Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Second gear

These drawings are from five minute poses. My approach on these is almost the same for the first two minutes, but I make my marks with a much lighter hand. I also try to take advantage of this stopping point and check and correct my proportions. At this stage the marks are so light that I can just ignore them if they are wrong. The last two to three minutes is all about draping and stabbing in my total values until I run out of time.

The need for speed

I think most of the learning happens in the first few minutes of a figure drawing. These drawings are all from two minute poses. I just observe and make mental notes for the first 10 seconds or so. Then I try to link an emotional description to the pose with a single word. Sometimes it can be as simple as angry, funny, or powerful, but sometimes it can be complex like patriotic, evasive, or inertia. This little exercise converts the act of drawing into storytelling, and this is at the base of everything I try to do.

After that, I attack it with reckless abandon. Sometimes I go more linear and just use the tip of the drawing tool, but other times I'll lay the tool down and try to get every mark the tool will surrender. I never correct myself on the two-minute drawings. This is not about getting it right, but more about discovering what I have a tendency to get wrong.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Angelus dismount

I quite enjoyed this process. It's refreshing to both explore new tools and dust off the old ones as well. Photoshop is capable of such perfect gradients that I often believe there is no longer a place for the airbrush, but that's not exactly true. There is a certain quality to the imperfection of airbrushing that brings life to a piece of art.

We live in an analog world, so I guess those analog tools will always have something over the digital dominion.

Coming in for a landing

At this stage I'm finished with all the airbrush work and I'm starting to push those last details. I did all my airbrush work with acrylic paint, so it's no problem to go back into things with light washes to polish out details. I'm approaching 90% of the highlights with white gesso. It's not very opaque and it has a translucent quality that heightens the color beneath it. Plus it has a great chalky yet buttery texture that is both easy to work with and gives great results.

I didn't put any color on the girls in the background until the sky was fully in place. I wanted to have a little atmosphere between those figures and the subject.

Catching some air

The first image shows how far I took things before I pulled out the airbrush. That's right, I said airbrush. And when I say "pulled out" I actually mean spending an hour or so looking for the damn thing, and another two hours cleaning it. It's been a few years.

I used the airbrush to blush in that soft red on the wings, and to soften the cloudy sky.

Here's a neat trick from my commercial illustration days. Instead of using frisket, I made xerox copies of the wings on 11 x 17 paper. I then cut the wings out of the xeroxes and placed the paper over the painting as a mask. This goes much faster than cutting frisket, and there's less chances of cutting too deep. It also gives a softer and less artificial edge than frisket.

Acrylics for watercolors

My approach here is identical to what I do with watercolors although I'm using fluid acrylics. Everything here is building from light to dark in thin transparent layers.

Golden girl

This is a mixed media piece and I plan to finish things off with opaque highlights, so I thought I'd give the main figure a base tone of bright amber. This is an easy way of unifying the colors, and it forces me to go a little richer in color and value. There's going to be a considerable amount of work on top of this veil, so I'm starting this base with Goldens fluid acrylics.

Color of Angels

This was fun. I scanned and cleaned up my drawing in Photoshop and used my trusty Epson inkjet printer to transfer it to the board. This is much better than I can do by hand and hope. After the transfer I used Faber Castell Pitt pens to set things up for color.

First in flight

Things seem to be going well, so I decided to paint this one. I did the drawing separately because the costumes of the characters were so intricate. This way I could beat things up with the eraser and not concern myself with the integrity of the paper.

I'm starting things here with Col-Erase 20044 blue pencil, and after developing a solid drawing I'm moving things along with the Copic Multiliner SP pen. I'm working on a pad of Strathmore drawing paper. It's just enough tooth for the pencil, but also enough smooth for the pen.

Angelus sketch

Rob from Top Cow asked me to do a one-shot of Angelus. It's part of this whole Broken Trinity thing they're doing. I have never worked with Top Cow before, but they seem to be cool guys, and my buddy Ron Marz was writing the script.

Rob visited the studio and hung out with us for an entire day. Totally cool guy, and he said his company emphasized artistic freedom. That's always music to the ears.

I turned in this sketch, and it was approved without a hitch.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Painting without a net

I'm just about finished with my current project, so I thought I'd pop in for a quick blog.

There is a technique that bodybuilders use when they feel they've hit a plateau and wish to break through to the next level. It's called shocking the muscles, and it involves completely changing their workout routine and forcing the muscles to adapt to new conditions. I believe this same technique holds true for artists as well. So, from time to time I like to throw myself a new medium and see what it does.

I'd heard about a charcoal wash technique for years, but I've not been able to find anything explaining the procedure. So naturally I thought I'd give it a go. After acquiring some sandpaper, a set of compressed charcoal, and a black lung, I made a tin of powdered charcoal. Note: if you wish to try this technique I suggest buying powdered charcoal instead of making it… cough, hack, cough. I thought I'd go for it during one of the 20 minute poses for our Tuesday night classes.

Denise was our model that night, and she was weightless and dynamic as usual. She collaborated with the lighting and struck a pose that yielded a great balance of hard and soft shadows.
I felt the lack of a comfort zone on my first brushstroke. This was literally making up a technique as I painted. I used a 1 1/2 inch flat brush for the entire piece, and a disposable paper plate for my palate. I eventually settled into a method of blocking in light masses, and building towards a darker linear form. It was a fairly unforgiving procedure, and subtlety was the first sacrifice.
As what happens all too often, I really thought I had things figured out right when we ran out of time.

This is definitely something I will revisit, and it felt good spending most of my time learning rather than doing.

There is also a technique involving powdered graphite and denatured alcohol, but I think the smell of that concoction would get me chased out of the session.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The eyes have it

A few people have asked for a larger scan of Lucy so they can see more of the details. I try to save Hi rez images for the yearly sketchbook, but here is a detailed section. At this level you can see that colors are more layered rather than blended.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Having a Ball

Don't you just hate it when work, obligations, and life get in the way of a good blog? I've just gone through a crushing few months as a result of a scheduling perfect storm. Things are starting to calm down now and I'm reacquainting myself with long neglected things like this blog, and um sleep.

Pat, a friend of mine from our figure drawing sessions, has given me a weekly reminder of my lack of an updates. Okay Patman, so now that I've finally listened to you, how about a quid pro quo and give me a two-minute stop and check during the next session?

Yesterday was the first of a three-part watercolor workshop I'm hosting here at the studio. It was a solid and friendly group with a nice flow of questions. This first session was primarily a lecture and demonstration, but everyone got to do a few exercises. The next two sessions will be a little more hands on, and I'll get a chance to look over other people's shoulders. It was originally scheduled as a free hour workshop, but I refused to stop painting and the students refused to leave. I think we snuck in an extra hour and a half or so before hunger ushered us out of the studio.

Lucille here was the painting I worked on during the demonstration. She was a great subject and offered countless opportunities to explain a variety of picture making techniques.