Captured Realism: The Art of Sean Pence

 

IMG_9528

Daenerys Targaryen PSC by Sean Pence

 

Some of the most realistic artistic depictions I’ve ever seen come from Sean Pence. His work for various card sets (usually pop culture and/or fantastical in subject) is always highly sought after and admired. Sean has such a talent for capturing his subjects that some of his cards could legitimately be mistaken for photographs. His subtle shading and eye for little details further help to bring his creations to life. The wonderful rendition of Game of Thrones’ Daenerys Targaryen above is spot on perfect.

 

 

elementalspence

Air Elemental sketch card by Sean Pence

 

I first discovered Sean’s art through collecting the excellent card sets available from Perna Studios, and several of his works for Perna are among my absolute favorites he’s done. Certainly included is his stunning Air Elemental I was lucky enough to pick up (pictured above). There’s a delicate, etherial feel to it I adore.

 

 

 

I’ve also been lucky enough to get ahold of a couple of Sean’s witches from Perna’s Hallowe’en sets. Haunting and beautiful in very different ways, the contrast between these two interpretations of a common subject spotlights Sean’s imagination and versatility in presentation. The Witchcraft sketch card also demonstrates Sean’s deft use of color in limited fashion, in this case with wonderful contrast between the background purples and the stark highlighted silhouette in orange.

 

IMG_4852

Kylo Ren PSC by Sean Pence

 

Sean has an excellent feel for composition and how to draw the viewer’s eyes to his subject for maximum impact, leadin to powerful, striking portraits. He captures the essence of his subjects down to the most delicate features and subtle details making anything from superheroes to Sith lords to fairies feel genuine and real.

 

imgseanap

Spellcasters II Fairy Metal AP by Sean Pence

 

Hope everyone’s enjoyed this brief glimpse at Sean’s creations. They’re just a small sample of the wide array of wonderful pieces he’s created.

Wickedly Beautiful: Perna Studios’ Witchcraft

I’ve previously written in general about the excellent card sets available from Perna Studios. Here I’d like to spotlight their set that was released in Fall of 2016, Witchcraft. This was a targeted subset of their Hallowe’en series (of which there have been two previous sets) and as its title suggests exclusively featured witches (both of classic witch hat and coven styles).

 

 

Witches are always a great artistic subject. Some of my favorite sketch cards from Perna’s previous Hallowe’en sets featured them (I’ve shared pictures of a few above). The prospect of an entire set devoted to them was quite exciting, and as always the Pernas delivered in a big way.

 

19225947_1721989201159601_2243288666245329341_n

Base card art by Yuriko Shirou, Eric McConnell, Stacey Kardash, Ingrid Hardy, Andre Toma, Jeena Pepersack, Molly Brewer, Helga Wojik, Collette Turner, and Melike Acar.

 

The base set is a great showcase of the theme, already reflecting numerous styles. Also featured were four spot foil cards, as well as metal and lenticular chase inserts.

 

 

Beyond that of course are the wonderful sketch cards. I continue to be in awe of the the detail the artists achieve on such a small workspace. There’s an incredible amount of room for variety and different approaches even within the seemingly narrow field of a singular subject.

 

 

With choice of background, color, attitude, and of course physical characteristics a wide range of interpretations are possible even within a given type of subject. Add in the diverse personal styles of the excellent artists the Pernas include in their sets and a dazzling array of imaginative depictions are represented.

 

 

As I talked about in a previous entry, Artist’s Proofs (APs) are another great part of these card sets. Directly commissioned from the artists, APs are an opportunity to request something specific (within the guidelines and theme of the set).

I once again went with a common base idea for most of my APs, and this time it was coven witches wearing blue. Depending on discussions with the individual artists (and what I was feeling like getting at any given time) some extra details, like a pet raven or a particular background, were included, but for the most part I like to leave the requested subject open to interpretation.

 

 

I was extremely happy with the variety and creativity that resulted in the beautiful cards I received from everyone. Achilleas Kokkinakis’ witch showcases his trademark vivid colors and a striking composition that has her edging right out of the frame toward the viewer. Stacey Kardash drew me a wonderfully serene and evocative scene depicting a witch under moonlight.

 

 

The pair of witches I got from Alexis Hill have a wonderful elegance to them, from their poses and features to the delicate designs in the trim of their robes. I find Alexis’ style a natural fit for the themes of the Halowe’en series, and have several great cards from her from all three sets.

The intricate patterns on the witch Craig Yeung drew for me are amazing, and add to her striking appearance. The soft color palette is perfect, and lets her stand out just enough against the ominous background.

 

 

This set marks the first time I’ve gotten any type of sketch card from Yuriko Shirou, and I adore the incredible atmosphere her AP has to it, from the composition to the little details of the witch’s appearance to the wonderful deep blue hue of her robes.

Norvien Basio’s cards always have impressive texture and detail to them, and the design of the great witch he drew is complimented by those elements in her clothing, the skull and raven that adorn her, and the stark metallic background.

 

 

I wrote about being a longtime fan of Juri Chinchilla’s art in Beautiful Dreams, and I discovered Perna’s sets through her. The various witches she’s done for their Hallowe’en series are all gorgeous. The AP I got from her this time was a little different from the others, as I particularly adored one of the sketch cards she did for Witchcraft and asked for something in the same vein. The result was fantastic. As I mentioned before I love the soft yet vibrant colors she achieves in her work, and the little details, from the texture of the ravens feathers and the witch’s hair to the little touches of sparkles glued on as highlights, all come together in a marvelous way.

 

So that’s a quick look at the wonderful witches of Perna’s latest set. Of course there are MANY more phenomenal artists featured in it to check out than those I’ve featured here. Perna’s next set, Elementals, is also imminent (within the next several days in fact) and will no doubt bring with it the impeccable level of quality and variety they always provide in their sets. As always I’m very much looking forward to it. 🙂

Serenity on Paper

In addition to the art gallery at Tenri Cultural Institute (which I’ve written about on several occasions), TCI hosts various other cultural events and classes.

I recently participated in a three day Shodo calligraphy course at TCI taught by Tomoko Furukawa. It was a particularly great opportunity to attend as it was Paris based Furukawa’s first class in the US.

 

 

Having never tried calligraphy before in any form it was  fascinating and enriching experience. Furukawa explained learning calligraphy is a hands on endeavor and all three classes were structured in a practice based manner, with her demonstrating the day’s techniques to open, creating guideline pages for us all to reference, and then offering guidance and suggestions as needed as we attempted what she showed us.

 

17632038_1607408192617703_6896069043821415304_o

My final attempt from class 1.

 

During the three two hour sessions we experimented with three different aspects of calligraphy. On the first day we practiced what is perhaps the first thing that comes to mind when calligraphy is discussed: stylized kanji. Furukawa demonstrated a line of four kanji (“flower,” “bird,” “wind,” and “moon”) in three different styles, then focused on one style for us to attempt ourselves throughout the session. One of the most interesting things was seeing the ways in which everyone’s results were individual and unique even with working off the same examples and writing the same kanji.

 

 

In the second class we learned about making Japanese Ryoshi paper, a technique of lightly decorating paper to be used for calligraphy. The concepts of using small amounts of color to accent etherial and similarly faint metallics really appeals to me, as does the idea of negative space. I had to leave this class a bit early so didn’t get to do as much of it as the other techniques, and would really like to revisit it in the future.

 

17622122_1607407742617748_1807394070189687131_o

One of my completed papers from class 2.

On the final day we tried creating patterns evocative of bamboo. This was perhaps the most difficult to get a handle on, between trying to capture the essence of bamboo in minimal representation while making the brush and ink do what you want them to.

 

 

Everything was “trial and error” to some degree, and of course nothing looks the way you want it to the first time.  In all three cases, even over the course of two short hours, I could see improvements in my (of course still rudimentary) efforts. It was quite satisfying, and the process itself relaxing and fun overall.

 

 

Furukawa provided a wonderful primer on several different nuances of calligraphy in the limited time we had. In addition to the basics of the techniques we were focusing on each class, she had us use different types of paper to see the ways in which different techniques are needed and the ink, brushes, etc all react differently and produce lines with different qualities.

She also touched on the importance of how each work is approached mentally, visualizing what you wish to create,  and the importance of negative space in the compositions. The breath of knowledge she shared and variety of topics covered while still spending the majority of class time letting us practice was quite impressive.

 

17547007_1609615592396963_317632204126113776_o

My final bamboo attempt from class 3.

 

While I found some things difficult (as of course expected when beginning any new art), I thoroughly enjoyed my first foray into Shodo and greatly appreciate the time Furukawa spent teaching us. Thanks to both her and TCI for such a rewarding class.

A Million Colorful Threads

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 the multinational Ink Imagists exhibition and Chika MacDonald’s Mugen exhibit.

Here I’ll be sharing thoughts on the currently showing “12 Years” exhibit.

 

IMG_7305

 

Nobuko Tsuruta has been doing SAORI, a Japanese art that embraces irregularities and uniqueness of freestyle hand weaving, for the exhibition’s titular “12 Years.” There’s wonderful variety showcased in her art. From stark, striking black and whites to gloriously colorful compositions in forms ranging from traditional tapestries and clothing to more inventive and abstract pieces using a wide array of fibers and other materials.

 

 

Beyond the surface intricacies and beauty, an underlying contemplative aspect to Nobuko’s textiles that adds emotional impact to her pieces. In her candid and genuine profile, she shares fascinating insight into weaving as meditation and accepting all aspects of herself, including “negative thoughts” and her “own vanity, ego, competitiveness and pessimism,” into the creative process and her art.

 

IMG_7311

 

The centerpiece of 12 Years is a breathtaking floor to ceiling tapestry entitled “Requiem.” It’s absolutely gorgeous, with shimmering gold interwoven with splashes of vibrant colors. There’s something powerful and evocative beneath the surface, and a placard nearby explains the deep meaning behind it.

 

 

Requiem was created while a fellow member of Tsuruta’s Saroi studio was hospitalized and subsequently passed away due to terminal cancer. It’s “intended to connect the Heaven and Earth, a bridge connecting the spirit of the people who died to we, the living.”

Nobuko’s dedicated Requiem to lost loved ones, including Tenri Gallery’s curator Kazuko Takizawa, who also passed from cancer a month ago. Kazuko’s love of art and infectious enthusiasm were apparent every time I saw her, and Requiem is a wonderful tribute to someone greatly missed.

 

 

IMG_7317

 

Rounding out the exhibit are striking photographs of people wearing Nobuko’s creations. They provide a nice compliment to the pieces on display, and the entire exhibition makes great use of the gallery space to really highlight and heighten the visual impact of Nobuko’s work.

 

 

12 Years runs until Wednesday, March 29, and is another excellent exhibit at Tenri well worth going to see in person.

 

 

Holiday Celebration with Glimpses of Past and Future Art Exhibitions

In addition to Tenri Cultural Institute‘s language school and numerous cultural events,  it hosts an art gallery that is always home to a variety of wonderful exhibitions ranging from traditional Japanese techniques to innovative multinational displays of modern art. I previously shared my thoughts on the June 2016 exhibitthe multinational Ink Imagists exhibition, and Chika MacDonald’s Mugen exhibit.

The exhibitions themselves are of course incredible, but Tenri usually also has an opening reception attended by the artists and sometimes featuring extra attractions such as live demonstrations or musical performances. The December 15th opening for Tenri’s Holiday Art Show (which ran from December 10th to the 22nd) was a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

img_4896

 

A special treat at the reception was a fantastic assortment of hand made chocolate by Kanami Chocolate Brooklyn. As impressive visually as in taste and nicely diverse in flavor and texture, the treats were absolutely delicious.

 

 

The exhibition was a great collection of work from a mix of both artists who have had previous shows at Tenri and ones with upcoming exhibitions.

 

 

It was a wonderful snapshot of the diversity of artistic styles featured at the gallery, with numerous different techniques and styles on display. From more traditional art to three dimensional work and even a enclosed relaxation “retreat” there was a multitude of interesting things to see and experience.

 

 

 

Several of the artists were in attendance and happily interacting with visitors. I was happy to have the opportunity to catch up with my friend Chika MacDonald, who in addition to provding two gorgeous pieces for the show in the similar to those showcased in her Mugen exhibit wore a shawl with an beautiful image in the same vein on the back.

 

 

It was also great to meet Alex Kukai Shinohara and discuss his work a bit, which told parallel stories of a gallery exhibit with text elements and striking three dimensional frames forming art pieces within his art pieces.

 

 

Near the end of the reception there was a short shamisen and vocal  performance by Sumie Kaneko. Her music is lovely and I recommend checking out the longer performances she has at Tenri and other venues, such as her Dec 23rd show at Club Bonafide on 52nd street.

 

As always I highly recommend checking out the wonderful art that Tenri Gallery showcases, but in addition if you are able to attend the receptions you’ll enjoy a wonderfully relaxed and fun social event as well.

Mythical Dragons Captured on Cloth

In addition to Tenri Cultural Institute‘s language school and numerous cultural events,  it hosts an art gallery that is always home to a variety of wonderful exhibitions ranging from traditional Japanese techniques to innovative multinational displays of modern art. I previously shared my thoughts on the June 2016 exhibit, and the multinational Ink Imagists exhibition. Here I’ll be spotlighting the currently showing Mugen exhibit.

img_3194

The centerpieces of artist Chika MacDonald’s textile exhibit are her majestic dragons.

Inspired by a desire to convey feelings of support and hope in dark times in a way that also celebrated Japanese culture and heritage, she embraced the idea of creating art featuring dragons rising or lurking just below some sort of horizon as symbolic guides to a better future. Her dragons are all either looking or moving towards the sun or sky, or facing outward to engage the viewer directly as a reminder and challenge to live in the present while keeping hope for tomorrow.

img_3198

MacDonald’s first piece, showing a dragon guiding several monarch butterflies (that could be seen as representing souls) towards the heavens.

The vivd colors and images she achieves are just INCREDIBLE. A lot of her backgrounds are darker colors to both provide great contrast for the subject of the piece as well as represent her previously mentioned themes of hope in the face of despair, yet she still manages to give those dark colors phenomenal vibrance through eye-catching hues.

MacDonald’s dragons are wonderfully distinctive, with carefully done gradations of color in the dyeing and beautiful, intricate details and highlights often in striking metallics that give the tapestries an extra feeling of dimension when they catch the light. They stand out against her deeply colored backgrounds and the combinations come to life in a powerfully evocative way.

I had the privilege of being shown around the exhibit by MacDonald and having her explain various aspects of her art, including some of the details I’ve shared above concerning her inspiration and what she hopes to express through her works. She is extremely friendly and excited about her craft, and it was a joy to discuss it with her. I was quite surprised to discover this is her first exhibit, as the level of detail and vitality achieved in her work belies her level of experience.

img_3178

Another highlight Mugen is a gorgeous kimono, the last piece to be finished for this exhibit. It showcases a water element as appropriate to Japanese dragons and has a distinct, powerful horizon separating sea from sky to again emphasize the dragon’s positioning and alignment towards the heavens.

img_3182

Beyond just the obvious quality and how visually stunning MacDonald’s pieces are, the exhibit shows an impressive amount of diversity. Differing colors, compositions, and atmospheres highlight each and every piece on display. I love depictions of these types of dragons when done well, and MacDonald’s are fantastic.

In addition, Mugen contains several floral pieces by MacDonald that match the dragons in feel and style and integrate into the exhibit seamlessly. Several of them are done in limited color fashion, which works well in highlighting and conveying the delicate nature of the depicted flowers.

In a fantastic finishing touch, MacDonald decided to supplement her textiles and paintings by asking friends to develop complementary jewelry and scents. A few small vials with delicate scents are placed among the exhibit and can be smelled by visitors, and a pedestal in the center of the gallery show a variety of striking, intricately crafted dragon and floral bracelets and necklaces. These elements, along with a sense of connectivity and progression in MacDonald’s work, bring everything together and give Mugen a real feeling of being a cohesive, complete exhibit.

img_3189

Photo with artist Chika MacDonald in front of her (and my) favorite piece of the exhibit.

There is an opening reception tonight (Friday November 4) from 6 to 8pm, and the exhibit will be open until Tuesday November 8.

Definitely catch Mugen at Tenri Cultural Institute in NYC if you can. These works of art need to been seen in person to be properly appreciated, and MacDonald will be present for the entirety of the exhibition. I highly recommend taking advantage of the opportunities to not only see this phenomenal art on to display, but also to meet this gifted artist and gain some insight into her process.

A Personal Piece of Magic: Perna Studios APs

Last Fall I wrote about the wonderful card sets available from Perna Studios,  and now I’d like to focus on/share an associated part of the sets: Artist’s Proofs (APs). Sketch cards are a often used form of “chase card” for art related collectible card sets, where the various artists involved in a set get blank cards with the card set’s printed back and create one of a kind art directly on the cards, which are then inserted randomly in card packs. The skills shown in painting and drawing on such a small workspace and the amount of detail achieved is incredible.

AP sketch cards are a similar creation. Artists sometimes get a few of these blank cards designated as Artist Proofs to sell themselves and create specifically for the purchaser (with subject matter appropriate to the related set and subject to publisher approval). As directly commissioned art the prices are generally higher than buying packs/sets in trade off for getting to choose the artist and having input into the subject/design.

The wonderful painted pieces Ingrid Hardy does on these relatively tiny trading cards always amazes me, and the first AP I got was from her for the Classic Fairy Tales set and features Red Riding Hood. It’s absolutely gorgeous and I can’t imagine a better design. I tend to be rather unspecific when commissioning these cards, usually just asking for a particular subject and letting the artist go from there. I’ve always been extremely pleased with the results.

It can be fun to get APs from different artists reflecting the same general subject. I collect grim reaper art when it comes to the Hallowe’en sets, so had both Ingrid Hardy and Kokkinakis Achilleas do APs featuring him for Hallowe’en 2. Both are fantastic representations capturing a sense of foreboding, with Ingrid’s reaper having an atmospheric, looming edge to it and Kokkinakis’ an active feel showcasing the dynamic style and coloring his work is know for.

I’d already gotten some excellent grim reaper sketch cards from Hallowe’en 2 by Alexis Hill and Peejay Catacutan, so went in different directions with their APs. I find Alexis’s style absolutely perfect for the halloween theme and the witch AP I got from her is a wonderful addition to all the gorgeous sketch cards I have of hers from the set.

With Peejay I floated the general idea of either a succubus or a witch, and he sent me a few pencil rough ideas. I loved the above succubus design as well as his imaginative idea to do a Japanese folklore inspired witch so much I commissioned both, and the final cards brought those rough ideas to life gloriously.

Depending on the set, the permitted subjects can be rather wide or extremely specific. For example, Classic Fairy Tales and Hallowe’en 2 allowed anything related to the titular theme (within normal Perna guidelines), while Spellcasters 2 had a subtheme of specific magical creatures, so all cards (base, sketch, inserts, and APs) from that set had to feature mermaids, unicorns, elves, fairies, or dragons. In either case, there is plenty of room for individual style and visions and both the variety and quality of work Pernas’ chosen artists produce is incredible.

I wrote about being a longtime fan of Juri Chinchilla in Beautiful Dreams, and I was lucky enough to get one of her APs from Spellcasters II. She did a great piece of art for a metal insert for the set that she referred to as “evil mermaid.” Inspired by that work, I requested an “evil fairy” for my AP, and received the gorgeous card above titled Red Moon. Juri’s soft yet vibrant colors are breathtaking, and I adore the fact that even leaning against a skull and clearly planning something sinister, her fairy still has a touch of cuteness to it.

The entire concept of evil fairies amuses me greatly, and so has become my theme for other APs for Spellcasters II, including the dark, regal looking fairy Peejay drew above that has a wonderful layered effect with the skull providing a visual second set of wings. I have two more coming, from the previously mentioned Ingrid Hardy and Alexis Hill. Can’t wait. 🙂

The coloring and detail on Norvien Basio’s cards in general is incredible, and my jaw literally dropped when I saw the vibrant mermaid AP he did for me.

Sometimes artists will choose their own subject for an AP and sell the completed pieces rather than commission the card. Such was the case with the butterfly fairy I got from Sean Pence. This couldn’t have been a more perfect card for me if I had requested the subject, showing a delicate, serene subject with Sean’s trademark ability to draw exquisite, realistic feeling faces even within a fantasy setting.

 

Of course there are MANY more phenomenal artists featured in Perna Studios’ sets and anyone with an interest in high quality fantastical art collectibles should definitely check out their offerings and/or check in with the artists about commissioning an AP.