Friday, April 5, 2013

Le Bois Rouge

Here is another recent painting. In fact, it’s a paint over of a painting I created as an environment concept for a narrative I tinkered with for a time, named Le Bois Rouge (that is, the Red Wood because I have an adoration for age-old sequoias – funny that I’m in California and I still haven’t seen one!). Anywho, my reason for painting over was to play with Photoshop’s masks and adjustment layers, theories of color and light, to bump up the values and to create a mood (you can see the original painting in my portfolio).

I actually lost about half of the painting when Photoshop took a dive. I’d painted blue shadows into the hills, form and cast shadows for the rock and trees, rays of light with ambient sky fill painted into them entering the foreground, a reddish hue on the tops of the trees and broken up the edges of the hills to name a few elements – oops. However in this state, I think there is still a balance between its original graphic simplicity and the new elements of texture and more minute details. Where I had taken the painting to, I had run into compositional problems with horizontal beams of light and a focal point I wasn’t pleased with. It’s kind of nice that the painting has disappeared because it reminds me that all efforts are practice where you learn something new, and then you can happily apply your newfound knowledge to the subsequent painting or drawing. If I want to, I can always paint it again :)

In the lost painting (the ‘Lost Painting’ - spooky) there was more ambience, illumination and depth however its simplicity had been lost. At this point it would have required a lot more silhouettes of trees in the far distance, plus a number of other nods to reality in other parts of the painting to resolve its simple origin with the relatively more real direction it was taking - something to note when painting over.

The experience has also helped to reinforce what I have been learning about broad handling and stroke modules is absolutely true. An impression of the subordinate elements in a composition may be created with loose handling, while the center of interest may be painted in sharper focus (where this painting is, is all about loose handling – it’s fun to do). James Gurney explains this expertly in this blog post. By the way, I've been reading Molly Maloney's blog, Must Draw Harder and I've been enjoying finding out about her learning experience - it inspired me to share this!

Update - hm, so I painted it again.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Do What You Can

Here is an image I created recently. It's a test of the style for The Dam Keeper, a short animated film in development by Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi. Robert and Dice have shared images of their early visual development for the film so I wanted to explore the style. I popped it into a portfolio for consideration for their Jr Photoshop Painter internship.

It's really only a tiny part of a bigger piece. I think it is unclear what it is in this cropped presentation. The read is clearer once you see the characters in their environmental context. I have missed the mark somewhat with my style test. But, creating the image allows me to see what I've missed and where I can go from here :)

It's meant to be seen in CMYK, but for some reason my browser is having trouble displaying it. So for any people who are having similar trouble there are two versions and one is in RGB.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Color and Light

Here is another painting from the Color and Light class I am taking with Dan Cooper at Concept Design Academy. The lighting set up included a red filter on the form light hence the pink hue (the side of the figure in shadow was a green hue although it's not present here). The aim was to develop an awareness of these unusual color notes on the form and paint them (using a limited palette of Titanium White, Cadmium Yellow Medium, Quinacridone Red and French Ultramarine). Please note that Dan Cooper painted elements of this image too while giving me feedback.

This image feels sci-fi to me because of the saturated colors and the unusual hue the skin is, especially if seen side by side with the last painting. I've been watching Star Trek: Enterprise and I'm reminded of the eponymous ship's Science Officer in the show, T'Pol. Anyway, I've wanted to learn how to paint with color for light and shadow - it's one of the reason's I'm taking the class. I think I am learning how to do that.

I painted in the highlights with white when on the model they were truly a bright pink. I wanted to hit the highlights quickly rather than muddle around finding the right hue for them (since I’m fairly inexperienced with hitting colors by mixing paint), but in the end the white mixed with the skin color on the paper making them a low key white and since they are tiny marks, in the context of the overall image they look pinkish.

Dan hit all the darks in the image (and the light tone and ring of highlight on the hair). He wanted to bump up the contrast. He pointed out that the large shadow on the left of the figure made the rest of what is there work as it’s the basis for the relationships of tone throughout the whole image.

Something else to note is that I made a mistake by accidentally putting a wrong color next to the left leg (I didn’t realize the brush was loaded with a different color to the area I wanted to paint on the dress). I tried to correct it, but didn’t end up finding the right hue and value because the class was ending. So, it turned into a big blur next to the leg which compromised the silhouette of the figure unfortunately.

But, I'm happy that I modeled the form of the right leg really quickly (finally what Kevin and Dan have been saying kicked in – masses of tone/shadow shapes and contrast).

I also like the cool green/blue beneath the right leg as it's a nice complement to the top of the figure which is intensely warm (and dress which is saturated, since it is desaturated). Actually, this was a consequence of painting into the underpainting of the figure which I had layed in with a yellow tinged the slightest, tiniest bit with green which caused the purple to turn green. And, the red background caused that area where I painted purple to become desaturated. I went with the flow of the painting, rather than trying to be exceptionally intentional or control the color. I could see that the hue and value were changing while I was painting and I was happy with how they worked within the image (even thought they may not necessarily have been true to what could be seen in the model).

Use What You Have

I used to search for the precise materials that the artists had used to create the images I like such as ClearPrint Vellum paper and Prismacolor pencils, both of which were exceptionally difficult to get one’s hands on in Australia until very recently. Well at least the Prismacolor pencils. I think it’s still not possible to get Clearprint Vellum.

It is true that good materials help create good results but they are not essential for expressing creativity, nor for expressing it artfully and beautifully. As evidence that beautiful art can be created with what you have, look at these images created by Hong Yi below, made out of food. If you ever feel uncertain about beginning because you suspect you only can if you have specific materials, or if you feel like you are spending too long searching out particular materials then remember that you can use what you have. 

On the other hand, if you specifically want to create a beautiful Prismacolor pencil drawing on ClearPrint Vellum, well then, that’s another story. Please visit Hong Yi's Facebook page to find out more and remember, these images belong to Hong Yi and cannot be used commercially without her permission!

Monday, March 11, 2013


A common thing to do when learning to draw is to copy the artwork of others. If you wonder how an artist has created a certain effect or want to understand their style better one of the best things to do is to try and reproduce their artworks. It's best to copy generally accepted 'masters' though as it is assured that they applied sound principles of draftmanship and painting when creating their art.

These copies are known as Master Copies and students spend most of their practice time creating them so that they may learn how those principles of draftmanship and painting were applied by the master.

Another practice is drawing from life. And, a student's time spent understanding theory involves becoming aware of the principles so they can spot them in artworks. That's beside the point of this post, but it's important to note.

One principle of good drawing is simple values (white and black and whatever is in between). Above is a charcoal drawing by John Singer Sargent (a master). Most of Sargent's charcoal drawings are in 3 or 4 values. However when looking at the drawing for a while we tend to notice subtleties and can lose a sense of how simple the organization of the values really is.

A trick that may help us see the simple values is to apply a Photoshop filter to the drawing. The image on the right shows a filter applied to the drawing. The filter is called Median and is found under Noise in the Filter menu in Photoshop. It's a digital Lorrain Mirror of sorts. It doesn't simplify value relationships but it gets rid of details allowing you to see the values. This one had a 7 pixel radius applied so it's a lot. You can keep more of the details than this if you like with a smaller radius.  So, this charcoal drawing appears to be in 4 values.

In contrast to our perception of subtleties our minds can also be stubbornly simple. A good example is that as children we will paint the sky blue and grass green. They are color labels; go-to colors for us. But, the sky is not always blue and the grass is not always green. They change according to the quality of light. In this drawing perception of the white of the eye is another example of this.

I still think of the white of the eye as being similar to the parts of the face that are in the light. But, the little box next to the left eyebrow is actually the white of the eye (I cut it out and pasted it there). Its most similar values are found in the end of the eyebrow and the shadow below the eye. You may also like to try cutting out parts of the drawing and comparing their value to other parts by moving them about (this I learnt from James Gurney).

Friday, March 8, 2013

Color and Light

This is a painting I recently did in a Color and Light class instructed by the inimitable Dan Cooper whom I'm very lucky to have as a teacher. Practicing the technicalities of traditional oil painting opens up a world of artistic possibilities. I may update later with a description of some of the concepts essential to this class.

It’s painted on Arches 100% Cotton Cold Pressed 300 g / m2 - 140 lb paper that is 9 in x 12 in, so it’s quite small for an oil painting. Plus my brushes were not so clean, so it was a challenge to paint fine features. But, in a way that was a good thing since it prevented me from getting caught up in details. I tried, but it was nearly impossible since my brush didn’t make a fine point, rather a dab of the brush looked like ink splatter on the paper. It was painted in about 3 hours. There are many unresolved areas that I would have liked to have tied down. The silhouette of the back of the head and the form of the right arm and hand especially.

It's painted with a limited palette of Ultramarine Blue, Cadmium Yellow Medium, Quinacridone Red and White. With this palette it is inevitable that color appears in shadows. This is an idea at the heart of the theory in this class. I may explain this in more detail later.

With this palette your black is deep blue or purple. I think not having black allowed me to ease up on painting with black and white. I stopped thinking that black equals dark and white equals bright since the pair had fallen apart. I thought simply in color and used white only to adjust the tones of the colors if I really needed to. Most of the time I used Cadmium Yellow Medium to lighten a color mix since it was my coolest color. It was only when this type of approach to lightening a color wasn’t going to work, like in the skin that I used white.

I'll explain a little the mixes I used.
The brown hue is from mostly Cadmium Yellow Medium and some Quinacridone Red that creates an orange and then Ultramarine Blue was added to muddy it. That's not necessarily it though. Following this, intuitive adding and subtracting of the three tube colors will allow you to arrive at the tone and temperature of the color you want. I believe that adding Cadmium Yellow Medium to allow the mix to lean towards a warm color and to drop its value was the trick to arriving at that mix that can be seen on the paper. 

The shadows on the skin are either a purple hue from Ultramarine Blue and Quinacridone Red bumped down with some Cadmium Yellow Medium or they are a deep green hue from mostly Ultramarine Blue and some Cadmium Yellow Medium with barely a hint of White to add some translucency.

The light tones on the robes are almost pure Quinacridone Red with some Cadmium Yellow Medium added in spots.

Admittedly some white was added to the original mixes that laid in the colors on the skin and robes, but eventually deep greens and purples entered the color of the skin as I went for what I felt I saw in the figure from the mixes I had on my palette paper. I became less methodical about the mixing then. In other words, there were mixes of deep greens and purples I had made earlier (the green mix was created by accident when I was looking for a brown) which I either barely dabbed my brush loaded with brown paint in or slopped it around in what was left of them to add color to the skin.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Charcoal Features

In future posts I'm anticipating that there will be many master copies, breakdowns of designs and some original creations (sorry, I have to...). For now, let's begin with these sheets.

These are studies of eyes, noses and mouths in charcoal. My teacher Kevin Chen set a goal to do five noses, five eyes and five mouths. The aim is to understand that there is a simple, underlying structure and there is also much diversity in these features. The exercise helps you add to your visual vocabulary. It's also important to note that the structured goal of completing a specific number of drawings by a specific date makes it easier on yourself to learn since your task is clearly set out before you. Some of these are copies of Kevin's notes and some are drawn from photos.