Sunday, January 30, 2011

Story behind the picture 3

Mighty Gandalf

While taking  a little rest from writing the demanding Flashback posts, I  am going to tell you the story of my Gandalf painting.
After the completion of the frustrating and literarily painful King Arthur book project at the beginning of 1999 (as mentioned in a previous post), I decided to heal my “wounds” through the work on a few pictures that I wanted to do just to please myself. One of these paintings was Gandalf, that would later on become one of the most important paintings I did until now. After the picture was finished I had the feeling of finally crossing the invisible line and stepping  onto the next level of my artistic development, and by doing so convincing myself that, after all, I am able to make a good painting.
Gandalf painting was first published in Spectrum 7, page 171 -  chapter Unpublished. After that it was used by Verkerke Reproducties and published as a poster. But, the publication of the picture in the Spectrum annual was a turning point. Soon after that, I was approached by a collector, a couple from the US, who were interested in buying the piece. At first I  did not want  to sell the painting because I liked it and wanted to keep it near me for a little longer. Eventually, and after a good portion of thinking and reflecting, I decided to sell the painting. Everything went smooth and well and soon the new owners received the original painting. They were so happy with it that they invited me and my wife for a visit. We accepted and in August 2001 went to the US, for the first time. Also for the first time in my life I was finally able to see the original paintings of my artistic idols and “teachers”. I saw the originals of Norman Rockwell, Frank Frazetta, Howard Pyle, N.C. Whyet and alike and it was a revelation.  
However, the owners of Gandalf painting turned to be extremely kind people and soon we became friends, good friends, friends for Life, I dare say. This friendship enriched our Life in many different ways and we are honestly very grateful  for the opportunity given to us, by the mysterious destiny, for getting to know them.  We visited many beautiful and inspiring places together and even attended the Millennium Philcon – 59th World Science Fiction Convention , held in Philadelphia, where Gandalf got the Judge's Choice Award.

Gandalf, oil on Masonite, 50 x 70 cm, 1999

My wife and I visited our new friends again in 2005, when we attended the firs Spectrum Show at the Society of Illustrators, in New York. The Legend of Steel Bashaw 9 was included in the exhibition.
We saw each other for the third time in 2010, after they convinced me to attend the Illuxcon show. At first I refused because I could not see the point in me shipping many of my paintings over Atlantic Ocean, paying for all the costs, while remembering that my piggy bank was quite meagre at that moment. After all,  my work was pretty unknown to the American public, I thought, and that made the prospects for selling a painting quite insignificant. But, when our friends generously offered to cover almost all our costs, and after the organizers of Illuxcon, also generously, offered me their own Spotlight table at the Showcase Event, (all other tables where already sold out), we decided to accept. The Illuxcon 2010 show turned to be my breakthrough on the US fantasy illustration market and one of the most important and elating events of my entire career.
Some of you who attended the Illuxcon show where able to see Gandal painting “in person”, for it was exhibited on our booth.
So,  after all, and as far as I am concerned,  Gandalf has proven to be  a true wizard, and a great one, indeed! He infused not only my and my wife’s life with true magic, but the lives of other people as well, which is a truly wonder-full thing!!


  1. Man thats awesome. Keep on inspiring.

  2. Thank you for the wonderful close-up photos of your work.

  3. Amazing work and thank you for being so generous with the photos.
    As an amateur painter I would really like to hear more about the technical aspects of your work, like brush stroking, glazing, color, composition and stuff like that, although I understand that one's technique is always evolving and changing. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Wonderful story, wonderful painting!

  5. This is an AMAZING painting! I love the texture, action, lighting, you achieved.

    I would also like to know about the technical aspects of creating this if you wouldn't mind sharing.

  6. i simply adore every single one of your posts Petar.
    Gandalf is surely one one my favorite paintings done by you.
    your work is truly inspiring and it really pushes me to work very hard in hope that one day i will maybe posses maybe of your master skills:)

    thx for sharing, and keep 'em coming!!!

  7. For you who are interested in the technical aspect of my work, please stay tuned and be patient. I will write much more about this topic in my future posts. But, please, try not to miss the point, for my technique is just the last station of the first part of the journey…The real adventure starts after that point…

    Daniel – Thank you for noticing the importance of the story!

    Vanja - You’ve already got at least 60% of it. You will be able to conquer the remaining 40% only if/when you switch from digital to oil painting…
    Thank you all, guys, for being so kind and leaving your comments!

  8. I remember this wonderful painting Petar. Someday I hope to see it in person. I completely agree with you about the technique thing. It is a question I am asked often. I really believe that if you work hard enough and try enough things your technique will find you. Too many people try to force a voice.

  9. “…Too many people try to force a voice.” – Very nicely said, Bill!
    I must admit that there was a time when I forced my voice so much that I almost forgot how to sing. Fortunately, I somehow got back on the track and started to pay more attention to singing… Apart from my voice, I hope that people like my singing, as well…Though I know it is not always easy to separate those two from each other.

  10. I'm speechless.
    You're an awesome artist!!

  11. It was amazing seeing this at Illuxcon along with your other work! Looking forward to seeing and reading more! Thanks for sharing everything!

  12. I think your power (aside from your obvious painting skills) comes from your willingness to share. You and James Gurney are the best right now in my book. You are both not only artists, but TEACHERS. This world needs more professionals like you who make the whole worldwide art community better. You have definitely made me a lifetime fan.

  13. It was a great pleasure to see your work 'close-up and personal' at IlluXCon, along iwth hearing you talk about it (especially your converstaion with Donato. I am very glad to hear you enjoyed the show so much, and I look forward to seeing your work again later this year at IlluXCon 4.

  14. Micah – I worked for many years in a relative anonymity, and spent days and years in isolation in my small studio. I was drawing, painting, reading and studying, trying to develop my skills and to get better. Nobody taught me how to paint in the classic way during my studies at the art academy – the reason was the prevailing Modernistic dogma – so I had to learn it by myself.

    Over the years I collected all sorts of knowledge and insights and developed my own approach to painting and illustration. About two years ago I saw an interview with an old, famous master pianist, who said something like: “upon reaching a certain point in your development and career ( and becoming a kind of master), and in order to develop further, you should start teaching”.

    It is definitely true as far as I am concerned. Therefore I try to share my knowledge, experience and insights as good as I am able to. My blog is an ideal way of doing it.
    But this does not necessarily makes me a good teacher, and certainly not as good as James Gurney. However I am pleased to hear that some people (including you Micah) benefit from my writings.

    Ralph – Yes, it was a very interesting conversation that I had with Donato during the Illuxcon show. We talked about the current situation on the illustration market and the importance of being yourself and going your own way - things that are especially important for an “old-timer”, as myself.

    Irene,Soutchay – Thanks very much.

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  16. hehe, Petar thank you so much for this huge compliment! :)

    no matter how much i like digital painting, i can't imagine the feeling you have when there is a finished painting in front of you that is done in traditional style.
    sure i can do a print of every illustration i do, but those two cannot even compare.

    hope i'll get enough courage one day to sit in front of a real canvas and paint away :)

  17. Vanja - If you're good at digital painting, oil painting is easy to transition to. The only problem being there's no Undo button!

  18. hehe Kessie, that is one of my major worries :):):)

  19. During my studies at the art academy I often heard the following saying in connection with the aquarelle technique: “The firs layer is gold, the second layer is silver and the third layer is mud”! Everybody who seriously tried to paint in this technique, probably knows from their own experience how true this saying is. Aquarelle does not imply the use of the white paint, the white of the paper is the only white you have. It is very easy to make the colors muddy when working in this technique. The aquarelle is an unforgiving technique and not easy to master. But when the high level in handling of this technique is reached, the results can be stunning and unsurpassable. The oil technique, when performed in its most expressive form, does not differ too much from the aquarelle technique.

    We have to admit that this working attitude can be quite different from the digital technique, that makes the abundant use of the “undo button”. In my opinion, the nature and the character of the creative paths that lead to the final result (and the influence of the creative process itself on the final results) makes the biggest difference between the digital and any other conventional technique.

  20. Cheese & crackers, this is one of the most insanely wonderful things. Thanks.

  21. Petar,
    It was wonderful to see your artwork at Illuxcon last year. I had a table down from yours at the Showcase and I couldn't stop looking at the Ice Giant. Your brushstrokes are mesmerising and your treatment of the paint and colour are pure genius. When I grow up, I want to paint like you. :-D

    So looking forward to seeing you and your wonderful work at Illuxcon again this November. I'm so glad that the last one was a breakthrough for you. I seem to finally be on the verge of my own. :-)


  22. Marianne – Thanks very much for your kind words! By the way, beware of growing up. Keep the child within alive, for this child is doing a significant amount of work when it comes to painting and creating, at least as far as I am concerned…
    Good luck with your career and I hope to meet you in November.

  23. Hi Petar! Stunning piece of art! At what point of the story is based? Why Gandalf is dressed in red?
    Love your work.

    Kind regards.