Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Work in Progress: "Psalm 115"

The last of my senior project re-dos is a piece called "Psalm 115". Here is the original against the newest digital developments on the piece:

This one has a lot of little changes, but none of the huge composition changes like my previous pieces. I first increased the contrast and made the smoke coming from the popcorn bowl more visible, especially as it hits the light. I also added a little glow to the screen on the foreground man's head to help indicate that it is emitting light. Then, I worked on improving the anatomy of the mannequin, moving his belly button up higher, flattening out the pectorals to match the low point of view, putting the left elbow up higher so the upper arm wouldn't look so long, etc. Next, I moved to the foreground man, correcting some anatomy issues with his arm and legs. You may notice that the cup has moved over slightly. I did that so the cup would still overlap the knee when I made the leg shorter. Otherwise, I would have a tangency between the knee and the cup. After that, I worked on my first rat, then a second rat, and then went back to change the first rat so you could better see him eating behind the trash. Most recently, I created more cracks on the wall and debris in general.

Here is about one-third of the reference photos I am working with:

These are all procured in different ways. The first is a photo of a maquette I built. The room is made of leftover mounting board that I busted up a bit. I gessoed the walls a little as well. The figures are built out of Sculpey clay with the front figure having designer masking tape apparel. The light is from a little LED stand light that is sitting mostly outside the room with the light bent forward to sit in front of the guy's head. This photo is used for general lighting information, such as the cast shadow behind the mannequin. As you can see the anatomy isn't so hot, so that's when I find a trusty friend or family member to pose for me. The second picture is a good example of this. I will be very faithful to this type of reference. The third cluster of images is some details on plugs and a stitched wound that I will use to help with the details on the front figure. I will be faithful to small parts of this reference, but I am usually painting the actual content at a slightly different angle. Last is a cluster of rats. The top left rat I referred to heavily for the rat in the painting on the left. The other rat is a composite of about three different rats. The other reference rats I may not use directly, but give me a better understanding of rat anatomy so I can be more informed of what I am copying from the main reference rats.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Art Show: "Dual Visions"

My sister and I have a show at the Wave Lengths Salon/Gallery in Redlands, CA. If you live in the area, you should look into coming to the reception, which is September 1st from 3pm-5pm. The reception is about the midpoint of the show as opposed to an "opening" or "closing" reception. The works on display will include pieces that you may have seen on this website's gallery, such as "Oliver". There will also be works that are not currently posted on the interwebs!

You can "join" the event on facebook so that I have an idea of how much food to bring. I get this question a lot so I will dispel the mystery: yes, my sister and I are twins. Speaking of my sister, she now has a blog up, so you can follow her posts and look at more of her work.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Sloths and Statues

I'm getting back into gouache after taking a long break from them. It has proven to be an excellent sketching medium. If you don't know what gouache is, they feel like watercolors and can be used transparently, but you can also use less water and get a thicker, more opaque consistency. They also dry super fast (annoyingly so if you want to work wet-in-wet), which is great for sketching. Contemporary illustrator Kai Carpenter is among the skilled few who use the medium. I hope more illustrators dabble with it given the amazing results it can produce.

Here I am using dark green and medium grey. Any two colors can be used as long as you have a light tone and a dark tone.

These sketches are drawn from the work of sculptor Sabin Howard. It was a little harder to render smooth as opposed to furry surfaces. More transparent layers and lifting with a damp brush was required. I should note that these are very small sketches. The standing statue is about 5.5 inches tall. With gouache you can work very small and get fine detail. However, working large does complicate things. For example, it is harder to get smoother transitions and even washes.

My favorite part of using gouache is the ability to work on toned paper! You just can't do that with watercolor.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Before and After, "Psalm 88"

Today, I finished my "Psalm 88" painting. Instead of having a cumulative row of in-progress shots this week, I have just the before and after images. It almost looks like two different artists painted these!

The digital medium really has its advantages to helping the artist look at the work as a whole and to catch composition and anatomy issues on the fly. I can flip or rotate the canvas much more conveniently, which helped on areas such as the face (it is easier to paint a face that is upright as opposed to almost upside-down) and keeping the composition balanced (this came in handy for making sure the fish were arranged in a dynamic, but aesthetically pleasing fashion). I was able to get a "fresh eye" more often and I think that helped my work dramatically.

Another way I took advantage of the digital medium was to note the percentage I was zoomed in and keep that constant in areas of the similar focal "importance" as I rendered details. Up until I put in the details, I was working at no more than about 30%. In the final rendering stages, I allowed myself to zoom in to 100% for the face, but everything else, I was probably between 50-70%. This helped me emphasize the focal point and keep areas of secondary importance looser and less detailed. In the past, I was not very consistent with keeping myself a good distance from my canvas. I can see how the digital medium could be even more tempting, but for me, as long as I kept track of my zoom percentage, I was golden.

A summary of things I learned:

-Don't crop your focal point. Note the awkwardness of the cropped head.
-Less is more, as usual. I was going to give all of my fishes the detailed outlines, even the distant ones. Making solid silhouettes was not just more effective to describe the "atmospheric" effect of the murky water, it was also less time-consuming.
-Beware of tangents. You can see a tangent formed by nearly parallel edges of the hand above the water and the edge of the ship.
-Photo reference is your friend. I used one little fish maquette as reference for a billion different fish. One unexpected, but pleasant consequence of using my own reference was preserving my "style". I don't like to use that word too often, but not only shooting your own photos, but making your own sculpted maquettes can enhance the character and cohesiveness of your work.
-Google Sketchup is an amazing resource, especially if you are like me and have little experience drawing anything of a mechanical nature. I used a free model yacht that I just rotated to the right angle to use as reference.
-Color, not just value, has the power of bringing out silhouettes. I had another color scheme in mind before I found that putting my color opposite (orange) behind the blue body really helped define the silhouette.