Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Industrial Options

-By Dan dos Santos

In my experience, most quality furniture that is specifically designed for artists tends to be VERY expensive. Even the simplest of art carts can often run several hundred dollars. This is due to the fact that it's a relatively niche market, and low production numbers means high costs. I can appreciate quality workmanship and am willing to pay extra for it (literally all of my studio furniture is solid oak), but whenever I browse the furniture at an art store, I always feel let down. The quality of the product rarely warrants the exorbitant costs, in my opinion.

Take for example this very simple Dick Blick taboret. Now, I love Dick Blick, are I can personal attest to the quality of their furniture, but I can not fathom what artist would think that this piece of furniture is actually worth the MSRP of $659?!

This Dick Blick taboret is currently 50% off, and is still $316! (MSRP $659)

If you're looking for a new piece of studio equipment, there are quite a few unconventional options you should consider before you purchase something at an art store. Many of these options are of lower cost, and of higher quality than more traditional artist's furniture. Not all of them are pretty, but most are built to stand up to serious abuse and are much easier to clean.

I found all of these products on Amazon, but once you know what you're looking for, I suspect local hardware and automotive stores may actually be an easier and less expensive option.


This is a very common kitchen cart. You can find these at just about any Walmart or Target store. They are very inexpensive, and make wonderful taborets. I like that they have a paper towel holder, making it easy to reach for a rag when working. There is a also a large compartment spacious enough for unsightly trash cans. For the money, I think this is one of the most cost effective options for studio equipment.


Here is a Portable Tool Tray (used often in automotive work). This would make a wonderful taboret to keep next to your easel. You could place a sheet of glass on the work surface to make a palette, and the adjustable height makes it convenient for both standing and sitting work.


Here is piece of equipment I've seen a lot of artists use as a taboret, including Paolo Rivera. These rolling tool chests usually consist of 2 parts, a large bottom half, and stackable top half with a lid. I like this version because it is a single piece and MUCH shorter that more tool chests, which makes it more practical to mix paint on. This option also has the useful feature of a lid. This means you could mix large amounts of paint, and simply close the lid when you're done, preventing the paint from drying too quickly or collecting dust.


Here is a slightly larger version of tool chest above. In addition to having more storage and an extra work surface on top, It also has a socket/screwdriver holder on the side that I bet would hold paintbrushes quite well!


This storage/work table definitely isn't cheap, but man is it beautiful! It's actually marketed as both a workshop table, and a kitchen cart. Like most of the options I've shared here, the entire body is stainless steel and all the drawers are on glides. The butcher block top is both durable and classy. And even though $700 may seem expensive, I challenge you to find a similar sized 'artist's' workbench for less than a $1000.

Industrial options doesn't just extend to furniture. Even simple things like rags, large brushes and color balanced light bulbs are much less expensive to buy at your local hardware store than they are the hobby shop. So look around, try to find unique solutions to your studio problems, or consider making your own!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Queen of Art, Kinuko Y. Craft

"Kinuko Craft is a Renaissance woman. By this I mean not that she paints like the Renaissance painters, but that she is an artist for all seasons, for all kinds of subjects, and in all kinds of styles. If you will survey her works, you will find little duplication in form, color or texture. She fits herself to her subject with charming ease and yet leaves herself free to remain herself. There is an air about all of her illustrations of one who is a true connoisseur of art, wide-ranging through all the countries of the world. One cannot help but think how delightful it would be to walk into gallery of her kaleidoscopic talents."

—Ray Bradbury

This August the World Science Fiction Convention—MidAmeriCon II—will take place in Kansas City. I've been to a few World Cons in my time (my first being the previous one in KC—yow!—40 years ago) and they are, without exception, eclectic and memorable events (in ways both bad and good) that are inevitably worth the time and expense.

They're a different beast entirely from the mega-pop culture shows now overpopulating the weekends these days (though the whole concept of cosplay really did start at the first WSFC in 1939), much more intimate, much less hectic, and, admittedly, fairly cliquish—which is why the regulars routinely fuss and feud among themselves while clustering in groups and clucking about the newbies or youngsters or upstarts who don't exactly share the same FIAWOL (the anacronym for Fandom Is a Way of Life) traditions. Which is also why the newbies, youngsters, and upstarts gather in the bars to warily eye the oldsters and establishment-types and SMOFs (Secret Masters of Fandom, of course) while making snarky comments. All of which actually adds to the entertainment, much like sitting back at a family Thanksgiving and watching all the distant aunts and uncles and nieces and nephews get plastered, slap on the boxing gloves, and put on "a show" fighting over decades-old differences of opinion, slights, and insults—before ultimately kissing and making up and singing ribald songs together. There are always great things to see, great people to meet, and great conversations to be had. I've never heard of any World Con in which something awful or wonderful or infuriating or ridiculous or heart-warming or stupid or uplifting (or, most likely, all of the above) didn't occur.

Anyway, for many years World Con was virtually the only place to see—and perhaps purchase—the best examples of f&sf art the field had to offer. Anyone who was anyone (or was going to be anyone) made a point of exhibiting in the art show. Now, well, there are other outlets and avenues for artists (like • cough * Spectrum Live) that are a bit more representative of the breadth of today's creative community—but World Con still features a varied art show, hosts the Hugo and Chelsey Awards, and features an Artist Guest of Honor.

This year's guest is Kinuko Y. Craft. They could not have made a better choice.

‘‘I think you're born a dreamer, born an artist. I was captivated by my maternal grandfather's art books. He was a calligrapher – among many other skills, a real Renaissance man – and he shared his art library with me. Those were my childhood books. Art of the world. They made a big impression, more than anything else, and gave me a sense of direction."
—Kinuko Y. Craft

In many ways I think Kinuko is the epitome of everything that a Fantastic Artist should be, everything that others working in the field should emulate. Intellectual, industrious, focused, and unbelievably skilled, she embraces challenges that others shy away from. Whether the theme is mythic or futuristic or political or erotic, whether the tone is serious or humorous, Kinuko's art always succeeds with confidence, beauty, and grace.

I first encountered Kinuko's art in the pages of Playboy: she could do anything—and did do anything—and I immediately became a fan. For life. I was mesmerized by Kinuko in the 1970s; I'm no less mesmerized by each new painting and drawing today.

She is an ambassador for our field—and provides proof to skeptics that, yes, contemporary Fantastic Art, narrative art in whatever guise it takes, is "real art." Kinuko has exhibited in galleries and museums around the world, she has lectured at art schools and universities, her art—for everyone from Time to Sports Illustrated to the Dallas Opera and beyond—has inspired and influenced creators of all ages. It's no surprise that she was selected as the Spectrum Grand Master in 2002 and was inducted into the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame in 2008. Kinuko is, literally, a Queen of Art.

''I choose my jobs by instinct, by my reaction to the theme or manuscript. It must have a welcoming sensibility. The writer's sensibility must meet me half way. There must be room for my imagination, for my heart. I can't just be a hired hand. If something is not right, if I read the story and it's like a blank, then I know I can't do it. If the story is so offensive or alien, or too much for my psyche to take, I will know long beforehand, even before I can take on the research."
—Kinuko Y. Craft

''Stories have a color, a certain smell and taste. I have to spend time with that, inhabit it, taste it, know it. I want to bring out my fantasy about that flavor.’’
—Kinuko Y. Craft

‘‘My mission is, I really feel, to tell my version of the story. To show my reaction to it. That's why I spend so much time on it. The more time I put in, the more something lives in the image. I actually live in the book while I work. I function much like an actor taking on a role. The outside world fades away. It can be a real problem, especially when we run low on food during an ice storm, and I've just spent twelve hours in my studio. But I think I've been in a fantasy world all my life.’’
—Kinuko Y. Craft

"I completely immerse myself in the story, searching out any possible or attractive images that are triggered by anything I see or come cross. When something finally hits, I start drawing idea sketches. It often takes many, many drawings until I finally find something that seems if it might work.  When I am finally comfortable, I make final, highly detailed drawing.  It is very often quite a long process, but I am the happiest person in the world when I finally find it or it finds me. The rest is osmosis."
—Kinuko Y. Craft

You better believe that Cathy and I are looking forward to seeing Kinuko and her husband Mahlon in a few short months. And if you'd like to meet her, too—and be able to see an exciting display of her art, perhaps buy an original or print, or ask her to autograph a book or calendar—you can hit the link and learn how to attend the World Science Fiction Convention.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Tim Girvin Calligraphy

As something of a companion to Lauren's typography posts, let's watch Tim Girvin.

Friday, May 27, 2016

The Grand Tour

I could almost call this post part 2 of Lauren Panepinto's Seeing in Situ post yesterday.  She beat me to it!  I have been planning a post on the value of traveling abroad and seeing art in person whenever possible.

Beautiful bronze in front of the Altar of the Fatherland building

It used to be that The Grand Tour was a trip taken by the upper class, or those lucky enough to be sponsored or win a scholarship, to travel through Europe often to Italy to study classical art and architecture.  It was very much a right of passage for the upper classes and a must for aspiring artists and architects.

It was also very valuable as a disperser of art and style, as those that traveled abroad would often commission portraits and other works to take home with them, spreading awareness of artists all across Europe.

Look at the ruff!  I love the color in the cheeks as well, but I stared at the collar for 10 minutes

I had the wonderful opportunity to spend a little time in Italy last month, after attending the Portrait Society of America Conference in D.C.  I mention that because I am looking forward to posting on it. *spoiler alert* - I hope to convince many of you to come to the conference next year in Atlanta.  It was amazing!  I am also planning a group tour (for artists) to London, Paris and Madrid next year, see the end of the post for details.

I know there are a zillion photos of this hand pressing into the leg of Bernini's amazing Rape of Persephone sculpt out there... but here is one more.

You can gain new perspectives on pieces of art that you might have seen reproductions of, or maybe works that you have seen before speak to you in new ways because you have a different set experience the second time around.  I also come away with a nearly overwhelming desire to create.  The level of skill and beauty found in Rome, the Vatican, Florence and Venice is like artistic adrenaline.

Possibly the greatest torso ever rendered in marble.

Traveling abroad isn't cheap, to be sure.  It is most definitely worth it.  Seeing works like this in person is life/career changing:

This wave of fabric on Bernini's Trevi Fountain is so well designed it hurts.  Perfection.  

It is hard to fathom carving this out of stone.

Rembrandt absolutely must be seen in person to really take it in.  Every time I see one, I am blown away by how much life he was able to imbue into paint

Look at the delicate transmission of light through the skin.  I love the little hints of red/orange where flesh touches flesh and the sense of blood vessels beneath the skin

I have always loved Guido Reni's work and have written about it on MC before.  One painting that I haven't completely appreciated though, until seeing it in person is St. Matthew and the Angel.  It is hard to take pictures of paintings in the Vatican because the light is kept so low, but I managed to get a few steady shots.  Still, this piece is so beautiful in person and these shots don't come close.

Look at the variety of color in the skin, from Matthew to the angel.

What a great head of hair and beard!

Such beautiful tenderness in the angel, recounting the gospel to Matthew. I love the little details of his hands, fingers touching, as if he is counting off the stories.

I had seen reproductions of the painting above many times, but none of the details stood out to me, until I saw it in person.  It was one of my favorites in the Vatican collection.

Seeing works in person lets you walk around and find little details that you often won't find online, or you can miss in the deluge of images to be found.  When in person, you can have an unique experience with a work and find views and insights in that moment.

Look at these wonderful swirls of fabric in these two shots, courtesy of Bernini again.

How cool is this whorl of energy captured in marble!?!

Lastly, I leave you with some images of the terra cotta sculptures done by Bernini in preparation for the marbles that line the bridge to the Castel St. Angelo.  I couldn't get enough of these.  Fascinating to see the inner workings and then the decaying state of the figures paired with their beauty made them very evocative to me.

That is it for the travelogue.  As Lauren said in her post yesterday, if you can't travel across the sea or country, see if there is something within reach and go there.  See it in person.  Be inspired and make those memories that will fuel your creativity in new ways.


As mentioned above, my wife and I are putting together a tour next year that will take us to London, Paris and Madrid to visit the National Gallery, the Tate, the Louvre, the d'Orsay and the Prado Museums as well as time in each city.  It will be a whirlwind trip of 11 days, but our hope is that we can fill it up with artists and art lovers.  

I have done this before with a group of art students (I was a student) in Arizona and it was a fantastic experience.  You get to talk about and stand in front of the greatest art in the world, with a group of fellow artists.  We are booking the tour through Go Ahead Tours, who we have worked with before and they did a great job of making it a hassle free trip.  

Link to more information about the trip here
Thank you,

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Seeing In Situ

By Lauren Panepinto

I know you've all been excited about the Typography for Illustrators posts, and I'll keep going on those,  but it just so happens I'm on the road this week, so I'm going to post on a topic relating to traveling: getting away from the computer, and getting in front of some art in person. And the closer you can get to seeing it in situ (in the place it was created or meant for) the better.

Mucha's Medea poster (Getting up close to an original print can be as swoon for us designers as getting close to brushstrokes is for you painters)
Now, before we start, I know that some people have advantages in this regard - some of us live in awesome places like NYC, which has more museums and galleries than any person can see in a lifetime. And some of us can afford to travel to places to see amazing art in far-away places. I am acknowledging my privilege. However, there is original art in museums and galleries very close to most people reading this blog. And you should make it a part of your life to periodically get out and see it.

Municipal House, Prague. Did you know Mucha designed a whole building? Me neither! And I wouldn't have known about it unless I had gone to the Mucha Museum. You don't get much more in situ than that.
Why? Three reasons. One, you lose so much of the artist's process in reproduction. Whether it's in books or on the web, you can't see brushstrokes and printing artifacts. And those bits of process is what an artist really learns from. You know how you can tell a working artist in a museum? They're the ones nose-distance away from the piece. They're the one walking up to it at different angles to try to catch the surface reflecting in the light. They're usually the ones making the security guards in a museum super jumpy. Trust me, the guards at the Mucha Museum today were really happy to have me the hell out of there.

Mucha's jewelry sketches

Two, it's an inspiration shot to the guts. You know how you know you're an artist? (Besides the crippling self-doubt and relentless desire to burn your portfolio at least 5 times a year?) You go see a master's work in person and it makes you want to run out of there and get home and MAKE SHIT RIGHT NOW. It doesn't even have to be a master in your own medium. The inspiration just literally burns you up inside. This is really important to remember when you're feeling burnt out. When you need to reset a book or internet searching is like methadone to a heroin addict. You need to get to the source, get to that art in person, and rub it into your gums. Metaphorically, of course.

Unless I saw this in person I wouldn't have realized it was life-size. Also, god, those berries!

Three, you are going to stumble on work you didn't expect to see and it could affect you (and your work) in epic ways. Of course you're going to go see the pieces you expect to see in the museum you go to visit — that's why you're going. But I've never gone to a museum or an exhibition of an artist's work and not been surprised by something I didn't know was going to be there — or didn't even know existed. I was in Paris at an Art Nouveau exhibit at the Museé d'Orsay, and I found a poster there I had never seen before by an artist I didn't know, and it became such a favorite I now it tattooed on my arm. Today at the Mucha Museum I saw a bunch of Mucha's reference photos and I had no idea how gorgeous they were. They're absolutely artworks in their own right and I bought a book of them to take back home with me.

Some of Mucha's reference photos
So next time you're feeling stale try to plan some time in front of some original art — whether it's a local gallery, museum nearby, or even a friend's studio. It'll always pay back the effort of going in person exponentially.

That type! Swoon! But more lovely is the accidental variation in the printing inks,
which you never get to see in repro, because they tend to even out and clean up the art.

Now I'm going back to the Mucha hunt through Prague…if I'm not back in time for my next post, I've expired from Art Nouveau overload, and died happy.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Progress on Timberline

Greg Manchess

I thought I'd share some progress shots of my novel, Above the Timberline! It will also get a title change and I'll share that soon, too.

At this stage, I'm about 53 paintings in, 67 to go. I slowed down in April and part of May because of some personal commitments, but I've jumped back in by getting more models shot and planning some of the major scenes. 

Main character, Wesley Singleton, takes aim across the frozen Waste

I recently met with my editor, Joe Monti, at Saga Press/Simon and Schuster and my designer, Michael McCartney. Seeing a board room full of finished paintings laying on the table, chairs, shelves, and ultimately, the floor was pretty exciting for all of us who've been talking about this book for a number of years now.

For now, I'll show a selection of closeup shots of heads that are accented moments in the manuscript, but not enough to give the story away. Each painting is 37" x 15" in a wide, cinematic format. CinemaScope!

Back to the board. End of August deadline.

Wes on the wireless...my model is Cassius O'Brien, son of illustrator, Tim O'Brien...

...and Tim is modeling for Wes' father in the story!

An emotional moment for Wes....

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

A Plague of Dragons

By Justin Gerard

Previously on Muddycolors I did a few posts sharring some reference boards showcasing the different ways that artists handled painting eyes and hands. I've found that making reference boards on specific subjects is really helpful in examining how other artists tackled and solved visual problems. This can be extremely helpful when you go try to work out how to handle these problems in your own work.

Muddycolors is no stranger to dragons, so this week I thought I would share some of my favorite paintings of these fantastical creatures from a few classical and contemporary artists.

As I went through my folders I couldn't help but be fascinated at just how differently each artist chose to visualize their concept of a dragon. Some artists painted them as magical and benevolent spirits, while others painted them as forces of nature, and still others as manifestations of human vices. The artists seem to pour a little of their own soul into these creatures, and through this we see hopes and fears and something curiously human in them.
I hope you enjoy!

Links to the original posts:

A Show of Hands

The Eyes Have It

Monday, May 23, 2016

Inspiration: Waves

N.C. Wyeth

I've been working on a painting lately that has some water in it, so I've been looking at a lot of ocean themed paintings to get inspired. Here are some favorites I've come across that I thought our readers might enjoy as well.

Dan Adel

Dan Adel

Dan Adel

Dan Adel


Donato Giancola

Winslow Homer

Ivan Aivazovsky