I’d like to welcome Tyrell Cannon, who serves up a guest analysis of a chapter break from Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira. I met Tyrell at the Small Press Expo this year, and I picked up his experimental comic Simon, which I heartily recommend.
Archive for the ‘Analysis’ Category
I thought I’d share some of the drawings by Osamu Tezuka that I referred to several times to try to work out doing nature with ink. All three of the main pictures I’m showing here are from his Buddha series. The one above is from Volume 8, the last one. Now, when I look at that I’d call it fairly realistic. But when you start looking at the individual parts we can see how he’s combining abstract patterns and textures to construct it.
Before I say anything else, if you’re an artist you should go buy both of James Gurney’s books about painting. If you like the approach this blog takes to analyzing paintings, you’ll love Gurney’s approach in these books. The one this painting is from is Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter, and his first one is Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn’t Exist. (As a former technical writer I also like the presentation – each topic is a 2-page spread with a summary up-front, clear text, and a number of illustrations.) OK, plug over, but they’ve both helped me out tremendously.
This analysis is all about contrast. Not just contrast between values, but all sorts of contrast. If you want to create a focus – an area of interest – you need to set up some sort of pattern and then selectively break it. The contrast between the rest of the pattern and the special part draws the attention. That contrast can be values, but in this painting we’ll also look at contrast in lines of direction, saturation, and hue. In his book, Gurney uses this painting to illustrate several points about lighting conditions at dawn or dusk. The first thing that jumped out at me, though, was contrast in the direction of the edges.
In 1992 I was just starting graduate school in visual perception. One of the things they showed us in our first days was this painting by Salvador Dali. The professor showed it on a slide projector, and asked us what it was. Of course, we all described the woman looking through the window. With a flourish, he spun the focus on the slide projector’s lens, and we suddenly saw something else – Abraham Lincoln as seen on the U.S. $5 bill.
Today we’re used to seeing things like photomosaics that take lots of individual photographs, shrink them, and put them together to create a completely different picture. It’s the same principle at work here, but Dali did this in 1976. How did he do it without computers to do all the figuring for him? Even more, how did he do it while at the same time creating a painting that follows principles of composition, the golden section, and values to create a painting that works whether it’s blurred or not? That’s what we’ll look at in this analysis, and we’ll wrap it up with lessons that apply to all painting, not just tricks or optical illusions.
I’ve been wanting to do a Frank Frazetta analysis for quite a while, and finally it’s time. He was amazingly fast and produced many, many paintings. I thought about doing the iconic Death Dealer image, but picked this one instead because of its simplicity. I’ve been trying to learn more about silhouettes and values against a background, and this image makes good use of both concepts.
As I recently said on Facebook, “How have I not been aware of Donato Giancola before now?” This one stopped me as I was going through Spectrum 16, and I’ve kept coming back to it. The Archer of the Rose is the cover for Kathleen Bryan’s The Last Paladin by Tor books. We’ll look at the picture’s development and its use as a cover. Giancola likes to start with strong abstract compositions as the base and then work toward strong realism. We’ll look at the abstract patterns he uses and how they guide the eye, and we’ll also look at some of his finely detailed rendering. Finally, we’ll look at the thought and research that went into the narrative and characterization. For example, Persian manuscript covers inspired the patterns on the shields, yet the armor styles are more western European. What does this tell us about the events in the scene, and how does it contribute to mood and theme?
So I’m finally back after the hiatus. I’ve been antsy about the time off, so I’m glad to get to this one. I first ran into Charles Vess’ work in the Sandman comics and his association with Neil Gaiman (Stardust, The Blueberry Girl, etc.). I find it easy to pick out his art based on style alone, and I also think it draws heavily on golden age illustrators like Rackham and Dulac. (I just picked up a good book on Dulac, so I’ll be doing one of his soon).
Vess’ book Drawing Down the Moon is a great overview of his work. (Great production values too – the chapter division pages are really cool.) I picked The White Goddess because it’s a rare opportunity to see two finished versions of the same piece – one in color and one in black and white. What decisions does Vess make differently based on the choice of medium? We’ll look at several examples, plus we’ll check out the overall composition.
What a difficult choice! There are a lot of great illustrations in the Dover book, and it was hard to decide which one to look at for an analysis. If you’re a fan of golden age illustration, you should definitely check this one out. I chose this one in the end for a few reasons. For one, we get a clear sense of character – to me this seems like more than just your generic old woman. She’s been through a lot. Also, Rackham gives us lots of texture and line work that is fun to get lost in. The recent analysis of Dürer was an example of highly precise, controlled linework. This drawing, though, shows linework that is loose and flowing, yet still controlled. Rackham’s picture has clearly separated foreground, midground, and background elements, and it also has an effective silhouette and composition.
I added Seven Handed Musician to my favorites the day it was featured as a Daily Deviation on DeviantArt.com. I’d never seen anything like it. Here’s what Sadlos has to say about it in the image’s description:
Cover for new album of some multiinstrumentalist. The idea of giant creature, ancient and multihanded with different instruments is clients idea. Ive done all in photoshop using some textures of stones and trees. Hope You like it C&C most welcome.
I’m particularly impressed by the sense of scale Sadlos gets into the picture. There’s no doubt that this guy is huge, but in the wilderness setting we don’t have normal geometric cues like vanishing points to help us. We’ll look at the image’s perspective, plus its lighting, colors, textures, and overall design. I’ll also point out a probable mistake and take a guess as to how it came about.
When I decided to do a Vallejo picture here I asked my Facebook friends list what kind of cheese they thought best represented his art. Answers were generally high-end or gourmet: Raclette, Manchego, Pont-l’Évêque, Gouda. Someone threw out “processed cheese food,” but I think I’d have to go with Havarti. I like Havarti. And the cheese enthusiast in me likes Vallejo. He’s the first artist I learned to identify based on style alone.
Unfortunately I can’t find a link, but I once saw a cartoon with a woman in a +5 chain mail bikini. She had half a dozen arrows stuck in the chinks on her bosom, and she was saying how glad she was she wore her armor. (I think it was in a Dragon magazine.) Anyway, Vallejo epitomizes that barely-there style of fantasy clothing. It failed in providing warmth or protection, but it would allow publishers to put naked babes and guys on book covers without being sued. I also think it dovetailed with Vallejo’s love of painting the ideal human form. This painting, Snake Women, is from his book Mirage. Here he dispenses with the chain mail bikini level entirely to create fantasy erotica.
Note: The image is Not Safe For Work.