Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Laying out dots - stippling until it hurts.

I think just about every kid that goes through art at school has to do at least one stipple or "dot render" exercise - oy vey! So, silly me just spent the last two days revisiting those days - I undertook a new illustration to maybe use on a shirt to print, or new tattoo business cards. While a lot of illustrators use this technique to create a whole composition, laying all shades and contours in dot form of varying densities, I instead still used a strong contour line to maintain the "tattoo" style paired with stippling as a form of shading.

I used a heavyweight opaque fineliner paper and just one Artline fineliner (0.3) to do the stippling. Some people use technical pens of different sizes to vary the tone and detail. I wasn't necessarily looking to create as much realism as you see in this type of work - for this illustration it was more about adding "body" to the forms by still using a pen but without resorting to hatching. One of the most successful contemporary illustrators using this technique is Kevin Sprouls. Hired by The Wall Street Journal in 1979, Sprouls helped introduce the "hedcut" form of image reproduction to print media - even at a small size, stipple rendered portraits as seen in the Journal are generally more legible than photographs of the same size. A number of illustrators now make a good living off the artform which has a very classical feel, often emulating engraving or woodcut newspaper printing.

Kevin Sprouls, "Frank Lloyd Wright"

The Queen portrait and little chick just above were drawn by Noli Novak. Her work is amazing too - check out her website which shows more of her portraits of humans and animals.

Virgil Finlay was an American fantasy artist whose work was heavily published in the pulp-fiction magazines of the 1930's to the 1960's. He worked in mainly pen and ink AND scratchboard, often in the same image, using hatching and stippling to shade. These are some of the most labour intensive drawings going around! He's work is worth studying due to his wonderful rendering of the human form, dramatic composition and lighting effects, and fanciful imagination. There are some published volumes of his work out there (now very collectible.) I think I will have to track one down, as digital scans don't quite do his work justice, especially at screen resolution. I found that the scan I took of my own drawing failed to transfer the delicacy of my dots - what looks tiny and round on paper looks a bit rough in pixel form, and I need to experiment with this.

But back to now....I did just pick up the 2007 publication on Usugrow's work - "Love Hate From JP" - featuring a fair whack of his pen and ink works. The Japanese-born artist mixes Asian imagery with that of the Mexican "cholo" graffiti you see in LA, using the heavy calligraphic line work that a lot of us tattooists identify with, while shading in stipple style. Not surprisingly, it's bold and perfect for printing, and he has supplied a lot of work for skate brands. He uses Rotring drafting pens on large sized paper, and you can see his stipple is finer for it, each piece taking a few weeks to execute. If you see this book on your travels, it's worth picking up if you love this type of black and white work. He also has a blog to follow what he is up to.

I'm not sure I'll be hurrying onto to the next stipple illustration - it really is exhausting work and my eyes felt like they were hanging out of my head after it! But it's a technique I've always been drawn to and I'm sure it will lure me back in....

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Steven Patrick Morrissey

Morrissey came to LA this past week, playing a last minute show at the small Music Box, plus a sold-out Shrine, and Fox Theatre in Pomona. Luckily I got to see two shows - nine years after seeing him play my hometown in Australia. I know in the meantime things have been a bit "off" with Morrissey's performances - cancellations, collapses and the like. But 2011 sees a fit, rejuvenated 50-something-year-old idol, hitting the stage with the aplomb and swagger we love him for. Morrissey's voice is in fine form today, and treats the fans on this tour to a few Smiths' songs - "I Want The One I Can't Have", "Meat Is Murder", "Still Ill", and sometimes "I Know It's Over". He played the latter at The Shrine on Saturday night, and with the crowd singing along to one of the most beautifully sad songs ever written, it was one of those gig moments you cherish forever.

The encore of "Still Ill" brought a mini-flood of devotees scrambling up on stage to hug Morrissey - just like nearly 30 years ago. Aaaaah, pretty hard to wipe the smile of the face after that.

His visit also sadly coincided with last week's passing of Shelagh Delaney, writer and major inspiration on Morrissey's work and on others who came from difficult lives in Manchester, England. An image of Shelagh acted as a backdrop for these shows, and the pre-show clips of footage included a brief snippet of an interview with the playwright (filmed by the great Ken Russell, also now recently departed). In it she talks of her reluctance to leave her home, Salford, despite it's problems and constant shroud of industrial gloom. She died of cancer at the age of 71, and was best known for her 1958 play "A Taste of Honey" which she penned as a teenager.

 It's so easy to laugh
It's so easy to hate
It takes strength to be gentle and kind
Over, over, over, over
It's so easy to laugh
It's so easy to hate
It takes guts to be gentle and kind
Over, over
Love is Natural and Real
But not for you, my love
Not tonight, my love
Love is Natural and Real
But not for such as you and I, my love

Monday, November 21, 2011

More Ron English

Saturday November 19th saw the opening of another Ron English show in LA, this time of 18 new paintings, at the Corey Helford Gallery. "Seasons in Supurbia" continues to draw on his fascination with the notion of the "superhero", beings of his own creation, painted in his characteristically hyper realist style. In this show they mingle with Camo Deer in the diorama-like compositions he builds, as well as more natural landscapes. These paintings are just technically stunning, rendering the surreal as corporeal.

It was a busy opening, so I could only get details of some of the works. But that's where you get lost in English's work anyway. The show is on view until December 10th, and a good excuse to head to Culver City's gallery row.

"The Fourth Wall", detail.

"The Artist's House", detail.


"Comic House Block Party", detail.

"Mousemask Graveyard"

"Mousemask Graveyard", detail.

"Blend in the River"

"Blend in the River", detail.

Visit the gallery website to view more images of the show.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Studio Malota, Spain

Spanish illustrator Mar Hernandez works under the name "Malota", and is having a nice little career, thank you very much. For a young designer she has a grand list of clients. She builds her images using geometric shapes and bold colours, with many based on strict symmetrical composition. Malota also paints for private collectors, including cute wooden kokeshis, and her artworks are available from her online store. To see her impressive portfolio (and nicely built website) visit her here. Malota also has a flickr stream, full of photos of her artworks, revealing more of her creative process and newer pieces.

What a great use of colour - burnt orange reminds me so much of the 1970's, but Malota makes it compellingly sophisticated when paired with the teal and greys she favours.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Ding dong, the witch is (almost) dead...

Anyone interested in world politics would have acknowledged the announcement this past weekend that Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's 17 year scandal-marred political career had ended. While Italians celebrated in the streets of downtown Rome, he still remains a business man of some power, and has vowed that "it's not over". In the interim, an economist with very little political history has been appointed to salvage what's left of Italy's economic standing within the eurozone. Mario Monti makes a dramatic contrast to his predecessor - he is described as "boring" by a former student. Reportedly a member of a Bilderberg steering committee and international adviser to discredited US banking giant Goldman Sachs - seen by many people as the embodiment of Wall Street's worst excesses - Monti's appointment could be seen as further evidence of the growing power of technocrats on world governments.  Watch this space...

MUNK ONE provided a magnificently appropriate illustration of Berlusconi for Juxtapoz Magazine in August. It popped back up on the internet today - it's brilliant it its pink fleshy glory.
Sanctimonious Silvio.....

While Italy's misfortunes will be front page news for quite a while, MUNK ONE will continue producing great illustrations for bands and editorial. Check out his work here, I'm sure there will be something you'll fancy.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Obey Giant - Shepard Fairey, La Brea District 11/11/11

I have no interest in these superstitions about dates and times. I am interested though in the flurry of creative activity that seems to be happening around town and the world this week. One such accomplishment was unveiled yesterday in the District La Brea area, a new Shepard Fairey mural. We headed down there this morning, and the team was still working on it, on the alley side of the carpark they are painting. Nice to see Shepard there himself, spraying and chatting away in the LA chill. They were planning on finishing today, and with rain on the way, they'll be keen to get out of the elements.

There is also a group art show to coincide with the event, hanging at 161 S. La Brea Ave for 2 weeks only. For more info, read here.

There were lots of Orthodox locals out and about on their Saturday morning walks while we were watching the work. I loved the contradiction of cultures interacting in this space, and caught these two little boys as they cut through the alley.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Squirrel season.

Strolling through the leafy streets of Beverly Hills the other day, we noticed a great abundance of restless squirrels. They were definitely out and about, running frantically across the roads and up trees, collecting their acorns for winter storage. We even saw one give a crow a talking to for getting in his way. They are feisty and funny animals!

There has been plenty of "forest-oriented" design over recent years...enough with the woodland aesthetic already! Still, it's hard to pass by a cute squirrel object, and I'm the first to admit I love to draw animals too. Here are a few good ones that others have created.

Charley Harper, commercial illustrator and wildlife artist, drew his creatures with a modernist flair.

Illustration by German Andreas Krapf. See his stuff at www.behance.net/akrapf.

"Scrabble" campaign by Ogilvy and Mather, in Mumbai.

"New Apron", painting by Amber Alexander. Visit www.amberalexander.typepad.com to see more of her work.

Work from another German, this time from master artist Albrecht Durer.

Contemporary digital illustrator Jamey Christoph works in a distinctive vintage style. This Octoberfest squirrel is so cheery and cheeky! Look at more of his work here: www.redpaintbox.com/search/christoph.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

West Hollywood Halloween Carnavale 2011

Queens, princesses, lots of Wilfreds, tons of Black Swans.....and a texting jellyfish?