Thursday, March 31, 2011

Spectrum 18

I got into Spectrum 18! This time last year was my first entry into the annual publication, and I'm proud to repeat. I don't have any clue whether I got multiple pieces in, but to make the list at all is still a thrill.

The list of accepted artists is here.

Or here, taken from the Muddy Colors blog:

Monday, March 28, 2011


I heard about artist Mark Hogancamp on This American Life, and found his work fascinating. However, I struggled with how to describe it in my own words, so I will quote from the website:

"After being beaten into a brain-damaging coma by five men outside a bar, Mark builds a 1/6th scale World War II-era town in his backyard. Mark populates the town he dubs "Marwencol" with dolls representing his friends and family and creates life-like photographs detailing the town's many relationships and dramas. Playing in the town and photographing the action helps Mark to recover his hand-eye coordination and deal with the psychic wounds of the attack."

Hogancamp is certainly an unlikely artist. His work was therapy until it was discovered by outside sources who saw it's emotional and visual power. The documentary "Marwencol," coming out on April 12th, follows the artist's story.

What I find so engaging about Mark's work is the storytelling. I struggle with trying to come up with ways to tell a story in a single two dimensional plane, but Mark seems to be a natural. His world is real and surreal at the same moment, evoking the feelings young children have when playing with toys. We recognize the doll-ness of the scene, but can't help but get carried away with the emotional punch of his compositions (Thank you Art Appreciation 101).

But seriously, check it out for yourself.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Gathering Inspiration

Movies are a great source of inspiration. The good ones, at least.

The really well-made movies have a great sense of color and composition. Period pieces offer terrific historical information as well. I try to capture all that information. Using the VLC player, I can pause DVDs at any time and take a snapshot of the screen. These snapshots are quickly becoming an important part of my reference file.

The snapshot above is from Elizabeth: The Golden Age. Not only is the composition interesting, but the hue and lighting are great. For a future piece, I may be inspired by this image and use it to spot test color and value.

And if you use the mosaic filter on Photoshop to simplify the color, you have the basis for a pretty decent palette. Bonus!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

New High-Res Scans

Check out the new photos of my work from Boston Photo Imaging (click through for an even better look):

I highly recommend Boston Photo Imaging for all the Boston-area artists out there.

An update on my palette

Reading James Gurney's Color and Light has given me a lot to think about in terms of my palette. Most of my choices in the past have been gut reactions to the given assignment. To a certain extent, that's still the way I approach it. Still, I'm trying to use a more academic approach.

One example is that I have started to use color wheels. For the past few assignments, if I try a new palette, I record it. The upper left is the "Zorn Palette"- black, cadmium red medium and yellow ochre. I became fascinated with this combination and using it, I painted "The Victor," or "the painting with the girl pirate," whichever you prefer.

Obviously, that had limitations, especially in the blue spectrum. For a recent Magic card I needed more intense colors. The upper right wheel was what I settled on. Ultramarine Blue was the main color, and that was complemented by Ultramarine Pink and Naples Yellow, two colors that would not dull the blue or pull the painting out of the blue family. In addition, I believe I used ivory black to darken the ultramarine blue and Indian yellow to provide a transparent substitute for the Naples Yellow. (I used both yellows in very, very small amounts; in fact, I may have discarded Naples altogether).

The most recent color wheel represents my most recent pieces. The bottom left has great potential:

Ultramarine Blue Deep
Transparent Red Oxide
Yellow Ochre
with the addition or subtraction of
Naples Yellow
Cadmium Yellow
Cadmium Red
Venetian Red
Ivory Black

By using UBD, TRO and YO as the base wheel, I can achieve a dark color similar to black by mixing UBD and TRO and a warm light by mixing TRO and YO. The addition of the high and low chroma reds and yellows can round out the piece where needed, but I don't think I would ever use all of them on the same piece.

This is still a work in process, but I think I am on the right track. I think my next Magic card involves some green, so I will have to experiment with new color wheels. Maybe I'll add Viridian to the mix? Or perhaps I'll try different Blue-Yellow mixes?

Saturday, March 12, 2011


I just finished a fifteen day stretch of some of the most intensive painting I have ever done. Six main figures, plus various creatures and around 20 minor figures, all for the sequel to At the Queen's Command. Beyond that, I shouldn't comment, although the title and the synopsis have been online for a while. Now, I am traveling back to Connecticut to get the piece scanned for submission. I hope it reproduces well, because I like it better than the illustration for the first book:

So while that doesn't excuse the absence, it does explain it. But don't worry, I took photos of the process which I will post here when the image is officially published.

In the meantime, I noticed this photo online. Before I saw this, I did not know that the Oval Office had a Norman Rockwell hanging in it. Apparently, right above the Frederic Remington sculpture, The Bronco Buster, hangs Rockwell's Working on the Statue of Liberty.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Illustrators are talented people

On Sunday night, illustrator Shaun Tan won an Oscar for best animated short film. If you're an illustrator, you have probably already heard the news, but for those who haven't ... The film is an animated version of his picture book, The Lost Thing. Watching it feels like you are entering Tan's sketchbook. The aesthetic, the mood and the pacing all have the Shaun Tan treatment.

I am trying to comprehend how I would animate my own work, and I can't come up with a good way to do that. Taking two-dimensional images and turning them into three-dimensional, moving ideas is quite a feat. Maybe it means that my work is not meant to be animated, or maybe it means that Tan is just way, way more talented than I am.