Saturday, March 31, 2012

SiDEBAR interview with David Grove

David Grove has been mentioned here many times before. He is a legend in the industry. Leave it to SiDEBAR to actually get him to sit down for an interview!

Check out the podcast HERE.

And some old Muddy Colors articles on David, to bring you up to speed:

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

-by Eric Fortune

Often we see works of art that leave us inspired with dribbles of saliva flowing down the sides of our mouths. Sometimes that's just an excuse for random dribbles of saliva that flow down our mouths for no reason. What we're experiencing is the end result of long hours of work without the frustration, dookie sketches, obscure chicken scratches, that huge phase(aka the ugly phase)prior to finish, and artist's block etc.

Not every job that lands in our email is going to have the same potential for inspiration, cool imagery, or creative freedom. However, it's our job as illustrators to take these challenges and consistently create engaging, quality imagery from the given narratives. This is something that I and I would suppose everyone else has dealt with at some point. Depending on many various factors there's an ebb and flow and compromise that sometimes occur. For example, how strict are the parameters of the job? How much creative freedom are you given? Sometimes the client is set on a concept that doesn't have a lot of wiggle room and the job becomes more of a technical exercise. If the opportunity for concept isn't available then make the best technical piece that you can. Every once in a blue moon there's a flash of inspiration that happens with little effort. The art director loves your idea and it turns into a killer piece of art. Wham and Bam. I'll take more of these please. However it works out we should all have certain standards for the art we create.

Here are some sketches I've been struggling with. Sometimes I get stuck on predictable ideas and compositions that I just have to grind through before something more inspiring comes to mind. Sometimes it takes time for a good idea to strike. With looming deadlines that extra time may be a luxury. These are all factors that we illustrators work to refine and become more efficient at. Something that I still work on.

There is definitely a different dynamic when working on a personal piece of art where time and freedom are more available. I personally feel I create much better work with a certain amount of artistic autonomy and have the time to see the painting through. Whether or not such an image would sell more books or magazines is up for debate. Hopefully, clients are contacting you because they like what you do. Hopefully, the work you are representing yourself with are works that you yourself like and enjoy working on.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

New Painting - Fear

-Donato Giancola 

Here's a new one finished this past month as a cover in a series of novels by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.  The first image is that of Scholar, followed by Princeps, which I posted here a few months ago.  These novels are a great read as I love the protagonist and the way Modesitt has created the magic in this world.  I see it as a little like the world of Napoleon meets Psionics.

The fire embers in Fear play off the contrast of the snow/ash flakes in Princeps. I imagine them as sister paintings.

Otherwise my life is as I usually say, 'Head down, busy painting.'

Fear (Subcommander)
 24" x 36"
Oil on Panel

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


-Jesper Ejsing

To be honest I do not know anything about composition: I have had no training or teaching about it and never understood the Golden Section. What I had to do is go by instinct or what “feels right” and in that way I have found some principles that works and creates an ease and a clarity in my paintings.

It is all about making the image clear and easy to read. If too many lines confuses the directions in the image and point this way and that way the eye do not know where to look, doesn’t know what is important.

The other thing I started doing is finding ways to frame what is important in the image. ( It sounds so naïve and simple that I feel retarded to exploit it) The frame helps to cut of the “not-so-important from the very-important. The framing lines circles in the focal points and simplifies the whole.

My first example is 2 sketches for the same cover.

The first version has lines all over the place. The figure is not framed, the sword is pointing the right way towards the figure, but the rest is not consistent.

The second version is overly simple in the way the spear, swords and faces and everything frames the main figure with arrow like lines. Here the spear points are actually arrows pointing to where I need you to look. Doesn’t get more simple than that. The rider functions as a stopper for all the action lines.

Here are some sketches that I have found exemplify my tricks:

1. This is the clearest I've got. The dragon creates a circle around the figure, ending in a face that points toward him. The magical barrier is a repeated circle shape enhancing the framing composition.

2. All the spider limbs points inward to the centre, the hair stripes points up toward the face. The centred image helps a lot to create calmness. The swords are the only messy/living lines in the composition.

3. Hair crown and arms with the billowing cloth all points toward the face. The bulky spider body creates a bowl-like shape that frames the figure.

4. All lines points toward the head. The volcano eruption is the calm straight line creating an ease/contrast to the more dynamic shaped lines of the dragon body.

5. Since I had a very little main figure in this image I had to make the 2 giants frame him by hulking over him. The arm of the giant to the right circles in the knight, as do the left giant by closing of the background with its body silhouette. The triangled shape of the snowy cliff pints up, like an arrow to the main figure.

6. This is almost the same as number 5. The whole composition is build up around framing circular shapes that closes around the main figure and his face. The cloak and the arm and the spear points toward the knight and his face.

Most, if not all, of these compositional elements are something that evolve during the sketching process. It doesn’t start by me saying “ I wanna do a circular shaped cover this time”. It is something that I catch when I see it, and enhance when I discover. But knowing about it ( a gut feeling standing on the shoulders of thousands of errors ) helps me to spot the good compositional lines when the opportunity presents itself.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

I ♥ Moebius.

-By Dan dos Santos

If you asked me what my favorite movie is, I would likely have to give you a 'top three'.
If you asked me who my favorite musician is, I would again have to give you a 'top three'.
But if you asked me who my favorite artist is, I would say without a moment's hesitation that it is Jean 'Moebius' Giraud.

I heard about Jean's death the day after it happened, and the whole experience honestly took me by surprise. Obviously, I considered writing a blog post about it immediately, but then decided otherwise. I just wasn't in the mood to simply 'report' his death solely for the sake of promptness. It seemed inadequate. His work means so much more to me than that.

I confess, I've always thought it was kind of lame when I'd see teenagers sobbing over the death of some musician. I just didn't understand how they could be so upset about the death of someone they didn't even know. Yet, here I found myself, in the middle of some mundane conversation, unusually upset at the loss of a man. A man with whom my only worldly connection are the books on my shelf.

Now don't get me wrong, I wasn't some blubbering mess crying in my cereal bowl or anything like that. But hearing the news was enough to keep me awake that night, with a rotten pang in my stomach. Perhaps it is because I admired his work so much. Or maybe it is because we share the same job, and the same passions, and with that similarity, one can't help but to compare their own self to the departed.
Whatever it is, his death has left me a little bit empty.

As I've mentioned many times here, I am a bit of an art-book junkie, and Moebius is a particular weakness of mine. There is a even a dedicated section on my shelf just for his work. The first book I ever bought of his was 'Fusion'. After pouring through the book repeatedly, and falling absolutely in love with his work, I proceeded to spend the next few years digging up every old, out-of-print Moebius book that I could find. Whenever I got a new Moebius book, I would open it the way a Diabetic would open a Twinkie; with a wolf-like fervor that can only be sated by sweaty, panicked over-indulgenced, and lots of heavy breathing.

After a while, about 20 or 30 books into it, I felt like I had most of the ones I really wanted. Well, the ones I could afford anyways. After that, all I needed to do was 'keep up', so to speak. When a new book of his work would come out, I would buy it immediately. It didn't matter if it was in French, or if it was written by someone else, or if it was shrink-wrapped and I couldn't even see inside of it. All that mattered, was that inside that book, pressed between the two covers, would be some gem of a drawing that I knew would inspire me. And as time passed on, my patience would be rewarded, usually every year or two, with a new book, and the promise of more things to come.

But that's done.

There is no more to come.

Every Moebius drawing that will ever exist, has been drawn.

As boundless, and prolific, as his imagination was... Moebius' body of work in now finite. You can go back, and look at every illustration he ever produced. It's there. It's done. It's not going anywhere, and there won't be any more of it. It is now a quantifiable thing, which can be seen as a whole.
No more potential... just achievements.

That startles me.

Now, I'm willing to bet the reason this bothers me so much is because inside of me is some deep-rooted, existential anxiety, fighting the notion of my own mortality. But... I'm going to choose to ignore that. Instead, I'm going to say that this whole thing upsets me so much, because I love Moebius.

I mean, I seriously love Moebius.

For me, Moebius' work is in a class by itself, and merits very few comparisons... or contenders.

When I look at his art, I sometimes imagine him actually drawing it. I follow his strokes, as they flow across the page, as if each one brings the white of the paper that much closer to fulfilling some unspoken potential. With just a few black lines, he manages to create an amazing sense of depth, a menagerie of characters, and a backstory a hundred years long.

Which finally brings us to the actual point of this really long post. Rather than reporting on his death, I would much rather share with you guys why it is that I love Moebius so much. And what better way to do that than to share with you some of my favorite pieces of his.

All of the scans below are pretty high-rez, so be sure to click on them so you can really enjoy the details.

Just above is the first illustration by Moebius that I ever saw. It appeared in 'A Gallery of Dreams', an art collection celebrating the work of Neil Gaiman.

'Starwatcher', which appeared in an art book by the same name, is probably Moebius' most famous piece. It has since spawned many incarnations, and countless homages.

An image from 'Arzach', the comic which first brought Moebius world-wide acclaim.

Struck by the similarities between Arzach and Hayao Miyazaki's Nausicaa, Moebius traveled to Tokyo to meet the artist. The two developed a life-long relationship, and even drew each other's characters on occasion, ultimately resulting in a collaborative exhibit in 2004.

Major Grubert, as he appeared on the cover to 'The Airtight Garage #1'.

The Airtight Garage is one of my favorite Moebius comics. Originally appearing as a serial 4 page short in 'Metal Hurlant', Moebius challenged himself by making up the whole story as he went along. He would intentionally end each episode with a catastrophic twist for which he felt there was no possible way to continue the story. Each month, he would pick up his pen, and sure enough, surmount his own challenge.

Jean Giraud, with his good friend, Major Grubert, visit a Tattoine Market.

To me, Moebius' work epitomizes what good art/design is all about... simplicity. Someone once said that 'good design is achieved only when you've removed everything from the picture that you can remove'. I think Moebius' work in general is a great example of this notion, but no work better exemplifies it than his book '40 Days Dans Le Desert'.

Some pages from '2001 Apres Jesus Christ', Moebius' metaphysical retelling of the story of Jesus.
Before Jean Giraud was 'Moebius', the persona under which he drew most of his SF themed work, he went by the name 'Gir'. It was under this name that he created one of his best selling comics, a Western called 'Blueberry'. Below are some stellar examples of work he created for that comic.

No stranger to film, Jean Giraud worked as a concept artist for many big budget titles, including 'Alien', 'Dune', 'Tron', and 'The Fifth Element'. In fact, the very creation of 'The Fifth Element' was heavily inspired by Moebius' comic 'H.P.'s Rock City'. Below is some concept art he created for the movie 'Willow'.

A few images from a portfolio entitled 'Voyage d' Hermes'.

Below are some pages from 'The Eyes of the Cat', which sadly is the last book of Moebius' work to be published during his lifetime. Written by long-time collaborator Jodorowsky, this is a nearly silent story. Black ink on yellow paper, this over-sized book really shows off Moebius' finesse of the medium.


And last, but most definitely not least, I leave you with perhaps my favorite Moebius piece of all time. A single illustration from the portfolio 'Mystere Montrouge'

Monday, March 26, 2012


-By Arnie Fenner

While shuffling some things around I came across a stack of The Enchanted World series from Time Life Books. I quickly found myself sitting on the floor flipping through one after the other and enjoying myself immensely.

Published in the mid 1980s, there were 21 titles in the series, each devoted to a different aspect of mythology and folklore, with occasional references to 19th and early 20th Century literary creations. It wasn't an academic study, but rather were written as stories, presenting its subjects as real people, places, and things. Following the conceit that everything had once been real, a common thread through several of them was its documentation of the decline and disappearance of magical stuff from "when the world was young." Witches, dragons, vampires, giants, et al—all were covered. The text alone, honestly, was not enough incentive to buy the books: it was all pretty eh, you know?

The art on the other hand was another matter entirely—and more than enough reason now to scout the books out at used bookstores or on the internet. Each volume included scads of classic color pieces by N.C. Wyeth, William Holman Hunt, Arthur Rackham, John Everett Millais, Edward Burne-Jones, and many others—which was great all on it's own. But the true icing on the cake was that the Time Life art directors commissioned a mountain of new paintings for the series by a youthful crop of illustrators that included John Collier, John Howe, Gary Kelley, James C. Christensen, Marshall Arisman, Kinuko Y. Craft, Yvonne Gilbert, Matt Mahurin, and MC's own John Jude Palencar (one of his illos is at the top of this post) among many others. The series was a pretty well-paying (if short-deadline) job and it's a shame that it didn't take off and translate into more illustrated titles.

If you spot these at a garage sale, snatch them up. You'll be glad you did.


Friday, March 23, 2012

More posters

-by Petar Meseldzija

Two weeks ago I posted an entry about my beginnings as a commercial artist and about the posters that I did almost 20 years ago for Verkerke Reproducties.

Here are some more posters painted between 1993 and 1997. This is a selection from the various poster genres that I was doing at that time.

When I was young I believed that a proper commercial artist has to be able to cover different subjects and types of illustration, and I did my best to develop the necessary skills in order to achieve this aim.

Nowadays, after I have tried all of that, I must say that I am happy that I have found my own “voice”, which is, I believe, the ultimate purpose of this journey.