Wednesday, April 26, 2017


--Greg Manchess

This is a quick portrait study of one of the characters from my novel, Above The Timberline.

I suppose this old bear, Grim, has been with me for most of my painting life. It showed up in art school when I found that painting the yellow-white fur of polar bears offered me great insight into painting with white pigment. In different types of light and in different temperatures, white can become the most fascinating of colors.

So perhaps the discovery of the subtle use of white became characterized in something animated that lived in all forms of light. An anthropomorphized color. This time, in a polar bear.

The bears of my story, though, do not talk and certainly do not wear armor. They are dangerous and wild, and yet, a little more than one would expect.

Painting this little portrait was an exercise in capturing character with quick pigment.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Spectrum 24 Award Winners

Photo © JJ Torres

This past weekend was Spectrum Fantastic Art Live. Aside from being an amazing convention full of demos, panels, artists and friends, the real highlight of the weekend was the Spectrum 24 Awards Ceremony. Held at the beautiful Folly theatre, we were treated to an evening of stand-up comedy, live dancing, and some amazingly heartfelt speeches.

In addition to the book awards, Kristine and Colin Poole awarded their Spectrum Rising Star Award, and we got a sneak peak into J. Anthony Kosar's process of creating this year's Spectrum Award, which is a jaw dropping work of art.


Alessandra Pisano


Silver Award: Greg Ruth, "Daredevil"

Gold Award: Bayard Wu, "Hunting"


Silver Award: Edward Kinsella III, "Danneee"

Gold Award: Brom, "Lamia"


Silver Award: Dave McKean, "Black Dog: The Dreams of Paul Nash"

Gold Award: Jeremy Wilson, "Chimera Brigade #5"


Silver Award: Iain McCaig, "Minion 5"

Gold Award: Sean Murray, "Court of the Dead: Voxxingard"


Silver Award: Akihito, "Nephila"

Gold Award: Jesse Thompson, "Dress-Up Frog Legs"


Silver Award: Galen Dara, "Seven Salt Tears"

Gold Award: Tim O'Brien, "Beyonce 'Lemonade'"


Silver Award: Ed Binkley, "William Finds Some Flowers and a Giant"

Gold Award: Bill Carman, "Ms. Hatter and a Smile"


Silver Award: Jeffrey Alan Love, "Orange Skies"

Gold Award: Karla "Oritz" Ortiz, "The Death I Bring"


Bill Sienkiewicz

Monday, April 24, 2017

Guest Blogger: Victor Adame Mínguez

-By Jesper Ejsing

I met Victor Adame Minguez half a year ago at a GP in Rotterdam. I had admired his work for awhile but seeing it all spread out on the table in form of huge posters and playmats I really fell in love with his style. I love his sense of colors and vibrancy to light and atmosphere. His shadows are always filled with colors and the light he paints seems to bounch all over the place. But it wasn´t until this last set of Magic the Gathering: Amonketh that I had my jaw drop. When the mummy procession painting was revealed, I said to myslef; "How the hell did he get the light so believable and cool? I gotta know! but I cannot just ask him. I will sound like a stalker or a fanboy or a fellow artist trying to rip his style and Technic..." Then it dawned on me. I would ask him to write an article for muddycolors about that specific painting and it will not sound weird. Well here it is. in his own words...


Hello everyone! My name is Victor Adame Mínguez and I work as a freelance artist for Magic, the Gathering. Today we’re going over the process of creating one of my favourite pieces of magic art I’ve done; Anointed Procession, for the egiptian-inspired mtg set Amonkhet. Before we dive in I would like to thank Jesper Ejsing and our host Muddy Colors for the opportunity.

A little disclaimer, this was a “simple” piece for me to make, all the elements fell into place smoothly during the initial stages, I was confident with the direction I was going to take and the art description was quite fitting for my style, and goes a little like this:

A procession of servant-mummies are carrying corpses of defeated warriors from inside the monument. The bodies hang limp -- they are clearly dead. It looks almost like a funeral procession, except that the dead are being carried so callously, like taking out the trash (not to mention the fact that they're being carried by undead mummies!). Somewhere in the frame, the Planeswalker GIDEON witnesses this procession of the dead. He is just now learning about this world's callous treatment of its dead, so maybe he looks deeply concerned, brow furrowed in dismay.

Focus: The procession of dead bodies
Mood: Living warriors went into the monument... dead warriors come out.

Pretty cool right? So one thing I was practicing the most during that time was the making of both thumbnails and maquettes, thumbnails are essential to figure out the composition on a piece and work especially well here since the final outcome is a 4 x 5 cm image. Unfortunately I did not keep an image of the thumbnail but it’s pretty close to what the underpainting looks like:


For this one I knew I wanted to use a muted palette and limit it as much as I could, for those who follow my work know I like to go all out on color so this was a welcome change of pace, it would also contrast well with the previous world of Kaladesh. The bright but scattered light, fog, and neutral tones are very reminiscent of the early morning, which was the feel I wanted to convey here, to make a funeral procession an everyday thing, something calm and quiet, mundane for the people in his plane but alien to the eyes of the spectator, and speaking of which, the figure that stands out is that of Gideon, we did not only want to place the planeswalker in this foreign, uncomfortable environment, but rather place us the viewer there, in the place of Gideon watching the scene in awe and horror. After throwing in some lines this is the sketch I sent:

Line art

It was approved only with one change in Gideon’s armor. I like sketching this way because it gives me a better understanding of limits and shapes, the lines also help me out posing objects while I shoot reference, which brings me to reference; what I use for the most part are maquettes and models, I often pose myself or have friends pose, this one I had a friend serve as Gideon and the mummies were those 5 dollar anatomic dummies you get in art supplies stores, except painted white and dressed with some toilet paper drapery and cloned times 20 with the magic of photography. How well you use reference will dictate the outcome of the piece, it will provide the light, shapes and even proportions to turn the final image into something believable.

I favor real life reference over 3D, first because I don’t know how to do 3D, second, it allows me to take time away from the screen for which my eyes are thankful, and third, it gives me a better understanding of three-dimensional objects, to go around them, hold in your hand and see how they react to different sources of light will help you have a better feel for those things.
Lastly the final image, this was done digitally like most of my work.

“Anointed Procession” for Magic: The Gathering, ©Wizards of the Coast 2017, Art Director: Cynthia Sheppard.

And the card itself. I’m quite happy with the outcome and response from the player base, the colors play well with the white borders of the card, it is readable at that size which is imperative to the success of any MtG painting and to the card itself, the player is able to recognize the card and what it does with just a simple glimpse of the art which speeds up the game. (note that I also play mtg and I shamessly admit that this card being so, so good makes me quite happy as well).

- Víctor

You can see more of Victor's work at:

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Entry No. 1 - Are White and Black Colors?

-By Ron Lemen

Norman Rockwell

Hello again, it is Spectrum time.  Most of you readers will likely be attending so the reading will be light.  When my day to post falls upon an event as such, I will leave you with a definition or description of some interesting and often times neglected art concepts that either have little explanation to help define them, or that the meaning is often times confused by the “ill-informed” books, magazine articles and instructors.

Today’s topic involves paints that are used towards opaque representational art.

White and black are “color adjusters” and not colors.  THIS RULE COMES FROM THE REPRESENTATIONAL ART WORLD. 
*If you are a designer, you might consider white and black to be a part of a color family, simple and graphic.  

When getting down to basics as a painter, white, gray (white and black mixed), and black are tint, tone, and shade agents respectively for the colors on your palette.

The HSB color-sliders in Photoshop are a great technical example to show how white and black affect the colors we mix them with.

There are specialty colors or novelty colors made by all companies like Black Olive, or Buff White but should be avoided when learning how to paint with pigments that have a proven history of success.

A few common mistakes with White and Black:

-Thinking you shouldn’t use black as a hue on your palette as is often prescribed for some strange reason by many art instructors.

-Attempting to paint a full value picture without using white or black to paint it.  While it is true that you can use any paints that are light as a tinting pigment, if they are of a specific hue, the new mixture will be a combination of these two hues and not just a lighter version of what you may need.

-Mixing in too much white thinking that it will help lighten the color.

-Mixing too much black into a mixture thinking that it will just become a blacker version of the color you are using at the time.  

-Using black as a color and painting without mixing anything with it will cause the black areas to feel disconnected with the rest of the painting.

-Painting with White to lighten a color to show that it is lit.  Yes, this can be incorrect.  Light is associated with temperature, temperature is associated with color.   All light has a coloration to it, never purely white, therefore when altering a hue to give it the feeling of being lit by said light source the white alone cannot be used, and should rarely be used on its own.  Mix a hue into it that resembles the temperature of the light source and the color will feel more correct to the influence of the light source.

-Starting a canvas with light value colors or whites on a light to white surface.  Because the white matches the surface it might be forgotten that it was painted down, and the next layer of hue added with be drastically altered by the hidden white painted on the surface.

-Using any ole white or black to work with without the understanding that there are specialty whites and blacks and there are novelty whites and blacks, and then there are useful tried and true white and blacks that are considered benchmark standards in our painting industry.  Here are a few pigments worth investing in:

White Pigments

Titanium White – The most opaque pigment on the market is the ubiquitous mixing white across the pigment boards.  Very Powerful and you do not need very much to tint a hue.

Zinc White –  semi to very transparent, useful for mixing subtle colors and for glazing

Cremintz White – slightly transparent, less than Titanium and More than zinc

Lead White – One of the first good white paints that builds up very opaquely but when thinned is a very good turbid pigment usually favoring the cool temperatures/hues

Flake White – Semi Transparent, usually not made with real lead these days but has similar characteristics including its temperature and stiffness 

pulled from a white pigment test found
on a blog by Jonathan Linton

Black Pigments

Ivory Black – semi-transparent to transparent depending upon the brand.  Unmixed it is warm, add white to it and it cools off to a very chromatic blue direction

Lamp Black – Very transparent and the bluest of the black pigment family, very slow drying

Vine Black – or drop black is inferior by design, very blue in its body hue, and fugitive, semi to very transparent- not worth using most of the time but worth listing since most brands still sell it

Bone Black – just another name for Ivory Black but used by several companies

Mars Black – dense and opaque, the warmest of the black pigments, dries very fast

Blue Black – typically mixed using Ivory Black and Ultramarine Blue and is semi-transparent, good blue blacks are made with Cobalt blue, more neutral in the hue, and are very transparent

 Enjoy the weekend,
And now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Friday, April 21, 2017


Greg Ruth

One of the top three questions I get asked privately and when teaching or even at a book signing, is whether or not one should attend school and the financial debt associated with it, or jump into the workplace. I've been working professionally for a while now and began doing so where I could, after graduating from Pratt with a painting degree, and highschool before that. Pretty basic assumed way of doing things especially in my time before anyone uttered the phrase "gap year". Even so, back then Grad School was a thing, and a thing a lot of people did and do. Nowadays there's a wide variety of "schools"  like IMC, or SmArt School that off er alternatives to someone seeking an attending school experience or boost while being in the world working, proper grad programs and just about any kind of way in between. Should you go to a set program like Yale grad School, or one of these short term programs, get a tutor, get a job? And the answer is like many if these I am sorry to report is muddled and never the same for any of us. The key to finding the answer that fits your need the best means getting to know what any of it means for you with regards to who you are as a person, an artist and what is worth spending on for what's next. Because school is honestly, at the end of the day, all about preparing you for whatever's next. And because of this I recomend starting there and working backwards towards a decision. Here's a simple guide with some direct experience that may help. Your whole life as a human person should be a life of a student, and if you live right always is. For artists this is especially important as the very thing you do requires surfing change and growth and those two only work with increased knowledge and education. Whether that takes the form of school or life experience is the question here.


This is the old way of things, or at least old within the relative confines of the last century or so. But the need ratio of what Grad School can bring to you as an artist, or seeking to be a working artist vary wildly as a basic principle and even moreso depending on the program you choose. The big justifier usually for Grad School is thew money thing- it's also it's biggest cost. Let's face it- Grad School is expensive. Undergrad is too, so let's put that forward as well. 

unpublished scene from Sudden Gravity
Now I say this as a person who went to art school, both in highschool and college at Pratt. I was on scholarship at Pratt so the expense, which was a lot but a fraction of what it costs now, was far less a concern. And to really bore down deep I went on an architecture scholarship, which turned out to be very much the wrong path, and switch to painting and fine art which again... I did not pursue as a career. Sounds like a waste of time right? It really wasn't for a number of reasons. The biggest one might well be the incubator effect of being in school. Of being allowed to gestate, to grow and find myself to some degree before being out int he cold cruel world. School is often referred to as a bubble, and it is, and that can be a good thing if you need it. While I was certainly on the path to be a gallery artist in NYC, working at Artists Space my senior year, and as an art-assistant to Mary Frank, Joan Snyder and others I also walked away from school having more or less completed my first short graphic novel story- just about a dozen or so pages, and with an idea and desire to go bigger with the rough outline for SUDDEN GRAVITY, my first published comic anywhere. I even within a few months of graduating had meetings with Lou Stathis at Vertigo and was beginning doing some of those insane factoid books for Paradox/Pirhana Press. So clearly despite my asserted path, I knew to pursue another. Eventually and quite soon it became clear I didn't want to have much of anything to do with the gallery scene, (and as a special side bar, I ended up moving in with and marrying one of my best friends from Pratt, the artist Jen Smith- and now almost twenty years and two kids later we are still trucking up here in the country woods of western mass- so that went well). All of this is to say while one could argue I may have been fine to have skipped school, except for the Jen part, and found my own self directed path into comics and children's books etc... I would argue that the certainty of that path came from having the safe place sandbox that was school for me to find it. It was a place to test the wrong paths and find the right one, blind as I was at it, and with far less consequences and much greater speed than if I had to process through this passion play while having to hold down a job and pay rent. School bought me time to find myself, to grow and gather a community of artists and creative people together that I still see and share my life with even to this day. Pratt taught me the non conventional skills I was able to bring into the illustration work that i think even today puts me off the usual mark that helps my ability to get more or work and support myself. It provided me a familiararity with NYC that has been incredibly essential to my work and life that an otherwise shy boy from the Texas suburbs might not otherwise possess. School is stitched into the very fabric of my life in such a way I can barely find a strand that does not tie back to it in some form. It's expensive and it's at least four years and can feel like your sitting on the sidelines and in many ways that's true- but it can be a crucible from which you can truly emerge mightier than you might otherwise be without it. And the hard thing is you may not appreciate it until long after. I was just doing what i was supposed to do by attending college- it never occurred to me there was another option. If I had known then what I know now, I would have still done it... though honestly i would have taken more advantage of that time I wasted there as a young idiot. 

Graduate school is another matter. I know some who swear by it but I am not honestly a fan of it. You, in attending a grad program, have already gone through undergrad, so largely such an exercise is about two things: connections and the rolodex and honing a skill specifically. In my day if you were serious about getting into the fine art world attending Yale for grad school was the ideal club to be in- and all for the club reasons. It is where you could network and hobnob with the eventual art elite (and spend the rest of your life paying off its debt). Others it's about a program that brings you a specific skill. But I would venture in seeking to become a professional person in the field I'm in: illustrations, books and film, it's better to get out in the world and get working. Grad school can be too much bubble, too long a delay and yield benefits that make its expense too hard to justify. Again this is a personal thing. You may need and want that extra time, you may desire the skill set and the network it might bring to you. But at20 or so, it's a good time to be out in the world and running amok in life overall. 


IMC class photo by Dave Palumbo
This is online classes, short residencies and apprenticeships. This is a fairly new thing that's come about in the last ten or so years, so I witness them as an older curmudgeon and not a total participant- fair warning. I have taught at times online and served some time teaching at the IMC and what I have seen however, has rerouted my thinking entirely. The level of intense focus and high level of teaching is unparalleled. It's like art college espresso. IMC is only a week but arguable there's as much material and experience to get there as a semester of the best art school. It and others like it, like Illustration Academy, lack by the nature of physics the slower roll of time and incubator, and as such the close knit community of shared week to week living, and all that passage of time it brings is not there. It's a more focused determined approach mirroring more Graduate School than undergrad. It's for the determined who largely aren't lost and needing to find themselves and more for the focused. A week at IMC might get a piece or two finished if you really bang hard at it- so you won't get the full vision scale and solidification, but attend it yearly... and keep working outside of it, and it can still deliver in big ways. Even if you booked IMC and SMART SCHOOL and other online private courses you'd still barely meet half the cost of a full undergrad program elsewhere and likely get almost the same level of technical development and learning. That's it's true value. it can help hone up and coming artists or provide the grad school substitute a recently freed undergrad can really get a lot from. and the teaching staff is in just about every one of these, of a caliber unmatched in an undergrad's wettest of dreams. Again, it's espresso style intensity, compacted and delivered. A day at IMC, 12-17 hours long, one on one, lectures and personal help an critiques is like a month anywhere else. But you need to be ready to receive that compressed data in a way and make the best of it because that week flies by in a heartbeat. You can waste it just like sitting on campus getting stoned all day does, or going to parties instead of working, just in a more compressed form. But you can use this to substitute for actual undergrad school, for the right kind of creative. It's a bit of a hybrid of working in a job and spending time in school overlapping each other, and the connections are there... art directors career giants, and experienced grand masters teach at these programs and it might be worth the price of admission just to spend a week getting to know them and making those connections regardless of the learning- but I encourage you to come ready to learn and work and take full measure and advantage of the program. They are cheaper than full on art school but they aren't cheap and you deserve to get your money's worth. 


A lot of folks say screw it, learn while working. on the job training is the best training there is. And that's true by and large. It's a bit like learning a second language: Learning to speak Spanish in school is a fine and steadfast way of going about it, but being in Mexico, immersed in the culture and having to learn that language on the go, well that is something else. You tend to be much more fluent and conversant faster this way than pursuing an academic training, but again it's not for everyone. For example, immersive on the job training may teach you tools but it won't necessarily teach you principles. Theory and understanding of a method or approach can be essential to mastering it- i know in many ways that is true for me personally. I am better at attending to a machine if I understand how it's put together and why it works. It helps me troubleshoot when things get screwy and it helps me exploit the talents of whatever thing I am engaging in when I have a proper grokking of it as a thing unto itself. For me theory works, for others... maybe not so much.

Romulus and Raymond drawn on the back of sheetrock
paper during lunch at a construction job. 
But the outside pressure of having to make a living and pay the bills can add a commercial aspect to your self art seeking that can warp and change it in unexpected ways. Life is big and busy and getting into it early can leave you overtaken by it in certain ways. Choices made in an act of survival are different from those made in a nest. You'll have less time to go to gallery shows, read books and attend social gatherings with peers. Instead of spending eight hours a day in your studio, that time might be waiting tables, working in an office of sheet rocking apartment ceilings. Your art might have to come after that as mine did for many years after Pratt where I worked as a handyman type all day long, came home and went into the studio until 2-3 am to wake up the next day to repeat the cycle. The causal factors for getting lost in life and slowing and choking down the ability to find your best artistic self could diminish a lot over time- especially ads you get older, get married raise a family and start to take on outside obligations that further make seeking an art life more difficult and selfishly fanciful against your life obligations. I could have never started out, developed my own ability to make comics and hone my skills if much of that time wasn't initially done while young free and willing to live off beans and beer and work twenty hours a day the only way a maniac in their twenties can who doesn't have otherwise familial obligations to worry about. I have a lot of friends who are climbing that same ladder but with full on families in tow and day jobs that have become careers, and man it is HARD. But some folk aren't built for school, and those folk should not think they need or have to have school in order to be a success. Some artists need to get out there and live in tiny cramped studio apartments and work long hours for short pay and struggle and find themselves through the fires of adult life and I entirely cheer that. I know a lot of successful artists who do and did and it was the best thing for them. It's all about taking advantage of the poison you pick. 

The Calendar Priest
SO... the key here really, is know thyself. it's trite but true. Just because your pal Bob skipped school and went in hot and hard pursuing a career, doesn't mean you should. just because your other pal, Susan blossomed in Grad School doesn't mean you will or it's price will be worthwhile. Essentially knowing what you need will help you avoid buying into something that doesn't meet that need. And also know at least, and take comfort from the fact that no matter what you do, it will change and shape you asd an artist and whatever path you choose know that all of them are well travelled and there's successes to be found in any of them. And it is possible to make the wrong choice and course correct. None of these options doom or guarantee success if you take full advantage of any of them. They will shape and change your life and career in ways you may not full see until decades later, but don't let that inhibit canyon leaping or measured decisions going forward. Making life in art is never easy and is rarely rewarded. its a priesthood that never really gets to hear the whisper of the divine except in rare and unique occasions and all of it requires a lot of work and steadfastness that requires years of effort to pull successes from. but damn if it sin't a lifes-blood that will make your life richer and more life in the end. Art life is about being and learning to be sensitive, to see and grow and challenge and fight and struggle and lose and win and fall and rise again. How you get into that passion play is up to you, and all paths can lead to it, so make it about what sized shoe fits your foot rather than the life and death choice some make it to be. All paths if pursued vigorously can lead to the same mountaintop- just be sure to know the character of each and take the fullest advantage of the one you choose and you'll be fine. 

Thursday, April 20, 2017


AutoDraw is a new program created by Google that can detect what a person is drawing, even if it's a bad drawing, and then provide them with a better, more completed drawing automatically.

As you draw, the program makes suggestions as to what the drawing may be. When you see a suggestion that is correct, you simply click on it, and the program provides you with free art.

The program works thanks to Google's AI program called 'Quick Draw'. QuickDraw asks users to draw a specific item as fast as they can. It then uses the drawings it's gathered to better learn how people tend to draw those objects based on previous users depictions of that object. That information is then compiled and used as the basis for the drawing detection algorithm in AutoDraw.

Both programs are still very rudimentary and have limited application, but the implications of them are really intriguing. It is incredible that we can begin to teach computers to understand what we mean, even if our descriptions are imperfect, by teaching them to take context and iconography into account. How long will it be before computers can create legitimate works of art, or immersive 3D environments just by us describing them?

You can try 'AutoDraw' right here:
Or try 'Quick Draw', and help expand the AI's knowledge base:

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Red Haired Warriors

 by Donato

Over a decade ago, on a flight to the San Diego Comic-Con, I created a drawing to pass away the hours of the cross country trip.  Little did I realize then that this off-handed sketch would open up a path to a series of imagery which I continue to explore and expand upon today.

I think what I like most about this series is that lack of strict continuity needed between each of the paintings.  Each figure is obviously heavily inspired by a prototype, but a prototype that is open to modifications and rebuilding as each painting dictates its own needs.

As I pack for another convention coming up this weekend in Kansas City - Spectrum Live - I wonder what new roads will await me on this adventurous career in art.  I am grateful for the chances to explore and to have the freedom to pursue these tangents as they come my way.