Sunday, April 12, 2015

Review: The Dead Rider Crown of Souls written and illustrated by Kev Ferrara

By Armand Cabrera

As an artist, I’m interested in process, for me it is where the art is in any creative endeavor. In my experience great artists fall in love with the process of creation and do all of the hard work it takes to make something worthwhile.

My interests in art are not just in traditional painting, I love the various forms of expression people use to tell stories including comics.

Kev Ferrara has created a 112 page graphic novel called The Dead Rider Crown of Souls.   At first glance the story will remind you of the old EC Comics or the Warren Publications of Eerie and Creepy. It is well written and beautifully illustrated by Kev.  It’s obvious from a look at his work Kev cares about process and he has put his heart and soul into this project and for that reason it is one of the most satisfying graphic novels I've read in a long time. 

The design and execution of the book is of the highest quality. Everything is thought out and made to enhance the storytelling to keep the reader immersed in the tale.  Like I've said it shares a lot in common with early comic greats like Al Williamson, Bernie Wrightson, Angelo Torres, Wally Wood but also their influences from Pyle and Brandywine traditions to Edwin Austin Abbey and Joseph Clement Coll. Kev is not copying those artists though, he is matching the quality of their creations with his own artistic style.

I wrote to Kev and asked if he could send images of some of his process so I could share it here and he was gracious enough to provide an example that show his approach and explain what he does to complete a page.

He says he likes to start with a sketch usually in ballpoint pen or a tech pen but sometimes in pencil. The point of these small sketches is to capture the action/feeling/emotion and get near the drawing stage. 

These sketches are almost always smaller than they will be in the finished drawing. When he is satisfied with this he blows them up in the computer creates an arrangement of the sketches so they read well and explain the action of the scene. 

Then he prints the full page of sketches at a really high contrast and traces it off onto illustration paper at 10 x 15, sketching the basics in pencil then really refines the drawing and then inks it.

 Once these stages are finished he scans the pages back into the computer colors them in Photoshop and letters them in Adobe Illustrator. 

The Dead Rider is in stores now or it can be ordered online, 112 pages filled with beautiful art and an interesting story and well worth the price.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Process and an Individual Style

Armand Cabrera

I was having an interesting conversation with an art group about process. How you make a piece of art, the actual process you go through, goes a long way in determining the individuality of the image and the style of the artist.  I was surprised at how many artists felt that they could freely use anyone’s work as the basis for their own work without compensation or approval from the original creator.

Alfred Guilou

 I've always argued for creating an image devoid of outside influences. The reason is simple, it gives the image and all of its elements a cohesive intent and unique viewpoint that is missing when people cobble together and copy other peoples work and try to repurpose it as their own.

Arthur Wardle

Artists lose their chance at an individual style and a unique point of view all because they undercut the process of actual creation. By not doing the work to develop a scene on their own, they don’t do any ideation or very little of it. They try and repurpose other work by outside sources. They go looking at how other people have handled the same subject. They give up on creating for copying someone else’s designs or compositions. They piece together disparate information, lighting and intent trying to skip the most interesting part of making an image, the design. 

Pietro Fragiacomo

This ends up with the image failing to have any cohesive idea or looking like another artists work, or even worse, actual plagiarism. From the very start they have abrogated the creativity to someone else. All of the creative decisions and even the reference for those choices are someone else’s work. The only thing they leave themselves is the mere rendering, the least creative part of the process.  

Ivan Fedorovitch Choultse

To build a body of successful personal work a sincere artist must fall in love with all parts of the artistic process of picture making. Forget about superficially copying the work of artists you admire, Become their equals by emulating their quality and working habits and then express your art with your own style.

Francisco Pradilla Ortiz

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Perspective and Its Importance

Armand Cabrera

Almost all of my effort in teaching goes to restating fundamental principles to my students, even those that have achieved some small amount of success. Many of my students have always been interested in art but did not pursue it as a career and so many of them lack the basic fundamental skills needed to create the proper framework to place their paintings over. Students often worry about developing a style but in my opinion style is irrelevant when the fundamentals are lacking. 

The biggest problems in their paintings come from a lack of drawing skills and little or no understanding of linear perspective. A simple understanding of perspective includes vanishing points, eye level and horizon lines and a station point.

Anything you paint that has volume to it needs linear perspective to accomplish competently; Portraits, still life, landscapes, seascapes, city scenes; all of them need a thorough understanding of basic perspective. The more complex a scene becomes the more understanding you need. Think of all of the situations that come up in paintings that have groups of animals or people or reflections, shadows or anything with a complex structure to it. All those situations will need an even deeper consideration of perspective. Why go through your life avoiding those things or painting them badly because you lack the understanding to paint them properly?

People interested in learning more about perspective as it applies to your painting and drawing can find the information in the books ‘Perspective for Artists’ by Rex Vicat Cole from Dover books, ‘Drawing Scenery; Landscapes and Seascapes’ by Jack Hamm and ‘Successful Drawing by Andrew Loomis’. Of those three books the first one by Cole is only one that focuses on perspective exclusively. The other two cover it in conjunction with good drawing principles.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Julian Alden Weir Still Life Paintings

Armand Cabrera

J. Alden Weir is primarily known for his figure paintings and impressionist landscapes but he also created many fine still life paintings throughout his career. His early academic training under Jean Leon Gerome provided the keen observational skills and drawing facility to create these paintings.

 His color harmonies are exquisite and his use of lost and found edges work perfectly with his subject matter. 

He used the different surface qualities of the chosen objects to great effect heightening the sense of realism and fidelity without  over rendering. The designs are very organic in their flow with nothing    awkward or stiff in the painting of the elements.

It is naturalism, but a naturalism edited with a keen eye and powerful understanding of capturing only the essential qualities to complete the statement with a simplicity of handling.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Getting to the Heart of a Subject

Armand Cabrera

 Dennis Miller Bunker

Art can be many things depending on who you ask the question of. For me art is getting to the heart of a paintings subject and revealing something of that understanding. It is not just copying the surface quality of the theme blindly, nor is it imposing so much of my personality on the thing being painted that it reveals nothing of the subject.

Painting, at its best, in my opinion, is a discourse between the artist and their motif and it takes a couple of things to accomplish. One is the ability to translate the message and get it on the canvas in a way that is not overworked. The freshness and economy of the application is important to the statement.  It says that you understand what you are communicating.

Isaac Levitan

To do all that though one needs to listen and look, absorb the image and understand its essence, finding the qualities of the thing that makes that scene, in those moments, a unique event never to be repeated. It requires approaching every subject with humility and openness to what we are experiencing and seeing. 

The artist must be careful during the process and make sure they are avoiding rote answers to design and composition color and brush work. It is engaging all the senses in the development of the image. Fighting the comfort of what you know you can do and pushing yourself to the limits of your abilities and experience something new is the only way of achieving this. 

Maurice Braun