While recent documentation through photography shows us some astonishing planetary changes, it’s the images that pre-date modern technology that really show us how devastating climate change has been all over the world.
A Glimpse into the Past
These images are often hard to come by, however, thanks to Watercolour World we are now able to look back into the natural history of our planet and see exactly what certain parts of the Earth’s landscape looked like long before we even understood the effects of climate change.
Hosting a digital library of watercolour paintings that date back to before 1900, Watercolour World documents these images and provides us with an accurate insight into the changes that have occurred to our landscapes and seascapes over the last 120 years. Watercolour World is supported by Javad Marandi from the Marandi Foundation, an organisation that is dedicated to providing opportunities in education for disadvantaged young people in the UK and giving them access to art and culture.
It’s through this support that Watercolour World is able to keep sourcing and digitising these paintings, educating us about the past and giving us a glimpse into the way the world looked before we started using modern technology to documents the planet we call home. Come with us as we embark on a virtual tour of some of these paintings and discuss how they can show us exactly how devastating climate change has been to our planet, and how they can inspire us to make a change moving forward.
The Changing Landscape
One of the most powerful pieces of art displayed on Watercolour World was painted by Joseph Mallard William Turner and dates back to 1804. This beautiful watercolour painting depicts the Glacier des Bossons and Mer de Glas at St. Gotthard Pass, which at the time was described as ‘Flowing rivers of ice, 200 feet deep’:
Scroll a little further down the page, and you’ll see how artist Emma Stibbon found the glacier when she returned to the exact same location over 200 years later. Standing at the same spot in which the original painting was created, Emma made a cyanotype (a photographic printing process using a light-sensitive iron-based solution which is then exposed to the sun or a UV light). The changes in the landscape are unbelievable:
The once thick glacier has now all but disappeared, leaving behind a dry bed of ground that could easily be crossed by foot, something that would have been inconceivable at the time the watercolour was painted.
As the planet continues to be devastated by climate change, so does the wildlife that sets up home across a variety of landscapes. Melting Arctic ice, hibernation ending before time and saltwater inundation from tidal surges are all effects of climate change that are wreaking havoc on wildlife all over the world.
Another poignant collection of paintings displayed on Watercolour World shows us certain species of animals that have become endangered over the last 120 years, and even some that have sadly become extinct due to climate change and hunting. Within this collection, you’ll find a watercolour painting of a polar bear that dates back to the 18th century:
Arguably one of the most threatened species from changes in the climate, their ability to feed in their natural environment has been dramatically reduced due to the rapidly receding ice.
Looking at these paintings, seeing how the world has changed and how once-thriving species have since begun to decline over the past century helps to give us the wake-up call that we all need to start playing our part in reversing climate change. However, it’s not necessarily all doom and gloom! Instead, we can use some of these historical paintings to inspire us into finding a new way of creating energy without the need for burning fossil fuels.
Take this collection of paintings entitled ‘How Windmills Shaped the World’ for example. Centuries ago, people used the power of the wind to grind flour, make paper and even cut timber. It’s this windmill technology that inspired the invention of wind farms and the renewable energy they produce:
Images of past travel methods may also inspire us to think about how much of a carbon footprint we’re leaving behind through regular air travel or driving and look towards cleaner or more energy-efficient ways of getting to where we need to go. Looking back over the years shows us how humans used to carry out their day to day tasks and create materials long before the industrial revolution, so who knows what inspiration future generations could pull from these paintings to create even more sources of clean, renewable energy.
Why Preserve These Paintings?
Preserving these historical paintings allows us to learn from the past, inspires us to make changes moving forward and helps to provide us with a clearer picture of how much damage climate change has caused to the planet before modern methods of documentation. It’s also incredibly important that these paintings aren’t lost to the ages, and by preserving them in a digital format Watercolour World are keeping them vibrant, detailed and safe from fading over time.
Digital preservation of these paintings also makes them easily accessible from anywhere in the world, so they can be enjoyed by anybody at any time without needing to travel far and wide to see them.
Today, we had an inspiring talk with Zoltan Korcsok, a Hungarian artist whose hard work and dedication brought him to numerous top-class projects during his career. Now that we had the chance to interview him, we took the opportunity to ask about the "Joker" piece that directed us his way. This experienced painter and big comic fan also shared useful insider's tips on how to seize the opportunities to succeed in the creative industry.
Hi Zoltan, it's nice to speak with you today. Can you give us your biography?
I am a Designer in Visual Communication Arts living in Budapest. I've been interested in drawing and painting since I was a child. I've graduated from an art and design secondary school and got a Master’s Degree of Design and Visual Communications later from the Hungarian University of Arts and Design. I worked as an illustrator, book designer, background painter, concept artist, matte painter, art director, lead artist for many years. I worked in publishing, the game industry, 2D and 3D animation industry. I worked on many projects, like the Assassin's Creed Cinematic trailers, The Witcher Cinematic trailers or the Final Fantasy movie.
We learned about you and your work after seeing your fantastic watercolor illustration of Arthur Fleck done in Rebelle. What was the most challenging part of the process for this painting?
I like the traditional media painting tools of Rebelle. I experimented with using these tools for making illustrations. Because of the realistic simulation of paint behavior in Rebelle, I was able to use "traditional" techniques.
I got the theme from the movie Joker in which Joker is portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix. His clown makeup gave the idea for watercolor dripping.
I started drawing as if I had an aquarelle pencil, which then I softened with water. This gave the base tone, which I colored over with aquarelle paint. I turned on tilt only when creating the dropping paint.
This was the part of the process when I was able to achieve the paint drop effect on the final image. It took multiple attempts to achieve the exact length and size of droplets that I wanted. I turned up the Loading and Water properties of the brush and painted blobs with that. The ability to pause the simulation made controlling the paint and dripping very easy. The paint only spread as much as I wanted it to, but the flow still retained the appearance of unpredictability which is a characteristic of real watercolor techniques.
I developed the paper displace used for this drawing earlier. It gave a surface the exact texture quality that I wanted for spreading paint. I made it by combining different types of paper and other noise-like textures. In the Visual Settings, I increased the default Absorbency and Canvas Influence. I created a few brushes for this painting, especially for the splattering effect.
The color palette I used is the one used and recommended by Alvaro Castagnet. Alvaro Castagnet is a highly respected international watercolor artist. His works and painting technique is very impressive: https://alvarocastagnet.net/artwork/
You’re skilled both in 2D and 3D art, what mediums and techniques do you prefer to use?
I don't have a preferred medium. The given theme and problem dictates what medium I will use. Recently I've only been using digital tools, but I'm used to traditional tools and techniques, like watercolor, oil paint, etching, lithography.
I mostly use a Wacom Intuos Touch S tablet for painting, drawing, and digital sculpting. I also have a Wacom Cintiq 16 pen display, which is more reminiscent of traditional drawing, and it's also easier to do fine work with the pen because I can see the canvas under my hand.
You have worked on many interesting projects throughout your career in the creative industry. According to your own experience, what would be your advice to younger artists who are on the look-out for such opportunities?
As a beginner, you can land internships or junior positions. For this, you do need to attach a carefully compiled portfolio to your application. It's good to be aware that the people screening the materials of applicants usually don't have a lot of time to look through them, therefore one should strive to only include their best works -- quality over quantity. As a lead artist I had to evaluate the portfolios of many applicants, and in my experience, the most common issue, other than mistakes in technique, is not having material relevant to the position. For example, someone applying for a matte painting position does not have any matte paintings, or someone applying to be a concept artist does not have any concept art.
It's worth following trends, both in tech and artistically. There is always new ground to cover, always new things to learn. Fortunately, in the Internet age, you have all information available. Usually, professionals working in the creative industry have the extra challenge of needing to solve new problems. It helps if you are aware of new software tools you can use, but it's also worth learning traditional techniques because you might end up needing to write calligraphic text on paper, which will be digitized.
There are more and more online courses and contests on creative community forums. These are worth participating in as a beginner because you can get more experience, as well as learn from the entries of the other contestants. For example, Artstation.com, Cubebrush.co, and Cgsociety.org regularly run contests. You can find online courses on and job listings on Artstation and CGSociety and free tutorials on 3DTotal.com.
Your Pinterest profile is a wonderful and extensive gallery of the greatest comic artists and illustrators definitely worth a follow. Why did you choose this social network for this idea?
You can use Pinterest to create link collections of images available online, which is useful for collecting, organizing, and sharing reference images. Because there are many thematic collections created and tagged by users, you can find reference images more efficiently than you'd be able to with a more generic search engine.
Where did your love for comics come from?
I was a fan of comic books even as a child. Back then I mainly had access to Hungarian comic books. As such the first artworks I've seen were from Ernő Zórád, Imre Sebők, and Pál Korcsmáros. Later on, I got to familiarize myself with West-European and American artists as well. Amongst my favorites are the works of Moebius, Sergi Toppi, Adam Hughes, Simon Bisley, Frank Cho, and Mike Mignola. I keep the graphic novels of Alex Toth, Alberto Breccia, and Ernő Zórád in high regard. They are able to create a visually rich and engaging composition even from the simplest scenes.
It's not uncommon that fans of graphic novels create them themselves. One of my stories has been published in a 2008 issue of Heavy Metal Magazine, which I drew on paper with isograph, and then colored and lettered digitally.
Which online resources for digital artists would you recommend following?
There are many good community sites where you can see the digital 2D, 3D artworks or ones made with traditional techniques of many artists, and you can even publish your own.
You can access articles, reference materials and tutorials on these sites, and even apply to online courses. Sites like this are for example the previously mentioned Artstation.com, Cubebrush.co, or CGSociety.org, Behance.com, and 3dtotal.com.
I'd recommend visiting these pages regularly because you can find many inspiring works and ideas on them.
We do agree! We also included some of these inspiring websites for our readers in one of our previous blog posts. Anyway, thank you for granting us this interview, Zoltan! We wish you a lot of joy while creating your fantastic art!
Visit Zoltan's portfolio at https://trurl.artstation.com.
We’re happy to release three brand new sets of extraordinary papers and canvases that invite you to experience creative freedom while painting in Rebelle. They are based on their real-world equivalents used by traditional artists. The new paper sets include a collection of 3 beautiful canvases, papers consisting of wood fragments, and a set of unique recycled papers made from pulp. We turn them for you into a digital form so you can enjoy these exceptional surfaces digitally directly on your computer.
Traditional Canvas - The Royal Material
The canvas has always been a painter’s royal material. This set offers traditional primed canvas, pure fabric, and a bumpy canvas for brave experimenters. Enjoy the adventure of acrylics, watercolor painting, and ink wash drawing!
Archival Paper - Pulp With Wood Fragments
The new set is an example of papers containing various fragments of wood. Wood sawdust or pieces of bark give these papers a unique look. Such materials were used in the 20th century by artists for sketching and botanists to archive plants. One of the papers is an interpretation of a sheet produced in 1920. Go ahead and paint on these unique materials!
Handmade Recycled - Original Pulp Mix
This set was made by recycling different types of pulp. The master papermaker used various sieves for separating the pulp to obtain various types of surfaces. Each paper is a unique original. These handmade papers allow for unusual combinations of watercolor painting and surface drying. If you dream of new expression possibilities, this set is for you!
How We Create Papers for Rebelle
The ultra-realistic papers are an absolute gem. When creating papers, we look for a suitable contrast in texture to capture the characteristics of the fibers, which creates a unique paper structure every time. Papers are not a simple copy of reality. They are new textured images created with respect to the original pattern and behave realistically like real papers while painting in the Rebelle.
The new, as well as the rest of the paper sets, are available from our website for $9.99 USD each. Every set contains three different papers or canvases.
Have fun and enjoy creative freedom with these paper additions! :-)
Your Escape Motions Team
These papers and canvases are exclusive assets for Rebelle software (version 3.0 and newer). They were created by Lubomir Zabadal, an expert for traditional art media and assistant professor at UKF University, Slovakia.