Monday, April 16, 2012

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Sam Weber illustrator interviews!

The best things you could ever listen to if you really want to do this for a living.

Your Dreams, My Nightmares.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Mid-Term reviews

Don't forget about mid-term reviews this week! If you do not have a slot, or need to reschedule, please drop me a line at or see me in class.

Tuesday & Thursday are in DA3.
Wednesday & Friday are at Otherlands on Cooper.

12pm- Jason
330pm- Robbie
430pm- Aubrey

11am- Ira
12pm- Izamar
1pm- Lee
2pm- Luke
3pm- Stephanie
4pm- Chris Mays

11am- Maysa
12pm- Mary
330pm: Kayla
430: Colton

12pm- Chris Hill
1pm: Emily
2pm: Terri
4pm: RahLeeCoh

Friday, March 2, 2012

Project 3: Invisible Cities pt. 1

The great modern magic realist/postmodern writer Italo Calvino released Invisible Cities in 1972. The book’s framing story involves Marco Polo describing to Kublai Khan the cities in the Khan’s empire (the empire having grown too large for the Khan to visit them all himself). The cities are described in series of prose poems, and often less about describing urban geography than exploring philosophical or poetic notions, such as human nature, linguistics, metaphysics, ethics, and memory.

We will conduct an intense visual development cycle based on Invisible Cities. We will be fleshing out the appearance and narratives of the cities through research, writing, sketches, and concept illustrations. The project will eventually culminate in two painted illustrations, each measuring 11” x 17”.


To create specific visuals from a literary source that uses non-literal and poetic imagery; to expand upon source material in order to have greater insight into its depiction; to fuse disparate anthropological and scientific sources to create a credible non-existent environment; to contrast interior and exterior space using separate warm and cool palates; to build upon solid fundamentals of perspective; to be exposed to a fast-paced production cycle with outside variables.

Source material:

Read Invisible Cities, and choose the city you would like to develop. I will provide excerpts, but I wholly encourage you to purchase the book for yourselves or at least check it out of the library.

You may also view the book in .pdf form online here.


“Day in the Life:” Write a short 500 word essay about a typical day in the life of an inhabitant of your city. Begin in the morning, and record the inhabitant’s routine until he or she goes to sleep at night. Look to your own daily routine for events to transpose upon your inhabitant. Think about the logistics behind every aspect of your own daily life. This essay is due on Tuesday, March 6th.


Research the cities of at least two different cultures. Each culture should be separated both geographically and by at least 200 years in time. Start compiling imagery that speaks to the following:

- Geography: where is the city located? What landmarks define the city? (For example, Rome is said to be founded by Romulus, after killing his brother Remus, on the Palatine Hill,overlooking the Tiber River.)
- Climate: What is the city’s climate? Is it wet or arid? Hot or cold? Is it affected by the surrounding geography? How did this impact architecture and agriculture? How does climate affect local flora and fauna? How did climate affect clothing?
- Architecture: Cities are built from the ground up and continue growing upward upon themselves. What are the architectural traditions of the city? How is the city laid out? How did inhabitants get around the city? Find both exterior spaces and interior spaces. How were the interior spaces furnished?
- Society- What were the main centers of the city? Social? Economic? Religious? Military? Were there social classes, if so, how did that affect the layout of the city?

As always, the more images you collect and the more research you do, the richer your imagined city will be. Research will be ongoing throughout the project, but you must present your initial research along with your “Day in the Life” essay on Tuesday, March 6th.

Concept Art:

Using what you have learned from your initial research, your writing, and the source material, begin to design your city. Use the same approach that you utilized for your research: start with geography, then climate, then architecture, then social structures.

Starting on Tuesday, March 6th, you will thumb, sketch, and refining a concept illustration EVERY SINGLE WEEKDAY until Thursday April 5th. There will be a total of 18 concept illustrations. These illustrations must be at least 6” x 6. DO NOT skip the thumbnailing and sketching stage for these: the concept piece must be at a higher level of finish than your sketches.

You must have the following number of concept pieces:

- (4) x architectural exteriors
- (4) x architectural interiors
- (1) x landscape
- (6) x figures/costumes
- (3) x objects from daily life (vehicles, furniture, etc.)

10 of these concept pieces (it doesn’t matter which) must be painted in color with acrylic. The remaining 8 can be executed in any media (dry, ink, etc.).

Consider what you know about your city both from Italo Calvino and your own writing. Remember that people have lived in this city for generations: their will be older and newer styles jostling against one another; there will be inhabitants who prefer more conservative styles, and inhabitants who are more progressive. There will be noise, and garbage, and graffiti. It should look lived in. Don’t forget your basic rules of perspective. Come see me if you have any problems!

Consider your color schemes carefully. Think back to the Periodic Table assignment: WHY are things the colors that they are? What colors and color schemes best convey the mood of your city? I suggest mapping out various color schemes with color wheel gamuts to help you keep your color schemes cohesive.

You will each receive wall space in the classroom to post copies of your concept art so that we can track your city’s “growth.”

Use weekends advantageously—consider using them to give yourself more time to do color pieces. DO NOT fall behind schedule. Procrastinating and attempting to catch up at the last minute will be almost impossible.

Final 1:

After the visual development cycle, develop 30 thumbnails of a scene in your city. The scene should show both an interior and exterior space, and should contain enough specific action that it looks like a scene taking place in your city, not just a study of the city itself. You may want to return to your “Day in the Life” essay and pick out a specific moment within your narrative.

Choose the best two thumbnails and draw them larger and cleaner as presentation sketches for class. We will not be doing a sized value study for this piece, so MAKE SURE your values are well and considered at the sketching stage.

Proceed with a painted final. Remember basics of warm/cool in portraying interior/exterior spaces. Refer back to your visual development to achieve a harmonized palette and overall “look” to your painting. The final painting will be due on April 17th for critique.

Important dates:

3.1 – Invisible Cities assigned, zoo observational exercise, sign up for Mid-Term review.
3.6- Overview Invisible Cities research, begin concept art cycle.
3.12 – 3.18- SPRING BREAK!
4.5- Concept art cycle finished.
4.10- Sketches due for painted final.
4.17- Finished Invisible City painting due for crit.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Art and Science Go Together Like Mac N Cheese

It's true. Check out these sites on the Voyager Golden Record project:

Online color gamut tool!

Project 2: Periodic Table

An element is a chemically pure substance consisting of a single type of atom, such as oxygen, lead, or uranium. In 1869, the elements were organized according to their chemical properties and atomic number by Dmitri Mendeleev. This chart is called The Periodic Table, and has, with refinements, been in use ever since. For this assignment, we will create an illustrated Periodic Table. The illustration will be 15”x15”.

To use research and ideation techniques to develop narrative from a non-narrative point of departure; to build upon the compositional, referenced, and painting skills from Project 1; to use a near-complementary color scheme in a painting; to balance multiple formal demands with the need to create a striking image.

Chose a chemical element, and sign up for it on the posted Periodic Table. Only one person may pick a given element.

Research your element, making note of at least ten distinct facts about it. These may be from the history or folklore relating to the element, interesting physical properties, or uses and applications. To this list of ten you may add any personal associations you may have with this substance. From this list, develop a “mind map,” spinning out associations from these facts, and then building on those associations. When you have developed a rich map of associations, look for connections between concepts from different branches of the map. Make note on the map of interesting visual and narrative ideas that come out of these connections.

Ideally, you are seeking two things: a basic narrative to depict in your illustration, and at least one other thematic reference to the element. Take antimony as an example. This metalloid substance, which I’d never heard of until seeking out an obscure element to use as an example, doesn’t seem very promising, at first. It’s shiny, in a chintzy sort of way, and has a number of industrial uses: it’s used in plumbing, and matches, and flame-proofing compounds. But then I find out that it was used make kohl, the dark eye makeup favored throughout the Ancient World. Now, all sorts of narrative possibilities open up: Cleopatra being made-up before meeting Caesar; Salome dancing for the head of John the Baptist, even Johnny Depp dressing up as Jack Sparrow. Pretty much any scene from history or myth that involved a man or woman wearing eye make-up is fair game. Drawing connections between Cleopatra’s Egypt and antimony’s use in matches and flame-proofing leads me to Sekhmet, the Goddess of Fire. So, Cleopatra being made-up with kohl before meeting Caesar is my main narrative for my illustration, and images of Sekhmet (as well as some compositionally prominent braziers) addresses my secondary thematic reference to antimony.

In addition to the narrative content and at least one secondary reference, the illustration should include the atomic number of the element being depicted (in the case of antimony, this is 51).

Develop at least 25 thumbnail sketches of your idea. Each thumbnail should be a different compositional approach to the image. Select the three best compositions and draw them larger (around 4”x4’) and neater, so that you can present them to the class.

Reference: Collect the friends and props necessary to shoot good references for your illustration. As with Tableau Vivant, use the photo-shoot as an opportunity to explore and refine your composition. Bring at least ten good shots to present to the class. Additionally, collect any other photo-references you will need for your image.

Based on the feedback you receive in class on your photographed compositions, develop your drawing at the size of the final illustration. Focus on value, first and foremost. Make sure your composition translates well to the final size.


This image will be rendered in a near-complementary color scheme. Using a color wheel, determine the palette of your piece. You may use only these two colors as well as black and white. Spend some time in your sketchbook making some color swatches with these paints. Test out different proportions of colors to drive your color schemes—refer to the movie color scheme exercise. Make sure your color scheme reflects your narrative. Check to see whether you can effectively push/pull with warms and cools.


- Sketches and thumbnails can be in your sketchbook. Thumbs can be any size, but sketches must be at least 4” x “4.
- Value study drawing must true to size, 15” x 15”. Use good drawing paper like Rives BFK.
- Final will be on illustration board, 15” x 15”. It must have a 3” border on all sides, bringing your overall dimension to 18” x 18”.

When the painting is finished, flap the illustration board with a sheet of tracing paper and a sheet of cover stock.


2.9 – Tableau Vivant matted and turned in

2.14 – Periodic Table research due and presented. Gamut mask exercise due.

2.16 - Review reference, begin value study.

2.21- Value study drawing due and reviewed.

2.28- Periodic Table critique.

3.1- Turn in Periodic Table.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Golden Age Comic Book Stories

Hey guys.

If you're not aware of this blogspot, go check it out yesterday. Particularly of interest, however, is that they added hi-rez N.C. Wyeth images from his illustrations in Kidnapped.


Corrected Color Wheel

Just in case you lost your color wheel, here is a good one-- it differs slightly from the traditional color wheel in that it mathematically maps out the additive colors of light (RGB) rather than paint but the general layout is similar and it is much more true to how we perceive color; on computer screens and in general.

Pull it down here!

Figure Drawing Roundup

I'm going to try and compile a list of figure drawing sessions throughout Memphis so that you can draw all day, every day.

Tomorrow, Adam Shaw will be running a session at his studio on 2547 Broad Ave. from 7pm to whenever (usually 10, sometimes longer). $10.

On Mondays, there is the session in Butler Hall West that is free for students. 730pm-10.

On Fridays until Feb. 24th there is a session at the Flicker Street Studio, 74 Flicker Street, from 10am-12pm. $10

The University of Memphis used to run one on Tuesday nights that was free to all, but I'm unsure if they're still doing it-- I'll double-check.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Figure Drawing Generators

I think these are what John was referring to in class today. These are two websites that pull from their gathered collection of figures, and they can be organized by time, category, gender, etc.

Hope these help.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Color Value Scale

Project 1: Tableau Vivant

A term meaning “Living Picture,” the Tableau Vivant was a popular form of entertainment in Europe before photography, radio, or film. A group of models would recreate paintings, etchings, or scenes from books by posing in frozen attitudes on a stage, often with elaborate costumes, props, and lighting. Tableaux Vivants are still created at the annual “Pageant of the Masters” in Laguna Beach – a $4.1 million production featuring 40 art works recreated over a period of 2 months. For this assignment, you will create a Tableau of one work of figurative art, and use it as reference for a new illustration. The illustration will be 11”x15”.

To explore existing artistic traditions and history as a source of inspiration, to examine the role of image reference, both historical and created, in creating an illustration, to develop an immersive composition from a static one, to use warm and cool contrast in a painting.

Choose one of the artistic traditions listed below:

Chinese Scrolls
European Illuminated Manuscripts
Egyptian Painting
Greek Vase Painting
Persian Miniature Painting
Ukiyo-e Prints

Research the tradition, and find an example of it that you would like to base your piece on. You must have a high quality copy of this image, at least 3”x3”. The image may be Xeroxed or scanned from a book. A low-res JPEG is not acceptable. Put the copy in your sketchbook. Record the name and period of the piece, and, if appropriate, the artist. Write about what is occurring in the image; identify all of the characters, the environment, and any significant objects in the image. Be specific. Do as much research as possible.

Using friends or classmates, re-enact the scene from your image. You may want to arrange equivalents of the costumes, props, and setting, for instance, using a broom handle for a sword. Pay attention to the lightning of your tableau. When you are satisfied with your tableau, photograph it. The artistic traditions listed above tend towards flattened, theatrical compositions. Work against this in your photo-reference. Strive to find the point of view that will create the most interesting composition. Consider the depth of your arrangement: background, middle ground, and foreground. Present your photos in class.

Based on the feedback you receive in class on your photographed compositions, develop your drawing at the size of the final illustration. Focus primarily on value, and refining your composition.

Execute the painting utilizing the concepts of warm and cool and bring attention to certain areas (push & pull) and create the correct emotional mood. Use Titanium White, Burnt Umber, and Ultramarine Blue acrylic paints. By mixing the blue and umber paints, you will create a dark near-black color. Adjusting it with a little more blue or brown will make it cooler or warmer, respectively. Adding white will provide you with full range of warm and cool values.

When the painting is finished, mat it. The mat should have a second window for a good, clean copy of the source image. Flap the mat with a sheet of tracing paper and a sheet of cover stock.

1.19- Project 1: Tableau Vivant assigned
In class and homework: Exercise 2: Texture Matching Scavenger Hunt

1.24- Due: Tableau research, Exercise 2.
In class: Review research for Tableau Vivant
Begin thumbs, sketches for drawing

1.26- Due: Tableau reference photos.
In class: Review sketches, reference. Work on Tableau Vivant drawing.

1.31- Due: Tableau Vivant drawing
In Class: Begin painting

2.2- In Class: Exercise 3: Expression Studies

2.7- Due: Tableau Vivant critiqued.

2.9- Due: Tableau Vivant matted, flapped, labeled and turned in.