Illustration Master Class 2014: Cold Wind
Posted on 07 Jul 2014
My finished painting from IMC! Acrylic ink and oil, 16x24."
It seems like only a few days ago that I returned home from IMC
- in actuality, it's been three weeks, but I'm still a bit numb from the excitement (and the sleep deprivation). Over the course of one very intense week at Amherst College I got to meet a slew of awesome artists, get direct art instruction from some of my illustration idols... oh, and I painted something!
At 16x24", this painting (an illustration for the short story "Cold Wind"
) is one of the larger pieces I've worked on so far; it's also my second serious foray into traditional media this year. I learned a lot from this
piece - mainly that my style doesn't translate well into direct oil painting. This time around, I wanted to let the pencil underdrawing show through in the finished piece to create a look more reminiscent of my digital work. This worked out reasonably well - I used my pencil drawing as the starting point for a transparent acrylic ink underpainting, then tinted it up with layers of oil glazes and a few touches of opaque paint towards the end.
Thumbnail (3x3") and rough sketch (7x10.")
I came to IMC with a fairly developed sketch (above right), since I knew time would be limited and I was pretty confident in my chosen thumbnail. The IMC faculty (I was in the group headed by Rebecca Guay, Greg Manchess, Scott Fischer, Mike Mignola, and Iain McCaig) had a few key suggestions that really strengthened the image - most notably rearranging the scattered animal skulls, and adjusting the angle of Deer Woman's head so that she's staring down her attacker.
Finished pencil/white charcoal drawing on toned paper (16x24.")
I originally planned to paint directly on top of my pencil art - but finally had some sense talked into me by artists who clearly knew better. So instead, I scanned the pencil art, printed a copy on white Bristol paper, and used that as the base for my painting.
Touching up the acrylic ink underpainting with pencil & white charcoal.
I saw the wisdom of this as soon as I started the acrylic underpainting - which ended up obscuring a good deal of the pencil art. The piece needed additional work in pencil and white charcoal before I moved on to the oil stage, which allayed my fears that working over a printed sketch would render the finished piece a Kinkadian "hand-embellished" print.
Working on my painting in the IMC studio on Day 6.
I documented the entire process in photos for an article in ImagineFX - so if you're interested in seeing a complete rundown of the (many!) steps I went through to replicate my digital process in paint, keep an eye on future issues of the magazine for more process pics, supply list, and of course an extra dose of my own ramblings about art.UPDATE: Issue #112 featuring my complete rundown of the process is now available over at the ImagineFX store!
New Work: Y&R Beijing/Penguin Audiobooks
Posted on 20 Jun 2014
Normally I despair a little bit when the release date for a project is X months out from when I complete the illustration - I'm in a transitional period and the type of work I'm pursuing is changing so quickly that often when a release date rolls around, a piece that may have been my most relevant work a few months ago no longer quite fits in my portfolio.
THIS IS NOT THAT PIECE. I'm still as excited about this image as I was when I turned it in a few months back; because when you sit down to draw a ceiling like that, you have to either fall in love with it completely or suffer an abrupt descent into madness.
This illustration was created for Y&R Beijing as part of an ad campaign for Penguin Audiobooks; the concept was famous stories (in this case, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland) being captured live in audio by an intrepid penguin mic operator.
As a bonus, I just got the awesome news from Y&R that this ad won a Cannes Gold Lion in the Press category, two Silver Lions in the Outdoor category, and an additional Bronze Lion in the press category.
I used my usual process to create this image - digital color over a tight pencil/powdered graphite drawing. The pencil drawing is larger than I generally work - around 18x24" - to accommodate the level of detail I wanted to include. To save myself some headaches laying out the perspective by hand, I created a mockup of the scene in Google Sketchup to get a handle on the general positions of characters and architectural elements. I then printed out the mockup and built my rough sketch on multiple layers of tracing paper before working up the final pencil drawing over a non-photo blue printout of the rough sketch.
I also designed a banner and some hand-lettered text that didn't make it into the final (shown above on the left - Penguin's final print ad on the right). I wish I'd gotten to see this ad in print or on display (the campaign has, predictably, not made it to Bangor Maine) - so if any of my readers in China happen to spot it in the wild, I'll pay a handsome bounty of art prints to anyone who can send me a snapshot.
From the Sketchbook: Literary Octopus
Posted on 26 May 2014
I have nothing intelligent to blog about, so here's a tiny octopus. At SFAL, a number of my betters were kind enough to offer their critiques on my oil paintings - and the general consensus was that they weren't as successful as my pencil & digital pieces (which probably makes sense, given the grand total of two paintings I've done so far). Looking at them next to my digital work, it seems that something is definitely lost when the pencil underdrawing (the one stage I actually like the look of) gets buried under layers of paint.
To that end, I'm trying to nail down a traditional process that preserves the pencils a bit better; tiny paintings (this one's 3x3") seem to be the only way I'm able to trick myself into practicing. This octopus started out as a pencil drawing, tinted with acrylic ink and brushed with a solid layer of oil paint. Lifting the paint out of the light areas with solvent brought back the details of the underpainting, which I finished off with opaque highlights applied as sparingly as my conscience would allow.
I think the process has potential; hopefully I'll get a chance to test it out on something larger before flinging myself into the fray of traditional artists at IMC in a couple of weeks.
Spectrum Fantastic Art Live 3 (was awesome).
Posted on 14 May 2014
My artist's alley table. Everything you see here is held together by scotch tape and the power of prayer.
I just got back from Spectrum Fantastic Art Live - the second illustration convention I've attended, and the first one I've ever exhibited at. I'm still a little dazed from the weekend in Kansas City, but wanted to get some of the experience down in writing before the obligations of everyday life catch up with me and my goldfish brain erases the experience forever to make room for grocery lists.
I can't believe how generous everyone was with their time and wisdom - I got brilliant art and life advice from so many people at a time when I've been badly in need of both. And yes, I even got to bitch about the bleaker side of the artistic lifestyle with artists who were kind enough to commiserate openheartedly rather than backing slowly away and alerting the authorities. I got to hang out with some of my friends from Illuxcon again, and met a ton of new people to look out for at future conventions - it's surprising but really cool to be able to develop bonds with people I only see for an hour or two a year (which just might be the type of low-maintenance friendship most of us need considering how busy this line of work keeps all of us.) I was even lucky enough to share a hotel room with fellow illustrator Kelley McMorris
(whose art I've admired from afar for ages) and, briefly, the amazing concept artist Anna Inkyung Lee.
Some observations that I'm hoping will help me (and maybe even other first-time exhibitors) next year:
Friday (the first day of the show, open only to 3-day ticket holders) was a slow day at my table - and I heard the same thing from a lot of other artists. I think next year I'll take advantage of that and use the first day to check out the rest of the show and get my bearings. I'll also bring a notebook to take notes and organize all the business cards I pick up - I did this at Illuxcon last year and made 60% less of an ass of myself when it came to forgetting names and faces and blithely re-introducing myself to people I'd had long, informative conversations with only hours before.
2. GEOSPATIAL INFORMATION.
I didn't realize until the end of the show that there were maps of the floor plan available (but really, who could have guessed what the booth with the huge "Information" sign was for?) so I managed to miss some artists whose presences I really wanted to bask in (that, and I was still too starstruck/terrified to introduce myself to some of the greats). I'm consoling myself with the knowledge that between the upcoming IMC and Illuxcon in September, I'll get second and third chances to inflict my awkwardness on those I missed this time around.
3. SHIPPING & PACKING.
Getting my materials to and from Kansas City wasn't as nerve-wracking as I expected it to be (the Holiday Inn staff were totally on top of the shipping situation, and even had a business center on site for printing return labels). However, I was pretty unprepared for transporting everything to the convention center (Kelley and I and a luggage cart took an interesting but circuitous tour of the downtown area before finding the loading dock) and it was largely thanks to Kelley's preparedness (scissors, tape, and everything else I neglected to think of) that I managed to get everything packaged up at the end of the show. Next year, I'll also make a point of packing spare clothes for the sweaty manual labor of setup and takedown so I'm not hauling heavy crates around in 80 degree weather in the same clothes I have to wear for the show. To my credit, I decided to skip the framed art this time around - the matted pieces I ended up bringing were nice enough to look at, anti-glare in what turned out to be a pretty typically-lit convention hall, and about ten times lighter.
4. STRUCTURED FESTIVITIES.
The party seems to continue until all hours - while waiting for my shuttle to the airport at 3:30 on Sunday morning, there were still a few dedicated artists up and around at the hotel. I think next year I'll grab some sleep in the evening before rejoining the social scene, rather than trying (and failing) to be awake and functioning for 20 hours at a time. Also on the agenda for next year: scheduled meals and a crate of bottled water (man cannot live on fantastical art alone, and in my nervousness/busy-ness I ended the weekend half starved and thoroughly dehydrated).
I didn't go to the show planning to make a much money on sales (in fact, I brought a ton of prints to give away, but very little merchandise to actually sell). For me, the value of the convention this time around was the social aspect and getting to connect with fans (I seem to actually have some of those now!) along with advertising and getting the word out about my art. Still, I wanted to have a few small things to sell; taking inspiration from the ArtOrder's recent tiny painting challenge, I made and matted some 3x3 pencil/white charcoal drawings, and assembled some necklaces featuring prints of my art. I actually ended up selling a handful of necklaces and all of the tiny originals I brought - along with extra copies of my giveaway prints to some kind attendees who wanted multiples. Next convention I'll definitely put more thought into prints and merchandise - and make sure I bring enough cash to pick up some of the I art I coveted at other people's tables.
Anyways, Spectrum was an awesome experience. I was glad to have had the prior experience of visiting Illuxcon as a non-exhibitor; each ordeal was unfamiliar and nerve wracking in its own separate way, and it was nice to not have to face all of those unknown unknowns at the same time. While I don't know if attending conventions is going to get easier with time (air travel, mat cutting, and maintaining a smile that doesn't start to twitch after a few hours are not my fortes), I think my overall panic/stress levels are going to be greatly reduced the next time I get to attend. I'm definitely viewing my table at Illuxcon (Allentown, Pennsylvania this September!) with less dread and more excitement than I was before I left for the convention last week.
Many thanks to all the artists, ADs, and fans (!) who made this convention awesome for me. You guys rock!