Since one of the reasons for starting this blog was to talk about illustrating and illustrators, I don't think I should let too much time pass before I address that topic. So, I guess I'll just dive in. As I mentioned in my last post, I've been trying to build a portfolio of my illustration work. In order to gain inspiration, I've spent time looking at several different books. My series based on animals of the constellations was inspired by the Art Nouveau poster work of Czech artist Alphonse Mucha. To get off track a bit - I'm addicted to buying books. Whenever I get an email coupon from Borders for 30 or 40% off any one book, I feel this need to use it. One book that I recently purchased was a book on Mucha titled simply "Alphonse Mucha." It was published by Prestel and edited by Agnes Jusslein-Arco, Jean Louis Gaillemin, Michel Hilaire, and Christiane Lange. It's filled with beautiful reproductions of not only finished work, but also contains many sketches, and reference photos that Mucha shot in his studio. The book covers everything from his famous posters to his mural work and also covers his designs for interiors, jewelry designs and his stained-glass window for St. Vitus Cathedral. If you have any interest in Art Nouveau, I highly recommend that you check out this book.
Another book that I've been studying is "Raymond Booth, An Artist's Garden" with text by Peyton Skipwith. This is an expensive book ($65.00) but several years ago when I was working at a bookstore (I spent 10 years working at independent bookstores in Washington state), I was lucky enough to receive a free damaged copy. The copy that the store received was bound incorrectly with several of the pages out of order. The publisher sent the store another copy and told us that we could keep the imperfect copy. I had been admiring this book since it first arrived in the store so when the store owner asked me if I would like the faulty copy, I pounced on it. Raymond Booth, in my opinion is the best living painter of botanical art. Not only are his paintings of plants extremely detailed and beautiful but he often places the plants in a dramatic landscape setting that often includes animals or birds. He has a dramatic sense of lighting, for example, portraying his landscape at sunset with the setting sun glowing from behind a stand of trees with a partially illuminated barn owl in the foreground. His paintings of animals are some of my favorites. They are wonderfully composed studies of the animal in its natural habitat, surrounded by a sumptuously detailed landscape where you can make out almost every twig on the ground and hair on the animal's back. My two recent works "Night Hunt" and "Spring in the Woods" (that you can see by going to my website, were inspired by the works of Raymond Booth. These are a couple of the most detailed paintings that I've ever attempted, but they don't have near the detail that Booth shows in his amazing work. I only wish that I had the skill, talent and the patience that he must have in order to create his gorgeous paintings. If you're interested in nature painting, try and find a copy of this book. It's one that you'll look at over and over again.
The Art of Up," by Tim Hauser and published by Chronicle Books. I loved the film "Up" not only for its wonderfully touching and imaginative story, but for its design and look as well. This book is filled with beautiful pre-production conceptual paintings and sketches by various aritsts. The style for the most part is reminiscent of children's book illustration and cartoons from the 1950s and 1960s. Every painting and character study in it is a gem. It's a wonderfully helpful book for generating ideas on character design but it will also help the artist in creating scenes that have harmonious color design and drama through the use of composition and lighting. Other books along the same lines are "The Art of The Incredibles" by Mark Cotta Vaz also published by Chronicle and "Cartoon Modern, Style and Design in Fifties Animation" by Amid Amidi, yet another beautiful Chronicle Books publication. Looking through this last book, it's easy to see where the artists at Pixar got their inspiration for the look of "Up" and "The Incredibles."