Thanks Brian Stelfreeze!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Brian Stelfreeze of Gaijin Studios spent a few hours with us today sharing his skills and wowing everyone in the process.

There was a good crowd of Illustration and Sequential students in attendance, and everyone was soaking up the goodness from Brian's brush as well as the wisdom from his years of experience.

Brian uses a combination of Acrylics, Acrylic inks (for intense color), and watercolors to achieve his veil-like transparent work that is at once delicate and vibrant. He doesn't hide the process by overly blending his colors, but celebrates the layers of transparent color that activate the work and make it more interesting and organic. He pays close attention to color temperature and to the edges, modulating soft and hard, warm and cool to guide the eye through the piece.

He was working on a block of 300# cold press watercolor paper, using Schmincke watercolors, Golden Acrylics, FW Acrylic inks, and a variety of cheap brushes. I'm telling you this as if it matters, but it really doesn't. It's all about the brush mileage; draw, paint, repeat. And mix in a bit of reading, thinking, and life experience. Then repeat again. And again. Then you might get something like this...

Thanks, Brian!

Brian Stelfreeze Demo

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Brian Stelfreeze of Gaijin Studios will be at the Illustration Asylum this Friday from 1 to 3 pm to do a portrait demonstration. He's a terrific colorist and painter, and will share his talent with us in room 379. Mark your calendars!

Brian Despain

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

SCAD Atlanta Illustration Dept. had a wonderful opportunity on Wed. Feb 17th with Illustrator turned fine artist Brian Despain. His Agent, Kirsten Anderson, of the owner and curator of Roq La Rue gallery in Seattle was scheduled for a lecture at SCAD on Feb 18th at 6pm behind the hub. Professors Mike Brown and Kenneth Knowles were working with Kirsten for the painting Dept. Brian was driving up from Florida (where he was staying) to meet with her at SCAD for some business. So we got lucky to have such an amazing talent or as his Dad would say "the best thing since sliced bread" to come a do a lecture and demo for the Illustration Dept. It was a great collaboration with the Painting and Illustration Departments that should happen more often. There was a pretty descent turn out with students and faculty. Thanks for all that showed up.

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Brian was a wonderful speaker and a self admitted artist that likes to be in complete control of not only his paintings subject matter, but every step in his image creation process. Coming from a commercial art background doing a wide variety of graphic design jobs, photo-retouching, video game 3D Modeler, but never really a full-time freelance illustrator. Now for the past few years he has really hit the gallery scene with his stormy clouds, robots, fish, numbers and other elements that captivate the viewers attention much longer than the typical quick read illustration. He talked extensively about his philosophy of art and the connection with the viewer.

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He had prepared a painting to start that was due in a month for a gallery show that his agent, Kirsten, was presenting. He starts with an idea, refines it with pencil, scans it in and in Photoshop and Painter he does a really tight color study while still working on fixing details, proportions and angles. This goes pretty quick with digital tools to take about 3 hours or so. Most of his work as relatively small , but he can but a ton a detail in the piece even at 8" x 10" or 11" x 14". The piece he was working on was 11" x 14". He "glues" a tight line drawing print to a sturdy hardboard. He does this first by sealing absorbent board with matte medium, sanding it smooth. Then he brushes on a layer of matte medium on the board and the back of the print which is on 3 ply bristol. He positions the bristol paper that is slightly larger than the board. Cuts off the excess paper. Then brushes it down and seals the bristol with about 5-6 thin coats (sanding in between dried layers) on top of the drawing. The results is a sealed smooth surface to paint on. He then prints out an color and black and white version of the color study.

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Painting in oils, Brian has a developed a very controlled and meticulous process that works very well for him. I certainly can't cover every aspect of his detailed painting process, but here is an overview from what I gathered. Feel free to further discuss this in the comments.

He uses the old masters technique of grisaille, which is basically starting with only gray tones of all the details of the painting then colorizing it with several thin layers of color on top of the dried grisaille. His gray color is a 1 to 1 mix of Ultramarine Blue (I think) and Burnt Sienna which produces a neutral gray. He has a special mix of his own oil medium which is three parts linseed oil, two to three parts stand oil and one or two parts oil of spike lavender. He likes the strength and elasticity of the stand oil but it’s too thick to use on its own, and the oil of spike is used as a diluent to speed drying time. Brian uses the oil of spike instead of say, turp as a diluent as it’s not as toxic though it is quite expensive. On his glass palette he adds his medium to the paint with a water dropper controlling the amount mixed in. With a palette knife he mixes then medium into both colors then mixes then together to create a neutral black. Then with white he mixes 4-5 grey tones on his palette.

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Then finally with cheap small fine haired flats, filberts, and round brushes he starts from the top down rendering the whole painting precisely in grey tones. His layers are very thin to increase the dry time but still stays workable on the board for the length of the painting session. Once the grisaille is dry he starts in with the color.

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Brain uses a palette of 11 oil colors that he exclusively uses on all his paintings. He developed a set of color mixing charts showing how all the color interact with each other and by adding white in varying value ranges. He refers to this constantly during the coloring painting stage. His favorite brand of oil paint is Rembrant and some Daniel Smith. To colorize the grisaille he uses a bit more of the same medium without thinners for a glaze showing the tone underneath the color. A painting this size would take him about 2-3 days do to after all the prep work is done working full days and drying the painting overnight.

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It was a real treat not only for the students, but the professors as well to see and hear about his philosophy of art and method of his madness and "pro tips". I know I was thoroughly enlightened! Thank you Brian for a fantastic and well-received lecture/demo. It was more than we all expected. You are welcome at SCAD anytime!

Thanks Helen and Bill!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Illustration Arts Forum this week turned out to be a real adventure and, in the end, a terrific experience. Due to what has been termed "Snowmageddon" by the media, Thursday was the worst day to travel since 911; the entire Eastern seaboard was locked down under several feet of snow and ice, and over 5000 flights were canceled. Unfortunately, Jon Foster's flight was one of those on the cancellation list.

Helen Dardik

Helen Dardik's original flight was to leave her hometown of Ottawa, Ontario at 6:50am and connect at Philadelphia. She got a call from the airline on Wednesday that her flight had been changed due to the weather in Philly; she would leave even earlier in the morning and connect in Toronto instead. Thankfully, her flights made it through and she arrived safe and sound about 3 hours earlier than originally expected. Many thanks to Renee Rivas and Pat Bollin for meeting Helen at the airport and feeding her before bringing her to SCAD.

Helen gave a very inspiring and enlightening talk at the auditorium space at the beautiful new Digital Media Center. She showed examples of her pattern work, spoke about her inspirations, and the pros and cons of working with an agent. Her experience with agents has been a very positive one, which is contrary to what we have heard from several other visiting artists. She spoke about the business of illustration as well, and why maintaining copyright is so important, and how licensing your work can bring substantial financial rewards.

Helen also gave us a bit of insight into her working process and technique; she doesn't sketch, but dives right in with Adobe Illustrator and creates shapes and patterns on the fly. Later, she confided that she regretted not having added that she sketched for over 20 years in order to refine her style to the point where it became second nature. So kids, do not try this at home! By all means sketch! Perhaps after 20 years, you won't need to any more.

We had a few minutes after Helen's talk to chat with her.

Friday morning, Helen gave a demonstration of her Illustrator techniques.



Portfolio reviews were scheduled for Saturday morning, but the roads were quite icy in many areas of the city, so for safety reasons, those were canceled.

Thanks, Helen, for spending time with us and sharing your talent, your wit and your insight. We hope you had a good time in spite of the cold and snowy weather. And thanks to Mike Lowery for making sure that Helen was taken care of after the snow came and trapped some of us in our driveways.

Bill Mayer
We were all disappointed that Jon Foster couldn't make it down to the Forum, but there was nothing we could do. Thankfully, we have in our town a world-class illustrator and wonderful human being, Bill Mayer. I made a sheepish phone call to Bill and told him of Jon Foster's flight cancellation, and asked if there was any way he could come in and talk to our students about his work on extremely short notice. It's no surprise that he said yes; he would try to put something together and do whatever he could to help us out. And, it's also no surprise that he was amazing. He drove in despite the snow and blew everyone away with his artwork, his humor, his warmth and his sensitivity.

He brought in a stack of prints of love letters that he has sent to his wife Lee over the years. He had secretly collected them from her drawer, scanned them, printed them, and is having them made into a book for her Valentine's gift. What a guy; it's not only a touching tribute to his love for Lee, it's also an amazing window into the mind of a creative artist who is constantly exploring new ways to communicate visually. It's the reason his work remains fresh and vital, even after 40 years of making art and illustration.

Bill spoke about the creative process, and how he uses his sketchbooks to capture ideas on paper before they disappear. He also said that illustrators shouldn't take themselves too seriously; we're not curing cancer or saving the world, we're just communicators who are fortunate to be able to make a living making pictures, even silly ones that start out as a sketchbook page with stamps and a few lines that ends up winning a Gold Medal in this year's Society of Illustrators Competition.

Bill's SI Gold

and a better look at the artwork




Thanks, Bill, for braving the weather, and on no notice at all, taking time to share your work and your insights with all of us. We are very lucky to have you as a friend and a neighbor, and will always be grateful for that.

Congrats Society of Illustrators, NY Winners!

Friday, February 12, 2010

The judges have spoken, and SCAD-Atlanta is very proud to have three students in the BIG SHOW!

Portrait of Sufjan Stevens
Grant Hanna; Sufjan Stevens Portrait

Renee Rivas; Christmas Box

Ice animals
Katrin Wiehle; Prof. Pipapo - Land of Ice and Snow

Great job everyone! Now, your next tasks are to get these pieces framed, sending them to New York, and saving up for a trip to the Big Apple in May for the opening of the Student Scholarship Competition Show!

Illustration Arts Forum Week is HERE!

Sunday, February 7, 2010


We are very proud to be bringing in two superstars in the Illustration world this week for our annual Arts Forum event; Helen Dardik and Jon Foster. They come from two very different areas of illustration, and will bring an interesting and broad range of experiences to the forum.

They will each be speaking and showing their work on Thursday, Feb. 11th at 5:00pm at the Digital Media Center, in the 3rd floor auditorium space; take the elevator to the 3rd floor and look for the round structure clad in rusted sheet metal.

Friday, Feb. 12th is Demo Day: Room 374 in the Illustration area.
10am to noon: Helen will be doing a digital pattern demo and workshop. If you are interested in vector art, children's imagery, pattern design and licensing, this workshop is for you. There is limited space for participating in the workshop, so sign up for it on the sheet on office door 381 (Prof. Lovell and Mueller-Brown's office). There will be extra seating for those who just wish to watch the demo.
2pm to 4pm: Jon will be doing a digital painting demo and possibly a workshop, so if you want to participate in it, please sign up for it on the sheet on office door 381 (Prof. Lovell and Mueller-Brown's office). Bring your Wacom pens! There will be extra seating for those who just wish to watch the demo.

The lecture on Thursday is required for all ILLU majors and will serve as a field trip; there will be a sign-in sheet at the door to the auditorium.

Book Illustrator Micheal Austin visits SCAD

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Last Wednesday, Jan 27th, Atlanta based Illustrator Michael Austin was kind enough to come visit Jay Montgomery's Book Illustration class. Micheal has illustrated for Highlights, Spider and Cricket magazines. His illustrations hang in Children's Museums and has even made an appearance on the GCPSTV television program, The Author in You. As an Author, Illustrator and full-time Art Director he has seen the many sides of the Illustration market. He currently has 8 children's books and has received several Society of Illustrator awards and countless book publishing awards. He is a truly busy man! I first learned about Michael through our friends over at Peachtree Publishers. He has illustrated a few books working with Art Director, Loraine Joyner.

He brought in several large originals mainly created with acrylics and a tad bit of airbrush and colored pencils, but he does what ever it takes to make right. A set of well organized and clean tight pencil sketches on tracing paper gave the students a clear understanding of what a tight pencil should look like. He was very insightful about the publishing industry and had some great stories about working with Art Directors and illustrating a whole picture book in 18 days!

As you can see he was gracious enough to do a quick demo in acrylics. He works mainly on Strathmore illustration board with thin washes of color. Michael showed us how he would create an old wooden fence. He masks off certain foreground and background areas with frisket film being very careful not to put very wet acrylics right up to the edge of the film. Using a fine round brush he paints in the open spaces between the wood with a dark brown.

Then applied thin washes of oranges and grays for the tone of the wood using acrylic glazing liquid and water. He tested his colors on top of the frisket before applying the paint.

Added texture with a natural sponge. Then with a fan brush he quickly and almost effortlessly created all the wood grain. In about 30 minutes he had a realistic wooden fence.

He got the see some of the students work and to quote an e-mail I got from him: "You have some gifted people in your class who appear to be on the path to very successful illustration careers! I was sincerely impressed and inspired."

Many thanks Micheal for an exceptional and informative visit to SCAD!