Thursday, May 31, 2012

How to Make a Free Website in Less Than 10 Minutes

-By Dan dos Santos

I thought I'd pick up on Serge's post last week about promoting yourself on the internet. Obviously, the most essential aspect of self-promotion on the web is having a personal website. If you're reading this blog, I would assume that you're at least serious enough to already have a website... but you never know.

I hear all sorts of excuses for why aspiring artists don't have a website yet. Unfortunately, they are just that... excuses. There are so many options available to artists now, that there is no reason at all you shouldn't have a portfolio online.

The simplest option of course, is to create a gallery on a website like DeviantArt or CGhub. The biggest benefit is that these galleries are totally free. The downside is that a potential client is just a single click away from a thousand other artists... meaning your work has a lot more to compete with.

Another free option is to create a blog.

I've seen a growing trend in artists who use blogs as their sole website. This works well for enticing clients to come back for repeat visits, as there is always new content. But it's annoying when a client wants to view an entire body of work quickly, and needs to scroll through months of posts in order to do so. Ultimately, a blog is a nice supplement to a website, but rarely takes the place of one. This is simply due to a clunky interface. But there is a way around this, and I'm going to show you how.

In less than 10 minutes, you can turn an ordinary blog into a sleek, simple, and FREE website.

You can take a peek at a sample I made for you HERE.

Aside from a little bit of prep-work, all it takes is some coding experience. Lucky for you, I've already done all that for you!

So here is what you do...

1. Create a Blogger account.

2. Start a blog. The name of the blog should be your own name if available (I highly recommend doing this even if you don't want a blog. If you change your mind in the future, at least you've reserved your name).

3. When choosing a template, choose either the 'Dynamic View: Flipcard', or the 'Dynamic View: Sidebar' options. Both are great layouts for a gallery, and allow the viewer to skim an entire portfolio very quickly.

4. Create a new post. In it, paste a single full-sized image. The title of the post should be the title of the painting. Go to 'post options', turn the comments option 'off', then hit 'publish'.

5. Follow Step 4 for every single piece of art you'd like to show in your gallery.

6. Create a new page. Call it 'Contact', and simply type all of your contact info there.

7. In the design section of your blog, add a new gadget. Choose the 'Pages' gadget. This will add a link to your contact page right in the header. Don't give it a title, and change the name of 'Home' to 'Gallery'.

At this point, your website is essentially functional. However, it's really not that great. A lot of extraneous things you don't need are still there, mucking things up. Dates, authorship and label info all appear next to each image. Additionally, the viewer can change the Dynamic View at will, totally destroying the way the gallery looks. This is the single biggest problem with Blogger Dynamic Views... limiting what the viewer sees. Further more, altering the HTML to the Dynamic Views template is extremely limited. There is a way around this though! By adding CSS code, you can bypass a lot of the HTML code that makes the Dynamic View so awful.

8. Go to Template Designer. Click on 'Advanced', and scroll down until you see 'Add CSS'. Simply paste the following info into the 'add css' box.

/* Hide search */
.header-bar #search{ display: none !important; }

/* Hide the google chrome feedback button */ { display: none !important; }

/* Hide the dynamic views options on the main page */
#views { display: none !important; }

/*Hide the vertical bar before the first page link */
#pages::before { border-left-width: 0 !important;}

/* Hide date ribbon */
.ribbon{ display: none !important; }

/* Hide footer */
#footer{ display: none !important; }

/* Hide google share */
.share-plusone{ display: none !important; }

/* Hide recent, date, label, author */
.flipcard #controls{ display: none !important; }

/* Hide date and author info*/
.publish-info { display: none !important; }

/* Hide flipcard info */
.card .back .overlay .date { display: none !important; }

9. Be sure to hit 'enter' after the last bracket, or it won't acknowledge the input. Hit 'Apply to blog', and Viola! You're done!

When you go back to view your blog, you should now see that it is extremely streamlined, and the viewer can no longer change it's appearance. All of the dates and author info are also gone. I personally chose to leave the Facebook and Twitter options available, though you don't have to.

See? Wasn't that easy?!
The next time we do a crit-submit, I really hope to see more of you taking advantage of this.

It's a fast, user-friendly site that costs NOTHING to maintain. Furthermore, unlike a lot of Flash-based 'lightbox' galleries, each image/post still retains a unique URL. Meaning that you can send a link to just a single image if you need.

One of the few downsides to this type of website is that the site's URL is going to have '' at the end of it. Though, if you choose to, you can change this as well. If you purchase your own domain name, Blogger allows you to use that as your URL. This a very small, yet very worthwhile investment.

Play around with the layout. There is a ton of cool stuff you can do! For instance, on mine, instead of just omitting the date ribbon on the back of the flipcard, I decided to replace it with my logo. If you're having trouble, just Google exactly what it is you're trying to do... you'd be surprised at how much info is out there.

Please Note: I've personally tested this in Safari, Firefox, and Chrome, and can attest to it working fine.  However, 'Dynamic Views' is a relatively new option on Blogger, and as such, has minimal mobile support. This means the site may look weird on mobile devices like iPhones and iPads. I expect this will be remedied in the upcoming months. As for IE, well... nothing seems to work on that piece of junk, including this very blog. Someone needs to put that horse down.

EDIT: 12.29.12: Blogger seems to have changed a few things. Pasting this text into the CSS box no longer seems to work. Instead, you need to paste it into the HTML, and it will then show up in the CSS box. Go to 'Template', click 'Edit HTML'. Click 'Expand Widgets'. Search the text for /* END CUT */. Place the above code immediately following the words /* END CUT */.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Dress Your Marines in White

-By Gregory Manchess

Sometimes, paintings just come off the least, it feels that way. Dress Your Marines in White is a short story art directed by Irene Gallo for She had an idea and sketched it out on a napkin or something and sent it to me.

The large letters refer to the individual soldiers’ blood type. We had ideas to work with camo designs, etc., but the story didn’t call for that. I shot some reference of me and made a sketch.

I got the ok from Irene, projected the sketch to the canvas, splashed some acrylic around to seal the pencil, and dove in.

It might’ve felt like it came out of nowhere, but when this happens, I know immediately that the many, many years of training kick in, driving the paint by what neuroscientists call ‘automaticity’, allowing my brain to have room to shift, change, edit, regroup, and embrace accidents on the fly, without having to remember how to mix, what to mix, where to place it, and so on. I'm engaged with the concept, the idea, and not so much about how to get there.

There was no point at which this painting did not feel right. That’s what I look for every time I paint. It’s what we all strive for.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Leo Dillon 1933-2012

Sadly, another giant has passed. Leo Dillion died Saturday, May 26; He was 79 years old. According to close friend, Harlan Ellison, Leo succumbed to a "...tumor on the collapsed lung, he never regained consciousness."

Friend, advisor, Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame Inductee, Spectrum Grand Master, and one half of an influential, groundbreaking, and unparalleled art team, Leo was simply the best. Our deepest sympathies to Diane and their son Lee for their loss.

Back from Spectrum

-By Justin Gerard

Today's post will be brief as I am still recovering from the awesomeness that was Spectrum Live 2012.

I can't remember the last time I have had so much fun. Apart from how great it is to get together with old friends and see what everyone has been up to this whole time, it was great to meet so many new artists that came out for this event.

It was also really great to see so many of the European artists make it out. There is just so much talent in Europe but it seems like we rarely ever get to cross paths with them, which is a shame.
Jean-Baptiste Monge, Paul Bonner and Petar Meseldzija all came.

Monge did a watercolor demo that I showed up for a half hour early because, well... it's J.B. Monge.
Bonner brought some really wonderful prints, a new sketchbook and a few of his flabbergastingly detailed originals. (I offered him my car as a trade at one point.)
And Petar brought some of the most gorgeous oil paintings I have ever seen.

Every time I go to these events I get extremely depressed at how amazing all the other artist's work is and wondering what I have been doing all these years. But I also leave extremely inspired and eager to try new approaches and start on new images. I am really looking forward to getting started on some new work.

Monday, May 28, 2012

At the Edge: Art of the Fantastic Exhibition

-By John Jude Palencar

Just when you thought it was safe to relax after the awesome Spectrum Fantastic Art Live event. Our sincerest gratitude goes out to Arnie and Cathy Fenner and their crew... those folks in Kansas City really know how to put on wonderful event!

Well... put your boots back on and head over to the Allentown Art Museum for Pat and Jeannie Wilshire’s brainchild exhibition....

The Allentown Art Museum of the Lehigh Valley is pleased to showcase an exhibition that will introduce contemporary fantastic art to the museum setting. “At the Edge: Art of the Fantastic“ will not only be the most comprehensive exhibition of fantastic art to date, it will also be the first time that this discipline has been presented on such a large scale. Sometimes labeled as science fiction or fantasy art, such imaginative realism distinguishes itself from other forms by portraying ancient myths and legends, modern day fantasies in the form of divine interventions, the imagination, the dream state, the grotesque visions and the uncanny as common objects.

Fantastic art is not a new invention. According to the exhibition’s guest curators, Patrick and Jeannie Wilshire, fantastic art has been around since man has “been able to make meaningful marks on permanent materials.” They go on to say that, “Ancient artwork is rife with narrative depictions of gods, monsters, shining deeds and things crawling from dark shadows.”

While the widespread prevalence of fantastic themes in popular culture is relatively recent, most historians date the inception of today’s contemporary fantastic art to that of the Romanticism movement in the second half of the 18th century. The parameters of fantastic art were further defined throughout the 19th century, featuring prominently in the pre-Raphaelite and Academic movements. Fantastic art flowered during the Golden Age of Illustration in the early 20th century, but then became more marginalized and self-referential through the mid-20th century. Since the 1970s, fantastic art has enjoyed a renaissance as contemporary artists have rediscovered and reconnected to the works of their forebearers.

From Patrick Wilshire - “How about a few of the highlights?” (Partial list of artist's work that will appear in the exhibition.)

William Blake
Gustave Dore
Edmund Blair Leighton
Howard Pyle
N.C. Wyeth
Arthur Rackham
Edmund Dulac
Frank Schoonover
J.C. Leyendecker
Dean Cornwell
J.C. Coll
Franklin Booth
J. Allen St. John
Chesley Bonestell
Virgil Finlay
Frank Kelly Freas
John Schoenherr
Roy Krenkel
Frank Frazetta
Michael Whelan
Boris Vallejo
Manuel Sanjulian
Rowena Morrill
Roger Dean
Rodney Matthews
H.R. Giger
Bernie Wrightson
Michael William Kaluta
Barry Windsor-Smith
Brian Froud
James Gurney
John Jude Palencar
Julie Bell
Donato Giancola
Greg Manchess
Jon Foster
Eric Fortune
Phil Hale
Rick Berry
Justin Sweet
Thomas Blackshear
and many others..

Pat Wilshire goes on to say “Again, 140 artists - roughly 45 of them pre-date 1940, so a major batch of Golden Age goodness.”

Allentown Art Museum,
31 North Fifth Street
Allentown, PA 18101

Exhibition Dates:
Sunday, June 3, 2012 - Sunday September 9, 2012
Scheller Gallery, Rodale Gallery, Fowler Gallery

Opening Preview Party: Saturday June 2, 2012
Tickets for the Preview Party: HERE!

Allentown Art Museum Link: HERE
Exhibition link: HERE

Here are a few paintings that will appear in the exhibition...







Saturday, May 26, 2012

Ancient Wings in the Vineyard

-By Terryl Whitlatch

The French have a word for it, that sense of time and place.  It’s known as “terroir”, and technically speaking, connotes the special characteristics that the geography, geology, and climate of a certain location bestow upon the agricultural crops grown there.  In particular, this is what the wine industry is all about, whether we are talking about an Australian shiraz or an Oregon reisling, and it is this, the unique backstories of each varietal, that sells the wine.

Fundamentally, terroir is the assumption that the land from which the grapes are grown imparts a unique quality, specific to that region.  This is the story of the grape, unfolding like a James Michener novel, from the dawn of time, through human history, the whole fermentation process, and to the opening of the bottle itself.

In this day and age, wine labels are essential to the sale of a bottle of wine, and just like book jackets, they vie for our attention.  They are graphically crafted to give an idea of that terroir in a visual sense, and to create a desire to experience living history.

Eden Canyon Vineyards, located in the bucolic hills of Paso Robles, California, produces red wines such as cabernets, Pinot noirs, merlots, ports, and blends.  The soils are comprised of infinitely ground minerals from the Jurassic Era, and these soils, combined with water and other natural organic material, are what give the wines a character that is different from the same varietals grown elsewhere.

My job was to come up with an image that was evocative of this ancient prehistory, and to be eye-catching, dynamic, and hopefully beautiful at the same time.  Because peacocks freely roam the vineyards, I was reminded of dinosaurs, and then immediately of prehistoric birds, such as Archaeopteryx and Jeholornis.  These ancient avians also lived during the Jurassic, and what if, somehow they survived in a pocket of time and place in what was to eventually become Eden Canyon?  A special beautiful place, special beautiful birds, and hence, by implication, special exquisite wine.

Happily, the concept was accepted by Eden Canyon, and I got right to work.

I began by doing basic research and anatomy studies from fossil records, as well as from real birds, and settled on the Jeholornis as the species to be represented.  I drew it in a variety of flying poses, and presented the roughs to the client.  While nowadays, grapes themselves are ironically portrayed less commonly on labels than in the past, the decision was made to include the grapes to give a sense of time and place for the Jeholornis to live in.  Thus, in effect, a narrative illustration was to be created.

I spent many hours recreating the Jeholornis, anaylizing and re-anaylizing the structure of the wings, wing claws, and legs.  While only distantly related to the peacocks mentioned earlier, they are very similar anatomically, which made a nice tie-in, so I gave the body an overall royal blue.  The markings on the undersides of the wings and tails, however, came from peregrine falcons.

I also kept reference photos of the actual vineyards at my drawing board to keep my mind grounded in the ambience and spirit of the location.

Both the bird and the grapes were painted using Copic Sketch Markers, to give a watercolor effect and also to be efficient with my time, as I had several other jobs pending during that period, as well as a class in Creature Design that I was teaching.

The painting was completed, and then integrated into the final design of the label.  My sister is a very talented graphic designer, and put it all together, including the back label, and then, there was the foil collar color to be decided upon (gold!), paper choice, and of course, the bottle style, which was left up to Eden Canyon.  There are distinct bottle shapes for each type of grape.  Another interesting and very important aspect of wine labels is legal—the alcohol content fonts have to be a certain size by law, as least in the United States.

All in all, it was a great experience.  I learned so much more about the wine industry than I had known before (despite the fact that my parents live in Calistoga, at the top of the Napa Valley). The wine was delicious, by the way, and sold very well, and the bottle itself proved to be a “keeper”, long after its contents had been enjoyed.

Again, illustration is about story, wonderment, and stretching oneself, in any context.

Innovation and taking chances in wine label design.  An ancient bird selling wine.  And, an evocative sense of rare, Jurassic terroir was the message in this bottle.

Syd Mead art in NYC

May 11 - June 30, 2012

A quick mention that Syd Mead has an exhibition of his work at BravinLee Programs.
It looks to be a range of work, totaling 12 pieces.  Check it out if you can!

526 West 26th Street #211
New York, NY 10001
(212) 462 - 4404

Friday, May 25, 2012

Promoting Yourself On The Internet

-By Serge Birault

Yes, I know, you're an artist, you hate maketing. Self promoting is too boring and time consuming for you and it's a waste of time.

You're all wrong …

If you are a freelancer, you cannot spend your time searching for clients. 20 years ago, I only worked for clients living in my own town or on my own country. It no longer works this way. I'm working for clients all over the world now. The internet is an incredible tool for sharing your work, but you have to find a way to make you visible on the internet. Here are some key points:

* Website :
Having your own website is a necessity. It's the link you send to your clients.
DON'T DO IT YOURSELF. You're an illustrator not a designer, it's not the same job. Ok, you're able to do good pictures - that doesn't mean you able to do good designs, it's often the opposite. Illustrators websites are usually the worst websites ever. Ask to a webdesigner to do it for you. And ask him/her to do one which can be easily updated. Yes, I know - it costs money.
Keep in mind only people who know your name can find it.

* Blog :
A lot of artists have a blog because it's easier to create and update. It cannot replace a website because it's not a gallery, and it could be hard to find a specific post or specific pictures. However, you can post articles, news, WIPs and/or videos, and it could be very interesting for those who like your work AND those who have an interest in your processes, articles, videos, etc.
People can follow you so they will be informed if you update your blog and they can share your posts too.Keep in mind most of your followers work in the same field as you.

* Forums :
There are various forums on the internet. The main goal of posting on forums is to have comments or critics of your work; Well, in fact, it should be the main goal. Most of us post on forums to promote ourselves. Yes, I know, it's a bit weird but it's true. Of course, we like having kind or constructive comments but the real motivation is only to have your pictures viewed by a lot of people. If you really want honest critics, have some honest illustrator friends give you feedback.
Let me explain to you how it works…
All forums have a front page system, which means moderators choose pictures every day / week / month. All of those pictures have, of course, more exposure than the others. Being a forum moderator is a quite a difficult (and unpaid) job. They often have a list of artists who usually do good work, which they use to choose the pictures on the front page. It's normal, we can't blame them for that. They try to promote emerging artists too, but it's more difficult because they have to sift through all of the pictures submitted. And there are a lot of pictures.
If you are on the list, it's not a problem, you can be sure to be viewed and followed. The more famous you are, the less your comments are honest. It may sound strange but it's all about politics. It's not easy to dare writing negative comments on a well known artist's picture, and it could be dangerous because we are a community. There are friends, enemies, clans, polite relationships and sometimes hate. That's why I said : if you want honest critics, have honest friends.
If you're not on the list, you have to try to be a part of it. So, try to post your better works and be patient, it's the only solution. A little advice for all the beginners - wait a little bit before posting on a forum. Some pictures I posted 10 years ago are still visible on the internet, and, believe me, I'm not very proud of some of them!
When forums are too big, the list becomes too long. So the people on the list move to another forum, and the forum slowly died. Sad but true.
By the way, a lot of websites share frontpage pictures, and potential clients sometimes find you directly by this way.
Forums are usually owned by publishers. If you have a bad relationship with these publishers, don't expect to have too much exposure on their forum. Just sayin'.

* Social networks :
A «new» and interesting way to promote yourself. Try to avoid merging your «personal» page and your «pro» page. Sometimes, people who like your work want to learn more about your life. Just don't forget they're not «real» friends, just «virtual» ones. Real friendship is not pushing a «like» button. However, you can find new «real» friends this way, from all over the world.
You can easily exchange messages with artists you like too. I spoke for the first time with some of my idols via facebook.
Social networks are great tools to post your works and get quick feedback, sometimes by people who don't have any interest on illustration and who don't know you. They can share your work with a simple click. I discovered a lot of great artists who don't post on CG forums. Sometimes it's very useful. I use it to post my WIPs and I often have interesting critics or new ideas. On the other hand, social networks are crawling with chaos and VERY time consuming. Use them carefully.

*Clients :
"We cannot pay you but we will promote you". I think you already know this sentence. Simple advice - NEVER work for free. Of course, you can work for a cheap price if you are sure your client can REALLY promote you, in efficient way.
Don't forget : Happy clients make good publicity. I worked for a famous Spanish band last year and they mention my name everytime they can.

*Other ways :
You have to know your audience. I know the people who follow me are usually in the CG field, and they follow me because I do technical stuff, so I share my WIPs and do tutorials and videos.
The others are pin up fans, so I share pictures of lovely models, pin up photographers or other pin up artists.

Of course, this is not mathematics. You can have large audience on the internet without all of this. But it's more difficult. It depends of what you do, your skills, your relationships … A lot of parameters you cannot really control. If you have large audience, know what to do with it. You cannot have news or new stuff to show everyday. You can fill up this empty space in an efficient way by promoting other artists, for example.

*Last words :
It's a very cynical article, I know. It's about how to sell yourself. Artists think their works are not products, but they are wrong. We have to earn money with our pictures. So we sometimes have to think about how to sell them.
Promoting yourself is boring and time consuming, that's right. However, don't forget that the internet can be a wonderful place. You can discover incredible artists, speak with them and share their works. You can learn new techniques, find inspiration or motivation, etc. The internet is not just a market place.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Spectrum Live! May 18-20, 2012

-By Donato

For those of you who have not yet heard, the first Spectrum Live! was held this past weekend in Kansas City, representing a gathering of the finest minds, professionals and artists practicing within the fields of science fiction, fantasy and concept art.

Notice the key word 'practicing'.  This was not an event staged around museum works or academics, but rather a place where comrades slogging their way through the extremely competitive freelance marketplace could share their stories, advice, and work with a like and sympathetic audience.  This was a place to nurture the artistic soul and charge the inspirational batteries of creativity. It was a time to pick the brains of talent, mature and fledgling, for they all had information relevant to share for anyone who wished to engage in conversation.

From the scores of panel presentations, hundreds of booths, and thousands of pieces of art, you were on overload from the moment you stepped into the place.  Arnie and Cathy Fenner (as well as their host of volunteers) put on a top rate professional convention with a captivating Saturday evening for the Spectrum 19 awards ceremony.   This weekend will go down in history as one of the greatest gatherings of talent in our field...we'll all be proclaiming in years to come 'I was there!'.

 It was impossible to see everything, talk with everyone and even just say hi to all the friends!  I would say that was the biggest downer to the whole event (if there was one!)- not having enough time to catch up with all the artists, fans and professionals in attendance.  You moved from a conversation with James Gurney onto another with some other artists and over your shoulder saw Brom standing right behind you talking to Petar Meseldzija! You couldn't ditch the friends you'd just started talking to because they were Julie Bell, Boris Vallejo and Irene Gallo!  What a conundrum!  And it kept going on and on like that all weekend...

Here are a few shots when I remembered to take out the camera (obviously not enough!)  Hopefully some other of my fellow Muddies will post their pictures and accounts as well.

If there is a second event to run next year, you can count me in 100%.  I hope to see you there as well!

Friday night kicks off the socializing with a gathering just outside the convention hall.

A beautiful sunset illunimates the performance space across the lawn.

Mark Nelson, Daren Bader and Brian Despain chuckle it up.

One of Tom Kuebler's surreal and freakishly real sculptures.

Up past my bedtime for a midnight chat with Mike Mignola, Scott Gustafson, Tom Gianni, Bill Stout and Mark Nelson.  Who wouldn't stay up for that!!

The lovely Zelda Devon and talented Greg Spalenka.

Irene Gallo shares a story with Kristina Carroll and Stephan Martiniere.

Greg Manchess entertains Eric Fortune and Christian Gossett.

Paul Tobin shares time with Shena Wolf.

Tom Kuebler and Kurt Huggins as giants of the industry!

Michael Whelan (center) spends the last evening of the convention hanging with some artists!

Dan Dos Santos and Lauren Panepinto, the AD at Orbit books, share a laugh (that's Tony Palumbo in the background)

Justin Gerard (far right) is really much friendlier than the picture lets on!

Frans Vohwinkle (center) and Omar Rayyan (right) chillin' on the couch

The Donato Arts booth on Sunday evening, ready for break down and good byes... and yes, that is the new Gandalf and the Balrog on Zirak-zigil, premiered at the show, in the foreground.  
'I threw down my enemy...'
 More on that to come in a later post.

Spectrum Live Photo Galleries

Karl, from Stainless Steel Droppings, describes his experience at Spectrum Live here.

Photo Gallery by Jon Schindehette, Art Director for Wizards of the Coast.

Photo Gallery and Blog Post by Irene Gallo, Art Director for Tor Books.

Photo Gallery of the Event, and the Awards Gala, by Janet JHS.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


-By Jesper Ejsing

A couple of weeks ago I was offered a rather strange assignment. A set of Lord of the Rings cards all painted by John Howe was missing 2 pieces of artwork. They asked me to do a test illustration to see if I could come up with something that was close to Howe so that the portrait didn´t stand out too much from the rest of the illustrations. I thought “Sure, no prob. I can paint like Johnny Boy”.

Turns out I couldn't.

They just told me that they were not going to use my illustration since it was too far from the look of the rest. I had that feeling too. Actually, when I started painting I realised that I couldn't paint like someone else. I was too stuck in my way of doing things. The way I build up layers of skintones and add strokes and texture. How could I have imagined that I could do in a day what took John Howe decades to learn?

Anyway. I really like the portrait of Elrond that I ended up with. It is Elrond in his younger days, when he was herald for Gil-galad. Well right after anyways, since he got the ring that used to be Gil-galads.

Also I made a sketch for the mouth of Sauron that I am really sad I did not get to finish. Perhaps some day I will.