Tuesday, May 24, 2011

All my Scholastic covers – part 2

Children of the Lamp #3 - The Cobra King of Kathmandu

It was during the work on this third Children of the Lamp cover, that I have encountered a form of “puritanism” in publishing for the first time. The publisher thought that the opening in the Cobra King’s skirt was dangerously close to his genitals (see the pictures below). So, I was asked to cover up that part of the man’s leg, which I did in Photoshop. However, when the book was released, the “problematic” part of the cover was almost entirely covered by the red lamp and the writers name.

before the correction

after the correction

Children of the Lamp #4 – The Day of the Djinn Warriors

According to the publisher, the problem with this preliminary drawing was that the boy’s butt was too prominent. So, I had to turn him a bit to avoid putting his rear in the reader’s face. . .
After the cover was finished the publisher thought that the boy’s torso was too short. I did that correction in Photoshop as well, and sent the high resolution image of the painting to the publishers.  But, instead of using the high resolution image with the corrected torso, the publisher (probably accidentally) used the image that I made with my own camera. This low resolution image was taken before the requested correction was done. Final result - the published cover was blurry and the boy’s torso stayed “short”.

 I wish you a pleasant day, and until the next time.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

All my Scholastic covers – part 1

Children of the Lamp #1 – The Akhenaten Adventure
For many years I wanted to paint the book covers, but never got the chance to do it. The publishers were not interested in what my painting brush had to say about that, so there were no book cover commissions coming my way. Gradually I accepted the fact that I would probably never become a book cover illustrator. I thought then that this would be yet another unfulfilled wish of mine, another unattainable dream.
But at the end of 2004 I was approached by Elizabeth Parisi, the art director of Scholastic Inc. She saw my work in Spectrum annuals, she liked it and wanted to check out whether I would be willing to do the book covers for the series of children’s fantasy, titled Children of the lamp, written by P.B. Kerr. She told me about the conditions of the commission, and she named the price that I would be getting per cover. I thought, Wow! Somebody was offering me a job that I was longing for for so many years, and even was offering me a very good fee. Although I was a little insecure about whether I would be able to answer to the commission’s demands, I bravely accepted, hoping that my lucky star will keep on guiding me along this unknown path.
So, soon after I read the synopsis of the story, I started to make the sketches. My first sketch was refused because I did not include a cobra in the composition. The new one, with the snake on it, was accepted and soon after I started to make the preparations for the painting. Surprisingly, the painting went rather smooth and the cover was finished in a week's time. I sent the image of the finished piece to Elisabeth and set down to wait for the answer. I was very anxious to hear her reaction, although I thought she would certainly find a good reason to say that the cover is lacking in something and that in the best possible case, I would have to repaint it. When she finally replied, I was astonished. She said that the cover looked great and that she decided to ask me whether I would like her to raise the fee? Although astonished by hearing this fantastic news, I made a stupid joke by saying something like - “I am sorry but I can’t accept that”. Silence on the other side of the telephone line. Then I quickly added, “ Just joking! Never believe an artist when he refuses to be paid extra for his work”.
I was  in the seventh heaven, well perhaps not in the seventh, but certainly in the sixth one. After so many years of working more or less in obscurity, an art director of a big and respected publishing house, noticed  my work and gave me the opportunity to show my capabilities as an illustrator . Needless to say, I was extremely flattered by her generous and noble offer to raise my payment. I guess it was a pure luck. In fact, I can’t remember that I ever asked her why she did it. I liked to believe that it was purely because of the quality of the painting. Later on I learned that they have a certain budget for all the projects they do, and that perhaps, at first, I was not offered the highest possible amount for that particular project. It is also possible that, after seeing the finished cover, Elizabeth’s generosity was triggered, and she decided to offer me more money for the cover... I don’t know. I should ask her once. However, after that first one I did another 6 covers for the Children of the Lamp series, and for the same higher fee.
After all, I believe I was just lucky. Lucky to have collaborated with an art director like Elizabeth Parisi, and lucky that it has happened before the outbreak of the global financial crisis.

Children of the Lamp #2 – The Blue Djinn of Babylon

Have a good day!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Power of the brushstroke

( Also posted on Muddy Colors blog )

The painting brush is a simple,  yet powerful device. The trace that it leaves upon the canvas is a wonderful phenomenon - a marvelous present to us, and a precious legacy to the people of the future.

Just as the spoken word that carries a certain energy,  both physical and emotional , so does the brushstroke carry the energy and the meaning, too. By placing the brushstrokes next to each other,  the artist creates a “sentence”. And as any sentence,  whose purpose is to communicate a thought or an emotion, the brushstroke sentences communicate a certain feeling. Therefore they are a perfect vehicle for the artist’s emotions.

The brushstroke is a statement of the artist’s inborn sensibility. It is the reflection of his longings, a trace of his efforts, the emanation of his uniqueness. These are the hidden powers of the brushstroke. Whoever understands that,  and finds the proper way to express it, will not fail to amaze and inspire with his work.

There is a mystery hidden in a spontaneous, and at the same time well guided  brushstroke. The frozen emotion  that is embedded in such a stroke, melts in the eye of the spectator, and releases its flavors and fragrances. Avoiding the control of ever alert reason, it penetrates the uncharted areas of our inner space. And as it reaches the level in us that, perhaps, makes us more human than any other aspect,  it touches the cords of emotion, intuition and that mysterious and eternal longing of our soul.

The signature of the artist will stay preserved in the brushstroke almost forever, as the echo of the gone by ages is preserved in a fossil, trapped in the stone.

Such is the power of the brushstroke.


John Singer Sargent

John Singer Sargent

Joaquin Sorolla

Joaquin Sorolla

Sir Alfred Munnings

Sir Alfred Munnings

Akseli Gallen-Kallela

Akseli Gallen-Kallela

Paja Jovanović

Ilya Repin

Ilya Repin, detail from the painting Portret of V.V. Stasov

Wojciech Kossak

Lucian Freud

James Wyeth

Phil Hale

And now a few humble samples of my own brushwork.

Mother and Child -
70x100 cm (27 1/2”x39 1/4”), oil on canvas, 2001

Saint Georg - 100 x 70 cm / 39 1/4 x 27 1/2 inch,
oil on masonite, 2000

The Balance -
90x120cm / 35 1/2 X 47 1/4 inch, oil on canvas, 2003

Detail from Giants - The Bull Fight, 2010

Detail from The Legend of Steel Bashaw 11, 2005 - 2007

Detail from The Queen of the Kanguellas, 80 X 50 cm / 31 1/2 X 19 3/4 inch,
oil on masonite, 2010

Detail from The Queen of the Kanguellas

Detail from Svjatogor, 2010 

Detail from a painting in progress