Thorsten Hasenkamm

My first though on Thorsten’s work was: “What nice character designs.” But, as I got further and further down his tumblr , I began seeing more and more work that made this artist really stand out from the plethora of other great illustrators.

Can you find just one influence in the work below? The seamless merging of old masters Paul Cezanne, Henri Matisse, and Wassily Kandinsky with ‘contemporary’ masters such as Mary Blaire and Lou Romano. This isn’t someone who just wanted to work at Pixar and started tracing animation stills from The Incredibles, but instead someone who wanted to be a great artist. His sense of design is of course in top shape, but its not just a style: he pushes the way he sees a shape, the form and function of it, and pushes that idea to become something greater than the subject he originally intended to represent.

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http://thorstenhasenkamm.tumblr.com/

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Before They Pass Away – Jimmy Nelson

Before reading any of my thoughts, my opinions or seeing any of these images, go on this journey for yourself. Look through the website, get lost in it and develop your own relationship to these works. http://www.beforethey.com/ This is an … Continue reading

Valerio Fabbretti

Story time, children.

I met Valerio for the first time years ago when I was still modeling for the AAU. It was always a bit embarrassing to see students in the halls afterwards, as for many it may have been their first nude female experience, and there was always a certain look in a (most often male) student’s eyes when they were thinking of you, now fully clothed and off the clock, naked. Anyways, Valerio was in his first year and in a beginner’s foundation course for figure drawing and it was the first day of class. I remember him being very hungry for learning and a general wide-eyed approach to the whole experience, and the way he handled himself was so passionate that I knew he’d do something great. You can kind of tell, sometimes, when someone has what it takes, especially when you see thousands of students a week while modeling. You can see who listens, who challenges, and who keeps the spark in their eye going. Valerio was right at home at the AAU, and though I never really talked to him again (we spoke briefly that first day, when he complimented my modeling), I always saw him around and noticed how he was still excited to be there, years later.

Now I think he has graduated and has some very interesting projects underway. I noticed his name pop up on a “Must see illustrators from CTN” and I had a tiny ping of pride at seeing this student come all that way from his first day at AAU to being a full, accomplished artist. And, a really, really spectacular one at that.

I won’t go so into the why of how these drawings are so amazing. I think its because I can’t really put my finger on it .- I mean, he isn’t reinventing the wheel with these works, necessarily. Some artists we feature are so unique and special and that is why they are special. Of course these are incredibly strong drawings, with solid weight and character to both the pose and layout. They are definitely superb in their execution, and they are a great blend of traditional and digital tools. But I think for me what is the most captivating is how much he likes drawing these. That same passion I saw in him that first day in school is still felt in these drawings and it brings a very special relationship to the work. No one wants to see a piece of work that someone hated making – especially a children’s book drawing. It was Mr. Rogers who said “Kids can spot a phony a mile away”, so I think it is especially important to have a love of the craft in that field of illustration.

Cheers Valerio, I hope to see that passion last for years to come.

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http://www.valeriofabbretti.com/moby.html

Neil Ross – Interview

In special one-two-punch, (and as an appeal for clemency for not having posted since August!), we bring you Neil Ross, both in splendid visual format as well as an exclusive interview for your perusal.
(I thought we posted his work previously, seeing as how long I have been using his work as my desktop background I assumed I had talked about him by now, but apparently not!)

I found him through his personal work, but most people may recognize his work from the new Tron: Uprising series, as well as such hits as Hotel Transyvlania, Prince of Persia, Corpse Bride, and more. His work combines hyper abstract shapes with representationalism that I haven’t seen anywhere else – where your mind is given just enough information to imagine what it is meant to see, but when under closer observation there are simply thousands of linear designs that move your eye in an overwhelming pattern. It is beautiful, and I am happy to be able to talk more with him about his process and past.

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1) Would you mind explaining your history, both any possible education and inspiration? Your work is wonderfully unique and it’d be great to learn how you came upon such a cool style.

I grew up on the Northumberland coast. It was a landscape of chimney stacks, ruined castles, pit heads, islands with abandoned hermitages, mudflats with derelict ironworks. The first art I liked were illustrations of birds, beasts, prehistoric reptiles and a comic called Creepy Magazine.

At the age of about ten I found a pocket-sized book on the Surrealists that cast a spell on me. Here were the things seen with the inner eye. I did not know you were allowed to do this. This was my introduction, although unaware of it at the time, to Dali’s ‘paranoid-critical’ position. In fact, I can see now that I have a persistent fascination with grand paranoiac theories, narratives and people.

I did Graphic Design at art school and then spent a year or three doing badly paid illustrations for advertising agencies in Manchester. After a spell at Cosgrove Hall Films I moved to London and got a job at Richard Williams Animation on Soho Square. This was where drawing, painting and film-making came together for me.

Dick Williams was brilliant, eccentric and ran things like an artist’s studio – not like a business whose economic base was making TV commercials. This waywardness was part of Dick’s appeal and I found him to be a very stimulating and charismatic figure although my admiration may not have been apparent to him at the time.

To begin with I was an odd-job man assisting animators and doing background artwork in different styles and different media. It would depend on what the advertising agencies were asking for. I had no ‘style’ of my own. After a while Dick began to give me whole commercials to design. I would work out how things were to look and what media we’d use, then I would team up with an animator and we’d wade through the thing together until it was done. In those days Soho ran on beer, tobacco and hash. We sucked these tarry fuels into ourselves and stayed up all hours drawing and squinting through the gas. It was a good time.

Dick had unusual reasons for firing people. You could be ousted for “… only coming in to use the toilet.” I was booted out for “… bringing my illegitimate children into the studio.” (Actually, I have one child and she isn’t illegitimate, although I did bring her in a couple of times.) I don’t hold it against him. He was a demanding boss, I respect his paranoia and, anyway, I was re-hired when things cooled down and he saw that I was not the cause of whatever had got the shit to hit the fan.

Eventually I did leave of my own accord. It was unwise move. I entered into a dark period. I made background paintings for animated commercials from pastels and hairspray. There was a demand for such things. But it was a demand that I was increasingly unwilling to fulfil so I enrolled at the University of London and studied History with the hope of finding some relief from my misery in the workings of the past.

Out of the blue I got an offer to work on a feature film about Jewish mice in the Wild West. I accepted without hesitation and climbed aboard a long, steep learning curve with plenty of opportunity to see things from the paranoid-critical position.

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2) Your work is generally non-figurative, or at least the focal point is of a layout. Many of our students talk about how all they want to draw are humans and never practice backgrounds or layouts, even for works in comics or illustrations where jobs aren’t divided into so many titles such as background and character design. Do you have any advice for how to get interested in this field and where you find your motivation?

I see why you say that. It’s true that the imagery I’ve been concerned with in my personal work in recent times is – I’d first say – ‘topographical’ but then ‘topomaniacal’ or ‘topogigamist’ might be more appropriate. I’m motivated by the city I see around me. When I came to London it seemed to be a place that was solidly unchangeable but now things change every day – demolition and construction goes on all the time. The old East End is now a theme park of   architectural fashions and urban recovery schemes. My pictures depict built space. It may all be what Rem Koolhaas has called ‘Junkspace’ but I’m happy to find myself in it. Sometimes the pictures are based on a particular place, sometimes not. I improvise and always hope to find more than I have originally imagined. After an hour or two of working on a picture it will take on a life of it’s own and I will try to follow that animus. I am under no obligation to do other than accurately represent the images as they occur. Occasionally I put distinct figures into the images but now I feel inclined to avoid that because they imply narratives that lead me astray. This is not an uninhabited place. There is inner life here, making its way through the rat runs. There is also the client and cult of congestion represented by the Domestic, Art & Utility corporation.

Architects, planners, politicians, ideologues attempt to plan the city but it seems to have its own theorem. The city itself may be the dominant life form of the future. We may inhabit it like tiny mammals in the Jurassic. A calamity may have occurred. What remains is unredeemed. The city seems to re-build itself on top of itself. Some structures are familiar: offices, apartments, balconies, stations. Others are hard to identify. What activities do they contain?

This is an on-going project that I’m working on with the writer, Mark Holloway. Eventually it will be a book.

On students…

Students who are primarily interested in drawing humans are onto the right thing. Once they’ve got their life drawing skills down they can move onto something else….. If they want to. If you only wish to draw the human form then animation seems the job for you. If you want to do comics then you probably need a sense of place or a collaborator who has one, but come to think of it, I can’t imagine an artist who isn’t interested in the way the world looks.

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3) What is the goal of each of your pieces? Do you aim for a focal point, a general atmosphere or a contrast of colors, for example? Does this differ for your personal work?

I’ve covered some of this above but, speaking practically, I’m looking for an abstract composition. I often begin with a very simple thumbnail in black and white and one gray tone ONLY. The action and play of light is intrinsic to making a composition. You can learn a lot about composition by looking at pre-war black and white movies. Once the German craftsmen made their way into Hollywood in the late 20’s bringing the ideas of Expressionist Cinema things began to take form. Contemporary camera work is not so instructive because they move around too much. I’m not saying there isn’t great composition in today’s cinematography but it pays to go back to the source.

Colours? Well, I like yellow and red and blue.

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4) It is easy for the eye to get mesmerized by your shapes and how abstract the designs can be. At the same time, a lot of your textures take on a water color look. Both of these are fairly traditional techniques – so how do you combat the idea that digital painting isn’t a ‘real’ form of art?

I sometimes use patches of watercolour or acrylic that I paint and scan to make into ‘brushes’. Working in Photoshop lies somewhere between painting and photography. When I was an art student I spent hours fooling around in the darkroom with exposures and developing times (this was all pre-digital of course). One of the drawbacks with pixel-based artwork is the closer you get in to it, the less it’s interesting. This is not true of artwork made from ‘traditional’ materials, neither is it true of non-digital photography. Go close in on a painting by Vermeer or a photograph by Lartigue and new worlds begin to emerge before your eyes. So I experiment with grain and grunge to break up the surface and allow suggestions to occur.

Most digital art is produced on the way toward something else. I mean that it is a designer’s tool. The end result will be not the digital painting but something else. The digital paint stage is just part of the process. The medium was not meant to make art in some grand sense. But even so, you can use it to make art, why not? Art is not a fine thing, it’s just another thing. However, there are long standing hierarchies in the art game. Oil paint is higher than water colour, portraiture is higher than still life and so on. In this sense, digital painting is considered to be very low ‘genre’. The folks out there are a little suspicious of digital paint. They’re not sure we’re putting the hours in. Perhaps we just type in stuff and go off to the pub.

When it comes to my personal work I have certain rules. I don’t photo-bash and I don’t use software that imitates painterly brush strokes. I’m not a purist and these techniques are quite OK for working on movies and games – whatever works, works. But they won’t get me the graphic clarity that I like. I’m looking for images that are worth more than a glance so, increasingly, I’m aiming to make a very complex image.

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5) 5 Greatest Inspirations and Motivators (as we are an artist’s inspiration blog)

Moebius (How can you avoid him.)

Lebbeus Woods (His writings and ideas as well as the exquisite drawings.)

Milton Glaser (The first graphic designer to hold my attention. I’m still delighted by his work.)

Felix Vallotton.

Jacques Majorelle.

I have to cheat and add a joker to my hand: Dali – more for his ideas than his paintings.

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Check out more of his work at the links below.

http://limbolo.blogspot.no/

http://www.limbolo.net/

Jeff Simpson

Jeff Simpson is an illustrator currently working for Eidos Montreal. He has worked quite a few times with Imagine FX magazine, doing covers, lectures, and tutorials. His work is really phenomenal in how it blends the illustrative and Fine Art world – his style is sometimes reminiscent of Phil Hale and Rick Berry, with their intense brushwork and color usage. There is a stylistic line between his personal work and freelance work, but both are equally skilled.  I really commend people who are able to still be so prolific in-between working hours, personal life and other events and still find time to draw for themselves. But, you don’t get this good by sitting back and waiting for inspiration to strike. 

I personally like his abstract portraits the best. Of course his concept work and character designs are rad, but nothing tickles my fancy more than an artist using digital skills in traditional mediums – his oil paintings (though they are ‘spruced up’, it seems, in Photoshop) have the same thought process and technique as his digital paintings do, and vice versa. His digital work has an authenticity that can only stem from his traditional work. His work never underestimates the ability of the user’s eye – his work is perfectly balanced in detail, knowing full well that the human eye can only see so much at once. His pieces aren’t over worked, but instead focus nicely on compositional elements that really bring beauty to the audience’s eyes without getting tired. It bothers me sometimes when artists treat the entirety of their pieces with the same amount of rendering and detail. Simpson never makes that mistake.

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http://jeffsimpsonkh.tumblr.com/

Anton Kusters – Inside the Yakuza

This information is taken from the artist’s website itself, as there is no way I could say it better.

In the hotel bar in Niigata, I’m only slowly starting to understand the extremely subtle social interaction that is continuously happening, the micro-expressions on the faces, the gestures, the voices and intonations, the body language.

As the bar is evacuated to make room for the godfather having a coffee, everything seems to be strictly organized but at the same time seems to come naturally: strangely, I don’t need anyone to tell me what to do, where to sit, when to talk or when to shut up.

It’s like I literally feel the boundaries, the implicit expectations, and I am slowly learning when I can move forward, and when to best hold back. Sitting at the table with a bodyguard looking straight through me, I drink from my iced coffee. I’m feeling the acute sensation of walking on eggshells.

 

——–

 

YAKUZA is a personal visual account of the life inside an inaccessible subculture: a traditional Japanese crime family that controls the streets of Kabukicho, in the heart of Tokyo, Japan.

Through 10 months of negotiations with the Shinseikai, my brother Malik and I became one of the only westerners ever to be granted this kind of access to the closed world of Japanese organized crime.

With a mix of photography, film, writing and graphic design, I try to share not only their complex relationship to Japanese society, but also to show the personal struggle of being forced to live in two different worlds at the same time; worlds that often have conflicting morals and values. It turns out not to be a simple ‘black’ versus ‘white’ relationship, but most definitely one with many, many, many shades of grey.

 

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http://antonkusters.com/

Killian Eng

I’m not sure you could find a better Jean Giraud (aka: Moebius, aka: awesome) tribute still working today. Or ever. These pieces are mind blowing, and not just in the sheer detail involved in each piece (I recommend visiting his blog simply to see the close-up shots of these pieces. They are tiny, finished compositions each and ever one), but the scale, dedication, and awareness each piece has. There is a cohesion between the massive amounts of details, lines, colors, shapes, and ideas. It all clicks together in one big sci-fi world filled with robots, owls, and warriors. The way he handles the rendering of objects is so inspired by Moebius that at some times its hard to tell its NOT one of his pieces. The wavy lines, the staccato marks and nouveau designs all swirl together to make a modern day master piece that I believe Giraud would be proud of, if not amazed by. While Eng currently seems to be content to work commercially, doing DVD menus, album covers and silk screen prints (yes, I know, some of these ARE silk screen prints – try not to let your head explode), I’ll be (im)patiently awaiting the day he decides to shift into narrative story telling with comics and animation.

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http://dwdesign.tumblr.com/

Edward Wesson

 

Not too much information on Wesson I can find online, and the stub of a wiki article isn’t even helping:

Edward Wesson (April 29, 1910[1] – 1983) was an English watercolour artist.

His work is known for its simplicity, boldness and mastery of brushwork. He is remembered by many painters as a very encouraging teacher.

He had one daughter, Elizabeth Wesson

.”

Thank GOD, I really was wondering if he had offspring and what his student’s thought of him – THAT is good news. His work is, however, simplistic, bold, and masterful so at least they got that part right.

But seriously, these paintings are very charming. They are simple in their shape design and usage of colors. You won’t see layers upon layers here, but clear cut silhouettes matched with strong pen work on top. He is a typical watercolorist, finding the minimum amount of information to describe his topic so as to never overwork. My favorite part is his simple outlines sometimes used in pen, it really gives them an illustrative feel, especially the renderings on shadows. I think it takes them from normal watercolors to impressive pieces. One of the best pieces I found on him was a study of a house (shown below) done in multiple weather conditions -notice the temperature differences on the white house (hint: it looks cooler in warm weather, interestingly enough).

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Stefan Glerum

The first thing that strikes me about Stefan Glerum’s work is how unique it is. There have been a few artists featured here who have styles that somehow just work, and that you haven’t really seen before. Of course there are elements that are similar or inspired from similar sources, but I can’t lay my finger on just one influence. That’s one thing that really peaks my interest here.

Stefan Glerum was trained by Joost Swarte, a famous Dutch cartoonist and graphic designer, which is where we begin to piece the puzzle pieces of Gerlum’s style from. His work is heavily influenced by old Belgian comics, with an added Art Deco, Bauhus, and Pop Surrealist feel (add in some Constructionist for taste), as well as a strong eye for design and composition. He incorporates text into his work like a pro – the lettering fits like a glove with his rigid and constructed lines. 

I’m particularly fond of this work with the Bavarian State Opera. The rigid constructional line work is a really base for the composition and does a fantastic job of relaying both the concept and feel of the show – it feels almost like puppets performing a grand performance. Because it draws such a deep, blurry line between realistic and stylized depictions of scenes and people the audience is readily swooped into the image, ready to place their own thoughts and opinions into the piece. 

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http://www.stefanglerum.com/

 

Dan Hillier

I’ve included both full images and close-up details, without discretion, so that you can all understand in one sitting why Dan Hillier is a wonderful artist. Without seeing these works in context of their full detail, it can be disappointing to view his full pieces with no real ‘pay-off’, though I am sure this is just a effect from small internet images and a risk associated with an online presence. 

But these are amazing. (I know I’ve said this before.) I could sit here and talk about his line work and masterful use of old ink techniques (though he primarily works in print) all day, though I’ll limit it to just a few paragraphs here. I studied old ink masters for a few years, ones that relied on stark black and white images to tell whole stories. But there weren’t really ink washes that could reproduce well on a printer, so you had to work all the value differences out with line only – with values changing depending on how thick, close, or both lines were compared to one another. Check out your dollar bills – they were done in the same way.

Most of the time these were done larger than necessary and scaled down, as its pretty obvious how hard this can be when you are working with complicated images, especially with faces, hands or details in them. That’s my first reaction to Hillier’s pieces is the wonderful patience in his works, with rewards as awe inspiring as the detailed close ups below. 

A lot of people may find his subjects to be something close to a ‘Master Wizard Hipster’, and you wouldn’t necessarily be wrong. I personally love them, but taking away the negative connotation of the words and you are left with someone who relished in antiquity, respects old techniques and imagery and adds their own personal flare, and I don’t see many things wrong with that. His pieces are a wonderful juxtaposition of eras so that they appear mystical, fantastical, dreadful and dark. 

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Der Orchideengarten

Otherwise known to us non-German speaking visitors as “The World’s First Fantasy Magazine” which began publication in 1919 and ran for only 2 years, but still published 4 years before Weird Tales was ever created. It was largely, as you can tell by its covers below, a supernatural horror publication with tendencies of fantasy, I can guarantee it was still good. They rotated between re-publishing old stories and illustrations as well as then contemporary authors and artists so it was a refreshing collection work. There is a surprisingly limited about of information on the magazine itself, despite its cult status with certain audiences (you can actually buy T-Shirts imprinted with some of these covers, if you REALLY wanted to impress your Underground-German-Fantasy-Dark Horror-1910-Vintage-borderline Depression friends), so I will just let the art speak for itself.

I’m really digging the limited print style they have going here, with no more than 2-3 colors for any of the covers (normally) and the woodblock style printing is very German, with its harsh angles and angry, creepy subtleties. I really love the designs on most of these, and being a huge fan of such graphic work and things that go bump in the night, these appeal to me nicely. Some get a little hard to read as the drawings or compositions just don’t mesh with the contrasting colors, but for the most part they are really cool snippets of something I definitely would have read if I was alive then. Its nice to see such evolution and transference from older ideas to today.
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DINER DANGER – by Thomas Hunter

A great, silly animation that appeals to my old childhood cartoon sentimentalities. Reminiscent of old Ren and Stimpy and modern day Adventure Times, Diner Danger is just a great, simple animation to enjoy for a few minutes of your day. Lizard biker gangs, a dog with an penchant for tomatoes, and desert hillbillies, it has something for everyone.

Find more of Thomas Hunter’s work here:

http://mrbuffalo.tumblr.com/