Thursday, July 31, 2014

Silent Tragedies

by Donato

Tyrion and Shae     30" x 30"  Oil on Panel

Within a month, I will be opening the first exhibition of my art in New York City in years at the newly renovated spaces of Last Rites Gallery. This show will feature not only my art but that of Fred Harper as well.  Fred is a long time friend who helped land this exhibition at the exceptional tattoo artist Paul Booth's gallery in mid-town Manhattan.

I am thrilled to get the chance to share many of my recent oil paintings and drawings with a large audience.  The show, Silent Tragedies, will feature recent interpretative works from the worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth to a handful of paintings from George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire 2015 Calendar, and works related to my water/beach mythologies. The show will comprise of approximately twenty oil paintings and a dozen drawings, including a few of my favorites from this past year, most notably that of Tyrion and Shae from the Martin Calendar.

The theme of tragedy runs deep in much of of these works, thus the title of the collection, and the reasoning for my previous post here on Muddy Colors regarding Torment in Art. I believe a person's true character reveals itself under moments of extreme duress. Taxing an individual to their emotional limits forces them to make decisions and choices which cannot be carefully planned nor over thought, one must respond intuitively.  It is from these intuitive responses that we see an individual unmasked and unfiltered. The works of Caravaggio, de Ribera, Velazquez, Waterhouse and Michelangelo among others all speak to these issues of tormented and burdened humanity, and I am continuously drawn to their art.

For years as an illustrator I felt the best works were those that conveyed a strong and directed spirit of character - a person in commend of their fate and motives. As I reflect upon the art which I now gravitate to, I see that these themes no long entice me the way they once did.  I am most sympathetic and prefer to converse with narratives where the protagonist is unsure of themselves, caught in a precarious situation or loss. It is through these moments that I find we define ourselves more thoroughly and empathetically as humans, and the reason I now choose such themes when possible in my art.  It is not that I have abandoned the older themes, but rather feel the need to explore a new path opening before me.

Through the use of careful draftsmanship,  dynamic compositions, and my love of fine oil painting, I hope to poetically convey narrative while challenging my viewer with emotional turmoil.

I am not sure how these original works may be received, but I am grateful for the chance to share them with you over the coming months.

Recent works from Donato Giancola

August 30 – October 4, 2014
Opening reception with the artist August 30, 7-11pm

Last Rites Gallery
325 W. 38th Street #1
Between 8th and 9th Avenues
New York, New York 10018

I Threw Down My Enemy    33" x 45"  Oil on Panel

Mechanic - Thresholds      18" x 24"  Oil on Panel

Nienor and Turin - Cabed-en-Aras    11" x 14"   Pencil on Paper

The Tower of Cirith Ungol    48" x 36"   Oil on Panel

The Aftermath of the Whydah     in progress    96" x 48"    Oil on Panel

For those of you who wish to learn about my thoughts in this direction and how it has landed me numerous major awards from Spectrum, the Society of Illustrators, The Art Renewal Center, and the World Science Fiction Society, I will be holding lectures online this Fall with the SmArt School.

Information and lecture descriptions at

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Sculptor’s Secret World, Part 6: Jon Matthews

-By Tim Bruckner

I’ve never known any sculptor who can read and translate 2D art into 3D with such skill and creativity as Jon Matthews. That he is a truly gifted artist is confirmed by the superb quality of his work, piece after piece. Whether an action figure or a collectible statue, his sculptures capture the essence of the artist’s intent without compromising it in the translation. His interpretation of Mike Mignola’s Batman is one of the bravest, most inventive and original pieces I have ever seen. Ladies and gentlemen, Jonathan Matthews!

Most of what I do as a figure sculptor for DC Entertainment is to translate a specific two dimensional artist’s style from the comic page into three dimensions. I’ve always had a talent for noting certain eccentricities in the way an artist renders parts of human anatomy or the way they use their particular medium. Seeing what makes one artist’s work specifically different from another’s is one step in the process. Figuring out how to represent those stylistic oddities from the page to 3D is another. Over the years, I’ve attempted to translate quite a few different comic artist’s drawings into three dimensions in either action figure or collectible statue form. I’ve had some great successes and some pretty epic failures, but the inherent challenge each new artist represents is always fun.

In the most successful outcome, the sculptor’s work is almost invisible. From every angle, the sculpture needs to match or evoke the 2D artwork. I try for a result that looks effortless… of course the work is anything but.

The example I’ve chosen to walk you through is Jack Kirby’s character, Darkseid.
The challenge with this type of work is finding the ideal intersection between what I know as a sculptor and what the comic artist is trying to represent with their unique perspective on anatomy and the line work they use to represent light and shadow on a dimensional form. Comic art is very much about line work and I feel to make a successful sculpture that represents the drawing, some of that line work needs to be present in the sculpture.

First, I begin the sculpture by compiling as much of the comic source material as I can. I pick out images that stand out to me as key to the character and the comic artist’s representation of same. I’ll search for front, side and 3/4 views of the body and particularly the face. I’ll usually make up a style sheet to tack up in front of me as I work so I can continually check the sculpture against the source material.

With Jack Kirby’s artwork, he takes a lot of anatomical liberties. His proportions are all his own and he reuses certain facial expressions repeatedly. These are just the things I look for when collecting my reference. In fact, the more stylized the source artwork is, the easier it is to represent three dimensionally. If I see the same expression repeatedly being used on the face, that’s the expression I know I need to match-same with the anatomy.

As with any sculpture I do, I’ll start off with a sort of block figure in wax. I’ll do this while looking at the comic art and keeping an eye out for anything the artist does that sets their art apart. In the case of Kirby, my block figure is overly wide and stocky, with huge blocky knees and large, square fingered hands. I’ll pay close attention to how the skeletal anatomy is implied in the art and adjust the sculpture away from realism accordingly.

When I have the block figure proportionally correct, I start thinking about how the sculpture needs to be broken apart. If the sculpture is to be a collectible statue (static, pre-painted and posed) it will need to be cut apart with a mind toward making the factory production as easy as possible. I’ll look for natural breaks in the piece like where arms go into shirts or shoes into pants, etc..

In this instance, the figure was manufactured as an action figure. The sculpture has to be cut apart at each joint that will feature an articulation point, and engineered with either a pivot, ball or hinge joint.

I cut the figure’s head off where the skull would go into the spine and add a sphere and corresponding socket. Your basic ball joint. This type of joint allows the figure to move it’s head in both an up and down and side to side motion. I do the same at the shoulders. For the elbows and knees, I do a hinge joint. The wrists and waste are pivot joints. Between the different types of joints on the arms and legs, you can get a semblance of natural movement. There’s a modified sort of hinge joint at the hips that allows movement of the thighs forward and backward, but in this case, the joint is covered by Darkseid’s little skirt thing he’s wearing. The skirt is a thin piece of wax that lays over the underlying joint and was manufactured in a soft material that allowed the joint to be manipulated. The engineered joints are indicated by the metal pins present in the images.

Engineering the joints on an action figure usually takes some time and consideration. I try to achieve a maximum rotation or movement with a minimum of distortion once pivoted. I cut the joint parts out of a hard foam on a lathe and center drill the plates that make up the joint parts so they can be pinned together and rotate without any off center wobble. As I’m working in the joints, I’m usually beginning to play with sculptural ways in which to represent some of that line work I mentioned earlier.

Kirby’s line work is perhaps the thing that stands out most about his artwork.
The approach I took here was to describe that line work as graphically as I could and to use the shapes I saw repeated in Kirby’s art to describe the anatomy of the figure.
The challenge was to make these graphic indentations remain apparent as light moves around the figure and at the same time describe the muscular and skeletal shapes in a way that is representative of Kirby’s drawings. The effect is a bit harder to achieve in an action figure versus a statue because of the compromises adding the joints requires. You can fake a better brick shaped knee if it doesn’t have to move!

I used Kirby’s anatomical peculiarities in concert with some tool marks intended to evoke his line work to try and capture his work in 3D. The success of the translation is ultimately up to the fan or collector to decide, but for what it’s worth, here’s my take on Jack Kirby.

In the interest of variety, I’ve included some other 2D to 3D translations in which I’ve relied heavily on sculptural line work to achieve the effect.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Thinking Outside the Box

-By Dan dos Santos

Oftentimes, I'll get a client that tell me to paint 'whatever I want'. As good as that may sound at first, it's actually quite intimidating. There are a limitless amount of things I could paint, and without some sort of direction, I flounder, usually resulting in a mediocre piece.

I've realized in recent years, that from a creative point of view, I flourish under restrictions. Maybe it's a restrictive subject matter, or a difficult template, or even something as simple as a specific palette choice. However simple, or complex, the restriction... I like having one. The inherent problems immediately causes me to come up with solutions, and ideas begin flowing quickly from there.

After all, you can't think outside the box, unless someone puts you inside a box first.

Artist David Jablow recent completed a series of drawing that I feel capture this sentiment perfectly.

David took a vintage doodle pad with an adult theme, and rather than going with the most obvious solution, he came up with literally dozens of alternative solutions... all of them surprising and wildly creative.

The drawings are fantastic in their own right. But I suspect that David wouldn't have been half as creative if he allowed himself to just draw 'a woman doing whatever'. Having that difficult restriction gave him something to push off from.

The next time you're stumped for something to draw, try challenging yourself. Limit your options a little, or give yourself a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. You'll surprise yourself with the great solutions that come out of it.

You can see dozens more of David's solutions at his Tumblr page:

Or check out his Flickr page which also contains a lot of his preliminary sketches too:

Monday, July 28, 2014


by Arnie Fenner

The celebrities' limos have returned their charges to Hollywood, the exhibitors have palleted up their wares and entrusted them to the Freeman to ship, and attendees have returned home, either happy or sad but most definitely with significantly lighter wallets than they started out with. The dust has started to settle on another San Diego Comic Con International, the biggest, glitziest, and gaudiest "pop culture" convention in the US. Lucca in Italy is bigger (with over 264,000 attendees in 2013) and perhaps more prestigious, Comiket in Japan is certainly much larger (with over a half million attendees), but when it comes to buzz, when it comes to media attention, SDCCI is second to none. Sure, the New York Comic Con has quickly grown to match San Diego in attendance, but…no convention can take over NYC, especially not the way that SDCCI invades and occupies San Diego for the better part of a week each year.

I like to refer to SDCCI as Nerdvana, but my friend Heidi MacDonald prefers Nerd Prom, which was really popular for awhile until it started to be used to describe the President's annual Washington Press Club Dinner. And while I use the term with fondness, it gets annoying when the morning news anchors say it with a smirk to describe all the fans and cosplayers (as if they'd never seen a fantasy film themselves or read a Stephen King novel). Anyway I think I attended my first Comic Con in 1991 or '92 (my memory is fuzzy) and I admit I was a bit overwhelmed. I'd been to World SF and Fantasy Cons, I'd been to various regional shows, but they were positively quaint church socials in comparison. It's only gotten bigger and more crowded and overwhelming (and expensive) ever since as the movie, TV, and gaming industries moved in and came to dominate the con. What started out as a modest little SF & comics get together has evolved into a gargantuan multi-million dollar corporate event that the network news covers, A-List actors line up to appear at, Cosplayers clog the halls at, and which everyone now wants to attend—and relatively few can. Now you might think that 130,000+ give or take is more than a few, but when you consider that somewhere around 300M live in the country that's something like 99.85% (or less if someone with better math skills runs the figures) of the population who'll never darken the convention center's halls.


Above: George R.R. Martin and Donato signing the new calendar at Comic Con.
Photo by Lucia D. Correa.

Even with the heavy presence of the entertainment corporations, there are probably more fantastic artists from around the world under one roof set up, showing and selling their work than anywhere else in the country, perhaps the world. Anyone who says otherwise is saying so with their pants on fire. Illustrators, painters, animators, comic artists, concept artists, sculptors: you name it, they're represented. In spades. Mix in the vintage illustration and comic art dealers and we're talking Artpolooza. My fellow Muddies have been/are regular exhibitors at SDCCI: stories about Donato leg-rasslin' all-comers after hours in the hotel lobby bar are now approaching legendary status.

Above: A group signing in the Spectrum booth. Back row l-r: John Fleskes, Gary Giani, Allen Williams, David Palumbo, Travis Lewis, and Matthew Levin. Front row l-r: Donato Giancola,
Todd Lockwood, and Daren Bader.

Is SDCCI for everyone? No. Most certainly, no. It's incredibly crowded, particularly on Saturday. It is horribly expensive—to attend, to exhibit, to stay, to eat. And by it's very nature it's stressful—and if you're an exhibitor, there's never a guarantee that you'll make a profit, regardless of the number of people in the hall. You can't do everything, you can't see everyone, and half the time you can't even get from one side of the convention center to the other. But you know, there are islands of calm in the maelstrom, opportunities to converse and network and make friends. Besides, there's something to be said for going to a 3-ring circus, at least once: and if you do, regardless of the experience you have, you'll never forget it.

If you've ever wondered WTF's the deal about Comic Con, I found the nifty brief history video at the top of this post. If you're intrigued, well, the next SDCCI is only about 360 days away, give or take.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Temple of Art

Over the past two years, Alan Amato has been traveling the world, photographing fine artists from all sorts of disciplines. He then has the artist re-interpret their portrait in their own personal way. So far, the results have been pretty amazing.

"Temple of Art" is a film documenting that process, capturing the lives of more than 50 artists from around the world. But it needs support if it's to get made. Check out their Kickstarter page, and help if you can.