Saturday, December 29, 2012

Life Needs Art-Top Artist Profiles

Continuing with my end of year "best of" recap, here is a list of the most popular artist profiles I have posted in the past. Some of these artists are long past and a few we have lost just since I started the blog. These artists have all inspired me and their respective posts have been among my top view getters as well. In no particular order, here is a rundown:

1- Kazu Sano- We lost Kazu in 2011 just a couple of years after I had the chance to meet him. Best known for his Return of the Jedi Movie poster and work for National Geographic.

2- Walter Everett- Is perhaps one of the most under appreciated illustrators of the 20th century. I love the way he simplified his designs and used broad strokes of color. I did a previous post on Everett as well.

3- Leconte Stewart- A Utah landscape painter that may very well be the best "unknown" landscape painter in American history. He has long been one of my favorites due to early exposure to his work when I was young. A new book  on Leconte Stewart does justice to his art and legacy.

4- Robert Fawcett- Was a consummate illustrator and draftsman. I did a second post focusing just on Fawcett's drawing as well as a review of the new Fawcett book

5- Arnold Friberg- One of my earliest influences as a budding artist. Friberg's work mesmerized me as a boy. I recount the time I met him at our neighborhood art supply store just a year or two prior to his death.

6- David Grove-  Another artist that influenced me as a student. We also lost David earlier this year but his work lives on. A book on Grove's work was under my Christmas tree last week.

7-Ralph McQuarrie- As with many of my generation, Star Wars was the most mystical saga I had ever witnessed on film. The vision of artist Ralph McQuarrie is what I believe set Star Wars on a higher plane, one which filmmakers continue to shoot for.

8- Dale Nichols- Contemporary of Grant Wood and John Stuart Curry, Nichols never gained the same recognition as other Regionalist artists of his time. The current touring show of Nichols' work includes a terrific catalog of his paintings.

9- Maurice Sendak-  Where The Wild Things Are continues to be the benchmark for all picture books and it was an early inspiration for me as an artist. Sendak passed away not too long ago as well. Here is a nice volume on Sendak's picture book work.

10- Albert Dorne- Another phenomenal talent profiled here. Like Fawcett, Dorne was an extraordinary draftsman and character artist. Auad Publishing just released a great book on Dorne.

If you missed any of these posts, they are worth a look, or a second look if it has been a while. Thanks for spending time with me here on Life Needs Art- because it does.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Life Needs Art-Top 12 Instructional Posts

After over 430 posts and closing in on three years blogging, I figured it was time for a "best of" recap. Even though I hate most of those year end lists, I thought it might be helpful to new and long time followers alike to be able to revisit a few of my most popular posts. So, in no particular order are the posts that readers have found most helpful and/or have garnered the most hits.

1- Painting With Texture in Photoshop. This post explains how I create hand made textures, scan and then use them to paint digitally. This previous post also deals with the same topic.

2- Wyeth Shape Design Analysis. Here I break down what makes an N.C. Wyeth illustration from his Treasure Island series so successful.

3- 50 Thumbnails.  I explain the value, as Howard Pyle encouraged, of doing more (many more) exploratory thumbnail drawings than you think you might need.

4- Maintaining Tonal Zones. Here I describe how to keep the main masses of a painting distinct by isolating the values in their own zones.

5- Zorn Palette Exercise. Anders Zorn used a very limited palette to great effect. Here I describe how to try it yourself.

6- Master Illustrator Copy. I did a copy of a J.C. Leyendecker painting to explore what he did and why his work was so successful.

7- Eye Path Reverse Analysis.  I break down one of my own pieces based on Andrew Loomis' compositional tips as detailed in Creative Illustration.

8- Sticking to the Thumbnail Sketch. I outline why sticking to your thumbnail sketch is so important to the creation of a successful illustration.

9- George Bellows Limited Palette. I describe why George Bellows' simple color palette is so powerful.

10- Salvador Dali Portrait Demo. A simple portrait demo utilizing unusual color choices.

11- Inventing Color From Black And White Reference. In this demo, I take a black and white photo and paint it in four very different color palettes in a side by side comparison.

12- Using Gold (Metal) Leaf. This is a fun demonstration of how to use metal leaf for interesting decorative effect.

If you missed any of these posts or simply want to have another look, please enjoy!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

A Christmas Prayer
"Loving Father, 
help us to remember the birth of Jesus, 
that we may share in the song of the angels, 
the gladness of the shepherds, 
and the worship of the wise men. 
Close the door of hate and 
open the door of love all over the world. 
Let kindness come with every gift and 
good desires with every greeting. 
Deliver us from evil by the blessing 
which Christ brings, and teach us to 
be merry with clear hearts. 
May the Christmas morning make us happy 
to be Thy children, and the Christmas evening 
bring us to our beds with grateful thoughts, 
forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus' sake. Amen. 
Robert Louis Stevenson
(1850 - 1894)

Peace On Earth
"Peace on earth will come to stay, 
When we live Christmas every day." 
Helen Steiner Rice
(1900 - 1981)
Dear Friends,
I wish you all the best this Christmas and throughout the New Year. Thank you for sharing my passion for art as well as a little of your time with me.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Art Videos Half Off All December

My instructional painting video and EVERY other video offered on are HALF OFF all December long. If you or someone you know would enjoy improving your art skills, be sure to click the link below and pick up a video or two. These top notch videos are all hand selected by the Folio Academy team and feature accomplished professional instructors. Pick up my Acrylic Painting video or pair it with one of the other great videos available. At these rates, you would be a Scrooge not to give it a look.

Click the link below and enter promo code: w1966

Folio Academy Promo link

Saturday, December 15, 2012

In The Weeds

No matter where you are in your career, there are times when you feel like you are "in the weeds". You feel so deep in the undergrowth that you will never be able to hack your way out and see daylight again. There are many reasons for this. Maybe you you are struggling with finding or evolving your style, or getting a handle on a new medium. Maybe you feel stuck with a bunch of creatively dull projects, or worse, no projects at all. Maybe there are things beyond art that are out of your control, like unexpected expenses or demands on your time such as caring for the welfare of a loved one. Whatever the reason, all of us as artists will face times when things look bleak and the way out is unclear. Those are the times when you must, As Dorrie in Finding Nemo suggests, "Just keep swimming". The only sure fire way to fail is to quit. My family has had plenty of challenges this year both financially and health related, but through it all, I have tried to see the daylight beyond the weeds. So when you are facing your own personal jungle, here are a few things to try as you carve a path out:

Do Your Best. Sometimes things just have to get done and "good enough" is a concession that,  is sometimes necessary in order to move ahead. Although compromise may not be ideal, try not to beat yourself up over what might have been on a particular project. Chances are that your client will still be satisfied even if you are not. It's not worth the anxiety spent worrying about something once it is out of your hands. This is a tough one for me and all you perfectionists out there, but learning to chalk something up to experience and focusing on what is next is a healthier way to go. The day you are 100% satisfied with your work is the day you stop growing. If you are like me, you will never "arrive" so it is better to let it be about the journey. I have revisited many "failures" later and determined that they were actually pretty good.

Do Personal Work. I know that this sometimes sounds counterproductive when you are in the middle of a string of hairy deadlines, but try to always have a project that can get your juices flowing. Pick something that you have always wanted to create and make drawings for that idea. Have a little painting on the side that you can noodle on when you need a little break from that mind numbing, overly art directed project that you are in the thick of. Try a new medium or surface just for fun. I promise that the energy you will generate from these personal explorations will spill over into your regular work and make it better. Those personal pieces will also build your portfolio and show your clients what you are capable of and the passion you inject into these works will be evident.

Take Some Time Off. This has always been a tough one for me, since as with doing personal work, it can feel selfish unfinished projects are staring you in the face. I have found that if I let myself, I can ALWAYS be working. This is not good. The deadlines never go away and sometimes they overwhelm. I can drive myself crazy worrying about getting stuff done, so I am learning to just let it go, even if for just a few hours spent with family. The work will still be there tomorrow and with a little down time, you will be better able to focus your energy. Besides, the people you work so hard to provide for need you to actually be there once in a while. Don't forget that. Spend some time connecting with the people you love. Also in your down time, take a moment to connect with your spiritual side, whatever that looks like for you. Pray, meditate, go to church, engage in meaningful service, study scriptures, go for a walk in nature, whatever. I find that this allows me to see the bigger picture of what life is really all about and then when I get back in the studio, I can be more effective and productive.

There are tons of ideas and methods that could be added to this list, but these are the ones that I am thinking about today, the things that are helping bring balance and focus to my life and work at the moment. Keep climbing that mountain- one step at a time!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Chasing a Bus

I was driving back home from visiting my gallery this week when I did a double take. Part of my illustration for City Creek Center was staring back at me ten feet high on the side of a bus. I quickly did a couple of slightly illegal Starsky and Hutch maneuvers and few blocks later I got close enough to get this shot with my phone camera. I haven't ever seen my work on the side of a bus so this was a fun first for me. I wish I had gotten a shot of the whole bus, but trying to hang my phone out the passenger window while driving is a little dangerous. Good thing there were no cops in the vicinity.

See the whole illustration here

Monday, December 10, 2012

Angel Sketches

I'm doing a piece for Angels on Earth magazine right now. I was given a sketchy outline of the article this will accompany about a woman who found herself being comforted by an angel in a field of buttercups following a car accident. The art director mentioned that sometimes the stories are deleted or altered after the art is finished, so the image needed to be more vague.

Version two is the same layout without the woman. I think the first version has more emotional and narrative heft, but I obliged the request and came up with the alternate. I am still trying to get the AD to let me do the first. What do you all think? 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

More Christmas Magic

Here is another piece that I did for the City Creek Center Holiday promotion. Like the previous piece in this series that I posted, this one started out with just a rough concept proposed by the client.

the client provided this concept sketch
I then went and took copious photos on site which I merged together to create a base for my final art. The architecture was the real player in this and I needed to keep it intact.

The pieced together starting point
Where it finished up MANY hours later
Also, the Santa Claus pavilion at the center of the festivities was not built yet when I was working on the art in late August and early September, so I had to do a lot of invention and painting to make it look good. As you can see there was a lot that went into this one and I used elements from dozens of sources to finally put this one all together. the final painting took a lot more time than I anticipated to render, but the client was thrilled and it's fun to see it being splashed around town.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Albert Dorne - Master Illustrator

Albert Dorne Master Illustrator is fresh off the presses from Auad Publishing and just in time to make it onto your Christmas list. I got my copy a few days ago and have been enjoying it ever since. The book is full of Dorne illustrations that I had never seen before as well as many classic pictures that I was familiar with.

Editor Manuel Auad and writer David Apatoff have done a bang up job here in presenting Dorne and his exquisitely drawn work to a new generation. It has been said that Dorne was the Jack Kirby of his day and with his expressive characters and knobby knuckled hands it is easy to see why.

I love the format of the book and the fine quality of the printing. Other nice elements include interviews from Dorne taken from period sources such as Famous Artists Magazine and Pageant. There is even a graphic tribute to Dorne drawn by the great Jack Kirby himself.

Albert Dorne (1906-1965) was a self taught artist who worked his way to fame and riches through sheer determination and hard work. He described a childhood in which he would skip school to draw from the sculptures and paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, claiming to be the youngest artist ever granted a sketch permit from that revered establishment.

Dorne worked at a studio for no pay for an entire year sleeping just a few hours and holding down a night job in order to get his foot in the door of the industry. He went on to found the Famous Artist School correspondence course which influenced countless artists.

It is obvious that Dorne had a gift and flair for drawing people but what surprised me was the range of expression and stylization that he achieved over his four decade career. He was at ease in any approach to the figure from total exaggeration to fairly straight forward depictions.

He was a master of the complex multi figure composition and could manage dozens of figures in a scene and yet let them all add to the overall effect with an appropriate hierarchy of importance.

As with the previous volume on Robert Fawcett, This book also has several vignette pages that focus on Dorne's skill in depicting hands, characters, attention to detail and complex picture architecture. This book is a feast for anyone who enjoys vintage illustration or simply likes to look at great drawing. Gotta go now, Albert Dorne is calling, and I have to figure out how to draw better.

Get your copy of Albert Dorne Master Illustrator

Friday, November 23, 2012

Glen Society Logo

I Just finished this logo illustration for Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. They are a private liberal arts college and I was asked to do this little bit for their Glen Society. It was a fun little piece to work on and it was painted in Photoshop.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Day of Thanks

We all enjoy a little turkey, pie and football and I am looking forward to that today as well, but this year has been different. The last few months have had their ups and downs but through it all, I have found so many reasons to be thankful. I am thankful for a great family and a loving spouse whom I admire and adore. I am grateful for all the countless acts  of kindness and support from friends and family who have brought in meals, to kind notes in the mail to the army of friends and neighbors who helped me get to all those yard work  and maintenance tasks that have been on the back burner since breast cancer threw us for a loop in July. I am grateful for modern medicine and for the healing powers of heaven. I wish you all a day filled with gratitude for the bounteous blessing we all enjoy. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Turning Summer to Winter

On Sunday, the newspaper brought with it the new City Creek Center Holiday insert, so now that it is public, I figured it was time for me to claim credit. I was approached in late August to do illustrations for City Creek Center, the new multi billion dollar redevelopment project in downtown Salt Lake City, UT.

Concept art provided by the client
Of course I jumped at the chance since the mall and surrounding properties are practically in my back yard. The development spans multiple city blocks and there is a distinctive pedestrian bridge that connects it together. One of the images needed would showcase this architectural feature. the time frame and complexity of the architecture, as well as the continuity with existing City Creek advertising necessitated a much more Photoshop based approach than usual. I also would need to transform summer into winter, complete with twinkling lights and snow and decorations.

Left side of the panorama
Center section with sky cut out
Right side of the scene
I took the concept art from the client and took photos around the mall from which to work. I could not get the entire bridge panorama into my camera in one shot, so I pieced the three parts together using the photo merge utility, which us incredibly good at matching things up. I then adjusted exposures to get them all matching and then went to work painting over the entire scene.

City Creek Bridge- Final version

City Creek bridge starting point
Then came all the work of adding the holiday cheer to the scene. I added a nice moonlight sky and stars to the background, edited out the power poles and barricades, replaced all the people with bundled up shoppers, added all the garlands and trees and tossed in thousands of twinkling lights. I also added a generous sprinkling of snow on the ground and light flakes falling. By the time I finished, I had painted over and added textures to pretty much the whole scene. I like how it turned out, though it was not my traditional method of working. Bottom line was that the client was very pleased and that is what really counts.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Pulpit and Altar - Zion

Falling Shadows - (Pulpit and Altar - Zion) - 9" x 12" oil by Greg Newbold
I Just finished another painting from my recent trip to Zion National Park. This formation is at the top of the road in Zion Canyon is called the Pulpit and the Altar. I don't know which one is which but I was attracted to the way these two stones were silhouetted by the falling shadows on the canyon wall behind.

Cropped view of the Pulpit and Altar
We had about one hour before I knew we would lose light so I was putting down paint as fast as I could mix it. The shadows moved so fast toward the end of this one, that I had about five minutes  at the end to paint the entire foreground before I lost the light altogether.

In Progress- about 30 minutes in
I only have one progress shot of this one and I don't have a shot of how it looked before I touched things up in the studio, but the foreground was pretty messy. There is something exciting about trying to capture a fleeting moment in the field that I find hard to replicate when working straight from photos. This one is now at my gallery Williams Fine Art. I have a sneaking feeling it won't hang around there long.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Grasshopper Hunter in Illustrators 55

Grasshopper Hunter - Digital 11" x 17 by Greg Newbold
I got a nice phone call from the  New York Society of Illustrators yesterday informing me that my piece "Grasshopper Hunter" was accepted into Illustrators 55. It was a nice call to take considering that I have not been so lucky the past couple of years. For those who are unfamiliar with the Society's Annual, this year marks the 55th year of this annual competition which typically accepts around 400 of the years best illustrated works from a pool of around 6000 or so entries. It is pretty stiff competition and it is always nice to get something in the show. The piece also got in the Spectrum Annual earlier this year, so I must have done something right on this one.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Studio Offering - Holstein- SOLD!

SOLD! - Holstein - 6"x6" oil by Greg Newbold

I did this 6" x 6" cow recently and rather than take it straight to the gallery, I thought I would offer it first to my loyal online and Facebook friends. If you are looking to add one of my paintings to your collection or looking to buy a great gift for someone else this Christmas, this may be the perfect thing for you.

This piece comes as shown with a great little custom frame made by Travis Humphries at Gold River Gallery. I am offering "Holstein" at the unbeatable straight from the studio price of $325. This offer will be valid for one week unless it sells sooner. Sales tax (Utah residents) and delivery charges may apply.

I am also taking a limited number of holiday gift commissions but contact me at 801.274.2407 soon if you want something done by Christmas!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

My Art Featured in UMAA Magazine

Midway Pasture - 11" x 18.75 oil by Greg Newbold
Check out my art featured in the premiere edition of Utah Music and Arts Magazine. I was interviewed recently by editor Mike Robinson and got to share my thoughts on why and how I create. This publication fills a serious hole in the Utah art market and I encourage everyone to give it a look and support this effort to celebrate the wealth of artists in Utah. For a state that is home to so many fantastic artists and musicians, we often times don't do a very good job of promoting our work in state. Have a look!

UMAA Magazine site

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Zion en Plein Air

Zion Shadows - 8" x 8" - oil study, by Greg Newbold
Yesterday, I showed the first result from last weekend's painting trip to Zion National Park and Southern Utah. As with any painting trip, there are successful paintings and ones that are less so. This trip for me was a breakthrough in that I felt pretty good about every one of my pictures. Some I liked for the paint quality and color (like yesterday's post) and others I liked because of compositional or abstract qualities.

This painting was the last effort of our first day and we had to work quickly to get something down. Late fall sunlight moves quickly in the evening so we tried to keep this study around an hour. It is always a challenge to capture scenery as big as Zion without getting too busy and losing focus. I chose to crop and focus on a certain area of the mountain. I really like how the light and shadow shapes play off of one another and the abstract quality this creates. I think this study is worthy of being worked up into a larger painting.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Painting Near Grafton

I went to Southern Utah on a plein air painting trip last weekend with friend and fellow painter Richard Hull. Our first stop was Grafton, Utah, a ghost town best known as a location in the Robert Redford/Paul Newman film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. On the road near what is left of the town, I found a subject I liked overlooking a gnarly old tree in it's full golden fall splendor. The hazy blue outcroppings of Zion National Park are in the distance.

Here is a progression of the image and where I stopped painting after the light changed too much. One of these days I will learn to capture a finished statement in the time I have before the light is gone, but until then, I will be content to finish them up in studio.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

R.I.P David Grove (1940-2012)

Poster for Something Wicked This Way Comes by David Grove

My earliest exposure to the work of David Grove in 1983 when I saw the stunning painting he did for the film adaptation of Ray Bradbury's "Something Wicked This Way Comes".  As with many of the works I drooled over in my early art life, I didn't have a name to attach to the art, but the brilliance of tis particular painting was burned into my nascent artistic psyche. I enjoyed more of of his work over the next few years until I finally learned the name David Grove in a history of Illustration class.

Poster for "Never Cry Wolf"
 Mystery solved. I was in love with the work of David Grove. Like many students I also dabbled in Grove's gouache rub out and acrylic technique before I settled into my own style. It was not until 2009 that I actually met David Grove when I was privileged to hear him give a presentation during my MFA studies.

Grove told many stories about his forty odd years as an illustrator that alternately amused and inspired the crowd. He outlined how his career began in 1965 as an illustrator in Paris, France. He had started out as a photography major at Syracuse University but left there to have what was intended to be a six month European experience. He stayed in France for a year and a half.

In Paris, Grove linked up with a representative who only dealt in illustration. The agent asked him to do a sample to prove he could draw. Grove obliged and the agent subsequently got Grove his first job in less than a week. It was an overnight rush job - a black and white newspaper advertisement. Due to confusion over the language barrier, Grove thought it was a $5 job.

When his agent handed him the $500 check, he realized that he had just made enough money to support himself for over a month. That job showed up on a billboard which led to another $500 job and that was the start of a brilliant career. After settling in California after his return from Europe, Grove found truly interesting work to be in short supply. He took a trip to New York where he immediately earned contracts to create nine book covers Those jobs were followed closely by fifteen more covers. Grove was launched as a top illustrator here in the United States.

David's long and storied career included countless movie and theater posters, book covers and advertisements for which he earned many awards  and the respect of the industry. Grove's clients included film posters for Disney, Warner Bros. Orion, MGM/UA and Fox.  Other clients included Sony, Pendleton, Eddie Bauer, Mercedes Benz and Deutsche Bank.

David Grove was a consummate craftsman and would go to great lengths to get the right information for a painting. Once he needed some guns for reference material. Rather than locate prop guns, he decided to build his own out of wood, cardboard and scraps. Well, the fake guns needed a coat of black spray paint in order to be convincing which necessitated a trip to the roof of his studio building. As Grove was spraying away, he heard the crackle of police radios and looked up to find himself staring down the barrel of a SWAT sniper rifle.

Neighbors had called in a report of some crazy guy with guns on the roof of a building. It took some convincing and a visit to his studio before the cops wrote it off as a false alarm.

Grove's technique involved making a detailed drawing based on his research which he said "could take anywhere from twenty minutes to weeks". The drawing (which took one night or up to weeks) was transferred to a gessoed board and then sealed off. Because he had his drawing established, the gesso could be applied in directional strokes that could follow the thrust of his drawing.

Flowing vibrant washes of gouache followed which were then rubbed out to reveal the highlights and subtle transitions from light to dark. Grove admitted in his presentation that for a while, he only used Burnt Sienna, Ultramarine Blue in his gouache palette. He liked how the blue would settle lower into the valleys of gesso and reveal a subtle vibration of warm to cool across the texture. A coat of Krylon Workable Fixative to seal the gouache that was then followed by layers of Liquitex Acrylics over the top.

Grove's paintings were finished off with a coat of matte varnish. He figured most of his paintings took about a week to complete. The combination of textures and the glorious flowing washes in Grove's work were often imitated but never equaled.
David Grove was inducted into the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame in 2007. He passed on October 25, 2012 at the age of 72 following a long illness. His talent and influence in the world of art and illustration will be greatly missed.

There is a book of David's work available at the link below from Norfolk Press. I can't wait for my copy to arrive.

David Grove : An Illustrated Life 305 page softcover monograph available here