Sometimes you come across an artist whose work just takes your breath away. That’s what happened when I was introduced to the paintings of Gregory Thielker. And yes, these are paintings. Probably the most realistic oil paintings I have ever seen. The detail is just incredible.

Gregory Thielker is an artist currently located in New York City.

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The road acts as a physical and philosophical guide for many of our experiences within the world. In the United States, nostalgia for landscape created and fueled by Manifest Destiny has perpetuated a desire for freedom and newness with each journey in the car. We are encouraged through automobile advertisement to believe in the transformative power of driving and motion to transport us beyond our everyday circumstances towards a better life, or at least a way to literally leave the past in the dust. ~G. Thielker

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MORE PLACES TO FIND GREGORY THIELKER

Artist Showcase: Natalie Sklobovskaya

Haven’t done one of these in awhile, so let’s bring it back. Today’s artist showcase is of Natalie Sklobovskaya – an artist I discovered years back and haven’t been able to get out of my mind since. Her work is colorful and dark all at the same time and reminiscent of some of the old gothic romanticism-era artists.

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Natalie studied Fine Arts and Communication Design at Washington University in St. Louis. A lot of her projects in college combined illustration with videos and her ability to tell an animated story in this way is pretty amazing. One of my favorites of hers is a video she did of Roza Shanina, a 20 year old female sniper from Russia. It’s a gorgeous piece of animation and you should all watch it.

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When not illustrating, Natalie is a user interface designer and developer for software in California. She likes to learn languages (both of humans and of computers), writing, and eating desserts.

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You can find more of Natalie’s work here:
Website: http://sklobovskaya.com/
Behance: https://www.behance.net/sklobovskaya
Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/sklobovskaya
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sklobovskaya

Previous Artist Showcases:

Matt Spangler
David Lanham
Chelsea Conlin
Meg Smitherman
Viet-My Bui
Danielle Corsetto
Lois van Baarle
Erika Moen
Anne Julie Aubry
Jason Chan
Rory Doona
Phil Wall

fuel-jg04-150x150Of all the illustrators alive today, there has been one man whose work has been a constant fixture throughout my life. I was one of those strange girls that would rather be outside excavating dinosaur bones in my backyard, getting my hands and knees dirty, than inside with a dollhouse. I spent countless hours pretending to be a world-famous archeologist, discovering hidden temples and pretending I had stumbled upon portals to other worlds. My favorite book reflected this: Dinotopia by James Gurney. I poured over those books, taped print-outs of his paintings on my wall, and I still have my first copy of The World Beneath on the bookshelf – now with the spine taped together because of the many times that book accompanied me into the woods. When I graduated high school, as my gift, my parents drove me hours away to a tiny museum in Oshkosh, Wisconsin where James Gurney’s Dinotopia paintings were on display. They are even more incredible in person. My favorite painting? The Black Fish Tavern from The World Beneath. The use of light and detail in that painting is incredible and I remember walking around the last corner of that gallery and there it was, sitting on an easel as you walked out the door.

For those who don’t know him, James Gurney is a writer and illustrator, best known for Dinotopia and his work for National Geographic Magazine. “He specializes in painting realistic images of scenes that can’t be photographed, from dinosaurs to ancient civilizations.” In fact, one of my favorite art guide books is Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn’t Exist, an excellent book for anyone interested in fantasy illustration. You can learn much more about James Gurney and his work by visiting his website, which was recently redesigned by his talented son, Dan. Check it out and take a look at his gallery. Thank you again to James for this fantastic interview. Enjoy!

On with the Dinosaurs! …I mean Interview!

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As a kid, dinosaurs played a huge role in my everyday imaginary adventures. How were you first introduced to dinosaurs and the different civilizations that make appearances in Dinotopia and when did they begin to appear in your sketchbooks?

I was bitten by the dinosaur bug as a kid, thanks to the Zdenek Burian illustrations in the Time/Life book on evolution and a few trips to natural history museums. I was also fascinated by lost civilizations. I grew up with a bound set of old National Geographics outside my bedroom door. I’d tiptoe out in the hall at night to read about great explorers like Hiram Bingham discovering Machu Picchu. My ambition in third grade was to find a dinosaur or a lost city. I started excavations in my backyard and had my friends helping me until their mothers told them they couldn’t come over anymore because they always came home with their pockets full of dirt.

I majored in archaeology at UC Berkeley, and then worked for many years as an illustrator for National Geographic. They put me in an early grave, you might say, by sending me on assignment to Etruscan Italy to poke around some recently discovered tombs in Tarquinia. They also sent me to Rome, Athens, and Jerusalem, and I worked with a lot of archaeologists and paleontologists. Around 1988 in my spare time I started doing big paintings of lost empires and I came up with the idea of drawing a map of an island and telling about it through the journal of a Victorian explorer named Arthur Denison.

Does your artistic process differ when you’re working on paintings for your fictional books in comparison with work for instructional art books or commissioned pieces?

Not really. Both my Dinotopia paintings and my scientific illustrations are imaginative work, meaning there’s no photo to copy. The idea is to do a realistic painting of something that isn’t visible in front of me. For both science and fantasy paintings, I have to do lots of sketches, and maybe pose models or build maquettes. If it’s a commissioned illustration, I might have to resolve the sketches a bit more than I would if I was doing a Dinotopia painting. The artistic process does differ of course for my plein air work, where I work on oil primed panels, drawing the subject directly with a brush.
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In your experience, what was more beneficial in helping you grow as an artist: formal art education or your personal travels and learning on your own?

For me the most beneficial thing was learning on my own and traveling, simply because most art schools weren’t teaching the good stuff 30 years ago. You had to dig it out from the old art instruction books that were 50 or 100 years old. Doing that felt like having Norman Rockwell or Harold Speed or Andrew Loomis as your teacher. Many art schools are better now, and are offering a good skill-based foundation. Still, I’m a real believer in learning through direct observation of nature, which means carrying a sketchbook around constantly, and painting outdoors.

Imaginative Realism is a fantastic book, but for those who haven’t read it – how do you go about creating your paintings of creatures that no longer exist? What steps must you take for the creatures to look as real as they do?

I work completely in pencil and oil. My studio is upstairs in my house, and it’s crammed full of art books, maquettes of architecture, old theater costumes, and sculptures of dinosaurs. My method is based on the nineteenth century academic approach: thumbnail sketches in black and white and color, studies or photos from costumed models, plein air sketches, and lots of reference photos filed away in a set of filing cabinets. The really elaborate paintings can take as long as six weeks, but an average painting goes together in about six days. During my lecture tour this fall I’ll be doing presentations at several different art schools and studios in LA and Ohio. People can find out the list on my blog under “Upcoming Appearances.”
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Your blog is an amazing resource for all sorts of traditional artists. What is the biggest piece of advice you could give to a blossoming illustrator?

Thanks for the compliment. As far as advice, I’d start by saying: don’t worry! Professionals in the business often complain about the headaches of stock art, photo-illustration, lousy contracts, and disappearing clients. There’s no doubt: it’s a tough time right now to make a living as an illustrator. But it has always been a changing business, whether you were working in 1905, 1925, or 1955. In many ways, this is the best time ever to enter the field. We live in a more visual culture than ever, and never before has fantasy and science fiction been so central to our culture.

I’d also recommend balancing imaginative and observational work. Sketch from life and sketch from your head. And don’t worry about developing a style. Just observe nature faithfully when you’re young. The style will come naturally.

We have more resources at our fingertips—tools, references, printing technology—than any of our artistic ancestors ever dreamed of, and there are unlimited opportunities if we can just try to rise to the high ideals and standards that they stood for. Illustration is a proud calling. We should never forget how lucky we are to be able to conjure dreams out of thin air.

And finally… in one word, what “fuels” your illustration?

Probably the same thing that has fueled artists all along—the desire to tell a story, to bring a character to life, to create a doorway into a world that no one had ever imagined before. I’m constantly reminded of the impact that still pictures can have over us. I got a letter last week from a young woman who is an art student in Germany. She said she found her old copy of Dinotopia after it had been misplaced for many years, and she remembered something her father said about it. He told her that it was a magical book, and that every time she opened it up, there would be a new picture hidden somewhere in its pages that she had never seen before.
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You can learn more about James Gurney here:

I love Tumblr – it’s one of those addicting websites that I get trapped in. I log in to post one thing and five hours later I’ve done nothing but look at superhero illustrations and cats. It happens. So, to spread the addiction, I’m showcasing five of my favorite illustration tumblrs. Sorry – no cats. This isn’t the Tumblr Cat Addiction …. though I like the sound of that!

ANYWAY. On with the showcase (of illustrations… not cats).

Tiny Post Offices

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I just discovered this one today and it’s what inspired me to write this post. How lovely and whimsical is this tumblr? It makes me want to sketch every single building I see. Sometimes it’s the most normal things that end up being the most magical to an artist like Kyle Durrie with nothing but a pen and paper.

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I spent hours at a time on this tumblr and tend to “heart” every image that comes up. So many talented illustrators are showcased here and so many more beautiful images. Countless amounts of inspiration, countless amounts of reminders that I need to kick my butt in gear and draw so that one day I’ll be on this blog too.

Yaphleen

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Oh my gosh, I could just gush continuously about Yaya’s gorgeous illustrations. She’s one of those artists that’s painfully good – as in it’s a painful reminder that some people are so incredibly fabulous at drawing that they make everyone else look bad. But I like pain apparently – her latest Mononoke Hime fanart is my desktop. So good!

F*ck Yeah Illustrative Art!

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I pretty much love all tumblrs that start the same with the same two words, but this one has got most of them beat. Illustrative Art! Not only is it a showcase of awesome talent, but you also find some great tips and tutorials among the pretty pictures. From comics to fanart to epic fantasy paintings, it’s all here.

Show & Tell

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Show & Tell is the illustration tumblr of Meg Hunt, one of my favorite illustrators. I adore her colors and her textures and how she can make these complex images look so simple. Her work is a constant source of inspiration to me and I’m constantly wishing I could fill my whole studio with her art. Meg Hunt wallpaper anyone?

Contribute!

What are you favorite illustration tumblrs? Comment and let us know! Share your addictions!

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I would like to introduce you all to one of my new favorite blogs: Creature Spot. It’s basically a blog for a bunch of different concept artists to come together and share their sketches and creations and I am in LOVE with it. Amazing work and extremely inspiring to someone who once dreamed of joining Weta Workshop as a concept artist (I have no given up on that dream – someday it will happen!).

A Few Favorites:

Emily Fiegenschuh

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LD Austin

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Christopher Burdett

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Ryan Firchau

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Go check them out and much more over at Creature Spot!

At the beginning of March, I was able to attend STAPLE!, the independent media expo that happens here in Austin every year. I’ve been the last three years and it just keeps getting bigger and better every time. I have a lot more blog posts that I’ll be writing showcasing some of the folks I met, but I’m going to kick it off with an artist showcase/Kickstarter fundraiser post all rolled into one.

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Sean Wang is the writer and artists for the comic/graphic novel RUNNERS. I had never heard of it, but was introduced to Sean through the awesome event coordinator from Dragon’s Lair Comics, which is my favorite comic shop in Austin (but I can’t remember the event coordinator lady! Who are you? You are awesome!). I picked up his book while I was talking to him and was instantly hooked – I love his gorgeous lineart and the story grabbed me from the first page. I ended up going back a few hours later to buy the first RUNNERS book and ask I could interview him for Snailbird.

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Sean Wang and yours truly (I need a haircut)

Timing was perfect – Sean did a panel discussion on kickstarting your webcomic with Kickstarter and was currently promoting his own Kickstarter campaign as well so he agreed! So without further ado, here is the interview!

Interview with Writer/Illustrator Sean Wang

01. Tell us a little about yourself and what Runners is all about.

Sure! My name is Sean Wang and I am a comic writer/artist. I got my start on the TICK comics for New England Comics and also did MELTDOWN for Image, but my main project is my self-published sci-fi series RUNNERS, which is a fun action-comedy space adventure that follows the exploits of a crew of alien smugglers. Basically, they’re a rag-tag group of (mostly) aliens who take on smuggling runs for the mob that tend to spiral out of control. In the first story arc, RUNNERS: BAD GOODS, they are trying to complete one particular run that has them pursued by pirates, mercenaries, and an entire space station full of police, all trying to get to their cargo. In the new story, RUNNERS: THE BIG SNOW JOB, they take on a seemingly trivial job to steal a herd of yak on a frozen planet, but that job also goes south rather quickly as they find themselves pawns in a series of escalating double crosses.

Both the first and second story arcs have been posted online at Runners Universe, where you can read them in the entirety completely for free! I am also running a Kickstarter campaign to fund the printing of the second story in graphic novel form, so you can get the books that way. That campaign ends very soon (March 28!), so be sure to check it out

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02. What is the process for creating each page of comic – is it completely digital or do you combine it with traditional work?

It is a combination. I still pencil and ink traditionally on bristol board at comic size (11 x 17″). I typically use blue lead mechanical pencils for the penciling part and then a combination of Micron pens and Japanese brush pens for the inking. Once that’s done, I scan the page and do the coloring and lettering digitally in Photoshop.

03. Why did you decide to start a Kickstarter and did you expect it to get so big so fast?

Once the second story had finished posting online, I started planning to also get it into print form. The first book was black and white (and grayscale), which wasn’t all that expensive to self-publish. But the new story is full color and I knew the printing would be much more expensive than the first book. So I decided to turn to Kickstarter to help me fund the printing. My modest hope to to bring in enough money to offset some of the costs, but I was very pleasantly surprised to see it completely funded! I hit my initial goal of $6000 in the first 2 days and my first stretch goal of $8500 (to print the book in the U.S. instead of overseas) a few days later. I guess a lot of readers were very excited about having the new book in graphic novel form and I’ve also had a great number of new people discovering the series, which is always a plus, because beyond just funding the project, it was very important for me in using Kickstarter to bring in as many new readers as possible.

04. What was the most surprising technical thing about the Kickstarter process?

I was actually surprised with how easy it is to put a project together on the site. That’s not to say there isn’t a lot of work that had to be done, IE figuring out all the cool reward items to offer for the various tiers, researching all the shipping and supply costs, getting the video and all the visuals together, etc. But once all that was done, getting all that info up on Kickstarter was a fairly easy and painless process. I was expecting a few more quirks and technical glitches, but they really designed a great site with a very smooth process.

runners-snowjob05. What advice do you have for someone wanting to start their own webcomic/graphic novel/Kickstarter?

I can’t really say I have the best advice for doing a webcomic, since I don’t really follow the successful mold there. Given the nature of my storytelling and art, I need to fully script each storyline ahead of time, then do all the concept design, and then do the actual pages, which also take a lot of time to pencil, ink, color, and letter. So when I was posting the stories, I could only get up a page a week, and then there are long hiatuses between arcs as I frontload the work on the next one. To have a webcomic though that really builds traffic, you need a very regular (and frequent) update schedule. There are a number of successful webcomics out there, and you’ll usually find them posting new material several times a week without ever missing updates. It’s important to maintain that kind of discipline.

As for Kickstarter, it’s important to realize that it’s not quite as simple as you putting up a project and getting free money. Your chances of success will be greatly improved if you go into the project with a sizable audience already. The more people you have already familiar with your work, the more you have already willing to contribute without you having to sell them on an unknown quantity. But as far as bringing in new people, it just helps to have as professional a product as possible. Presentation is key: try to have the best art possible, clearly explain your series and goals on your project page, put together a good video that conveys that information as well, and stay in constant contact with your backers through updates and other postings online.

06. And finally! Who is your favorite Runners character?

That’s a tough one. I really can’t say I have a favorite since I always wanted to develop them all in such a way that any one of them could be a favorite for any reader. They all have different personality traits that make them fun or interesting in their own way, so hopefully no one character really steals the show. That said, I do think Cember is a lot of fun to write just because he is the most jokey one of the group but isn’t a total clown. He comes across as carefree but I think he’s only able to do that because he knows he actually has the chops to take care of a bad situation should one arise. I also love Roka as a character because he’s the exact opposite of Cember. He’s a bit more broken and unsatisfied with his lot in life. I didn’t want him to be a depressed or depressing character, but he certainly carries a lot more weight on his shoulders than anyone else, and that kind of struggle with the burden of leadership is very interesting to me.

But I think all the characters are a lot of fun, and it seems my readers are really having a great time with the series as well, so if you like fun sci-fi action adventure with cool alien characters, be sure to check out the RUNNERS: THE BIG SNOW JOB Kickstarter project (ends March 28)!

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Thanks Sean for the awesome interview! If you enjoyed this, be sure to check out more of Sean Wang at personal website, at Runners Universe, and on Facebook! And don’t forget to pledge to his Kickstarter project!

Artist Showcase: The Scribbled Stylings of Phil Wall

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I’m a fan of abstract art and illustrations that are outside the traditional work. When Phil Wall first showed up on my radar, it was over at Fuel Your Illustration. His Project Photo Doodle is an epic collaboration of photography and doodle monsters. I really like his style, so it comes as no surprise to me that I love his next project too!

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Phil Wall is an artist based in the UK. He’s always looking for fresh new ways to create art and his main focus as an illustrator is on creating limited run postcards and prints. Exhibitions and Press includes; Harvey Nichols, The Laughing Squid, Front Magazine, Creative Boom and DesignTaxi.

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Phil says of his new style, “I started this series to experiment in creating forms and depth with structured scribbles and circular ‘string like’ lines. I expanded on the idea by mixing in other techniques and balancing the scribbled forms with more intricate line work.”

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I hope you enjoy his work as much as I do. For more artistic stylings from Phil Wall, you can find him on twitter, facebook, Project Photo Doodle blog, his art blog, and his tumblr.

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Previous Artist Showcases:

Matt Spangler
David Lanham
Chelsea Conlin
Meg Smitherman
Viet-My Bui
Danielle Corsetto
Lois van Baarle
Erika Moen
Anne Julie Aubry
Jason Chan
Rory Doona

For the Love of Dog: Pet Portrait Artists!

For those of you who know me, you know that I am a huge animal lover and I’m very passionate about the many animals that are in my life. Combine that with my love of art and you’ve got the perfect mix for today’s article: a showcase of three incredibly talented pet artists. These three woman create beautiful pieces of artwork in very different styles that bring to life beloved dogs and cats a like (and horses and goldfish and what have you). They all have a passion for animals as well and it can plainly be seen in the love and detail they put into every single painting. Enjoy!

Chelsea Conlin

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FIND CHELSEA AT:

Rachael Rossman

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FIND RACHAEL AT:

Kristin Bowen

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FIND KRISTIN AT:

Artist Showcase: Rory Doona

I stumbled upon illustrator Rory Doona on accident. I was looking up fanart of Where the Wild Things Are and ran across a speed painting he did of Max. I ended back up at his blog and was blown away by the amazing artwork he has showcased. I cannot even begin to tell you what a treasure I’ve found.

Rory is a manga-style illustrator and animator based in Bristol, UK. He says, “My illustration work is often motivated by a need to create a sense of space and beauty, I also enjoy creating stories and one day hope to be in a position where I can publish these ideas.” His work has been published on local flyers, advertisements in magazines, and used in the well-known publisher TOKYOPOP.

At first glance, it’s easy to mistake Rory’s illustrations for those of animation genius (and personal icon) Hayao Miyazaki. The bright, bold, colors, the seamless linework, the fascinating and whimsical characters: the work demands your attention and your eyes are drawn to every use of light and shadow. I am in love with this other-worldly style he has captured. I want to be in these paintings and experience the worlds he has created. It is easy to see that every piece has a story behind it. Rory says on his facebook page, “My art is for everyone, I draw and design things that inspire me in someway and I hope by sharing them with others I can inspire them too.” I think it’s safe to say that he has certainly inspired me.

Find out more about Rory here:
RoryDoona.com
Rory Doona Blog & Gallery
DeviantArt page
Facebook page
OSnap Prints

Previous Artist Showcases:

Matt Spangler
David Lanham
Chelsea Conlin
Meg Smitherman
Viet-My Bui
Danielle Corsetto
Lois van Baarle
Erika Moen
Anne Julie Aubry
Jason Chan

Artist Showcase: Matt Spangler!

Who doesn’t love Robots? They are made well, good to have around the house, and they are pretty damn cute. At least the ones drawn by Matt Q. Spangler are. I’m not quite sure when or how it was that I met Matt though I think it was through twitter, but as soon as I saw his illustrations, I was hooked. Robots + Art = Love.

Matt was born and raised in California, and his love for electronics came at an early age. “My mom used to give me broken (and sometimes not) clocks, radios, electronics, and let me to take them apart and see how things worked. Of course I could never put them back together, but the curiosity turned me into a full time tech geek and robot fan.” His passion certainly shines in his artwork.

Matt doesn’t just draw robots – he draws robots with personality. Each bot has a name and a story, from Rock Bot (who I fondly refer to as BowieBot in my head) to Robo-Squids to Heart-bot. I love them all. He gives his reader a daily dose of robot art and since I first started following him, my day just doesn’t start off right without a one. Along with the well drawn robots, Matt also has a great eye for color – these particular illustrations (he does other non-robot artwork) use muted colors but personally, I feel it makes the subject matter come out even more. It adds to their characters. Please take a moment to check out this great illustrator – if you love robots, you’ll love these.

Find out more about Matt here:

Website: MattSpangler.com
Store: Lunarc
Twitter: @mattqspangler

Previous Artist Showcases:

David Lanham
Chelsea Conlin
Meg Smitherman
Viet-My Bui
Danielle Corsetto
Lois van Baarle
Erika Moen
Anne Julie Aubry
Jason Chan