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.

Artmonia

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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!