Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Tribute to David Cronenberg

As a massive horror fan, it was only natural for me to pick movie director David Cronenberg as the subject for my Hartford magazine assignment. The idea is to do a portrait on the cover of a magazine in the style of a particular illustrator, all from the same decade. This is what I did last time: Maria Callas in Coby Whitmore's style on The Saturday Evening Post

 For my artistic inspiration, I looked to the incredible Marshall Arisman.  http://marshallarisman.com/ The magazine cover format emulated is Midnight Marquee ( example). Note- I am in no way selling or distributing this project as an actual Midnight Marquee cover.

Many of Cronenberg's movies deal with bodily transformations (The Fly, Videodrome, Dead Ringers, etc.) Arisman's work also deals with transformative experiences, though in different, sometimes spiritual ways. I thought it would be interesting to bridge some of the feel from both artists.

More about what I used at my facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/eholtillustration/posts/1051580761561486

Friday, April 17, 2015

San Francisco Reaction

For this San Francisco trip reaction piece, I used the same brainstorming method I had worked from previously in my NY piece (see here) ---->

I began with my overall strongest impressions of the city. I first recalled how steep the streets in San Francisco were. I had visited once before, years ago. Even though it had been a brief driving tour, I still remembered how vertically inclined the sidewalks could be. It was even more apparent this time around, as I was mostly on foot.

San Francisco was colorful and everything looked heavily saturated compared to where I currently live, in Boston. The palette here feels more cool and subdued, (though the contrast of New England leaves in the fall is stunning). I was quite taken with San Francisco's apartment architecture, as well as the streets of Chinatown. I loved the pagoda style roofs and the Chinese lanterns.

Lastly, I was bemused to see quite a few fit people, with some surprisingly un-fit dogs. This was hard to reconcile with the roller coaster streets, which provide ample exercise, but I saw more than one extra curvaceous pug or dachshund.

Ultimately, my image became about San Franciscan pedestrians, steep streets, tottering balance, bright colors, a struggling pug, and the seaside atmosphere. I wanted something bright, dynamic, maybe even a bit art deco, though the end result isn't quite in that genre. I had a lot of fun with this piece, and thanks to my classmates' critiques, made some final changes for the better.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Updates Dec-April

Currently I have two main ideas in progress on for my Hartford Master's program:

1. A series of paintings about Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper (hey she was a native of Hartford, Connecticut!).

2. A set of illustrations about animals which have compound names, portrayed literally, so that they look like fantasy creatures. 

Recently, I finished a reaction piece for my New York trip. Initially, I was going to use one of the myriads of photos I took as inspiration for a realistic painting, but ultimately that idea didn't get my creative juices flowing, nor did it really express my reaction to New York. Going back to the drawing board, I recalled how easy it was to spend over one's budget on all the exciting things the city has to offer. In particular I remembered my surprise at seeing a Cupcake ATM.

My initial concept was to create a parody of a fancy handbag ad, the sort you might see on kiosks just walking down the NY sidewalk. The catch would be that the bag made your money very hard to access, but you'd still spend a boatload to purchase it, and look trendy. The subtlety would deceive the viewer into thinking that the ad was genuine. I was considering even trying some watercolor, fashion illustration technique.

After sketching a bit, it just wasn't capturing the humor of the idea enough. It wasn't lively, nor did the prospect of working on it excite me. 

As usual I began thinking in vignettes.
 Back to the "Cupcake ATM", I thought how funny it would be if my hamster, an endless source of comedic inspiration, came across one of those. No doubt, her self control would be compromised within seconds. 

I began thumbnailing a narrative about a hamster visiting New York, using some of my own experiences as inspiration. 

To spend or not to spend? 

I made a checklist of sorts, for sights and scenes to cover, such as a Chinatown restaurant, the Cloisters, Broadway etc.  It began to take shape as a New Yorker-esque cartoon series, with a narrator hocking the "Lock-it" handbag to the desperate hamster.

Some of the finals

 Thanks to my experience in Degree Project at Massart, which required us all to make handmade books, the logical next step was to turn the series into something physical, complete with tapestry-like fabric reminiscent of the Cloisters, and locks from my local hardware store.

And just like that, it was time for the Hartford--> San Francisco trip!

Once again we had a wonderful array of speakers, including: 

Colin Fix: http://colinfix.blogspot.com
Brian Stauffer: http://brianstauffer.com
Chuck Pyle: http://charlespylestudio.com
Dennis Ziemenski: http://ziemienski.com/dzabout.html
Robert Hunt http://roberthuntstudio.com
Courtney Granner: http://www.sjsu.edu/design/design_programs/ai_design_program/ai_faculty/granner_courtney/
Owen Smith: http://www.owensmithart.com/about.php
Lou Brooks http://loubrooks.com
Ward Shumaker and Vivienne Flesher: http://warddraw.com
Tony Trujillo: http://www.trujilloportfolio.blogspot.com

We were also treated to an amazing tour of Bunny Carter's illustration collection, and EA Games's facilities. 

AND, while I was there, I collaborated on these very important pieces with fellow illustrator Alyssa Menold:

Sunday, December 14, 2014

December Commission work

 Happy holidays everyone!

Here are two book cover assignments I've recently completed. The first features a flying squirrel carrying a mysterious bundle, while the second showcases a nefarious, bloodstained chipmunk.

As usual I began with thumbnails, and detailed value studies. Making a chipmunk look less than adorable, even when daubed with blood, was tricky to say the least. I mean, these are critters I've occasionally coaxed into my hands with peanuts.

How could this ever be scary? DAWW

Google Image's tempting, but inadequate reference options for "Angry chipmunk"

Then again, Gogo Yubari in Tarantino's "Kill Bill" was somehow all the more disturbing by how cute she was

 Gogo Yubari .gif

So that ironic flair to this character ended up being one of my favorite parts of the project

"Can I eat peanuts from your hand?... Or else?"

A few of my thumbnails for "Fall".

I noted that two of my previous covers, from quite a while back, had a formal, portrait-like quality,

This time around, I focused more on the landscapes' depth, texture, and color. I wanted to create more of an atmospheric context for the animals.

It was fun incorporating new little design elements to the typography ( a maple leaf for "Fall"and roots for "Overworld") to add continuity from the nut and feather symbols previously used. Overall, I had a great time learning from the new challenges these paintings presented.

Now onward to my New York reaction piece, and thesis work! So much to do, and so much I'm looking forward to doing!

My cute little varmint celebrating the holidays

Sunday, November 16, 2014

New York Contact Period

I've just returned from an exhilarating trip to New York city with my Hartford MFA group. As Doctor Seuss might say "Oh the places you'll go!", and we certainly went and saw so many great places, and people, that my head is still spinning (in a good way). Throughout the week, we had a line up of incredible guest illustration speakers:

1. Rudy Gutierrez: http://www.rudygutierrez.net/
2. Barbara Nessim: http://www.barbaranessim.com/
3. Donato Giancola: http://www.donatoart.com/
4. Steve Brodner: http://stevebrodner.com/ 
5. Joe Ciardiello: http://www.joeciardiello.com/
6. Yuko Shimizu: http://yukoart.com/
7. Burt Silverman: http://www.burtonsilverman.com/
8. Peter de Seve: http://www.peterdeseve.com/

This took place at The Society of Illustrators http://www.societyillustrators.org/. It was my first time visiting. Never have I wanted so badly to simply set up house in a museum.

Happy illustrators discussing illustration at The Society of Illustrators.

 It was a surreal moment to come face to face with the original of one of my favorite book covers (Sabriel by Garth Nix) from a special display of Leo and Diane Dillon's work http://www.societyillustrators.org/The-Museum/2014/Leo-and-Diane-Dillon/The-Art-of-Leo-and-Diane-Dillon.aspx

"Sabriel" cover art by Leo and Diane Dillon

 We held our first critique for our finished magazine cover projects, at The Society as well. As Murray and Carol Tinkelman were unable to attend this time around, we had a successful Skype session with them during the critiques.

Our magazine projects are lined around the bottom.

My finished cover piece of Maria Callas inspired by Coby Whitmore's style:

On another day, we toured the beautiful Pratt Institute campus,

 and the stunning home of collaborative children's book couple, Ted and Betsy Lewin, where we also received a lighting and reference photo workshop with Bill Kontzias:

Ted Lewin's watercolors up in his studio

Some lighting exploration

 There was a lively evening drawing session with Ted Michalowski http://tedmichalowski.com/ at the Society as well.

How cool is it to watch yourself materialize on paper, within a few moments? Very cool! (drawing by Ted Michalowski) 

I also got to see the gorgeous Cloisters with a family member. The Unicorn Tapestries were unforgettable http://www.metmuseum.org/visit/visit-the-cloisters

On the final day, our bedazzled class walked into the Illustration House, a rare gallery and auction house for originals of famous illustrators. http://illustrationhouses.com/, and saw work hanging on the wall, which is featured in our Illustration History book: The Illustrator in America (1860-2000). We had the privilege of meeting editor of the book himself, Roger Reed (president of Illustration House). It was exciting to see how staunchly this gallery has worked to keep this illustration documented and available to view and purchase, but a little sobering to hear undervalued illustration has been in comparison to fine art over time. It is mind boggling how anyone could look at work like this...

...and not see it as every bit important, worthy of praise, and influential as the work of fine painters.

It's easy to take for granted what surrounds us daily, and the rich history of the profession. I would encourage anyone to visit The Society of Illustrators and The Illustration House to see the unique beauty illustration brings to our lives, and to be inspired anew by the incoming artists.

Monday, October 13, 2014

October Updates

After getting back from the July summer session at Hartford, and completing some papers, I've been working on an exciting assignment: Create a cover for a particular magazine, of specific decade, in the style of an illustrator from that time period.

I'm painting Maria Callas on the Saturday Evening Post (50s) in the style of Coby Whitmore.  Before even getting started on the final, I spent a pretty long time on process. Here are just a few of the thumbnails and value studies

Interestingly, the final piece I'm working on has evolved dramatically from any of the compositions I initially came up with.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Getting ready for grad school

Haven't been posting much lately, as I'm preparing and trying to come up with good project concepts for my first term at the Low Residency Master's in Illustration program at Hartford University, for which I'm very excited! It looks like it's going to be an intense but wonderful journey :)