Monday, June 18, 2018

Killed my tablet last night

Can't believe I did it!!! It's a bit of a complicated story, I won't lay the details on you, but just wanted to commemorate the date of my tablet's death here.

This piece was only about half done at the time, and I discovered something astonishing -- I can actually paint with a mouse now, and do some pretty decent wok that way! It's how I was working when I first dabbled in digital painting in 2004 (when I first joined ConceptArt), but back then it was like typing with boxing gloves on. Now I guess I've developed some digital dexterity, as well as a lot of knowledge of how to paint digitally.

But I can't do detail work that way, and it's pretty cumbersome. Looks like until I get a newer tablet with software that's fully compatible, I'll be working traditionally. Actually that's a good thing - I do want to do a lot of painting in gouache. And I suppose I can still go in at the end and do all the fixing and sweetening like I tend to do over my drawings and paintings before I post them.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

New Book Haul - Batman, Swamp Thing, and The Studio

It's funny, but I did not even realize all 3 of these books have Batman in them. Swamp Thing is another DC book, and often Bats will make an appearance in some of the lesser-known titles -- I suppose it boosts sales. And as for the 2 that have him on the cover, I approached the decision to buy them each for such different reasons that it didn't occur to me until after the books arrived that they both include the Caped Crusader. 

It started with the David Finch Unwrapped book - I had seen it featured on the Earl Grey youtube channel and was instantly struck by the amazing penciled artwork - and even just the idea that they are now publishing comic book pencil art! In Finch's case I fully understand why - his pencil work is a thing of beauty and deserves to be appreciated in all its glory, though it was very difficult for them to get dark enough images because he works in 4H pencil, which is very light, and it taxed the limits of the technology to bring up enough contrast.

I'm really glad I discovered Finch's work, because I'm at a point where I've got about as far as I can with digital painting, and in order to improve now I need to really push my drawing skills. This book has amped up my inspiration and excitement about it.

I've been watching a lot of comic book videos lately - especially the Comic Book Historians channel, which explores the roots of familiar comic book characters in pulp fiction, newspaper strips, and old movies. Also watching a lot about Jack Kirby, whose work I've come to appreciate more and more (originally I didn't like it). 

Here's one of Finch's knockout images from the book. One thing that makes it look so good is probably (largely anyway) an accident - it's because the edges of the shadows are dark and then they're filled in lighter, which creates a good core shadow/ bounce light effect. That's even accentuated by what he calls the Rendering -- which turns out to be the cross-hatching along the edges of the shadows. It works perfectly as half-tone, which is a soft shading along the edges of the core shadow blending it subtlely into the light areas.  Ok, I'm sure he's well aware of these principles of lighting and shading, so they're not really accidents, but they also happen to work quite well for their intended purpose of showing the inker exactly what he needs to do. 

I love that Finch cares enough to (often, not always) go ahead and fill in the shading, whereas most pencilers will leave the black areas empty and indicate them with little x's for the inker to fill in. The penciled art looks better in a way than the finished inks, because the areas that will be solid black are filled in lightly, resulting in that bounce light effect I mentioned. That won't be there in the final product, instead those areas will be flat black. 

What made me decide to order the Jim Aparo Batman book was nostalgia. Here's a comparison of the amazing printing, on good quality paper, compared to my old comic book below, printed on pulpy newsprint that soaked up the ink and made comics look washed-out  in the 70's. Wow, what a difference! 

(Note - after seeing these pages compared, I now think the new version looks a bit too bight and cartoonish - the original desaturated look better suited the gritty street-level tone of these stories.)

I should mention though - in case this makes anybody want to get the book - aside from this story and a couple more, I was largely disappointed in the rest of the book. I had come to think of Jim Aparo as my favorite Batman artist, largely on the strength of this one story, and somehow I assumed he did a bunch of other similar stories (the other ones I posted in my Batman in the 70's writeup a while back). 

But enough about Batman...

The Studio is a book I've always dreamed of owning but never bought until now. Somehow it slipped under my radar when it was published and I didn't know it existed until it was out of print and used copies were exceedingly hard to find and expensive. I recently tracked this one down for $50 (which would have been a fortune to me back then). 

It shows the work of 4 artists who had pooled their money and rented a massive studio space in New York - namely Jeffrey Jones,  Michael Kaluta, Barry Windsor-Smith and Bernie Wrightson. Some of the best artists working in Heroic Fantasy, Horror, Sci-Fi and Fantasy at the time. I won't say any more, I'll just drop a couple of images rather randomly in here:

Jeff Jones ink & gouache sketch

Mike Kaluta illustration
To make up for not writing much about The Studio, here's a video by ETA Nick where he flips through the Jeff Jones section.

Here's his video on Barry Windsor Smith where he shows Smith's section of The Studio.

Bernie Wrightson...

Apparently he didn't do the Kaluta section, or I can't find it. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Pushin' tha pencil

So much for weekly posting - if I keep drawing at this rate I'll have too much for a single post on Monday. Using something similar to the Watts-style quick-sketch techniques, but in pencil, and drawing a lot slower. As I get better at it I'll start speeding up. As Dave Sim said (and I keep quoting): "First you get good, then you get fast, then you get good and fast".

I'm not starting with a rapidly-done (and rather sloppy) gesture sketch anymore, that's what was making my older figure drawings come out all distorted. So I'm sketching it in very lightly and carefully and re-stating any parts that need it until they look right. In other words just drawing the way I used to before all this gesture stuff (though I do pay close attention to gesture as I go - I don't mean to imply that studying gesture was useless). I can see it looks a little stiff, or maybe just a little less energetic than I would like. Need to work on that going forward. One thing I'm finding is that it's hard to do core shadow technique on 9x12 paper - no wonder they do it on newsprint in charcoal! Might need to get back to doing it that way.

Re-doing these and trying to get them a lot better than before. It's definitely working. Soon I'll understand this well enough to do it with no reference (already tried a few times as seen in recent posts).

That guy in the lower left still isn't right. Next time...

Monday, June 11, 2018

Weekly posting? Tentative anyway.

Did this one in gouache, with aquarelle pencils and cray-pas, and then finished digitally. I'm actually quite surprised how well the gouache painting came out - with some practice I think I can work entirely that way. I plan to start doing exercises on small pre-cut cards of watercolor paper (this one was in the Strathmore 500 Mixed Media sketchbook) to develop skills and practice techniques. 

The rest of these are just comic figure quick-sketch. Finch made it clear that these are the key to becoming a comic book artist (not that I want to do that exactly, but I think it will help a lot toward heroic fantasy painting and similar genres). You need to do hundreds or thousands of these, in every position, from every angle, and in all kinds of perspectives and lighting conditions. It's really at this level of drawing that you make it or break it - save all the tight rendering etc for afterwards.

Of course these are pretty extreme - derived from Jack Kirby's extremely dynamic style (which is what was meant by "The Marvel Way" - it could have more rightly been called "The Kirby Way"). For painting you wouldn't do them so intensely in terms of pose and viewing angle etc, but knowing how to do that doesn't hurt. In fact I believe in developing the ability to do things beyond what you'll actually need - once you've done that it's a simple matter to ease off a bit - but if you learn to draw figures only in static standing, seated and reclining poses then you won't be able to do anything more dynamic.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Playing catch-up again

I keep using YouTube thumbs for my practice pieces. And when you do that, there's always the danger that you're working from a photoshopped image, which turns out to be the case with this pic of Hulk Hogan @ 62 - his arms are not that skinny, and I think the guy made him look fatter than he really is. I did manage to find the real image (where the Hulkster is sporting some pretty impressive guns!), but I kept mine the way it is because it's a much more striking image - the contrast between that massive chest and the stalk-like arms is funny and eye-catching. It's what grabbed my attention in the first place, as well as that really great shadow covering his abdomen area.

In no particular order these are some catchup images since the last post, plus a few more recent ones.

I decided I had got about as far as I could go just concentrating on digital painting, and I need to really get in and work on my drawing. I used to draw all the time, and I haven't for over a decade. When I would draw for my tablet paintings I was just scribbling out a hasty image, depending on being able to fix it in photoshop (never a good idea). I somehow thought I was going to develop the ability to work as well in digital as I can on paper, but that never happened, and I don't think it will.

So this is where the graphite hits the paper. A big part of my recent drawing inspiration was when I discovered a comic book artist named David Finch (who drew the Batman head I copied above).

Finch has a few drawing lessons on Gnomon - I signed up and took advantage of the 3 day trial period to watch his videos plus one by Steven Platt (Splatt as he goes by when he signs his comics). He said the absolute key to getting good is to draw hundreds of these little quick-sketch figures until you can do it blindfolded - it's at this level of resolution that you develop your skills the most, then details can be added on later. But you need to learn how to sketch out these little figures in great poses and make them flow- make them look natural and human (of course human and natural are relative terms, especially in comic book drawing). Some of his looked vaguely familiar, so I dug out my copy of How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way, and sure enough - there they are! Makes sense, since he's drawn for both Marvel and DC.

Besides the little comic book quick-sketch figures, I'm also doing some longer figure drawings from photo ref.

And studying after some of the masters, like Frazetta. Here I copied his figures from a John Carter painting in comic-book quick-sketch style and added his shadows, both on the figures and the ground, which is what ties it all together into a tight grouping and grounds the figures nicely.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Catching up

I notice I failed to post a few images, so I'm playing catch-up here. Haven't been drawing or painting much at all obviously, and it's mainly because of all the reading I've been doing. I've also sort of lost my art mojo and I think it's because my work has been too tight and careful (especially the last batch of paintings). That's something I've been wanting to move away from (ala Kent Williams).

And speaking of the Jungian books, I sort of switched from posting about it here to creating a thread on Dreamviews: Carl Gustav Jung - Videos, Books, Ruminations. Goes into  lot more detail than I did here and covers all the recent book acquisitions as well as a lot of videos and toward the end some posts I wrote up to help explain the whole thing at a basic level. So that covers what I've been up to until just recently.

The last image above is something new for me, and my approach now is informed by the Jungian studies. The most important conclusion I've drawn so far from Jung is that in order to individuate - which means simply to increase psychological health or to raise your level of consciousness - what you must do is create an ongoing dialogue between the conscious and unconscious minds  - which breaks down essentially to the left and right hemispheres of the brain.

So that's what I'm doing now in my sketches. Trying to balance out accuracy and the loose intuitive approach at the same time. I think this is exactly the way to do it. In the past when I drew loose and intuitive I tended to go too far in that direction, and accuracy just went out the window. Or alternately I tended to be too tight and meticulous - too left brain/logical. But now I'm making the effort to keep them dynamically balanced.

Also, I went through a period of materials testing with pens, brushes and inks. What I've settled on for now are some Japanese Fude calligraphy pens which give incredibly variable line width plus you can go black or lighter grey depending on how hard you press. These combined with the Tombow water soluble markers and a water brush to get wash effects make for some really excellent sketching!

As for my drawing now being looser while still trying to retain accuracy - since I've been drawing and painting again starting in 2012 (when I started this blog) I've moved toward carefully constructed and properly shaded/lit etc. I suspect if I would have tried to delve into the intuitive before now it would have been too soon - I needed a good long time of traditional /classical/ Academic training, but it was really getting tedious. I knew at some point - and soon - I needed to break away from that. I'll probably move back and forth to some extent, because I don't think I'm well enough versed in the classical/correct methods yet. Though who knows, maybe just by pursuing accuracy while drawing intuitively, I can continue to develop my ability to see (and to draw what I see).

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Incoming books slowing to a trickle now

I'm glad it's slowing down - no way could I keep up with it otherwise!! And of course this stack is long term - it' gonna take me at least a year if not more to read them all. My plan is to spend a month or 2 reading, then when I get burned out on this stuff take some time off and get back to it when I feel the urge. That way I'll keep refreshing my interest and my understanding - it's designed to make me really absorb and learn this stuff.

The Aion book is not really new - I ought it in the early 90's when I first started to get interested in the more intellectual pursuits but I never got past the introduction. I think it was too complicated for me to understand at the time, but now I have a pretty solid grounding in Jung's theories and how it all works. Now I'm not having any trouble at all with it. And it's one of his best that I've read so far - it lays out clearly what the main archetypes are - the Shadow the Anima/Animus and the Self. These are the keys to Individuation.

And I'm really loving all the Qabala/Tarot stuff! I got the laminated poster as a study guide as I learn all the Sephiroth - the spheres on the Tree of Life diagram. Interestingly, Sephirot (the singular) is the Jewish root for our word Sphere.

I've already finished The Spoken Qabala - amazing book. I'm now working on all the others seen here - Edith Hamilton's Mythology that tells the most well known and a few lesser known of the Greek and Roman classical myths, Paul Foster Case's Tarot: A Key to the Wisdom of the Ages, and Aion, along with the companion book Edinger's Aion Lectures, which explicates it so we mere mortals can comprehend Jung's meanings.

Kindle purchases: