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.

1 comment:

  1. Donato does have a delicious handle of paint. Great analysis of this painting. If you ever get the chance, visit his studio. Its the Donato Museum pretty much. I want to go back there, but work really gets in the way and he usually accepts visitors during his work week M-F. I don't think you're infringing on any legal copyright issues. The blog is a public site and you did give him ample credit. I interviewed him and Todd Lockwood my junior year for the school magazine, and they both told me I just have to put the copyright under each image I used, otherwise its perfectly cool.