Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Mahomes Portrait using traditional media

Patrick Mahomes, watercolor, colored pencil © Mark A. Montgomery

Kansas City Chiefs fans have a lot to be thankful for this year. This season has been about the most fun to watch since I can remember. Even the couple of heartbreak games (Patriots and Rams) were so intense they left me shaking. We can always count on players like Hill and Kelce to keep the game moving, but the story of the year has been 23 year-old QB Patrick Mahomes. He is on the cover of this week's Sports Illustrated "Future of Football" issue. Of course, getting on the cover of SI at this point in the season has sometimes proved a bad omen for teams gunning for the Super Bowl, and the Chiefs have fallen apart under this pressure in the past. Not that it will happen this year, but my sports superstition kicked in when they had their second loss of the season the day the cover appeared on newsstands. Just sayin'.

During the Monday Night Football Chiefs v. Rams game, I was sitting at the dining room table finishing up this painting of Mahomes. Using only traditional media, I kept in mind some techniques learned from C.F. Payne tutorials layering watercolor washes, wiping out the highlights and finishing it up with colored pencil. I could go back in with acrylics on top to really bring out some highlights, but it is what it is.

I hope all the attention on Mahomes and the Chiefs doesn't doom them to miss post season again this year, but regardless of the Super Bowl contenders, it has been an inspirational season. While the Royals rebuild, it is nice to have some home-team to brag about. For now, I am happily in the front seat of the bandwagon. Go Chiefs!

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Montgomery Artwork featured in 200 Best Illustrators Worldwide Book

I am honored to announce my inclusion to the book, "200 Best Illustrators Worldwide 2018/19." This is my first time to make it into the "200 Best" list and features three portraits of musician Neil Young, Bernie Sanders and President Trump (in a special section). The books have been distributed to art directors in Europe and soon to the USA. They are also available for purchase at the "Archive" link below. It is such an honor to have my artwork in the same book as some of my illustration heroes. Inclusion is definitely inspiration to work harder.

L├╝rzer’s Archive advertising trade magazine puts out a call every two years to collect the best and brightest illustrators. From Archive: "The latest volume of the biennial series of 200 Best Illustrators 18/19 has turned out to be a beautiful survey comprising 296 pages of the best illustration around, featuring talent from a total of 34 countries.

The work featured in this new book was culled by an international jury of 10 from a total 4000+ submissions from 55 countries. None less than 34 countries are represented in the final selection, with USA leading with 45 artists, followed by Germany (32) and Brazil (27). 

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

New Jazz Festival poster

2018 Springfield Jazz Festival poster © City of Springfield, MO
I am thrilled beyond words to once again design the Springfield Jazz Festival poster. And get paid. As part of my day job! I'm the luckiest.

This small one-day festival has been a grass roots labor of love that the local city government and Missouri State University Division for Diversity and Inclusion started nine years ago as an active way to support diversity in our town.

We rely on the expertise and connections of MSU Jazz Studies Chair Randy Hamm to book the local, regional, university acts during the day and a partnership with the Historic Gillioz Theatre to book an amazing headliner. Last year Herb Alpert and wife Lani Hall put on an amazingly fun show.Next year will be the 10th annual festival so I expect big things!

This year, Chicago Jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis is headlining the festival. Buy tickets here! I spent the last year researching and listening to all the CDs my library had. His 1960's trio stuff is my favorite. Check out this big hit from that era: The In Crowd

I love the live recording that almost sounds as if they are playing a small gathering in someone's living room. I've had a cool recording in rotation for several years of Ramsey Lewis' Do What You Wanna (Mr. Scruff's Soul Party Mix) from the Verve Remixed 2 album that keeps that same small (In) crowd feel. Puts me in a productive groove at work. Ramsey will be bringing his versatile Urban Knights band so I imagine he will be playing some of his more recent smooth jazz like Sweet Home Chicago all the way back through his Funk years (not my favorite) to his Trio days (my very favorite, see above).

When it comes to Jazz, I enjoy the raw instruments. I'm traditional that way. Jazz up through the 60s: Dixieland, Sidney Bechet, Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Django Reinhardt, Coleman Hawkins, Thelonious Monk, Ornette Coleman, Duke Ellington, Art Tatum, Art Blakey (Moanin'!), The Modern Jazz Quartet, Miles Davis, Stan Getz, Mose Allison, And anything that takes that spirit forward with new ideas i.e. Arturo Sandoval, Wynton Marsalis, Eddie Palmieri or Trombone Shorty. I think you can get some big sounds out of the classic acoustic blend. There's also something about live improvisation that has always amazed me as well.

In my poster, I wanted to show that variety and big sound, along with ghosts of all that history floating up out of Ramsey's piano. The percussion, the groove, the melody and harmony. All from one instrument. The piano has all the notes!

I have been experimenting with Cubism and Futurism the last few years, and in my studies I came across a related art movement called Synchromism. "Synchromism was an art movement founded in 1912 by American artists Stanton MacDonald-Wright (1890-1973) and Morgan Russell (1886-1953). Their abstract "synchromies," based on an approach to painting that analogized color to music, were among the first abstract paintings in American art." -Wikipedia

Crystal Bridges Art Museum has one of MacDonald- Wright's pieces that I found was my favorite of the museum. I thought Synchromism particularly fit with trying to visualize Jazz. I may not have gotten too deep into the theory and might have bent some of its rules, but I will continue to figure it out. Art is like Jazz: there is always more to explore.

I started sketching with some highlighters to play with transparency and mimic the bright yellow in Ramsey's promo photos (below). I decided to stick with those bright colors because they are unexpected and vibrant and I hadn't used this color scheme before. Keeping it fresh!

Initial highlighter sketch © Mark Montgomery 
 I then found reference photos from festivals past and took some of my favorite poses from the local musicians who have become staples of the festival. I've been doing these posters and attending for 8 of the 9 years so I've built up quite a visual library. We didn't have a poster for that first year, that I recall. It was REALLY grass roots.

I scanned in my sketches and some texture photos (from when I painted my living room). Then I drew it all out in Adobe Illustrator with tons of layers and transparency. Then I pasted it all in Photoshop with a stained butcher paper texture on top to soften and age it a bit. I think it turned out to be a real fine collectible piece of art, if I do say so myself.

Bass Player Sketch © Mark Montgomery

Drummer Sketch © Mark Montgomery
Sax Player Sketch © Mark Montgomery

Ramsey Lewis Sketch © Mark Montgomery

The REAL Ramsey Lewis. I hope he will sign my poster.
So there you have it. A fresh new Springfield Jazz Festival poster that hopefully gets you excited about trying out some Jazz on September 29 and keeps it alive in Springfield. It is a music form that has always brought people of different backgrounds together. Ethnic, economic, age, taste in music. Doesn't matter. All that Jazz.

Park Central Square Stage banner mockup 2018
Funding and support by Systematic Savings Bank, Missouri Ats Council, Springfield Regional Arts Council, City of Springfield, MSU, Downtown Springfield Association, Springfield Public Schools, Gillioz Theatre and Springfield Music.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

WPA Illustration Process for Modern Money Network

Illustration by Mark Montgomery for the Modern Money Network
This is a recent advertising commission I did for a non-profit known as the Modern Money Network. The illustration is meant to be used for a website banner and print collateral for a nationwide event across university campuses to drum up support for recently proposed legislation for a Federal Job Guarantee. 

They found me through my Hire an Illustrator portfolio when I was a featured member about a month ago. Their thought was to have an illustration style that "blends the seriousness of Constructivism (think Soviet '20s and abstract New Deal art) and the hyperbolic playfulness of present superhero aesthetics like X-Men. The idea is to conjure a sense of great meaning and purpose w/o lapsing into plain nostalgia or socialistic earnestness."

Oddly those art movements have inspired my artistic development ever since growing up studying Thomas Hart Benton (of Missouri) and falling in love with the angles of Russian Constructivism propaganda posters in design school from the likes of professors from Poland, Russia and Sarajevo. 

The Modern Money Network (MMN) wanted the banner to show "diverse persons (race, class, gender, ability) and diverse professions (infrastructure workers, care takers, artists, etc.)" in a horizontal format.

I had this in mind when visiting the Minneapolis Institute of Art on my birthday this summer. Looking for inspiration, I found a Nordic bowl that had scenes of life and work cast into wide, narrow strips wrapping around the bowl:

Nordic Bowl, Minneapolis Institute of Art

To get started sketching I also researched the murals of Diego Rivera and Thomas Hart Benton. I also pulled from some retro super hero aesthetics from X-Men to The Incredibles. Originally my contact person with the MMN wanted the banner in shades of green to match the MMN logo, so I mocked up three pencil sketches in that color:

It felt a lot like designing a WPA mural. I had several different possible government jobs (with a modern twist if possible) to try to work into the design, including librarian/archivist, doctor, artist, National Parks employee, scientist/researcher and possibly childcare worker. They liked the third sketch but wanted the tree planter in the center. They also thought the artist painting in VR goggles was too abstract or gimmicky  So I rearranged the characters and came up with a final sketch. 

Montgomery MMN final sketch
They asked for a couple more specifics which I added into the final. One request was to have the Parks worker hold the baby tree up above her head in a heroic pose – as I had shown the librarian previously. They also decided monochrome green was not inspiring enough for a younger generation and really wanted me to go crazy with color, referencing the jazz posters I have on my site. Here's an example at markamontgomery.com

I decided to hire a few models for some reference in pose and lighting. I didn't need them to be the exact race I was depicting, but I wanted to have some specific info so I could choose to squish or exaggerate shapes in a way that made sense. Here's an example of the scientist model, Wesley in my dining room.

Model and final rendering -Montgomery

 Here are a few other closeups of the final characters.

The response from the committee has been very positive. From the client: "The contemporary visual culture surrounding full employment politics is narrow and impoverished. Case in point: even pro-Job Guarantee articles tend to only feature pictures of white men in hard hats or nostalgic images from the WPA. Montgomery's banner, by contrast, conjures myriad types of persons and professions, while pointing to multiple forms of socially useful work."

I don't get into politics, but I love people enough to hate the effects of poverty. I enjoyed the work on this project, as it was right up my alley of aesthetics. I love Americana and history so any time I get to research and combine WPA and retro comics in the same project, I'm in heaven. The final image is fresh, energetic and heroic which I feel make it inspiring. The symmetrical composition keeps it balanced, while the color and variety keep the eye moving. I think it would make a cool mural after all. What do you think?