Ophelia from the book Power and Ambition in Shakespeare. Nadia Maestri, art director; Black Cat Publishing, client.
Grendel, for the illustrated book Beowulf for Black Cat Publishing. Nadia Maestri, art director.
Fire from the book Eugene Onegin by A. Pushkin. Sheri Gee, art director; The Folio Society, client.
Burning Girl, from the web story “Burning Girls” by Veronica Schanoes for Tor.com. Irene Gallo, art director.
Cover of The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Sheri Gee, art director, The Folio Society, client.
From the article “Living with an autoimmune disease. Personal history,” by Meghan O’Rourke. Chris Curry, art director; The New Yorker, client.
Blue Girl for book review of Giving Up the Ghost by Eric Nuzum. Rex Bonomelli/Nicholas Blechman, art directors; The New York Times Book Review, client.
Alzheimer’s Disease for article “The Memory” by Pamela J. Johnson for USC Dornsife Magazine, University of Southern California. Emily Cavalcanti, art director.
Anna and Elena Balbusso.
Campaign Spotlight: Anna + Elena = Balbusso Twins
Two sisters who make beautiful art together
Twins are a lovely enigma. Joined at birth, neither separated by time nor space, twins have the capacity to intuit another human’s emotions and psyche in a different dimension than you or I, born alone.
Italian identical twin sisters Anna and Elena Balbusso illustrate together as they do nearly every other thing in their lives. Their responses to my questions would most likely be under one name, advised their artist’s rep Simon Bollinger of Shannon & Associates. This adds an interesting conceit to my article, after all, how many sets of twins are there who illustrate together? I recently profiled Spanish illustrator Raquel Aparicio for Communication Arts magazine; she is a twin, whose sister Saelia is also an artist but they do not work together and have different styles. Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone were British twins who illustrated children’s books, but they are long deceased. The only other currently working twin illustrators I could find were James and Michael Fitzgerald, known as The Project Twins, who work together in a range of disciplines. There were no other female twins, and certainly none as celebrated for their work as Anna and Elena, lovely young women whose powerful illustrations belie their delicate beauty.
Anna and Elena were born in Udine, a small town in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region of Italy that borders Austria to the North, Slovenia to the East, and faces the Adriatic Sea to the South, a place that has been a meeting point for languages and cultures over the centuries and whose Roman origins are still evident.
“We never revealed our date of birth and we don't want to do it now. What’s important is the date of birth of our unique signature: 1999. Our style and our signature began to form in 2000 with the creation of our first website www.balbusso.com,” Anna and Elena explain.
After secondary school they chose to follow a path of artistic studies and attended the high school Liceo Artistico G.Sello in their hometown. “It was equivalent to an art school, five years of study but more specialized in the applied arts: art history, graphic design, photography, etching, woodcut, engraving, screen printing and linocut,” the twins say. “After this first diploma we moved to Milan to attend the Brera Academy of Fine Arts. We decided to specialize in painting and art history. Our training is more structured. After the diploma in painting at Brera Academy, we continued our education at the Università Degli Studi di Milano studying art history, modern literature, history and philosophy for another two years. These two years of study have been very important, even if we haven't taken a degree.”
Their editorial work is rich in symbolism and drenched in color. The stories are often violent and mythology is the set piece for their passionate renditions of eternal themes. Their work has won three Gold Medals from the Society of Illustrators and has been featured in Communication Arts, 3x3, American Illustration, Applied Arts, Creative Quarterly and The Guardian newspaper, among others and was included in Lürzers Archive 200 Best Illustrators worldwide. A dozen images were accepted into the Society of Illustrators 56 Annual, they won first prize in the book category at the V&A Illustration Awards 2013 and their work has been exhibited widely in Italy, the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and the Republic of Korea.
You can see more of their work at www.balbusso.com, and the Directory of Illustration, www.directoryofillustration.com.
Q: Are you from an artistic family?
A: We aren't from an artist family. Our mother didn’t attend art school but she could draw very well. Her father drew very well. Our mother is very creative; she has a great talent for embroidery, sewing and cooking. They aren't art but we think we have received the artistic talent from her.
Q: When did you know you wanted to be artists?
A: Although we studied painting we never thought to become artists but rather to do a job as a graphic designer. We have chosen to be artists, not immediately but only after our studies. Upon graduation from Brera Academy of Fine Arts, we had intended to work as graphic designers in Milan, but in the mid 1990s, advertising and graphics were in crisis so we decided to join the Italian Illustrators Association because drawing has always been our passion. At that time we had separate portfolios and drawings done with various techniques: watercolor, gouache, acrylic, collage.
Q: What motivated you to begin drawing and making art? Were you the type of children who could always be found sketching?
A: Yes, we were those children who could always be found sketching. We have been drawing since three years old. Anna began to draw first. When we were children we used to draw all day, generally on sheets of squared notebook with pencil and colored markers. We loved to draw outside of the sheet of paper and invade other areas. At one time we drew on the wall of our kitchen and on the white bed sheet. We were drawing all the time during the lessons in the classroom at the elementary school and then at the secondary school.
Q: Do you work on an assignment at the same time, or do you each take on different parts of the assignment?
A: There is no rule, [it] depends on the project. We work together on all projects, even when we divide the tasks. There are many phases of a project and the work can easily be divided between them, overall we decide together which is the best way to work and both agree on the final result. The constant search for quality is our strong suit― we take into consideration even the smallest detail. Our personalities complement each other. If we disagree about something, we can discuss and mediate. At the end of each project we must be agreed and convinced of what we did. If we are doing many different assignments, one of us usually starts to think how to develop a new project.
Q: Is it difficult to share the credit for a piece of art?
A: Absolutely not, it's beautiful and natural as drinking a glass of water! There is a lot of joy to share the credit. We share the credit and successes but also the difficulties and fatigue.
It is not difficult for us to work together because it is a natural thing. There is no competition between us. It would not be possible to work together if one dominates the other. We are very lucky!
Q: Who or what were your influences?
A: Our work isn't inspired by other illustrators, but our sources of inspiration are art in general: painting, sculpture, it depends on the project. Before starting an assignment it is very important [to do] the research, create an archive of sources. It is important to study the history of art to know the past as well as the present.
Q: How did you develop your style?
A: Our style has developed gradually from our collaboration. It is a continuous investigation and naturally evolves. To improve, it is necessary to experiment and take risks. We do not have a preconceived idea of how we will evolve our work in the next years but we know that will change! We are informed on new trends and market tastes but we do not follow the fashions of the moment. If we think [it’s] important [to make] a change to improve our work we do it without fear. We prefer to be free to develop ideas. Interpretation is more important than technique and special effects. It is also important [to] be careful in the choice of projects to keep [the] quality of your work growing.
Q: How did you develop your color palette?
A: Depends on the subject and the atmosphere you desire to obtain. For us, the color is a key element in every project. Each project is unique and not repeatable and contains in itself its own color. The color is a living being self-employed as air, water, land, etc. We think that the color is part of the personality of the individual artist and it can not be dictated by an outside person. We have our preferences; we love the warm colors, very intense and dark: the reds, orange, ocher and brown in the paintings of the greatest artists, but we change the palette constantly moving from one project to another.
Q: What is your preferred medium?
A: Acrylic, pencil, and digital. Gradually we developed a personal style where traditional methods were combined with digital programs, however we chose not to use the virtual paint brushes instead relying on doing all our painting by hand.
Q: What is your sketchbook process?
A: After the research and documentation stage, we rarely start from the pencil sketches because the study of composition, of volumes, of the lights and shadows is more important in our process. We almost always start by many digital layouts (color or grayscale). We work and rework them. When we get a compelling proposition we begin to carefully study the individual elements of the image through individual pencil drawings. We use graphite pencil on tracing paper. The drawing shall define the details of the image: the face of the character, the landscape, the clothing decorations, the furniture of the room.... An image archive that we have prepared before helps us. We collect all of the references for each illustration; these can be artists/art, sketches, photographs of people. In all our work there is a clear reference to artists and paintings. If necessary we use photos for drawing the anatomy, for example, a hand, a position of the figure, an expression of the face.
After this step, we digitize (scan) the best pencil drawings of the individual parts of the image and we work the final version with Photoshop. We get a drawing on transparent layers that allows us to modify, remove, move with ease, reduce, enlarge the individual parts of the project to obtain the final version that we will present to the client.
As far as working with our painterly style for illustrated books and covers, we prefer presenting to the client a very detailed pencil drawing. This will be very useful for the final step: the creation of the final color art. As far as our graphic style concept, we prefer presenting a grayscale digital layout to better communicate the final idea. The total freedom of choice of color is very important for us, we don't like to present [a] color layout because the color must be a personal choice of the artist.
The last stage of the process is to make the final color art. We use mixed media; our visible brush strokes are handmade, not digital. We have a huge archive that collects thousands of strokes and gestures hand-made by us. As the first step we paint each element of [the] image separately (background, characters, objects) with black gouache and pencil on paper. When we have digitized all parts, we work them in Photoshop. The image is constructed of dozens of layers of individual brush strokes and individual elements. The coloring process is very complex and has been developed after many years of work experience. The final result is like a painting on paper or on canvas. The advantage of this technique is the reduction of the working times compared to an oil painting or acrylic, the total color control and the possibility of continuous changes. During this process we test the color many times through digital color proofs. Our final art is in digital format.
Q: What is your favorite type of assignment?
A: There isn't a favorite project. All projects are born from a lot of energies and passion. We hope always to improve and the last project we are doing is very important. When we take a new project, we always want to give our best.
We do not work in series, but every project is unique. Each book is different; every story has its image with its colors and its atmosphere. We love change and follow very different projects. We cannot do the same things with the same colors, characters because we get bored quickly. We know that this is not cheap but it is part of our personality and we want to be honest with ourselves.
In general, we like the assignment with more time and with the greatest freedom. We must have the feeling that the art director trusts us and he is not afraid to dare.
Q: Which story you’ve illustrated has had the greatest impact on you personally?
A: Illustrated book: Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, The Folio Society 2012.
We really appreciated the publisher’s ability to understand that the novel was a perfect book for us. For [a] long time we have expected a book like this! We loved the challenge. The theme of the woman's body has affected our sensitivity. The story gave us the opportunity to create strong and more graphic images, inspired by Futurist art and Russian Constructivism—our passion.
Another very important project was to illustrate the amazing story “Le Horla” of the great French writer Guy de Maupassant. We have had the opportunity to create surrealist and symbolist images that reflect our personality.
Q: What is your process for an editorial illustration?
A: We always start by talking and imagining what we want the project to be. Iconographic research is very important to collect images that help us in defining the idea. If necessary we seek to deepen our knowledge of the topic with Internet research.
For magazine assignments, after studying the topic, reading the article and stressing the most important concepts, we try to define two or three ideas to develop. The objective is to present one or two very detailed proposals to the art director. This is never [an] easy process. Some topics are better than others because they reflect our personality. Our goal is to obtain an image strong and concise as possible and to center the topic well.
We really enjoy working with our more graphic and conceptual style for illustrating articles for newspapers and magazines. Lately we present to the art director digital grayscale layouts to better convey the idea. In our style the role of color is very important. The composition and the interlocking of light and dark are the most important part of the sketch and often they build the idea.
For illustrated book assignments, we do not work in series, but each book is unique. After reading carefully the story, we pick the areas we want to illustrate. We choose interesting points; we also balance the illustrations throughout the whole book. Then we ask ourselves what references we want to make to paintings or to a specific artist. It helps to study paintings from the period we are illustrating; in all our paintings there are clear references to particular artists and paintings. We take lots of detailed notes about the characters and the scene of each illustration. We conduct preliminary art historical research to understand how best to create the characters and setting. We collect all of the references for each illustration.
Q: Can you describe your studio environment?
A: Our idea is to be light. Our ideal is to be free to work anywhere, but the technology is required. We have a little home study in the center of Milan. For us it is very important to have three tables, two computers with color calibrated monitors and our “super high quality” printer to print faithful color proofs during the work process and then our fine art prints for exhibits and events (we print all our work for exhibitions).
Melinda Beck, poster for Chan Can Dance, hand lettering in Mandarin.
Luba Lukova. There Is No Death for the Songs, 1987, silkscreen, 25 1/2 x 38". The Museum of Modern Art, New York, gift of the designer, 1998.
Exhibitions of note nationwide.
Illustrators 56: Part One
January 7, 2014 through February 1, 2014
Society of Illustrators
128 East 63rd Street
New York City, NY
The first of the two-part annual exhibition Illustrators 56 will be held at the Museum of American Illustration at the Society of Illustrators and features works by leading contemporary illustrators worldwide, selected by a prestigious jury of professionals. The first exhibit includes works in the categories of Institutional, Advertising, Uncommissioned, and Moving Images. The Illustrators 56 will now be exhibited throughout the entire building, including the 3rd floor Hall of Fame Gallery.
Institutional illustration includes work appearing on merchandise, announcements, annual reports, calendars, corporate projects, government service projects, greeting cards, newsletters, in-house publications, philatelic work and collectibles.
Advertising illustration includes work for advertisements appearing in newspapers, magazines or on television; video and CD covers; brochures, fashion, point-of-purchase and packaging illustration; movie and theater posters.
Uncommissioned pieces include all self-generated work.
Now in its third year, the Moving Image category features animation for commercial purposes such as TV or online advertisements, short of feature length movies, ebooks and apps. The Moving Image entries will play throughout the entire duration of the show in the new Winsor McCay Screening Room.
A selection of 40 works from each Annual Exhibition tours colleges throughout the country in an educational traveling exhibition, a tradition going back nearly 30 years.
March 7-30, 2014
Opening reception: Friday, March 7th, 8-11 p.m.
La Luz de Jesus Gallery
4633 Hollywood Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA
Laluzapalooza 2014 | La Luz De Jesus
The annual juried group exhibition, a giant no-theme show features work from fresh new artists; around 100 to 200 works from 100 or less artists are selected from close to 20,000 submissions from commercial illustrators, graphic designers, tattooists, scenic, students, street taggers, animators and gallery artists for a salon-style exhibition. Each year new discoveries are added to the roster. The show, previously called “Everything but the Kitschen Sync”, has gone through various name changes and now goes by the apt title Laluzapalooza.
“Everyone looks at this show for new and interesting artists,” states gallery owner Billy Shire, “and indeed, not only does La Luz de Jesus pick artists from the group show for smaller group and solo shows down the line—numerous curators and owners of other galleries also keep their eyes on the yearly show for potential artists to add to their rosters.”
“This is the one show annually that most patrons look forward to seeing, as it’s a chance to discover new artists in the venue that has launched so many careers,” notes gallery director Matt Kennedy. “Every year we manage to discover a new conglomeration of fresh talent, and among them a class of breakout successes. That’s really a credit to the accessible talent pool. The quality and availability of instruction (both in schools and through independent study) coupled with the culture that this city attracts, fosters a welcoming environment for people with the ability to create—often in reaction to their individual situations.”
Designing Modern Women 1890–1990
Through October 5, 2014
Architecture and Design Galleries, Third floor
Museum of Modern Art
11 West Fifty-Third St. (between Fifth & Sixth Avenues)
New York City, NY
“Modern design of the twentieth century was profoundly shaped and enhanced by the creativity of women—as muses of modernity and shapers of new ways of living, and as designers, patrons, performers and educators.” This installation, organized by Juliet Kinchin, curator, and Luke Baker, curatorial assistant, Department of Architecture and Design, is culled entirely from MoMA’s collection, and celebrates the diversity and vitality of individual artists’ engagement in the modern world from Loïe Fuller’s dynamic turn-of-the-century performances to April Greiman’s 1980s computer-generated graphics, at the vanguard of early digital design. Highlights include the first display of a newly conserved kitchen by Charlotte Perriand with Le Corbusier (1952) from the Unité d'Habitation housing project; furniture and designs by Lilly Reich, Eileen Gray, Eva Zeisel, Ray Eames, Lella Vignelli, and Denise Scott Brown; textiles by Anni Albers and Eszter Haraszty; ceramics by Lucy Rie; a display of 1960s psychedelic concert posters by graphic designer Bonnie Maclean, and a never-before-seen selection of posters and graphic material from the punk era. The gallery’s ‘graphics corner’ first explores the changing role and visual imagery of The New Woman through a selection of posters created between 1890 and 1938; in April 2014 the focus will shift to Women at War, an examination of the iconography and varied roles of women in times of conflict, commemorating the centennial of the outbreak of World War I.
A brief review of notable titles and inspiring monographs.
100 Illustrators, edited by Steven Heller and Julius Wiedemann
640 pages, hardbound, 2 vols. In slipcase, published by Taschen, $59.99
Culled from Taschen’s Illustration Now! series, a field of 600 illustrators was narrowed down to the 100 most significant in the eyes of Steven Heller and Julius Wiedemann. The final cut includes Istvan Banyai, Gary Baseman, Seymour Chwast, Paul Davis, Brad Holland, Mirko Ilić, Anita Kunz and Christoph Niemann, providing a snapshot (if you can call a tome of 700+ pages a snapshot) of the diverse world of commercial illustration today. Features include a self-portrait of each illustrator, examples of their work, selected exhibitions and publications, a profile by Heller as well as quotes from each illustrator about his/her work. Heller is the former long-time art director of the New York Times, and has authored 120 books on graphic design, illustration, and satiric art. Julius Wiedemann has produced many Taschen digital and media titles including Illustration Now!, Advertising Now, Logo Design, and Brand Identity Now!
One Watercolor A Day by Veronica Lawlor
128 pages, softbound, published by Quarry, $22.99
Subtitled A 6-Week Course Exploring Creativity Using Watercolor, Pattern, and Design, this title will spark new ideas and increase your creativity. Daily painting exercises help develop your style with this fluid medium. Uncover new techniques and solutions, professional tips and advice. It is not a how-to but rather an “experimental approach to art”, the type favored by author Veronica Lawlor, and the other artists of Studio 1482, a New York City-based illustration and design collective she founded that espouses an experiential philosophy. Lawlor is currently on the faculty of Pratt Institute and Parsons School of Design, and also teaches at Dalvero Academy, a private academy of drawing and illustration that she founded with Studio 1482 member Margaret Hurst in 2005. Forty-two exercises cover all the basics of paper, brushes, techniques and approaches. The book offers experienced artists some new ways of thinking and playing with the medium and is also a most useful compendium for beginning artists. After all, as the author states, “The best way to learn something is to do something… My new year’s resolution is to begin the six-week course and work my way through the book.
A People’s Art History of the United States by Nicolas Lampert
400 pages, hardbound, published by Justseeds, $35.00
A People’s Art History of the United States places art history in the context of politics, social struggles, and the fight for justice from colonial times through the present. Author and radical artist Nicolas Lampert combines this historical sweep with detailed examinations of individual artists and works of American radical art, along with dramatic retellings of the stories that inspired them. With over 200 images, this book offers an alternative education on the role that art plays in our society. “Historical amnesia is rampant in U.S. politics today, no less so in the visual arts, where the current wave of social practice art often suffers from a lack of awareness of what came before. This is an original piece of research, pointing us toward a vast territory of reconnection,” writes Suzanne Lacy, artist and writer, Otis College Of Art And Design.
A few hot breaks to check out while surfing the net.
8.theillustrationconference.org — The eighth iteration of the illustration conference is coming up next July in Portland, OR, boasting a stellar lineup of inspirational speakers, the always popular Road Show, and lots more. Don’t miss out on this biannual opportunity to connect with your peers.
illustrationage.com — Andrew Loomis (1892-1959) was an American illustrator, author and art instructor. Illustration Age offers free PDF downloads of his rare, out-of-print books on illustration, drawing, and painting. Feel free to share!
www.societyillustrators.org— The 2014 MoCCA Arts Festival will be held on the weekend of April 4 - 6, 2014 at the 69th Regiment Armory in Manhattan. Tickets for the Festival will be available to purchase at the door for a flat fee of $5 per day. Applications to reserve tables in the Exhibitors Hall are currently online.
www.artvoicesmagazine.com — Artists interested in participating in the Armory Week Spring issue of Artvoices magazine, may send a response to email@example.com.
y-conference.com/y19 — AIGA San Diego’s annual Y conference has long been a standout creative conference, bringing together great speakers. Curiosity 19 promises to live up to the tradition; speakers include Robynne Raye, Pum Lefebure, Chip Kidd and Rob Quigley. Conference dates are March 14 & 15.
www.artistsandillustrators.co.uk — A community of 7,431 artists who showcase and sell their art portfolios online. The site offers a wealth of information on exhibitions, galleries, news, how-to guides, and much more.
Featuring over 180 blogs from artists and their representatives.
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Blogs from illustration artists in the Toy and Interactive Game markets
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Nicholas Wilton and his dog Maizy in his studio.
Advice on getting back to work after a break.
I had the pleasure of profiling Northern California painter Nicholas Wilton for Communication Arts several years ago. Since then he has focused on the subject of creativity beyond his own canvases, to help others bring their creativity alive. Wilton’s paintings are highly sought after both in the United States and Europe. He is the founder of the ArtLife Creativity workshops and classes. Nicholas also has established the Creative Visionary Mentoring Program, which offers artistic, business, and creative coaching to artists. He speaks and writes extensively on the subject of life purpose, inspiration and creativity. His blog, artwork and instructional offerings can be found at www.nicholaswilton.com. This past blog post from Nicholas offers words of wisdom about starting to work again, a topic that’s perfect after a long holiday break. Happy New Year, and get back to the drawing board!
Why is it so hard, after a break, to start working again? I always feel resistance. Several times during the Christmas break I came into the studio and, after working so hard here for months, I was surprised to feel how foreign it all felt. There was my table with all the used up paints and the floor was still covered with my paint mess. The evidence of my art making was everywhere, but I still felt like a visitor to my own studio. I have noticed that the absence of making art dangerously leads to more of the same...”The less you do the less you do.” Creating is a muscle that will happily atrophy if we allow it. The solution, at least for me is to just begin and try to show up and pay attention to what is in front of me and become wonderfully lost in it all. It takes a bit of effort at first although, like an awkward first kiss that is doubly filled with vulnerability and anticipation, it also holds a degree of excitement for what might be possible for the future.
It does seem true in art making that “the less you do, the less you do.” Fortunately, however, the inverse is also true—“the more you do the more you do!” This makes it possible to find your groove over and over again. It is how we build our own momentum and produce and create art like there is no tomorrow. It allows us to fill our studio, our imaginations and dreams with our art. Again.
If you’d like to receive a free download of Wilton’s “7 Steps to Beginning", click on the link: https://ig147.infusionsoft.com/app/form/default-campaign-form11
Joel Spector was the winner of the Children’s Picture Book category for the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, one of five awards the inspiring book, And Still They Bloom: A Family’s Journey of Loss and Healing by Amy Rovere, has received. Spector illustrated the title for the American Cancer Society.
If you have received an award, published a book or have other exciting career news, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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