Sunday, February 7, 2016

Science Fiction and Fantasy Conventions

Armand Cabrera

I’ve decided to take the plunge and reenter the world of science fiction and fantasy conventions this year. I will be attending a local convention to show my art and participate as a guest.  The convention is RavenCon in Williamsburg VA and the dates are April 29-May 1 2016.

It’s been over twenty years since I was actively involved with science fiction and fantasy conventions. At one time I was attending ten or more of these events a year, showing in the art shows and participating as a guest or sometimes an artist guest of honor while working a full time job and working part time as an Illustrator.

Those early years my work was different in that I didn’t work outside from life as much as I do now. Part of my enjoyment creating this kind of work now is that I can marry the two disciplines together in much the same way the 19th century genre and narrative painters did. 

My recent successes with Illuxcon over the past few years and my sales at the World Fantasy Convention in Washington D.C. in 2014 have helped my decision to branch out to other local imaginative venues. I’m really looking forward to being able to introduce my imaginative work to a contemporary audience. 

Monday, February 1, 2016

Vasily Vereshchagin

By Armand Cabrera

Vereshchagin was born in Cherepovets, Russia in 1842. At 8 years old he was sent to naval cadet school. He made his first voyage at the age of 16. 

Vereshchagin graduated first in his class from Naval school  but left the service and joined the Saint Petersburg Academy to study drawing and painting. Two years later he won a medal and the next year travelled to Paris to study under Jean-Leon Gerome.

In 1867 he rejoined the service and received a medal for bravery at the siege of Samarkand. He returned to Paris in 1868 and Started an Atelier in Munich in 1871.

He continued to travel extensively through Asia from North Africa to India and the Philippines. Besides painting exotic cultures he also painted brutally realistic depictions of war and was onsite during many conflicts. His paintings were considered too real and banned from being published or exhibited in many countries of Europe and in his native Russia.

Vereshchagin was with Russian troops during the Russo Turkish War 1877-1878, The First Sino-Japanese War 1894-1895 and The Boxer Rebellion in 1900.

Eventually his depictions of the horrors of war brought him success and fame though his work continued to be controversial in certain circles.

He died during the Russo-Japanese War in 1904 when the warship he was on struck two mines and sank, killing most of the crew, including Vereshchagin.


The Orientalists
Lynn Thornton
ACR Editions

Some Call It Kitsch
Masterpieces of Bourgeois Realism
Aleska Celebonovic

Popular 19thCentury Painting
A Dictionary of European Genre Painters
Philip Hook and Mark Poltimore
Antique Collectors Club

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Social media and Nudity in Art

By Armand Cabrera

Artists are increasingly posting their work on social media. Some are finding that because of the  reach of the web their work is being censored. They way sites like Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook apply their acceptable use/ guidelines are uneven leaving many artists confused and frustrated by the experience. The problems stem from these sites having many purposes for their users unlike dedicated artist hosting sites which can be much more flexible although with a smaller much more targeted user base.

As more and more artists and entrepreneurs are turning to self promotion and marketing, social media sites are finding themselves having to adjust and things that would have gotten banned just a few years ago can be completely acceptable now.

The internet offers a worldwide audience though, and something considered in good taste in one place could be found to be offensive in another. Content generators don’t really have control over who shares their posts even though they are responsible for the content of them. Violations can get the offender temporarily or permanently banned.

Artists recently hosted a Facebook Nudity Day protesting the random censorship of art on the site.  The site was flooded with all forms of artistic expression celebrating nudity. In my own feed I have seen people  reported and censored briefly for a post only to have FB reverse their decision upon inspection of the content in question.

If you are an artist how do you deal with the restrictions various social media place on your art? If you respond please do not include  links or images in your reply. That's how I am dealing with comments.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Working from Memory and imagination

Armand Cabrera

In the book 40 illustrators and how They Work N. C. Wyeth says “Every Illustration or painting I have made in the last 30 years has been from the imagination or memory. However, I have constantly studied from the figure, from animals and from landscape, and have especially stressed the training of my memory. "

Another quote from 40 Illustrators and How They Work
"Wyeth, asked for an account of his technical procedure, gave me the following: This painting was made entirely from memory, which is my customary practice for creative painting."
The interview was from 1944 a year before Wyeth died which means all of his illustrations going back to 1914 were created this way. I take this to mean although he painted and drew from life; he did all of his illustrations without reference in that time frame. That would include Robin Hood and everything after that but not Kidnapped or Treasure Island.

In the book Three generations of Wyeths Andrew makes similar claims about N.C. so I have no reason to doubt it without proof to the contrary. It’s pretty amazing when you think about it. During his lifetime, N. C. Wyeth created over 3,000 paintings and illustrated 112 books.
Some quotes by Andrew about his dad.

 "Pa was also a master of still life. I think he felt that he needed to work from life, and I can understand that. If you work all the time from your imagination as Pa did for his illustrations you think I got to go out and eat a good roast beef or something. You need to nourish yourself. Working completely from the imagination is very draining experience.

"When it came to illustrating pa had an amazing ability to do them without a model"
"Pa's animals are outstanding in his illustrations. He could do a horse on its back, flying through the air, or in any position you'd want." I asked him once "How did you learn to do a horse in so many positions without a model and make it really alive?" Well I'll tell you on the roundup I had the chance to cut up a horse that had died. I'll never forget the anatomy of a horse.”

Talking with other artists about this, it’s interesting that a lot of people can’t accept someone could work this way. That is not to say I believe he did everything completely from his imagination. Andrew even says N.C. used his children for difficult or tricky things like a foot here or hand there and had them pose so he could get a clearer image of his idea. He had an extensive collection of props and costumes that he kept for reference.  But that is still a different thing than a lot of today’s painters and their complete reliance on photographic mimicry. Where it is not enough to just refer to the reference but it must be slavishly adhered to at all cost even the success of the painting.  NC Wyeth had a completely unique style that has been often imitated but never surpassed I beleive the basis for that is in his imagination. 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

James Gurney’s Fantasy in the Wild


Armand Cabrera

Fantasy in the Wild: Painting Concept Art on Location
71 Minutes $14.95
Available for purchase as a HD video Download fromGumroad or as a DVD at Kunaki

Fantasy in the Wild: Painting Concept Art on Location is the third video from James Gurney’s “In the Wild” instructional series for onsite sketching. This time he shows us how to add fictional elements using props and imagination into two of his outdoor paintings. The results are a marvelous blend of the fantastic and everyday life. His previous videos in the series are “Gouache in the Wild” and “Watercolor in the Wild”. Both are still available from Gumroad or Sellfy or from James' Site.

I went for the download version and the checkout was simple and easy. The video and sound qualities are great and James is very personable while he explains his method, tools and materials.

The video contains his process for two different concept paintings in casein. It’s not just procedure though it’s also about concept and how to tease out ideas from places and things in the real world to make the fantasy aspects more believable. He talks about the benefits and challenges for an artist working in the wild, on location. There is a lot of information here. All of the material is presented conversationally in a straightforward way. 

James talks the viewer through every stage of development. You hear him talk about the backstory he invents as he visualizes each scene. We get to watch and listen while he creates pencil roughs, color studies, sketches from life of different elements and each of the final paintings on location.  As he paints he describes his story motivations, his reasons behind his choices for color, shapes, values and brush calligraphy. When he changes his mind about something we see how he corrects it to improve the statement of the particular painting

We also see his attitude about creating a painting. His excitement for his craft is contagious. His work ethic allows him to create whatever it takes to get the job finished to his satisfaction. James does this without worrying about how much work has already been done. This to me is very important. It is this professionalism combined with his high level of skill and drive that makes him the best at what he does and that information alone is worth the price of the video.