days of soda parlors: old radios, metal signs, and Coca-Cola painted trays. He put cellophane over the shelves to discourage collectors from asking if they could buy the stuff.

Jim had one corner of the shop still functioning, and he loved to play the role of soda jerk. He would use his still-functioning soda machine to make you a cream soda or a root beer float. 

If he really liked you he'd invite you to sit with him in his classic 1950s car (I forget the model) with big tail fins and soft tires that was forever parked next to the building.

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Sarah Bernhardt's Inkwell

Sarah Bernhardt (1845-1923) was not just an actress. She was also a sculptor. In 1879 she created this bronze inkwell in the form of a self-portrait. The inkwell traveled with her on her American tour, and was shown in the lobbies of theaters where she had starring performances.

Her head is tipped forward, and she appears in chimera form as a rare and ominous mythological creature, with bat wings and griffin feet clutching the ink vessel. 

According to the Clark Art Institute, which acquired the piece in 2020, "As one of the first celebrities in the age of photography, she was no stranger to having her likeness reproduced, which gave her a deep understanding of the power of public image as a tool for self-promotion and creative expression."

Previous posts about Sarah Bernhardt

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Norchia in Perspective

Norchia is the site of a necropolis created by the ancient Etruscans in Italy, with fake buildings carved out of volcanic tuff. On the bluff above they conducted funerary games. 

I painted this aerial view in oil for the National Geographic magazine, and planned the scene with a perspective drawing.

If you have a question about perspective — (it could be a basic, practical question, or a more obscure one) —please ask me on this Speakpipe link. The website lets you record and review a brief voice message that I might incorporate in a future video.


Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Enchanted Goes Next to Tennessee


"Enchanted: A History of Fantasy Illustration" will travel next to Tennessee in May 20, 2022 through September 5, 2022  

"Skeleton Pirate" and "Garden of Hope

Two of my paintings were part of the big fantasy exhibition, which happened summer 2021 at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
Artists also include Arthur Rackham, William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Gustave Doré, NC Wyeth, Herbert Draper, Howard Pyle, Maxfield Parrish, Frank Frazetta, Winsor McCay, Jessie Willcox Smith, Joseph Clement Coll,  Willy Pogany, J. Allen St. John, Dean Cornwell, Virgil Finlay, Hal Foster, and many more.

The catalog produced by Abbeville, includes 180 images, mostly in color, with essays by Alice Carter, Stephanie Plunkett, and others.

After it goes to the Hunter Museum of America Art in Chattanooga, the exhibition "Enchanted: A History of Fantasy Illustration" will travel to the Flint Institute of Arts, Flint, MI -- September 23, 2022 through January 8, 2023

Monday, January 3, 2022

Ask Your Question About Perspective

The thing I found the most challenging on this one was the perspective drawing. 

Scart Road, Bantry, watercolor, 9 x 12 inches.

I knew all those buildings have different vanishing points from each other. And the road has its own set of vanishing points below eye level. And I expected I would be tricked by those building fronts, which were extremely foreshortened.

But even knowing all that, I still had to erase and redraw the pencil drawing three times until I was convinced I had it right.

You can ask me your question about perspective on the SpeakPipe website. I might use your question in a future video.

Sunday, January 2, 2022

Vladimir Orlovsky

Vladimir Orlovsky (1842-1914) was a Ukranian painter who used dramatic lighting to create a spacious feeling.

The main subject of the horses and people on the frozen road is not dramatically lit, but instead held in a soft shadow. The brighter light is in the foreground and in the far sky.

The wide open basin of the Dniepr river stretches out peacefully in the far distance.

This one uses the opposite regime of light, with an illuminated foreground and a road leading back into a soft cloud shadow.
Book: Vladimir Orlovsky: Selected Paintings

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Painting a Beaver Dam in Winter

 In this new YouTube video, I do a plein-air gouache painting of a beaver dam in winter, with a light coating of snow.

There was a lot of detail to capture. Since I couldn't paint every twig, I had to invent a way to suggest the detail using wet-into-wet passages and drybrush.

Here are the colors I used: