Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

J.C. Leyendecker's cover for the New Year issue of The Saturday Evening Post...
100 Years ago!!!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

By the Power of Grayskull!!!

-By Dan dos Santos

Between 1983 and 1984, an amazing thing happened to U.S. television. Programs such as Transformers, Thundercats, Dungeons & Dragons, and Voltron were all released within 18 months of one another, forever changing the way a whole generation would think of cartoons.

Being a child at the time, these cartoons had a major influence on me, and I have no doubt that they helped spawn my interest in Fantasy Art.

All of the above mentioned titles were amazing.... but the king of them all had to be He-Man.

With 130 episodes, and an extensive line of toys that held as much importance as the cartoon itself, it's not surprising that this icon has lived on to spawn numerous movie remakes, and countless amounts of fan art.

Robert Lamb, who served as a writer and storyboard artist for the He-Man cartoon, has recently posted some wonderful scans of the original concept art for the show on his website. Now, as far as I know, these scans are not of Robert's work. He did storyboards. These images are scans of preliminary layouts that he found in the DUMPSTER behind Filmation Studios!!! Thank God someone had the sense to save these beautiful drawings.

Take a look at the numbers in the corner. The MU (Master of the Universe) stands for the episode in which the painted background would appear. The BG (background), denotes the number of the painting. By episode 24 (boarded out of sequence), they had already painted 241 different backgrounds! That's an amazing amount of work, especially since He-Man was one of the first cartoons to be produced directly for syndication, and required 65 completed episodes before even airing.

Being a Father of two boys, I still watch a lot of children's programming. I would conservatively estimate that about 75% of cartoons today aimed at children younger than 7 years old, are produced entirely digitally. Obviously, this has it's own merits, most notably efficiency. But it does instill in me a longing for hand-drawn animation, and new found appreciation for the massive amount of work that went into those old cartoons I loved so much.

You can see these pictures, and a bunch of others, including Robert's storyboard work at:

For those interested, all 33 episodes of Season 1 can be viewed for free on both YouTube and Hulu.

Sulphur and Dana

Post by Jon Foster

While working on the Anne Frank storyboards that I mentioned in my last post, I also got the chance to work on a side project with Dario, a short comic called Sulphur and Dana. Dario was encouraging a friend, Steed Gamero, to flex his creativity through writing. With the help of Roberto Malini, the screenplay writer for Dear Anne, they came up with a beautiful and visual story that I had the joy, as well as challenge, to illustrate. I was quite proud of my work, which was only in black and white, but when Dario added his colors to the pages it brought the entire comic to life. This was years ago, and I don’t think it went much further than a writing competition in Italy, but now there is a new version of this story for the Ipad, still a comic, but with some subtle movement in the panels for mood. Below I included the add page as well as link if anyone is interested in seeing one possible way of making E-comics. Dario is the mastermind behind this new version and I must say that he makes me look good J.


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Satan Factory

Gregory Manchess

I was an early fan of Hellboy. Forget the comical name or the character himself. What grabbed me from the moment I spotted it was it’s graphic appeal. Mike Mignola designs his panels, pages, story, and dialog. They are impeccable and luscious. I want to linger on every page because my brain is always happy to fill in the blanks he leaves practically everywhere. The mark of a superior designer and draughtsman.
It’s the risks he takes with leaving things out that makes the difference. Huge explosions with barely an indication of detail, and large areas of color that he and Dave Stewart, an excellent colorist, work out together. Creatures and settings drawn from simple outlines or slightly modified cut-outs as figures. That takes commitment to leave out all the dang detail.
But it’s thirty-odd years of built-up risk-taking. You get that with training. When I scan his pages I feel the joy Mike projects as if I held the pen in my own hand. The artist in me feels his drawing chops coming through.
That’s what I was shooting for in my own piece based on one of Mike’s characters, Lobster Johnson. I wanted just enough detail to come through, but again, if I nailed the values, I could get away with murder.
This is a cover for a trade paperback called, The Satan Factory, by Thomas E. Sniegoski, published by Dark Horse. Lia Ribacchi art directed, with Mike overseeing the process. As always, the composition is found in the thumbs.

The first finished sketch wasn’t quite there. I wanted to catch Lobster in just the right hesitation, making a decision to fire or not to fire. That slight, detection-laden moment was what I wanted.

Mike guided me into the demon skulls floating in the background. I dug out some of my skulls, and lit them. Then I redrew them, modifying to fit.

Reworked sketch.

Completed painting.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


By Justin Gerard

Every now and then I get asked what I do for inspiration.

Some mistakenly believe that I torment my sister's cat for inspiration. Others believe that I methodically hunt down and destroy endangered species. And still others suspect that I build giant robots and plan an invasion of Mars.

I assure you this is not true. I like good music and fine literature.
But even more than music and literature, I find that camping trips provide some of the best inspiration.

Some might say; yes, but don't you spend most of a camping trip fighting mosquitos, rain, fires that won't start and equipment failure all while being completely lost? And don't you spend most of your mental energy panicking about wether you will even survive this day because you have not exercised in a month and have been living on chic-fil-a?

And well yes, this is all true. But there are brief moments on these trips that make the whole experience worth the overall misery of it. When it is all said and done, I tend to forget how terrible it was, and how we almost killed each other that time the campstove broke, and I am left only with the impression of the spectacular views and the warmth of sun after being freezing and the taste of food after being starving.

Apart from being inspired by the raw beauty of the planet, hiking gives a person a chance to be alone with their thoughts in a place where they cannot help but feel small and cannot help but appreciate what they have. There is something about being freezing, and having to wrestle with building a fire and putting up a tent in the snow that suddenly turns a simple, everyday thing like a warm shower into one of the greatest technological wonders of all time.

I always bring a hardback sketchbook with me on these trips, and try to have easy access to it. Every time I come back from one of these trips I have hundreds of new thumbnails a ideas for new projects I want to undertake. The odd scribbles and tiny thumbnails made on the trail may get turned into something larger and they may not, but the impression of it all never quite leaves me. It will always be somewhere in the back of my head, waiting for a chance to find its way onto paper.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Meeting your heroes

By John Jude Palencar

Merry Christmas everyone. A few years ago I had the opportunity to stop by Andrew Wyeth's home. No - I don't know Mr. Wyeth personally but I did sit in his driveway with fellow Wyeth-nut and art instructor Ralph Giguere from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pa. (Great School BTW). I was a "Visiting Artist" at the University. These pics of Andy's home were taken a couple of years before he passed away. I did meet Jamie many years ago and I always thought I would get to meet his father.

Some how I think it was for the better that I never met him..... he will always remain mysterious and larger than life in my imagination.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Season's Greetings!

from the Muddy Colors Gang

Our best to everyone during the holidays!

Art by Gil Elvgren

Art by Norman Rockwell

Art by J.C. Lyendecker


Merry Christmas!

In the spirit of Christmas, here is a nice big Haddon Sundblom scan. Haddon is most well known for having defined the look of the stereotypical Santa Claus that we now are all so familiar with. Click on the image and just look at the amazing edge control this guy displayed.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Is Art School Worth it?

-By Eric Fortune

First off, I'm not downing formal education. I'm just asking if it's worth getting into $120 thousand dollars worth of debt not to mention the interest for four to six years of college. Especially in our current economic state.

So what does school offer us? Hopefully, teachers and peers who can assist in pushing us to be better than we are(ultimately we have to be our hardest critic). There's also access to facilities and opportunities to produce and experiment in. But these are really just opportunities the student can take advantage of not. You can't force someone to get better. It's a choice to pursue, a decision to push ourselves, to be on time with assignments, to stay after class to finish the still life or do extra reading etc. There's an intrinsic incentive for us to master the craft of our choice. We all know of self trained painters, illustrators, and musicians who are amazing at what they do.

Today we have more access to information than ever before. Let's list some:

- illustration tutorials on dvd that deal with technique process, business aspects etc

- illustration workshops like "Illustration Masters Class" where you may pay a fee for a professional ass kicking and intensely constructive experience.

- art books, the library is free

- video demos online( learned a lot about Photoshop from CMYKilla)

- all types of online art forums where one can get critical feedback from the art community of the world(take everything with a grain of salt}

- art blogs, personal and collective... I'd list some but I'm blanking out right now.

- attending conventions, lectures, and demos to observe, ask questions, and get feed back from professionals

- taking advantage of museums and galleries to view original works

- online classes such as "Schoolism"

- private internships

- You can also find the contact information of your favorite artist and ask some specific questions. I try to answer as many as I can fit into my schedule as well as email others for advice.

Thankfully, there are scholarships to help kids with paying for school. I could be wrong but I would assume the kids who get the scholarships are the same kids who are drawing and producing art even when they don't have to because they want to get better.

Even if you were interested in a Masters Program you could look up the list of professors that you would be learning from and read up on literature written by said professors.

My point is there is an abundance of information out there. You have the same options you have in art school. You can take it or leave it. The choice is yours. We all know people in school who didn't take the time to do the work. School is only as good as you make it. Going to the best art school doesn't make the best artist.

Is staying at home or even with some of your art buddies and learning/practicing via these alternative methods(the same methods artists use even after graduating college)as good as going to an art school? Maybe not. Maybe so and it's just a different learning experience minus the debt. Again, it depends on how much the individual is putting into mastering their craft. The art school environment is great and if art school wasn't so expensive I wouldn't be writing this blog post. Can you get educated for a lot less than it cost to attend art school? What are your personal school experiences/regrets? Would you do it differently if you could?
Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Breaking In

by Donato

A few months ago, Jon Schindehette (the main art buyer/director) at Wizards of the Coast asked me to write a post for his blog, Art Order, about how I broke into the illustration industry ( I highly recommend Jon's blog for insightful, informative and vital information about not only breaking into the business, but also great advice on how to stay in the loop!)

In that posting, I mentioned generating a handful of book cover samples back in 1992, fresh out of college, for my then 'pending' representative Sal Barracca. Sal had seen my work at a portfolio review and expressed interest in working with me if I could generate some appropriate samples for the book cover marketplace. Anyone asking you to generate six highly detailed and complex images for a client before they hire you would seem out of this world crazy...Go take a hike Man!!...but that is exactly what I did.

Actually, there was no limit on how many samples I would have needed, or was willing, to create- four, six, eight - I kept showing up on Sal's doorstep like clockwork month after month after month with a new sample painting and drawing- asking for his critical input, absorbing those comments, implementing the changes, and moving onto the next work. These sample images were critical in introducing to Sal my working methods and commitment to professionalism and were all targeted towards the fantasy and science fiction book cover industry, taking in considerations for type design, appropriate figure content and knowledge of the current marketing trends. My first images were not strong enough for Sal to put his reputation on the line to represent me, I had to prove to him I was capable and consistent enough to deliver professional quality jobs before I could accept a professional level commission.

This awareness that it was not my reputation which was at stake, but rather his changed my whole impression of how I deal with clients. When an art director hires you, yes, your name will be on the art, but it is the art director who must answer to everyone else in their place of business if a project stumbles, a deadline is blown , a budget exceeded or, heaven forbid, just plain bad art is turned in. They may have far more to loose than the artist does, an issue I had not really thought of until I worked with Sal, and one I keep in the forefront of my mind as I work on every new project. Illustration is a collaborative process.

Here are those first six samples. There is no sample for August as I was moving to New York City that month and recovering from a critically damaging eye injury which destroyed the macular region of my right eye (the part that lets you see detail, and yes it was permanently destroyed). So I had a few good excuses! But that didn't slow me down much...

The final sample is unfinished, the last time I touched it was the day Sal called with my first professional commission!

20" x 30"
oil on panel
June 1992

My first sample, created just one month out from Syracuse University.

Science Fiction
24" x 36"
Oil on panel
Sample number two
July 1992

The Sword and the Pen
20" x 28"
Oil on panel
Sample number three
September 1992

Gwindor at Angband
24" x 39"
oil on panel
Sample number four
October 1992

20" x 30"
Oil on Panel
Sample number five
November 1992

Omega Corps
24" x 36"
Oil on panel
Sample number six
December 1992


By Jesper Ejsing

I will follow in the steps of Arnie and show, for this update, my studio space.

I share a studio with 10 other artists. Some of them are children's book illustrators, others are comicbook artists and concept artists. One of them, Paul Bonner, is a fantasy artist like myself. Our studio is called Pinligt Selskab, which means Embarrassing Company.

It is a great advantage to share a studio. We have been together for over ten years and often help each other out with critique and encouragements. I find it extremely valuable to be able to take an almost finished painting on a quick round about the studio, asking the others one by one if they find anything wrong or unclear. If more than one suggest the same thing, there is usually something true about it. Also being in a fellowship where we contantly talk about process and exchange experiences is really fantastic.

As you can see, keeping order and cleaning is not one of my strongest assets. I do have a lot of references lying about. The books and gaming catalogs pile up around me when I skip through them looking for ideas and details I can use for my own projects.

The T-Rex head was build by Paul Bonner believe it or not. It is shaped by toiletpaper and glue with a frame of wire.

The top shelf above my computer is a display shelf for all the originals I have done most recently. I like to have them close by, comparing them to each other and judging them against the latest. Thus contantly keeping track of my latest mistakes or improvements. If they were just lying in a file I would forget about them.

On my board behind the computer I keep posters of things that inspire me, or small sketches and originals of my own that I like. Hanging them there reminds me of stuff that worked with this particular artwork.

On my shelf you can see my artbook collection. It is clear to everybody that even if Dan dos Santos has many artbooks, he is not nearly as well equiped as I am. Do not ask about the dead plants.
I use wireless headphones for when I am listening to loud RnB and Hip Hop.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010


-By Dan dos Santos

The folks at WiP Podcast just posted a new episode, in which I partook.

Check it out HERE.
I have yet to listen to it myself, so I hope I didn't say anything I regret!

If you're not yet familiar with the WiP Podcast, get with it, you're truly missing out.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice

-By Dan dos Santos

A few years ago I was asked to do some concepts for an upcoming Nicolas Cage film. That film is 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice', which just came out on DVD last month.

For those of you familiar with Disney's 1940 film 'Fantasia', you may recognize the title as the same belonging to the scene where Mickey Mouse, a lowly apprentice, steals his Mentor's hat and is quickly overwhelmed by the powerful magic contained therein. 

The original script for the 2010 version of 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice' was a lot different than what appears in the movie, and actually had a lot more in common with the 'Fantasia' film, including an epic battle with the demon Chernabog and hundreds of his undead denizens. I think it's a shame it was cut.

For the most part, my tasks focused on character and costume design for the two main characters, Balthazar and Morgana. The role of Morgana (and her alter ego, Veronica) had not yet been cast, but they were hoping for Monica Bellucci, so we did the designs in her image hoping it would help sell her on the idea.

The Art Director and I spoke at length about what we envisioned for each character. But, as usual, very few ideas make it through production looking the way they were originally intended.

I did all my concepting digitally. In this case, on top of a 3D model which I then placed photos of the Actors' faces on. Here are some of those concepts: