Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

Hot for Mentor?

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012
Stern Mentor Deconstructed

Stern Mentor Deconstructed by Michael Jay LaRue

While poring over my recent card acquisitions from Avacyn Restored I noticed art by an artist I have not noticed before, Igor Kierluk. His work on Stern Mentor is outstanding, and it serves as an example of effective composition.

The character is emphasized by choices made by the artist. The most important of these choices is the triangular composition formed by the three candles. The grouping of three items, is itself a common and effective technique – this choice is pleasing to the eye.

Beyond just the grouping, there is thoughtfulness in its placement. The bases of the candles, labeled A,B, and C create an interesting planar structure in the drawing. This plane is oriented in such a way that establishes an up shot. The viewer is looking upward into this scene. This choice adds drama and makes the character seem more imposing and formidable. As such, the artist is faithfully executing the art consistently with it theme as embodied in its title. Isn’t it appropriate, and therefor effective, to portray a Stern Mentor in this way? I think so. 

Not to belabor the point but there is an additional side benefit to this approach – notice how the plane intersects the character at about the level of her sternum. The lower two thirds of the figure, below the plane, is shaded in red in my deconstruction drawing. The placement of this intersection bisects the figure at its topmost third. Things presented in thirds are appealing.

A final element worth noting is the triangular construct formed by the orb in the background as a counterbalance to the character in the foreground.

To summarize, I think this is very beautiful drawing that is enhanced by careful use of triangular constructs that focus our attention on the character. There is an ample demonstration of depth, foreground, to middle-ground, to background.

I totally buy this approach – that character clearly and truly is a stern mentor; my complements to the artist Igor Kieryluk.

Gravedigger Revisited!

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012
HIghlighting the good aspects of art execution for this card art

Good composition, depth, form, perspective and simple shapes make for good art!

Magic the Gathering is a great game that has demonstrated staying power since its invention in 1993. The first of its kind, as a collectible card game, it not only defined the genre but has since remained the standard for quality. This is true not only for gameplay, but for production value as well.

While there are many reasons for a person to like the game I’d like to focus on one popular aspect of its production value – that being, its artwork.

Since the beginning, the top half of each card has been dedicated to art which portrays the cards game mechanic, communicates game ‘flavor’, and hopefully tells a story in its own right. As for execution, for many players notice and appreciate art that is appealing. Fortunately, for critical purposes, what is appealing happens to follow the normal rules for evaluating art from an aesthetic point of view.

While many players know what they like, they often do not know why they like it. That’s where I come in. On occasion, I like to explain, in terms of artistic qualities, why some art is good, and therefor, appealing. I am also willing, but less likely to explain why card art fails if it has been poorly executed. The latter is possible, but rare; why go around calling attention to the negative? Sometimes it can be instructive to do so, but being negative for negativity’s sake – no, not my style. Hey, I just used a double negative to explain why I was not going to be negative; nice!

Take the card Gravedigger; this is beautifully done art. One does not need to know art aesthetics to assert this, but they can be applied to explain why it is good.

In summary, it is good because it is well composed, it employs an effective design using simple shapes, perspective treatment is correct, form is nicely revealed on the main character, there is great depth of field, and there is a well executed control of the viewer’s eye movement, which is directed, by design, towards the center of attention which are found on the highlights on the two character’s heads.

As this series continues I will elaborate on these concepts, but for now let me refer you to my own drawing above which is annotated to introduce several of these features of good art.

Comments are welcome; I hope you find this helpful in your appreciation of, not only Magic art in particular, but also of art in general.

Note: the Gravedigger card (lower left corner of image above) is copyrighted by Wizards of the Coast; its depiction here is for art critique and instructional purposes only.

Inspiration, and a Question

Sunday, May 2nd, 2010

What a joy, and such a source of inspiration; I attended the 2010 CalArts Open Show for the presentation of student created animation short films today. Beautiful, thoughtful, humorous and moving – all of these things and more. Makes me wonder what I have been doing, and what I should be doing with my precious life energy. To my credit, my writing, drawing, and guitarring is a great start, but is there room for more? I think I already know at least part of the answer to that question.

Rediscovering the Guitar

Saturday, March 22nd, 2008

When I was in high school my father gave me one of the best presents, and it was only incidentally a material present. Physically it was a 1972 Fender Telecaster electric guitar. In fact, I probably paid for most of it, and he made up the difference between that and the more affordable model which was called the Jaguar. The gift was his advice and counsel to re-direct from the lower model, but it was not just the money – it was the encouragement that this was an important lifelong purchase and that I owed it to myself to buy the right guitar, the more substantial one. He told me to “…forget about the price and buy the right guitar”. At the time I knew nothing about guitars other that I wanted to play and that I had already outgrown the acoustic guitar that I used to teach myself how to play.

It was clear though that the Telecaster was a fine instrument, although I thought its styling seemed a little understated. It hardly seemed flashy enough to be “cool”, and why buy an electric guitar if it doesn’t look “cool”, right? Little did I know that I was purchasing, not a stoic or staid guitar, but rather one that was timeless and beautiful in its own right.   Cream colored body, white pickguard, rosewood fretboard and classic Fender styling. No need to hold out for the blond ash neck. That would have been nice, but the store, Chuck Levin’s in Wheaton Maryland, did not have one in stock. While that feature might have been nice, it may also have been overkill.  I had found the “right” guitar with my father’s counsel, and that was the perfect decision from day one – a decision that I continue to appreciate to this day.

The lesson was important, and I could only appreciate it later, and upon reflection, but he was saying that this will be important to you since you may own this for the rest of your life. Furthermore, if having the right guitar at the very start helps insure that you stick with the pursuit, then that is a consideration as well. He was saying that art is important and is worth investing in. He was also saying the same about me – I was important to him; I was worth investing in. He probably never knew how much I appreciated this lesson and his investment both material and spiritual. I did however tell this story, slightly differently in his eulogy back in 1992.

I played and learned with abandon back then, and even into college. Since college, I may not have played as regularly, and there have even been stretches of years at a time when I did not play at all, but since that day when we bought my guitar I have always been a guitarist.

The best news of all though is that now, for whatever reason, I have taken to picking up the guitar at least twice a week recently and I have been enjoying it immensely. I now even find myself browsing the Guitar Center on a Saturday afternoon, tolerating the noisy new guitarist showing off and trying out the gear.

Fortunately, guitaring is like bicycle riding, muscle memory being what it is; once you know how, revisiting it after a layoff means just knocking off a little rust from the skills and not learning again from scratch. It’s a great feeling. Mount up, choose a direction and start pedaling, or picking, in this case.

Another year, another Nutcracker

Saturday, December 8th, 2007

This afternoon I am off to perform in another production of The Nutcracker. Once again playing the role of Mr. Stahlbaum – Clara’s father and host of the grand party of the first act. This is a purely character role, and not a dancing one per se, but it is still rewarding. The role does not rise to the level of my former signature part – The King Mouse – but I do enjoy being able to bring the art alive. I am as well prepared and rehearsed as I can be, but the directors have changed large portions of the party scene since last year. I am expecting another great show, and I will head off for the theatre soon!