Friday, May 25, 2012

Back from the US

I just came back from the US where I attended the Spectrum Live show.
The show was an extraordinary experience. I particularly enjoyed the conversations I had with many artists, clients and fans.  I have seen some extraordinary pieces of art and met a few young and very talented artists.

My publisher and host John Fleskes from Flesk Publications and his team were extremely kind and they made sure that we all felt comfortable, relaxed and happy. I shared the Flesk booth with a few legendary names from the field of illustration and comics, Bill Stout, Gary Gianni and Mark Schultz.
A few other famous artist were at the booth as well signing the Spectrum Fantastic Art Live book, Mike Mignola, Phil Hale, Brom, Iain McCaig and Android Jones. These five gentlemen were the special guests of the show.

Here are a few photos from the show.

My exhibit at the Flesk booth, with my wife Anita and our dear friends and indispensable helpers Jean and Morgan Bantly.

Talking to John Fleskes (left to right), James Gurney and Bill Stout.

A group of art students, wonderful smart young people, in front of my exhibit.

Talking with Jean-Baptiste Monge and his wife at their booth.

Visiting the booth of talented Andy Brase and his wife Tamara.

At my booth trying to please a book buyer with a signature and a little drawing.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Serbian fairytales

Golden Apple and the Nine Peahens, detail

A few months ago I posted an entry about a book project on Serbian fairytales that I am participating in (click here). After that I was approached by a person from Imagine FX who wanted to talk to me about the Serbian fairytales for a fairytale fantasy art special issue of Imagine FX magazine. I said yes, and after that got a number of very nice questions from them. The interview will be published in the issue 84.

Here is a part from that interview that you might find interesting, in one or another way, and one of the illustrations from the fairytale named Golden Apple and the Nine Peahens.

 What specific Serbian tales struck a chord with you, and why?
There are three Serbian fairytales that I like in particular. The first one is Baš Čelik (Steel Bashaw) which is one of the most popular Serbian fairytales. My book The Legend of Steel Bashaw is based on this ancient folk tale. What I like about this tale is that it’s dynamic, inspiring, exciting and it possesses all the fantastic elements that make up the epic journey of a hero fascinating. It is in a visual sense very inspiring for the illustrator.

The second fairytale that captured my imagination is called The Real trouble cannot be hidden. There is a fascinating detail in this tale, which I did not find in any other story. That part of the tale goes as follows; A very modest, honest and poor man decides to work for a wealthy person. In return, and when a whole year has passed, the rich man will pay to him what he thinks that our poor man has earned during that year. When the first year of hard labor for our honest man came to its end, the rich guy, being a greedy person, paid him with a tiny little coin. Obviously the hardworking man was inadequately paid, but never the less, he gratefully took that little coin and went home. He came across a stream and said: “Dear Lord, let this little coin float on the water in case I really earned it. And let it sink to the bottom if I did not earn it.” Of course, the coin sinks to the bottom and our good man goes to his boss and gives the coin back to him saying: “ Take this coin back, for I did not work hard enough to earn it”. After that he spends another year working for the rich guy, gets another coin, coin sinks to the bottom of the river, and he gives it back to the owner once again. After the third year of hard labor he was paid with another coin, he goes to the river and, this time, the coin starts floating on the water….I find this story very fascinating (although it is just a part of the whole tale). There is a beautiful symbolism in it. It is so remote from the way of thinking of most of us today. On one hand this kind of behavior would be considered as quite irrational, even insane in our contemporary materialistic world. On the other, I think that many of us, after reading it, would somehow feel that this little story embodies a kind of mysterious sanity of a higher (deeper) level, so to say.

The third Serbian fairytale which I am quite fond of is called Usud, which means Destiny. There is a fascinating detail in this one as well. First of all, the same fairytale is to be found in the literal heritage of several other nations. I know about the Chinese and the Irish version. All three of the versions have the same main theme, but they differ in details, and this has to do with the historical and cultural differences between the countries. However, only the Serbian version contains this particular detail. The story goes as follows; A man who had lost all his riches and did not have luck in his life any more, although he worked very hard, decides to go in search of Usud, who was supposed to know the reason for his troubles. During his journey he encounters different people with various problems, who, upon hearing about the purpose of his journey, ask him to ask Usud about the reason for their own troubles. One of this troubled “characters” from the story is a river. Our guy needs to cross the river, but there is no bridge and no boat. So, he asks the river to bring him to the other side. The river does it but, just as others, asks him to ask Usud why there is no life in her waters. Our guy eventually finds Usud and gets all the answers ,including the answer to the river’s question. And the answer to the question why there is no life in the river was: “ Because nobody has drowned yet in that river. After a person is drowned in the river, there will be life in her waters”...Well, what do you say about that? For a long time I did not understand the meaning of this controversial detail from the story. But a few years ago I read Joseph Campbell, who was one of the greatest mythologists (comparative mythology) of the 20th century. I was especially impressed by his famous and extremely influential book The Hero with a Thousand Faces. After that I was able to understand the symbolism of this creepy detail. This part of the fairytale is one of the very few direct links to the Mythology and the Mythological Truth that I have ever found in the Serbian fairytales. In fact it undoubtedly reflects the first function of Mythology, which is to reconcile the human psyche with one of the major and most horrifying truths of Life, which is –Life feeds itself with Life. There is no Life without Death. Today I eat you, tomorrow you eat me, as Joseph Campbell wrote in one of his books. It is horrible, but it is absolutely true, and Mythology has found a wonderful and clever way of presenting these kind of big and scary truths about the existence in the form of such symbolic stories.

Is national character important in fairytales?
In these times of globalization and intense intercultural interaction, when many things that have marked the previous ages are irreversibly changing and vanishing, a kind of global culture is being shaped. In order to survive this process, as well as to participate in it most optimally, it is an imperative for a person, as well as for the nation, to have a developed sense of his/its own identity. In order to be able to function properly in this newly emerging global culture, one must know who he is first. For I believe that if you don’t know where you come from, you cannot know where you go to. Besides, this new global culture can only profit from the diversities that are brought in by the unique national elements. In that respect the national character in fairytales is indeed important.

Golden Apple and the Nine Peahens, illustration no. 3

Friday, May 4, 2012

What and How

The following lines were taken from the Introduction to the article about my work that will be published in International Artist within the section called The Art of Illustration. These words reflect my own feelings and thoughts about illustration and fine art. Some of you might disagree, or even dismiss it as unnecessary and pretentious. Anyway, it is our right, perhaps an obligation as well, to refuse things that we cannot identify with. But, before we do so, we should think about it first, because what appears to be unattractive today, might become quite relevant tomorrow.
“When people ask me to characterize myself as an artist, I often say that I am a painter (fine artist) who has been deliberately lost in the World of Fantasy Illustration. The main reason I see myself as such is that the pictorial aspect of painting plays an important role in my work. In the contemporary illustration, fantasy illustration in particular, it is more important what is depicted, than how it is depicted. In other words, a clear, readable and attractive depiction of a theme/subject/story seems to be a primary concern for many illustrators. How that particular subject matter is being translated into the pictorial language, and how much emotional content this language evokes, comes to the second place. Generally speaking Illustration tends to be more descriptive, for descriptiveness  is an organic part of its very nature, whilst Fine Art is more suggestive. This suggestiveness is  an imperative for, as well as the consequence of dealing with the subject matter on a deeper level and in a more personal way. In my illustrations I try to combine these two approaches, first of all through a suggestive alla-prima painting technique, than through my choice not to illustrate the text lines exactly, but rather what is between them, and finally through use of the secondary compositional  forms to emphasize the primary aspects of the composition.
Although I did (and still occasionally do) the Fine Art painting, including Fantastic Realism, still-life, portraiture and landscape painting, my heart is leaning more towards Fantasy Art. The reason is that Fantasy  Art deals with the kind of themes that are closer to me. I guess that, deep inside, I am still a child who finds his refuge from the harsh disillusioned  real world in the world of the fantastic and the imaginative. This might be seen as an escapist behavior. On the other hand, I am very much attracted by the symbols and archetypes, their hidden meaning and message, that are making up much of the world of Mythology and Imagination. These subject matters and themes are more inspiring to me, they are in a way less pretentious and easier to comprehend. More importantly, they hide within themselves a hint of a greater and more universal Truth, instead of the partial or little Truth(s) that is being presented through often socially engaged pictorial and symbolic vocabulary of the main stream Contemporary Art…”

A detail

Impressionistic approach – the depiction of light was more important that the actual shape.

Suggesting the shapes by “putting the right color, on the right place”.

Oil “aquarelle” technique – lots of medium used.

The application of four different painting techniques – Oil “aquarelle”, usual second layer  brushwork, partial glazing, and the final touch done with pallet knife.

An example of the “wrist brushwork technique”.

“ Apple? ”, 65 x 50 cm, 23 1/2 x 19 3/4 inch, oil on Masonite, 2009 / 20012. An illustration from one of my book projects in progress.