Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Artist of the Month: Artist as a Brand

-By Wiliam O'Connor

"Working out the vision night and day.
All it takes is time and perseverance,
With a little luck along the way,
Putting in a personal appearance,
Gathering supporters and adherents...
The art of making art, is putting it together."

S. Sondheim. Sunday in the Park With George 1984

Today we hear a lot of discussion of "branding". There are even classes on how to brand yourself and your art. This is nothing new however, the tradition goes back as long as artists have signed paintings. Some artists were better than others and the myth of many artists have grown into legends. Whether by underground, anti-establishment tactics, advertising and marketing campaigns or grass roots social media strategies, the art of selling artists is as old as art itself.

Here are a few of histories most famous artists, famous for being artists.

The Renaissance was the dawn of the artist as brand. Artists began to self promote their work using self portraits and other masterworks. Impressing their clientele as creative geniuses, artists began to become as important as the work they did. Albrecht Durer (1471-1528), was one of the pioneers to use print making to widen his market, boldly signing his works and portraying himself as a Christ-like figure.

In the age of the celebrity artist Benvenuto Cellini (1500-1571) literally wrote the book on self branding. Writing his eponymous autobiography the Italian artist regales his readers with swashbuckling adventures of romance and intrigue that delighted his patrons and helped establish the legacy of the roguish, cosmopolitan artist.

The Romantic Period produced some of the most memorable characters in the history of art. The of the earliest examples of the revolutionary, passionate, self sacrificing political activist artist is Eugene Delacroix (1798-1863). Delacroix embraced the romantic notion of being an artist, producing scandalous paintings throughout his career that would routinely get him banned from the Salon (Death of Sardanapaslus 1837) and making outrageous political paintings (Liberty Leading the People 1830) all with an artistic bravado that made him notorious in the art world. Delacroix knew that the only thing worse than bad reviews was no reviews.

James McNeill Whistler(1834-1903) was one of the first true modern art personalities. Bringing his American Twain-esque flamboyance he entertained the Victorian British art scene with scandalous work and behavior. Always dressing in foppish clothes he presented nearly abstract, tonal paintings that infuriated the public and art critics a like. When the famous art critic John Ruskin repudiated his 1875 painting TheFalling Rocket, he sued the writer for libel. Although Whistler won the suit he was bankrupted by the process, but it made him a household name.

Early 20th century art was about deconstructing the traditions of the past. No artist was more iconoclastic than Duchamp. Flipping every established tradition he could on its head he mocked form, meaning, technique and materials, going as far as placing a urinal on a pedestal and calling it art. He so upset the academic establishment it made him one of the most renowned and infamous artists of the past century.

When you ask someone to name an artist, the most famous and well known is Pablo Picasso(1881-1973). Part of Picasso's fame comes from the caliber of his work, but another aspect is the Picasso brand. Embodying the image of the modern Bohemian, Picasso crafted his image very carefully, balancing between reclusive savant and cosmopolitan socialite. Try picturing the quintessential artist (beret, cigarettes, womanizing, misunderstood genius), that’s Picasso.

The mid-century abstract-expressionist art movement created a pantheon of famous artists, none more so than Jackson Pollock (1912-1956). Unlike many other artists, the reclusive Pollock was not the force behind his own success. Lee Krasner, a successful artist in her own right, promoted Pollock to all the most influential people in NYC. In 1949 Pollock was on the cover of Life Magazine being heralded as "The greatest painter in the United States".

"Everyone has 15 minutes of fame." Art as a branded commercial commodity was the great legacy of Andy Warhol (1928-1987). Intentionally making mass produced art of mass produced products Warhol promoted himself ironically as a mass produced artist, even labeling his studio "The Factory" creating art that blurred the line between "high-art" and "pop culture" inventing PopArt and the concept of the artist as art. Even Don Draper would have been impressed.

In the 1980's art went underground, literally. The power of the galleries and collectors had become so overwhelming that anti-establishment artists had to take to the streets to be seen and began the guerrilla art movement. Stemming out of street art, Punk music and graffiti Keith Haring(1958-1990) started painting murals in NYC subways, eventually building a following that placed his style onto t-shirts, posters, coffee mugs and merchandise in dorm rooms all over the world. (Including yours truly).

Art in the 21st century has gone global. With an international audience on the interwebs anonymous artist Banksy (??-??) is perfectly branded to be viewed, shared and copied garnering millions of likes and views all over the world creating memes as art. Using simple graphics of universally ironic juxtapositions his images work equally well on alley walls, t-shirts, billboards, or an Instagram feed.

So as you build your brand and your portfolio, remember that this process of salesmanship has been going on for hundreds of years, and do your research to see how many more of history's famous artists branded themselves into trending topics during their careers.


Monday, May 2, 2016

Audrey Munson: America's Venus

"What becomes of the artists' models? I am wondering if many of my readers
have not stood before a masterpiece of lovely sculpture or a remarkable painting
of a young girl, her very abandonment of draperies accentuating rather than
diminishing her modesty and purity, and asked themselves the question,
'Where is she now, this model who was so beautiful?'"
—Audrey Munson

by Arnie Fenner

As artists we all tend to reuse our favorite models, someone with the "right look," with the proper emotive skills, who can help us solve problems and provide inspiration. James Bama (and other illustrators of the 1960s and '70s) used Steve Holland extensively, Bettie Page was the Muse for Dave Stevens (though he was never able to draw her from life and used her pin-up photos for his reference), Andrew Wyeth repeatedly painted Helga Testorf, and Frank Frazetta...well, Frank used himself as the model for Conan, Tarzan, and John Carter of Mars. (Don't believe anyone who says he didn't, Frank included, or that Ellie was his Muse: she wasn't.) My wife Cathy posed for a number of book covers I painted in the late 1980s and early 1990s and she was also the model for illustrations by Terry Lee (for Analog and Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine) and Robert A. Haas.

I just finished reading The Curse of Beauty, James Bone's new biography of artist model and (briefly) actress Audrey Munson [1891-1996]. Though she was one of the most famous women of her time and the subject of many famous sculpted and painted works—including 15 iconic statues in New York City—I had never heard of Audrey before buying this book. Despite being routinely characterized by various contemporary writers as "unknown"—which you'd think would justify my ignorance prior to reading her story—there seems to be a plethora or articles, essays, Youtube videos, Wikipedia entries, and even a previous book about her available. Who knew? (Not me, obviously.)  

"I detest false modesty. For my part I see nothing shocking in our unclothed bodies."
—Audrey Munson

Dubbed "America's Venus" and "Queen of the Artists Studios" during the height of her popularity, she's described by pundits today as the "supermodel" of The Gilded Age. Uninhibited and outspoken (and, sadly, her outspokenness included anti-semitic attacks on people in the film business who she felt had cheated her), Audrey dated millionaires (without ever capitalizing financially from the relationships as others did as a matter of course), supported the Women's Suffragette Movement, was a controversial star of the early cinema (flummoxing the censors), became the centerpiece of a notorious murder, attempted suicide, and was ultimately committed by her mother to a mental institution, where she remained until her death at the age of 104. Though her face and figure adorn some of the most famous monuments and memorials throughout the United States—and reportedly even appeared on the Walking Liberty Half Dollar that was in circulation from 1916 to 1947—she was buried in an unmarked grave. As told by Bone, it's a fascinating—if ultimately tragic—story. I recommend The Curse of Beauty highly. 

Above: Audrey was the model for A. Stirling Calder's "Star Maiden"
which was sculpted for the Panama-Pacific Exhibition of 1915 in San Francisco.
The piece currently resides in the Oakland Museum.

Above: As "Beauty" on the exterior of the New York Public Library.

Above left: Audrey as "Descending Night," sculpted by by Adolph Alexander Weinman;
this was also created for the Panama-Pacific Exhibition. It was such a popular work that
he sold reduced versions cast in bronze. Above right: As "Pomona" in front of the
Plaza Hotel at the entrance to Central Park.

Above: Audrey—sculpted by Carl A. Heber—guards the Manhattan Bridge.

Above left: A smaller casting of "Spirit of Life," sculpted by Daniel Chester French.
The original is the centerpiece of Congress Park in Saratoga Springs, NY.
Above right: Audrey also posed for French's "Mourning Victory," a memorial in
Concord, MA to honor the three Melvin brothers who were killed in the Civil War.

Above: Audrey appeared in a silent film very loosely based on her career, Inspiration,
in 1915; she was the first woman to appear nude in an American motion picture.
Audrey is seen in the still above with Thomas A. Curran. She appeared in four
movies before her career collapsed, but only one—Purity [1916]—has survived. 

Above: James Bone, author of The Curse of Beauty, talks about Audrey's legacy.

Above: A quick biographical sketch.

Above: Audrey is even in Kansas City. One of Adolph Weinman's
"Day and Night" statues that were originally flanking the clocks in New York's
now-demolished Penn Station was turned into a memorial fountain honoring
Eagle Scouts [!] at 39th and Gillham Road.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Importance of role models

By Petar Meseldzija

Anima the Dreadful (Conan) - Oil on wooden board, 70X50 cm, 2015. Private commission.

Back in the eighties, when I was studying art at the Novi Sad Art Academy in Serbia, we had a teacher of Art History, an elderly lady who told us that, once in her youth, she had met Picasso, and even had got from him one of his famous painted vases as a present. She mentioned this little anecdote often, and not without a certain amount of pride and self-contentment. This little lady used to say: “No one is born without a mother and a father”. The message of her saying was obvious - every person, creator and artist, has his own roots, his creative parents, his springboard. We all had teachers, mentors and role models at the beginning of our art career who helped us and showed us the way, motivated and inspired us. Nothing comes out of nothing! As human animals, we begin the process of learning by mimicking others from our surroundings.

People often asked me how, or where, did I learn to paint. Well, as mentioned above, I did study painting at the art academy, but although the time I spent there was not wasted – on the contrary, it was extremely important for my artistic development - I can’t say that I have learned how to paint there. The prevailing approach to art and painting at that time was still very much based on and driven by the modernistic dogma that favored free expression above the technical skills. Therefore we were not encouraged to spend time and energy on learning the technical aspect of painting, but rather to open ourselves to free expression. Focusing on learning and developing the technical skills was not exactly prohibited, but many did look upon it with a contemptuous eye.

I learned to paint mostly by studying the works of my favorite artists, my role models, and by trying to learn from what I was able to see and understand. Some of my most important role models included Rembrandt, Johannes Vermeer, Gerard ter Borch, Ilya, Repin, Paja Jovanvic, Uros Predic, John Singer Sargent, Viktor Vasnetsov, Ivan Bilibin, Aksely Gallen-Kallela, Walt Disney, Arthum Rackham, Norman Rockwell, Frank Frazetta, Alan Lee, among many others.

Conan by Boris Vallejo and Frank Frazetta

When I was about 12 years old, I began spending more time on drawing. I copied works of various artists, mainly comic artists ( I was at that time very much into comic art, and wanted to become a comic artist). My mother used to drive me crazy by criticizing my urge to copy other artist’s work. She would say: “You copy too much! Why don’t you try to do something out your own imagination”? Her remarks were disturbing to me and have often hurt my feelings (hence I never forgot about it). It was frustrating. On one hand, I knew she was right. On the other, I felt I had to copy in order to learn. I was so unsatisfied with what I could do from my own imagination. I did not like very much the results - my own drawings seemed to be so imperfect, lacking in all sorts of things and qualities. The copies of other people’s work which I did looked much better, more convincing and mature. Little did my mother knew that I would later become quite myself and unique in my artistic expression. Somehow I managed to escape a dangerous trap of becoming somebody else’s epigone. I don’t know when, or how it happened, but it did happen – gradually I found myself. Moreover, I even became a kind of “preacher” of the importance of going after your own uniqueness, and becoming utterly yourself in your artistic expression.

However, I never forgot my role models. From time to time, I revisit their art in search of inspiration, motivation and consolation. Sometimes, I do cite them in my own work, or, now and then, even paint a homage to some of them. But I never copy their work anymore. I just allow myself to be inspired by their creations, but then let this impulse go through my own artistic inner prism, and try to create something uniquely mine…. as much as I am able to.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Digital Tutorials

For the digital artists, here are some solid video tutorials by—and a Q&A about education & careers with—Stanley Artgerm Lau. Have fun!

Friday, April 29, 2016

A Palette Three Ways

-By Howard Lyon

I have been doing a lot of studies and portraits lately with a palette, for the flesh, limited to Flake or Titanium White, Vermillion, Yellow Ochre and Ivory Black.  I have also been experimenting with converting my photo reference to a black and white image and inventing, or looking at old masters as a guide for skin tones.  I have been doing weekly paintings from life in my studio (3 hour sessions every Wednesday night if you are in town), and learning a lot about painting flesh.  This is of course the best way to learn to paint people, from life, but I also think there is value in having to invent, based on experience.

Here are a few examples along with a couple time-lapses.  That seems to be my thing lately.  I find a learn a bit after the fact by watching the process playback.

All three of these palettes used the palette I mentioned above and Phthalo Blue for the backgrounds and the green of the leaves in the floral crown.

For the painting below, I worked from a black and white image and had paintings by Jean-Baptiste Greuze up to try and learn a little about his approach to skin.

Meghan, 8" x 10" oil on aluminum panel
This next painting was done the same way, from a black and white image, and is of the same model, but this time I referenced several heads by Bouguereau.  I have a long way to go to paint like either Greuze or Bouguereau, but I felt like I learned a lot trying to apply their colors.

Meghan II, 8" x 10" oil on aluminum panel
 This last painting was done using the color that I obtained from the photoshoot, but pushing the temperatures a little more.

Rebecca, 11" x 14" oil on aluminum panel
Here are a couple time-lapses of the paintings above.

Thanks for taking a look.  I regularly post images from my weekly portrait sessions as well as studies like these on my Instagram account if you are interested.



Thursday, April 28, 2016

Kim Kincaid


The amount of people that work in Science Fiction and Fantasy publishing is actually much smaller than many people would think. Everybody knows everybody else one way or another. Either through some convention, or a workshop, or a friend of a friend. It is a surprisingly tight knit community.

As a result, this genre fosters a very deep sense of camaraderie. I know it's cliché to say, but I really do think of my peers as family.

These are the people with whom we share our passions, our trials, our failures, and our hopes. These are the people who are the very first to pat you on the back and congratulate you when you make a piece of art that's the best you've ever made. These are the people who are eager to lend a hand or a critical eye when you're doubting your abilities and need it most. These are the people whose opinions we hold most dear, and without whom this job wouldn't be nearly as rewarding.

I am so sorry to say, that we lost a member of that family yesterday. Kimberly Kincaid passed away suddenly due to unexpected kidney complications.

Anyone who has met Kim knows I'm not exaggerating in the least when I say that she was truly one of the most loving people I've ever met. Every word from her mouth, and every smile she gave you, exuded kindness and sincerity. There was a spark in Kim. Something intangible that I can't quite put into words. But it shone so brightly, and so warmly, that you couldn't help but to want to be close to it. I can't help but feel that this world is going to be a little bit dimmer without Kim in it.

Kim was a talented artist, and a life-long student. She began pursuing art quite late in life, and did so with a fervor and determination that all of her peers admired. She was proof that it's never too late to pursue your dreams. A few years ago, Kim won the 'Rising Stars' award here on Muddy Colors. She received free exhibition space at Spectrum Fantastic Art Live, where, at the age of 60, she sold her very first piece of original art.

In just the few short years since then, Kim went on to make a name for herself as one of the most promising illustrators in the field. She has been included in Spectrum, Imagine FX Magazine, and has been accepted into the Society of Illustrators West Annual Exhibition. She was included in the Women of Wonder art book, contributed monthly to Every Day Original, and most recently was selected to be part of the 'Dream Covers' exhibition at Krab Jab Gallery.

I can't say enough good things about Kim. And even if I did, they wouldn't come close to capturing what a beautiful person she really was. So instead, I will say this... Kim is genuinely one of the most lovely people I've ever had the pleasure of getting to know. She is leaving a hole in the hearts of so many people that simply can not be filled by anyone else. She will be dearly, dearly missed.

If you're lucky enough to have met Kim, I encourage you to share your memories of her in our comments section.

You can see more of Kim's work at: www.artbykimkincaid.com

Or, if you'd like to learn more about Kim in her own words, you can read her blog here: www.thetwirlingdragon.blogspot.com

An interview here: www.thatthornguy.com/2016/03/21/an-interview-with-kimberly-kincaid/

And here: www.kirileonard.com/women-fantasy-illustration-kimberly-kincaid/


There will be a graveside service for Kim next Tuesday, May 3rd at 11am. All friends are welcome to attend. The service is to be held at the Kaysville Cemetery, 500 Crestwood Rd., Kaysville, Utah.

And for those looking for ways to honor her memory...

Kim had an immense love of animals. If you are looking for a way to help, and are so inclined, her family asks that you donate to your local Humane Society in lieu of sending flowers. You can donate HERE.

Or, consider donating to the Missionary Fund for Kim's church HERE. Kim was a very devout individual, and credited two missionaries for helping her find her faith.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016


Greg Manchess

I’ve loved the feeling of unfinished works of art since I was quite young. For a budding painter, it was a secret opportunity, an inside glimpse at the structure of a painting, frozen at the time of abandonment. They were private lessons if I could only piece together the steps, the thoughts, the gestures. The masters had left their magic exposed and I was going to quietly steal their methods without so much as a thank you.

Recently the Metropolitan Museum of Art has opened a show of unfinished paintings from various artists throughout the history of painting. It is a remarkably beautiful exhibition, and one which has left me inspired yet again. I like the idea of a painting being left early. Abandoned-on-purpose, if you will. I love that unfinished look so much that for many years of my career I attempted to create work with that same feeling for clients, but was usually met with the request to “fill it all in.”

Undaunted as the years went by, I eventually gained a painterly reputation. With that renewed confidence I reintroduced that unfinished-ness back into my work, and I’m still enjoying it. 

Along the way I’ve also discovered why. The brain enjoys being involved in a visual piece. It likes to complete the parts, to connect the missing spaces. With just enough information, the brain wants to fill in what it either knows or wants to know. For many of us, that experience is rewarding, and left at that point, the painting continues to intrigue.

In the paintings below, pay attention to how your mind wanders over them. Is it always necessary to tell the whole story, or just enough to engage the viewer? 

If you’re like me, you may find yourself with the itch to paint.

This Reubens is fascinating for the beautiful draw-overs used to reshape and define the forms.

It’s not overworked, and maintains a nice, steady definition of bold forms. It’s more about shape than detail.

A portrait of Michelangelo, recently attributed to Daniele da Volterra, a close follower. Not exactly the way I’d recommend working on a painting, but it does reveal that perhaps at times he worked an area to complete definition before moving on. Unless he wiped out the areas he didn’t like…? This one is painted over a different composition.

An unfinished Velasquez. Great color. And just look at that face. Carries the rest of the piece.

Another beautiful face, this time by Joshua Reynolds, of Francis Barber. This has plenty of finish to it.

I love the flesh tones against the warm grey in this George Romney. The brush lines feel like the kind of structure any of us might attempt, crude and bold, leading to refinement.

An unfinished Picasso, and he posed for it in powdered wig. Good likeness. It looks dashed off, but I wonder why he stopped.

I guess Lucian Freud worked from the middle outward. Love the undone drawing.

This Freud is so unfinished it feels purposeful.

Benjamin West's, American Commissioners of the Preliminary Peace, reveals the kind of simple drawing that we all use.

Degas’ drawing, though simple, seems much more accurate. It also feels quite contemporary for being over a century old.

A portrait by Edouard Manet looks quite effortless, and balanced. He attempted the portrait several times on another canvas before this version, which was also abandoned. Sometimes we can be just too familiar with a subject. Or perhaps we see things we feel we can’t capture with a brush.

Even though we may feel that looking at a finished Van Gogh obviously reveals how he painted, this one shows me the fat, squared strokes to full effect. It exposes more of the artist’s thinking for structure.

Many times I work like Winslow Homer. Get the big, important stuff in there first. Then do the paddle.

And finally this beauty by James Drummond. The warm grey is spectacular. The left-out sections are like sensory holes begging to be completed in the observer. This is bold evidence that maintaining a clear image in your mind of the light in a painting is necessary all the way through. Once finished, the artist can make adjustments to pull the entire piece together.