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 ‘Modern’ Category
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.
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.
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.
Last week I told how Ian Miller pointed me to Albrecht Dürer. He had a table at the first Illuxcon and had some of his fantastic ink drawings on display. It was great to be able to get up close to see just what was going on, because unlike most comics inking you couldn’t really see the individual lines until you got up close. For example, I remember looking at Castles for quite a while.
I’d like to thank him for providing a high resolution version of THD for the analysis. I first saw it on his web site, and he was kind enough to send a version I could use to take detail images. THD is an ink drawing, but then he colored it, I’m guessing with watercolor. I’ll go into the color choices and linework, but I’ll also touch on the composition, concept, and ways he guides our eyes through the picture.
This painting is… awesome. It’s a great example from the collection of the Museum of Bad Art. It fills me with wonder. Among other things I wonder what on earth the artist was thinking. Because I certainly can’t tell from the painting. It’s horrific. Yet… you can’t look away. Like many good pieces of art, this image poses more questions than it answers. It’s a visual train accident that spins our heads on their rubber necks. Somehow mixed metaphors seem appropriate. As its source implies, this is one bad painting, and I’ll go into why below. But you know what? I’m glad somebody made it.
That “somebody,” according to MoBA is K. Koch. The museum got it at a yard sale in 2007, and that’s all I really know about the painting itself. Well, OK, it also says that it’s oil on canvas and 2 feet by 1.5 feet. We know in our gut that it’s a bad painting the moment we see it. But why is it bad? What about it is so bad that it qualifies for the MoBA collection? Let’s see.
This painting is from David Mack and Brian Michael Bendis’ Daredevil story Wake Up. I happened by Mack’s table at the New York Comic Con last year and liked the art on the Kabuki books he had out on his table. At first I wanted to do a Kabuki painting for the analysis, but as I was looking for one I realized that he sets up a rhythm and visual language that builds on itself. It’s a case of the individual parts being strong, but the sum being more than those parts. Eventually I settled on this image from his sketchbook series Reflections because it seems more self-contained. Then again, I haven’t read much Daredevil so maybe I’m just not bringing outside context.
Brian Bolland was one of a wave of artists from the U.K. who crossed the pond and made a name for himself in the comics industry. He’s best known (to me) for his work on Judge Dredd, creating several iconic characters including Judge Death. I picked up his book The Art of Brian Bolland recently, and of all the great artwork in there this was the piece that jumped out at me. I’m not even a particular fan of Prince’s music, but this is just one cool portrait. It’s in a comic style, but a quite realistic and detailed one compared to most superhero rags. For this analysis I’ll focus on the composition of the portrait, the colors and values, and the linework.