Thursday, December 25, 2008

"Merry Christmas"

The Birth of Jesus, Pietro Cavallini, 1291 (mosaic) Rome, Santa Maria Trastevere. Cavallini (c. 1250 – c. 1330) was an Italian painter and mosaic designer working during the late Middle Ages. His work demonstrates an artistic style known as Roman naturalism.

Detail of mosaic:

Friday, December 5, 2008

"Happy Birthday Mr. Disney"

"Walt once said, 'If we can dream it, we can do it.' Then he showed the world how to give cartoons a heart, make an animated feature film, and build Disneyland. Experts bet on his failure at every turn. When Walt did encounter major setbacks he had a way of turning them into a success." -- excerpt from "Walt Disney, The American Dreamer" by Tom Tumbusch.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

"Autumn, by Charlie Harper"

"Charley Harper (August 4, 1922 - June 10, 2007) was a Cincinnati-based American Modernist artist. He was best known for his highly stylized wildlife prints, posters and book illustrations. In a style he called "minimal realism", Harper captured the essence of his subjects with the fewest possible visual elements."

Sunday, August 17, 2008

"Lego Shushi"

'Nuff said. X-D

Thursday, July 24, 2008

"For Those Who Follow LOST-TV"

The imaginary "DHARMA Initiative" group from the LOST TV series has a booth at the San Diego Comic Con this week. That's a long story in itself, but the D.I.'s new look is intriguing. Gone is the hippie-commune style that the LOST creators devised for the original 1970s incarnation of the D.I., and an updated stylized design has taken its place. I like it, it looks like a futuristic version of Frank Lloyd Wright's Prairie style, or a space-aged Arts and Crafts movement. Photos are courtesy of LOST fans' long-standing man-on-the-scene in Hawaii, who has provided us with many set location images over the past four seasons of LOST.

Monday, July 21, 2008

"Bill Sienkiewicz 'Dark Knight' Art"

It's movie-art time again! Today on "Ain't It Cool News" I found production and promo art for "The Dark Knight", plus a link to the webpage of the artist. I'm sorry to admit that I've never heard of this artist before, but at least I know about him now. He's done comics, movies, trading cards, album covers, and much more. Sienkiewicz uses a wide variety of styles and media to convey the feel of each subject, genre, and client, as the case may be. Definitely an artist to learn from.

P.S. The movie is amazing.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

"A New X-Files Comic"

With the second X-Files movie premier approaching this month, it looks like there will be a revival of the comics as well. The graphics look good, and intriguing enough for me to plan on checking this weekend with my comic store down the street as to the release date. :-) See more details here at the EW site:,,20211133,00.html

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Monday, June 9, 2008

"Have You Seen Googie?"

Sure you have, even if you don't know it (and if you're old enough). "Googie" is the name given to the space-aged style design of commercial architecture in the mid 20th century, that reflected the zeitgeist of our overall futuristic mindset. Think of the Jetsons, and you get the idea. This style of architecture began and expanded mostly on the West Coast, but can be seen here and there (where it hasn't been torn down already) across the United States. Googie grew out of the streamline style, and mutated into the various shapes of stars, boomerangs, amoebas, flying saucers, rockets, and other popular images that evoked our intended future in space and beyond. Some of the best examples are coffee shops, motels, gas stations (see above, Palm Springs), fast food joints, and bowling alleys. Even McDonald's original golden arches were a part of the early Googie style, similar to the LAX building. Many futuristic Googie styles were also born at the Seattle and New York World's Fairs and copied around the U.S.

The sweeping arches and jutting supports seemed to defy gravity and make customers feel as if they were next to, or inside of, a hovering spacecraft. Suddenly new buildings were sporting alien looking spires or floating parabolic rooftops. Even churches, especially Protestant, got into a (albeit subtle) futuristic mood resulting in some very ethereal houses of worship. And they were mostly made of clunky flagstone, concrete, and steel, mind you -- not the lightweight composite materials available today -- with lots of glass. This made the eerie floating effect of the designs seem all the more intriguing because of the contradicting heaviness of the materials. Designers had a lot of fun with lettering as well. Text hovered all over the signage, and resembled bubbles, stars, and other heavenly objects of our imagined birthright to the universe. Colors used were often the popular shades of the 50's -- mint green, melon, turquoise -- but when outer space was put into the mix, any bright neon colors on the background of dark blue space were appropriate.

Unfortunately most of these funky space-aged works of art have either been left to deteriorate on vacated lots, or are being systematically demolished, to be replaced by the bland imagination-less buildings (or the self-important gargantuas of New Las Vegas) currently popular today. Thankfully there are local organizations springing up to attempt to save these artifacts of the spirited era that conceived them, but many of the best have been lost. So go out and find some Googieness where you live, and take a few pictures just in case it won't be there very much longer.

A good book on Googie history:

Monday, June 2, 2008

"100 Suns Exhibit"

I saw an exhibit of Michael Light's (Full Moon, etc.) at the Knoxville Art Museum that I had forgotten to add this blog, until seeing the new Indiana Jones movie reminded me (also, Ohighway's book blog entry reminded me the second time, thanks!) Light has revived and reprinted archival images from government prints and negatives, and put together a large book and exhibit displaying the visual awe, wonder, and terror of nuclear bomb test clouds and plumes.

From his website/book: "A Note On The Photographs - The images in this book show U.S. atomic detonations from the era of above-ground nuclear testing, which lasted from July 16, 1945 to November 4, 1962. In that time, the United States conducted 216 nuclear tests in the atmosphere and oceans, and the Soviet Union conducted 217."

For the exhibit, the prints are enlarged to an average of 2'x3' feet in size, and the beauty of atomic energy itself is very evident. It's easy to understand why people who lived in Las Vegas used to go to the edge of town to watch the blasts, back in the day. The visual effects are amazing, and in the night images one can imagine how it might look to see stars being born in outer space when gazing at all that shining power. Back here on earth though, that power can be very detrimental. The exhibit was non-judgemental politically though, as far as I could tell. Light merely presents the glowing test blasts and clouds as they are, at the point of capture by various government personnel. For the moment his website is being revamped, and the images of the "100 Suns" book are not available. Next time you are in the book store, see if they have it, it's an amazing collection of images.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

"Tony Stark's Pad"

The "Iron Man" movie just released is spectacular in my opinion, but I'll leave the reviews for that movie for the comic guys. Suffice it to say there was not one moment of the movie that did not impress me, even though I have never read a single Iron Man comic book until today. But of course what totally blew me away was the house that he lived in, which was one of my favorite styles of architecture -- sweeping curved concrete with glass walls. I just read that the house was mostly CGI and sets, of course, but is based on a house owned by some bazillionaire oil sheik. When I searched on his name though, not one site came up for it. So thus far I doubt the house's actual existence in any capacity.

But, the house does look a lot like the Arango House built by John Lautner, one of the premier architects of the mid 20th Century. It resides on the side of a hill in Acapulco, Mexico. I hope that later this year more information will surface as to whether or not any particular house was a model or inspiration for the one in the movie. For more on the movie architecture, view a video that Yahoo released of the director giving a short tour of the set:
For more on John Lautner see this site:
Additional Lautner factoid: his Elrod residence (which is also similar to Stark's house) is the round concrete house used in the Bond movie "Diamonds Are Forever".

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

R.I.P. And Thank-You, Sir Arthur C. Clarke"

Another great mind and inspirational achiever of the 20th Century passed from us this year (Dec.1917-Mar.2008). Clarke's writings of science and fiction inspired among other things, many beautiful, curious, and bizarre works of art to accompany his imagination. A big task to live up to, considering his fertile mind invented the idea of geosynchronous orbiting satellites, in one of his earliest science fiction stories. And who can forget the majestic Robert McCall movie posters for his story "2001: A Space Odyssey"?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

"Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd"

This evening I was suddenly compelled to go out and see "Sweeney Todd", and was glad that I did. On a scale of art alone, it's visually fascinating. Even though the color palette was of the predominantly indigo and sepia tones that Burton (and many these days) often uses, in this case it enhances the era portrayed and wasn't annoying. The sets were unique and displayed an antique grittiness that made you subliminally feel the bleakness of London at that time, as Dickens portrayed it so well. The pie shop was worn and dusty, with its rusty cast iron, yellowed tiles, and chunky wooden furniture. White pristine stonework around the Judge's house points out the protective wall separating the privileged inside, from the not-so-privileged on the streets. All the windows that the camera often pans through are the warped glass of that age. Todd's attic barber shop has a wall which is almost entirely made of these warped windows, that look out over the world of London that he despises, which is how Todd is looking at life -- through his warped sensibilities that have been twisted by hate of his fellow man. The outdoor shots in the streets and alleys have a tight claustrophobic bricked-in feel that convey how trapped the lower classes must have felt in London at that time. The costumes are interesting as well, not necessarily completely historical, but with a ragged Goth aesthetic to them where accuracy might be missing.

The film of course possessed the feel of some familiar Burton predecessors, such as 'Edward Scissorhands', 'Sleepy Hollow', and 'Corpse Bride', albeit in a less abstract manner. It also had some of the ancient richness of 'Labyrinth' sets. In fact, in some songs Depp sounded a lot like David Bowie in 'Labyrinth', but that was fine. The singing was not an issue to me, just the visuals. The sets were extremely unique and artistically a natural progression for Burton, after his previous projects via his style. He manages to portray a dreary old London era in a new way that allows viewers to melt into the sets and scenery of another time, regardless of the grim subject matter, retelling the almost 200 year old legend of the demon barber for a new century.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

"Fantastic New Book By John Howe"

I was rummaging around the art section of the bookstore this week to check on new releases and saw John Howe's new book. Wow. Being one of the foremost fantasy artists to emerge in the latter part of the 20th C., if his artwork inspires you, wait until you see this tutorial. It's not extensive in fundamental training (which it should not be), but does cover things like setting up your work area, and the materials and techniques that he uses. He then goes into the meaty topics, such as drawing various creatures, human beings, backgrounds, armor, etc. The book is profusely illustrated with his sketches and paintings (some covering stages of progress) and the text is very thoughtful, giving his insights on technique, inspiration, and motivation.

Howe's artistic style has always affected me the way that Roger Dean's fantasy art did when he became well known via his album cover art for music groups like YES. Of course the styles are different, but both artists have the ablility to totally transport you to other worlds that you've never seen or imagined before. Howe's worlds are often visually soft and feature dream-like fogginess, but are no less powerful for it.

I highly recommend this book to artists, and he also has a website that is worth visiting regularly. Among other great features on his site, you can send e-cards of his work but I haven't done that yet so I don't know if it's a free service or not.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

"The New LOST Game Concept Art"

To me, concept art, especially for movies, is some of the best and most interesting work I've ever seen, although it's not always the kind of subject that you would naturally think to hang up in your living room. So that's what dens and family rooms are for! I also think that matte paintings for movies are beautiful as well, going way back to the old masters from the early days of film. But concerning the post title, I've found some interesting artwork that was posted on the Lostpedia website, for the Lost video game coming out soon. There are 19 images of conceptual art there so far.