Big Changes and a Happy New Year!

View of North Beach from the SFAI campus.

It has been a tremendously eventful year.  With a move to San Francisco and a new job, the summer was quite busy but developed into a simple enough routine.  The biggest development of the year followed at the end of August with me starting the MFA program at the San Francisco Art Institute.  Now, with the first grad school semester behind me, I am still thrilled to be doing this and having the opportunity to focus on my artwork.

On that note, there are many changes taking place in my art.  With all the fascinating and exciting things that I am learning, my work is going through a lot of re-evaluating, re-examining, and refining.  My usual style and subject matter are awaiting reintegration while I work on the foundation of my narrative.

Eastern Block 6.  18 in. x 24 in.  Acrylic on Canvas.

I am happy to announce that some of these efforts will be on exhibit in March at the Diego Rivera Gallery.  Rest assured I will be sending out additional announcements as the show date approaches.  And if you are in the Bay Area it would be great to see you at the opening.

Hopefully your 2011 was also fruitful and rewarding.  Mine certainly was, though not without a healthy amount of challenge.  Especially at the end of the year and around the holidays, but that is all in the past now.  As Rumi says, "Yesterday is gone and took away its tale. Today we must live a fresh story again."  So I now look forward to the spring semester, creating a lot more art, and sharing it with all of you.   Can't wait to see what 2012 brings into my life and wishing you all a Happy New Year!

Yoshitaka Amano at New People S.F.

The show might be not-so-current news at this point, as I just got to see it on its last day this Saturday, but the work is just too good not to be shared.  I had the pleasure of making it to the Yoshitaka Amano: FOR JAPAN exhibit and auction just in time.  I attribute part of my hesitation to the promotional materials for the show which featured his signature black and white character design but in the end it was probably just neglect on my part.  Nevertheless, while I still enjoy the black and white body of his work it's something that we've all seen time and time again from Amano.

You can imagine my surprise when I walked into New People's FROG Gallery and saw these amazing large scale color portraits.  Some of these are of Amano's characters from Gatchaman but many were something I had not seen before from him.  The exception being one piece on permanent display in the New People lobby which I realize came from a similar show in the past.

Photo courtesy of Iris Chen

The green portrait at the top of this post has grown to be my favorite of them all for some reason.  There is a definite strength in his female characters.  They are powerful, sensual, and often, as a friend of mine put it, coquettish.  Yet there is also something unsettling about them, made obvious in some pieces where the eyes were deliberately crossed or skewed, that can leave me feeling tenuous and uneasy.  It lends these girls an initial appearance of beauty but makes them somewhat grotesque on closer inspection.

The fact that these qualities are present in Amano's work is a sure sign that he has at last joined the ranks of the Superflat movement.  The two pieces above are especially reminiscient of some Murakami works, albeit executed in Amano's own style.  I never thought of Amano as a Superflat artist based on his previous concept and illustration art.  This is a welcome evolution of my perception of him to be sure.

Of particular interest to me here is how Amano executed these paintings.  While I cannot be entirely sure without further research I believe to have determined his method.  All of these pieces are around five inches in depth off the wall and have a completely smooth gloss finish.  This seemed to be curious given that the edges were a bit too perfect to be done by hand.  The painting treatment itself looked as if it were done in cell vinyl paint.

Given Amano's background in the anime industry, this would make sense.  So my theory, for what it's worth, is that these are all made in prefabricated plexiglass boxes which were painted using animation cell vinyl paint from the inside.  It's a brilliant idea and one that I have thought about myself without knowing how to execute it exactly.  I was always curious about what cell art would look like on a large scale, presented as fine art.  And here we are.  Much better than what I could have probably come up with.

If you didn't get to see Amano's work in this exhibit, there should still be that piece in New People's lobby which is definitely worth a look.  Otherwise check out a few more shots from the show after the jump.

Hooked On Initial D

Without knowing quite what to expect I decided to give Initial D a try after it coming highly recommended by a friend. Seems that the last few anime I have chosen to watch have been based on recommendations but when someone things of a series so highly I can't help but give it a shot.

Knowing that Initial D was an older series I was prepared to face some questionable looking old-school animation and I was not wrong. In the early episodes there are some interesting stylistic choices in regards to the facial expressions. Not exactly what I have come to expect from the various anime styles out there. More than anything else I must admit that the mouths kind of bothered me. Fortunately this is only the case in the first season, with the series' overall quality improving significantly in the remaining seasons or "stages." No other visual aspects of note stood out, save perhaps that this was one of the first anime to implement the combination of traditionally drawn cells and CGI.

Having gotten only a few episodes into the series I quickly realized that I was getting hooked, and fast. The story is very strong and the way that the characters get into the technical side of street racing kept me interested. In a way, the first season was perhaps also the best because most of the character growth happened within those episodes. Later stages continued to get more and more technical and battle focused, with character development eventually becoming secondary. Still, the Extra Stage OVAs did try to make up for this by focusing on character relationships.

While the introduction of protagonist Takumi as the clueless and inexperienced protege, though genius behind the wheel, was a brilliant hook for starting Initial D off, the technical minutiae and drawn-out racing battles eventually became repetitive as the series drew to a close. Not to mention that this anime lacks an actual climax and ending. Maybe that's because each battle is a climax in itself. It would have been nice to see the completion of "Project D" as the proper ending of the series but perhaps audiences had lost interest at that point.

Personally I would have loved to see more development in the romantic relationships between many of the characters instead of breaking everybody up and trying to ingrain the notion of "the lonely driver" into the viewer's mind. I also would like to have back the couple of hours spent watching the live action movie. All the characters were so different by having the production be Chinese that I had a hard time enjoying the film after spending so many episodes with the anime's characters. It's not that the actors didn't do a good job but rather that the characters were portrayed very differently.

So here I am again. Another anime series that I enjoyed quite a lot and can't seem to stop complaining about. This tends to happen quite often for some reason and maybe I just don't like seeing so much potential not being reached. When it comes down to it, I really had a lot of fun with Initial D and would recommend it to anyone with even a small interest in automotive sport. Not only is it entertaining but it's also informative and has made me pay more attention to my driving technique. Oh, and now I want to own a late '80s sports car. Probably a Subaru XT6.  Go figure.

New Website, Online Store, and Newsletter

If you haven't already seen the announcement in your inbox or on Facebook and Twitter, then I invite you to check out the new offerings from yours truly.  The Michal Wisniowski website has been compeletely redone so check out the new look and tell me what you think.

On top of that, I also launched a new online store.  No longer am I using Etsy and have opted for an e-commerce solution that better suits my needs.  Have a look at the store and see if you like any of the artwork currently for sale.

Last but not least, I also have an email newsletter that you can sign up for.  Either enter your email address in the subscription box in the sidebar, or simply click here for the appropriate form.

Artists 2 Love

James Jean [link]

Al Farrow [link]

More great artwork after the jump.  Enjoy...