The SCAD-Atlanta Illustration Arts Forum was more than we had hoped for!
Chris Buzelli, John Hendrix and SooJin Buzelli are not only supremely talented artists and teachers, they are really nice people to hang out with. All of us had a wonderful time with them, and they consistently amazed us with their insight, creativity, and honesty.
The lecture on Thursday night at 6pm was at the SCAD-Atlanta Digital Media Center Theater.
John spoke with passion about his work, his influences and the importance of his sketchbook as a way to grow and find your voice as an illustrator. He also talked about the "S" word...style. It's not about a technique or a medium, it's about a point of view.
SooJin walked us through her transformation from being an illustration student to a big-time art director. It was an evolutionary process that took some time, but she has taken a group of bland, generic trade magazines and transformed them into showcases of smart, beautiful and conceptually compelling illustration and design.
Chris showed his growth from college student to one of the top illustrators out there. It, too, was an evolutionary process that took years to develop. He was stuck in a bit of a creative rut until a severely injured knee laid him up long enough to rethink his approach to art and illustration. He created a few promo pieces that were more interesting and much more personal than anything he had done previously, and the rest is illustration history. He ended his talk with a touching tribute to his grandpa who was his biggest supporter and fan. What did his grandpa give him that made a difference?... his time.
Friday was DEMO DAY!
John was first up with a process demo. He quickly recreated an ink and acrylic piece based on the John Brown: His Fight for Freedom book he wrote and illustrated.
After developing a fairly detailed and rich drawing of his image, he goes to the light table to redraw it on a piece of vellum surface Bristol paper.
He walked us through his thought process as he composes pages and spreads for his book projects. Considerations of point of view, perspective, white space, composition, type placement and flow all have to be perfect before committing to paint.
Once the drawing is transferred to Bristol, the painting begins. John uses Chinese inks for his black brushwork, and a combination of dip pens, Rapidographs and Microns for the line work. For color he uses Golden fluid acrylics instead of watercolors because they allow for layers of washes that retain their integrity and crisp edges, whereas watercolor re-floats with every new layer of wash, which can result in muddy colors and blurred edges. Looks like SooJin enjoyed it as much as the students did.
Chris and Soojin give their stamp of approval.
Finally, John gave a quick but very valuable tutorial on hand drawn type; how to establish the x-height, how to deal with oval forms, what to look for to maintain consistency in type families, and how to add dimensionality to the letterforms. All-in-all, an amazing two hours that seemed to go by in just a few minutes.
Next up was Chris Buzelli. He starts with a graphite drawing on GessoBord from Ampersand. The drawing is pretty highly developed with a broad tonal range including shadows and highlights which are brought out with kneaded and plastic erasers.
Here he is touching up the base drawing of a sea serpent.
The drawing is then swabbed down with a tea bag that has been dipped in hot water. This does two important things; it acts as a fixative to keep the graphite from adulterating the oil glazes, and it creates a warm base tone on which to paint. To enhance and enrich the warm tones of the tea, he dips his wet brush into a jar of instant coffee and dabs the dark mixture around the still-wet board. The results are unpredictable, but a rich, aged-looking base of ambers and browns establish the color note of the finished painting. He uses a cloth to wipe up the tea and coffee in areas that he wants to keep bright white; otherwise, it would be impossible to achieve a true white where the stain has dried and set in.
Next comes the oils; very thin glazes of subtle color are applied quickly with a large brush. Each layer of thin glazes is wiped down with a cloth. More layers of glazes go on and are wiped down, very quickly with little regard for detail or nuance- just an overall color wash that homogenizes the color scheme. Eventually, more vivid and intense colors go down to begin to establish various areas of local color. These too are wiped down and kept rather soft and non-specific.
Finally, darks establish the shadows, and highlights are both lifted out with the cloth and painted in with more opaque applications of paint. Chris mentioned how he loved the idea of leaving the history of the painting visible in his work; his thin, transparent glazes allow the drawing underneath to be visible in the finished artwork.
SooJin approves and is thinking of stories that she can use this piece for in the magazine.
Chris's color studies are absolutely stunning little gems, also done in oils, and help him establish the perfect color notes for his finished paintings. These are about the size of a playing card.
Here is a finished painting of his on a cradled panel. Gorgeous.
And here is the demo piece after about an hour. Pretty amazing.
I think John just said "Psssh, I could do that".
Next up was SooJin. She showed how she lays out the magazine with a large grid on the wall that shows, in thumbnail fashion, where all the articles and artwork will go. She uses Post-It notes with her intended artist's names applied to the appropriate article and page. She uses the web to find new artists, and relies on sites like Illoz.com, Drawger, and other similar sites to find the best and brightest talent.
She still looks at annuals and competition books for talent, but doesn't use typical source books very much. The annuals and competition books have already filtered out the bad or ordinary work, so what is published is the extraordinary, award-winning work. That's why it's so valuable to enter your work in these high-profile competitions; if it gets in, it's seen as top-notch and will result in the best form of advertising and professional exposure.
This diagram explains the cumulative nature of self-promotion; as you continue to advertise and promote over time, the effect builds, eventually to the point where the art buyer will remember your name and think of you as a known artist. It takes time, but be persistent and eventually the vessel will fill up.
SooJin went through two stacks of promos- the rejects and the keepers. Taxali's promo was a keeper.
Mike's thinking "Psssh, I could do that."
After the demos, we had a fabulous dinner at the Iberian Pig in Decatur, and walked down the block afterwards to Bill and Lee Mayer's house/museum. I hate to sound like a teenage girl, but, OMG! You've heard the phrase "living an artful life". This is the phrase become real. On steroids.
Bill and Lee chatting with Chris in the Dining Room.
The Mayer's bought the house in the 80's as a handyman-special with "lots of potential". Thanks to Bill and Lee, the house's potential has been fully realized. It hasn't been easy, but it's been a labor of love that reflects their love of family, friends and art.
Hanging out in the family room with a few of the dozens of deceased fauna that keep a watchful eye on the proceedings.
Aannnnd, we finished up each day with yet another wonderful dinner, this time at JCT Kitchen. I think we all gained a few pounds over the course of the event, and we all gained a few new friends as well. It was a great weekend, and I hope the students got as much out of it as I did. Chris, SooJin and John, you are all welcome back any time!