18 October 2017

Video Portrait of C.F. Payne

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American illustrator and teacher C.F. Payne is the feature of a new hour-long documentary called "C.F. Payne: An American Illustrator."

Payne is known for his award-winning Time covers, MAD magazine caricatures, and children's book illustrations, which he has produced over a span of nearly four decades. "It's not a race. It's a marathon. You just keep working."

His whimsical and affectionate portraits of celebrities and sports stars usually start with sketchy drawings. Many of his editorial assignments have to be completed under extremely short deadlines. 

In the documentary he talks about the pressures of a freelance lifestyle, and we also get the benefit of hearing the perspective of his wife and two sons. 

One of the themes that runs through the documentary is Payne's love of baseball. He paints a giant cutout of legendary player and commentator Joe Nuxhall to decorate the stadium of the The Joe Nuxhall Miracle League Fields

The film lets us see over his shoulder as he produces some of his multi-media paintings. But this isn't a technique video, and we don't really get the details of his materials or working process, nor does he explain his specific approach to caricature. 

However, if you buy the bundled version, you get a couple of demo videos along with the main feature. In those demos, C.F. Payne goes in detail about his process. 

 C.F. Payne: An American Illustrator is a portrait of a regular, hard-working guy, a good video to share with a young person who might be contemplating a career as an illustrator.

Payne is committed to drawing every day and always improving his ability. "I drew all the time as a young person," he says. "I love making art. It's the place I love to be."

Teaser for "C.F. Payne: An American Illustrator" from Tony Moorman on Vimeo.
Facebook page for the film
C.F. Payne: An American Illustrator is available on Vimeo for $4.99

And now, Introducing Rosemary’s Comber Brush

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The second interesting brush Rosemary offered me, was their Series 2250 Flat Comber.

The gimmick here is, we have a flat, with tiny serrations along the edge. Giving you rake-like marks – a series of parallel lines.

Rosemary and Co Series 2250 Flat Comber (3)

Rosemary and Co Series 2250 Flat Comber (1)I do this with a pointed round by grinding the brush into the palette so that the tip splays out into a jagged fan. But that’s kind of a grim way to handle your brushes. It’s nice that Rosemary’s created this serrated flat, to give you a similar effect.

It’s a “Golden Synthetic” – which I can only assume is a kind of nylon. So it’s not a soft brush, or exceptionally thirsty. But, you wouldn’t want that, as it’s made for this kind of dry brushing.

I was using the Comber in combination with the Pyramid Brush. They do seem complimentary. Both brushes offering a unique kind of mark making. Supporting a calligraphic kind of drawing.

Or at least, that’s what comes naturally to me, when you give me these tools :)


07 October 2017

Readings from Ruskin

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(Link to YouTube) Here is a vintage recording of readings that I did from the Victorian art critic John Ruskin, excerpted from his famous works "Modern Painters" and "The Elements of Drawing."

The recording is from a cassette tape which circulated by mail in 1985 among a group of art friends called "The Golden Palm Tape Network."

Topics include:
1. Greetings to Ron Harris and James Warhola.
2. Discussion about audio line mixers
3. Readings from Ruskin:
• painting open water
• advice to students
• gradation
• atmospheric perspective.

Note his point at around 20 minutes in that cool colors don't necessarily recede, and warm colors don't necessarily advance.

You can still get copies of Modern Painters in print at Amazon. The other book I quoted from is The Elements of Drawing

Painting in a Cow Pasture

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Arthur Burdett Frost (American, 1851-1928).
Mulvaney's Muley Cow, Harper's Weekly
An artist sets up his canvas in a cow pasture. What could possibly go wrong?

While the artist takes a nap under a tree, the cow sweeps her tail over the canvas and spreads the paint around.

Then she gives the canvas a few juicy licks.

The resulting painting wins the admiration from his friends—is it a victory for modern art?
Frost's sly commentary is just one out of more than 300 lots in the upcoming Heritage Illustration Art auction in Dallas, which includes Gibson, Flagg, Elvgren, Loomis, Nagel, and Von Schmidt.


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Ralph Barton

was one of the most prominent illustrators of the 1920s.  Most of his illustrations were done with a simple line, yet if you paid attention it soon became clear that Barton knew a few things.  Here are four of them: 

1.  Sometimes the best way to exaggerate legs is to contrast them with a normal arm: 

Those high-stepping legs seem even crazier because Barton gave us a baseline for normalcy.  By showing us he understands the bones and muscles of that arm; he emphasizes that he has detached the bones and added more joints to those legs.  That wonderful flowing tunic is like a magician's cape, concealing how he has sawed a lady in half.

2.  Sometimes the best way to draw a big subject is to obscure it in a small corner.

There were plenty of dramatic ways to draw the 1927 death of Isadora Duncan, the famous dancer whose trademark-- an enormous, flamboyant scarf-- became wrapped around the axle of her brand new convertible.  Duncan was pulled from her car and choked to death as she was dragged along a cobblestone road in France.  An artist could hardly ask for a more visual spectacle.  Yet, this is the wonderful, controlled way that Barton depicted it:       

I love Gertrude Stein's stoic reaction when she read the news of Duncan's death:  “Affectations can be dangerous.”

3.  A mediocre subject can still be redeemed by a strong image.

The joke on this cover of Puck is not particularly funny or creative:

but man oh man, it is redeemed by Barton's strong graphic treatment.  He didn't get discouraged by his text, he redeemed it.

Today the practice is largely the opposite.  The dominant assumption is that crappy drawing will be redeemed by profound or moving content.

4.  Don't accept standard templates if you have a better idea.

Barton decided that the regular logo for Puck would not go very well with his cover drawing.  Rather than compromise his drawing or accept , Barton took the initiative to letter a whole new title and offer it to his client:

It appears from Barton's note that Puck neither requested nor paid for this extra effort.  It was something Barton volunteered because he cared about the least details surrounding his art and was not afraid to work.

Studio Visit with Peter de Sève

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Creativity at its best - Peter de Sève in his Brooklyn, NY studio.
This past week found me with an excuse to pay a lunch visit to a fellow Brooklyn neighbor and world class creative talent Peter de Sève.  Peter lives just a fifteen minute walk away, and I finally set aside time to scope out his wonderful studio in Park Slope and see what he was up to these days. 

Peter's work has graced dozens of covers of the New Yorker, filled countless pages of news magazines, children's books and novel covers, and may be best known for his highly dynamic and sought after talents on character design for film animation.  If you have seen the films of Ice Age then you have seen Peter in action, especially through Scrap the little squirrel chasing that elusive acorn! That little guy is all Peter.

 A few sculptures which help with turn arounds and character consistency.
After sitting down for lunch, Peter was gracious enough to provide a tour through his amazing objects d'art hanging about the place. From contemporary illustrators, to blue-chip fantasy artists, to historical cartoonists, Peter's walls display a collection worthy of a museum. That is actually a fact, for the American Museum of Illustration at the Society of Illustrators will be hosting just such a showing of Peter's collection at a forth coming exhibit in 2018.

Thus those of you who enjoy the appetizer tastes of what you are seeing in these jpgs, will get a chance for a full five course dinner and view many of these works in person!

The Wall of Creative Development - this is within arms reach of Peter's drafting table where the magic takes place.

The Great Wall - Mike Mignola (Hell Boy), Heinrick Kley, George Harriman (Krazy Cat), Moebius and more!

Peter loves to surround himself with inspiration, from the art on the walls to hundreds of books ranging from historically vague artists to contemporary blockbuster 'Art of the Film' collections.  He taps into what makes the old images work and speak to us across the divide of time while weaving issues and narratives that reflect the mindset of our current pop-cultural waves of thinking.  
 One foot in the past, the other stretching into the future.

What every collection needs, a beautiful Frazetta study.

But not just one, but a WHOLE DAMN WALL of Frazettas!

Check out these beautiful oak antique drawers, filled with a warehouse worth of pencils. Peter certain loves to draw.  And draw a lot!

A few of the large number of contemporary fantastic sculpts inhabiting nearly every horizontal surface in the studio.

I think I spotted a Red Nose Studio's sculpture on the right side of this shelf!

Did I mentioned Peter loves books?

The Old and the New - Kung Fu Panda posing next to original sequential pencil sketches for Walt Disney's Fantasia dancing hippos.  One wonders where Peter's feet will land him next.

Peter allowed me to post this new piece in a series he is working upon related to Mythologies and Harpies.  Killer draftsmanship, design and narration.

Closing this visit out is a live 'fly on the wall' view of Peter working...

Thank you Peter de Sève for allowing me into your home and for share this wonderful lunch visit with Muddy Colors!


7 Ways to Expedite Your Breakthrough

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I hope you’ll agree that breakthroughs come in handy. Yes?

It’s pretty awesome when the perfect answer appears or that nagging problem is solved. Suddenly, the barrier is removed and you can make progress.

You can’t identify the moment that a breakthrough will happen, but you can prepare yourself for it to come.

©Brad Blackman, Sewer I. Oil on canvas, 18 x 20 inches. Used with permission.

©Brad Blackman, Sewer I. Oil on canvas, 18 x 20 inches. Used with permission.

Breakthroughs happen as a result of doing the work and being present. Here are 7 ways to accelerate the process.

1. Solve a problem.

Any problem! Art is about solving problems.

How can I balance the composition?
How can I make this with less expensive materials?
How can I convey this or that emotion?

Faith Ringgold was researching shipping options for her paintings when she realized that if she just painted on fabric, without the support, she could roll it up and easily ship it in a tube.

2. Challenge yourself.

There’s very little motivation in the daily grind: update Facebook, schedule a few tweets, send a newsletter, write a blog post, work in the studio. If you’re not careful, you can get stuck checking off menial tasks without doing something extraordinary for your art and for yourself.

©Marilyn Joyce, On an Earth Colored Thread. Tea-stained papers, sumi ink, ink, thread, beeswax, 16.5 x 10.5 inches. Used with permission.

©Marilyn Joyce, On an Earth Colored Thread. Tea-stained papers, sumi ink, ink, thread, beeswax, 16.5 x 10.5 inches. Used with permission.

Pick a color or a new material that you’ve been avoiding and figure out how to use it in a way that is pleasing.

This is why the Painting a Day phenomenon or 100-day challenges have caught on.

Contrary to the notion that you need absolute freedom to make art, there is ample evidence that parameters can nurture creativity.

3. Talk to people about your ideas.

If you are, as I am, a verbal processor, you will find it useful to discuss ideas with others. Maybe other artists, maybe scientists, or even the philosopher next door.

The only caveat is that you must talk about your ideas with people whose opinions you respect. Discussing ideas with anyone and everyone isn’t helpful to your goals.

4. Change your routine.

If you’re getting the same results while going through the motions day after day, it’s time to shake things up.

Start your day at a different time or go to bed earlier.
Switch your business schedule with your studio schedule.
Don’t look at social media first thing in your day.
Take your walk in the evening instead of the morning.

5. Pay attention.

Wherever you are, be present to all that is around you and the people who are near. Absorb your surroundings with all of your senses.

It might be a walk, an art talk, or a first-class art exhibition.

What do you see? What do you feel? What do you hear? What do you smell?

What does the speaker say that inspires? What do the artworks say to you?

Remember that Picasso’s major breakthrough occurred when he came across African art.

6. Be open.

Think of ways to say Yes to possibilities that you might not otherwise consider. Yes, they might take you off course, but they might also be exactly what you need.

©Lauren Rader, Nature’s Heat. Acrylic on canvas, 12 x 12 inches. Used with permission.

©Lauren Rader, Nature’s Heat. Acrylic on canvas, 12 x 12 inches. Used with permission.

7. Change your environment.

Reorganize the furniture or your materials.
Get out of the studio.
Get out of your office.
Go to a coffee shop. (This is my method for writing breakthroughs. Works every time.)
Get out of your house.

When furniture craftsman Evan Sturm came to Art Biz Breakthrough from Montana, he was stuck in part of his business. Like Faith Ringgold, the problem was shipping.

During his stay in Golden, he discovered that his hotel was less than one mile from the very shipping company he wanted to utilize to move his handcrafted furniture across the country. He set up an early morning meeting before our sessions and … Boom! Breakthrough!

Yellow Graphic Line

Is it time for your breakthrough? Join us for Art Biz Breakthrough November 8-10 in beautiful Golden, Colorado.

For a few more days, you can save $100 on your ticket.

>> Read More & Sign Up Here <<

ARTIST PROFILE: Lillian Westcott Hale

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ARTIST PROFILE: Lillian Westcott Hale

I'm a particular kind of enthusiast for early twentieth century artists, and am always exceptionally excited when I discover a woman artist of the caliber and incredible ability displayed by the work of someone like Lillian Westcott Hale. Her handle on graphite and charcoal work is akin to some of the best Ingres drawings I adore to death She possesses a remarkable and modern sense of design and tonal composition without sacrificing one whit of character in a way I find deeply inspiring. There's a fluidity to her work and subjects unusual for work of this time period- a sort of capturing of the moment between moments usually staged or set and posed. There's a general quality one can find in work by other contemporaries of her time and it's this naturalistic ability that lends to her work an animated humanity that goes well beyond its basic subject matter and sense of being on a page, or in a room. SO this month I'd like to showcase a few of her pieces and basically just nerd-gush over why I think they're fantastic. Because they are damned fantastic indeed. 

The hazy atmospherics and foggy veil that overshadows a lot of her paintings is certainly not atypical of other works from this time period, nodding to Marry Cassat as an example of this impressionists influence ont he work of the time, but what Hale does is us it to highlight her brush marks and the artifice of the painting in a way we don't see in full flourish and popularity you see in Bernie Fuchs later on. There's also something distinctly modern int he way her compositions are laid out I find truly interesting- some just a bit offf the usual center, others dramatically so, rendering subtly a sense of the place of her subjects as of equal value as the spaces they themselves inhabit. There's undertones of Jessie Wilcox Smith in some of these to be sure, but where Smith may lean more heavily towards an Arthur Rackham's draftsman's approach, Hale take her cues from the less tangible atmospherics of Claude Monet.

You can find some of her work on view at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and I believe also in Chicago and and in the National Gallery in Washington D.C. I plan on making her part of any treasure hunt I perform in any museum to see if some of her pieces are hidden away there. But in the interim you can track down a lot of her work online via whatever search tool you prefer to use.I myself have an entire folder of work I pull up for inspiration almost every day. Hale fever has set in for sure.