Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Progress on Timberline

Greg Manchess

I thought I'd share some progress shots of my novel, Above the Timberline! It will also get a title change and I'll share that soon, too.

At this stage, I'm about 53 paintings in, 67 to go. I slowed down in April and part of May because of some personal commitments, but I've jumped back in by getting more models shot and planning some of the major scenes. 

Main character, Wesley Singleton, takes aim across the frozen Waste

I recently met with my editor, Joe Monti, at Saga Press/Simon and Schuster and my designer, Michael McCartney. Seeing a board room full of finished paintings laying on the table, chairs, shelves, and ultimately, the floor was pretty exciting for all of us who've been talking about this book for a number of years now.

For now, I'll show a selection of closeup shots of heads that are accented moments in the manuscript, but not enough to give the story away. Each painting is 37" x 15" in a wide, cinematic format. CinemaScope!

Back to the board. End of August deadline.

Wes on the model is Cassius O'Brien, son of illustrator, Tim O'Brien...

...and Tim is modeling for Wes' father in the story!

An emotional moment for Wes....

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

A Plague of Dragons

By Justin Gerard

Previously on Muddycolors I did a few posts sharring some reference boards showcasing the different ways that artists handled painting eyes and hands. I've found that making reference boards on specific subjects is really helpful in examining how other artists tackled and solved visual problems. This can be extremely helpful when you go try to work out how to handle these problems in your own work.

Muddycolors is no stranger to dragons, so this week I thought I would share some of my favorite paintings of these fantastical creatures from a few classical and contemporary artists.

As I went through my folders I couldn't help but be fascinated at just how differently each artist chose to visualize their concept of a dragon. Some artists painted them as magical and benevolent spirits, while others painted them as forces of nature, and still others as manifestations of human vices. The artists seem to pour a little of their own soul into these creatures, and through this we see hopes and fears and something curiously human in them.
I hope you enjoy!

Links to the original posts:

A Show of Hands

The Eyes Have It

Monday, May 23, 2016

Inspiration: Waves

N.C. Wyeth

I've been working on a painting lately that has some water in it, so I've been looking at a lot of ocean themed paintings to get inspired. Here are some favorites I've come across that I thought our readers might enjoy as well.

Dan Adel

Dan Adel

Dan Adel

Dan Adel


Donato Giancola

Winslow Homer

Ivan Aivazovsky

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Fantastic Workshop

-By Vanessa Lemen

I wanted to take a moment to post some info about a workshop coming up this year in November. It's called The Fantastic Workshop, and will be held November 17-20, 2016 at the Scarritt Bennett Center in Nashville, TN

The workshop is hosted and run by Sam Flegal and Peter Mohrbacher who are the creators and hosts of the One Fantastic Week podcast, which I've had the pleasure of joining them for an interview on a few months back. ( my interview was One Fantastic Week #99 ) The podcast is a really wonderful and informative weekly web show where Sam and Pete interview working artists about their business, their life and how the two intersect.

The Fantastic Workshop focuses on that intersection between art and business. It's an in-person environment where you can comfortably talk business and art both with your peers and with expert instructors. It consists of lectures, studio work time time, panel discussions, and one-on-one consultations with industry professionals, where each attendee will get specific advice on building their business. It's an opportunity to learn from a diverse group of independent artists about what actually works for a variety of different art business models in today's marketplace and how to make your own vision come to life.

The instructors at this year's workshop are: Jasmine Becket Griffith, Stephanie Law, Ron Lemen, Vanessa Lemen, Kelly McKernan, Sean Murray, Sam Flegal, Peter Mohrbacher, Kristina Carroll, and L. Rush.

For more info, go to

Saturday, May 21, 2016

There Is No Darkness But Ignorance

-by Vanessa Lemen

"There is no darkness but ignorance." ~William Shakespeare
Philosopher Meditating - Rembrandt

We need to challenge the notion of living an unexamined life, and rise up to our full potential. There are too many of us lately that are feeling so inclined to continue to run on autopilot and in an uncritical way, and this needs to stop. There's no better time than the present to make a change and take charge of the persons we're becoming. We all should be developing and acting upon the skills and insights that we're capable of. We should not be allowing ourselves or those around us to become unreflective and complacent with the ignorance that seems to be making a place for itself in our current surroundings. It's going to do damage to ourselves and others if we continue on that way. We'll miss many opportunities to make our lives, and the lives of others, fuller and more productive.

The Astronomer - Vermeer

And teachers – as teachers, we cannot allow ourselves to be superficial, or give assignments that students can thoughtlessly do. As a consequence, this ends up discouraging their enthusiasm and motivation, and creates missed opportunities to develop their self-discipline and mindfulness. We should encourage questions, conversation, interaction, and debate, and be able to show by example the skills and insights that we've cultivated, and how this has helped us to grow and evolve and make a place for ourselves. Sure, that's not always easy, but as individuals who came to some sort of notion that we wanted to share and help others to improve as human beings, I think it's safe to say that we didn't expect this to be easy in the first place.

Russian Schoolroom - Norman Rockwell

As both educators and students in this role we play in life, we should be aware of what learning truly is, and join forces in helping to achieve the utmost that our learning experiences have to offer. Neither student nor teacher should settle on leading an ignorant or anti-intellectual life. There's no reason for that. Both should know what to expect when they're put together. Students should be ready to be challenged, informed, and inspired, and teachers should be there to give them that experience, with the possibility of receiving some of that themselves. This applies to an educational environment as well as an every day life type of situation, and both should know that life doesn't suddenly shut off when we all enter the classroom, nor does a learning experience end once we exit that classroom.

The Bookworm - Carl Spitz

Learning is understanding, and in order to truly gain an understanding of something, we need to accept that it may be gradual, and it will become embedded through experience and practice. To attempt to learn without being critical and thoughtful, without analyzing, assessing, and reconstructing, we're doing ourselves a disservice. If we attempt to teach or learn by mimicking or memorizing only, we'll never quite gain the understanding. We have to commit to the long term, put ourselves there, and live it. Learning is doing.

Monet's Haystacks

Learning is accepting criticism and committing to overcome ego. We all have the capacity to be self-motivated, and can thrive among a community, and collaborate too. We should be open-minded yet critical. We have the capacity to be accepting of others' points of view as well as checking for accuracy, clarity, logic, and relevance. And while searching for depth and significance, we can be humble, and check our own perception and prejudice. Learning can take place as a part of community with similar interests as well as diverse backgrounds.

In the Studio - Maria Bashkirtseff

Learning is communicating. It's asking questions, getting answers, and finding solutions. As students, it's good to let others know when or if we don't understand in order to gain a better understanding. It's important to be aware of when we don't understand, and that's why mimicking doesn't cut it. To mimic is not to understand. As teachers, we should pose the question “do you understand?” with some leeway allowed for something more than a 'yes' or a 'no' or a silent nod of the head. We all know the saying “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” As educators, we simply cannot fall into the mundane educational routine of what perhaps some of our educating predecessors have taught us. We can break that mold, and by doing so, create an even bigger community that's based on reciprocity and camaraderie rather than mediocrity and anti-intellectualism. As students in life, we should challenge our mediocre educators and acquaintances, and seek out those who strive to challenge us.

The Law Student - Norman Rockwell

Learning is identifying purpose. It's reflecting and examining ourselves, our thinking, and our motivations. Even in times of insecurity, we should not allow ourselves to succumb to self-deception, narrow-mindedness, or fallacies, but have the self-awareness to know when and if we have, and take the steps to make a change. Learning is arriving at well-founded conclusions based on problem solving and being objective. Learning is creatively thinking. It's allowing ourselves to make mistakes in order to learn from them as well. Learning is growing and evolving.


Learning is immersing ourselves, observing everything around us, paying attention, and listening. It's working hard, sticking to it, and never settling, while at the same time being accepting and finding common ground. We should all be able to spend time in the quiet spaces, be alone and contemplative, while also be spontaneous, throw ourselves into the mix, and eventually be able to find the quiet among that chaos. It's in our nature to be curious, intrigued, and fascinated, as well as discerning and skeptical. This should be encouraged, and not stifled. Learning is discovering, adventuring, and a whole lot of uncertainty. It's going outside of our comfort zone, and knowing that when it's tough, that that's good. This is when we need to keep going. And when we arrive at the answer we were looking for, we'll most likely find that we've created several more questions along the way that now need answering too. Learning is a journey.

The Alchemist - Thomas Wyck

Learning is losing. Learning is finding. It's seeking the new and unknown when we do find our comforts, and knowing we can return to them if we need to. Learning is knowing we might not return because our journey may take us elsewhere, but knowing that our mind can take us anywhere as long as we continue to learn. Learning is expanding, not limiting. It's multi-faceted, not just specialized. Learning crosses boundaries, and cross-platforms. It's not just formed on rights and wrongs, or on templates, instruction manuals, and how-to's. Learning is recognizing that our best results have come from the what ifs, hows and whys.

The Apostle Paul - Rembrandt

We should never stop learning, and should encourage cultivation.
We owe it to ourselves and to others.


Friday, May 20, 2016

Style & Vision

-By Greg Ruth

It's a question that often makes me wince when I get asked, and I get asked this question a lot: "How'd you find your style?" It's an entirely fair question I suppose, and the honest answer is... I have no idea. Worse yet I feel the question also implies I should know the answer. (Which explains the wincing). Thought to be honest when I think about it...  I'm not convinced I want to know. I think when you're too conscious of your own style, or seeking to define it specifically, you're ignoring the important work of finding and developing your vision. Your focus is on the outer surface of what you're making rather than the more salient realities underneath. It's mistaking the buttons for the shirt. Obsessing about style is gilding the lily of vision.

Your vision is something you're born with, your style is merely the clothes it chooses to wear. Your style is not the point, and is really more for those who see it outside of yourself to define. A unique style is essential to a long running career, but trying yourself to become overly aware or conscious of it is not. And the real point of a unique style is to distinguish yourself from the others in your peer group, or those that came before you. To set yourself apart from the herd.And don't get me wrong there's an essential value in that. To a point.

How we see and do as artists changes, or should change, over time. One's style is the realm where this is most evident, one's vision is not. When you're coming up through school or in your early days, it is entirely natural, and I would even say beneficial, to mimic your icons and your teachers, copy their styles and approaches, learn their methods. It's part of how we as post-monkey humans learn: we ape. The trick though is to know when to cease the aping and push past it. Because when you don't you get stuck in someone's else's tar pit. To stay there is to cease benefiting from their perspective and instead stand upon the shoulders of someone else's view of art. Again- a place definitionally temporary.

You may find from time to time, especially in comics, (but likely less so these days thank sweet moses), that an editor might want a Frank Miller look without having to pay or hire Frank Miller himself to do it.  You may be tempted to do this because you have been aping Miller a bit and the editor wants to codify this part of your growth in an actual book. Bit of a double edged sword this one, and you're gripping the blade end by doing it. It's a good short term opportunity, but it can exact some real long term harm both to how you see your own work, but also in how others see you. For yourself it unfortunately affirms your previously transient state of aping as a confirmed resting place. And to other editors and art directors, you are no the guy/gal who draws just like Frank Miller... But isn't. It may lead to more Milleresque type work, maybe... But that's it. The cost to yourself and the confusion it brings and making such a public splash in someone else's style  just ain't worth it. As I said these things are really rare these days, and for good reason, but beware of them because they are stinky.

Basically style is not something you should worry about outside of it as an exterior indicator of your personal vision. At least that's my take on it. At a certain level, too much self awareness, self-thought about what you do as an artist spoils the magic of it and can inevitably ruin the work. Similar to that old anthropologist/quantum physicist notion, "Seeing a thing, changes the thing you're seeing", being overly conscious of one's stylistic details can warp your work. Nevertheless, It's important to be aware of what you do, and why and how will be seen in the world... But spend too much time thinking about yourself and your work as a critic or theoretician, And you'll choke it to death with analysis. Nothing kills the art-truths like a naval gazing artist. Artmaking is as much about feeling your way through your process as it is a regular conscious act. This is what differentiates it from craft, or craftsmanship, which is more about technical and manufacturing concerns. Both sides are important of course, but in balance with each other if you're more content driven in your work than just drawing what you are told.

The closer your vision and style align, the truer to yourself you are as an artist will be. Many professional artists find themselves facing one of three predicaments: 1.) Your style is not currently hip and so you find yourself out of step with what editors are hiring for. 2.) Your style is exactly and preternaturally timed to the ethos of the moment and you become part of that trend. 3.) You have crafted such a distinctive style that you yourself set that trend. But chasing current styles means you are relegating yourself to being a slave of trends that come and go. And frankly, if you're getting your bead on current trends from what's being published already, you're late to the game and by the time you adjust your work, those trends will have likely ended or be close to ending for the next thing. Set the course you want, spend the time and energy finding and developing your own voice, and if you're lucky and it's important to be part of a cultural gestalt, you may happen into it. It may happen early or it may happen decades into your career, and it may happen more than once. But trying to grasp hold of the gossamer aspects of being culturally relevant is a losing game.

Look... you're already born a creative with your own style and vision intact. Undeveloped maybe, but intact. It's rooted in how you see the world. How you process it and interpret it.  Clothing yourself in the style of another can be a way to better define and find your own if you maintain that balance and inherent temporariness. Thing is, your best tool towards relevancy are spending your energy recognizing it, honing it and making it sing its best possible song. Don't make work in a style you see as popular, or by an artist that's hot right now if you can avoid it. You are relegating yourself to a follower when as an artist your role is to lead. We're living in a time where the interwebs provide us with a near limitless wellspring of art from all over the world, and the best way to be seen amidst that tumult of imagery is to speak out with your own true voice, and ignore the overwhelming temptation to repeat. Even if at the end of it all, hugging your own vision  it doesn't bring about the global career  success you may have wished it would, you can go to your end proud in having done so singing your own song rather than being a cover-artist for another's music. I have never known an artist at the end of his or her career that didn't have a warm spot in their center that came from this, and I have known far too many that have lost their way or burned out having spent too much of this short and precious time aping others. That way might bring some diminished level of early success, but that's not what a career is built on. The latter will take you places you never dreamed of, the former... to the end of the driveway. Leave the fuss over what your style is to others. Lose the mirror and make your work. Whatever happens as a result you'll be happier for it.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Painting in Progress - Prometheus Bound

Prometheus Bound    Donato Giancola    18" x 24"   Preliminary Drawing
By Donato

Progress shots on a new science fiction painting on the drafting table this week.  Included are a few close ups displaying the open splattering and color experimentation I enjoy in the early phases of image development, typically executed in acrylics.  Following is the development in oils, reining in the color and evolving the value structure of the piece.

Prometheus Bound
32" x 42"
Oil on panel

Prometheus Bound    Donato Giancola    32" x 42"   Preliminary Washes
Prometheus Bound    Donato Giancola    32" x 42"   Preliminary Washes
Prometheus Bound    Donato Giancola    32" x 42"   Preliminary Washes

Prometheus Bound    Donato Giancola    32" x 42"   Final Oil Progress