Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Old Witch, Part One
The Old Witch (detail).
This is the second image for a recent project. I'm in the middle of the third, and The Creature  was the first. I love drawing Frankenstein--same with witches--so heading to the studio has been a true pleasure lately.

Witches and apples in fairy and folk tales seem inextricably paired. And what's a magical person without a familiar? In this lady's case, it's a slightly tilting, crabby owl!
Disorganized (I am getting better), my prelims usually end up scattered in random sketchbooks and drawers. I know there were more, but these are some preliminary witch-head studies. The thumbnails for the composition elude me at the moment. 

The idea of The Old Witch has been with me for years, probably beginning with an old Aurora model I built as a kid, and...
...the amazing Graham Ingels' Old Witch
Growing up, a tremendous amount of images got seared into my brain thanks to the barber shop's comic book collection. This is only one of those pictures that scared the pants off me, thus never forgotten. 
Dug up some more prelims--early versions of the venerable sorceress, and an idea for the text banner.

Once the witch's pose was settled on, a hand-selfie with apple was necessary.
But I'm getting ahead of the post.
I also worked on the border. Here it took on a Celtic spin...
...but changed my mind in favor of a cauldron. That doesn't last either. The bird skull finally takes shape here though.

Well that's it for Part One--more next post--and

Thanks, as always, for checking out my blog!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Greg Spalenka's Artist as Brand Workshop

I sometimes get questions about my career in the arts, and I answer that I've fallen into most of my opportunities ass-backward. It's true--very little has been my doing; certainly not due to any real goal-setting, and no self-help-manual-formula has ever pierced my stubborn brain. The plain truth is that I've been fortunate to meet folks--gallery owners, art directors, patrons--along my journey that have kept me out of the water.
That being said, when a couple of my mainstay gallery-owners closed up shop, my ship sprung a leak, and I started looking for a pail to start bailing.

Fortunately, Helikon Gallery hosted Greg Spalenka's Artist as Brand workshop this past spring. I signed up--something way out of character for me, and definitely way out of my comfort zone. And I have absolutely no regrets.

In short, the workshop was incredibly rich; a perfect blend of the realities of making a living, and the sweetness of living one's art. Best of all, Spalenka doesn't cave to crass capitalism; Artist as Brand combines the soul of an artist with creative indy-business sense. It was exactly what I needed...
...and it changed my life. No kidding. 
Not only did I meet some of the greatest fellow-artists (whom I am happy to count as friends), I met my artist-self. 

Greg Spalenka presents these workshops regularly--one is upcoming in Seattle February 18th and 19th, 2015 with the always fantastic TLC Workshops

You don't have to be on the verge of foundering like me, but if you are an artist, a writer, a musician--any kind of creative--sign up for Artist as Brand
If Seattle doesn't work, check Greg's schedule for another. Then go.
Whatever you do, go. 

It's a lifeboat.


Greg Spalenka

Thanks for clicking on the links, and thanks for reading!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Art: Saturday Morning and Saturday Night
Mini Still-Life Sketch. Mixed media on brown paper

Saturday Morning:
Drew the sketch above as an example for an upcoming workshop I'll be teaching at Art Makers Denver  next year. Never found drawing/painting anything from life easy--especially as a young illustrator. I did recognize the value even then, but had trouble concentrating on drawing inanimate objects, figures, and landscape. Don't much care for photo-realist art, but I'm in awe of artists who can capture atmosphere in a scene drawn or painted from life.
Lately I've become keen on examining the incidental objects in paintings and illustrations, and sketching fine old objects. "Fine" doesn't mean the expensive, fussy stuff in an Art and Antiques magazine, but rather the solid, straightforward, well-crafted objects that people used (not just gazed at in a china cupboard). Saturday morning I set up this group in the snowy light of my studio window. My sketch (above) failed to capture that gorgeous winter light, and came out a bit too stilted for my taste, but that happens sometimes when I draw from life.
I like it when the objects end up having a bit more character--like these,
and like this lantern, posted some time back. I love this one. Not drawn from life, I mostly made up the form and then cobbled together details gleaned from some lanterns I have stashed around the house.

And yes, I am struck dumb with admiration for illustrators who can blow you away with their ability to draw and paint both from life as well as work imaginatively.

 Saturday night:
At the Drink 'n' Draw I had a good time goofing about with this sketch from my imagination...
but I had a great time watching illustrator Clay Brooks capture this snowy, East Colfax night scene. And yes, I was in awe! He was facing me, in conversation, all the while turning around looking over his shoulder through the window at the cityscape, capturing it in gouache.
The guy is a master, but don't just take it from me--check out all his work at

Now it's Sunday morning, and I'm headed back to the studio.
Thanks for the visit!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Victorian Ghost Sketch
Ghost in the Bath sketch

My studio work-life is occupied with preparing art for a show coming early December. Thus, practice-sketch time has to be grabbed on the fly. I have my travel sketchbook and drawing box with me most times, or a book at least--just in case I get stuck waiting somewhere. This time I had both. The book is a collection of Victorian ghost stories by the great M.R. James. The story, Lost Hearts concerns a boy who's treated to a vision of a spectre, seen through a glazed bathroom door in the middle of the night.

The scene, in which the corpse-like ghost is laying in the tub (and surely must have influenced Stephen King for The Shining) raised the hairs on the back of my neck! This quick sketch, with the spirit out of the tub, was drawn with pencil and Rapidograph. Later in the studio I washed it with white ink.
Ghost in the Bath sketch (detail)

For me, ghosts aren't relegated to Halloween. In fact, they are a year-round preoccupation that reaches peak intensity during the winter holidays. Continuous experimentation with transparency techniques using ink is also a preoccupation. If you are a regular visitor here (thanks, by the way!) you've seen a bunch of posts concerning ghosts. If you haven't though, here's one of them:

And if you love ghost stories, don't skip the chance to read M.R. James.

Thanks for the visit!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Wait, Someone Out There Hates Cross-Hatching?

Harry Clarke, illustration from Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edgar Allen Poe.

I LOVE pen and ink and cross-hatching. 
There are hundreds of masters of that medium, so there are many I've yet to discover. Can't wrap my mind around it, but there are people (including one "famous" critic and author-of-art-books) who are outspoken in their dislike. That to me is more mysterious--and shows less imagination--than Poe's tales. So I offer works by three of my many favorite pen-work artists. 
Harry Clarke's illustrations, like the one above, remain favorites, and I study his work continuously.

Maurice Sendak, illustration from his Higglety Pigglety Pop! or, There Must be More to Life.
This book is a masterpiece, as are all of Sendak's works, and I find his straightforward pen-work 
fresh,unpretentious, and absolutely paragon.

Bernie Wrightson, from Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley.
Every piece from Wrightson's Frankenstein portfolio is mind-blowing!

A few other obvious ink-masters: Franklin Booth, W. Heath Robinson, A.B. Frost, Joseph Clement Coll, and yes, Arthur Guptill.

A few modern virtuosos: Ian Miller , Mark A. Nelson , Douglas Carrel , Kevin Keele , and Boban Savic .

Of course critics, just like the power-hungry who would ban books, draw our attention to the very things they hate. So they have my thanks, sort of.  

But you don't have to scorn cross-hatching to get me to explore the masters of that medium. If you have recommendations and favorites, please let me know.

Peace and all good to you, and thanks for reading!

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