Saturday, January 21, 2017

A Visual Guide to Attaining Bling

-By Paul Bonner

So - we'll start at the end this time, just to help see where we are hoping to get to - eventually. I think I have used up two or three post here at Muddy Colors, over the years, trying to concoct some concrete and informative words that will help convey the intricate, convoluted and rigorous process that is necessary to make a pleasing arrangement of marks and colours on a blank sheet of paper. Casting a critical eye back over these missives, what they actually appear to do - is meander around, rambling aimlessly on about my creative endeavours - whilst very skilfully evading the much desired concrete part of things, and insisting on wallowing around in the mud of half-formed theories and extremely vague assertions. So - enough of that.

I know that however much I try and tighten up my perceptions of what it is I actually do - I will inevitably end up wandering all over the place, trying in vain to search for patterns, clutch after visual signposts, and generally make sense of my efforts in the studio. All for your sake, of course. I don,t need to know for my own sake, don't particularly care how it happens. There is no set map. Just see where it takes me. See - I can feel some rambling definitely threaten to take over, what was intended to be, an almost script free, stripped down post. So - we,ll nip that in the bud, and stop right there. The idea was to let the pictures explain them selves - and save me the bother. I will only re-iterate what I seem to have come up with in previous posts - that it is indeed a rather hap- hazard process that is just what I have ended up with after all theses years.

'Course - there is strict drawing, planning, juggling, jiggling, violent devil-may-care about turns and rapid reversals. Otherwise it wouldn't be fun, and without taking the chances offered to inadvertently destroy hard earned progress, because a better idea suddenly makes itself known to you, how can you come out the other side howling with happiness when it worked. I can only apologise for the early pictures not being so sharp.

I invested (though I,m beginning to doubt if that's the word I'm looking for right now) in a good camera - only to find that it has more options on it than the cerebral pyrotechnics that I'm capable of can deal with. Also - as I,m sure many of you will attest - one simply forgets to put down brushes, turn off that lovely arty flow of energy and snap some amazing progress shots. Well - I do. It's a question of priorities - isn't it?

So - turn off your mobiles, stop rustling the bloody popcorn packets, go to the loo if you must - quickly, and on with the show……..there are no adverts - but bare in mind this is no Directors Cut. Vast swathes of scribbles have been done away with, and as said - painting took precedence over photography, so there are sudden gaping chasms between scratchy pencils where I,m grasping after ideas, and pretty, coloured areas, where I have packed up and moved on. As I'm sure the more discerning amongst you will no doubt notice.

There were quite a few more sheafs of paper, covered in seemingly random markings, that mark  the beginning of my endeavours - this is the only one to survive the rigorous cull that takes place after a painting is deemed finished.

It's a goblin, isn't it.

Humans always a lot more tricky. No big noses, beady eyes or  pointy teeth to cover up anatomical deficiencies.

The final drawing on stretched paper, tensely awaiting my arrival - with some big brushes.

The big brushes go to work. Very important to remember the masking film (frisket?).

Creating the "stage" for the players. Iv'e got better at not worrying if the dark shadowed outline on a character blends with a dark piece of background. That,s what happens in real life. If one over- designs a picture trying to tick all the visual boxes and push all the technical buttons, you risk ending with something very pretty, but totally unbelievable. Reality and nature is most often a kind of controlled chaos anyway…….welcome to my world.

I really was not looking forward to start painting this in-decipherable jumble of goblin anatomy…….

Beginning to see the stage come together for our players. It's always a relief to get them anchored somewhere.

The horse and rider are the focal point - so needs dictate that I get them placed first. A horse and human present a multitude of un- welcome challenges - compared to a bunch of rowdy goblins, so I had to know that he was capable of filling his role first.

Then…….I could block the goblins in. This is actually the "worst" part of painting where - for me - the most self-administered discipline is required. There are 13 or 14 goblins running around - so - not wanting to spend the rest of my days, going even more grey and wrinkly in front of the it, I have to be a bit methodical with my approach to this. 26 - 28 hands. 26 - 28 feet. ( and the noses that always seem to accompany them)  A deep breath . Switch on the  auto-pilot, and just get on with it. A real labour of love. This is just hard work - and hands never get easier, no matter how many times one has to draw and paint them. All this striving to be a little bit better each time is not all it's cracked up to be. But what choice do we have.

We are getting there… Soon the why's, wherefores and reasonings of my path in life, fall gently into place with a contented sigh, and I can begin enjoying myself. 



More bling!!!

Yet more bling!

The icing on the cake. Final blinging……..trick being, of course with blinding - knowing when to stop!

Finished. Off for a cup of tea, an ale if it,s the weekend, and a probably all too brief lie down in a darkened room with a cold rag draped over my fatigued brow.

Friday, January 20, 2017


There are a lot of things going on in the art world recently, many with deadlines fast approaching. We thought a few were worth reminding our readers of.

Live Demo with Greg Manchess

Tomorrow, Greg Manchess will be live demo for our Patreon Supporters. He will execute a portrait of (by then, former) President Barack Obama from start to finish while fielding questions from the audience. The event starts at 3pm EST, Saturday January 21st. These live demos are always impressive and this one is sure to be no exception.
Click here for more details:

Spectrum 24 Call for Entires Deadline

The Spectrum Annual is the go-to source for Fantastic Art for fans and Art Directors alike, and is one of the most effective means of advertising you can buy for $20. The deadline for this year's submission is January 25th, and is less than a week away! You can submit online quickly and easily.
Click here for more details:

SFAL Travel and Accommodations

If you plan to attend Spectrum Fantastic Art Live, you better start thinking about flights and hotel accommodations. April will be here before you know it!
Click here for more details:

Smart School Enrollment

Smart School is a 15 week online mentorship program to help artists make that artistic leap they've been trying to make. This is not a pre-recorded video lesson. It is actual one-on-one time with personalized feedback on your work from some of the industries top professionals. Enrollment for the Spring Semester just opened. Class sizes are sometimes limited to as few as 8 students, so if you plan on signing up, I wouldn't delay.
Click here for more details:

IMC Enrollment

The IMC workshop is an intensive week-long workshop in Amherst, MA, and has the reputation of being 'life-changing' for a reason. Imagine 4 years of college crammed into a single, awe-inspiring, week of painting, lectures, demos, portfolio reviews and special guests. There really is nothing else that compares. Attendance is limited to about 90 students each year, most of which are already gone, but there are still a few openings left.
Click here for more details:

Dean Cornwell Book Pre-order

The Illustrated Press launched a Kickstarter a couple of years ago for a limited run of a new Dean Cornwell art book. All 1000 copies subsequently sold out. But so many people were left clamoring for this beautiful book, that they are doing a second printing. The only guaranteed way to get a copy though is to pre-order one. If you missed out last time, don;t miss out again!
Click here for more details:

    Thursday, January 19, 2017


    -By Justin Coro Kaufman

    Hello good people of the muddy colors! First off let me say it's a huge honor to be able to contribute to such a great blog. Quite a few of my art heros on here (Manchess, I’m looking at YOU), so I'm pretty excited to be rubbing virtual shoulders with such a prodigious group of picture making giants.

    Figured as a first post, id go ahead and give a little background on myself. Gotta be honest. I feel like a bit of an odd duck here since this blog is mostly print artists who do amazing book covers, posters and magic card illustrations, and generally create more finished paintings than I typically get to make for work.

    For the past 16+ years I’ve been working primarily as a concept artist for video games and entertainment media. While its been a lot of robots, barbarians and dragons, the intent has usually been more to serve as visual guides for 3D game assets and vfx, camera framing and pacing, etc.

    I tend to have less of a “signature style” than a lot of more established illustrators. Back when I was in school, I struggled a lot with what kind of an artist I wanted to be. I’d always enjoyed painting subjects from life, but also very much enjoy pulling stuff out of my head and not using reference at all.

    I’d always been kind of all over the place in terms of approach and “style," which eventually became something of an asset when we started our art studio, Massive Black, years ago.

    At MB, my role as Art Director required me to become sort of a “swiss army knife”. I was often tasked with figuring out best practices and approaches in order to create art that consistently fell outside of my comfort zone. I’ve been lucky to have not only learned countless lessons along the way, but have also had the good fortune of contributing visuals to a large number of entertainment licenses in varying capacities.

    The last 5 years or so I’ve also been more and more involved in providing visual support to more “real world” and research-related efforts, working with organizations like DARPA, SRI and Google. These tend to be a bit less linear in process and I rarely ever get to show any of that stuff. However, I really enjoy this type of work since it involves collaborating with insanely smart folks that I wouldn’t normally get to work with in the entertainment realm, helping them to visualize emerging technologies and other real-world endeavors.

    I’ve done my best to try to balance out the corporate work with personal projects as much as possible. I am a firm believer that an artist should draw their inspiration from the world around them. I lived in downtown SF for many years, which eventually led to a 4 year long graphic novel project about homeless people called “Transient”. I based it in SF and drew inspiration from folks id see in my neighborhood. Id never done comics before, and it was a very rewarding experience. Comics are HARD to make. You have to juggle so many balls. I walked away feeling like I’d learned more than in art school.

    Shortly after the completion of Transient we had our first son, Melvin. With his arrival, I started to feel this need to explore more autobiographical themes in my personal work. I had always been a fan of Andrew Wyeth. there’s an honesty to his work that appeals to me more and more as I get older. There’s a vulnerability about painting your life. It makes you extra careful to make sure you get the details, and more importantly, the feeling right.

    I fell in love with oil paint back in art school, and though I rarely got to use it for work, I never stopped doing little personal studies and whatnot. It made sense to approach these more autobiographical themes in oil, and that’s kind of where I’ve been applying my personal efforts these past few years.

    We moved our family out to rural Washington State in 2014, which pushed me even further into this direction, painting the fields and trees that surround our place in addition to the kids that lived inside. Its become very much about personal narratives for me. I can approach this stuff in a way thats not possible to do when painting something meant to sell a product or intellectual property. Different intent. Different level of attachment.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love commercial work. Not sure If I could function without it a this point. I enjoy the psychology behind it. Arranging pictorial elements to best sell an idea, creating a specific mood or feeling, and in general being able to help pinpoint what a client is after never gets old. Or it hasn’t yet! It's rarely easy, but incredibly rewarding.

    In a lot of ways I see the professional/personal stuff as kind a yin/yang type thing. Concepts and approaches learned from one always feed into and inform the other. In the end its all just information that can be applied to solve visual problems, regardless of style or subject matter.

    Looking forward to sharing more on here. If anyone has anything in particular they’d like me to blather about in future posts please let me know!