Friday, December 4, 2009

Greg Manchess

Hello all. The Constant Art Student returns from more months of slacking. I can't say that I have been art slacking as much as blog slacking. I have been drawing and painting with most of my spare time, but I feel compelled to make a comment on a painting from Greg Manchess that I have been studying. My latest endeavor has been to make a conscious effort to loosen up my drawing and painting style. Since Greg is one of my favorite artists with this looser painting style, I decided that analyzing his work as I would an old master painting would be beneficial to my cause. Spectrum 16 came out this year and had this wonderful portrait painting of C3PO from Star Wars. Big, bold brush strokes could be seen in the repoduction, so I thought that it would be a great place to start. What a deceivingly simply looking painting this is. Forgive the lack luster reproduction of the image I have posted here. I am sure that it pales in comparison to the original, however, a number of points of note can made using this version. To give some background on how I proceeded with studying this painting, I placed a sheet of acetate over the image and mixed paints to color match what Greg was using (or what I percieved he was using) to get the colors here. What I found rather astounded me. Colors that I thought were right out of the tube such as yellow ochre or naples yellow were not that simple when viewed directly over top of the original. The main areas of color that are in the midtone range are a combination of yellow ochre AND either raw unmber or burnt umber. Wheras Greg most likely used Old Holland Violet Grey for the light areas, I was able to make this color by mixing Ultramarine blue and cadmium orange with white. Ultramarine blue, napthol red, alizarin crimson and combinations of white or umbers fill the shadows. Once I found how to make these color mixtures, I started to realize the temperature shift that Greg employees in this piece. Shiny metal is difficult to begin with, but Greg has simplified the process by using a basic cool light, warm shadow composition. You can see the cool blues and greys in the light areas and this temperature pattern is reinforced by what I saw in the choice of raw versus burnt umber usage. The cool lights on the eye indentations (for examples) are reflected into the warm shadow areas directly across the socket. On another front, I also noticed Greg's expert use of soft and lost edges on the forehead of the droid and well as his left and right shoulders. Considering what I have learned from this "simple" painting, I am glad I didn't start with one of his mutliple figure Conan pieces.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Frank Brangwyn

I just finished reading a dizzying dissertation on color theory, specifically about warm vs. cool color theory. What is coming to mind after that is something that Greg Manchess said to me. "It doesn't matter what the color is if the values are right. Could this truly be the key? Is this perception of warmth versus cool colors related to intensity and saturation rather than warmth vs. cold? If it is purely warmth vs. cold, how do you have relative warmth and relative coolness. In this painting by Frank Brangwyn, I am looking at what is pushing the figures to the forefront. Even though the ship has reds in it, they are less saturated that the browns in the figures clothing. So the figures push forward. There are sharper details and line in the figures than the ship, so the ship pushes back. There are higher value contrasts in the figures than the ship, so the figures push forward. And if you view the image in grayscale, none of these observations change. So I ask, does color temperature matter if value and edge and saturation and intensity are correct?

Monday, June 29, 2009

Louis Daguerre

Today I am going to thank James Gurney for posting this piece on his blog. I am not familiar with this artist, however, this piece is a fantastic example of the topics that I have been looking into, specifically how light affects objects and how color temperature affects an image. In this image by Louis Daguerre, we see a number of architetural elements illuminated by moonlight (presumably based on the name of the piece.) There are some drastic differences in how light is affecting the different planes based on there orientation to the light source. Let's look at the division that occurs nearly straight down the center of the piece. Everything on the left of ceneter is being directly illuminated by the moonlight. Everything to the right of center is being indirectly lit from either moonlight bleeding around the edge of the planes and filling the shadow side with light, or it is being lit by reflected light bouncing off of other planes in the piece. The differences in how the light is affecting these areas is extraordinary. The directly lighted planes show colors that are more saturated and shadows that are deeper and darker in spots. The deatils are sharper with harder edges and greater ranges of value and color are observed. The indirectly lit area shows desaturate areas of color and the values of the shadows are much higher than in some of the lighted areas. The areas illuminated with reflected light from the ground or nearby wall surfaces show brighter values and a local color in the reflected light. There is a marked lack of detail in these areas and the edges are much softer. This image provides me with alot of information that I will use on the current painting I am working on which the lighting is on figures but direction of the light source and positioning of objects are similar.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Frederic Remington

Here is a piece from illustrator Frederic Remington. I chose this image as it is a great example of my current study of how light and color temperature affect an image, it's mood and its feel. Here we have two native Americans on horseback. It appears to be winter at night. Remington however made the decision to use a warm lighting and warm shadow composition which nearly entirely negates the expected feel of winter at night. This landscape is warm and inviting, expansive and displays no hints of foreboding, danger or conflict. The purples of the shadows and the sky in conjunction with the reds of the horses and background mountains envelops the viewer in an inviting scene that regardless of the weather and isolated locale, you want to enter in and explore. For my own piece of mind, I tested this asertion and put the image in photoshop and applied color curves that cooled the shadows and sky with a bluish hue rather than red violet. The effect was obvious in that the snow became cold. The atmosphere became uninviting and the feel was bleeker. This all by doing nothing but cooling the image down. I am beginning to see a pattern: Cool light and cool shadows yields a dreary and bleak feel. Warm lights and warm shadows yields a hopeful, inviting and comfortable feel. I am expecting then that a mixture of either cool lights and warm shadows or warm lights and cool shadows will yield specific feels in a work. The next few images I post will explore that.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Aaron Miller

I asked Aaron months ago if I could analyze a piece of his and he told me yes. Then I proceeded to stop posting. Sorry Aaron. Now that I have picked back up on this, it is time to get Aaron in here. However, I have decided to look at his Agents of Artifice contest, third place winning piece as considering I am currently focusing on lighting, this is far more complex than the other piece I was looking at. (Congratulations again Aaron, BTW) Aaron has some wild lighting going on in this piece. He has multiple light sources going on here, reflected lights, deep shadows and highlights all occuring in night time atmospheric darkness. The major light source appears to be the monster's eye, casting a yellow hue on the angel wings and the monster's hands/fingers. Interestingly, the yellow light appears to be on the opposite site of the left hand fingers than it should be considering the poistion of the light source, yet the illumination on the area is convincing and doesn't look out of place. The green ooze is emitting a yellow/green light which is providing rim light for the left arm and the spear head as well as adding some reflected light into the shadows of the back of the head and tinting the hightlights on the teeth. There are cool blue rim lights on the monster's right hand and some on the teeth, some on her legs and a touch on the back yet none of this light is reaching the edge of the angel's wings. There is a bright highlight on her chest and on the top of the monster's head that like many Rembrandt paintings, doesn't appear to come from anywhere, unless it is the spear head in which the reflected light from her chest and its head is actually brighter than the source. And this light seems to have no effect on the monster's left arm. Yet it works. Moonlight highlights the rain drops as they fall, the red ooze adds warm reflected light into some of the lower shadow areas. At this point in my own painting, I cannot even conceive of trying to tackle a piece with lighting this complicated. Kudos to you and if you are reading Aaron and have anything to add, please chime in.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

More Menzel

Staying in the vein of Adolph Menzel, I found this other piece which is similar in subject matter to the last one (statues in a studio), however, this one has a much different feel. Nearly all the tones in this pieces are cool. Cool greens, cool reds, cool browns and even cool whites. Darker values heighten the drama and the dramatic under lighting adds even more to this drama. As opposed to the light airy feel of the last piece, these cooler, darker tones feel constricting and heavy complimenting the eerie subject matter. There are but a few warmer tones in this piece and they surround the central torso helping to draw your attention there. I took this picture into photoshop and overlaid an orange layer over this image and adjusted so that it warmed all the tones, but didn't change the hues (much). The result is striking. The eeriness is greatly depleted and it feels more like looking at items hanging over a warm fireplace. Again I say...interesting.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Adolph Menzel

Ok. It has been a while since I have posted on this analysis blog. I just spent a week at the Illustration Master Class for 2009 and I feel as if the things I learned last year, I put to use, mostly in the realm of compositional development. However, what I have learned is that I still have a ways to go in dealing with lighting color and temperature and how they help define forms and relations in space. So, I will now being choosing illustrations from history (inspired by Charles Vess and his history of illustration presentation). Today is a piece by Adolph Menzel. In this piece, Menzel chooses what I deem a simple light source/color temperature schema. He has his lights coming directly from the right, illuminating all the forms in the room. The lights are warm in yellows and reds and the shadows appear cool in blues and raw umbers. However, the more I stare at it, the less sure of my assessment I am. So I take the piece into MS Paint and run the color selector over areas of the painting and what I find is that the areas I thought were cool shadows appear to be created with warm tones. The purples are on the reddish side rather than the bluish side. The umbers are more burnt than raw and the shadows on the golden object are ochres. I believe that the color difference is coming from relative local temperature in that the shadows appear cooler in relation to the warmer highlights, but taken by themselves are still on the warm end of the scale. I think Menzel may have done this to create an open and airy feeling in this large room, whereas cooler shadows may have made it more dramatic. Interesting...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Aelbert Cuyp

The Maas at Dordrecht. This is the type of painting that prompted me to start this blog. I like this painting, yet I am realy not sure why. It has a certain serenity to it. The horizon is perfectly horizontal. The sea is calm. The sails are not filled. The sky is a calming shade of blue and only depicts a hint that the weather will not remain pleasant. There are a large number fo ships reaching off into the distance. People are mulling about not doing anything obviously controversial, energetic or out of the ordinary. It simply depicts a quiet day at a sea port. I believe that the mood of the subject matter in this piece is what makes it attractive. One can rest and look at it with being rushed along. There is no sense of urgency and one can wander through it at a leisurely pace, setting the rest of the world aside and taking in the calm of a day near the shore.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Edgar Degas

Impressionism. Love it or hate it, it made it's mark on art history. With Degas, ballerinas dominated a number of his works and even though the subject matter is not my cup of tea, this painting engages me on some level. If you were to remove the figure's upper bodies, this would appear as a mere landscape based on color and shapes in the design. However, adding the figures affects our psyches and start us wondering how they relate to their environment. This painting seems to integrate the two subjects seemlessly. One thing that makes this piece pop for me is the dark contour lines of the figures. Making them seem almost graphic in nature, these back lines accentuate the contours and shadows and set the figures apart from their surrounding environment. Without them, they would most likely blend into the background and be lost in the barrage of colors and brush strokes. Where to use this technique? I for one will keep it in the back of my mind.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Louis Anquetin

For today's image, I have decided to trace back my own art training history to see where it leads. My main painting instructor has been a man named Michael Molnar. Molnar was a student of Joseph Sheppard. Joseph Sheppard was a student of Jacques Maroger. This takes me back to the end of the 19th century. One more step back and I land at Louis Anquetin. Anquetin was a contempory and friend of Toulouse-Lautrec. This may not mean anything to anyone but I have a certain affection for the impressionists and this time period in art history and to be able to trace my teaching directly to that period is exciting for me. The piece I am looking at is called Clichy Avenue. When I look at this piece, I can definitely see similar characteristics to Toulouse-Lautrec and a resemblance to Van Gogh's Starry Night over the Rhone. As I quickly researched, it seems this painting may have actually been an inspiration for Van Gogh's work. The large areas of flat color was common at the time in history and brings to mind Lautrec as well as Gaugin and Cezanne. As I continue to come across, Anquetin uses a complimentary color scheme of blue and oranges balancing the weight of the orange hues with a smaller patch of red-orange in the lower right corner. Most of the figures in this work are abstracted with very few details. The focal point of the piece is the brightest yellow point located in and as the flame of the front lantern. The lantern is shaped as an arrow which leads the eye down to the ground level and into the crown of people. I have always been a fan of Van Gogh's "Rhone" and considering the great similarity of it to this piece, I can appreciate this one as well, especially with the added historical link to my own studies. One word of note is that apparently, Anquetin gave up on this style of painting and instead persued a more academic style which was passed on to his students which is unfortunate as the style shown above as truly intriguing in its own right.

Sunday, March 8, 2009


Caravaggio was one sick dude, bottom line. If I am correct in my art history he was a cheat, a murder and most appauling, most likely a pedophile. One of my fellow art students said to me once musingly, "How could you not like a guy who paintings young boys and dead fruit?" For me, it is pretty easy to not like this guy. But his art, that is a different story. Caravaggio's mastery of lighting effects, especially the use of tenebrism and chiaroscurro are probably unmatched in all of art history. This piece, the Conversion of St. Paul is one of my favorites as I was always found of this narrative and Caravaggio seems to have treated this stoy faithfully (unline many other religious based paintings of his). As the story goes, as Paul rode through the desert to Damascaus, God knocked him off his horse and blinded him in order to show His power and convert him to become a follower of Christ. Before this event, Paul was a soldier in the Roman army and his attire relects that. I also notice that Paul was painted with his eyes closed to indicate the blindness that was forced on him. A limited palette was used in this work as well as the signature chiaroscurro which has the forms roll away from the light into almost complete darkness. Caravaggio has a circular compostional design in this piece made up of the arms of Paul, the horse's head back and back leg which allows your eye to move around this entire image picking up details as his sword and the bit in the horse's mouth. The interesting thing about lighting schemes such as this one is that it is not clear where the light source is actually coming from and lends itself to a certain amount of artistic license. Caravaggio may not have been my kind of person, but you have to admit that he could paint.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Paul Kidby

I became familiar with illustrator Paul Kidby's work after picking up his book, "The Art of Discworld" at a company book sale (HarperCollins). Kidby is the illustrator of choice for Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. Kidby has a really fun style with modern and comedic takes on medieval imagery and subject matters. In this image, four members of his Rembrandt based Night Watchesque security team stagger home from a night of merriment (probably afterwork happy hour) and entirely miss the fact that they are about to toasted like marshmellows by the pursuant dragon. This is a fun image that still employees a number of the compositional techniques I have discussed in previous posts. The most obvious to me is the color temperature being used. Warm red, yellows, ochres, and browns are used to illuminate the warmth given off by this little village with its torch light and natural structural elements including wood and warmly lit stone. The sky contrasts these warm tones with cooler blues which are also reflected in the dragon back scales, wings and claws. I believe that it is this fine example of warm versus cool tone usage that in addition to the jocular take on the subject matter comes together to make a powerful and entertaining image.

Friday, March 6, 2009

William Holden Hunt

In searching for a new image to analyze, I poked through a number of artists and paintings. Pages and pages of nundescript landscapes and portraits of dead people. I was not seeing and thing that captivated me or was interesting until I came across "The Scapegoat". It was the first image in about 10 minutes that actually made me stop, look at it and then look at it some more. So I thought, why did this particular image captivate me. We have already discussed my attraction to an earthy palette. But there was more than that. We have a long haired goat standing in the middle of a desert. There are dead plants, animal skeletons and an arid landscape surrounding for miles. And then we have this goat standing here. Why? How did he come to this place, this foresaken wasteland? Coming back to the color palette, Hunt has used a similar color scheme for the animal and its surroundings in order to associate the two, yet it seems out of place. It is alone having no other animals sharing in its plight. I believe that the mystery and the narrative in conjunction with the color palette and the odd subject matter, plus the superb rendering of the animal, its shadow and the mountains yields an artistic expression that makes the viewer want to know and see more.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Justin Sweet

Again, I hesitate to use certain contemporary artist's image, especially when an artist has a big disclaimer on their website, but again, this is solely for education purposes and are not being reproduced for profit of any kind, so I hope I am not stepping on any toes. And again, if so, please contact me. That said, off we go.

I had the pleasure of seeing Justin Sweet give two painting demostrations at Illuxcon, one digital and one traditional. Justin Sweet is an imposing man, quiet and thoughtful and extremely intimidating at the same time. But watching him paint was like watching a child play. Nothing comes more natural to a child than playing and the way in which Mr. Sweet wielded his mediums demonstrated the same ease. I am not sure what the title of this piece is and imagine that it is digital (although his style is nearly identical whether it is digital or traditional). This piece portrays an epic battle between a unicorn and a griffin. The unicorn, typically a symbol of light and goodness is poised to battle against a griffin which often times is a darker creature. Mr. Sweet composed this piece so that the griffin is higher in the sky than the unicorn, indicating that it has an advantage. The unicorn is in a weaker position, on the edge of a cliff with no ability to fly as the griffin does. This brings to mind something Tristan Elwell said to me about a Rikki Tiki Tavi illustration that I did. Paraphrasing, he stated that even though the protagonist of the main character is position to be victorious, we must be made to believe that our main character can overcome and be victorious. Mr. Sweet has accomplished this marvelously. Between the body positioning, the energetic wind swept mane, and the exposed underbelly of the griffin, I have no doubt that this battle will end in the unicorn's victory. I wish I had that much faith in Rikki Tiki.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Rembrandt van Rijn

Storm on the Sea of Galilee. This painting by the immortal Rembrandt illustrates a moment in the biblical story of Jesus crossing the Sea of Galilee during a storm that threatens to destroy the boat. In the story, the apostles are scared for their lives, even though they are accompanied by their teacher who proclaims he is the Son of God. It is a story of faith. Rembrandts treatment of the story is decidedly accurate compared to the narrative. We have a boat, with 13 people on it in a storm, one being relaxed, reclining on deck and the others acting in a frantic manner. Rembrandt begins there. Then he uses a number of compositional tools that have been discussed in earlier posts, including setting the boat so that the mast bisects the picture plane on a diagonal which creates drama. He uses contrasting value between the waves on the sea and the darker values of the boat to setup drama. The boat itself is situated in an opposing diagonal giving the feel as if all the passenger will fall out into the water. Rembrandt uses a dark value at the bottom of the painting to lend weight to the scene and the stability it creates contrasts the instability of the boat. One point to note is that the rigging leads the eye towards the top right corner, but the strategically placed snapped rigging line draws your eye back into the image leading it back towards the image of Christ. This is a favorite of mine, so much so that I have a reproduction of it hanging on my wall painted by a fellow art student named Darryl McGuinness.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Charles Burchfield

I often use the term, "Burtonesque" when discussing imagery that has a dark, distorted, almost surreal feel to it, mostly due to the fact that in our modern culture, you would be hard pressed to find someone not familiar with the likes of A Nightmare Before Christmas, Batman or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I have no doubt that Burton was influenced by a number of things, including art that preceded his time. Charles Burchfield would seem could have been one of those individuals. I was actually unfamiliar with this artist except for a 2 inch picture in a first year art text book of mine. But in doing some research, I have found that Charles Burchfield was an American painter that lived at the onset of the 20th century, was friends with my first blog artist, Edward Hopper, and in fact painted in slightly different styles based on different times of his life. I chose this painting "The Night Wind" as it was the first piece of his work that caught my attention. However, he will not be one that continues to go unnoticed by this constant art student. There is definitively a pattern in my aesthetics when it comes to art. I like earth tones. Check. I like dark, moody imagery. Check. I like pieces of art that ultimately are greater than the sum of its parts. It becomes obvious why this piece was chosen. Again, like Crospey with its strong abstract underlying composition and Inness with his more openly abstract composition, Burchfield goes one step farther on his trek to abstraction, yet, still maintains a connection to reality through his use of subject matter, a house, the type each one of us has seen, visited or grew up in. The circular focal points, windows in this case, lead the viewer to look inside the house. There is more going on inside than we know and we are invited in due to warmer tones used in those areas than in any other area of the painting. Even with its darker mood, I still feel a warmth from it, partly because of my preceding statement on the windows, but also because, and I may be dating myself here, the fact that it evokes in me images of my childhood watching old Disney cartoons on the Disney Channel. One particular cartoon comes to mind of a night scene in a graveyard where skeletons are dancing on gravestones. Frightening imagery in and of itself, yet it was presented in a childlike way, a way that was more comforting than disturbing. Burchfield has captured this as well. Mr. Burton should be thankful.

Friday, February 27, 2009

George Inness

So, I had this thought when I started this blog that I would choose a different artist everyday rather than choosing the same artist over and over again. I felt that it would widen the breath of my exposure to players in this game we call artistry. I am finding however, that after 30 or so artists that I admire, it is becoming difficult for me to find artists that really inspire me. Don't get me wrong, there is not a lack of artists out there, it is just, who wants 20 of the same type of images reviewed. I am telling you this because it may start taking me longer to find images that I deem exciting and worth analyzing and if that be the case, I may not get to posting everyday. I only planned on spending 15-20 minutes a day on this and if it begins to exceed that, other areas of my art may start to be affected. I know, I am whining. Forget what I just said, I will just try harder.

Here is an image called "Home of the Heron". I chose this particular image for its simplicity, its mood and its color scheme. This is oil on canvas representative of Inness' later works. There is an ethereal feel to this piece. Anyone who has been in the woods in the early morning or late evening will understand the misty, foggy effect that occurs when the sun is rising or setting. This painting is damn near abstract except that there is a heron on the water at the focal point in the lower left quadrant. This heron grounds this piece in recognizable reality for the viewer rather than leaving it as a blotchy pattern of colors and textures. Once we recognize the world that this painting is creating, our eye moves up to the horizon and we see the roof line of a house or cabin, smoke eminating from its chimney. I tend to lean toward realism in what I paint and what I like, but "realistically", what I am interested in is naturalism, portraying an image as it relates to the natural world that surrounds us, whether it is realistic, or more impressionistic. For those of you that are staunch realists out , tell me this painting doesn't create an impact on you in some way. go ahead, I dare you.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Eric Deschamps

I am pleased to be sharing this image with you today. This digital painting called "Tucked Away" was done by a contemporary illustrator, a fellow student of mine at the Illustration Master Class 2008 and friend named Eric Deschamps. Eric is a young up and coming artist and has done work for Wizards of the Coast, Activision and Upper Deck amongst others. This particular image appears to be in bookcover format based on dimensions and the space left for text that typically is designed into an image to be used for that purpose. Obviously a fantasy piece, this image portrays a young girl, who with her friends and "alien" companions have made a trek through some near earthlike (if not actually earth) forest and have found a mystical bauble of unknown origin and purpose to the reader. The imagery alone, assuming it is to be a bookcover affectively gives the browser alot of information about the contents of this book.
In analyzing the composition of this piece, it is worth noting that the color palette is bright and vibrant and it is obvious that Eric chose it due to the subject matter which relates to young adult fantasy. This genre is often illustrated with this type of palette which help emphasizes youth and youthful vibrance and energy. There are a number of compositional things that make this a very strong image. There is movement created by the diagonals made by the creature's wings, the top of the log and line of the water. A worm's eye viewpoint helps to increase to size and depth of the background space while allowing for a direct focus on the main figure considering she is at ground level. Movement is also created by the curves of the creatures wings, the water rings expanding from the point where her arm meets the water, the floating leaves in the foreground falling to the water and the girl's hair which is being affected by gravity. Eric has used another compositional technique relating to color in which the girl is associated to her creature pal and the glowing bauble by color, a color that is not used anywhere else in the painting. He has also chosen a loose split complimentary color scheme of orange, blue-green and blue violet which in addition to a few analogous colors to this frame color scheme adds strength to the design. Ultimately, this is an extremely strong image due to Eric's obvious attention to design detail and fundamentals. If this image is or becomes an actual book cover, I'll buy it. And I would like to also thank Eric for allowing me to analyze a piece of his art.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Jasper Francis Cropsey

The Spirit of War. This image has such a mythical feel to it, from the castle tower in the setting sunlight to the immense mountain in the left. There is so much color and movement in this piece, the greens, the complimentary reds, blues in the clouds, oranges in the sky and on the ground outside the gate. There is a great amount of detail it is hard to analyze, especially since I am brain dead at the moment. I think I will let this one settle in my psyche and pick this up tomorrow. To be continued...

Monday: Ok. Now that I am a bit more lucid, I feel I am able to look at this image more analytically. I have been taking these images and setting them as my computer wallpaper in order to not only look at them, but to let them affect me subconsciously. What I was able to determine was that the strength of this painting is in its underlying abstract composition. I have attached two other images, one of the detail blurred out and another of the value patterns in this image. When the detail is removed, the image still retains and interest abstract pattern of shapes and colors that are contiguous, interlocking and interesting. Looking at the value image, again we see an interesting set of values with darker values at the bottom for weight, lighter values on top and the highest value smack dab in the middle of the heavy dark values creating a focus point due to the high contrast area. Adding the color and detail to these two immensely powerful compositional characteristics simply makes the image better. But the in underlying composition is the key.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Herbert James Draper

The first oil I ever did was a reproduction of Herbert James Draper. It was for me Painting like the Old Masters class in school. Of all the artists in history, I choose Draper. Draper was friends with Waterhouse, a student of Leighton and Bouguereau and an instruction at the Royal Acedemy. Many people are familiar with his painting, the Lament for Icarus, but not many of his other works seem to be known. This one is called Calypso's Isle. I had to send away to the U.K. to get a book on his works. I was not able to find an image of this painting on the net, so I took a lackluster photo from the book. It is a beautiful painting of which I am very familiar. I also did a master copy in oil of this piece which I have attached at the bottom. It is slightly cropped from the original, but showssome of the detail to a slightly clearer degree. I have attached two studies that Draper did as well, showing that his process was textbook acedemic, doing sketch studies of figures and value studies before ever getting to painting. This piece brings to mind illustions of Penelope awaying the return of Odysseus. Classical mythology was often the inspiration to the Pre-Raphaelites of whom Draper was one. Draper has beautifully rendered the alabaster skin of his figure which holds a mirror which she does not look into. She is holding pearls and jewelry in her other hand, covered in linen or silk, sitting atop a finely rendered draper (of which I am sure there was a study). She at the edge of the bay and gazes out into the empty waters. The limited palette on this painting was a joy to work with as it fits my aesthetic interests. Ochre and umber colored rocks and stones surrounding a prussion blue/green waters surrounding the lovely alizarin crimson drapery. Warm shadows on her arm and face contrast the coolness of the waters. The sensuality of the figures bare neck and back are extraordinary. I love this painting. I love Herbert Draper's work.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Fabian Perez

Ok. I have no idea if anyone has seen Fabian Perez's work before. He is a contemporary painter, born in Argentina now living in Los Angeles. While doing research for a painting idea I had, I stumbled across his work. This one is called El Paseo. I do recommend taking a look at more of his work as he does capture a certain sense of romance with a touch of noir feeling. This piece depicts a woman walking away from the viewer down a street or alley in someone anonymous city. She wears a black cocktail dress, high heels and is smoking a cigarette. There are some compositional things that I am noticing about this painting. There is a channel in the road the bisects the painting in half. But rather than running straight away from the view, it curves at the end towards the lighted area of the painting on thr right. It also separates the woman from the light and the warmth on that side. The warmth on one side though is balanced by the weight of the woman on the left and the weight of the cooler tones surrounding her. You d get a sense that if the woman follows the channel in the road, it will lead her to the light and the warmth, yet we have no indication that this is the choice she will make. I love the big painterly brush strokes that are evident in Mr. Perez's work that are balanced with a slightly more rendered treatment of his figures. The sheer effect that he achieves in the woman's dress is a nice touch as well as the organic feel of the hardscape that he has achieved with the previously mentioned brush strokes. And I do love noir.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

John Maler Collier

I am awestruck by this painting, yet I am unsure as to why. This type of painting is reason why I started this blog. I heard Charles Bernard, fastasy illustrator state that people may have trouble expressing why they like an image because they don't understand what makes an attractive picture. I am trying to understand why the aesthetic of this piece is pleasing to me. On a visceral level, I love the female form. It is one of the most beautiful things ever created in natural in my opinion. Ivory skin with red hair was always attractive to me as well. Those same reds in Lady Godiva's hair are mirrored in the horses bridal and blanket (I am sure there is another word for that). The streets are empty as the story tells, the doors closed and locked. Godiva has a look of defeat and shame as the only way to help the people was to deal with this indignity. Her indignity though is offset by the noble look of her steed, it's head held high in opposition to her head hung low. There are wonderful details in this piece such as the embroidered lions on the tapestry (is that what it is called?) and shields on the bridal. Then there is the gold bit and the chain links meticulously rendered as well as the iron bolts on the door, whose wooden texture is only surpassed by that of the texture of the town's stone walls. There is a wonderful flow and path for the eye to follow starting at the steed's head, down along the bridal, up Godiva's arm to her face.

No this, I would hang on my wall...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Gustave Caillebotte

He was a French Impressionist. The name of this piece is Le pont de l'Europe. I have done some studying of the French Impressionist, the movement, the historical context of the art and the artists living in that period and have chosen Gustave Caillebotte today, not because he was known to me, but rather because he was relatively unknown to me. His style was lsightly more realistic than his counterparts like Monet and Renoir. From what I have quickly researched, Caillebotte had interests in photography and this possibly influenced his style more than the other in the movement. This piece is a genre piece which reminds me a bit of the works of Norman Rockwell and depicts a dog and people on the street going about their business. The points of interest in this piece for me are the use of one point perspective and the repeating geometric pattern created by the bridge rafters and railings. Another point of note is the use of purple shadows which was commonly used by the Impressionist painters. Some Impressionists also used straight black on their palette which seems to be an ongoing debate as to whether to use black or not, but my guess would be that the darks of the walking couple's clothing were actually created with black rather than a neutralized dark value mixture.

Would I hang this piece on my wall? No. But it is a strong example of the shift from romanticized narrative images to that of creating images of everyday life during this period.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

John Banovich

So, I have been spending time analyzing artworks from the last 30 centuries, trying to get a good mix from contemporary and classical artists. My interests are generally naturalistic or realistic rather than abstract. I am a fan of most styles of realism which may actually embody 90-95% of the art throughout history. My hope is that anyone reading this blog would agree that I am displaying a good mix and variety, but feel free to tell me otherwise.
Today, I would like to return to the present and take a look at a piece call "Eye of the Raven" by contemporary animal painter John Banovich. I first saw Mr. Banovich's work in the Artist's Magazine and actually fell in love with this painting. I never really thought about why, so now I am going to take the time to try to determine why. Obviously this is a simple subject, a raven on a branch. Nothing flashy about the pose or positioning, yet still, John's treatment of the subject is attractive and compelling to me. He seems to have used a classical portrait approach to the lighting, having a 3/4 front lit approach. Nothing too innovative there either. Yet it is compelling to me. As I look at the background, I see large and energetic brush strokes, daubing greens and ochres, siennas and umbers; I determine the color palette is in line with my aesthetic tastes. One reason for it to be compelling. On to the treatment of the raven itself. It is more refined than the treatment of the background. That sets up some contrast, wild and energetic background to more defined and stoic foreground subject. That is compelling. The color palette chosen for the raven is intriguing, with the prussian blue perhaps midtones and starker cool white highlights. Each feather is render as if they were painted individually and place into this painting. Variation in feather texture, size, and direction are all skillfully composed. There is also a warm reflected light hitting the belly of this bird, helping to define its volume in space. Lost edges on the tail feathers with sharper edges on the head and beak help to bring the focus on face of this animal, facial focus being crucial to many good portraits. It would seem that all of these items working together take this piece from mundane to exciting.

Monday, February 16, 2009

John Atkinson Grimshaw

Elaine is the name of this piece. I could only image that this is the name of the dead girl in the boat. This image could be portraying the ferryman who shuttles the dead across the river to the underworld, but I do not know for certain. What I do know is that this piece has a bold sense of mood. It's dark shadowy silouettes of the boatman and the boat are in sharp contrast to the distant city skyline. The buildings have a warm glow to them, indicating the warmth of the living, whereas the cool tones of the death are at the forefront. I had done a painting personally where I was required to make the warmth of a fire recede into the backup and keep cooler tones push forward and it was indeed a daunting task, yet, Grimshaw has achieved this task masterfully. A relatively simply image in composition and form, the mood that is created here is indeed intriguing.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

John William Waterhouse

This image from Waterhouse illustrates the story of "St. Eulalia". Not being familiar with this story, I googled it and apparently it is the story of a young virgin who was beat, tortured and eventually crucified for not renouncing Christianity. As the story goes, she was finally decapitated and a dove fly from her neck. Analyzing Waterhouse's treatment of the central figure, it is obvious that he did not intend to illustrate the horror of this girl's tribulations, but rather decided to depict the "aloneness" of her situation. You see the girl centrally located in the foreground, surrounded by a mass of white which brings your attention to her, yet all the other figures in the piece are removed from her, being either held at bay by the roman guards or having the guards themselves disregarding this site. Doves has been added as details being the only living things sharing her space in the frame. I also noticed the positioning of her legs which seemed odd to me at first. I think this was done for two reasons. One, if they were postioned straight, a symmetry would have been create which creates more stability and less drama. Also, having her feet point towards the people would have connected her to them and diminish the the feeling of solitariness. Therefore, I have learned from this picture that figure positioning itself can be used as a tool to create drama.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Joseph Mallord William Turner

Turner. What can I say about Turner? If you have ever stood in front of an original Turner, you will understand. I have had the please of seeing the Burning of Parliament in the Philadelphia museum of Art. It was huge, 8 feet by 6 feet perhaps. The paint was so thick in spots that it was almost hard to image how he was able to manipulate that much paint and still have it flow the way he wished. So then, I upgraded my Dish Network to HD and got free HD channels for a month. There was an HD Art channel and I was exposed to an hour long program of Turner art on my widescreen in HD. Unbelievable. I was a fan. What I learned from that TV program was the extend of the body of work or Turner that I was unfamiliar with. So in searching, I came across this painting today. It is called "Ulysses Deriding Polyphemus - Homer's Odyssey". I found two versions of this image and not having seen it in person, it is hard to know what the original looks like. However, based on my Philadelphia experience, I would tend to believe that the first image is more accurate. The colors and vibrancy of the Burning of Parliament seem to be mirrored more closely in the top image. It also teaches me that the images found on the internet cannot be trusted for accuracy in color or intensity, so I am grateful that I have seen an original Turner for comparison. The thing that attracted me to this particular image, I believe is that it has a certain illustrative quality to it due to the boat details and the vibrancy of the colors. I brings to mind my childhood and watching Fox's Peter Pan and the Pirates on TV. It evokes those memories for me. Turner has a nearly unparalleled ability to create an illusion of light in his works. He is able to generate a huge amount of warmth in the wood, sails of the ships and reflections on the water and then contrasts that warmth with the coolness of his clouds, water and rocks. My recommendation is that everyone should spend more time studying Turner, especially in person.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Alan Lee

Alan Lee is probably best known for his illustrationsof J.R.R. Tolkien's, the Lord of the Rings. In looking through his work in order to choose one to analyze today, I found this scene in which I believe Gandolf is the one on horseback and he is speaking to or leading a band of Hobbits or dwarves. Something about this image felt familiar and I realized that it reminded me of a painting called "The serpent and the Rose" by one of my IMC instructors, Donato Giancola. In that piece, Donato used the shape of the tree limbs to frame the action in a circular fashion, that subject being figures on horseback. It seemed to me that Alan Lee was using a similar composition, in his case, having the tree limbs encircle the figures at the center of the image. In addition, the atmospheric effect of the figures in the distance add a value contrast to the darker foreground, reinforcing the mechanism that leads your eye to the subject. I have learned that this circular geometric form in a composition is very powerful and can very effectively draw the viewer's eye to wherever it is located. I have actually employeed this element in my last two paintings. And on a side note, look at the foliage detail in the foreground of Alan Lee's painting here. The texture is wonderful pronounced, let with all that detail, the eye is still focused on the center of that circle.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Caspar David Friedrich

Graveyard Under Snow. 1826. Caspar Friedrich is a very interesting painter to me in that I always describe him to people as "Tim Burtonesque". In reality, Tim Burton would have been more "Friedrichesque", but I think the comparison is illustrative. I am familiar with some work by CDF, but this piece is one that I came across today for the first time. Something grabbed my attention, so I spend some time looking at it to try to figure out why. I have touched on this topic before and I image that I will see characteristics repeated in many paintings, but I believe that the idea of narrative is what is attractive to me in this piece. We see what appears to be a graveyard marked by the stone wall in the background and the freshly dug grave. Two shovels are in the grave and the psyche begins to want details to fill in the blanks. Questions are asked, where is this graveyard. Who is being buried here. Where are the two people that were using the shovels. Is this a fresh grave or once frozen over from a time when the ground was able to be broken. It seems to me that the power of this piece is not what is pictured here, but what is actually absent. Like a monster movie where the creature is scarier when it is unseen and unknown, mystery can also be generated by the unseen. I may have to ask myself when next at my easel, "What shouldn't I paint today."

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Henry Fuseli

This is The Nightmare. Fuseli painted in the late 1700s and was a teacher of Edwin Landseer for one and was a big influence on William Blake. He was a German born painter, schooled in Italy and eventually became an instructor at the Royal Academy. This piece is very indicative of his work and has a very dark quality to it. We have a woman in the throws of a dream being visited by a "mare" and a goblin. I am not really sure how to analyze this painting as it is attractive to me on many levels. I think what what best bet on this on is to try to identify the things I like. I like the limited palette. Yellow ochre, white, alizarin crimson seem to be the major hues and are not very saturated which adds to the night-ish feel. The high contrast between the gown of the female and the black background darkness adds alot of drama to the piece. The manical grin on the mare and the odd way the goblin seems to stare out of the painting at the viewer adds a level of discomfort to the viewer while intiguing them to look more closely. The handling of the drapery is exquisitely done from the sheerness of the gown to the folds and shadows of the drapery. This is an artist that merits deeper study.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Greg Horn

After returning from the cluster that was ComicCon, I am focused on what had been one of my favorite comic illustrators, Greg Horn. I stopped at Greg’s booth and briefly spoke to him about his art and subsequently, purchased a book of his work. There is a piece in it that jumped out at my due to the drama which I would like to discuss. It is Spiderman/Daredevil (I don’t know if there is another name.) There are dramatic darks in this piece and a color palette in the subdued red-yellow-orange range of the color wheel. It is noteworthy to mention that this is a digitally painted image over a fully rendered pencil drawing which is the typical way Greg Horn works. The glowing sun in the background against the dark Spiderman figure is a great draw for the eye. The diffused light from the sun is masterly rendered around the figures filling in parts of the shadow areas to add depth to the piece. The one thing that I am actually going to criticize, and this is purely a subjective viewpoint is that I dislike Greg’s usage for red-purple hues for the shadow areas on Daredevil and on the building in the mid-ground. They seem out of place and conflict with the color palette in my opinion. Otherwise, this is a beautiful image that conveys a great depth of emotion.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Thomas Cole

Thomas Cole, one of the Hudson River Valley painters, did a series of 5 paintings named "Course of the Empire". The one displayed here is called Destruction. The HRV painters in my experience tended to be landscape painters primarily, however, Cole stands out to me due to the narratives evident in his work as opposed to some of his peers. I have been much more interested in the use of narrative in paintings over the last year and have begun to understand the use of narrative as a tool to develop an image for the sake of storytelling rather than for simply conveying imagery. The complex story depicted here shows a civilization destroying itself. Soldiers burning ships, murdering civilians, destroying building and killing each other give insight into this age in history as well as the artist viewpoint on the history. There is a role to be played by each figure, statue, archway, building, cloud of smoke and mountain in this piece. No subject is randomly or haphazardly placed in this, but rather used to help convey the narrative and thereby express the emotion of the destruction man brings upon himself. I have begun to apply this narrative thought process to my work, thinking about purpose to any composition elements I add, not just for aesthetics, but to advance a story.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Maxfield Parrish

I decided to change gears today because I, until recently, had studied more of the old masters work than more modern painters/illustrators. One of these is relatively unknown to me illustrators is Maxfield Parrish. Once I heard the name, I kept hearing it over and over again and today I decided to give this man a better look. I was really interested in his work as it seems to be a more modern version of a combination between the Pre-Raphaelites and the Hudson River landscape painters. I found this image, Cinderella, and would like to discuss it further as it seems to have been able to distill the idea of warm light, cool shadow into an almost geometric simplicity. The figure here which is the centerpiece of this painting is illuminated with a very strong warm light, which also is used to render the form of the steps and pillars on the steps. It also illuminated the tree leave adding texture and interest to the upper right portion of the painting. Almost modeled as I have done with value paintings of spheres, the light rolls away over the edge of the figure into neutralized grey tones and then over to darker cool tones. These cool tones also act as a backdrop for the leaves and floral pieces making the warm foliage pop away from the canvas. I am truly amazed at the effect that can be attained by simply working warm against cool.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Norman Rockwell

Today I am going to look at The Art Critic by Norman Rockwell. The first time that I saw a Norman Rockwell original was at the Society of Illustrators in NYC. I was amazed at the size of the piece for one and the other was the thickness of Rockwell's paint in conjunction with the light leaks he left which allowed the canvas to show through. As I look at The Art Critic, three more things jump out at me which I would like to comment on. The first, being an artist myself, is that the man in the painting is holding a palette. How Rockwell lays the colors out on the palette in the image says somethign to me about how he used his own palette and the way that he arranges his colors. He seems to have them laid out in a modified color wheel setup with white at the apex and what I don't see is black. This is just an interesting point to note. The second is that the paintings on the wall in this piece are very reminiscent of Frans Hals. (If they actually are Hals, I am not familiar with them, however, maybe I will look at Hals tomorrow.) Hals was an alla prima type painter as was Rockwell (I believe), so it is noteworthy in that apparently, Hals was admired by Rockwell. The third is the fantastic texture that Rockwell has created in this piece. The great textural effects on the frames, the wall texture, the texture created through the color choices in the floor tiles...amazing. My belief (based on the original I saw in NYC) is that these textural effects have been created in large effect by the thickness of the paint. I know that Turner also used thick paint as this to create textural effects (but more atmospheric in nature). In order to gain a better understanding of this effect, I will definitely need to view more of Rockwell's work in person.

Monday, February 2, 2009

William Bouguereau

The Lost Pleide by William Bouguereau is the painting that I will be looking at today. Beyond the fact that this is a beautiful painting and a wonderful example of his work, I am always astounded at the supple realism of Bouguereau's skin. Since there is a full nude in this painting, I feel that it is a great example for analyzing these skin tones. The academic artists of Western Europe at this time in history had the tendency to paint skin tones (especially women's skin tones) a very pasty whitish color. This is most likely due to the attire of the time, having women generally covered from head to toe getting no sun and powdering their faces. That being said, Bouguereau had the uncanny ability to use color and tone to make these vampiric individuals look aliv, full of life really. He has a wonderful ability to mix warm tones with cool tones in order to mimic light and shadow. Subtle greens and purples are used in shadowy areas in spot appear to approximate in 2 dimensions, the translucent characteristics of skin. The light areas with their warm thick application of paint model the body with a sclpter's precision. There are lovely pink areas showing warmer blood filled areas of the body as well as veins and blue-green areas such as on the back, butt and leg areas. One could probably look at the skin tones in this painting for hours and still be baffled at how he accomplish this task. Next time I am at a museum where I am blessed enough to see one in person, I will be taking note of how he applied these paints to achieve this marvelous feat.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Jim Lee

In the spirit of next week's NY ComicCon, I have decide to choose a piece of art from one of my favorite comic artists for nearly 20 years now, Jim Lee. I think that I first saw Mr. Lee's work in Marvel X-Men during the early 1990's and one if his more recent works "Hush" is perhaps one of my favorite graphic novels. I chose this piece because I quickly noticed a classic compositional form in how Mr. Lee has arranged his figures. He has chosen a triangular arragnement having the top of Superman's head, the point of Batman's sword and the edge of Wonder Woman's shield being the peaks of the triangle. I triangular composition exudes strength and stability and I believe that Mr. Lee chose this arrangement to reinforce the heroic quality of the figures. The brightest, most saturated colors lie within this triangle and fade out to lighter or less saturated areas outside this area. This composition which can be viewed as far back as Da Vinci and his Madonna oof the Rocks (and farther back I am sure) shows Mr. Lee's knowledge of classic art history.

I will attempt to recognize and utilize these types of composition geometries when I create new pieces.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Frank Frazetta

I had mentioned in a previous post about limited palettes and I remembered that one of my favorite modern fantasy illustrators often used limited palettes. So today I am going to talk about "The Silver Warrior". Frank Frazetta is a home town favorite as his home and museum are only about 40 minutes from my house. I have had the pleasure of visiting the museum, meeting Frazetta's wife and enjoying the masterworks they have on display there.

Frazetta uses a cool color palette in the blue range of the color spectrum in this piece, high lighted with small areas of what appears to be yellow ochre and burnt sienna. The lack of greenish tints in this piece leads me to believe that he used Ultramarine blue rather than prussian or pthalo blue. There are some purple hints in the snow and the sky that remain on the cool side, which leads me to believe that he was using alizarin crimson, which is cool red and when desaturated with white would give these type of hues. Frazetta also uses these blues, and possibly raw umber for the skin tones which actually forces a feeling that the warmest parts of the this piece are actually the whites of the bears. (One thing to note in this piece is the decision to not paint any reigns from the warrior to the bears. I have read that Frazetta couldn't make them work, so left them out.)

This painting makes me want to go paint with this color palette as well as do some more research into limited palette options.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

John Singer Sargent

I do apologize if my last post was a little sparce. The point of this exercise was for me to try to learn something about the paintings I like so that I may be able to use those characteristics to make my own work better. I simply statement that a painting has a characteristic isn't as useful as it could be. So, for today's work, I will be reviewing "Villa Torre Galli The Loggia". I believe that the first time I saw this piece was in Washington DC (I could be wrong). What catch me attention was the warm "airy" feeling that this painting conveyed. So it made me wonder why that feeling was being expressed so powerfully. Upon further review, I have noticed that Sargent decided to use a warm light, warm shadow approach to this piece. Even though there are areas in shadow, those shadows tend to be hints of burnt umber and burnt siennas as well as yellow ochres and warm purples. These color choices project a feeling as though sunlight is illuminating even the shadowy corners and depths that might be located in this view. Using only small bits of cooler greens and browns strategically, Sargent has provided a warm, inviting view of this relaxing courtyard scene.

I will need to think in the future about the feeling I wish to convey and whether color temperature of lights AND shadows can help me achieve it.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Artemesia Gentileschi

Today's painting is Judith by Artemesia. For those of you not familiar, Artemesia was one of the few female old master painters, a contemporary of Carravaggio and a great user of what I wish to talk about today, chiaroscuro. This painting is a fantastic example of the expert use of chiaroscuro (extreme light and dark) in order to express a high dramatic feeling. The dark background is contrasted by the pasty white skin of Judith and her cohert. These dark darks also lends itself to the use of lost edges, for example, the edge of the yellow dress in the foreground, as well as Judith's arm and sword. The limited palette used her also helps to be augmented by this high contrast drama. I will discuss chiaroscuro more in future paintings, but I just wanted to introduce the concept and this exceptional painter to you.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Diego Velazquez

Sorry that I missed the posting for yesterday. School had my whole day taken up. But regardless, today's pciture will be The Rokeby Venus. I really love this painting, the pose of the reclining female, the relaxed, almost uninterested facial expression in the mirror and the lovely skin tones. But I sat back and really looked at this painting and wondered what the one thing that really stuck out to me about this image. The thing I came up with is the fabrics. It reminded me of something Rebecca Guay (professional fantasy illustrator) told while while studying with her. When critiquing one of my personal pieces, she stressed the importance of fabric. Fabric needs to look like fabric. Fabric needs to show folds and creases and all the characteristics of fabric. Looking at the fabric in this piece, it almost has a life of its own. The sheen on the folds and the combination of subtle colors gradients and unsaturated light areas really show a great understanding of how light renders material. In addition, the ribbon on the mirror (another material), as it sits draped over the cherub's wrists and mirror frame reflect the colors of the curtain in one area and the woman's skintones in others. One thing to note is that is shows no reflection in the mirror (just an observation).

So, ultimately, in addition to the overall draw of the imagery in the piece, it has shown me how much attention needs to be paid to fabric.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Jean Leon Gerome

I decide today to take a step backwards into history for the days painting to analyze. I have chosen Pollice Verso from Jean Leon Gerome in keeping with the illustrative narture of yesterday's piece. This is a 19th century painting with a subject matter of a Roman glatitorial battle. An interesting note of this piece is that it is one the defining illustrations of Roman gladitorial games for the modern era in that movies such as Gladiator had their imagery based on this (and other) images. The modern view of the thumbs up or thumbs down at the end of a battle came from this piece as those particular head gestures were not used in this forum according to historical scholars. Anyway, on to the art.

I would like to discuss the concepts of lead-in and movement in relation to this painting as it has some very strong indications to these topics. When viewing this piece as a whole one notices that the most saturated color in the piece is the bright red flag directly behind the gladiator's head. This color immediately grabs your attention and leads you to focus on the main figure. I also notice a second lead-in which come from the right side, starts at the figures in white and leads the eye along the other white hooded figures, along the railing to the red flag which inevitably brings you to the main figure. Once at the main figure the eye is led through the image, along his arm, down his sword, then across the body of the vanquished warrior, across his arm, up to the crowd and along the railings and architectural lines and back to the gladiator. This directed movement of the piece allows the viewer to observe all of the detail occuring in the painting and help them to move on and again until the entire image has been viewed. This is something that was taught where I go to school, but is often overlooked by students (including me).

The strong lead-in and movement lines in this image are noteworthy and hopefully can provide me a good example for my own future pieces.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Donato Giancola

Donato Giancola is a contemporary illustrator who current has his studio in New York City. I ahd not become aware of Donato's work until last summer when I had the opportunity to study with him during a week long workshop. I became an instant fan as he exhibited such a love for his craft, a technical ability that is noteworthy and he was genuinely a really nice guy. So for today's art analysis, I will be looking at his work "Lord of the Rings" which was used as a book cover for the JRR Tolkien novel. On Donato's site (, he has a progression of this work and I hope that I am not using his images inappropriately in this forum, but just for sake of legality, all these images are copyrighted to Donato. If I am using them inappropriately in this "academic" setting, please let me know.
I have included the progression images so that I ccould discuss how positive and negative shapes, values and horizon lines are an integral part of the success of this image. The first thumbnail shows how Donato established separate sections of the picture plane by massing in a large dark shape on the right side of the image. He used a lighter value in the upper left corner of the painting in order to balance the "weight" of this large mass as well as added a high value area inside it to further balance the weight of this mass. In this first thumb, he has established a triangular composition in the center of the picture plane. I believe that he may have felt there was too much left-ward moving action in the first thumb and as you move to the second image, he has inverted the triangular compostion giving the figures a more stable, less energetic feel. And at this point, he has decided to tilt the horizon line to add a balancing instability in the background opposing the stability of the foreground figures. He does maintain the higher value area inside the large dark mass and has decided that this is the focal point. He further establishes the focal point of the image by in the color sketch by increasing the saturation of the high value area on the right and desaturating the similarly high value at the left, but also adds some more midrange value areas to the Gandalf figure and the wall. The final image esquisitely draws you into it, leading your eye to Frodo's one ring using high key and saturated value, leads you through the surrounding area down to the lower sword and like Hopper's image from yesterday, the application of similar color and value in the sword at the upper left draws your eye across the image unifying the image.
This is one of my favorite Donato pieces and truly appreciate his use of value and positive/negative space in this image.