Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

J.C Leyendecker

The real issue is not talent as an independent element, but talent in relationship to will, desire, and persistence. Talent without these things vanishes and even modest talent with those characteristics grows.Milton Glaser
Many feel that 2011 was  a rough year and for a lot of artists (and regular folks too) it was. For me it had its challenges but for the most part I am grateful that things went as well as they did. Despite some bumps along the way, I ended the year in the black with some work on the table as well as a teaching contract that will carry through August. I have a lot to be grateful for and one of those things is that 2011 was a little better than 2010. I see signs of the economy and the markets coming back and I am hopeful for an even more productive and lucrative 2012. The above illustration by one of my favorite Golden Age illustrators J.C. Leyendecker says a little about how I feel going into the New Year. It doesn't matter how many times you get knocked off the horse, anyone who is successful has learned to get back on and continue riding into battle.Whatever your goals for this year are, hard work and persistence will be the beasts of burden that carry you there. Good luck and stay on that horse! 

Friday, December 30, 2011

I Made the Recycling Bin!

The highlight of my walk the other day (other than chatting with my dear wife) was to come upon a piece of my art in the recycling bin. Some might think this strange, but I was excited to see my painting poking out of the blue can waiting to be dumped and eventually shredded into oblivion. I rescued the box so that I could reenact the moment for this post. So this begs the question-  is Illustration precious? My answer would be NO, nor do I think it should be considered as such. Don't get me wrong, I love having a painting framed and hanging on my wall after the fact , but the nature of illustration creates art that is transitory and temporary. Magazines are read and discarded, newspapers even more quickly than magazines. Paperback novels are rarely read more than once by the same person before being passed along or discarded. Packaging is torn open and tossed, posters and playbills serve their purpose and go the way of everything else in our disposable society. So, to find my art in the recycling bin got me a little giddy. First of all, I had never seen how the box art turned out and second, I was surprised to see that the client was still using my art  ten years after the fact. I admit, that I did not always feel this way about my illustration. I had the mindset that my art WAS precious, that heaven forbid anyone should ever alter or crop my work to fit their needs and worse yet, That someone should create a new piece of art by cobbling together parts of different paintings in some demented artistic Frankenstein experiment.

Part of this painting filled the bottom of the box design

But this is exactly what happened on this project. I had a client in California contact me with a rush job that did not allow time to create new art, but the client loved a mock up that combined the fields of one painting and the lake and mountains of another. Would I be willing to allow use of my work in this altered state? I admit I had a moment of horror followed by a moment of hesitation. How dare anyone ask me to compromise my artistic integrity this way? How could I allow the monstrous grafting together of two of my favorite children's book illustrations? Then I had a pause. The money being offered was decent. More than decent considering that there was no work to be done on my part. I said yes and sent off the scan and the invoice.  I have since decided that this was exactly the sort of thing that illustration should be used for- to decorate or illuminate a moment in our lives. I am proud to know that so many of my pieces of art have served their purpose and, like that yam box, have made their way into a recycling bin. I'd love to see even more of my art poking out of those blue cans on my walk.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Messenger

The Messenger- acrylic 5.5" x 8"

I found this while rummaging around the studio and it fits this week's Illustration Friday theme perfectly. It was for a story about a man who received a message from an angel while sleeping. Sometimes, I think we can all use a little inspiration from above.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Following the Star- Arnold Friberg

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude
of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
Luke 2:13-14

Merry Christmas everyone and may God bless you and yours this year.

These paintings come from a little book by the late great Arnold Friberg called, appropriately enough, Arnold Fribergs's Little Christmas book. 

I picked it up a few years ago when all of Arnold's Ten Commandments paintings were on display here in Salt Lake City. It is signed by him and every time I look at it, I fondly remember the time I met Friberg at our local art supply store. You can read more about that encounter in this previous post.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Santa Claus Comes Tonight!

The Discovery- Norman Rockwell

Hope everyone is ready for Christmas! Everything is wrapped and waiting. If your kids are not teenagers like mine, I hope the secret is still alive and well. Nothing like the magic of a jolly fat man bringing you presents in the middle of the night. Now to get onto food preparation for tonight's Christmas Eve festivities with the family. Have a great one!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Sketches from a Maui Christmas

As I look forward to a chilly Christmas again this year, I remember with fondness the two Christmases our clan spent on the Hawaiian paradise island of Maui. See more great photos of our trip here. Memories have a way of being distorted in our minds sometimes and as I looked back at my sketchbook from that trip, I decided to see how closely, my sketched impressions matched the photos that I shot.

We trekked the infamous Hana Highway, a winding sometimes one lane road that is not for the faint of heart  (or stomach for that matter). I was driving, and you could not stop at many places along the road so the sketches were done after we reached our destination at the state park. My photos somehow did not include the above scene, so I found this one online.

There were little villages scattered along the coast that could be seen from the highway above. It is interesting to note how my eye edited the scene to include much more than the camera lens captured, including adjacent fields and the curve of the shoreline. I think my sketch more effectively captures what I felt in that moment.

The most interesting contrast came from comparison of my sketch from the Black Sand Beach at Wainapanapa State Park. I got up before sunrise and tried to capture the essence of the place in photos and with a sketch. I noted my thoughts in the sketchbook as well:

The Drive to Hana was amazing, nothing short of spectacular. To think of the variety of terrain and plants on this one island is mind boggling. The Lord certainly created a masterpiece here. The Black sand beach was very cool. When the waves rushed out, the tiny black rocks in one section would clatter along the shore toward the water only to be pushed back in with the next rush of sea. When a big wave hit,the force could be felt through the sand like thunder.
Black Sand Sunrise- Wainapanapa State Park, Maui

I think as an artist it is essential to not only observe and photograph what we see but that making location sketches and studies cement our reactions to a scene more effectively and accurately in our minds.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Enjoy Free Christmas Music - On Me!

My friend Shane Jackman has released a great new Christmas CD entitled Peace for which I had the pleasure of creating the cover art. As my gift to all my blog readers and friends, click on the link below to download the entire CD for free.

I hope you will enjoy sinking into this musical treat! One week until Christmas and I am looking forward to a little family time. I still have final grading, sketches for a new project, gift wrapping and cookie baking, so, it will be busy (with a little work- hopefully not too much though), but no commuting to school for a couple of weeks- hooray! Have a great Holiday season everyone!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Renaissance Portrait Finished

I just finished up with the portrait project I have been working on. I am really happy with how it turned out. As you can see from previous posts, there is now a lot more detail in the faces and clothes. Last step was to insert the final painting into the panel that I gold leafed and distressed and  then ship it off to my friend Jeff Dinardo.

 He assured me that his significant other would never stumble on this blog, so I feel pretty safe. Now nobody go spoiling it if you know Jeff.  I expect the Christmas morning surprise will be a good one.. I'm thinking it might be fun to do more of these type portraits, so I hope I get a chance sometime.

Part 1 of this project
Part 2 of this project
Part 3 of this project
Gold Leafing of the frame/panel for this project

Monday, December 12, 2011

Weekend Wreath Making

We got our Christmas tree this weekend and I always hate to waste all the boughs that I have to cut off the bottom of the tree to fit it into our stand. For several years, I have been making our own front door wreath with these leftover branches. This year, the place where we got our tree was also giving away excess boughs to those asking. I picked up a few extra branches and using floral wire, saved ribbons, pine cones from the yard and a recycled wreath form, I made this for our front door. It might be a little more rustic than what you might buy, but it took all of a half hour to make and cost nothing.  More photos and a rundown of the process can be seen on Artwife Needs A Life

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Renaissance Portrait Progress 3

Lest you think that this project is the only one I have on the table at the moment, never fear. I actually have a number of projects going on, but they are all for a major educational publisher. I am under a non disclosure agreement, so I can't show or talk about them right now. Sometime down the road, I'll show some of that, but in the meantime, I'll show more progress on this little portrait. As you can compare to the last session, I have just about finished up the background and the faces are almost finished now, just a little more modeling and highlights to go. the clothes and hands have a bit further to go, so a couple more days and I think I'll wrap this up. I have another deadline this week, so It'll be tricky to get both of them done. I also have sketches for another project I need to get out before the end of the week as well. Wish me luck!

Part 1 of this project
Part 2 of this project
Part 4 of this project (finish)
Gold Leafing of the frame/panel for this project

Friday, December 9, 2011

Renaissance Portrait Progress 2

Here's where the portrait project sits after another session of painting. It's always a little nerve wracking to show stuff that is not finished. There is always seems to be a point (or two or three) at which you hate how things are going, but you have to forge on, believing that you can pull things out of the fire. This one is actually going about as well as I had wanted, so I hope that moment of doom is not on the horizon. I have blocked in basic colors in the figures and I am working  the skin tones on the woman's face. I am pretty happy with the overall color scheme, so now it is a matter of pushing contrasts and getting all the details worked in. Skin tones are always the hardest to get right, so I am taking extra care there. This portrait project has been a fun change of pace and I am liking how it's turning out. I predict a happy recipient on Christmas Day.

Part 1 of this project
Part 3 of this project
Part 4 of this project (finish)
Gold Leafing of the frame/panel for this project

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Renaissance Portrait Progress

I just got off another project and back onto the portrait project I showed a little bit about in an earlier post. I'll be making steady progress until this is finished since it is a Christmas present.  After I got the drawing approved, I changes it to a sepia tone and ran it out on some nice printmaking paper. I'll nearly complete the picture before adhering it into the panel.

I sealed the paper on both sides with some acrylic matte medium and had just enough time the other night to lay in some basic color tones in the background. I started with a burnt sienna tone and then added the greens of the trees and the sky and cloud colors. Still a long way to go. I'll post progress as I go along.

Part 2 of this project
Part 3 of this project
Part 4 of this project (finish)
Gold Leafing of the frame/panel for this project

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Page View Milestone!

Sometime last night my blog counter clipped past 100 thousand page views. I appreciate everyone who takes the time to have a look at what I am doing,  leave comments and indulge my art history and technique lessons. I didn't have many expectation when I started this thing a year and a half ago, so hitting 100K is a nice perk for me. With your help, I hope to make it to 200 thousand even  more quickly. If you like this blog and are not a follower, I invite you to  formally join me on my artistic journey and also to pass this link along to anyone else you think might like it. As always, your feedback and readership is gratifying to me. A BIG THANKS to everyone. See you again soon.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

R.I.P. Dugald Stermer 1936 - 2011

I just hear the sad news today that noted illustrator, educator and designer Dugald Stermer passed away at the age of 75. Dugald was born in 1936 and grew up in Los Angeles. He loved drawing and cartooning which led him to study art at UCLA.

After working at a design job in Houston, he eventually found himself at San Francisco based Ramparts magazine. Under Stermer's art direction, Ramparts was transformed from a "two year old Catholic literary quarterly that resembled  the poetry annual of a Midwestern girls school" into what was considered the first "radical slick" by combining hard hitting investigative stories, and high quality, full color production, all on glossy paper. Subscriber rates soared but the magazine eventually folded five years after Stermer left.

Dugald went on to a forty year career as a freelance illustrator, winning multiple awards from all the major professional annuals. Notable clients included Levi's, BMW, Jaguar, Time, The New York Times, Esquire, GQ and Rolling Stone.

He also designed the medals for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games. Stermer was also a noted educator, teaching for many years at the California College of the Arts where he earned Distinguished Professor status and chaired the art department.

On a personal note, I had the pleasure of meeting Dugald during the first ICON conference in Santa Fe in 1999. I was just a few years into my freelance career and was still a bit starstruck meeting such illustration superstars as Brad Holland, Gary Kelley, Jack Unruh, Chis Payne and of course Dugald Stermer. Though he did not know me, Dugald took the time to really look at my work and give me much appreciated encouragement as well as valuable feedback. I will always appreciate our conversation.

From all accounts, Stermer was like this with everyone and frequently took time to evaluate and encourage upcoming artists. He was also a staunch supporter of artist's rights and was on the advisory board of the Illustrators Partnership of America.  His talent and generosity will be greatly missed.

See more of Stermer's brilliant work here
Brad Holland remembers Dugald
Peter Richardson tribute to Stermer

Friday, December 2, 2011

Burn Your Bad Work? No, Just Repaint

Yellowstone (after cropping and repainting) 6.75" x 12" - acrylic.

Ever wonder what to do with all those old illustrations laying around your studio? you know the ones that were so specific and had so many dead areas left for type that they are practically useless? I have burned a few bad ones over the years, but rather than torching them all and having the fire brigade on my doorstep, I have started cropping and repainting them. I have a collector friend that has been buying a piece from me every Christmas for the last few years. Last year I pulled out a few candidates for him to choose from and he found one he liked. Well sort of liked. He wanted me to paint out the figure of the hiker. I happily complied and was pleased with the results which I posted earlier here. This got me thinking of how many useless pieces I have laying around. Those paintings that have good elements, but that are not really suitable to hang on your wall, nor are they attractive enough to put in your portfolio or resell.

Here is the painting after I cut it down

I figured I could crop, repaint or collage elements from one of these otherwise bonfire worthy pieces and turn it into something good. There are thousands of hours of work collected in my flat file and it seems dumb to waste these paintings, so I think I'll be doing more of this in the future. This time, I found one that needed some serious cropping and repainting to make it wall worthy.

Tape lines indicate where I wanted to crop

Here is how it looked before I started reworking it and re assembled with it's original parts after. At least half of the picture area was blank because of type restrictions the publisher placed on me. In this new version, the moose got exiled from his habitat since he didn't fit the new vision. Also, the sky got completely revised as did many of the trees and the thermal pool on the left. In the end, a piece that was practically worthless before now will have an honored place on my collector's home office wall.