Saturday, May 27, 2017

Anne With an 'E'


If any of you have been watching the new show, 'Anne with an 'E', you've probably noticed that the opening credits are directly inspired by the incredible works of Brad Kunkle.

You can see that Intro here:



These similarities are no coincidence. Imaginary Forces, the studio behind the elaborate opening sequences for shows such as Stranger Things and Mad Men, worked directly with Brad Kunkle to help make his paintings come to life on the screen.


Check out this behind the scenes look at the making of the opening sequence right here:



You can see more images, and read more about the whole process over at Buzzfeed: https://www.buzzfeed.com/keelyflaherty/anne-with-an-e-opening

Friday, May 26, 2017

An Interview with Bryan Mark Taylor

-By Howard Lyon


Bryan Mark Taylor is a name that I have known for some time, but just recently have gotten to know him personally.  He moved this last year from San Fransisco to Alpine, Utah which happens to be about 10 minutes from my place.

I have loved Bryan's landscape and plein air work for some time now.  It strikes a wonderful balance where Taylor has simplified the information but created complex and interesting textures and surfaces.


Bryan grew up in Utah and credits the state's long tradition of outdoor painting as an influence on his career. He attended Brigham Young University, receiving a BFA and then studied at the Academy of Art, San Fransisco earning an MFA.  As he was wrapping up his MFA he began teaching at the school and particpating in various shows and competitions.  Taylor estimates he has been in over a hundred group shows and competitions and 15-16 solo shows.  I mention this because it speaks to his work ethic and dedication to his craft.  I am including several paintings through this post, but also go to his website to see more and find contact information too.


His work has be evolving in the last few years.  After thousands of paintings chasing different kinds light, texture and color, Bryan said that his interest is turning to new ways of applying paint.  



He also see the changes happening in the environment/climate and is motivated to capture the effects as well as some of the places being impacted. He has recently been on a couple painting trips (that make me a bit jealous) to Cuba and China. 

When the opportunity to go to Cuba came up, Bryan wanted to get there before the inevitable flood of American tourists brought money and change.


Bryan's work is a wonderful blend of interpretation and realism.  I can only imagine that it comes from doing so many studies from nature.  Look at the washy brushwork in the foreground shadows in the image above. It is contrasted by the geometric, heavier flat-brush application throughout the painting and the clarity of the rendering of the blue car is in beautiful contrast with the background.

Bryan also went to China. He said that he was able to travel with some other painters from China and visited some smaller villages.  While there he as able to observe the impact of environmental damage and advances in technology and industry to the poorer population.  It brought out some interesting thoughts. There was often a juxtaposition of beauty, tradition and change.  This was especially clear in some of the junk boats he saw.


He said that there are whole populations that live on the boats.  Raising animals on them, fishing from them and depending on the river for much of their living.  They also pollute the river, dumping trash and human waste right into the water.  The government in China is removing many of these people, disrupting a lifestyle that goes back generations and placing them in apartment buildings. Most of those being transplanted don't have skillsets to do something other than live on and from the river. It is challenging situation with complex problems. 



Bryan said that his roots in art also come from sci-fi though and feels that the time is right to come back to what inspired his imagination from childhood.  He is taking his experience and applying to more imaginative work. I couldn't be more excited to see where this takes him. - ArtStation page for Bryan


His concern for the environment influences his sci-fi work too.  The painting below is called Industrial Reef.  It is meant to evoke the Great Barrier Reef.  I can see that, especially in the way the ship seems to be lurking inside the opening in structure, ready to either duck back into the shadows or dart out. There is a sense of decay in the painting but also wonder. I see in these works that the technology we create has the potential to inspire and create wonder but with a cost.



As I asked Bryan to elaborate on what inspires him in his sci-fi work.  He said that one of the things he loves in sci-fi movies are those moments and scenes that inspire a sense of wonder and vastness.  The shots that usually come before the conflict, before everything goes wrong. He always wants those moments to last a bit longer.  You can see that in his work.  They feel cinematic, capturing the a moment filled with tension and possibility.  I love the tilt of the ship in the painting above, conveying motion and action and the perspective of the painting below invites the viewer to lean forward to try and peer deep into the scene.




Bryan will be at Illuxcon this year and I am so excited to welcome him here on Muddy Colors to the world of sci-fi and fantasy art.  His work is complex and exciting. I see influences of John Berkey and Syd Meade but the work is clear and unique.  Given how prolific he is, there will be many more inspiring paintings to come.

I closed my interview with him asking where he wants this new work to go. I think the fun and excitement of not knowing exactly where it might lead is part of the appeal for him.  He did say that he would love to work on Star Wars or Avatar or even do some book cover work. If anyone reading this has a say for any of those things, definitely reach out to him because I want to see where these go!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Artists and Mental Health: Brian Wilson vs. David Bowie

By Lauren Panepinto
  
I've been working on a project that has had me doing a ton of reading lately into artists and the psychology of why artists make art, and what sometimes (often) stops them from making art. And I'd very much like to hear what you guys think about the issue, because most of the readers of this blog are artists and creatives, and thus have experience with the mental health of said artists and creatives.


Brian Wilson by Bjorn Lie • David Bowie by Daria Theodora

First let's define terms. When I say artists I don't mean just visual artists. In Otto Rank's Art and Artist (his 1932 work about the personality development of artists) an artist was defined as a "productive personality" — by which Rank meant someone who produces something. I think it's too easy to get "productive" confused with "productivity" (aka efficiency) so I think a more accurate term for us today would be "creative". I know that's a fancy buzzword these days, but I think it captures the idea that we're talking about artists and writers and musicians and all kinds of people who make creative stuff.



I'm trying to distill a very big book dense with a lot of ideas (originally written in German) down into simple terms here, so forgive me for oversimplifying if you know his work but Rank says artists make art because of two reasons:

1) The universal human fear of death makes people crave immortality, and the productive personality deals with this fear through making works that will outlast them. (As opposed to other personality types who freeze up in the face of this fear and get stuck, or ignore or avoid dealing with this fear entirely.)

And/Or

2)  Productive personality types are more sensitive and take in more stimuli than non-productive personalities do. This extra stimuli/sensory information will overload them unless they do something with it, so they offload the excess energy by putting it into their creations. This second theory aligns nicely with the Highly Sensitive Person theory by Elaine Aron, which I'm currently rereading. (Thanks to Chris Oatley for reminding me of that parallel when we talked recently.)

Now, while reason #1 (fear of death) certainly holds true on some level, I have to admit most artists I know don't start making art for immortality (or fame). Yes, I know these kinds of motivations can easily be subconscious. However, most artists I know have been making art since before they were old enough to really understand death enough to fear it — that seems kind of a post-pubescent problem at the earliest, unless you've had some kind of trauma in your younger childhood. And while many artists certainly do get praised for their art young, and are encouraged to continue due to that praise, that doesn't seem to be motivation enough to choose a creative path for life.

In fact, most artists I know really didn't choose creating. Whether they do it as full time work or on the side, creating is something they were compelled to do. Something they have to continue to do.

So that brings us to reason #2 (creating as a compulsion). It seems to me that many many artists do use creating as self-medication. Very often as a self-directed therapy. I know I do. Sure I want to create a lot of the time, but sometimes it's a lot of work, or I just don't feel like it, and I still have to do it, for my sanity (or semblance thereof). I'm a wreck if I haven't made a thing in too long. However, if you dig into this reason, I think you come to a big chicken-and-egg question: Are people born more sensitive and then become artists to deal with the input overload? Or does being an artist force people to become sensitive, taking in more and more sensory info, until they are forced to keep creating or overload like a tap stuck open?

I'd really love to hear your reactions, input, and opinions to all that. I apologize if it's not perfectly formed, these thoughts are very much still a work-in-progress, as well as mid-research.

Wilson by Ana Mourino • Bowie by Rebecca Leveille Guay
This might seem like a purely theoretical mind exercise, but I think it has definite real-world implications. Recently I read Brian Wilson's memoir, and I was struck by how profoundly his mental illness crippled his ability to make art. You may or may not be familiar with Wilson's music, or you may suddenly be asking yourself "she doesn't mean the surfing music guy, right?" but in short, this is a musician of such skill (I won't say talent on this blog or Greg Manchess will kill me) that John Lennon called Pet Sounds the best album ever made. He had a nervous breakdown in the mid 60s (from some combination of overwork, a bad acid trip, depression, and maybe schizophrenia), and he wasn't able to tour or create music for decades. He fell into an abusive doctor-patient relationship with a predatory therapist for years. Through work, family, and friends, he was able to pull out and create music again many years later, but as an obviously damaged artist and individual. Reading the memoir, I couldn't help say to myself over and over, what creations of such a genius were lost to us because he didn't find a way to someone who understood the mental health of artists and could support him properly enough?

Wilson by Matt Rota • Bowie by Marc Scheff

Then I read Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll (thanks for the recommendation Mallory O'Meara) and read the chapter on David Bowie. The book is a great look at the origins of rock music and how much religion, ritual, and art have affected it throughout it's evolution. The Bowie chapter is a great description of a man who pushed himself so hard and so far artistically, who absorbed so many influences (and cocaine) and struggled to digest and synthesize them into persona after persona, rebirth and redefinition, that he had a nervous breakdown. But Bowie was able to put himself back together and return to making art from a stronger place that supported him for the rest of a very long and insanely fruitful artistic career. It reminded me a great deal of reading that shamans and medicine men of many tribes around the world were chosen for the job because they had a mental crisis or disintegration (what we would call a breakdown today), and were able to reform their personality, often with the help of the current shaman. This also mirrors the descent into and return from the underworld in Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey. If there is a musician that fits the bill of a shamanic hero artist, it's Bowie. So what was it that made Bowie able to survive his mental demons while Wilson drowned?

I feel like the answer is somewhere in the above questions about why artists make art. I'm not cocky enough to think that's an answer anyone is going to be able to figure out once and for all, but I think it would be critically useful to artists working today if we had a more recent working hypothesis. Could we figure out what the difference was between Wilson and Bowie? If we could distill that down into actionable steps we could save more masterworks from the jaws of mental illness, and more artists from being stuck and frustrated and in despair.

If you have a book recommendation along these lines, I'd love to hear it. If you have thoughts and/or stories about how these questions apply to you and your creative life, then please comment below.