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Hey! Here's a weekend that's sure to show up in legends to come: I'll be teaching a TLC Workshop, "Story and Pictures" along with Justin Gerard!
TLCWorkshops is a professional art series of instruction for the working illustrator. Located in the greater Seattle area, each weekend workshop is packed with one-on-one interaction and gives you the opportunity to rub shoulders with some of the most brilliant art professionals working today.
In this dual-faculty workshop, Justin and Cory will cover their illustration processes and approaches to character-driven art. Students will work alongside the instructors to conceptualize and design their own character, craft their visual story and put it all together into a single image. The class will be heavily geared toward drawing and painting traditionally, but Justin and Cory will also demonstrate how they use digital tools to enhance their work (digital artists welcome!).
Hey! Here's a pretty great thing I've gotten the chance to be involved with called Motivarti.
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Motivarti is an organization dedicated to providing resources, networking, and inspiration for people who create art related to the entertainment industry. Whether you’re a working professional, a recent graduate, or a student, you’ll find lectures, classes, workshops, and events that will broaden your creative horizons. Motivarti strives to bring together an alliance of entertainment artists, as well as providing motivation and resources to support the community.
You can find the application here. And here's a direct link to my page.
A little while ago I got an email from Random House asking if I'd like to review Maurice Sendak's illustrated Nutcracker.
I jumped at the chance and I'm very pleased to be able to talk about it with you here.
The book is, as you might expect, lovely. Sendak's take on the E. T. A. Hoffman classic is surely the best and brightest, darkest and most imaginative version of the story.
Many others will be able to explain the story, the music, or indeed the production design of the ballet better than I can. What I hope to be able to provide you with here is a little of the history and the feeling of the book from a life long follower of Maurice Sendak's work.
To set the scene, here's look at the official book description.
"A classic, new and complete. One of the ten best illustrated children's books of the year."
New York Times Book Review.
The tale of Nutcracker, written by E.T.A. Hoffmann in 1816, has fascinated and inspired artists, composers, and audiences for almost two hundred years. It has retained its freshness because it appeals to the sense of wonder we all share.
Maurice Sendak designed brilliant sets and costumes for the Pacific Northwest Ballet's Christmas production of Nutcracker and created even more magnificent pictures especially for this book. He joined with the eminent translator Ralph Manheim to produce this illustrated edition of Hoffmann's wonderful tale, destined to become a classic for all ages.
The world of Nutcracker is a world of pleasures. Maurice Sendak's art illuminates the delights of Hoffmann's story in this rich and tantalizing treasure.
This book's history is two-fold; it was born of the 1983 stage production where Sendak served as the production designer.
A quick Google search yields a few pictures of the ballet.
I love hearing Maurice Sendak in his own words and the book benefits from having an Introduction by Sendak himself. Here he provides insight into the characters, the designs, and how he and Kent Stowell even came to partner on the original production. Characteristically Sendak, the first line of the Introduction is,
"My immediate reaction to the request that I design Nutcracker was negative."
Throughout the Introduction, Sendak tells how he warmed to the project, overcoming his initial distaste for the play ("I didn't want to be suited to the confectionery goings-on...") and how ultimately the production culminated, for him, in a "superb moment" at the premiere.
Sendak thought of this book as being comprised of "two separate entities" with the costumes and designs from the production making up the one half and the other being the new work he did specifically for the book.
Here he speaks to retracing some of his steps and adding new work for the book:
"In changing hats from designer to illustrator I have been faced with a curious dilemma. After all, there are whole sequences in the tale itself that never appear on the stage. Rather adjust these designs to fit the book, I decided to completely illustrate 'The Story of the Hard Nut'. Because of this decision the pictures for this book are composed of two separate entities. There are the designs and costumes from the ballet version and then the fresh pictures done specifically for the tale. In addition, there are a few to animate the original stage designs and a few more that I could not or would not resist doing."
What draws me, and I suspect many others, in to Sendak's worlds are his treatment of children. Speaking of the heroine Clara ("Marie" in the book)
"I endowed her with the wisdom and strength I conjure up to endow all my children and then surrounded her with a minefield of problems."
And very like a certain Max,
"The stage became her half-real, half-nightmare battleground. The drama grew naturally as we watched Clara, frightened yet exuberant, cross that battleground."
The sprawling spreads found in The Capital are some of my personal favorite examples of Sendak's haunting, lyrical work which meshes so well, in my estimation, with the poetry of the story.
"Who is this on the rosy waters?
A fairy or fairy's daughter?
Bim-bim little fishes,
Sim-sim golden swans.
Faeries come hither,
Fly through the spray
Splish splash, splish splash
The rosy spray."
The book is a delight. And comes well recommended from me.
Again, an image from the ballet itself, not from the book.
2 hour painting demo (sped up to 1 hour). 720p HD. (1GB) Includes the file + bonus layered file.
A look at my basic digital painting process. Adobe Photoshop CS5.
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Here it is! I recorded this whole thing back over the summer (pre-LPG) and just now got some free time to edit it together and do the narration. I'm very excited to finally share it with you. It's a look at what I've learned over the years working in Photoshop, just some of my basic process. The first 10 buyers will get a free download of the eBook edition of Menagerie. Enjoy!
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This video is part of my newdigital shop!Check it out for some free stuff, eBook editions of my sketchbooks, wallpapers, and more.
Because of you guys my secondfire salewas a raging success! Thank you so much. Most all of the proceeds go right back into making more work: reprinting sketchbooks, convention expenses, and all. I can't thank you enough for supporting my work.
More than half of the drawing have sold, saved from a fiery fate, but there are still some cool things left.
Some of my favorite work was snapped up right away but I managed to get a couple screen shots to commemorate them.
All of this leads us to the finished piece. I had such a good time on this project. But wouldn't you know it, just like so many good adventures, I wasn't finished yet.
. . .
There was room in the budget for a piece for the back cover. And what a back cover. It's scene I have imagined again and again ever since I first read the book in high school. Tomorrow's post will cover this back piece in detail but until then here's a teaser:
For the actual color work on this cover I did things a little differently. Each piece, each project, each series I work just a little differently. I'm constantly refining my method and tinkering with the process.
Things were especially different in that I was under a time crunch to get this and Archaia's Free Comic Book DayLabyrinth story done at the same time. Also I was obliged to be out of my studio and work on the road. I ended up getting a MacBook Pro to work on the go (and it's turned out to be one of the best things I have ever gotten.) Yes, things were done a little differently this time around.
Some of the difference shows up in the coloring progress and textures. I tried a few different methods of flatting and blocking in shapes.
This lead to some interesting (and strange) textures when a few of the other layers were turned off.
One thing that you are especially not supposed to overlook in Tolkien are the details. The books are all details so you have no excuse to not know how a particular character is dressed, what they just ate, what phase the moon is in ... the list goes on. All that to say, when dressing Bilbo I forgot his vest! Vest missing the little brass buttons. I drew it seperately and photoshopped it into the drawing before I began the final cover.
Illustrating anything from Tolkien's writing, in any official capacity, has always been a dream of mine.
I once got to illustrate one of his poems for Highlights, the most recognized and respected kids' magazine in the galaxy.
If it's not my all-time favorite book (and yes, it probably is) The Hobbit is surely one of the greatest, most charming, most delightful, frightening, and exhilarating stories ever told by a human. And the chance to illustrate any scene from it is an illustrator's dream come true.
For this project I got to work again with Barbour books. They've always been a great, collaborative client. In my experience, they're one of those great clients who art direct really well and know why they've hired you.
The initial idea was to show Bilbo displaying a little grit, some kind of determination. I knew would best suit that request was the moment after killing the spider, by himself, in Mirkwood. Even so, I wanted to explore.
Here's are the thumbnails as well as the thoughts I sent to the AD.
Overall I tried to keep close to actual moment in the book as well as nail the tone for the cover that we talked about perviously.
A. A moment in Chapter 8 where Bilbo climbs to the top of tall tree to see where exactly he and the dwarves are in the forest. He's struck by the beauty and sunshine. It's the first time he's seen the sun for a long time (as they have been traveling through Mirkwood for quite some time). I've always loved this and I think it could do well for the cover. This small moment of joy in the midst of the deep dark of Mirkwood.
B. This one is my personal favorite and the strongest of the three, emotionally, and I believe it comes the closest in tone with the original ideas for the cover. The turning point in Bilbo's journey was killing the spider all by himself. To quote,
"Somehow the killing of a giant spider, all alone by himself in the dark without the help of a wizard or the dwarves or anyone else, made a great difference to Mr. Baggins. He felt a different person, and much fiercer and bolder in spite of an empty stomach as he wiped his sword on the grass and put it back into its sheath."
This I believe would be the first moment in the book where we would see a look of determination on Bilbo's face (all before he was always thinking about breakfast). A look like that at any other time doesn't work, I think. I think this is the right moment. However, I would understand about not exactly wanting to show a big dead spider on the cover. I would handle the spider without any blood, and the leg shapes would look tree-like, mixed in the trees in the foreground and background. Almost as if you wouldn't notice the spider at first, but only on a second look would you realize what's in the background. The focus would be on Bilbo and his new found courage and determination. It would be tasteful and not too dark. And with the title and text laid on that would further obscure the spider, drawing even more attention to Bilbo. Plus, the faint, pale blue light coming from the sword could look amazing.
C. This one is a little more simple, Bilbo wandering through Mirkwood by himself. At this point in the story he would have already killed the spider and lost the dwarves, though he'd be wearing the ring (so he'd be invisible, but I could take some artistic license!) After he killed the spider he went looking around so that would be this moment and one where he would look determined, or at least cautious.
The other ideas.
Ultimately we went with B. Good for the tone but also this afforded me the chance to draw a giant spider.
All of these new pieces are from my 2012 sketchbook, Menagerie. Enjoy!
Note. Some are available as matted 8" x 10" prints (total size 11" x 14") others as both a decoratively matted 8" x 10" OR miniature. Some are only available as miniature. All sizes are noted and linked below. There is also one special charity art print I hope you'll see at the bottom. Thank you for supporting my work! To visit my shop and see everything that's available, prints and sketchbooks alike, you can visit here.
Once again the Indie Craft Parade has struck the heart of downtown Greenville, SC with a fierce ↓, ↘, → punch!! of a variety of handmade media.
Whether felted things, ceramics things, drawings things, the third annual ICP gathered together some of the best working artists in the southeast.
As you might know, this event is my wife, Erin's largest yearly project. As such, in exchange for my name going on the sponsor list, I end up doing a lot of hand lettering and illustration for the event.
Here's a look at some of newest work.
The Illustrated Elephant.
Oh gosh, and now it's spread to shirts.
Hey! A billboard. (Alternate hand drawn text.)
I debuted the most new work to-date at this show. I think 10 new prints in all. I'll be making them available online this Friday, September 21st in my shop!
And here's a look at the booth set up. Some day I would like to have a booth all arranged with tree limbs, sticks, leaves, moss, acorns, flowers, and miniature woodland creatures gamboling about. And also a team of faerie engineers to design, build, set up, and take it down. But that will be a little while? Probably.
Here's the other commission I did at HeroesCon last weekend. I was really happy to hear, "whatever you feel like drawing" as my only direction. If I hear that I'll probably end up drawing from The Hidden People.
King of the Walking Hills
I thought of this guy as the King of Walking Hills. With a crown of old trees and grassy beard. Heck, maybe he's blind, even. He looks really old. Once I put the finishing touches on my entire book of The Hidden People (beyond the sketchbook) I'm certain I'll have figured it out.
(Here's what I guess is a comparatively young Walking Hill, for reference.)
This week I'll be walking through the stages of this small watercolor painting for Ruel Pascal's recent "A Moment Of..." group show.
If you've ever gotten a copy ofThe Hidden Peoplefrom me you might recognize this guy. I tend to quickly doodle some variation of this little guy in most of the signed copies. Because I'm so familiar with his face I knew I could quickly make a small painting and get it mailed out quick.
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Next post, Wednesday. Planning! With thumbnails. Or, not those kind of thumbnails.
Truthfully, it's been a while since I've done a watercolor that was meant to be seen as a finished piece. Most cases, I'm working with a sort of watercolor "underpainting" with a digital finish. For my clients and projects this is the best, speediest way to go. But for a gallery show I'm obliged to stretch my traditional muscles a bit. I'd love to move more towards traditional works again, and indeed I've been making the gradual shift back. It's slow though. That said, I had got a lot of enjoyment out of this little exercise. It was pretty smooth and went swiftly enough. The basic idea was, with a brown Col-Erase pencil, get my drawing down (loose in the hair, leaves, and beard) and then paint washes directly on top. Over the years I've experimented with quite a few kinds of paper and different combinations of drawing, spray fixing, and painting and truthfully I haven't been too satisfied with any of them. In this case, and I'm trying to remember the exact kind of paper, I'm thinking it was some kind of Bristol. But I'm not sure. After that it's just applying washes, drying, washes. Next post, Wednesday. Final steps.
I really enjoyed my time with this one. I hope to create a dozen or so more small watercolors like it this Fall. I've been wanting to do that for the (sadly) the last year or more but between my sketchbook projects and regular client work it's been difficult to find the time.
It's hard to beat the feeling of productivity and momentum that comes from creating a new series of drawings VS an evening potentially blowing up in my face because my painting skills are rusty. I want to work through that but a sometimes crippling sense of my own narrow window to make drawings and ideas is hard to wager against burning through time before I arrive at show ready paintings.
Yes, I know the real thing is I ought to just do it and work through it but when faced with the frustration of a break in productivity and momentum and at the end of the day feeling like I didn't accomplish anything to show for myself is almost too much to bear.
I'll get there, I'm sure. It's just a matter of steeling myself to the fact of feeling empty handed for an extended period of time.