Saturday, June 30, 2012

Guest blogger - Bill Carman

Bill Carman is an artist, a very fine Fine Artist. He is an illustrator, too, a very unique one. He is different, strange, sometimes a little weird, he is funny, but at the same time he can be deadly serious. No matter whether he is creating pictures for a gallery show, or for a children’s book, he is always the same, whole, recognizable, himself and brilliant.

As far as I am concerned, his work stands for honesty and being yourself, for daring to openly and publically dream your dreams through your pictures. And although these “visual dreams” are reflecting Bill’s personal mental and emotional landscape, they are in their essence yet another emanation of the same, hard to express symbolic language of the subconscious that we all share. This, perhaps more than any other quality of his work (and they are many) makes him a true artist.

I secretly (apparently not anymore) hope that this post, that contains a significant dose of Bill Carman’s imagery, will help people, especially commercial illustrators among them, to awake to their own unique creative personality, instead of endlessly running after other people’s ideas and depicting them…This “awakening”, after all,  might be bad for your finances, but on the longer run this will bring the always sought after internal satisfaction and contentment, for no money or any other kind of external material compensation can (permanently) fill the gap, the hole, in the troubled artist’s soul.


                                                           Gallery Stuff
                                                           by Bill Carman

My immediate thought when asked by Petar to be a guest blogger was of course yes, it's Petar Meseldzija after all. But reality set in and I had further thoughts of, I have no time or who would want to read my ramblings. But I thought further and said of course yes, it's Petar Meseldzija. It really is an honor to be a guest on the blog of a painter whom I admire so much. There are a few subjects which I feel are within my realm of expertise but the one which seems to be most a part of my life lately is gallery stuff.

I have been in galleries pretty much since I graduated 8,124 years ago. After school, the recurring theme with my work seemed to be, “Oh, I love it but how can I use it.” Hence galleries became the immediate default route. Because I had some ability I continued to do illustration but the gallery world always sucked me back in. The latest version of that sucking is the result of what I believe to be a natural development in the art world; the recognition of image based work (again) as a marketable commodity for wall space.

In the past 10-15 years there has been a major shift in the gallery world resulting in an exciting playground for not only the serious (no humor in art), all black wearing, philosopher quoters but for image-makers who like to tell stories and make things people like.

Could have used a painting example much cooler than mine but this is my post after all

There are many reasons for this shift, including pop surrealist/low brow art and the digital explosion in entertainment, I won’t go into because it would take a book sized post.

And there is certainly no way to cover all the possibilities of the gallery world in a single post, so thankfully I’ll limit this post to one man’s recent experience. I’ll leave the exhaustive how to get into galleries list to someone good at such lists like Greg Manchess. (See how I did that whole shift of responsibility thing)

I was one of those kind of old school guys who plugged along doing illustration and the local gallery thing. With some reluctance I started to build an online presence. Getting in to certain annuals like Spectrum and Society of Illustrators helped my cause and scoring awards didn’t hurt either. Now with the magic of the internet (still not quite sure how this happens), the result of this plugging away was that my stuff got passed around a little.  When I was first contacted to be in a “theme show” I thought it was a scam.

My memory is a little foggy, I grew up in the 60s and 70s, so my memory is a little foggy but I believe the fist theme based show to which I was invited was “Rom”. I had no idea what a Rom was. Turns out he’s a comic book character of some renown in Rom circles. I answered the invitation by informing them that I am not a comic book artist. To which they replied, “That’s even better we are looking for different takes.” I was prepared to just ignore things from there but went to the site and saw work by very good artists whom I admire. When I saw Renee French’s work, an online friend and acquaintance, I thought OK if she’s in it I’ll try something new.

My take on Rom

After that fairly positive experience things seemed to steamroll. The next show was in LA and it was a comic book character of choice. I chose The Main Man.

The show that really turned up the heat was Terrible Yellow Eyes a Maurice Sendak tribute organized by Cory Godbey. It was held in conjunction with the movie release.

The Sendak show generated a lot of publicity and my work was seen all over. Theme shows started to pile up.
He-Man (How could one say no to this?)

Airships (Right up my alley)

Twilight Zone (Didn’t need to think long about this)

A blockbuster Alice in Wonderland show coinciding with the Burton movie.

High profile pro bono and charity shows can garner great publicity. The first was for Artblocks for Ghana”  and the second for “Art Tails” benefitting the Japan disaster.

There were more, and more I had to turn down but the result was people in big cities and all over the cyber realm saw my work. Seeing my work led to buying my work, which is a good sign that someone will give you a show. They no longer say, “I love your work (well they thankfully still say this), but what do I do with it?” they just put me in a show and let the public decide. So now I get to sit in my wonderful studio, living much like an art hermit and paint things like this:

"Amended: Albino Narwhal Synchronized Swimming Doping Law"

“3 Wishes”

"Batgirl and Batsquid Ride Batpug as Batbat Leads the Way"

Remember, this is one man’s recent route to gallery fame and fortune. There are many ways to approach and work with a gallery. I said I would leave the lists to Greg, and I will, but I wanted to offer a couple of thoughts:

  • Be honest, work hard and your unique voice will find you.
  • Be ready if the opportunity comes.
  • Find where you belong. (Personally my most difficult thing)
  • Reward your viewers. Gallery work is about presence. The image should, of course, look great in print or on screen but when it arrives at the gallery people should gasp, swoon, and faint. Surface, presence, craft all work toward making not simply a picture but an object. So even if your work is digital how do you make it stand out among all the other prints on the wall as something that should be on a wall?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Tarzan cover

 Here is the final cover of my upcoming Tarzan book. The cover illustration is colored by Jorg de Vos.
The book will be officially presented during the Breda Strip Festival  in the Netherlands on
8-9 September 2012. I will be attending the show and signing the book at the booth of Dark Dragon Books.

The details of this edition:
* Published by Dark Dragon Books
* Hardcover
* Including a signed and numbered print  
* 88 pages
* 500 copies
* Black and white
* Price: € 49,95
* ISBN: 978-94-6078-065-3

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Tarzan in Stripoteka

To all Tarzan fans from Serbia – I just got the information from Marketprint that my fourth, unpublished episode of Tarzan, The Illusionist (Opsenar), will finally be published in Stripoteka in July.
Ko čeka, taj dočeka!
Many thanks to Sibin Slavković and Predrag Djurić!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

YU Tarzan

In 1983, Swedish publisher Atlantic, who at that time was the copyright holder for the production of the Tarzan comics worldwide, being dissatisfied with the poor quality of the Spanish version of Tarzan (except for the episodes done by the gifted Jose Ortiz) handed the job over to the Yugoslav (Serbian) publisher  Marketprint.  A Team of comic artists and scenarists was soon formed and the work on so-called YU Tarzan comic series was launched under the leadership and supervision of the famous Serbian comic artist Bane Kerac. Between 1983 and 1989 the Tarzan team produced 1600 pages (100 episodes, each consisting of 16 pages) and some 500 drawings done for the covers and other promotional materials. The series was simultaneously published in Yugoslavia, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, (West) Germany and the Netherlands.

In 1988, I joined the team and in the next couple of years did 4 episodes (64 pages + 3 cover drawings in total). Not much, but one has to take in consideration that I was an art student at that time (I was in my early twenties), still learning and developing my skills. I did my best to combine a few things, like studying, painting, drawing, illustrating and doing Tarzan and some other comics.   

Three of these episodes were published. Than in 1990, due to the unacceptable conditions that were presented to Marketprint  by the granddaughter of Edgar Rice Burroughs, who some time before that got the legacy on Tarzan copyrights, the contract was immediately canceled and my fourth Tarzan episode was never published.

A few months ago (more than 20 years later),  Dark Dragon Books from the Netherlands decided to publish a book that will include all of my Tarzan episodes, as well as a bonus section with some drawings and sketched that haven’t been published before. This will be a limited edition of 500 copies. Each copy will include a signed print. 

 These two pages are from my second episode, titled The Bride of King Bohun. I intentionally did it in the style of Harold Foster’s Prince Valiant.

Here you can see a page and a drawing from the third episode, titled Without Witness. This was the only comic of mine to be ever inked by another artist, Branko Plavsic. Branko Plavsic was the finest inker I have ever met. He sadly passed away a few months ago. Just before that he called me on the phone and asked me to make the photocopies of all the pages from the episode we did together. He inked many Tarzan episodes but said that this was his favorite one. Because of my extremely busy schedule I was not able to find time to make the copies of the original pages. Later on he even sent me en email to remind me of the copies. And just as I was about to make them, I heard that Branko Plavsic has died. I was shocked…Rest in peace my friend, and please forgive me, for I will never forgive myself…

This is a page from the last episode, titled The Illusionist, that I had to draw again because the original was missing. This is the only unpublished episode, and there was nothing to be scanned, so I had to draw it once again. It turned out to be a big challenge, especially the inking part, for I did not draw comics for the last 20 years and lost the touch for inking completely. It took me a whole week to do this page.

At the end I would like to share an anecdote – A few weeks ago, while attending the Spectrum Live show,  I met with Bill Stout, who at the beginning of his career was assisting Russ Manning when he was drawing Tarzan comics, and told him about my upcoming Tarzan book.

Bill enthusiastically asked: “Are you going to sell the book on the US market”?
I said: “ I would love to but I am afraid it’s not possible because  of a technical problem. You see, the text is in Dutch!

Bill replied: “Doesn’t matter, the drawings are in English…!”

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Silly Giants

Yes, The Giants are (still) coming, only slowly, very slowly.
Here are a few silly ones who wanted to see the world, although I told them that they are not quite ready yet to leave the relative safety of the sketchbook. But they did not want to listen…silly Giants.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Guest blogger – Dragan Bibin

Dragan Bibin is a young Serbian illustrator whom I met for the first time a few years ago while working together with him and a few other illustrators on the book project named Banished Demons. As soon as I saw his work, I knew I had an exceptional talent in front of me, not only because of his already highly developed skills, but also because of the depth and seriousness of his approach to the conceptual aspect of illustration and his eagerness to try to transcend the established paths. Although I have been his mentor for a relatively short period of time, Bibin regularly managed to inspire me with his work, his thoughts and his approach to illustration.

Bibin has already won two prestigious awards at the 46th Golden Pen of Belgrade - 11 International Biennial of Illustration. – a Grand Prix and the Award of Politikin Zabavnik.

This year his painting “Vid the Vampire” was nominated for the Spectrum 19 Award in the Book category.

Well, let us see what this promising artist has to tell and show us this time.

                                                                                 by Dragan Bibin
First, I would like to express my gratitude and to let you know how honored I feel to be invited by Petar to be a guest blogger, and to share some ideas about image making and storytelling that I’ve been working on for a couple of last years.

My intention was namely to intensify the feeling of mystery in my illustrations and by way of aesthetics of absence to engage the spectator on a deeper emotional level. I’m particularly interested in techniques of increasing the impact of some illustration’s elements by just giving a hint of them, without showing them directly. Sometimes the suggested presence of elements communicates more strongly than the presence itself.

All of the shown illustrations are made for the series of books about the Serbian mythology.

Nobody knows how Omaya looks like; no one’s ever seen her actually. People have only seen her apparitions. She appears as a domestic or wild animal, or in a shape of a blind girl dressed in white, with long, loosen hair.

While working on this illustration, I was led by the wish to carry on with the mystery and magic of this elusive being, but still to offer an evanescent insight of her real shape. In that purpose, I used the optical illusion called „Negative Afterimage“. This visual phenomenon happens when the eye, after being overstimulated by one image, adapts on the given quantity of the light, having as a result that the image shortly stays marked in the retina in the form of negative. At the first glance, Omaya is not in the picture, but after following the „magic instruction“ for seeing this demonical being, we realize that she was there all the time, observing us furiously while gnashing her teeth.

Омаyа- Egg tempera on chalk gesso panel, 14x20".

INSTRUCTION FOR SEEING OMAYA: Concentrate on the blood stain in the middle of the picture, on the handkerchief, for about 20 seconds. Take a look at a wall near you. Than start blinking your eyes and you will see a true Omaya emerging. 

I started the work on the illustration with drawing the portrait of the real demon Omaya as a white outline on the black background, just like I wanted her to be seen as an afterimage, and then I transformed that picture into the negative.

Omaya’s portrait shown as it will appear before one’s eyes as a result of illusion.

Having finished the portrait in the negative, I started to paint the girl’s portrait, paying special attention to match the darker parts of the demonic portrait with the black hair and the flower. The dark silhouette was slightly differed during that process, because I wanted to hide the demonic face, not to let it be seen at the first sight. I had to simplify the tones of the picture, to add the medium tones to the light in order to make the stronger contrast. That’s why the background is very bright and the hair almost completely black.

This illustration by the use of optical illusion creates itself in the spectator’s eyes and makes the storytelling more interactive.

Finished illustration and the digital simulation of the optical illusion.

Preface illustration for the book "Rebels (Vampires and Witches)" - Oil on linen, 9x13

This is the example of my efforts to try to engage the spectator to inhabit the dark with his own fear and to react on the absence, i.e. suggested presence, rather than having me to do the design all by myself and to show more monsters. Since this is the illustration for the book on vampires and witches, it’s pretty clear what could be hiding behind the door. The dog here is only a sign-post. One of the area that interests me the most are the archetypal fears, the fears that we bear from the earliest days of the existence of our species. If our ancestors saw a frightened dog or any other animal looking at something, they would probably get frightened themselves too and look at the same direction expecting to see some kind of danger. That’s how the fear becomes contagious, and the fact that we don’t know what’s hiding behind the bush becomes scarier than every visible thing, because our evolution brought us to always expect the worse.

Vid the Vampire – Oil on linen, size 12x16"

Vampire is a mythological being that originates from the Slavic cultural area, Balkans’ folklore in particular. The first “officially” recorded cases of vampirism were reported to happen in Serbia. The word “vampire” (vampir in Serbian) is the only word from the Serbian language that is accepted in all other languages. In above mentioned book on Serbian mythology, we treated the subject of the genuine and authentic vampires, and that original concept is pretty much different from the Western stereotype.

Vampire Vid Visiting his Home - Oil on linen, 9x13″ (+ digital)

A picture representing vampire Vid drifting in front of the window is inspired by one childhood memory.

Once when I was five years old, or maybe younger, in the middle of the night a passer-by leaned against the window of my house with his hand, for just a few seconds. I was the only one who noticed that. As my rational thinking and understanding was not developed at that age, the bright white palm on the glass surrounded by the deepest darkness, got a new dimension, so frightening and so mysterious.

Plague - Egg tempera on panel, 20x27".

This picture represents the demon of illness, Plague, which came to take the boy. A swarm of ladybugs is descending from its palm.

In my work procedure it is not all as cerebral as it may seem in this commentary. I never try to calculate nor I plan too much ahead how to provoke certain emotion; I let myself be led by intuition towards the solution, that later on I give shape to.

These are just some of my examples of dealing with the directness and indirectness in illustration, and thoughts about the importance of not revealing too much, but rather opting for communication with public, by animating spectators to use their own imagination.


To see more of Bibin’s work click here