Thursday, June 28, 2012

Nearing the Finish Line and Other Extended Metaphors

This is the first time while painting this picture that I am laying down the background color while I work. The purpose of this is to get a softer "edge" between the facial fin and the background, which will add the illusion of depth, hopefully.
Here I have the fins, barbels, and bow tie mostly finished. I am quite happy with the sea weed part of the bow tie.
I begin the background.

I add a second layer onto the background. I was laying on paint rather heavily, but it kept drying on me before I could do a good blending job. I combated this issue with adding more solvent and consequently, more texture, but there are still parts that stick out. I will have to add greater contrast to the merman (especially the pipe) or the background so that he isn't disappearing completely into the blue in some places. Or, I could change the tint of the blue, but I think I should be working on adding more depth to the merman either way.
And now for some fun. This is part of my homework for my Advanced Studio Workshop. I know what you are thinking, "What? Homework already?" Yes, it is that hard core. For us drawing and painting majors, our assignment is to fill up a 100 page sketchbook while exploring a "visual idea". I decided to go with translating metaphors visually, which will help me practice working from text and using my imagination. You see, I am using few, if any, reference photos. This is something that I might do on occasion when making a thumbnail sketch, but I have not done any detailed rendering of an imaginative drawing since, maybe, elementary school. I am quite proud of this little guy as the only reference I used was my mind. The metaphor for this drawing is "Children have an enormous appetite for learning." I will put quotes around the metaphors I am using for each drawing.
"Apple of my eye."
  "Her face was a barren landscape of sorrow, parted by rivers of tears."
"Alice was thrilled when her idea began to bear fruit." That is a hamsterberry bush if you were wondering.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

One Step Back, Two Steps Forward

I dived right into painting having absolutely no idea where I was headed as far as color was concerned, which resulted in the hideous thing on the far left. Ok, so it isn't that bad. But, it certainly is not good. Especially when my standard of greatness in the realm of fleshy, fishy goodness is:
I know you are not supposed to compare your work with other artist's work, but sometimes it is irresistible and a much-needed humbling experience. The picture directly above is a small section of a work by Donato Giancola titled "The Golden Rose". Mr. Giancola is a master of the subtleties of skin tones as you can see, portraying dead flesh, live flesh (both cold and warm), human flesh, and fish flesh with realistic nuance. You can check out more of his work here.

I think the problem I had with conceptualizing my color digitally was that I had no idea which tubes of paint that I was going to use, so that when it was time to mix paint, I rushed the process and ultimately, gave up. The result was a palette that was incredibly limited and resulted in a rubbery, unrealistic rendering. I took the time to make two more color concepts in oil paint and after a (another) failed first attempt, found what I was looking for. Not pictured, but certainly an important part of the process, is the palette on which I was mixing my paint. As time-consuming as it was, I mixed a broad range of colors that matched the color gamut I had previously mapped. From that, I painted a complete color concept, keeping track of the colors I was using most frequently in the boxes bellow the painting. After that, I re-mixed only the colors in the boxes. Let me tell you, it was much easier to paint after that.
Here is a break-down of the process I am using for this particular piece. I say this particular piece because I am using a different process every time I oil paint as I am still learning the medium. From top to bottom, left to right:
1. A transparent wash of neutral grey, thinned with solvent
2. Blocking in my "darks" or shadows
3. Blocking in more darks
4. Starting to blend
5. Adding more darks/lights and blending further
6. Repeat step 5.
And this is the point my painting is currently at. I made his left eye larger and left cheek slightly fuller, which I realized was needed after I looked at a reversed image of the painting. My paint has nearly dried out, so I will half to dedicate another half hour to mix those up. I should be able to finish next week!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Mer-gent Painting Process Begins

Here is the finalized drawing with a bit of shading on top of the gessoed illustration board. The board started warping a bit during the gessoing process, but since then it has settled down.
I use a "yurmby" wheel (named after the colors in the wheel) to start planning the color scheme of my painting. This color wheel differs from the traditional color wheel in that the "primary" colors--yellow, red, and blue--are not spaced evenly. Here, the traditional primary colors, the secondary color green, and the colors magenta and cyan (colors more familiar to the digital painter than the traditional painter), are all even with each other. The reason that this wheel is favored by some artists is that the even spacing of the colors reflects a more accurate spectrum.
I have chosen a small selection from the wheel to help create a specific mood or atmosphere for the painting. For my "gamut" that I have masked, I have chosen a wide selection of blues and very few "warm" colors so as to aid with the underwater setting. The white and brown are there to mix with the other colors only for the brightest tints and darkest shades. Little did I know that mixing in brown for an "underwater" painting would lead to an early demise.

In Photoshop, I create a color study, picking colors from my selected gamut directly. I fiddle with the levels slider to create a variation of my first study, which you can see to the right. As much as I like the old-fashioned, faded look of the altered image, I decide to stick to the original, which is more convincingly aquatic. 
I spray my sketch with workable fixative and then brush on a thin layer of matte medium to seal the sketch before the painting process. I then begin an acrylic under painting to map out the basic colors of the piece. I tried to do a consecutive wash too quickly on top of my first wash covering the whole paper, which resulted in some of the paint lifting. You can see the results of this as the darker brown border around the edges of the painting. I am not too concerned about this as the background will eventually be covered relatively thickly with paint. 
I do a quick, transparent oil under painting using only blue and brown, but the more colorful acrylic layer shows through creating a nice balance. I am pretty happy with the energy in the under painting, so the challenge will be to keep the consecutive layers of oil paint fluid and the colors unmuddied.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Illustration Board Experiment

I have never used illustration board. For my oils, I have always used stretched canvas, which is a great way to work, but may be impractical for the large amount of works I want to make in a short amount of time. So as not to dive into my senior project without any idea of how illustration board behaves, I am going to paint a portrait. Not just any portrait. I am painting a portrait of a mergentleman. Or is it gentlemerman?
I started with a few sketches, as usual. I was not feeling ambitious enough to portray the whole upper torso of a mergentleman reading a bivalve book, so I settled for a classy bust portrait, which will be in an oval-shaped mat.
I decide that I want to make a maquette, which is a small-scale sculpture used as a 3-dimensional reference point. I begin with foil, which I wrap in tape. I don't plan on baking the maquette, otherwise it is advisable not to use tape. I use tape so I won't have to pick out tiny bits of precious clay when I recycle the maquette afterward. Strauss is there to help me with the gist human anatomy.
I cover the sculpture with Super Sculpey. It is mounted on a tupperware container for easy sculpting access and to keep the bust from tipping over.
For the facial fins, I cut up and bend pieces of wire. At this point, the sculpture is complete minus the small details like the pipe and barbels.
The sculpture is complete! I have changed a couple of things from the sketch including more stylish, up-turned mustache barbels, the addition of chin barbels, a more pronounced chin, and a bivalve bow tie instead of a kelp neck tie. I then take several reference photos with the above two being the ones I actually print out. The photos are taken with a blue sheet in the background to get a watery atmosphere for my fishy gentleman.
And here is the work station. The desk on the right can not adjust to be vertical, so I taped my illustration board to an over-sized clip board and put that on an easel. I would have ended up with too much distortion to the painting if I worked on such a shallow slant. You can see my reference photos littered throughout and my maquette sitting on a modified music stand to the left of the easel. I will be drawing mostly from the maquette, but I have my references ready for when I get to the details.

On a different subject, I have recently finished an oil painting that I began during this past spring semester for my painting class:

This is a painting of my cat, Oliver. I am very, very happy with how it turned out.

Sunday, June 3, 2012


This is a fun little meme that I participated in on, which is the invention of a user by the name of fox-orian. The group of work is by phenomenal artists and most of them illustrators. I could have added several more paintings, but that would mean i would have had to make some of those pictures smaller. I have a much larger group of artists that have inspired me in all walks of my life, but these are the most recent. Also, I should say that I am inspired by things other than illustrations all the time, believe it or not.

The artists are:

1. J.C. Leyendecker. Before there was Rockwell, there was this guy who painted pictures with the fluidity of butter and who had a really cool signature.

2. Hiyao Miyazaki. This man and Studio Ghibli set a high standard for Japanese animation, putting the rigid, half-an-hour-of-hair-blowing-in-the-wind anime to shame.

3. Vladimir Kush. His whimsical paintings are both fantastical and believable. Go to Kush's website.

4. Jon Foster. If you put a stethoscope up to his paintings, you would probably hear a heart beat.

5. James Gurney. I have learned more about oil painting from this guy than any other teacher I have had. Go to Jon Foster's website.

6. Arthur Rackham. Master illustrator and king of nuance of line.

7. Gregory Manchess. He's the Man...chess. Go to Greg Manchess' website.

8. Ilya Repin. Few painters have brought a tear to mine eye not simply for technical skill, but also for the ability to express an exquisite depth of story.

9. Charles Dana Gibson. Such skill with ink the world may never know again.