Saturday, December 29, 2012

Life Needs Art-Top Artist Profiles

Continuing with my end of year "best of" recap, here is a list of the most popular artist profiles I have posted in the past. Some of these artists are long past and a few we have lost just since I started the blog. These artists have all inspired me and their respective posts have been among my top view getters as well. In no particular order, here is a rundown:

1- Kazu Sano- We lost Kazu in 2011 just a couple of years after I had the chance to meet him. Best known for his Return of the Jedi Movie poster and work for National Geographic.

2- Walter Everett- Is perhaps one of the most under appreciated illustrators of the 20th century. I love the way he simplified his designs and used broad strokes of color. I did a previous post on Everett as well.

3- Leconte Stewart- A Utah landscape painter that may very well be the best "unknown" landscape painter in American history. He has long been one of my favorites due to early exposure to his work when I was young. A new book  on Leconte Stewart does justice to his art and legacy.

4- Robert Fawcett- Was a consummate illustrator and draftsman. I did a second post focusing just on Fawcett's drawing as well as a review of the new Fawcett book

5- Arnold Friberg- One of my earliest influences as a budding artist. Friberg's work mesmerized me as a boy. I recount the time I met him at our neighborhood art supply store just a year or two prior to his death.

6- David Grove-  Another artist that influenced me as a student. We also lost David earlier this year but his work lives on. A book on Grove's work was under my Christmas tree last week.

7-Ralph McQuarrie- As with many of my generation, Star Wars was the most mystical saga I had ever witnessed on film. The vision of artist Ralph McQuarrie is what I believe set Star Wars on a higher plane, one which filmmakers continue to shoot for.

8- Dale Nichols- Contemporary of Grant Wood and John Stuart Curry, Nichols never gained the same recognition as other Regionalist artists of his time. The current touring show of Nichols' work includes a terrific catalog of his paintings.

9- Maurice Sendak-  Where The Wild Things Are continues to be the benchmark for all picture books and it was an early inspiration for me as an artist. Sendak passed away not too long ago as well. Here is a nice volume on Sendak's picture book work.

10- Albert Dorne- Another phenomenal talent profiled here. Like Fawcett, Dorne was an extraordinary draftsman and character artist. Auad Publishing just released a great book on Dorne.

If you missed any of these posts, they are worth a look, or a second look if it has been a while. Thanks for spending time with me here on Life Needs Art- because it does.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Life Needs Art-Top 12 Instructional Posts

After over 430 posts and closing in on three years blogging, I figured it was time for a "best of" recap. Even though I hate most of those year end lists, I thought it might be helpful to new and long time followers alike to be able to revisit a few of my most popular posts. So, in no particular order are the posts that readers have found most helpful and/or have garnered the most hits.

1- Painting With Texture in Photoshop. This post explains how I create hand made textures, scan and then use them to paint digitally. This previous post also deals with the same topic.

2- Wyeth Shape Design Analysis. Here I break down what makes an N.C. Wyeth illustration from his Treasure Island series so successful.

3- 50 Thumbnails.  I explain the value, as Howard Pyle encouraged, of doing more (many more) exploratory thumbnail drawings than you think you might need.

4- Maintaining Tonal Zones. Here I describe how to keep the main masses of a painting distinct by isolating the values in their own zones.

5- Zorn Palette Exercise. Anders Zorn used a very limited palette to great effect. Here I describe how to try it yourself.

6- Master Illustrator Copy. I did a copy of a J.C. Leyendecker painting to explore what he did and why his work was so successful.

7- Eye Path Reverse Analysis.  I break down one of my own pieces based on Andrew Loomis' compositional tips as detailed in Creative Illustration.

8- Sticking to the Thumbnail Sketch. I outline why sticking to your thumbnail sketch is so important to the creation of a successful illustration.

9- George Bellows Limited Palette. I describe why George Bellows' simple color palette is so powerful.

10- Salvador Dali Portrait Demo. A simple portrait demo utilizing unusual color choices.

11- Inventing Color From Black And White Reference. In this demo, I take a black and white photo and paint it in four very different color palettes in a side by side comparison.

12- Using Gold (Metal) Leaf. This is a fun demonstration of how to use metal leaf for interesting decorative effect.

If you missed any of these posts or simply want to have another look, please enjoy!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

A Christmas Prayer
"Loving Father, 
help us to remember the birth of Jesus, 
that we may share in the song of the angels, 
the gladness of the shepherds, 
and the worship of the wise men. 
Close the door of hate and 
open the door of love all over the world. 
Let kindness come with every gift and 
good desires with every greeting. 
Deliver us from evil by the blessing 
which Christ brings, and teach us to 
be merry with clear hearts. 
May the Christmas morning make us happy 
to be Thy children, and the Christmas evening 
bring us to our beds with grateful thoughts, 
forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus' sake. Amen. 
Robert Louis Stevenson
(1850 - 1894)

Peace On Earth
"Peace on earth will come to stay, 
When we live Christmas every day." 
Helen Steiner Rice
(1900 - 1981)
Dear Friends,
I wish you all the best this Christmas and throughout the New Year. Thank you for sharing my passion for art as well as a little of your time with me.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Art Videos Half Off All December

My instructional painting video and EVERY other video offered on are HALF OFF all December long. If you or someone you know would enjoy improving your art skills, be sure to click the link below and pick up a video or two. These top notch videos are all hand selected by the Folio Academy team and feature accomplished professional instructors. Pick up my Acrylic Painting video or pair it with one of the other great videos available. At these rates, you would be a Scrooge not to give it a look.

Click the link below and enter promo code: w1966

Folio Academy Promo link

Saturday, December 15, 2012

In The Weeds

No matter where you are in your career, there are times when you feel like you are "in the weeds". You feel so deep in the undergrowth that you will never be able to hack your way out and see daylight again. There are many reasons for this. Maybe you you are struggling with finding or evolving your style, or getting a handle on a new medium. Maybe you feel stuck with a bunch of creatively dull projects, or worse, no projects at all. Maybe there are things beyond art that are out of your control, like unexpected expenses or demands on your time such as caring for the welfare of a loved one. Whatever the reason, all of us as artists will face times when things look bleak and the way out is unclear. Those are the times when you must, As Dorrie in Finding Nemo suggests, "Just keep swimming". The only sure fire way to fail is to quit. My family has had plenty of challenges this year both financially and health related, but through it all, I have tried to see the daylight beyond the weeds. So when you are facing your own personal jungle, here are a few things to try as you carve a path out:

Do Your Best. Sometimes things just have to get done and "good enough" is a concession that,  is sometimes necessary in order to move ahead. Although compromise may not be ideal, try not to beat yourself up over what might have been on a particular project. Chances are that your client will still be satisfied even if you are not. It's not worth the anxiety spent worrying about something once it is out of your hands. This is a tough one for me and all you perfectionists out there, but learning to chalk something up to experience and focusing on what is next is a healthier way to go. The day you are 100% satisfied with your work is the day you stop growing. If you are like me, you will never "arrive" so it is better to let it be about the journey. I have revisited many "failures" later and determined that they were actually pretty good.

Do Personal Work. I know that this sometimes sounds counterproductive when you are in the middle of a string of hairy deadlines, but try to always have a project that can get your juices flowing. Pick something that you have always wanted to create and make drawings for that idea. Have a little painting on the side that you can noodle on when you need a little break from that mind numbing, overly art directed project that you are in the thick of. Try a new medium or surface just for fun. I promise that the energy you will generate from these personal explorations will spill over into your regular work and make it better. Those personal pieces will also build your portfolio and show your clients what you are capable of and the passion you inject into these works will be evident.

Take Some Time Off. This has always been a tough one for me, since as with doing personal work, it can feel selfish unfinished projects are staring you in the face. I have found that if I let myself, I can ALWAYS be working. This is not good. The deadlines never go away and sometimes they overwhelm. I can drive myself crazy worrying about getting stuff done, so I am learning to just let it go, even if for just a few hours spent with family. The work will still be there tomorrow and with a little down time, you will be better able to focus your energy. Besides, the people you work so hard to provide for need you to actually be there once in a while. Don't forget that. Spend some time connecting with the people you love. Also in your down time, take a moment to connect with your spiritual side, whatever that looks like for you. Pray, meditate, go to church, engage in meaningful service, study scriptures, go for a walk in nature, whatever. I find that this allows me to see the bigger picture of what life is really all about and then when I get back in the studio, I can be more effective and productive.

There are tons of ideas and methods that could be added to this list, but these are the ones that I am thinking about today, the things that are helping bring balance and focus to my life and work at the moment. Keep climbing that mountain- one step at a time!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Chasing a Bus

I was driving back home from visiting my gallery this week when I did a double take. Part of my illustration for City Creek Center was staring back at me ten feet high on the side of a bus. I quickly did a couple of slightly illegal Starsky and Hutch maneuvers and few blocks later I got close enough to get this shot with my phone camera. I haven't ever seen my work on the side of a bus so this was a fun first for me. I wish I had gotten a shot of the whole bus, but trying to hang my phone out the passenger window while driving is a little dangerous. Good thing there were no cops in the vicinity.

See the whole illustration here

Monday, December 10, 2012

Angel Sketches

I'm doing a piece for Angels on Earth magazine right now. I was given a sketchy outline of the article this will accompany about a woman who found herself being comforted by an angel in a field of buttercups following a car accident. The art director mentioned that sometimes the stories are deleted or altered after the art is finished, so the image needed to be more vague.

Version two is the same layout without the woman. I think the first version has more emotional and narrative heft, but I obliged the request and came up with the alternate. I am still trying to get the AD to let me do the first. What do you all think? 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

More Christmas Magic

Here is another piece that I did for the City Creek Center Holiday promotion. Like the previous piece in this series that I posted, this one started out with just a rough concept proposed by the client.

the client provided this concept sketch
I then went and took copious photos on site which I merged together to create a base for my final art. The architecture was the real player in this and I needed to keep it intact.

The pieced together starting point
Where it finished up MANY hours later
Also, the Santa Claus pavilion at the center of the festivities was not built yet when I was working on the art in late August and early September, so I had to do a lot of invention and painting to make it look good. As you can see there was a lot that went into this one and I used elements from dozens of sources to finally put this one all together. the final painting took a lot more time than I anticipated to render, but the client was thrilled and it's fun to see it being splashed around town.