Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Update 9: Above The Timberline

Greg Manchess

The past two weeks have been nothing but starting and finishing painting after painting.

I managed to use half of August to sketch out complex scenes for the book, and the rest of the month was devoted to getting layers of paint down to keep moving forward through the images. Whatever image was clear in my head, I began, then let it sit while I figured out other more complex sections or calculated lighting schemes.

This will be my last update for awhile. With 30+ paintings to go, time is still an important factor, even though I got a little reprieve on the schedule. Because of it, I let up a bit this past month, but I’ll only have to make it up later. So I must stay after it, and that means extreme focus until this thing is put to bed, as they say.

It will be another year before the book returns from China and makes it to the stands. But long before that, I’ll post when the paintings are finished and share more at that time.

Thanks for hanging in there with me!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Great Job, Internet! Vol. II

by Cory Godbey

With the month of August drawing to a close, I'm sorry to see the summer wrapping up. I don't know about you but I found that I had a hard time getting out the studio over these last few sunny months.

Even so, there's one constant companion to help you keep your cool when projects pile up and you can't get outside to enjoy the humidity, the internet!

August was a great month for tracking down good things online and so like back in March, I wanted to bring you a round up the best things I stumbled upon this past month. Enjoy!


Omar Rayyan needs no introduction to Muddy Colors readers. In fact, I'll bet many of you are already aware of his new project but for anyone who hasn't seen it yet, Omar's Kickstarting a new book!

Just look at it. I'll tell you, I'm finding it hard to wait for this one. Can't wait to see it in print!


For those of you on Instagram, Scott Gustafson has joined! If you'd like to add some pure illustrative magic to your day could hardly do better than to follow Scott.


Here are a couple new entires in the Tran Nguyen being exceptional series.

On August 1st, Tran released a fantastic 60 minute demo detailing her process "from the first glaze to the last noodled detail." 

The piece is also a part of her collection, "The Flooded Hours" which opened at the Jonathan LeVine Gallery on August 3rd.

And as if that's not enough, Tran's teaching an upcoming workshop!


Another great Instagram find, Washington based artist and writer, Shen Leidigh (@shenleidigh) has been on a roll lately. His feed is a nice mix of ink work and what ever good things he spots on his morning walks.


Tiffany Turrill has been posting a ton of great new work recently! You can find most of it on her site (and more on her Twitter and Instagram).


Nobody can stop David Petersen. You shouldn't try (or even want to, actually). His award-winning, best selling comic series Mouse Guard is, for my money, the very best all ages work that's out there. 

As prolific as he is kind, recently David's been showing a lot of great process work. I love these in-progress shots of the sketches and lightbox.

Not exactly an August thing (it was publicly announced back in July at SDCC) but did you know that Mouse Guard is going to be a movie? Rouge One's Gary Whitta is writing it!


And you know what, to round this out let's have some animation. I adore moving pictures and seeing drawings come to live never, ever gets old for me. My only regret with this clip is that it's not subtitled (French) so you miss great lines like: "Luis! Get me the 1001 Claws Armor!" and "Do you recognize my nunchucks?"

It's really been quite a while since I've seen such bonkers, frenetic animated action. Screenshots aren't going to do it justice, you'll probably just need to watch.

If you're on Facebook you can see an English subtitled (and much longer) version here. It's certainly worth a click! The un-subtitled YouTube version above is the only one I could find to embed and that clip ends just when the action really gets going.


Last but not least in this month of August good things round up, Faerie Magazine has just released a new coloring book! It features works by Renae Taylor, Stephanie Law, Ruth Sanderson, Charles Vess, and me! 88 pages of beautiful line art.


So what did I miss? Let me know in the comments!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Book Review: Fantasy Sports

It's been far too long since we've gotten around to doing a video book review!

With some help from our recent Patreon campaign, we hope to start producing a lot more video content for everyone very soon, including some Live Events exclusively for our Patreon supporters. We will be announcing some of those upcoming events very soon.

Until then, please enjoy this brief book review of Sam Bosma's 'Fantasy Sports', reviewed by Dan dos Santos.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Painting Progression - Yuki

by Vanessa Lemen

Since my posts on Muddy Colors and happen to fall on the same day this month, I thought I'd post a bit about my painting and show some progression images. This painting is oil on board, 5x7”, and is titled Yuki. (it posts on EDO at 11:45am EDT)

beginning stages - making marks

These first 9 images (above) show the different tools I used to make some initial marks on the surface. The surface I used (shown in image 1) is a 5x7” pre-gessoed masonite panel with a smooth finish. In image 2, I covered the panel with a tiny bit of linseed oil and a combination of a few new tubes of paint that I wanted to try out made by Rublev – Transparent Mummy, Hematite, Van Dyke Brown, Ultramarine Blue (Green Shade) – I mainly used these colors because they were new tubes of paint that I just got, and they all have different consistencies/viscosity/textures/thicknesses. It was fun to first just mess around with how the different colors felt in terms of their viscosity and textures. After experimenting with that for a few minutes, I used a small spatula (shown in image 3) to scrape away and smear, making marks by picking out back to the original surface. Because the surface is smooth/slick and not porous, it wipes away very easily with the silicone spatula. To make various marks with a spatula, it's all in the pressure sensitivity (to pick out) and tilt control (to smear). Next (image 4), I used a big soft brush to soften the marks I made with the spatula using a very soft touch so as not to wipe away but just to soften. The different paint's viscosity and textures were pretty evident when using this brush to soften in this stage as well. Next (image 5), I used a faux finishing comb to pick out over the softened surface. Pressure sensitivity, tilt control and direction I pull the stroke is also key to making this tool create various marks. Next (image 6), I splattered mineral spirits with a big chip brush while the surface is laying flat. To make small splatter marks, and I flick the brush with my finger, and to make bigger splatters, I fling the brush (fling the wrist/arm that's holding the brush) or tap it with my other hand (*note* the brush appears as if it's touching the surface in this image, but it is not – it's held above the painting). Image 7 shows one of the many stages that combine the different mark-making. In this image, I should also note that I accidentally spilled the small cup of mineral spirits I had next to it onto the surface - as much as it made for some pretty interesting effects, it was very wet and messy and I ended up wiping it a bit with a towel and adding more paint to start some new marks. Image 8 shows a build-up of varying marks using all the tools mentioned above. Then (in image 9), I decided to add some marks by using a big rubber stamp as a pick-out tool by laying it on the surface with the marks from image 8. The painting needs to be at just the right wet/dryness in order for the stamp to pull paint from the surface. It was still wet, but it had paint and mineral spirits and a bit of linseed oil mixed and manipulated on it, and had been sitting for about 20 minutes or so.

mid stages of the painting

Image 10 shows the abstract marks I ended up settling on for what would be the marks I would paint into. (I say settling, but I really loved this little abstract, actually). Sometimes, I do several of these and let them dry in order to paint into them at any given moment. This abstract was left over night, and I worked into it the next morning. Because the painting was still wet meant that any new marks I made on top of them had to be very sensitive in order to preserve the marks that were already there on the surface. I saw a face in the marks, and began to paint into the marks in order to begin pulling the face forward from the abstract. The very beginning phase of this is shown in image 11. I painted into the large planes of the face that I saw as being the lighter areas using a thin opaque mix of slightly greyed white (using the colors I mentioned above). In image 12, I continued with the light areas and built some of the darker planes in shadow as well as some half tones. In image 13, I continued to build the light, mid, and dark planes while also trying to preserve some of the abstract marks. I was mainly just trying to keep a good balance between abstract and rendered areas as I continued to pull the realized image from what I initially saw there in the marks. To get better coverage in some areas, I mostly used my brush in a toeing fashion (tapping 'dry' paint lightly using the tip of the brush) so that it didn't wipe away the wet layer underneath.

finishing stages

In image 14, I had rendered the face quite a bit, and then decided to pick out a little across some of the area I rendered using a different rubber stamp, the spatula and a smaller pick-out tool also used for sculpting (also shown in image 16). Image 15 shows the very small sable brush I used to paint into the smaller areas. I used the mahl stick (on the right of the image) to keep my hand and arm steady. Image 16 shows some of the marks I made with the small pick-out tool, trying to emulate the other marks that I had made previously with different tools by using the wedge-cut end and turning it as I pulled it to create a calligraphic mark. In image 17, after losing some of the marks I had made by brushing some thin darks over the top of them, I used my spatula to pick out across the lower two corners of the painting. These made for some really nice marks because the painting was starting to dry enough in some areas from the abstract stages done the day prior that it pulled some paint off in some areas and left hints of some there in other areas. ...Aaand that about wraps it up for this painting.

Here is the finish:

finished painting

Friday, August 26, 2016

Movie Posters!

Greg Ruth

I grew up in front of the Creature Double Feature, Planet of the Apes Sunday Spectaculars, and Saturay morning westerns and have always adored movies and the Dollar Cinema was a bike ride away and a veritable museum of film art inside. IF you asked nice enough on Thursday afternoons when they were taking them down for the next run of films, they might even give you one. Now all grown up, one of my favorite aspects of my job is getting to tackle book covers, and lately even more so, movie posters. Some are fully licensed public ventures, others private individual commissions, some still are via directors or publishers... but all of them are opportunities to take a big narrative, and reduce it to a single image or theme. It's a challenge to do this and each one is challenging in a different way. It prods me to really filter down to the heart of a given film narrative, or take a single aspect or moment, and the more iconic the film, the harder this can be. And the more fun. Here below are a handful of some of the ones from the last two years.

One of the most powerful films of my life and one of the greatest films in history, To Kill a Mockingbird, has and remains one of the most successful posters I've done, and was in fact the very first to do for the commissioned silk screen efforts. I had no idea what I was meant to consider with regards to separations for this silkscreen poster, nor whether or not my original drawing would upscale in an un-horrible way, but somehow thanks to help from Mo at Last leaf, Dayan and I managed to get it to come out pretty well.

Breakfast at Tiffany's was a totally different direction to swing the bat for me and was a chance to really go for something closer to the french poster designs of the 1930's, It gave me the opportunity to try a full sumi ink style effort, and a sense of playful color and design that went outside of my usual wheelhouse. It was also the first moment I really started to realize, unlike with book covers where the AD held the power staff of title and text treatments, that I now had this particular power.

One of my favorite films and one of the trickiest images to create was this one for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Primarily because in many ways the film requires and demands a Nicholson portrait, but also wants to be something weirder and more psychological. For this I looked to the truly bizarre Yugoslavian and Polish film posters of the 1960's and went right to this one. I thought it would be fun to let the cracks be the negative space for the drawing and well.. it wasn't. Since the original drawing is on a cream colored bristol, and was slotted to go to a buyer I didn't want to wreck it with paint or white out to cheat these crags. It came together in the end but not without a few tears and hand aches.

 The John Carpenter film, The Thing, is a perfect film to tackle and the easiest to get wrong. For me a film poster should be graphic and immediately recognizable and for this film it's too common to go after the image of the mutated anthropomorphized creature. So invoking my "before or after" rule of comics storytelling I decided instead to go with something before that and make it a more totemic thing to express the film, And got to do two versions of it to boot. Turned out I much prefer the alternate piece at top here.

Andrei Tarkovsky is one of my all time favorite directors, so getting to tackle his first film, Ivan's Childhood for Black Dragon Press, was a pure delight. I originally went for something to take on one of the most perfect moments in film history, the battlefield kiss, but the estate wanted to go in a different direction and so we did.

For some where there was never a majorly catching poster created for Good Will Hunting. It's largely a character piece and all about conversation and in a way lacking in any major visual cues or distinctive moments other than the core characters. Since the first thing I want to avoid in doing these is replicating the typical headshot poster you get from the studio ad houses, this went through many different approaches before we got to where it belonged.

For me personally the Hitchcock films are the most exciting and the most intimidating. They're so iconic and there's been so many incredible posters created, both in their original production but also in the more recent silkscreen poster craze bringing in some of today's best artists going to the 9s. Plus Saul Bass.... friggin Sal Bass is a mountain no one wants to fight with. This ongoing series is a special one to me as a personal project and I can't wait to tackle more on the coming months.

While we have a lot of visual cues to the Godfather films, we never really saw much of set of posters for them that ever did the film justice. The logo design itself became the iconography for the films, and the books alike, so in many ways there was a lot of freedom to taking the trilogy on. The characters are so mythic at this point, it's hard to avoid just executing head-shots, or the dreaded, horrible head-flower approach. So instead I decided to pin down the iconography specific to each film and make a more surreal symbolist approach. These are still among my favorites, but we caught hell like you would not believe on the outset for them... after the initial shock though, everyone pretty much came around.

Sometimes I get assigned a gig, like I did with King Hu's epic wuxia films, A Touch of Zen and Dragon Inn for Criterion. I'd done work for their release of Zatoichi and Tree Outlaw Samurai, but this was the first time they were making big full scale posters out of my work, so it had to really come together well. Plus it was a killer deadline to make the screening release. They are among the few companies today that will actually make a special edition series of printed full scale movie posters to accompany their short run screenings or releases and it's always an honor to work for them and with the insanely prolific and brilliant Eric Skillman.

I was commissioned by Jason Blum and Ethan Hawke to do a series of posters for their forthcoming spaghetti western, In a Valley of Violence by Ti West. This was a film I knew of and watched develop from script to final so had a much deeper and more intimate perspective on it as compared to others. I can't remember whether it was Ethan or myself, (as per usual probably both simultaneously), who came up with the idea of stringing them altogether so the doggy footprints tracked across them when lined up alongside... but of course it was a perfect notion.

Rosemary's Baby remains one of my favorite Polanski films, (following closely to The Tenant of course) and turned out to be one of my most enjoyable and instantly achieved posters to date.This is the one my manager/agent/spirit animal, Allen Spiegel really dislikes the most- "it spoils the ending!" he would cry. My reply being "It's been fifty years, I think we all know how the movie goes". And round and round we tumble. 

I was commissioned by by childhood chum, Stiles White and his wife/creative partner Juliet Snowden, the writers for The Possession, (previously known as Dibbuk Box) as a giveaway to Sam Raimi after the film wrapped up. Sam is a huge comics enthusiast so Stiles thought it would be fun to do a splashy garish EC comics style comics cover for it complete with logo bar and CAC imprint. 

Needless to say of all the work I do professionally, or even when it's simply a private commission or for myself, I cannot express how much I enjoy taking these on. it marries two of my favorite things in this world together, but I also find it a supremely effective thought experiment and the kind of challenge that helps feed back into my usual labors. Plus as a bonus I get to revisit these movies and see them as if new, which is of course, fantastic. Most of these were generated only within the last two or so years and a lot more are currently forthcoming, so keep on the lookout.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Chasing Dragons

-By Donato

Puff the Magic Dragon - animated TV film still   1978

This evening as we discussed what new (or old) films we would be interested in viewing together as a family, the subject of Puff the Magic Dragon came up.  As I browsed through the lyrics and had a listen to the song by Peter, Paul and Mary for the first time in nearly 15 years (a song my wife cannot stand, but I love!), I reflected upon how powerful a simple statement like this song can be as a motivator and mirror to the choices and passions we have in our lives.  In light of a recent award from the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists I was going to post today about undertaking  challenges in art in order to achieve great goals and recognition.

But what I realized is that the driving force behind much of my critical success was not the sole need to achieve great things (awards, sales, etc), but rather the desire to bring forth and share the passions I have grown with since being a child. Obviously I have enjoyed the recognition and praise that comes with peer awards, but true critical, artistic excellence is founded on the deep desires of expression.  It is from these wellsprings that the perseverance, determination, and sacrifices needed to bring forth bold expressions in our art are found, sustained and nurtured.

The notes to this song and story are fixed deep.  For inside me is that little boy who listened to this song as a child, grew up with it as a young man, and now contemplates it as an aging adult - forever feeling joy at 'frolicks in the autumn mist' and sadness creeping as 'Puff ceased his fearless roar.'

I think of the rollercoaster ride my life and career has been, alternating between the ups and downs of emotions, developments, choices, celebrations, defeats, etc... You cannot select only the high points and live for those.  The journey is unpredictable, unknowing.  What keeps me coming back to the drafting table again and again, is the unending passion and joy in sharing a story I care about.

Chase your Dragons.  Seek them out and continue to play with them, no matter how, no matter where you are at in your career.  For when you put aside your joy of play, the dragon creeps away to silently die...

Beren and Luthien in the Court of Thingol and Melian -  Donato Giancola  -  114" x 60"  Oil on Linen   Chesley Award for Best Unpublished Work 2015

Peter, Paul & Mary 

Puff, The Magic Dragon

Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee,
Little Jackie paper loved that rascal puff,
And brought him strings and sealing wax and other fancy stuff. oh

Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee,
Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee.

Together they would travel on a boat with billowed sail
Jackie kept a lookout perched on puffs gigantic tail,
Noble kings and princes would bow whene'r they came,
Pirate ships would lower their flag when puff roared out his name. oh!

Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee,
Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee.

Dragons live forever but not so little boys
Painted wings and giant strings make way for other toys.
One sad night it happened, Jackie Paper came no more
And Puff that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar.

His head was bent in sorrow, green scales fell like rain,
Puff no longer went to play along the cherry lane.
Without his life-long friend, puff could not be brave,
So puff that mighty dragon sadly slipped into his cave. oh!

Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee,
Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee.