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.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Merry Christmas 2015

Armand Cabrera

I would just like to wish everyone a great holiday season and thank everyone for their support and encouragement during 2015. These are some of my favorite paintings from past artists and illustrators

J.C. leyendecker

N.C. Wyeth

Arthur Rackham

Haddon Sundblom

Norman Rockwell

Sunday, December 13, 2015

How Star Wars Changed my Life

Armand Cabrera

The new star wars film is about to hit theaters in a few days. Like many fans of the franchise I will go see it and see if J.J. Abrams can make something filled with the same pathos and sense of wonder the first trilogy had. I hope he can.

I was 22 when Star Wars came out and like most people I loved the initial films. They created a sense of awe that was missing from most science fiction in those days. They brought humanity and spirituality to the genre in a way that resonated to my young self.

I did not know at that time that 13 years later I would end up becoming a professional artist and actually working at the LucasFilm Ranch in Marin County California on Star Wars products making art for some of the very early computer games in the franchise.

Starting in the mid 80’s I began working professionally illustrating the odd cover here and there for companies like Baen Books and St. Martin’s Press but not enough to quit my regular job. I was also showing my work at fantasy and science fiction conventions winning awards and selling originals, and painting landscape commissions for people but again not enough to make a living from it.

 LucasFilm launched my professional career as an artist. I was hired by them full time in 1990 and I worked on Star Wars for Nintendo, Super Nintendo and later on with Totally Games on the Xwing series for the PC. In those days at LucasFilm we were a small division and the artists had lots of responsibilities and creativity, there were only 15 of us when I started. Those games made up a large part of my work as a professional in the Entertainment industry. 

When I left LucasFilm Games had become the LucasArts Games Division and we had tripled the personnel.  I had no problem getting hired at other top game companies. The steady work over the next 12 years helped me build my abilities and allowed me to transition into galleries. The high output of those industry work deadlines, although frustrating at the time, helped my productivity level which sustains my art business to this day.

I will always be grateful to the people at LucasFilm who hired me to work for them in the games division and later Totally Games as a concept/background/production artist. The time I had at the LucasFilm Ranch, surrounded by all the other talented artists that I worked with, shaped me as an artist in every aspect and helped to have the successful career I have today.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Pricing Your Work as an Artist Pt 2

Armand Cabrera

Once an artist starts selling their work the next thing to do is expand your brand. Your brand is your business identity. As an artist you and your art are inextricably intertwined.  How you conduct your public business dealings is part of building your marketability as an artist. Clients aren’t just buying a piece of work from you; they are investing in you and your career.

You have to build a brand with everything working in tandem. Quality of work, customer satisfaction, a list of accomplishments like museum shows, awards, articles. One just can't buy their way to a pedigree. Your brand is more than just the quality of your art, it’s the demand you are building for something (your work) that only you can provide. Price can be built up over time with a history of artistic achievements to make the case to collectors why they should pay an amount over and above material value and effort expended. 

Raising your prices should be carefully considered. The rule of thumb is when you sell faster than you can comfortably produce its time to raise your prices. But there are other scenarios that shouldn’t be over looked. One is a good economy. In good economies it is important to build prices while you can and have them increase as peoples earnings increase because when the economy falters the price you are at is where the downward pressure of a bad economy will start to affect your sales. For people with too low of a price point the economy could force them out of the market altogether. A more established artist, with higher prices, could survive price corrections of a bad economy for a longer period of time. That time allows them to continue to work at what they love and to modify what they do in answer to new dynamics of the changing business landscape.

If you never raise your prices you will be buried under rising costs of materials and general inflation. An artist must raise their prices to survive as an artist. The old saying to make hay while the sun is shining goes double for the self-employed. As an artist one must constantly apply pressure to the economic forces around them. Another thing to consider is collectors want to see their investments grow. They are spending their hard earned money on you as an individual. They believe in your brand and nothing makes collectors happier than to see it grow over time.  While some may stop buying your work as your prices increase, they are still your advocates. They still want to see your brand succeed.

All of this means an artist can’t be too insular. Art is communication and finding the balance for a successful career should be on every self-employed artists mind as they work. Do you like to paint figure work? What can you do to make it more appealing to buyers and still satisfy your creative desire? How can you expand that interest into other similar genres to grow your client base and still satisfy you as an artist?

Some people choose to work and paint on the side and that’s fine. Doing that does limit your creative time but it’s better than starving and if you work on your art towards the goal of being an independent artist the steady income can help you get there. When I started out I worked non art jobs for 17 years before landing my first full time art job at LucasFilm Games at 35. I’m 60 now and have worked as an artist that whole time. Some of that time was for other people or a company as an illustrator, concept or production artist and some of it was as a gallery artist.

 The things that have helped me survive all this time are cultivating a broad interest in different genres and types of art and applying my own personal style to them, participating in prestigious shows, and building customer satisfaction with corporate clients, galleries and directly with collectors. Something worth considering if you are just starting your artistic career.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Pricing Your Work as an Artist Part 1

Armand Cabrera

These ideas for pricing are for artists trying to make a living from their art. Pricing is irrelevant to people who work other jobs or don’t need the income. People make art for many reasons and not all of them want to make their living exclusively from their art.

Pricing is subjective let’s just admit that and get it out of the way. An artist’s price is very organic over a lifetime as styles and tastes change. It is the age old problem price too low forces the artist to churn work out and eventually that affects quality, price too high and you don't sell enough to be able to work and that affects output, which affects quality.

This may seem to make pricing harder but it shouldn’t. Just about everything bought and sold has a subjectively applied value to it. For every price point there are willing buyers if the perceived value of the object being sold matches the asking price in the collectors mind.

When artists start out they constantly question their pricing. I think when you start pricing should be simple; you should reimburse yourself for your materials and your effort. The pay for your effort should be based on skill compared to other jobs in the marketplace.

Personally, I think competent representational art takes more skill than being a waiter or sales clerk or barista. So the artist should price taking that into account. I think when you start out charging $15 to $20 an hour for your effort plus your expenses is not unreasonable. It gives you a base to not lose too much money as an artist. Once you have a base price you can then adjust it upward or downward to align with other work of similar caliber in the marketplace already.

As an artist you are building a brand. Your brand is important because it affects your price over your career. You establish price in an art market through awards and other established recognition like important commissions, magazine articles, inclusions in books and juried or museum shows. Markets are finicky and establishment in one doesn’t necessarily translate to another. The best way to get your brand going is to build on the quality of your work. While there are many styles and genres of art each one of them has a standard of excellence to aspire to.

The value of these achievements as an indicator of success depends on the fidelity to a measurable standard. In other words if any of these has too much nepotism or unfair judging going on the value as an indicator of success is worthless.

Pay to play magazines are a good example of this. Paying to be in a magazine doesn’t make you a good artist it just makes you one with a lot of disposable income. Using nepotism or cronyism to score work doesn’t really help your career in the long run, neither does copying living or dead masters and they eventually work against an artist over the life of their career.

You have to build a brand with everything working in tandem. Quality of work, customer satisfaction, a list of museum shows, awards, articles. One just can't buy their way to a pedigree. Your brand is more than just the quality of your art it’s the demand you are building for something (your work) that only you can provide. Price can be built over time with a history to make the case to collectors why they should pay an amount for something on top of material value and effort expended.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Laurits Tuxen 1853-1927

Armand Cabrera

Laurits Regner Tuxen was born in Copenhagen in 1853 His father was the director of the naval dockyards there and Laurits was fascinated with the sea from an early age.  He entered the Royal Academy in Copenhagen at age 14 and very quickly was recognized for his abilities and rose to the top of his class.

He wanted to be a Marine painter but was guided into figure painting because of his skill with portraits and became a successful court painter throughout Europe painting many pictures of royal families and weddings. There are twenty-seven paintings by Tuxen in the Royal Collection, Windsor. His work for the English court extended across the reigns of three monarchs: Queen Victoria, Edward VII and George V.

 He started visiting the artists’ colony in Skagen around 1870.  He was good friends with the artists there, especially P. S. Kroyer and Michael Anchor. After the academy Laurits travelled to Paris and studied under Leon Bonnat at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. It was Bonnat that guided Laurits toward Naturalism.

 After embracing this new style Laurits work became freer in handling, lighter in tone and more colorful in his palette. making him very successful with patrons around Europe.  He maintained a residence in Paris and was in great demand for over thirty years. 

Some of his more famous paintings during this time include the wedding of Tsar Nicholas II, The portrait of Queen Victoria, the coronation of Tsar Nicholas II,  The coronation of George V and The crowning of Queen Alexandra,

In 1880 he took a position as a professor at the school of artistic studies in Copenhagen. The school was founded to counteract the conservatism of the Royal Academy there and Tuxen was the first professor to introduce Naturalism to his students.

 In 1886 he married Ursule de Baisiex and the couple had three daughters. Tragically in 1899 his wife and oldest daughter died from tuberculosis. In 1901 Laurits remarried Frederikke Treschow and they built a home in Skagen and Laurits and his family became a permanent member of the artists’ colony there. He was instrumental in the foundation of the Skagen museum. In Skagen he finally pursued marine and genre painting of local scenes and family and friends. Laurits Tuxen Died in 1927.

The Painters of Skagen
Knud Voss (English Translation by Peter Shield)
Stok-Art Publishers 994

Monday, November 16, 2015

Art and Free Speech

Armand Cabrera

I have been writing these articles for over ten years now and in that time I’ve rarely strayed from the narrow topic of the general nuts and bolts of art but with recent events taking place here in this country and around the world I feel compelled to speak out against what I see as an assault on free speech.

Art does not exist in a vacuum. To flourish it needs certain conditions and to my way of thinking the most important is the free exchange of ideas. Ideas that challenge our comfort zones and push our boundaries and even may offend us are an important part of what goes into making all forms of great art.

In this country free speech is being strangled on college campuses by individuals who only want a platform for their narrow worldviews. They have set themselves up as the overlords of all things right and good and in doing so have destroyed any chance for dialogue between opposing viewpoints. Surprisingly this is coming from the left side of the political spectrum instead of conservatives.

This goes against everything America was built on. Freedom of speech is a fundamental right even when it is distasteful or outright offensive. As an artist I am well acquainted with this kind of fascist control over what people can say or do or write or draw. In my career I have been blocked from showing my art because it had religious overtones, political commentary, nudity, violence or in some cases fantasy elements.  I abhor censorship as much when this comes from the left as I do when it comes from the right of the political spectrum.

Stifling free speech leads to an insular worldview and limited thinking which leads to extreme and sometimes violent intolerance of other viewpoints. Reports of students spitting on people listening to speakers they disagree with or locking out and threatening journalists trying to report on news events shows how far they have fallen from American values on our campuses.

Even more disturbing are the recent bombings around the world showing that democracies are being threatened by extreme fundamentalism. Attacks on musicians, writers, journalists and cartoonists some with murderous outcomes for the victims of the aggression, have been increasing around the globe. This type of attack goes against the core beliefs of a free democracy and capitulation to the aggressors is not the answer. No ideology, social or religious, should be exempt from criticism or outright ridicule by anyone in a free society.

Artists of all disciplines have always pushed society’s boundaries. They have always been the forefront of free thought. In my opinion the world is now a better place because of this, do not let a few extremists who fear progress and change alter that. 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Fall in the Tidal Basin

Armand Cabrera

I had a great time painting in the Tidal Basin yesterday. The fall weather was perfect with temps in the low 60’s. The paintings I did were small 9 x 12's 

The crowds were low compared to spring during the blossoms but for me the color was just as nice. It was easy to drive in and park near the Ohio Street Bridge and walk a few hundred yards to my first painting location.

It is a little past peak at the basin but the trees at the Lincoln Memorial and Reflecting pool are still green. The mall was mixed with some trees completely denuded of leaves and some just turning.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Rene Bull

Armand Cabrera

Rene Bull was born in 1872 in Dublin, Ireland. His father was English and his mother French
Rene studied engineering in Paris but decided he wanted to pursue art and took drawing lessons from the famous cartoonist Emmanuel PoirĂ© who went by the pseudonym Caran d’ Ache. 

When Rene returned to England in 1892 he settled in London and began creating wordless cartoons for Illustrated Bits and Pick Me Up.

In 1896 he became a war artist for the Black and White news magazine. He covered the Afghan War the Armenian Massacre and the Greco Turkish War. In 1900 he was severely wounded covering the Boer War.

Returning to England he worked as an illustrator and cartoonist. He is most remembered for his illustrations for The Arabian Nights in 1912 and The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam in 1913 and Gulliver’s Travels in 1928.

Rene Bull died in 1942

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Illuxcon 8

Armand Cabrera

Illuxcon 8 is fast approaching and I am working to get everything ready before I leave next Tuesday.

I will have 8 new paintings and a number of drawings this year as well as some prints of favorite images.
This will be my fifth year showing my work and my fourth time in the Main Show.
If your going to the show make sure you stop by and say hi.

Only the Stars Endure 9 x 12 oil on panel