Saturday, February 10, 2007

For the Birds - and Some Other Featherbrained Ideas

I'm currently in the middle of a project for Fantasy Flight Games, which means I'm working on things I won't be able to show for a few months, but I thought I'd share a couple things I do in between or during projects when I need to take a break and try something different.

This first one is inspired stylistically by the first illustrations I ever remember seeing as a young child, by a Czech artist named Karel Franta. I added my own element of hats and ornaments on birds, which I've been having a lot of fun with lately:
Mr. Franta's birds have always made me smile. They're whimsical and full of character. He is able to convey so many things in just the twinkle of their beedy eyes and the twist of a beak. I often revisit an old book he illustrated that my mother used to read to me and my brothers every night way back when.... like two years ago. ;) To this day, I'm able to simply enjoy his work without getting lost in the technical details and how-did-he-do-thats like I do when I look at other artists' work.

The next couple are studies for my own developing series of birds in Venetian-style masks. The first one was done very absentmindedly, thus the poor composition and linework (I was playing around with some new Speedball quills). The second, I tried to take a little more seriously. Both are in my tiny Moleskine, done in pen and ink, watercolour, with some acrylic in the second one.

I don't know why I started these, aside from them being very relaxing to do. I guess that should be reason enough, though I also like to think there's some underlying message. I have my own thoughts on that, but I'll leave it up to you as the viewer to come up with your own. At any rate, I'll hopefully get around to taking this theme to a more finished level after some more exploration.

On a completely different and slightly darker level, I also did this sketch a month or so ago, right after completing the Cecilia's Wheels book. I didn't want to show it right away, because it would perhaps have been a bit too drastic to switch from cute little Cecilia, to this:

This painting is a tribute to a large sum of influences I've had in recent years. There have been a variety of artistic ones, but Elliott Smith's music (certainly not his life, poor guy) is probably the biggest of all. Though the initial sketch was done on a whim at two in the morning, I've had the picture in my mind's eye for roughly a year. However, it was never clear enough how I was going to execute it, until impulse and inspiration took over. Living in the Bay Area for about half my life, I've been exposed to and always enjoyed posters from the glory days of the Fillmore. So I used that influence for the font style. Other influences played a role as well; contemporary artists such as Alex Kanevsky and Sterling Hundley, and a host of others that I'm too lazy to list because I'd have to be fair and hyperlink them too...

By the way, in case you are interested, prints of King's Crossing are available over at my makeshift commerce section: I'm always open to requests for other works as well.



Julien alday said...

Strangely, I was listening to "xo" album this morning... Wow ! Strange feeling when I read your post. How do you American people call that ? Is it "déjà-vu" ? :P
Yeah, poor Elliott Smith, there's no words for describe how bad I feel for him. I understand that you decide to post that one latter, aside the children illustrations. I like how you can switch between such different mood and keep the same strengh whatever are the topic/subject of your pictures. As said earlier, I think beside notions such as talent, it's your strong identity that made your pictures succesful.

Karel Franta, yeah man ! He rules and his illustrations artwork had so many influence in Europe. In general, children book illustrators from eastern Europe are so strong.

Thank you for the links, most of them was unknown for me, and I always enjoy see new art.
Can Alex and you had a great Sunday.

singinghawk said...

Hi Mike,

Your updates are always so informative and interesting. Thanks for sharing the links to the artists that have inspired you since little. I'd love to know the others that you were too lazy to mention. I hadn't heard of any of the ones mentioned, but I have now bookmarked them all since I'm totally impressed with the style and work -- especially Karel Franta. I'll have to look for his children's books. I can see how you have been influenced by these artists, and yet you still have a quality that is definitely only "Mike Dutton" and is seen throughout all of your work. I love all of the little bird sketches -- quite charming! I really like the looseness of the second one. There's something about the spontaneity of a fleeting moment that is captured in this one. As well, the bird looks a little sad and is more expressive than the first and third. Although I do think all of them are quite nice. I like the idea of the venetian-style masks! Hope to see more of these cute birds.

I love the sketch, King's Crossing -- makes me curious about the music. It's funny, even though you consider this slightly darker than Cecilia's Wheels, is still has the mark of charm and innocence that's apparent in your work. I would say the first sketch looks the "darkest." I think the drippy quality and contrast might have something to do with it. I really like the type integration and the "in and out" quality of the lines in the third one; it evokes a more pensive quality in the character.

Anyway, great stuff...can't wait to see more.



singinghawk said...

oh, by the way, I was referring to the first Venetian bird when mentioning the spontaneity and expressiveness. Just realized my error.

David Malan said...

I like it very nice work. I actually like it in all three of it's steps. The middle one is intruiging. I could actually see the Hundley in it before I read the post. I like the chalky colors too reminds me of OK Computer.
Thanks for coming by, Nice work, a few of the drawings in your portfolio were especially nice.
I'll be around.

Unknown said...

Ahh -Elliot Smith. Saddens me thinking about the guy. The song 'Twilight" on his last album is just one of the saddest songs to me. I'm a little embarrassed to let the sappy side of me public on the internet, but what the hell.

Love the birds with venetian masks - that's brilliant!
I love the very playful, and free style of those.

Love the King's Crossing image too - I remember that one from a while ago.
Good luck with the FFG job man! I'm gonna force you to show me:)

Matt Berger said...

Really like your posts, mate. The one where you were bicycling through the park sparked my interest in public observation. I really enjoy how you analyze the situtations that are around you.

Lovely art as so many people have already stated and so much energy. Keep well and I hope your bike is fixed soon so you can take another ride and tell us about it! :D Cheers!

Bruce said...

I like to see what sort of paved the way for you as a kid in the Karel Franta illustrations. I wasn't familiar with his works until i saw those devil paintings on the link. I think that I have seen those before. For me, I think that my earliest favorite was Maurice Sendak (as I'm sure he was for a lot that were born in the 60's) and I'm sure that he had more of an influence on me than I ever really thought about.

I'll echo the comments made about the Venetian masked birds--great idea. I hope you explore this more.
Oh, thanks for linking me!