Awesome weekend with Anita and Sam!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sam Weber and Anita Kunz, two of the brightest stars in the illustration universe, absolutely dazzled us this weekend at SCAD-Atlanta.

The awesomeness kicked off with Anita showing her amazingly smart and beautiful work from her associations with some of the biggest names in publishing, as well as her thought-provoking and provocative personal work. Her mantra was to always say something in your work, to make your voice be heard, because illustrators have the power to not only reflect the world we live in, but to affect it as well. I've always been a fan of her work, but now I'm a fan of the woman.
Sam followed Anita's very tough act with his own sumptuous work. For such a young man, his art is that of an old soul, with a truth, wisdom and beauty that is rare and precious. The images are hauntingly beautiful, and the thinking behind them is as multi-layered and textured as his art.

After their lectures, the floor was opened for a casual Q&A, and it was time well spent for everyone.

A few friends dropped by as well; Laura Coyle made it in to the lectures, as did Kelly McKernan, a friend and student from Kennesaw State, seen here chatting with Sam and Anita. And a few students made it up from Savannah, but Career Day was Friday in SAV, so only the hardcore fans made it up to ATL.
We had a great, crazy dinner at RuSan's afterwards. I will post no photos of that here, however;)
Friday was set aside for every visiting artists' favorite part of any speaking event; demos... NOT! It's nerve wracking and logistically tedious, but these two were amazing, and their pieces were actually quite good.

The main component of Anita's trademark style is her drawing; no tracing, not much reliance on reference, but just getting in there and drawing your subject from memory as much as possible. Don't rely on someone else's photograph to give you your vision- you have to do that yourself through your drawing. The painting part is all her own technique, and Anita still uses the Pelikan pan colors she's used since her uncle gave her a set when she was a little girl.

Kat's got a new BFF, aww.

In the early stages, the foreground elements of the piece are covered with a couple of layers of liquid masking fluid, then the background, in this case a night sky with stars and planets, is quickly painted in with acrylics. When the acrylics are dry, the masking fluid is pulled away in a big, stretchy sheet of rubber, revealing the white illustration board underneath.

Anita works primarily with pan watercolors on Crescent 100 board. Her technique involves building up the tonal variations using layers of cross-hatched dry-brush watercolors, then tinting the forms with a wash of color, dry-brushing more shadows and form shapes, then tinting again. It's a methodical building up of color and value, and can't be rushed or short-cut.

Not sure what Sam said here, but it must have been a hoot.

After a very nice lunch at Wolfgang Puck, Sam set out 20 or so originals.

After all the drool was cleaned up off of his artwork, he set into his demonstration.

Here, Sam is asking forgiveness for what he knows will be a humiliating disaster. Julie just wants him to get on with it and stop making excuses.

Sam did a skull image; it started as a light drawing on Fabriano 300# hotpress watercolor paper. He then covered the drawing with commercial high-tack frisket film (the kind you use on metallic surfaces), cut out the skull shape and removed the frisket from the skull area. He then mixed up a batch of Golden fluid acrylics in a warm, neutral tone. He wanted the skull to look broken and distressed, so to create breaks and fractures, he used liquid masking fluid (as did Anita) to mask a few edges of the skull. When the fluid was dry, he rubbed it a bit to make it less perfect, to create rough, ill-defined, organic shapes and edges that could be enhanced to look like fractures in the bone.

The next step is where his mojo comes into play; he creates a very organic, textured middle value on the skull that will simulate the pits and imperfections that all natural things have. He does this by doing the equivalent of a monoprint - dabbing that neutral acrylic mix onto the skull, and then placing the waxy side of the frisket's backing paper over the wet acrylics and rubbing the backside of the backing paper with his hands and fingers. The aim is to create irregular, textural qualities in the surface before starting in on the details. It's a trial and error process that often works but sometimes goes horribly wrong, necessitating a fresh start. In this case, it was acceptable, but not ideal in Sam's discerning view.
He then removes the frisket and starts in with watercolors in subtle variations of color and value to push and pull the values in very specific places to enhance the form and establish a logical light source. Once the value structure is established and the form reads well, he uses opaque gouache to pop a few highlights and create a convincing, dimensional form.

The piece is typically about 75% complete at this point, and that's when it's scanned and brought into Photoshop for the color corrections and finishing touches.
He showed how he uses Multiply layers to enrich the shadows, and Color Dodge layers to brighten the lighter tones. He uses the channels palette to create very precise tonal selections to shift color and value as needed to create the almost translucent surfaces he's become known for. No specific secrets will be revealed here, however ;-)

Saturday was Portfolio Review Day, and many students were wise enough to crawl out of bed to absorb the words of wisdom from our visiting artists.

Anita visiting with April Brantner

Lean, soaking in the wisdom from Sam.

Kat, showing Anita pictures of her dog Zeppelin when she should be showing her wonderful illustration work.

Kevin and Sam, waxing poetic about crazy monkeys and Marshall Arisman.

Not sure what Fernie and Anita are looking at...guess it's best the screen is turned away.

Sojung thinks that Sam's comments are just plain silly!

And, last but not least, Goñi is having his audience with the Master.

We topped off the trip with a Sunday Brunch at Mary Mac's, to send off our visitors from the Frozen North with a belly-full of Southern Hospitality; Blackened Catfish, Turnip Greens, Fried Okra, Sweet Potato Souffle, Fried Green Tomatoes, Pot Liquor and Cracklin' Cornbread, Sweet Tea and Banana Puddin'. Yum! Now we'll just lay back and listen to our arteries harden.

I can't say enough great things about our amazing guests, Anita and Sam. What a wonderful weekend having them here to share their knowledge and talent with all of us. It's so refreshing to meet people who are at the top of their game, and still are kind, generous, and humble. This business is full of great folks, but these two are off the charts. Sam and Anita, thanks so much. You both are welcome back any time.

1 comment:

Josh George said...

Hi Sam, Hi Anita! Looks like a fun time for all.