Marc Burckhardt
Art History
Dante's Inferno
Canto XXII: Calcabrina and Alinchino fight over the pitch in the 8th Circle | Acrylic & oil on wood panel | 13.75” x 17”

"Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost."
There are special moments in a career, when all the elements come together and a project arrives that seems meant to be. A year ago, a call from Michael Hendricks at Easton Press provided one of those: a commission to illustrate the epic poem the Inferno by Dante Alighieri.
Dante wrote the Divine Comedy in the 14th century, and the Inferno represents the first of the three parts of this epic (Purgatorio and Paradisio being the other two). In the Inferno, Dante tells the story of his journey through the nine circles of Hell, guided by the Roman poet Virgil. It's an allegory illustrated by many of the greatest artists in history, from Botticelli to Bourgereau to William Blake, and perhaps most famously by Gustave Doré. An intimidating body of work, and one I tried studiously to avoid looking at as I began this project.
Rough sketches in the studio

The Inferno consists of 34 Cantos, each of which contained so many fantasic scenes to work with that the greatest difficulty was narrowing it down to the primary images I wanted to illustrate. I developed a number of sketches I ultimately abandoned, but in the end landed on 8 images I felt captured key figures or moments in the story.

After completing the paintings, I created chapter headers for each of the Cantos, developing a series of small devil heads based on a likeness of Dante I happened to have on my desk from a trip a few years ago to Ravenna, where Dante is buried. The drawings turned into small paintings, and when they were completed I designed the two-color cover line art, which was used for both the slipcase and the leather bound cover. The nine circles as well as the famous inscription above the gates of Hell ("Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch'entrate" - “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here”) are incorporated into the cover foil.
I spent some time in November at the Society signing the 1200 signature sheets that were to be bound in the final edition. This week, I received copies of the book, and I'm thrilled with the craft and precision Easton Press brought to the reproduction of this book.

This Saturday, December 19th, the paintings and drawings for this project will be exhibited at Copro Gallery at Bergamot Station in Santa Monica, along with signed copies of the book. If you happen to be in the Los Angeles area, please come by for the opening reception.
December 19 – January 9
Opening Reception: Saturday December 19 , 2015 - 8:00 – 11:30 p.m.

Copro Gallery - Bergamot Station Arts Complex
2525 Michigan Ave , Unit T5, Santa Monica , CA 90404

Canto I: Midway in the journey of our life.... | Acrylic & oil on wood panel | 17.75” x22”

Canto VI: Cerberus | Acrylic & oil on wood panel | 13.75” x 17”

Canto XII: Nessus and the River of Blood | Acrylic & oil on wood panel | 11.5” x 14.25”

Canto XIIV: A Harpie | Acrylic & oil on wood panel | 13.75” x 17”

Canto XVII:Geryon | Acrylic & oil on wood panel | 11.5” x 14.25”

Canto XXVIII: Bertrand de Born | Acrylic & oil on wood panel | 11.5” x 14.25”

Canto XXXIV: Lucifer | Acrylic & oil on wood panel | 9” x 11”

Some devil heads from the Canto chapter openers

The bust of Dante, who watched over this project (hopefully approvingly!)

Neil Young: The Monsanto Years

There are certain artists who remain true to their vision throughout a career, who explore and grow without calculation, and in the process keep their voice and maintain their ideals. For me, Neil Young is one of those artists: people either love or hate the sound, but very few are indifferent to it, and everyone knows at least a few of the iconic songs he's written and performed. Helpless, Old Man, Needle and the Damage Done, Ohio, the Campaigner, Like a Hurricane—the list is seemingly endless, and embodies a generation's anger and hopes.
So when Matt Cooley at Rolling Stone contacted me to create a portrait of Young for their review of his latest album, "The Monsanto Years", I was thrilled. I've seen him play many times over the years (and learned a fair amount of what I know about the guitar from playing along with his songs), so a portrait felt like a way of honoring someone who left some marks on my own life as well. I was also a little intimidated, as there are some wonderful portraits of Young already, including one by Tim O'Brien for Rolling Stone just a few years ago.
I happened to have been traveling to meet up with some old friends when Matt contacted me, so I took advantage of a long train ride to do some sketches. Riding through rolling farmland and listening to Young's music on my headphones, it dawned on me how uniquely American his music is and how tied to the land, in the tradition of Woody Guthrie and Johnny Cash. I decided to keep this portrait simple and straightforward, and to echo those bonds.
The last few weeks have shown how much America has changed, and how many things still need changing. I grew up in the South, and though Young was Canadian by birth, his music seemed to connect with a lot of folks down there that hoped for changes, too, and who found expression through his music. Among the many songs that ran through my head this week, this one from Young seemed loudest. Let's hope it really has come at last.
Mmm, Crickets
A few weeks ago, I received an email from Zach Gilyard at Popular Science about a project that I jumped at the opportunity to work on: the burgeoning market for insects. As food. For people.
I love eating—it's one of life's great pleasures, and I've always considered myself a daring culinary explorer when it comes to trying new dishes. But bugs have never really had that much... personal appeal. I guess everyone has their limitations. But as a subject for painting, insects are terrific—few things are as fantastic in form—and bridging the cultural divide regarding their edible allure was too tempting to pass up.

After a little online research, I dug up some appropriate historical prototypes for the image: nothing says food to a Texan like cow! With a quick sketch approval, I got busy turning this crunchy little guy into, well, something you could imagine biting in to.

No sooner did I send the final off than I hopped on a plane for a two week trip across Thailand for a little R&R. And on my sixth day into the trip—one for each leg, appropriately enough—I came across this at a street fair in Chiang Mai:

Jump to your own conclusions.....
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Burckhardt is teaching at TutorMill, an online mentoring site for students of illustration!