10 December 2013

25 April 2013

The Artful Readers Club for April

Vagabond 3 by Takehiko Inoue
Inked drawing by Takehiko Inoue, coloring by me in Photoshop CS4.

Tweet Review: With swords like that, why fight?

If I can turn ANY club readers into graphic novel fans...I am going to be very happy, but then so will you. As most club readers are also artists, this challenge especially emphasizes the relationship between words and pictures. And, as in graphic novels and manga...that's exactly what you get!

A little look into Japanese manga is enough to pique anyone's interest.  The manga artists keep up with  societies interests. The stories written are illustrated for all age groups;  boys and girls, men and women. The series Vagabond, my April book is seinem manga which means it's written for men ages 18-40. But I don't think I'll be arrested for reading it.

The first two things to know about Vagabond is that the artist Takehiko Inoue is also the author and his drawings are done, up until very recently, with a black ink brush pen. The images are truly gorgeous.

Another impressive fact about Takehiko, is that he is an art machine. Each volume of Vagabond is about 10 chapters, and each chapter is about 20 pages (so 200, inked manga pages). He is on volume 34. That's 6,800 (give or take) pages. Fewh!

Sometimes when I am reading Vagabond, I catch myself pausing at the art work. It's so intricate and detailed, I just get caught up in it and forget what I am reading. However, the story is one of my long term interests, so I quickly get back on track.

I first read about Miyamoto Musashi as a teenager. He wrote a book called "The Book of The Five Rings", the (depending on what you know) quintessential  handbook on samurai sword fighting. Essentially, Vagabond is the story of Miyamoto. In essence, a historical fantasy.

I'd be very delighted if any ARC readers were also interested in the Sengoku period of Japan. If so,  these are the books for you, for the rest of some of your life. Truly golden.

28 March 2013

The Artful Readers Club for March

The Walking Dead Compendium One by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard {and some other folks}
Charlie Adlard recently admitted in an interview that he often makes up his characters on the page. A fact which can cause any serious character designer to bow in admiration. As you can see the likeness of the graphic novel with the AMC show is very close. 

Tweet Review: A long, arduous display of how a few people can entertain the masses.

Since I am reading and watching The Walking Dead simultaneously, I am constantly comparing the two. Fans of the television series will be pleased to know that the graphic novel is just as interesting, if not more so.

The details are very different in the first 48 issues of the graphic novel, for example, Carl is a lot younger and has a playmate Sophie..whose fate in the television series is quite astonishing. There are endless differences, but the overall storyline remains consistent in both versions which is; what happens to people during a zombie apocalypse?

If I were to choose between the two, I'd choose the graphic novel. In a black and white picture book, a horror story is less horror and more comedy. Although, the television show is often very funny with how gross it can be, but the pages are just pages and my brain is never startled.

I've been reading comic books for a number of years, but have had a hard time finding work that I really like. One of my main issues is that the images are just 'too much' and now that I have studied comic book art I realize why. Most American comics are made with several artists and my eyes find it confusing to read. So one of the compelling features of The Walking Dead is Charlie Adlard's art. He has been drawing the series for 7 years with writer Robert Kirkman. Adlard's style is expressive and clear and combined with Kirkman's knack for strong character development it's no wonder the series caught the attention of a filmmaker (the AMC series was developed by director of The Shawshank Redemption Frank Darabont).

This story reminds me of one of my all time favorite graphic novels called Uzamaki by Junji Ito. It's Japanese horror manga and what I find so interesting about it is that it's actually comedy. And that is how I see The Walking Dead. It's so outrageous that it ends up being funny. There is no thinking, "Oh that's not realistic..." because it not, none of it is, it's pure imagination which is at the heart of brilliant stories.

15 March 2013

21 February 2013

The Artful Readers Club for February

Framed Ink: Drawing and Composition for Visual Storytellers 

by Marcos Mateu-Mestre

The bell and round shapes are basic designs Marcos suggests when designing characters for a graphic novel. The small thumbnails are ways he suggests creating a composition.

In short: I recommend this book for anyone interested in storyboard art and any artist who likes to find inspiration in far out places.

Composition happens sometimes naturally in the same way some cooks can just throw ingredients together and create a fantastic meal...however, it's rare. Composition when worked just right, makes all visual art better.  
In Framed Ink Marcos Mateu-Mestre shows the reader why.

Most art practitioners are aware of the golden mean or the golden ratio and Marcos utilizes this theory a lot. It's a sure thing in design, but it's also been overused to the point of predictability. The short hand for the golden mean, without all the complex equations is the rule of thirds.

The bit I found the most useful in Marcos' book is his visual demonstration of how a camera moves through an image. This concept could be applied to any visual idea. It's simply a matter of stepping into a composition in one's sketching and exploring from different angles. Marcos' sketches and diagrams make this idea much simpler than it seems. 

Thumbnail sketching is a very useful tool. Marcos' way of creating thumbnail sketches is to break down an idea to the simplest shapes. His play with hard verses soft form is common practice in animation character development however, Marcos also demonstrates why this practice works for storytelling. The angles he comes up with by using this technique are beautiful, interesting and engaging.

I recommend this book for anyone interested in storyboard art and any artist who likes to find inspiration in far out places.

25 January 2013

The Artful Readers Club for January


Artist's Journal Workshop: Creating Your Life in Words and Pictures 

by Cathy Johnson

Sat in front of a local church on a
sunny Saturday, then picked some flowers to examine.
I only had a pencil so I added the watercolor later.
Armed with few supplies,
I went to one of my favorite spots and doodled.
Lines added in Photoshop before posting...timid me.

Please note: I recommend this book for any artist at any stage...my reference to 12-13 year olds in this review, is remarked due to the value of journaling. It's actually a very sophisticated book on many levels.
In a brief shuffle through the pages of Artist's Journal Workshop, I found myself conflicted. The book contains numerous examples of a style of art making that toggles between the hugely personal and a publishable 'look'. So, with that...the book set up on my shelf for nearly a year.

Now, after an honest read, I still feel a bit conflicted...but in a way that offers some inspiration. Plenty of 'if's' came to surface while reading Cathy Johnson's book. Like, 'if' I were to teach art, I'd require every student to read this book in the first weeks of class. But only 'if', the students were 12 or 13 years old. And in such a scenario, the book would probably be too advanced for such young artists because of its sophisticated simplicity. In essence, it's a book about gesture drawing.  A very simple concept, yet one that takes years of drawing in order understand why it is so important for an artist to practice. So I feel this nudge to encourage artists to take up some form of art journaling as I romanticize about how my work would look had I been introduced to this practice, in this manner, when I was a teen.

Artist's Journal Workshop is a book full of creative ideas and explains varied materials showing work by trained artists doing highly stylized musings. I began to art journal 'Johnson' style from the very start of this book and have passionately continued to do so, which is great. I do like her style, yet it's really not 'me'. 

I have always art journaled a.k.a.kept a sketchbook. And reading this book has caused me to look at the two as very different ways of expression. Johnson clearly has thought a lot about art journaling because she's been doing it for over 30 years. I wonder if this is the only type of art she creates. If so, then she is an art journalist, rather than a painter or illustrator. Perhaps these distinctions are not necessary for artists but they would be for the art historians. Johnson's references to other art journalists are interesting and support the distinction that art journaling is in and of itself an art form.

In her inspired manner, I found myself focusing way too much on the 'look' of the page and less about what the page was about for me. I am certain this anxiety stems from years of creating sketchbooks knowing they were for my eyes only. But Johnson's way of organizing a page provokes a temptation to make my personal stories more public. Yet maybe this is one of the distinctions between the artist journal and the artist sketchbook...one is meant to 'share' the other is meant to 'explore ideas'. Johnson does mention it is up to the artist whether or not the journal will be private or shared and that the subject content is unlimited. The examples from other artists are varied and represent for the most part the everyday genre, seldom addressing deep philosophical musings. I am surprised by the absence of poetry as I assume most artists are also poets. 

So, Johnson's Artist's Journal Workshop overall seems like scrapbooking, but with a focus on drawing and painting. Which is partly another snag for me...because the practice of journaling like scrapbooking is unique, varied and meant for all creative types, not just those who've been trained to express realism. The Artist's Journal Workshop is for perhaps 'all' artists, but is showcasing a certain type and style of artists. Its scope is very narrow in this way, yet if one can see that Johnson is simply showing what she likes, promoting the celebration of daily life and encouraging self-expression, then it's well worth the read and the practice. 

20 January 2013

Valentine Mandala with Typical VDay Icons

Original Valentine Mandalas created in Abobe Illustrator available at Fat Q...for all lovers.