Friday, November 30, 2012

Masters of Contemporary Illustration: Pavel Tatarnikov

                                                                  -By Petar Meseldzija 

Pavel Tatarnikov was born in 1971 into a family of artists. He has loved drawing since childhood, and his talent was recognized early on: at the age of eleven, he was selected to train at the State School of Music and Fine Arts in Minsk, Belarus. He graduated in 1989 and joined the Graphic Department of the Belarusian Academy of Arts, working as an illustrator. The recipient of many awards, Pavel particularly enjoys  projects that combine his love of myths and legends, literature and history. He currently lives in Belarus.

To see more of Pavel’s work visit

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Artist of the Month: Wassily Kandinsky

-by William O'Connor

 Composition VII 1913

The dawn of the 20th Century was a time of unparalleled change in human history.  Within just  a couple of decades social upheaval would change the fabric of nations.  Scientific inventions would alter the understanding of the universe with Einsteins’s Theory of General Relativity.  The advent of electricity and the industrialization of the major cities of the world introducing the telephone, the automobile, train systems,  recorded music and movies.  Even the construct of the mind had been restructured with Freud's interpretation of human perception and the subconscious.  It was inevitable then that these major evolutions in the human condition would have major repercussions in the field of the fine arts.  The very nature of art itself was on the chopping block with artists asking themselves, “What is Art?”

In my estimation there was no more critical advocate of this Modern Experiment than Wassily Kandinsky  (1866-1944)

Born in Russia and trained in Germany Kandinsky experienced all of these changes of Modernity first hand and reflected them in his work.  It became self evident to artists in this period that the role of the Artist had evolved in this new world.  In the past the academic and formulaic representation of the natural world had been the pinnacle of artistic achievement.  With all other branches of science and philosophy being radically rewritten, most artists of this period felt it was their responsibility to rewrite the goal of the artist as well.  Modernity represented scientific understanding of the natural world.  Space, Time, Matter, all of Human understanding could be reinterpreted by analytic methods.  The world, and the artist’s understanding of the world, had become Relative.  One man’s perception of the natural world, could not be judge against another, there was no objective reality, only the individual artist’s perception of the world.  For this Modern Experiment to work, all traditional artistic understanding of the past 500 years would have to be removed, and the fine arts would need to approach itself the same as physics, psychology, philosophy and the other sciences,  as a series of abstract experiments.

Composition IV 1911

For inspiration Kandinsky looked to music.  Music was the only truly pure abstract art form, without any representation or preconceived attachments to the natural world.  A trumpet sounded like a trumpet, not a bird.  A violin sounded like a violin, not a babbling brook.  Using this template as a starting point Kandinsky begins to experiment with painting as pure and unadulterated by attachments to the natural world, as pure artistic expression.  Blue as Blue, and not as sky.  Green as Green and not as grass. 

This remarkable and revolutionary artistic experimentation led to some of Kandinsky’s most exciting work and begins with his treatise : Concerning the Spiritual In Art (1911).  In this manifesto accompanied by his 20 year long "Composition" series,  Kandinsky breaks down color and form into its pure emotional resonance, associating different colors to different instruments in the orchestra as well as different emotions.  Additionally, Kandinsky establishes the role of the artist in the modern world laying out the concept of the Avante Garde (Advance Gaurd) artist who’s role it is to challenge the status quo and to advance the nature of perception, much like the scientist's job to advance the understanding of the physical world, or the philosopher's job to advance the meta-physical world.

Composition VI  1913

Fifty years before the American Abstract Expressionists such as Pollock, Rauschenberg, and DeKooning, Kandinsky was laying the groundwork for the future of 20th century art.  For me his paintings are joyful and ecstatic in their colorful expressions, and revolutionary in their conception.  His paintings allow the viewer to bring himself and his own relative experiences and imagination to the work intertwined with the perceptions of the artist, as opposed to being dictated to. Every painting becomes new to each viewer, and unique every time it is viewed.

I still enjoy looking at Kandinsky’s paintings.  One hundred years later they are as fresh and inspiring as the day  they were painted.  I highly recommend that if given the chance, sit in your favorite museum and just look and listen to the symphonies Kandinsky composed on canvas.

 Kandisky Collection at:
The Museum on Modern Art, New York

Thank you,

New Exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. "Inventing Abstraction" on view from Dec. 23, 2012- April 15, 2013.  Exploring Kandinsky and many of the early modernists inventing some of the themes discussed in this blog...

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Vampire Earth Book 1, Enter The Wolf

Greg Manchess

Finally got a chance to work with Matthew Kalamidas over at The Science Fiction Book Club. This one’s wild: alien vampires attacking earth, with a Road Warrior vibe, across a post-apocalyptic Iowa landscape. Gas station and/or grain elevators in background. ‘Can you work-in some attacking ships?’ 

Thumbnails first. Here’s the first set. Two pages exploring possible compositions, elements, lighting conditions. Composition always comes first for me. You name the elements, I can place them. But nothing interesting happens until the composition is built.

Starting with the figure silhouette, I then toyed with a jerry-rigged car as a middle-ground element, developing the body language of the main, semi-paramilitary, leathered-up hero. Worked on just the right movement. But should he be standing confident or middle of action? Burning gas station? Need the alien ships, so I gave that a shot as well.

I showed these to Matthew so I could find out if I was on the right trail. With a few suggestions to follow one of the thumbs and give the figure more movement, I proceeded to show him two more developed, larger sketches.

They decided to go with A above, the more reserved-but-ready pose, as there would be a set of three books and we’d ramp up the action on the cover as the series continued. Matthew also specified more accurate costuming for the main character: longer hair, no balaclava, no headset, add duster, more military clothing. Don’t forget: add ships in the background.

I piled on some clothing and shot reference to work from to get the layers right and gave Matthew this final sketch. Dang... I forgot the ships.

Got the go-ahead, with a request for the ships in the sky. No problem. Started painting. Elapsed time: 10 hours. Finished late at night...and forgot the freakin' ships anyway.

Next morning, I showed Matthew and he loved it, but had a request: please put in the ships. One forehead slap and a little more time, and the ships were in.....and fun to paint. Looking forward to Book 2!

(Main photograph at top: Gamma One, NYC....those guys are dead. on.)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

David Gray Demos

By Justin Gerard

Matthew Innis recently posted on contemporary realist painter David Gray on his blog:  Along with having a really thorough overview of his process, both posts also have videos done by the artist himself which are amazingly insightful.

David Gray on figurative work

David Gray on still life work

Monday, November 26, 2012

Captain America #1 Cover (Variant)

Captain America #1 Cover (Variant). 2012. 
Ink(ed by Joe Rivera) on Marvel board, 11 × 17.25″.

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! I'm just now getting back from a week in St. Louis, which was preceded by a couple weeks in London, Dublin, and Leeds. Now it's time to get back to work, but I wanted to feature a cover that was released while I was abroad.

My editors wanted something resembling an old-school propaganda poster, which meant a little more Photoshopping than usual. These inks are by my Dad, Joe Rivera, but the only pure black that shows up in the final is in the border. The inks are still an important step, however, since the crisp delineation facilitates the selection process. It took extra time to remove some of the outlines, but the style just didn't look right without flat color.

Since we do the pencils and inks separately, I tried to save him some time by doing technical elements — borders, lettering, stars, etc. — all in Photoshop. The image above is what he printed out and inked over. I added the title because  it didn't feel complete without it, but that's something that Marvel always does in-house. I just swiped the logo from the reference they sent.

As you can see in the penciled version, the shells colliding with Cap's shield were originally much smaller. At first, I had intended to have the onslaught include parts of the German war machine, which would smash and crumble into oblivion. But while they liked this idea, my editors also wanted it to be the modern version of Cap, who happened to be debuting in this issue, a new #1 that's part of a line-wide relaunch called Marvel Now.

I got hung up on the anachronism of a modern Cap fighting WWII-era Germany and was at a loss for brief spell. Fortunately for me, my editor, Tom Brevoort, suggested the shells-as-metaphor solution which worked perfectly for the tone of the piece (and was a lot easier to draw). Pictured above is the digital composite that I penciled over, complete with perspective grid.

This year, I started expanding the digital canvas of my cover files to include room for inspiration. Previously, each project warranted a folder on my desktop filled with random jpegs of reference that had to be opened individually. Now, each layout file contains all the images I need, each on its own layer, and grouped into a folder that can be easily hidden. Most of the posters above were found on-line, while the Cap art and style guides (by John Romita, Jr. and John Cassaday) were provided by Marvel.

Finally, just a quick note on digital coloring: I have an assistant who "flats" the artwork, meaning all the major shapes are separated into different colors, making them easy to be selected. Once I receive this prepped file, I go through each shape, playing with the color until I strike some kind of harmony. Having established characters like Captain America make some of the choices pretty easy, but subtle shifts can make a world of difference. I find that much of my decision making takes place with the white objects in a composition. Once those are established, everything else seems to fall into place.

The finishing touch is a filter over the entire image that adds "color noise" to the flat hues. It's one of the simplest filters (Filter Gallery: Texture: Grain) but I find that it activates the color in the same way that I would layer pigments with real paint.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Guest Blogger: JOHN PICACIO

When I brainstormed the cover art for Brenda Cooper's novel, THE CREATIVE FIRE: BOOK ONE OF RUBY'S SONG, I realized I had an opportunity to do more than a literary character portrait.

The novel was very much a futuristic story about coming-of-age, class warfare, and revolution. Art director Lou Anders wanted me to bring the book's heroine, Ruby, to life. Some of my favorite cover art often goes beyond just being great product packaging, and somehow also touches the times that it's created in. And I realized we had an opportunity to possibly do that here.

All of us are living in a fragile time for our fundamental rights, at least here in America. It seems our news and social feeds are filled with daily attacks on womens' rights. Revolutionary posters have always been rallying cries, and Lou and I felt like we might have a chance to evoke those here, as well as serve the novel's intentions. When I thought about who Ruby was, I thought of the 1940's image of Rosie the Riveter, as imagined by J. Howard Miller and Norman Rockwell (with genius inspiration from Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel). I thought of the grace of Sandro Botticelli's The Birth of Venus, along with Russian revolution posters, and Howard Chandler Christy's "Fight or Buy Bonds" painting.

In the novel, Ruby is a singer and Lou and I talked about how her microphone might be a key part of the cover art. I felt that an image of her singing didn't quite have enough dimension. However, in the right hands, microphones can be more powerful than guns. And that became the defining lightbulb moment that cracked the idea open.

Next, I needed to shoot reference photos for my drawing work. I used two different models -- one who lived hundreds of miles away, and one much closer to home. For the long-distance shoot, I sent a few thumbnails, lighting cues, and image inspirations (including Klimt's "Hygeia") to a friend and her husband photographed her. I referred to both batches of photos when I was drawing, and pulled cues from several photos.

Final drawing study #1 / Pencil on Strathmore 500 illustration board / 17" x 24"

Composite drawing/painting work with foreground and background merged / Pencil on Strathmore 500 illustration board + oil for the smoke

The first Spectrum Fantastic Art Live happened in Kansas City while I was working on this cover art, and I showed a print to a few friends there for critique. One friend said the microphone was "too Flash Gordon".

It was helpful feedback, and I went back home to do several improvements including a reworking of the microphone. Here's the final version.

One of the great things about doing cover art is when the author of the book sees the work you've done, and dearly wants to inject some of your vision back into the prose. As far as I remember from my reading, there is no microphone stand in THE CREATIVE FIRE that looks like what I created, but Brenda has told me she now wants one for Ruby for Book 2. That's good to hear, but in the end, it's OK whether she does or doesn't. The most important thing is that the spirit of this image is true to the book's intentions and strengths, and connects it with an appreciative reading audience. That microphone is very much the spirit of Ruby, and what she means to this book, and hopefully it will be for others who realize that we're all revolutions waiting to happen.

This art is also featured as the July artwork (only fitting for Independence Day, right?) in the 2013 John Picacio Calendar, which is available for purchase for a few more short days -- only until this Wednesday, November 28th at 12noon EST, via Kickstarter.

To see more of John's award-winning art, be sure to visit his website at:

Friday, November 23, 2012

Jason Edmiston

-By Serge Birault

Cover painting for the upcoming live album of the Misfits.

Jason has been an illustrator since 1996. He has worked for very big brands like Hasbro, Coca Cola, Nestlé, and Nike. He is a traditional painter who works with acrylic.

I discovered Jason's work only few years ago. It was lear, we have a lot in common. We loved the same things, we had the same interest in "pop culture", we had the same references. He likes B and classic horror movies, 80's metal bands and toys.

I'm very happy because I will meet him next month in Paris, for the Be Street Magazine event.

Here's a small selection of Jason's amazing work:

Mace Windu from the Star Wars Legacy Collection: Genosis Arena Showdown.

Gallery painting for a 2008 group show

A piece for the 100th anniversary of Vincent Price.

Painting created for Fright Rags, used as a poster and tee design.

Tommy Lee. Part of a series of Monsters of Rock portraits originally created for Underground gallery show in NYC.

Personal piece. One of my favourite. I'm the happy owner of a signed print of this one.

Robocabbie. Originally painted for Gallery 1988's Crazy4Cult show in NY.

Jason's Website :

DeviantArt page :

He sometimes posts very interesting WIPs. Here's one for example :

He recently created a Facebook page, probably the best way to follow him:

You can find some prints here:

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Steering by Goblin

-By Jesper Ejsing

I am rummaging around the studio searching for sketches and colour comps to put into my upcoming artbook, when I discovered these...

The Goblin Tunneler is a magic card illustration from a while ago, but it is still one of my favourite illustrations. One of the reasons is, that it is pretty simple and straight forward in the design and composition. The description was short: A goblin with a hacking tool who has dug himself out of a tunnel. But what I really like about this specific work is that the brushstrokes are very loose and chunky but still precise and accurate. the care-free randomness of dots and the simplicity of the rendering of details makes this stand out. When I was finished I took this piece and put it up on my board in front of my desk. "This is what you are steering at from now on, Jesper", I said to myself. "Simplicity and effortless-ness"( is that even a word?). Well 2 paintings later I was back at rendering too many details and adding way too busy backgrounds. But as an artistic steering point, he is still up there on the wall looking down at me with the mattock.

It is always hard to achieve that easiness while painting, since there is so many balls to juggle in a painting. When you have to clean up composition, create color themes, paint a perfect hand gesture and solve light issues, the mind easily panics and gets frustrated. When it succeed and I enters that stage of careless painting that allows me to act and paint without thinking, it is not until afterwards that I realize that it went well. While in it, it just flows without thinking. I wish there was a way of automatically enter that stage. Until science figures that out, I have invented a system to grease myself into that feeling more often. It is called: Hard Work.

When you have a tight drawing with nothing insecure to fix, when you have a solid colour rough, you have already cleared the way for easy painting. The less you have to worry about, the more focus left for painting.

With this goblin I quickly abandoned boring ideas and as soon as I hit something usable, I put in some values to establish depth. I am not the kind of artist who enjoys sketching. I stop as soon as I am almost able to see what I am doing and then I would rather do the rest in transferring or in the final drawing than having to draw things twice. So this thumb I sent for approval and transferred it as soon as I got a "Go", from the art director.

The colour rough does one thing. It secures me in my thoughts that these colours in my head will work together. The grey/brown to the right is added to have a easy area to soak up some of the intense warm colours and acts as a temperature contrast to the yellow and orange. Without any cold colour or neutral grey the image would seem flat.
The background I painted while the figure was masked out, using frisket film. I used a very broad flat brush size 16 to keep myself away from doing too many details.

While painting I realized that the very red cliffs from my colour test would be too heavy and would collide with the figure, so I changed it to greyish orange. at some point I could no longer keep myself from peeling away the film, because I wanted desperately to paint the figure. I promised myself to go back and clean up and render the rocks in the background, but for now I just needed to do some of the focal points.

I never got back. When the figure was done the simplicity of the background and the rough - almost out of focus - of the rocks in the left side and the bottom works perfectly.

If you look at the cross hatchings in his ear, you can actually see how thin I apply most of the paint - or how slobby I actually am, depending on how you see it.