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Posted by Justin

-By Justin Gerard

Recently, I released 3 new Photoshop brush sets containing nearly 100 of the digital tools that I use for my personal and client jobs.  For today's post I am sharing a few videos which show these brushes in action, as well as the method I use when I work digitally. 

Demo from the Pencil Set

Samples from the Pencil Set

Why bother making your own brushes? 
The reason I started making my own brushes was that my first true love was traditional media. When I discovered digital painting, I fell in love with so much of what it could do, but I found that most of the digital brushes looked too, well... “digital.”  They look flat, plastic and they lack character.

To make matters worse, my favorite use for digital painting was to apply it over top of a traditional underpainting. But I found that most digital brushes looked unnatural over traditional material, and the final painting would feel unfinished and soulless.

To solve this problem, I sample scans of MY OWN BLOOD.  (just kidding)  I sample scans of actual brush strokes, paint splatters, pencil marks and paper textures, made with various traditional tools and surfaces. (And some spilled coffee)
I then arrange all of the 10 billion sliders and knobs in Photoshop to arrive at a specific mathematical formula. This transmits my subconscious into the computer, you know, like that guy from Tron. And once inside, there is a whole universe in there, filled with millions of people, all of whom hate me and want to kill me with laser frisbees and motorcycles.  BUT I KILL THEM INSTEAD. And I use their ground up bones to make my digital brushes. 

*ahem* Anyway, once I have imported these "real" marks and input all the correct settings into Photoshop, I am left with better brushes that look natural alongside traditional media and leaves you with something that feels traditional, yet unique. Sort of like the robots that will soon be among us; they aren't quite human, but close enough that you won't be that bothered by them serving you fries at McDonalds.

(Coffee. Not human blood!) 

I'll be releasing 6 more sets this year. Next week I will be releasing a set made up of coffee spills! 

Colorizing a drawing with the Texture Set

Colorizing a traditional drawing using the Watercolor Vol. I Set

To learn more, check them out here on our store!

Pretty Pictures Failing

May. 22nd, 2017 05:34 am
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Posted by Ejsing

-By Jesper Ejsing

These days I am hired frequently as a concept artist. I am not a concept artist, but see myself as an illustrator, but I have always been very fascinated by concept art and the mere fact that I could do illustrations without having to fine render it all to perfection made me jump into this business happily and without hesitation.

I have been thinking lately about my concept art - "Don´t do that, Jesper. Don´t think, just draw". The voice in my head starts arguing again. But this time he is wrong. I have been thinking lately about what I am doing wrong and I thing it is NOT thinking enough!

When I am asked to do a concept art push for a new world being it a game or a new setting for Magic teh Gathering or something similar, it is my job to come up with a visual homogeneous vision of a race or a tribe or a landscape and so on. At first "Yeah! I can do whatever I want. But the more I draw the more I feel like it is all just a mess of elements I have stolen from real life references or historical costumes. It lacks the visual shape language that makes it unique. As an example think of Tim Burtons universes. They all have his tell tale spiral. Or Moebius Starwatcher series. As soon as you see the tall hats and the bright pastel colors, you recognize it right away. They all have a unique form and shape that is incorporated in the whole world they create.

Searching for that visual cue, is the most important thing in concept art. I see that now. I did not before. What I did was trying to make pretty pictures. Like I do when I am asked to paint illustrations.

In these examples from 3 years ago I was doing a small selection of Gypsy Characters for Dungeons and Dragons. The assignment was really simple. Draw a bunch of different professions of gypsies.

Looking back I wish I had focused more on the visual cue that would tie them together. Instead I concentrated on portraying characters - like I was going to play these guys as a role playing character. That is also fine. I know, But from a concept art point of view they are just pretty pictures and not adding to a homogeneous world. They are separate figure drawings. Nothing ties them together. Do not get me wrong. I like the illustrations. I just wanna be more Moebius and less "Men at Arms"

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Posted by Muddy Colors

This month's Patreon video 'A Portrait in Pencil, with Greg Ruth' is now available for download.

In this 2.5 hour demo, Greg Ruth walks us though his process of creating a fantasy portrait in graphite. Using one of his Dune-themed pieces as an example, Greg discusses not only how he creates convincing form, but how he imbues his portraits with a sense of character and backstory. Additionally, Greg takes the time to demonstrate how he creates the unusual textures he is so well known for, such as smoke and stars.

This video is available to all of our Patrons who donate $10 or more. If you are not a donor, but are interested in acquiring this video, please consider making a donation here: https://www.patreon.com/muddycolors

Model at Rest

May. 21st, 2017 12:00 am
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Posted by Muddy Colors

Anita Meseldžija Das (1952 - 2017). Paintings by Petar Meseldžija

Gesture Drawing Is A Part of My Life

May. 20th, 2017 06:00 am
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Posted by Ron Lemen

-By Ron Lemen

I do a lot of sketching before any job, and I do a lot of sketching beyond the job.  I sketch to stay in shape.  My weekly calisthenics include drawing from life, in my opinion, the most important sketching to do as often as possible.  It is the major and minor scales of our visual language. The tones we see are as sensitive as the tones a musician hears, and as a skilled musician will play scales along with their music on a daily basis, if we want to stay on top of our game we need to continue plugging away at the basics.

Here area few different drawings from various evenings this last semester in the gesture drawing class I teach at LAAFA.  I have a brief explanation for the motivation behind the drawings.  I put little ashcan books together each Comic-Con with a collection of these along with lessons to learn about quick sketching.  It is fun to look back at each drawing, and it is really great to have all the memories surrounding each drawing from that day still fresh in my head when I look through the various pages.  The following drawings are 3 - 5 minutes each using charcoal in most of the drawings and design marker in several.

This first sketch is using design abstraction to link the various anatomical landmarks together through the center line of the figure.  I had two goals here, the first is abstracting the musculature and connecting the muscles together in a design aesthetic similar to how Dean Cornwell would construct and connect his anatomical designs.  The second goal was to achieve volume within each physical region of the body through varying the edges.

Here is another figure using design and direction as a means of sculpting the form and building movement in the action.  Here I am using parallel line structure to generate form and movement through thick and thin, soft and sharp, or the combination of line types.

This set of drawings is a page of form drawings, using value and edge to tell the story of the form design of the figure.  I am using a cleaner tonality and softer gradation technique here to achieve a very solid form design, where the bottom right figure is using parallel lines to describe the form, more like the way Leyendecker would build out various tones and gradients in his figures.

Here are a few more figures where the goal was to build out dimension and form using both line strokes and tones/gradients to explain the light and shadow.  You can see these drawings built out on my Instagram feed.  It should be one of the most recent posts.  I am posting more of these drawings done live on Instagram at the time that I am creating them on most Tuesday afternoons during my class.

These drawings are also developing form but using the anatomical rhythms between and across muscle groups and edges of bones.  So much can be seen with very few simplified and deliberate marks.

These are both form driven sketches done with the Touch Design Markers, both are roughly 20" tall on 24" paper.  On this tracing paper the markers can be manipulated like paint, achieving wet into wet effects, pick out, and blending are all very easy accomplish.

These two pages are very quick sketches working on using line to solve the movement and the weight of the pose.  Heavy handedness is encouraged in this exercise, and simplicity is an absolute must.  I think these could still be even simpler.

This last page is using calligraphic shapes, a shape language of sorts, to first build out the design of the pose, then using edge and if time warrants, also using value to build out the dimensions within the abstractions.  

I draw every day.  I practice most of that time knowing that without the practice the craft I do will atrophy or stagnate.  I love what I do too much to allow that to happen.  These gesture sketches definitely hone the skills and keep the eyes sharp, and just knowing that will keep me coming back for more.  I absolutely recommend sketching from life frequently, if not often if you are pushing yourself, trying to level up, or just trying to maintain a fresh hand in all the heavy loads of work that have to be accomplished.  

Stay fresh in the skills, sketch from life and enjoy the process.
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Posted by Greg Ruth

-By Greg Ruth

So I was recently asked to take on a last minute rush job for Criterion for a forthcoming DVD/Blu Ray release of the Michael Curtiz film, BREAKING POINT. Last minute rush pants-on-fire gigs are pretty common in my orbit. True for most of us I suspect. Typically Eric Skillman will get in touch about taking on a film, (I've done a few to date). The usual rub is I'll get a dvd of the pre-attended-to film if it hasn't already been made beautiful through the Criterionomatron (Their film restoration process is not called this but it should be, just saying), and I'll sit down and watch it with a sketchpad at the ready to mark time notes for particular scenes or imagery through which to find a cover and or interior illustrations that might be needed. I work up some proposed thumbnail ideas, we pick and choose and hone down things, execute the drawing and go through another round of approvals, go to finish and repeat and repeat until we're done.

This time however, I had a mere 2 or so working days to take this on, given the other obligations already on the table for the week- insane by any account, but also this time, much of the deciding had been decided upon already. (I got the call to deal with this issue on a Tuesday and it was due the following Monday). But I don't say no to a challenege if I think I can meet it, and try never to say no to Eric because, well, I love the work so much it's always a pleasure to tackle, even when it's nutburger like this. To be fair to him and everyone at Criterion, this is highly unusual. They almost always allow for a proper amount of time to take on a piece, and even when it's a rush job as A Touch of Zen and Dragon Inn were, they have never been THIS rushed. But I kind of got my start doing a rush fill in gig back for the Matrix Comics and have been relied upon to do this same dance for others ever since. There's far worse reputations to have in this business than being Johnny-On-The-Spot when needed. The trick of garnering and maintaining this rep is not only to say yes when someone comes with their head aflame, it's delivering what they need at a quality that they would ideally like to see if they had more time to give you. Whatever rush fee gets tacked on to your commission for taking this on, and there always should be one, the real dividend here is the relationship. I've worked for Criterion for a while now, I consider Eric a friend and I adore the work they do for the history of film. S0 this was a no-brainer.

Alright. Essentially they had chosen a cover image from a screen capture of the film, worked up the title treatment etc, gotten it approved and then when coming in the next day to show to others, some confusion took hold and threw the entire process into question.The issue after thinking they were ready to go, turns out to be both the obscurity of what's going on in our captain's hands and his partner-in-crime's hard to rerad gun and arm. Many thought he was pushing a broom, or didn't know what it was. At that point it really doesn't matter. One of the most important and primary rules in cover work is: if you're explaining it, you've already lost them, and the work is a fail. Covers should be immediate and direct. This is not to say they all need be bright simple and bold, but they need and MUST be clear as to what they are doing. If the issuance of the story and through the cover is a question, that then can be made to work and the rule is suspended. (ALL rules have exceptions. We live in a complex universe of variables and simply put... shit happens). So in an understandable panic Eric rang me with the crazy idea of fixing this by drawing it.

Now for those of you, like me who have a particular thing in doing cover work where the publisher often chooses a much cheaper stock footage photo comp for their cover instead of hiring an artist to execute one themselves, this came as a particularly sweet moment of vindication. While I get that sometimes the budget for a book or film lacks the funds to pay an artist a going rate, this use of photo comps is often just used for simplicity and saving bucks on their end. There are times when this makes perfect sense, and in the case of Criterion in general, it does given what magicks they display by using screen grabs of the films they cover. However, for one plagues by this occasionally in other areas, this was a mighty opportunity to put on display exactly why having an artist on hand is a superior and worthwhile choice.He showed me the cover they had, pointed out what they were bothered by and requested i essentially duplicate it in graphite and use that opportunity to compose and draw the thing to make it clearer and more effective as a cover for the dvd/blu ray release. The not so cool was that at this stage, having only a handful of days before the announcement, and having already gone through the approvals... this cover was locked as an image. There would be none of the usual seeking the image in the film, or composing/inventing I particularly like to do for these. It was a straight shot, copy job and left only the technical needs as a place of invention. Cool because an interesting puzzle to solve for me personally, AND getting the opportunity to use my "depth of field" drawing technique in the field by blur-drawing the foreground info.

So. Eric sent over a few stills from the film by request, and the original hi def screen grab of the scene they wanted. My job was to take that image, and duplicate it while fixing it. The foreground fellow had to be redrawn entirely, blurry but not so much it wasn't clear he was holding a rifle downward. The cap'n needed to have obvious money in his hands a counting and I thought some extra cash on the table would help as well as clarifying the windshield of the boat so it didn't look like a wall.

Because detail was so important here, I went ahead with a large 13" x 19" scale drawing of the image. (Sorry I didn't have a chance to stop and take progress pics- that would have been ideal, but this deadline was simply too insane for that business). But as you can see by the photo here, I've taken to reversing the trigger hand so we get a defined sense of the gun and man's grip. Left much of the bottom as balck as I could since happily I had a finished title treatment I could respond to, and tackled the rest of the necessities in the drawing. The blurring thing is always wacky on the eyes and usually I come and go with a piece to save myself from the headache and trippy eye-kimbo that happens, but again... terrible unforgiving deadline said no. But this section of the drawing is where all the action is, so it needed to be perfect: look as close to the original screen grab so as not to require further approvals, and change what needed changing without also triggering said new approvals. Even so... you can see the arm is a bit goofy with relation to his body- essentially requiring him to have his should be just above his butt. I also needed to add some clouds or indication of beyond the windshield... tricky because too much would make it bust- so seagulls and the moon say, were out. Time again was the enemy so I had to commit to the rest of the drawing and look to fixing that arm/shoulder thing in photoshop. Some lighting changes, depth of field enhancements and dragged in spot drawinsg to make it work came into the play and in the end we had what we needed to go:

The weird thing is, if I did my job right, no one would notice what we did or needed to do. Sure I made little errors and obvious drawing areas so that if you looked you could see it was not a photo but a drawing. Otherwise my job was to do what no photo cap could accomplish and so having done so I graciously step aside and let them go forward. I'm glad I had time to take this on, and again a personal moment of victory over photo covers was the perfect medicine right now. In the roiling sea of freelance pitching between feast and famine, it's hard to make and maintain room for these unexpected assignments, but it truly is something to keep in mind. I have an easy out in my ongoing 52 Weeks Project drawing series where I always now front load a piece or two to act as buffer should something like this occur, or I break my arm or the police finally find all the bodies I have been burying in my backyard. You never know what life will throw at you but it can be essential to your future self to make your present self available to them. They'll never take the shape you expect but they always seem to yield enormous lessons.

In any case, this is a really fun noir crime yarn to take on and as always I am thrilled for the opportunity. If you'd like to preorder the film directly from Criterion, please steer your crime-boat to this placid port, HERE.

LIVE ProjectCast with Dan Dos Santos

May. 18th, 2017 05:25 pm
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Posted by Lauren Panepinto

Click here to get a free reminder email: https://www.crowdcast.io/e/projectcast-dandossantos/register

This monday 5/22/17 at 1pm EST, Drawn + Drafted will be hosting a live conversation with our fearless leader, Dan Dos Santos! It's free, and you can pre-register now at Crowdcast, where you can post questions in advance, or vote up questions already posted.

So what's a "ProjectCast" you might ask? Well, there's lots of fantastic art podcasts out there, but at Drawn + Drafted we're focused on business and getting projects off the ground. We love passion projects and want to know how people (all kinds of creatives, not just illustrators) take a passion and turn it into a side hustle, and even into a full time business. So each Project Podcast will be centered around not only the creative's work, but specifically drilling into projects they've created and made real in the world. We get into the details people tend to gloss over, like mental health, finances, networking, marketing, and proposals.

We're recording them live on Crowdcast so the audience can interact and ask questions, and you can go back and watch the previous Projectcasts there. We're going to be editing them down into a traditional podcast format, but for now check them out on Crowdcast:

Kyle Webster of Kyle Brush

Tomorrow 5/19/17 at 4pm EST: Jon Schindehette of ThinkGeek and Art Order

Follow Drawn + Drafted on Crowdcast, or Like our Facebook page, or Sign up for our newsletter to be informed whenever we schedule a new Projectcast.

The Amazing Screw-On Head

May. 18th, 2017 06:00 am
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Posted by Muddy Colors

Mike Mignola is best known as the creator of the immensely popular comic and film franchise, 'Hellboy'. But in 2002, Mike created a short story called 'The Amazing Screw-On Head' which has since gone on to become many of his fans favorite works of his.

Published by Dark Horse Comics in 2002, starring the character of the same name, The Amazing Screw-On Head is a quirky story about a robot whose head can be attached to different bodies, each with different tactical abilities. The Amazing Screw-On Head functions as an agent of the U.S. Government, and is tasked with keeping President Abraham Lincoln safe from Occult threats.

The comic was met with great success, and was optioned as an animated series. The Sci-Fi Channel even went as far as producing a pilot episode. Sadly, the show wasn't picked up, but we can still enjoy the 22 minute pilot, which does a fantastic job of emulating Mignola's style and stars actors like Paul Giamatti and David Hyde Pierce.

You can watch the full episode below:

In addition to the original publication, you can also find a special Artist's Edition of 'The Amazing Screw-On Head', published by IDW. This enormous book (12x17 inches) reproduces all the original art at it's original size, without it's digital colorization. However, the black and white pages are actually reproduced in color regardless, which gives an amazing representation of what the original pages look like without and digital level adjustments. You can variations in the type of ink he uses, and even the pencil work behind the inks. It's a true feast for artists.

You can purchase your own Artist's Edition here: http://www.idwpublishing.com/product/mike-mignolas-screw-on-head-and-other-curious-objects-artists-edition-hc/

Or grab a more reasonable priced version of the original comic here: https://www.amazon.com/Amazing-Screw-Other-Curious-Objects/dp/1595825010

Post-College Career

May. 17th, 2017 07:15 am
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Posted by Donato

-By Donato

Raunok Fishing   Donato Giancola   1992  Oil on Panel   book cover sample

I had a long, lengthy essay for all you college grads coming out of school this May, but then it was erased by an errant autosave.  I take this as a sign, and I am thankful I am not a digital artist!

Basically, productivity was the key to my early success 25 years ago when I graduated from Syracuse University.  Within a week after graduation my entire portfolio was nearly worthless as a marketing tool.  The entire portfolio.  Seriously.  I had to rebuild it all.

(Here is a MuddyColors post which has many samples from that college portfolio :
http://muddycolors.blogspot.com/2013/05/college-portfolio-1992.html )

A meeting in mid-May with an artist representative, Sal Barracca, opened the door for my first professional venture as an artist.  But in order to begin this new venture, I had to create samples for the opportunity to work as a book cover artist.  I needed to display specific problem solving abilities as well as produce a very tight grouping of quality and style for Sal in order to secure commissions. I began rebuilding in late May.

Month after month found me at Sal's office, turning in a new painting, and sharing sketches for the next concept.

Alien World   preliminary drawing   Donato Giancola   1992  graphite on paper, book cover sample
June, July, August, October, November, December.  You could set the calendar by by my timely arrivals into Sal's office.
(September was missed for I had a paint ball shot into my right eye, permanently destroying the macular region that allows you to see detail, and I was moving to New York City as well! But that is another story.)

By the time late December rolled around, I had six new samples to show.  That was enough for Sal to land my first commissions.  My professional career had begun.

Words of advice for all you new graduates.  Do not rest.  Do not 'take some time off' to recharge.  Your career begins now, today, and every day.  Think about the artist you would like to be, and begin making and implementing decisions that will get you closer to that dream.  Feed the tired passion of your desires, for if you cannot find a way to rejuvenate the fire now, you will likely not be able to keep it going five years from now when you are deep into commissions which are not exactly what you wanted, but are a part of building a career as a professional.

Those who will have a successful career in the arts are those artists who create art, drink art, and dream about art.  Art is difficult and trying, but also heartfelt and deeply gratifying.  Begin your journey today.

Below are a few of the drawings and cover samples created over the summer months and into that Fall 25 years ago when I needed to fuel the fire...

Alien World   Donato Giancola   1992  Oil on Panel   book cover sample

Cityscape   Donato Giancola   1992  Oil on Panel   book cover sample
Gwindor at Angband  preliminary drawing   Donato Giancola   1992  graphite on paper, book cover sample
Gwindor at Angband   Donato Giancola   1992  Oil on Panel   book cover sample

Omega Corps   preliminary drawing   Donato Giancola   1992  graphite on paper, book cover sample
Omega Corps   Donato Giancola   1992  Oil on Panel   book cover sample

Pen and the Sword   Donato Giancola   1992  Oil on Panel   book cover sample

If It Sucks, Do It Again

May. 16th, 2017 06:00 am
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Posted by Scott M. Fischer

-By Scott Fischer

Sounds simple, right? If something is wrong, make it right. But lets be honest. Sometimes as artists we kinda suspect an area of our painting isn't as good as it could be. Maybe we don't know how to fix it? Maybe we show it to some folks, and hope they wont notice. And if they don't notice, we are like, "Sweet, fork that shiz because it is done!"

And if they do notice, we are like the kid caught with melted chocolate on his hands before dinner.

When a painting or even a sketch for a client has already been approved, it is sometimes tougher for us to act on our instincts to improve a piece. Even if you know it could be better. I ran into this in my early days of illustrating. There would be a poorly drawn hand in the approved sketch, and I felt tethered to that crappy drawing, like they would get mad at me if I made it better. Sounds crazy when I type that, but man those approved sketches felt like hand cuffs. But eventually I just made it better, and you know what, most times they didn't even notice. But I noticed.

We all make mistakes. We won't catch them all. (And it helps to have a bad-ass critique group that can catch the mistakes we missed.)

So here are a couple of my re-dos.

(Disclaimer- I don't claim to be the king of likenesses. They are tough. Even if you trace a likeness it can be tough to capture it. My hope is to get it close enough that when the title is blasted over it we have no doubt who the character is, lol. But I do my best, even if it means redoing it.)

This was the final art for Angel & Faith issue 5 (season 10). It was approved as you see it.

It didn't totally suck, I like a lot about this one. One of my favorites in many ways. Except dude, Angel is such a blubbering baby in this version.

Get that lil guy a diaper and a warm baby-bottle STAT. (Full of blood of course. (The bottle you sickos.)) I mean I get it, Angel is a 'Weight of the World' player most of the time, but come on. Try to get a little bad-ass back in there.

This was oil and acrylic on Duralar, already done and approved. Traditional art. A pain to fix. So what did I do? I attacked it with nail polish remover and redid it.

That felt better... Fork it!

It isn't the only time it has happened to our favorite brooding blood-sucker. Somehow he got a bit too much Alec Baldwin in Angel issue 3 (Season 11). Again, traditional art. Pain to fix. Out came the nail polish remover.

I grabbed a little vid of the destruction and reconstruction...

Fork it.

Both of these were self imposed changes. On work that was already finished and approved.

It is about taking ownership of the work. I reached a point in my career where suddenly I wanted the art to be improved FOR ME. Not just for the client. And my stamp of approval on my work became as important as the client's approval. I think we need to be selfish like that to make our best art.

Donato : An Original

May. 15th, 2017 05:30 am
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Posted by Arnie Fenner

-By Arnie Fenner

"Prometheus" by Donato Giancola. Oil; 77" x 95" on stretched linen. 2005.

The day before this year's Spectrum Fantastic Art Live, Donato Giancola and Kelley Hensing came to our house to stretch (and, to our surprise, hang) the latest—and by far largest—addition to Cathy's and my art collection, "Prometheus." It was a Gold Award-recipient in the Advertising Category and was featured on the cover of Spectrum 13 in 2006; at the second Spectrum Exhibition held in 2009 at the Museum of American Illustration in New York "Prometheus" greeted attendees in all it's big, beautiful glory as they entered. I remember turning to Dan (yes, "Donato" is his professional name but he was born Daniel) at the show with a lop-sided grin and saying, "This is going to be ours!" He laughed, Cathy laughed, I laughed: how absurd, right?

The purpose of relating this story or sharing these photos isn't to brag (okay, maybe it is a little), but as an opportunity to say a few things about Donato and about our field as a whole.

I first noticed Dan's work when he was still extremely fresh in his career with his covers for Penguin, Tor, Bantam and a batch of others in the early 1990s; I wish I could say that my expert eye had spotted a talent in the rough, someone who, with a little time and encouragement, would eventually grow into a skilled pro...but I can't. He was already hot stuff; he was already making heads turn and giving more established artists a run for their money. I mean look at his covers for Otherness by David Brin (1993) [below left] or Lethe by Tricia Sullivan (1994) [below right] and tell me he wasn't already painting memorable pieces right out of the gate.

Donato first entered Spectrum with the second volume and has been included in every book since. He was twice a juror and was featured on the front cover an unmatched three times (volumes 5, 13, and 20). It wasn't friendship that got him there (others always had input as to what ran on Spectrum's covers): it was the quality of the art and the way others responded to it that earned him distinction. And, yes, he has been routinely recognized through the years by other art annuals and competitions, winning all manner of honors along the way. It is all attributable to his hard work and his unrelenting—and uncompromising—pursuit of excellence. It doesn't hurt that he's focused, smart, and, let's face it, a genuinely good person to boot. His compassion for others is projected through his art and allows him to connect with an audience regardless of subject matter. Remember Lauren's post about empathy? Yep, Dan has it. By the boat load.

For a number of years we set up with Donato and Stephan Martiniere (and various other artists) at the San Diego Comicon and it was during one of those shows that I spotted a drawing of Dan's and commissioned him to do a painting of it [below left]. Three other commissions followed over the years, including a wonderful portrait of Cathy [below right].

It's easy to be enamored with Donato, easy to understand why his fans, admirers, and collectors are now legion. The fact that he enthusiastically gives back—through workshops, classes, and mentoring—heightens my respect for him. Several weeks ago I watched him (as well as Dan dos Santos across the aisle) review student portfolios and offer career advice pretty much nonstop. His interests and tastes are far-ranging and he takes delight in all types of art; when he teaches or offers tips it's always done with the goal of helping the other artist becoming a better version of themselves, not a clone of Donato.

Without trying he's become a leader for our community and hero to many. And, yes, there's the old saying of "never meet your heroes" out of fear of disillusionment, but if Donato is one of yours...meet him. You won't be disappointed. 

I've been involved in the field of fantasy and science fiction since I was, quite literally, a kid and have been sometimes disheartened by what had-and-has been generally described as the ghettoization of genre. Regardless of breakouts and "serious" works finding audiences and acclaim, contributors—whether writers, artists, or even filmmakers—often felt they had to leave the F&SF field in order to be successful, even if they were really only swapping one genre for another (like Western or Wildlife art). It's gotten better over the years for a number of reasons, but there are still prejudices that can prevent worthy creators from getting their due—or frighten them away from associating with the "wrong type" of artists, events, and collectors. There are temptations to turn away from, not only genre, but illustration as a whole in order to court acceptance from more pretentious, deep-pocketed, and, frankly, more fickle markets.

Early on I was a little worried that, as someone who could literally paint anything he could imagine—and paint it exceptionally well—Dan would make a huge splash then start looking for greener pastures. Who could blame him if he did? Money is money and a family needs to be clothed and fed.

But as proponents of Fantastic Art, Cathy and I know that the health—the acceptance, the growth—of our field and community is dependent on the active participation—and leadership—of the best and brightest. They open us all up to possibilities; they challenge us and raise the bar for quality that ultimately helps us all become better at our craft; they alter the perceptions of the public or break down the prejudices of patrons that grow the opportunities for everyone.

During dinner at one Comicon many years back, I leaned across the table and said to Donato, "Please...don't ever leave."

God knows I've got no dictatorial power or mind control abilities, but at that moment I simply wanted to express to Dan not only Cathy's and my appreciation and respect for him and what he was creating, but also the importance of his—and of many, many others'—contributions to our very specialized field and role in its continued success.

Of course, I didn't have to say anything at all, but it felt good to do so. If you've been reading Donato's Muddy Colors posts, you're well aware of his unapologetic passion for fantasy and D&D and Star Wars and comics and Tolkien. He can go off and paint historical subjects or landscapes, portraits, figures, flowers, or anything he might choose as much as he wants and that would be great—but I'm 100% confident that Dan will always express his love of genre in some way and in some form. Perhaps via traditional narrative works for publishers, perhaps through allegories for galleries, patrons, or himself—but I know the Fantastic runs through his veins.

Yeah, I guess I am bragging. Not about adding something to our collection, but about knowing an artist who has done and continues to do so much for our field and for the community that surrounds it.

And I'm thankful.

So thanks, Donato Giancola. For creating wonderful art through the years. Thanks for your ongoing community leadership. Thanks for nurturing young artists. Thanks for being a positive role model. And above all, thank you for your friendship. (Oh, and thanks for being the one up on the ladder on the stairs hanging the painting—with Kelley on the other side—instead of me.)

A Workshop at the Barcelona Atelier

May. 13th, 2017 06:00 am
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Posted by Petar Meseldžija

-By Petar Meseldzija

At the beginning of April, I had a workshop in Barcelona, Spain, at the Barcelona Atelier of Realist Art, founded by the artist Xavier Denia Valls. Although, during the past few years, I held a few workshops with other artists, and gave a number of lectures and demos, this was the first time that I conducted an intense 2 days’ workshop on my own. The first day included a lecture and a demo, while during the next day the students worked on their own pieces under my supervision and guidance.

The audience was relatively small – less ten 10 participants from Spain, Italy and Brazil. This turned out to be a good thing for I was able to give maximum attention to each student, which is crucial for the success of any workshop of this kind. The space was very well organized, the atmosphere inspiring and the students were enthusiastic and receptive, very inspiring, young talented people. All of that contributed to an unforgettable event and a successful workshop. I believe we all returned home energized, inspired end richer in precious experience.

Sotheby's European Art Auction

May. 12th, 2017 01:20 am
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Posted by Howard Lyon

-By Howard Lyon

I love auctions sites (and have posted on them before) because they usually provide very high quality, semi-large images of the paintings up for auction.

The upcoming European Painting auction is full of some great images.  Be sure to scroll all the way through to see several Bouguereau's, Godward, Gérôme, Tadema, Moore, Solomon, Knight and more.  It is a great selection.  I'd love to go to the preview of it.  If any readers should make it, please send me some photos!

Sotheby's often has images that are 2000 px in one of the dimensions and very high quality.  I could type a lot about them, but the images don't need my words getting in the way.  Here they are (and click to enlarge).

Sir Lawrence Alma- Tadema - The Three Graces

Okay, now I want a picture frame like this!

Paul-Francois Quinsac - La Fortune Passe...: Guidée par la sagesse et l'economie, elle répand ses dons sur les traveilleurs

This painting is has an amazing sense of light and atmosphere.

Max Thedy - The Building of the Pyramids

Gustave Moreau - Premiere Danseuse. Mademoiselle subra. Ballet de Sapho

William Bouguereau -  Petite Bergere

Always a pleasure to see one of his paintings come up!

Ferdinand Victor Léon Roybet - A Choice

I hate that this is where my mind went, but this is begging to be used for many a meme.

Isador Kaufman - Portrait of a Boy

Alfred-Pierre Agache - L'Annonciation

I love this painting.  The big negative space of the sky is perfect. The face of the figure on the left is beautiful are the hands.  Anyone with an extra 80-120k want to buy it and let me come look at it?  Much appreciated.

Adolphe Alexandre Lesrel - L'Aurore

Arthur Hacker -  Vale (Farewell)

Herbert Arnould Olivier - Love and Purity

Another stand out piece for me and from an artist that I wasn't familiar with.  Always exciting when that happens.

William Bouguereau - Le Voile

Georges Jules Victor Clairin - The Sultan's Favorites

Emile Claus - The Mosque of Sidi Boumediene

John Atkinson Grimshaw - The Docks at Liverpool

Solomon Joseph Solomon - A Page Buckling on a Knight's Armour

Pascal Adolphe Jean Dagnan-Bouveret - Jeune Femme en Rose avec son Enfant

Guillaume Seignac - Admiring Beauty

Victor Gabriel Gilbert - Jeunes Femmes aux Marché

I love paintings like this one that give us a little glimpse into the past.  Look at the patchwork of materials in the roof of their kiosk.

Charles Amiable Lenoir - Young Girl with Cherries

Sir Alfred James Munnings - Portrait of Mrs. Bayard Tuckerman

This is a wonderful portrait.  I love the varied brushwork.  Compare the clouds to the tightly rendered horse.  Great shapes on the landscape and a beautiful subdued palette.

Léon-Augustin Lhermitte - Moisson Pres du ru Chailly

Daniel Ridgeway Knight - At the Well

William Bouguereau - Study for l'Adoration des Mages

Jean-Léon Gérôme - Le Combat de Coqs

John William Godward - Julia

Godwards estimates seem to keep creeping up there, almost on par with Bouguereau's!

Cécile Paul-Baudry - La Sultane Favorite

Anders Zorn - Portrait of Harald Bildt

Jean-Léon Gérôme - La Vierge, l'Enfant Jesus et Saint Jeanˆ

I want to have a piece of mine in a frame like that!

Montague Dawson - The Red Jacket on Open Seas

Albert Joseph Moore - Topaz

Side Project Fun

May. 11th, 2017 06:00 am
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Posted by Justin Kaufman

-By Justin Coro Kaufman

Hi Muddy Colorers! I've got a couple of side projects to share that I’ve been working on. Above is a block in for a new forest painting started recently. I used this photo I took out in the backyard one foggy morning as my reference:

I want to try and see how close i can get to capturing that atmosphere. I usually start these monochromatically and just kind of push and scratch the paint around to describe features and surfaces.

I use primarily bristle brushes so I can get extra scratchy, and Windsor-Newton olive green paint, which is transparent so I can get a wide range of marks and values by pushing and scratching into it. I use refined linseed oil to thin paint out for areas like the background, but use it mostly straight from the tube for the ground cover. This took about 2 days off working off and on…maybe about 8-10 hours total so far?

Next steps will be to glaze some color into the pic and lay in the sky. Both will help establish the key and value range as well as base temperature/color. Still got a long way to go on this. Ill try to post an update next month. Hope I don’t screw it up :D!!!

Also last week I wrapped up an illustration I’ve been working on for this Endangered Species book my friend Manny Carrasco has been putting together through a non-profit called Expedition Art. Manny’s got a lot of friends, and theres a ton of amazing artists who’ve contributed art for it

Should be a really cool book.

I chose to digitally paint the giant tortoise. Always kind of had a thing for tortoises. We have a yellow foot and a giant sulcata here at our place. They're wonderfully sweet and curious animals. The sulcata in particular is extremely friendly and comes running out of his turtle house to say hi every morning when we let him out. So cool!

Started sketching in Photoshop, then brought it into Procreate, then into Paint Storm, then back into Photoshop for final touches. Not how I usually work, but just kind of wanted to mess around a bit approach-wise. One of my favorite things about working digitally is that you can kind of throw everything but the kitchen sink at it and really have fun experimenting in a way that would be impossible with traditional media. Bouncing in between digital painting programs gets even crazier because you can kind of leverage each one for what it does best. For instance, Procreate is great for drawing, photoshop is the best for compositing and color corrections, and also has a pretty good brush engine, and Paint storm is really nice for juicy marks and happy accidents. Combining these provides a wide arsenal of tools.

Initially, I worked up a couple of sketches but in the end went with the close up since it helped keep the focus on the animal and not the scene.

Worked pretty directly on top of the sketch, working with a variety of different brushes. Kind of just experimenting with textures and color and exploring different ways to describe surfaces.

Once I had it laid in I bounced it between Paint Storm and Procreate, rendering and refining the drawing while trying to keep the marks fresh. fun times!

The Awakening of Insects

May. 10th, 2017 08:00 am
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Posted by Gregory Manchess

Greg Manchess

“The Awakening of Insects” by Bobby Sun, is a tor.com short story about a woman on an Earth-like planet researching the environment for possible habitation after eleven years of ongoing study. As one might imagine, Earth IX feels very similar, but oddly different considering its unique orbit around a host star, different terrain, flora, fauna, and certainly…insects.

There are some intense planet-wide occurrences that surprise and delight, forcing her on a tight deadline for discovery. To explore without much worry about contamination or being contaminated, the primary character wears a flexible space suit with exoskeleton, which allows her to move quite freely.

I chose to depict her mid-stride in the midst of the planet’s jungle-like setting, running and leaping with the power-assisted suit. There’s also a high tech vehicle involved, but I wanted to see more of the figure, to express urgency and the physical work the character is forced to engage.

A round of multiple thumbnails kept me on track for the composition, while exploring multiple points of view. There was so much to do with so little here. Always enjoyable when designing for impact. Do I come in close for a character reveal? Or do I stay back to give a sense of place? I only needed to suggest the suit, not actually depict it, so this gave me the room to explore.

Tor chose to go for a horizontal sweep seen in the thumb of the lower left corner. I kept the energy of the thumb by blowing it up and drawing straight onto my prepared surface. This time I primed a piece of illustration board with thinned-down gesso, the consistency of heavy cream. After brushing it on, it tends to level out into a toothy, but beautifully smooth surface that takes pencil very well. I even used a few Prismacolors to enhance the drawing.

Acrylic washes sealed the pencil off, then a palette knife applied the first layers of oil. I kept it as loose as possible, but with enough attention for focal points of interest. I eventually covered almost all of that up, but realized I should experiment with that approach more often.

Along the way, I discovered a few new painting ideas to do for my gallery. Sometimes when limited by space and story, simple ideas arise. This isn’t surprising. Limitations are what gives us the will to push those confining perimeters.

Sun's story left me eager to find out more about not only the character, but the future of the new planet. I could see doing a whole string of images to stir the viewer’s curiosity.


sholio: sun on winter trees (Default)

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