New Work: Nest
Posted on 12 May 2013
A little illustration for Mother's Day.
Some Daily Sketches
Posted on 20 Apr 2013
I tend to overwork personal pieces - setting myself up for failure by choosing an enormous canvas ("Oh, this will look fantastic on the wall in case I ever slip through a wormhole in space and time and land in an alternate reality where I'm a gallery artist!"), overthinking reference materials, and spending waaaay too much time rendering things that require very little rendering.
To that end, I've challenged myself to make some daily drawings whenever I get a few minutes free in my work schedule. The only rules:
- Each piece should be no larger than 5x7(ish), and
- Each piece must be finished within the space of a single day, or abandoned.
It gives me a chance to work on creating coherent compositions on the fly, as well as reinforcing the idea that "no deadline" doesn't necessarily mean "this should take forever."
The first batch of drawings turned into a series of perplexing and pointless quests carried out by a girl in impractical armwarmers. The one with the snail is my favorite.
I have, of course, entirely defeated the purpose of this exercise by starting to make a larger, more tediously rendered finished piece out of the second sketch, which I will be posting soon. Oh well.
New Work: The Fold
Posted on 09 Apr 2013
A new piece is up, featuring sheep hats, a juice box, and lots and lots of stairs. Check out the full view in the gallery; details and some reference photo hilarity below.
As you can see, this is another pencil drawing on toned paper, colored digitally. It's a bit of a shift from my usual process, though, as I took the paper stage a bit further with colored pencils before scanning and finishing it out in Photoshop. Due to the size of the piece (16x20 - a bit larger than I usually work) I confined the colored pencil rendering to the characters, and left the background and lesser elements in graphite.
Since this didn't call for a huge range of colors, I put away most of the set and used dark green, peach, and red (not entirely coincidentally, these are some of the few Prismacolor shades that are actually lightfast).
The end result photographs badly (read: I am a bad photographer) but is actually a nice subtle effect, with the soft stippled tone that colored pencils produce. I'm planning to try a fully-colored pencil drawing on a smaller piece in the near future.
In my last blog post, John asked if I use reference photos in my work. Short answer: yes. A lot of my older work (the pieces with the more cartoony style and the ping-pong ball eyes) were generally done without reference, and suffered for it. I've been taking reference photos for most of my newer work, particularly since I've been using so many potentially disastrous low-angle views. They're a huge help in putting characters in the correct (or at least, closer to correct) perspective to their environment. Since in my neck of the woods the only model I have available is myself, and since I'm working with a rather limited photo studio/laundry room, this involves a lot of jumping on and off of the washing machine to set my camera's timer.
My photography skills and modeling ability are, at least, equally matched.
One major upside I've noticed is that the more practice I get using photo or life reference in my work, the more accurate to life my non-referenced sketches are becoming. The resulting images are the best of both worlds - some of the liveliness and stylization that comes from imagination, along with some semblance of anatomical accuracy. Pieces like this one feel a little heavy handed on the photo reference - I can't quite ignore the fact that all of the characters have the same build (insanely ripped upper arms!) that I do.
Materials & a Work in Progress: Wolf Boy
Posted on 30 Mar 2013
Since I've started doing more traditional media, I've had a few artists ask about the toned paper, pencils, etc. that I'm using and where to find them.
- Smooth toned paper - Strathmore toned sketch paper in gray, product page here - this seems to be a fairly new item, but is available at most online art retailers. It's what I used in the sketch above.
- Textured toned paper - Strathmore charcoal paper in any of the lighter tints (pencil lines get lost in the darker tones). I used this in my Summer Wine illustration, among others.
- Charcoal White pencils - the ones I use are Generals brand, available here and at even the most podunk local art supply store.
- White Sewline pencil - Something unusual: a white-lead mechanical pencil intended for fabric marking, which I use for fine lines & details. Product info here - I haven't yet found "artists'" white mechanical pencil leads, but these seem to do the trick and can be found at most fabric/quilt shops. They seem to be better for smooth shading than the white charcoal pencils.
- Regular-ass pencils of the mechanical variety (0.3 and 0.5mm being my go-to).
The wolfboy above is a detail from a project I've been working on this week, and a pretty good example of the process I use when working with these materials. Shading large areas in pencil is something I dearly loathe, so I can't recommend a nice mid-tone paper like Strathmore's enough.
New Work: February Sky
Posted on 08 Mar 2013
(This illustration is available as a print in my Etsy shop.)
This illustration started out with the grand plan of being my very first oil painting (or at least, my very first oil painting since the class I took in college, which is now far enough in the past that I can safely say I have forgotten everything I learned or accomplished therein).
My acquisition of oil paints happily coincided with Neil Gaiman's call for artists for the Calendar of Tales project, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to start re-learning oils with a small painting inspired by Gaiman's February tale. I started out as I usually do nowadays, with a sketch on gray paper:
When I started the oil painting itself, I realized I had no idea what I was doing. Apparently the old masters' technique was not, in fact, to randomly spackel paint in all directions and pray. Additionally, it turns out that oil paint takes a long time to dry. I had been aware of this on an academic level, of course, but deep down inside I must have believed that I'd be able to slap down eight or ten layers of it before the due date. Turns out, the laws of physics do, in fact, apply to me, and as a result this painting wasn't going to be presentable anytime close to the cutoff. As such, with three days to go and little more than an underpainting in hand, I decided to finish the image out digitally. The end result is above, and while it has the oil painting incorporated into it in some transparent layers, it's primarily based on the pencil drawing, in keeping with how I usually work.
I toyed with the idea of posting the awkward, unfinished oil painting here, but have decided against it. I think the temporary amusement it would provide viewers would be outweighed by the long-term cost of giving it eternal life on the internet. No oil paintings for you, internet, until I've had a chance to take a more academic approach to the medium.
Check out the gallery
for a larger view.