Vibrant Imagination: The Art of Achilleas Kokkinakis

One of the best parts of Perna Studios’ excellent card sets and the vast array of phenomenal artists involved is discovering new favorites. Since my first glimpse of his vivid, eye catching art via Perna sets Achilleas Kokkinakas’ creations have become a prized part of my collection.

 

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Original art for Perna Studios’ Classic Mythology III: Goddesses set base card.

 

Achilleas’ art makes an immediate impact with deep, vibrant colors that make his subjects seem to come right off the cards. Enhancing that wonderful feeling is his masterful sense of composition and positioning, with everything in careful balance.

 

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Original art for Perna Studios’ Spellcasters II set base card.

 

Equally impressive are the minute details he manages on such small works, ranging from intricate borders and background patterns to flower petals dancing in the wind to dragons covered in tiny scales and a ton of other exquisite little touches.

 

 

My first Artist Proof from Achilleas featured a grim reaper positioned straight at the viewer, “spilling out” over the card’s frame and holding a scythe decorated with tiny skulls all over. A later one had a witch similarly coming out of frame, stunningly decorated with intricate jewels, flanked by a wonderfully done pet raven, and surrounded by gently falling Autumn leaves.

 

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Wind AP by Achilleas Kokkinakis from Perna Studios’ Elementals set.

 

As will come as no surprise for regular readers, I adore Japanese culture and art, and as such Achilleas’ Japanese themed cards from the last couple of sets have been some of my favorite pieces ever. The base card art of Benzaiten for Perna’s soon to arrive Classic Mythology III: Goddesses set is breathtaking.

 

 

I was lucky enough to get one of his gorgeous wind elemental geisha sketch cards, and adored it so much I got two APs in a similar vein but with variations based on ideas I wanted incorporated from other cards he’d done. The results were all I could have asked for.

 

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Incredible sumi ink rendition of Usagi Yojimbo on rice paper.

 

While I’ll endlessly praise Achilleas’ amazing use of color, my most recent additions showcase a different side to his art and a different corner of my personal preferences. When done well, limited color art (black and white with a single color for accents) can be amazing, and these sumi ink creations depicting Usagi Yojimbo and Yoda certainly qualify. Again the compositions are perfect, and Achilleas’ captures a genuine feeling of motion in these pieces.

 

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Incredible sumi ink rendition of Yoda on rice paper.

 

This is a newer technique for him, and his pieces are already fantastic. I can’t wait to see more of these, and of Achilleas’ art in general, as he continues to explore and push the boundaries of his craft.

Impossibly Amazing (spoiler free)

Although I haven’t seen much in recent years, I’ve always had a soft spot for and fascination with magic. So when an extremely intriguing looking show popped up at a unique venue I was familiar with I jumped at the chance to check it out. Joshua Jay’s Six Impossible Things is the most intimate, engaging, and yes, best magic show I’ve ever seen.

 

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My first time Wildrence (then The Mist) was last summer for Refuge, a competitive escape the room type experience. It was atmospheric, creative, and a lot of fun. The space itself has a lot of character, and Jay makes excellent use of it here as the audience is brought back and forth between the various rooms for each phase of his show.

 

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Everything about the show has a touch of the unusual and unique to it, including the venue, the small audience size (twenty people), the fact that the show is strictly limited one viewing ever per person, and of course the tricks themselves. I’d love to get into glorious detail about all the fantastic things I saw and the captivating way Jay utilizes the cozy setting, his mastery of showmanship and innate charisma, and a fresh approach that twists familiar tricks and elements to push his craft to new heights. But honestly it would be a disservice to anyone who wishes to check out this for themselves to spoil the sense of surprise and wonder I was fortunate enough to experience as Six Impossible Things progressed. Jay’s concept for this of creating magic to be experienced rather than just watched is implemented in a variety of ways, and the result is simply incredible. Catch this if at all possible while it lasts.

 

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Surrounded by Vibrancy

Tenri Cultural Institute, in addition to its language school, concerts, and various other cultural events, hosts an art gallery that is home to a variety of excellent exhibitions ranging from demonstrations of traditional Japanese techniques to innovative displays of multinational modern art. I’ve spotlighted several past showings, and two of my absolute favorites where the textile based Chika MacDonald’s “Mugen” and Nobuko Tsuruta’s “12 Years.”

Here I’d like to share my impressions of another wonderful textile exhibition, the currently showing “Our Road.”

 

 

The immediate visual impact of this exhibit is incredible. Japanese Dyeing Artist Ken Arai and Textile Artist Kiyo Masuyama’s exhibit, featuring collaborative pieces that span the length of their careers, showcases an amazing array of diverse tapestries in a variety of vivid, impactful colors and gorgeous patterns.

 

 

 

The opening reception was a fun, lively affair allowing guests to absorb the grandeur of Arai and Mauyama’s work amid a lovely background atmosphere enhanced by Indonesian Gamelan music provided I.M. Harjito and Anne Stebinger.

 

 

 

Beyond the inherent quality and beauty of the pieces themselves, the exhibit reaches further heights in it’s construction and brilliant use of space. Tenri Gallery, with it’s high ceilinged main area, large support pillars, and side area stretching to the front windows looking out on 13th street, provides great opportunity for exciting presentation and “Our Road” makes the most of its potential. Contrasting yet complimentary pieces placed side by side, impressive pieces stretched from floor to ceiling, gorgeous works draped above viewers heads, and all the other little details in placement and display choices combine to make the whole effect even more striking.

 

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Simply put, “Our Road” is absolutely wonderful. It runs until Tuesday July 3, and is well worth stopping by to experience in person.

 

 

Beautiful Dreams 2: More Art of Juri the Dreamer

As I mentioned in Beautiful Dreams, I’ve been a fan of Juri H Chinchilla’s amazing art for several years and have been fortunate enough to develop a nice collection of her work. Here I’d like to share and talk about more of it (as well as ramble a bit about the stories and inspirations behind certain pieces).

 

 

Juri continues to be heavily featured in Perna Studios excellent card sets. I’ve been lucky enough to get several diverse, beautiful sketch cards of hers from sets like Witchcraft, Elementals, etc, in addition to having the opportunity to commission some incredible Artist Proofs (APs) as well.

Juri’s also done promo and base card art for Perna’s sets, and special cards including metal and spot foil chase cards and variants.

 

 

Some particularly interesting pieces of my collection include unique original works, such as Juri’s original pencils underlying her Mistress of the Night piece (the final version of which I featured in Beautiful Dreams) and colored and original art versions of her page from Sarah “Sakky” Ruth Ford’s Magical Girl Coloring Book.

 

 

Juri’s Personal Sketch Cards (PSCs) have been more fantastic additions to my collection, with the great opportunity to request particular subjects and design elements.

As always I adore her use of color, particularly in her hand drawn work, and like with her Perna sketch cards and APs above that aspect also really shines in her PSCs. Seeing her visions of some of my favorite characters come to life has been a real treat. I’m a diehard gamer, with particular preference to RPGs and fighting games over the years. With Juri’s pitch perfect confrontation between Kasumi and Ayane from Dead or Alive and jaw dropping melding of Morrigan and Lilith from Darkstalkers joining the original sketches I got from her featuring Millia Rage, Jam Kuradoberi, and Dizzy from Guilty Gear, I now have incredible renditions of all of my favorite characters to play from each of my favorite fighting game series.

 

 

Valkyrie Profile is my single favorite RPG of all time, and Juri’s intricately detailed, soft yet strong interpretation of Lenneth Valkyire is exquisite. Favorite series honors go to Persona, and I adore Juri’s vibrant, striking depiction of a key supporting character from one of the series’ best entries.

 

One of the more unique requests I’ve made is a card featuring one of my favorite professional wrestlers, Mitsuru Konno from Gatoh Move. Mitsuru’s already showing great potential and instincts even with only a little over a year in wrestling, and I adore the incredible way Juri’s captured and combined her strength, determination, grace, and beauty in this remarkable rendition.

 

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Mitsuru Konno PSC by Juri Chinchilla.

 

The last two pieces I’d like to talk about are anime/manga related. I’m using the word “favorite” a lot, but in explaining the inspirations for choosing these subjects across various mediums it has been appropriate and illustrative in every case. Gorgeous animation, thought provoking stories, and an incredible atmosphere come together to make Kino’s Journey my all time favorite anime. Juri perfectly related Kino’s cool, somewhat detached demeanor resting for a moment atop Hermes against a wonderful background horizon that evokes the show’s sense of traveling through a vast, intriguing world.

 

Rosario Vampire is an amusing, fan-service and action heavy harem style manga based around a high school for monsters where students regularly get into fierce battles with one another. It has solid story progression once it gets going, but is admittedly largely formulaic and trope ridden. However halfway through the second “season” of the manga there’s a side story,  introducing a relatively minor supporting character (who didn’t even make the anime adaptation), which embraces and upends cliches in equal measure to present a nuanced, emotional story that is easily at the top of the (long) list of things I’ve read. San Otonashi is a phenomenal character and (here’s that word again 😉 ) an absolute favorite of mine despite her relative obscurity. Even with being initially unfamiliar with San, Juri was able to create a gorgeous, spot on card of her, conveying both delicacy and strength and again really elevating the final work with her incredible coloring.

 

 

More information about Juri’s art can be found on her artist page. I hope to continue to follow and collect her incredible creations for a long time to come. 🙂

 

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Edit 2/9/18: I recent received three more wonderful Personal Sketch Cards by Juri, and wanted to add them to this celebration of her art.

Shoulder-a-Coffin Kuro is an incredible, unique adventure. At its heart are Kuro’s ever curious companions Ninjuku and Sanju, enjoying their journey but also gradually losing their blissful ignorance of the larger world around them. Juri’s wonderfully captured their playfulness and variation of personality.

 

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Brian Q Miller’s Batgirl series was an wonderful comic with the headstrong yet lovable Stephanie Brown in the titular role. One of my favorite issues of the run was a lighthearted story about her friendship with Supergirl. I absolutely love Juri’s rendition of the two of them together.

 

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Finally, Food Wars is a surprisingly fantastic manga/anime with a sports competition manga feel applied to idea of a highly competitive cooking school. Beneath the (admittedly enjoyable) humor,fan service, and general ridiculousness are compelling story arcs featuring an interesting, fun cast. A personal favorite of mine is prodigy Alice Nakiri, who’s simultaneously sheltered/immature and world traveled/formidable in a highly amusing way. Her confidence and attitude are perfectly reflected in Juri’s depiction.

 

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Elegance on Paper… and Cookies :)

I’ve always found various types of calligraphy to be beautiful art forms. So it’s been great seeing a friend of mine, Lillian Liming, share her wonderful brush lettering based calligraphy designs via inspirational quotes, an assortment of decorated items, and instructional workshops. I recently attended two of her workshops and wanted to share thoughts on them here.

 

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Decorated canvas tote bag.

 

My only previous experience with any sort of calligraphy was a (thoroughly enjoyable) Shodo class at Tenri Cultural Institute taught by Tomoko Furukawa. The Japanese calligraphy I was taught there focused on writing kanji and paper decorating, so I had no previous experience with English lettering.

 

 

 

The first workshop I took of Lillian’s was Introduction to Brush Calligraphy (held in partnership with Artsi Workshops). As indicated by the title this was a beginner’s course designed to convey the basic strokes and concepts behind brush lettering and let participants practice them. The format was great as getting right into trying things out is the best way to start learning most artistic pursuits. A lot of important, interesting information was shared regarding things like how to hold and move the brushes/brush pens to properly form the lines and letters, good places to order supplies, and the effects of using different types of pens and paper. A bit difficult to get the hang of, but even by the end of the class practice had made things much easier.

 

 

The second workshop I attended was significantly different as this time the theme was cookie decorating for the holidays. It was again really interesting to hear about things like different types of food coloring and edible paints, the effects of using a faster evaporating solvent for diluting, etc., and tons of fun trying to transform that knowledge into actual festive looking decorated cookies.

 

 

Lillian’s workshops are a wonderful combination of informative and comfortable. The atmosphere is calm and welcoming, with light refreshments served and an unpressured environment, but she still conveys a lot of great information and instruction during her intros and explanations and keeps things moving at a good pace that allows a lot of time for practice/writing with her providing individual help and tips as needed.

 

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My creations.

 

I had a great time at these workshops above and beyond the added bonus for me of catching up with a good friend. I highly recommend checking out any future ones Lillian holds if you have any interest in brush lettering.

Glimpses of the Stars, the Past, and the Present

Tenri Cultural Institute, in addition to its language school, concerts, and various other cultural events, hosts an art gallery that is always home to a variety of incredible exhibitions ranging from demonstrations of traditional Japanese techniques to innovative displays of multinational modern art. I’ve spotlighted several past showings, including Chika MacDonald’s Mugen exhibit and Nobuko Tsuruta’s 12 Years.

Here I’ll be talking about last month’s Pseudoastronomy by Kiichiro Adachi and the currently ongoing The Art of Japan: NOW, with the Past by the
Alumni Association of Tokyo University of the Arts.

 

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Kiichiro Adachi sees his art as a way to explore the “distortion” of using made man things to “control or simulate nature.” His Pseudoastronomy exhibition (which ran from November 9th to the 22nd) sought to capture a small piece of the grandeur of  the universe via light reflections of off intricate, carefully constructed mirrored apparatuses.

 

 

 

The exhibit was tailored to the space available at TCI and the effect of the moving reflections through the darkened space and added light smoke effects was captivating. In comments about the exhibit Adachi mentions he likes “the absurdity of using mirror balls to simulate the sacred universe.” This perspective and his creativity created a striking piece of art with a thought provoking theme beneath it.

 

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Tokyo University of the Arts Alumni Association of New York’s “2nd Art and Music Collaboration Exhibition,” entitled The Art of Japan: NOW, with the Past, features an art collection by several artists, along with musical performances and workshops all focused on highlighting a combination of modern and traditional Japanese influences.

 

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The opening reception featured shamisen music by Yoko Reikano Kimura and tango/jazz by Machiko Ozawa (violin) & Ayako Shirasaki (piano). Both performances were excellent.

 

 

There are also workshops related to this event, including the still to come “NOH WORKSHOP: VOYAGE TO NOH” with sessions for both children and adults on December 10.

 

 

 

The varied and distinctive pieces that comprise The Art of Japan: NOW, with the Past exhibit can be viewed at TCI until Monday, December 11.

 

 

Elemental Beauty: Perna Studios’ Elementals

I’ve previously written in general about the excellent card sets available from Perna Studios, as well as spotlights on their Witchcraft set and Artist Proofs. Here I’d like to focus on their set that was released in Spring of 2017, Elementals.

 

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Water AP by Peejay Catacutan.

 

For me this was perhaps the most highly anticipated set they’ve done yet. The concept of fantasy cards dedicated to people and creatures embodying the four classic elements is fantastic, and lends itself to endless variation and interpretations.  The 20 card base set is a wonderful example of this, with a multitude of artists providing numerous unique, captivating visions.

 

 

Also included were four striking spot foil cards by Soni Alcorn-Hender, as well as gorgeous metal and lenticular chase inserts.

 

 

As always Perna’s sets shine shine with their one of a kind sketch cards and Artist Proof’s.  Each artist’s individual style, choice of subject, composition, etc all make every card distinct and all of them together result in the extremely high quality these sets consistently achieve.

My favorite elements are wind and water, so those were the main focus of my collecting. I got wonderfully diverse sketch cards featuring each including a gloriously semi-abstract piece by Mick & Matt Glebe (my first of theirs), Danielle Gransaull’s vivid mermaid, Arwenn Necker’s air elemental with a classic fantasy feel, and a hauntingly etherial work by Sean Pence.

 

 

 

Artist Proofs (APs) are generally directly commissioned from the artists and thus provide an opportunity to request something specific (within the guidelines and theme of the set).  In a couple of cases, such as the incredible half formed female elemental made entirely of water by Peejay Catacutan at the top of this entry, I gave just a general subject then chose between more specific ideas provided by the artist.

For the rest, instead of a common base idea for my APs as I’ve done in the past this time I tailored most of them a bit more individually based on other cards the artists had done. Stacey Kardash’s sketch cards featured recurring elementals of each type, and I requested an AP with those wind and water elementals. She gave me a number of great compositional options, and I ended up with a fantastic metal AP of the two face to face.

 

 

I was lucky enough to pull two of my absolute favorite sketch cards from the pre-release previews (and pick up more later). One of the pulls was Achilleas Kokkinakis’ geisha themed air elemental making tea. I adored the idea and execution so much I got two APs inspired by it. One with a water elemental against a gloriously colored sky (prompted by another beautiful sketch card he did) and a wind elemental forming a dragon made of air. I can’t say enough about all the exquisite details, including the intricate borders, small thematic scrolls showing the kaiji for the element, etc.

 

 

 

My other pull of a sketch I’d been eyeing in previews was Alexis Hill’s striking wind elemental gathering lightening. After I’d added her mermaid and earth elemental sketches to my ever growing collection of her cards, I decided to request a fire elemental AP to complete representation of all four elements. Doing a pairing with water was an idea I’d been batting around, and the resulting metal AP from Alexis is great.

 

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Wind and water AP by Juri Chinchilla.

 

And of course I was thrilled to add another AP from Juri Chinchilla, this time a playful meeting between a mermaid and her friend made of air. As always Juri’s work is gorgeous, brought to life with her vibrant shades of soft colors. What I really adore about this one in particular is the sense of motion she’s achieved on a small 2D card with the mermaid’s bubbling hair and the (pardon the pun) windswept curls in her counterpart’s.

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Hope everyone enjoyed my look at the Elementals set. Of course there are MANY more phenomenal artists featured in it and other excellent sets from Perna Studios to check out..