I had taken a break from the Gouache paintings, Partially a little depressed about so many of my favorite pieces not getting into SOI last fall. I know It's always just a gift to be included, but it really left me a bit hollow. It took some gallery shows to put them back on my board.
Helikon Gallery in Denver, Colorado invited me to be in a show called "A Modern Baroque." I did a few new pieces just to see if there were some new directions that could come out of it.
I thought this was a funny idea, and a silly painting. Fleurs qui mordent, (the flowers that bite) these little miniatures take so much time... I am so impatient. I guess that is why most of my compositions remain on the simple side. These complicated paintings take so much work; it's hard to stay with them. I have several started that I abandon because they're just taking too damn long to complete. This one was at least had a deadline for the show so it did get somewhat finished.
I went to a show a few years ago at the Morgan Library of the Book of Hours. They had so many wonderful miniatures in that show and magnifying glasses so you could marvel at the amount on care and detail those artists put into their work. I guess that might have been in some way the inspiration for starting to do these miniature paintings. For now they have been a great exorcize in working in this medium. Gouache is way more versatile than I had previously thought.
Also painted for the show at Helikon Gallery was this nightmare of a mess I originally painted as a man in a dress. When I showed it to folks there just thought it looked like Johnny Depp from The Pirates of the Caribbean movies. So I tried to salvage it by painting a new face that was just a silly horror movie screaming. Now it's titled “Bad Hair Day”
and this one I called "Mon Nouveau Chapeau Est Un Canard"...
I thought it would be a funny twist to have the feathery bonnet be made of freshly killed game.
Lee says "Dynastie des Canards," maybe "Mange Mon Chapeau" ... Forest says "Le Chapeau des Canards" ...
“Die Kleine Gräfin Hasenpfeffer” Another simple practice piece is this painting of a rabbit in a fur cap. I had tried several of these with the same idea in the past… Animals in fur, sort of simple, not as gruesome as the chicken eating fried eggs, but worth a giggle under my breath. Detail of the eye of the Rabbit you can see the hairs of the brush spread to delicate layers of fur.
“The Kite” is a simple composition, just a little painting I did for Lee. She loves birds, She would probably have been an Ornithologist if bird people weren’t so very odd. I liked the simple quiet color palette and the serene feeling it leaned toward. I might try a few more of these at some point but something in me just wants to put a small clown hat on it’s head….
"Questioning Darwin" We just finished watching an HBO documentary called Questioning Darwin...it's a great insightful look into his research and following the evidence to the obvious conclusions... with interviews from creationists... who think it's nothing short of blasphemy.
My first thought was to do him made out of other animals. This really was just a second thought...kind of a half baked idea, but a great Documentary.
“The Offering” I was invited to create a piece for a new show at WOWXWOW, seemed like a great opportunity to come up with some new directions. This painting revisits subject matter I had previously used, but what I was trying to create was a somber mood and elements of surreality out of context to give the viewer a wordless story to connect to.
"La Fin Du Monde” is a great French Canadian beer, and the title of the painting. A concept that seemed to arise from the North Korean testing. To be so far away and unaware of remnant danger and political insanity was illustrated as a lady quietly reading her favorite book on the seashore.
“The Black Sun” A few weeks ago we all took the day off and gathered with family and hundreds of complete strangers on top of Stone Mountain and watched the world go dark. It was strange and dreamlike, watching. When I came home I started this little painting of a strange dark character.. I gave it a slightly creepy undertone, a throw back to a series I had done a few years ago. I had some Gold leaf lying on my desk so I glued it into the ground and painted over it slightly with the gouache. It doesn’t show mush in the scan but in person it just glows eerily.
A great new assignment for SooJin, Well all assignments for SooJin are so much fun...this one no diferent... the constant preasure to evolve...This article was an interesting starting point. I did a bunch of thumbnails directions like usual all over the place... some false starts too much accounting... luckily SooJin found something she thought worked. I did a tighter sketch and then started painting. W ehad a trip planned to open up the cottage and check on thigs . Been some serious flooding on Lake Ontario. One of our neighbors had five feet in his front yard. Some poor watershed mamagement comeing back to bite the township with all of the new development. I wanted to give these giant plants an impressive scale so naturally adding a spectator
My first bach of thumbnails completely off base. I had forgotten the unspoken thing we all must remember. No guys in suits,accounting machines andoffice tools. and SooJin gets me back on track ... for God's sake something with out a monkey please... I think I just went too litteral and not really the right feeling.
These were working much much better... Some great ideas here I may come back to later... but deadlines closing in...
Tighter sketch of man eating plants I found reference on some beautiful pitcher plants and adapted them into the composition...
Some beautiful type design makes it all work. Much thanks to SooJin and the PlanSpponsor / Adviser folks... Allways a joy to work on one of these.
Toward the end of last year I had a great opportunity to work on one of my favorite books, George Orwell’s Animal Farm, for Easton Press. I have to admit, I hadn’t read it… I know, such a classic… When I talked to Lee about it, she said she read it when she was a kid, and to her it was just a really sad story about a horse... Okay, I'll read it....
I wanted to make my own visuals, not based on anything; on anyone elses interpetation. After I read it I kind of agreed. it was a really sad story about a horse. But it also had some resounding parallels with modern day politics. I chose to keep the story as close to the actual descriptions of characters and scenes. I didn’t feel it was just a manifesto about communism, fascism…
Certainly as I worked through the visuals I tried to research each animal as far as breed and appearance, as Orwell had meant them to be. (Napoleon was a Berkshire Boar, while Snowball was a Middle White, a british landbreed)
From Wikipedia: Animal Farm is an allegorical novella by George Orwell, first published in England on 17 August 1945. According to Orwell, the book reflects events leading up to the Russian Revolution of 1917 and then on into the Stalinist era of the Soviet Union. Orwell, a democratic socialist, was a critic of Joseph Stalin and hostile to Moscow-directed Stalinism, an attitude that was critically shaped by his experiences during the Spanish Civil War. The Soviet Union, he believed, had become a brutal dictatorship, built upon a cult of personality and enforced by a reign of terror.
Orwell described Animal Farm as a satirical tale against Stalin, he wrote that Animal Farm was the first book in which he tried, with full consciousness of what he was doing, "to fuse political purpose and artistic purpose into one whole".
Forest acted as my editor in trying to help me stay on target with the text and descriptions of scenes. I ended up doing 10 color illustrations and 10 chapter heads as well. Can’t wait to see the finished books, so far we have only seen a mock up for advertising. There will be a limited 1,200 copies available through Easton Press. All signed and beautifully embellished gold and leather covers.The illustrations will be hand-mounted into the book as they were in the limited first editions of Rackham and Dulac from the early 1900s.
Many thanks to Easton Press and art director Michael Hendricks.
Radio Flyer's 100th Anniversary Kid's Travel Agency
Radio Flyer's 100th Anniversary "Kid's Travel Agency" Posters.
Radio Flyer is hosting the first ever kids travel agency to celebrate 100 years of inspiring imaginative play and unforgettable adventures. At Radio Flyer Adventure Travel, children are introduced to impossibly wonderful destinations they can visit only with their imagination and a Radio Flyer. https://www.radioflyer.com/travel-agency/
A new poster for Radio Flyer. FCB had a great idea to inspire kids to use thier imaginations through a series of travel posters to fantastic places that only could exist in dreams. the instructions and specs for the poster came in with a huge packet of materials and spec. More than I ever remember getting in the past on any project... But once I had gotten through going over all of that. It just started off in the normal way all jobs do, with a little research looking at old travel posters to get a feel for the atmosphere and feelling of a vintage poster to a fantasy destination. I am always drawn to bold, simple images so I explored in the thumbnails various compositions tackling the manditory elements. I wanted the octopus to be huge, larger than life. Looming and imposing, but not scary. I decided to make the wagon into a ship.
I tried two directions: one, the octopus as the island towering in the distance; the ship and kids in the forground. The other using the wagon as a bathysphere, exploring an underwater world in search of treasure. I'm not sure they really got the underwater thing from my thumbnails, but Kevin picked a couple very similar directions and i started refining the sketch.
thumbnail for Octopus Shiny Treasure Bay. They picked #1 and #8 both very similar directions.
Slightly tighter thumbnails working out proportions on size of the boat and octopus.
Final sketch with type
In process art for the octopus almost finished....
I know, airbrush, it's just so much faster for me... Some textures and highlights I will add in Photoshop later....
I wanted to add some cloudy atmosphere to separate the background, make it lighter against the silhouetted kids and boat. I decided to do the kids and boat separate from the octopus to give me the option of adjusting the size and placement. I added distant mountains, birds, and treasure to reinforce the size of the octopus without reducing the size of the kids and wagon. Ultimately I decided to have the ship coming out of the shadow slightly to allow some details to show.
When I first pulled everything into the poster I loved how the wagon and kids looked just floating in the sky.... After I had put the final poster together I roughly pulled together a variation to show the Art director. Ultimately they decided to stay with the original design.
I was really happy with where this poster ended up. I was great fun working with Kevin Grady and the creative team at FCB. They gave me a ton of freedom and that always pays off in the final result. Cant wait to see the final 24x36 printed posters... So much fun. I need a few more of these to work on.