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.