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Glasgow, United Kingdom
An illustrator and games artist living and working in Scotland. I have various hobbies: coding, travel, art and games; and I enjoy writing about them.

3 January 2013

The Art of Vance Kovacs

Long time no post! I was away, travelling the world. Notably Lithuania. However the trip was educational and highly relevant to my project. The way people live there had a huge impact on me and I had chance to analyse why one or another element has an impact on how we percieve a location or a culture. More on that when I get a chance to tranfer photos.

Today I want to talk about the art of an extremely talented artist and my personal inspiration, Vance Kovacs. His bleak palette and grotesque characters remind me a lot of Albert Durer's etchings and ooze with atmosphere. His knowledge of anatomy and mastery of materials is superb.

Take this image as an example.


These concept paintings portray characters from a fantasy setting. A druid and a warrior. The skin tone is close to grey on both. This creates unity - we can automatically place these two in the same setting - and adds an earthy quality to the paintings. The authenticity is in the detail, as Jon Hodgson said to me (read here). The small detail and the deep symbolism are the two qualities that make these paintings such a success. Sikle, necklace and the white dove, the cathedral window frame and the ornate armour; they all affect how we percieve the image. Associations stirr in our minds, nature, twisted forests, cathedrals and the characters sink deeper into their setting; the world is becoming more believable and gains solidity.

Same elements of earthiness and extreme detail appear throughout his works.

This image features some medieval European architecture, which can be seen in the background. An element easily overlooked, it grounds the character and creates context. The man in the foreground, the focus of the painting, is both believable and mysterious. Like in the previous example the earthy tones dominate the painting. The green and purple accents however add interest and mystery. This is also achieved by the detail, such as the feather or the runes, which are merely suggested on the brim of the man's coat. If we look closely at the painting we realise that the composition is clearly broken into three parts. If you look closely you can even spot the washes they've been seprated with, brown for background, yellow for the face and green for the costume. The purpose of these colour washes is to unify an element and make it distinct from the surroundings.


Also, keeping in mind the "windmil principle", which James Gurney talks about in his blog we can observe that values are used to great effect to separate the figure.


Technically, the whole figure is darker than its background, but the general principle can be seen throughout. Light and dark values sit on the background comparatively to eachother.

A few words on the composition. The painting follows the rule of thirds, with the figure on the bottom right and the top left is taken up with interesting detail. Notice how little actual brushwork is done with the stones of the arch, since they are not the focal point. This balance adds solidity and unity to the painting. Visual cues are used to great effect to guide our eye to the focal point of the painting - the face and the ornate cloak buckle.


Lots of little successed like that is what makes this drawing. Vance knows exactly where to use one or another technique and what detail to add to make his characters alive in their reality.

Vance Kovacs website can be found here and I implore you to check it out; it is filled with a lot of truly great paintings.