Tuesday, March 31, 2015

"The Last of His Kind" Development Work

By Justin Gerard

"The Last of His Kind"

Drawing on toned paper.

As many of you know or suspect, I prefer watercolor, pencil and digital to working in other mediums. There is a energy and vitality to working with lines that I can't seem to get in other ways.  
Also, watercolor and pencil has become comfortable routine action for me; like making cheese toast, or asking someone else to make me cheese toast.   

Oil Painting on the other hand is something more stressful, like amateur bomb defusal.  (red wire or blue wire? I DON"T KNOW I'M CUTTING ALL THE WIRES)

Still, sometimes I get an image in my head that just won't work with watercolor and pencil. It needs more 'oomph'. And there is nothing like working in oil for achieving oomph. 
And lacking a mast to tie myself to, I cannot ignore the siren song of Rembrandt. So I dig out the Old Holland paints and walnut oil to try my hand at it again. 

So for this week's post I am sharing a work in progress of oil I have been working on. I hope you enjoy. 

Acrylic underpainting on gessoed 11x14 panel

Monochrome oil over the acrylic on panel

The final painting will be available to see in person at the KrabJab show, "Marriage is a Work of Art" debuting April 11. It will be there alongside Annie's gorgeous painting that she will be revealing later this week.  

In Closing: Please remember to observe April Fool's day by asking all your friends what they got their mothers for Mother's Day. 

Monday, March 30, 2015


-By Dan dos Santos

Many of us received Acceptance Letters from Spectrum this past week, while others had to come to terms with having their work rejected.

Obviously, being accepted into Spectrum is a happy occasion, and extremely well deserved. However, dealing with the rejection is a lot more difficult, especially if you've been trying year after year to get in. It's hard not to be discouraged when you feel like you did your best, and it still wasn't good enough. Trust me when I tell you, that feeling NEVER goes away. Rejection always stings.

I was extremely fortunate this year to be accepted into the annual again, and even more fortunate to be nominated for an award.

To the outsider, it may seem that the same professionals get in year after year with ease, while others continually struggle. But that's not entirely true. What you don't see amongst all those joyous acceptance posts on Facebook is the all of work that was rejected from those very same pros.

For every one piece I get in, usually four are rejected. And that's after I've already culled them down to only my best works.

So, I thought it would be enlightening to showcase just some of the work that I submitted to Spectrum this year that did NOT get in.






And this isn't even all of them!

Every one of these pieces, some of which were actually my personal favorites of the year, will NOT be included in this year's annual.

Does that mean they aren't any good? No. Does it mean I'm not any good? No. It just means that these particular pieces didn't entice these particular jurors as a group, enough to garner sufficient votes. In fact, some of these very same pieces may be accepted next year by a different jury.

These rejected pieces also serve to make me more appreciative of what I achieved with the pieces that did get in, noticing qualities in them that I hand't noticed before.

So, in celebration of all those who did NOT get into Spectrum, but keep trying year after year anyways, I salute you! Determination is one of the most important qualities an artist can have, and is an essential ingredient of success. I hope you all take this rejection in stride, and continue to strive for your goals!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Exodus of Giants

-By Petar Meseldzija

The Exodus of Giants, oil on MDF board, 80X55 cm.

I recently finished a painting, titled The Exodus of Giants, that has been commissioned by an art collector from France. It’s a pity I wasn’t able to finish this piece earlier, so that we could include it in my upcoming book on giants. Speaking of The Book of Giants, the book is at the printer right now and is expected to be printed very soon.

However, because this painting depicts an important event described in the story - it’s composition is even based on a few drawings from the book - we decided to try to add this picture to the printed book in some way. We'll see if this works out.

There is a wide spread opinion that a good painting must speak for itself and therefore doesn’t need any explanation, or additional information, in order to be properly experienced by the viewer (whatever that “properly” might mean). While I generally agree, I am at the same time well aware of the limitations imposed by such  a notion. It all depends on the type of painting (art) on one hand, and the spectator’s mindset on the other. It often happens that one is able to experience a painting more fully and to connect with it on a deeper, emotional level if one is aware of the painting’s context, whether historical, social, philosophical, or purely artistic.  Even a little story, or an anecdote, about the artist and the painting’s genesis can trigger an emotional response and unlock the flow of associations in the viewer’s mind. When viewing art we basically deal with symbols and concepts that represent both outer and inner world. Their impact on our psyche is the most important thing. Much of the communication with an art object happens at the unconscious level, and the more emotions involved in this "interaction", the stronger the bond with that piece of art. This is quite obvious.

When I showed this painting for the first time, a few persons responded by asking: “Where do they get those furs?” Somebody else commented: ”I think you should be aware that giants would have to have a very different muscular and skeletal structure, otherwise they would be crashed under their own weight.”

One experiences art, like all other things, as one wants, or must. Every time you show your art work to the public you throw yourself before the lions, so to speak. Nothing wrong with that, as long as you are able to withstand whatever the audience throws at you, both good and bad. It can break you, but it can also help you grow, we all know that. Nevertheless, there are situations in which a kind of short sightedness and narrow-mindedness becomes apparent. I believe this can be corrected  to a certain degree by giving an appropriate explanation, or sharing a related story that can inspire and stimulate the public to expend its view.

When it comes to having a “proper” experience of art that deals with mythological themes I can say the following - before entering a mythological realm, which is a place situated deep within the human psyche, for the Unconscious is the birthplace of myth, one is required to leave one's usual logic and rational thinking behind. It's of no use there for these "imaginary" worlds have their own reality, their own laws, and their own logic. Therefore, use your imagination and harness your dreams. But, beware of a deadly danger lurking in the shadows…You might come across your true self down there. ...At least that is my own experience.

At the end, and with the hope that you will experience this painting “properly”, and not ask about the furs, or G-force, here is a short part from The Book of Giants that inspired the painting's creation:

Alas, the giants had overestimated their own strength and were eventually defeated by the gods. Many were slain in battle, while the rest fled into deep cracks and hollows under the mountains, disappearing from the face of the world for a long period of time. After many years spent in their somber refuge, the giants discovered the existence of an unknown land. This green and lush country was hidden behind an invisible barrier for so long that even the gods had forgotten it. But not all giants dared to leave the relative safety of their underground shelters and chose instead to stay. Those who did immigrate to the new land found a safe haven, which allowed them to walk freely in the daylight once again. This is known as the first exodus of giants.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

“The Art of David Palumbo” Exhibit at University of the Arts, Philadelphia

David Palumbo

Apart from whatever I can bring with me to conventions (and those seem fewer and fewer each year for me), it is a rare moment for me to have a showing of my illustration work.  For that reason, I’m very proud and excited about my exhibition just installed at the Richard C. von Hess Gallery at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.  This has been in the works for awhile now and the result is a collection of many of my favorite paintings and preliminary roughs from recent years.

I’ve written in the past about finding one's vision as an artist and, for me, this show is something of a marker in the progress that I feel I’ve personally made.  My biggest step to date came just over three years ago when I made a commitment to embrace the physical nature of my medium and to direct my emphasis towards the emotional and atmospheric side of my images whenever possible.  I wanted to loosen my grip on what I had imagined was expected of a fantasy illustrator (both in content and in technique) and instead place my focus on what I personally found most engaging.  My success in doing that has varied of course, but I gradually am able to see the path a bit clearer with every new piece.

Assembling this exhibit was an interesting review along those lines.  I always feel the most difficult artist to classify is one’s self.  We know more or less what to expect from our heroes, idols, and peers.  Whether through things like genre, palette, technique, and even style of story telling, the identities of other artists always seem so apparent while our own can feel so elusive.  My theory has long been that this is because we assess other artists on the work they have done, which is finite, but we assess ourselves on the work we aim to do and the many potential places which that may lead.  It is a bit strange to fill a room with the places I‘ve been in order to say something about where I am trying to go, but I all in all I feel pretty good about it.

Photo by Ralph Giguere

For anyone in the Philadelphia area who wants to see the show, it runs from now until May 17th with a presentation this coming Thursday on some of the above themes of progression and voice followed by the opening reception.  I hope anyone interested is able to stop in!  

Public Presentation: Thursday, April 2, 2015, 1- 2:30 p.m., CBS Auditorium
Reception: Thursday, April 2, 2015, 3 - 4 p.m., von Hess Illustration Gallery

Anderson Hall
333 S Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
United States

Friday, March 27, 2015

EDENTOWN (and beyond)

by Greg Ruth

The misborn of our creative concepts are always our favorites. They died before their explosive potential could be weathered down by reality, and the limits of executing them. In reality they would have probably not achieved the lofty chalice that we imagine them to have grabbed if executed.
We as creative people often forget this, that it is a misunderstanding. Even knowing this truth I still look at projects I had conceived or even begun in earnest, with this wistful gaze. They still whisper to me that they want to be born or finished even if it may never happen. EDENTOWN, a psychotically weird sci-western thing I was doing with Bob Schreck for Vertigo a few years ago is one of those and it still calls out to me today- maybe even moreso now that an excerpt from it has found print in the newly published comics anthology by the Brand New Nostalgia/OOSA kickstarted collaboration, KBOOM-box. In any case, whatever it is, here is that story.

Here below for the first time anywhere you can read the whole excerpt. It was cobbled together from the first completed issue of the intended comic. I Have designs to both post the whole first issue soon and finish the remainder in time. Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Three Questions

Beren and Luthien in the Court of Thingol and Melian     in progress     110" x 62"     Oil on linen

by Donato

Another couple of weeks have past since my last post and I am still in the middle of a large commissioned oil painting, my most complex ever.  Although it would be great to keep updates on every process development, I find that I am not taking many image shots as the work proceeds.  Not from any lack of interest in documenting the painting, but rather my desire and focus while involved with this work has different needs for me.

I entered illustration and a career in oil painting because of my love to bring forth images which swirl away in my mind.  It is thrilling to make them real, and even better to share them with a sympathetic audience.  But the heart of why I am an artist is that I love to work, to spend a day in the studio creating.  That is what is driving me now, the need to create - not to socialize, develop new concepts, prepare for a convention, nor think about what the future may bring in my art.  Right now I am focused on what is in front of me...and it makes me extremely happy.

This state of mind makes me reflect on words of wisdom from Leo Tolstoy, through Three Questions (by way of introduction through a beautifully illustrated Children's book  by Jon J. Muth)
It once occurred to a certain king, that if he always knew the right
time to begin everything; if he knew who were the right people to
listen to, and whom to avoid; and, above all, if he always knew what
was the most important thing to do, he would never fail in anything
he might undertake.
The rest of the tale is here.

Following the lesson of Tolstoy, I find my most important time is now in the studio.  The right people to be with is no one, but rather to be alone. And the most important thing to do is to paint, today and everyday for the next month until this work is finished.

My apologies for this if it makes for dull posting in the next weeks, but this is the path I see to avoiding failure...

I wish you the best in your pursuit of answers to these Three Questions.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Kissy kissy

By Jesper Ejsing

Recently I have been traveling to conventions and meeting people and spent way too little time in the studio with my butt in the chair and painting. One of my latest published pictures that I am very fond of is this lovely girl. She is a cover figure for Paizos Pathfinder adventure path #92.

I really love, That Sarah Robinson, the fantastic art director at Paizo, let me go with the very voluptuous anatomy instead of beeing affraid of it offending people. During the last couple of years there has been a lot of discussions on how we portrait women as half naked sex objects in fantasy. I am proud to have made a picture that pulls the average in another direction. In this specific drawing i wanted her to look smiling and selfconsious rather than yet another sexy looking female enemy.

In my sketch she had a bundle of dwarf heads on her shoulders, but they were switch for a shield/shoulder plate to better fit with the story.

I tried to give her head a different facial structure to make her not look like a human. when you have no background to show scale you have to use something else to potrait the Giant-ness. I pulled the eyes apart and gave her a large round and gnarled forehead. Somehow she becomes a little fish-like with the small eyes apart like that.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

1994 Marvel Masterpieces

-By Dan dos Santos

In the 1990's, comic books were enjoying an incredibly healthy revival, which spawned the creation of a ton of new comic book characters, several comic book companies, as well as a plethora of comic book themed trading card sets. One the best trading card sets was the Marvel Masterpieces Series. In particular, the 1994 set is a real favorite of mine.

The 1994 Marvel Masterpieces base set consists of more than 140 cards, all of which are hand painted by Greg and Tim Hildebrandt.

Any fan of fantasy art can appreciate what a staple the Brothers Hildebrandt are to the industry, as their Lord of the Rings work is still a mainstay of the genre. So to have a collection of 140 paintings, depicting some of my favorite fantasy characters of all time, is huge treat that I was anxious to revisit.

Comic trading cards were a real success for comic publishers. It was often a way to repackage pre-existing art and make it suitable for resale. The price per pack was decently high for such a small amount of cards, and the entire process of trying to acquire them all was the perfect business plan made to appeal to obsessive collectors. As a teenager, I would purchase sealed packs of the cards, hoping to acquire a complete set. But that required a lot of money, and a great deal of luck. Fortunately, you can now get these sets quite easily on Ebay for an incredibly reasonable price. Still, all of these cards illicited countless hours of enjoyment for me as a kid, as I reveled in the trivia on the back, and redrew the amazing images on the front.

Even today, seeing the sheer number of fresh, vibrant composition that the Hildebrandt's came up with for so many different characters is a serious treat for the illustrator in me.

I have a LOT of trading sets, all showcasing the work of some amazing artists, like Boris Vallejo, Julie Bell, Joe Jusko, Jim Lee, Luis Royo, San Julian, and even Moebius. And the best part is, these sets often contained artwork that wasn't published anywhere else. I will be showcasing a few more of these sets here on Muddy Colors very soon.

Until then, please enjoy a small sampling of some the Hildebrandt Brother's paintings for the 1994 Marvel Masterpieces set.

You can also see the complete set, including the backs of the cards, HERE.

While you're waiting...

…why not watch this time-lapse of Android Jones working his digital magic…

Monday, March 23, 2015

Do Awards Matter?

Above left to right: The Hugo, the World Fantasy, and the Chesley awards. The Hugo was based on the hood ornament of an Oldsmobile. The World Fantasy Award  (sometimes nicknamed the "Howard") is a bust of H.P. Lovecraft sculpted by Gahan Wilson. Using Lovecraft for the award has become somewhat controversial lately.

by Arnie Fenner

The quick answer is: Sure they do.

Which perhaps naturally leads to the question: Do I need to win an art award to make me successful?

And, just as naturally, the answer is: Nope.

There are all sorts of opinions when it comes to awards and art competitions and a little searching will quickly find those who will insist that all awards are meaningless and that artists shouldn't "compete," not no way, not no how. My response is always the same:


In ways both big and small, life is a competition, from the moment we draw our first breath to the day we exhale our last. We compete with others in either subtle or overt ways for mates, jobs, commissions, parking spots, concert tickets, in sports, for SDCCI hotel rooms, seats on a plane, living spaces; and we compete with ourselves to get better at what we do. Everyone competes with everyone for everything in some way every day, artists included.

When the list of entrants selected for inclusion in Spectrum 22 was posted there were, of course, those that were happy and those who were disappointed—and, certainly, some that were angry. There were plenty of expressions of shock, dismay, sarcasm, and dismissal floating around social media following the announcement; that's to be expected, really. What struck me was the failure—of some—to realize two simple realities:

1] The only thing public fussing accomplishes is to rain on the parade of those who did make it through the tough jury process. A little grace, after all, is part of being a pro. And…

2] If it wasn't difficult to get in—if everyone who entered was included in Spectrum—it wouldn't mean anything.

Honestly, I see most types of competition as healthy; it keeps us sharp and can motivate us to improve. "Winning" helps us learn to deal with success; "losing" helps us learn to deal with disappointment and, hopefully, pushes us to try harder. Yeah, there are always those who make "winning" or "losing" ugly, but that's part of life, too, and learning how to handle, if not overcome, society's buttheads is a form of competition, too.

But when it comes to art awards…well, they're not competitions.

No. They're not.

"Beating" another artist doesn't enter into it. That's not what art awards are about. I don't even like the term of "best" used to describe an award or recipient because, as I've said in the past elsewhere, there are a lot of simultaneous "bests" in the world. I prefer to see an award as recognition for an exemplary work, not as a generalized coronation.

Above left to right: The SoI Medal; the Caldecott Medal for best illustrated children's book. 

Certainly candidates are somehow chosen (depending on each awards' criteria) and just as certainly recipients are selected, but though there have been instances of electioneering in fannish circles I don't think an award is anything that an artist can deliberately pursue. Nor should awards really be a goal or reason for creating work: much like basing your financial future on a plan to buy a winning lottery ticket it's really little more than wishing and hoping because receiving any sort of accolade is never a guarantee.

A medal from the Society of Illustrators or a Caldecotte have long been the penultimate honors (other than, I guess maybe, a Pulitzer), but the highest-profile award for the field for many years was—no, not "the coveted Balrog," as George R.R. Martin liked to describe it—the Best Professional Artist Hugo, voted on by the members of the World Science Fiction Convention. A score-plus of noteworthy illustrators have won the Best Artist Hugo since they started presenting it in 1955, but it's also true that the names of worthy SFF creators that have never won (much less been nominated) are legion. And diversity? Hmmm. The World Fantasy Award (selected by a different jury each year, none of whom, to the best of my knowledge, have been illustrators) was established in 1975 and, like the Hugo, boasts an equal list of deserving honorees and of unfortunate oversights. The Chesley Awards, created in 1985, are presented by the members of the Association of Science Fiction & Fantasy Artists and has worked hard to reflect the broad parameters of genre art.

Anyway, the art world isn't like peewee soccer where everyone gets a trophy for showing up: regardless of years in the trenches, regardless of skill, regardless of popularity or monetary success, receiving an award, as I said, is never a given. "For there are many called, but few are chosen." Whether it's a Caldecott, Hugo, Society of Illustrators Medal, Chesley, World Fantasy, or a Spectrum Award, there is significance in both being nominated and in winning; it's a recognition of achievement, a mark of distinction, made even more significant when it comes from a jury of your peers.

If there seems to be those who receive a number of awards over the years, it's not because of nepotism, cliques, favoritism, politics, or pay-offs (the easy fall-back accusations by the disappointed): it's because of the quality of the work. Some artists hit their peek at just the right moment  in their careers and their peers—the juries—respond. Fan awards or monetary competition prizes (almost always picked from the pockets of other artists) are different beasts entirely and either habits or agendas (or electioneering) can enter into who gets what and how often, but when it comes to peer awards—artists to artists—there's a purity that adds meaning to the honor. The awards are encouragements; they're a form of respect, gentle validation, belief, and support.

Awards aren't won, they're earned.

And, yes, a major award can help an artist's career; it can raise their profile and grab the attention of art directors, publishers, licensors, ad agencies, and collectors. The career benefits can be significant and long-lasting.

Above: The Spectrum Grand Master Award. The pyramid was sculpted by Joe DeVito and the grand master base was sculpted by Tim Bruckner. All of the awards have been entirely redesigned by Kristine and Colin Poole for Spectrum 22.  

All that said (and as touched on in my comment about the Hugos), there are many excellent artists with vibrant, viable careers that haven't won major awards and who may never do so. That's sort of one of life's quirks. But just as receiving an honor has meaning, not receiving an award…doesn't. There is no shame in not receiving and award; it's not a criticism or dismissal. Of course it's always nice to win…anything…but careers tend to perk along rather nicely with or without an award sitting on the shelf.

Still, there is something else to consider when it comes to awards: symbolism. Not for the one (as Spock might say), but for the many.

Beyond the recognition of individual achievement, the awards—the iconic trophy, the ceremonies, the traditions—are a celebration of us all, of the art community as a whole. The more attention that is attained for what we do the better it is for everyone and awards—and the electricity and excitement of presentation ceremonies—are invaluable ways to grow the public's awareness and (hopefully) appreciation of who we are. They're educational moments.

That was the motivation behind the Spectrum Awards ceremony as part of Spectrum Fantastic Art Live. It would have been infinitely easier—and cheaper—to give the awards out in a hotel ballroom or in the convention center, but…where's the fun in that? Artists and their works affect our lives every day in an infinite number of ways so it only seems right that for at least one night of the year there's a spotlight on the art community with a gala in a real theater with all the trappings.

I was watching a documentary about the history of the Oscars® and Helen Mirren joked that at the ceremony the losers in the audience outnumbered the winners and that they didn't even have a bar to make it better. Then she said seriously, "But it is an honor—it's true—to not only be nominated, but to be able to be together and share in the accomplishments of our fellows." I agree.

So, yes, awards matter.

And for the Spectrum 22 awards ceremony…we have a bar. We will happily comp Dame Helen's badge if she'd like to attend. 

Above: The Spectrum 22 awards will be presented May 23 at the historic Folly Theater in Kansas City during Spectrum Fantastic Art Live 4. You can see all of the award finalists in each category here.