Sunday, December 30, 2012

Some great Christmas presents and a burst of life-drawing inspiration

Got a whole passel of art instruction books for Christmas - all straight from my wish list, so no duds in the bunch!! It's amazing how much better Christmas got thanks to Amazon and the almighty internet.

Imaginative Realism and
Color and Light, both by Gurney,

Other Worlds by Kidd, and

Figure Drawing by Ryder.

Of the 4, the only one I was unsure about was Figure Drawing, as it seems to demonstrate the atelier system of painstaking measurement and super-careful values and shapes - in other words the kind of course where you spend years precisely drawing from plaster casts. But I threw it on the list anyway, intrigued by a system so different from the classical system I'm learning - and I do understand that stepping outside of your comfort zone and learning things that are different is the only way to shock the system into actually growing.

The main reasons I don't favor this approach are that it's expensive and troublesome to always get models to work from, and because I dislike artwork that conveys the listlessness and passivity you generally see in models who have to hold a pose for a long time.

Gurney's work has that quality - as excellent of a painter as he is, his figures (human and dinosaur) look more like bored consumers standing in line at the mall than anything dynamic. So it wasn't too suprising to learn from his books that he goes in for a lot of research for his paintings in the form of arranging for model sessions and photographs, as well as travelling to locations and buying props. It's a bit amazing to discover illustrators really go to that kind of length for their work, but it does make sense.

That same problem is apparent in Ryder's work as well - fantastic, perfectly rendered drawings of lifeless maniquin-looking people in the kind of torporous poses that people assume when they know they have to remain there for hours.

This is not the way I want my work to look - not at all!! In fact, I want just the opposite. That doesn't mean I regret any of these books - quite the contrary. They all contain excellent art (just because it's not the way I want to paint doesn't mean I don't enjoy looking at it when it's well done) - and also they all contain information I'm finding extremely helpful - many things I've never encountered before and probably wouldn't have otherwise. And, even though I dislike the lackluster appearance of artwork done from posed models, I do realize the importance of learning to work from models and from photographs, and I need to learn how it's done (it's all about the gesture). Ryder's book is one big step in that direction.

In a related note - as I've said several times on the blog already, I always feel like I'm only as good as my last drawing. And unfortunately my most recent work has been a group of terrible gesture sketches. One bad one can leave a bad taste, but a dozen bad ones just makes me want to quit.

However, I happened across an amazing sketchbook thread on Conceptart that I just discovered is by a student of Ryder's (taught by him at the Art Academy of San Fran, and now teaching there himself) that shows it doesn't always have to look so listless and bored:

Even though the poses themselves are still dull as dirt for the most part, his work brings a sparkling energy and dynamism that mostly transcends that. I still plan to work from imagination, but damn - if doing a lot of gesture work can do this for an artist, then count me in!!

I also had a related thought tonight - I used to do what I call VCR Sketches - which are essentially quick poses done while the VCR is paused for 5 minutes - that gave me a definite time limit. At first they were pretty lame, but as I went on I got better at it. In fact it was probably pretty instrumental in my development at that time. Having that experience in my background gives me the confidence to go ahead and plunge back into gestures with the hope that in time I'll get better once again.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Gestures from last 2 days

Just putting them all up at once - also re-adding the one I posted yesterday because I added some wash :

Tried to get them in more or less the order I drew them. Not sure I'm supposed to be thinking and constructing quite as much as in the last 2 - and yet they look the best - I'll keep doing it when it feels right, and it seems like I'll get better at locating the bony landmarks fast and running construction lines between them on the fly. 

Tres Grazie

Just did about 7 or 8 gesture sketches, with a panicy feeling that I have no idea just what the hell I'm supposed to be doing, but after getting the 1st pic the camera died, so I'll upload the rest tomorrow :

I meandered between doing weird surreal out-of-proportion contour drawings, semi-constructed and still out-of-whack figures like the ones above, and a couple where I took way longer than I'm supposed to and drew too carefully. But I guess this is how it's done - you most likely move gradually from panic through stunned acceptance that you'll probably never really know what you're supposed to be drawing or how, and hopefully just from sheer numbers you get better at it in time.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Gesture drawing videos

Good stuff!! A more detailed type of gesture drawing to serve as beginning of a more detailed drawing.

This is more what I always thought it meant - looser, quicker - this is more gesture as a warmup.

Problems with the fountain pen - ALREADY!!

Started having a lot of trouble with the fountain pen - maybe because it was running out of ink (it also had a huge air bubble in it)? Not sure why really - I switched to Higgins Sepia Calligraphy ink after washing it out with a lot of water. Seems to be working a little better, but still not up to 100%.

Really working on shading to develop proper form here. Experimented with devloping the drawings a little farther with aquarelles and conte pencils, with a Cray-Pas highlight on the sphere. Strangely, I can't draw at all over sanguine conte, but over white it suddenly shows up really well - and I can draw slightly over bistre. Once I've put down the waxy aquarelles I can't go over them with anything.

Anyway, I hope I get the pen working again - it was not cheap at all, and I really want it to work like it did on the 1st page (part of it anyway).

Just to detail what I'm trying - here's a page I found with instructions on how to troubleshoot a fountain pen:

My $85 wash brush nestled in it's little case

It was almost a Windsor & Newton Series 7 - that most famed of brushes for watercolor and ink use - but just too expensive - so instead I went with a DaVinci #10 pointed watercolor round in Siberian Kolinski sable.

I was surprised when I opened the package to find a tiny bar of perfumed soap and a little towel for washing this brush!! And also the nice touch of twin brush rests to hold it off the bottom - I didn't appreciate the value of those until the 1st time I washed it (right there in the box, by simply getting it wet and scrubbing it gently against the little bar of soap) and I realized it holds the brush in the perfect position for drying - and not only that, but you can close the outer box most of the way for protection and still let air get to the bristles. It's actually sort of ingenius.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Gesture, Mentler, and Boldini

I've been advised to persue gesture sketches - something I've done very little of. In fact it's something I've thought very little about, and now in pondering it and checking into it I believe it's a very important aspect that I need to develop in my work. A quick google into it turned up some threads at - my old standby for art education - in particular this extremely inspiring sketchbook thread by Michael Mentler. I know, what he has on this thread aren't gesture sketches, though I believe he does them mostly from life and begins them with gesture sketches. From what I'[ve gleaned on a couple of other CA threads on gesture, there's a modern school of thought on the subject that uses gesture sketches as warmup or practice, and then you out them aside and begin the drawing in earnest. But apparently the idea originates with Nicoliades, who called them 'short poses' and said that it's essential they not be used that way, but instead as part of the process of finding the shapes for the drawing itself.

Looking at some of Mentler's work, it's easy to see parts of the original sketch still showing through here and there - he seems to start with a stick figure and strike in measuring lines to provide accuracy before proceeding to the construction phase. I like this approach, but I do believe it's also important to do the *other* kind of gesture sketches as well - not to be developed farther but to serve simply to aid you in developing the connection between eye and implement. It's been said the point of doing gesture sketches is to take the intellect out of the way - to prevent you from overthinking. To build those direct neural pathways running from the eye to the  hand, and to help you to begin drawing impulsively.

Anyway, I haven't done any gesture sketches yet, instead I got all inspired to try to draw like Mentler, who is a sort of modern-day DaVinci:

The fountain pen is really frustrating when I use it in the cream colored sketchbook - the paper isn't slick enough and it very quickly gets clogged with paper fibers and needs to be cleared constantly. In fact, all the little circles and squares and the alphabet were to keep testing the pen and see how well it's working - weirdly it always seems to cut out at the same part of each circle or square or letter.

Oh - forgot about Boldini - in one of the threads about the benefits of gesture drawing someone mentioned an artist named Boldini who's paintings are practically ALL gesture - amazing stuff!!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Fafhrd saga

Here is the evolution of my Fafhrd paintings. Believe it or not, this is actually the 1st time I've looked at all of them together at the same time, and it's been very revealing. For instance, I didn't realize that my tablet painting is actually far better than any of the others, in terms of many factors but especially color and clarity and anatomy (and ESPECIALLY the face!) I never realized before just how oversaturated the colors are in all of my paintings and color drawings - but it sure is.

In the last 2 pics above you can see where I decided I needed to desaturate and add in a strong blue tint overall to unify colors - wow, what a difference!! This after looking at a lot of Frazetta paintings (which are generally thought of as being exceptionally brilliant and vivid in coloring) and saw that they were far less saturated - for the most part - than mine.

I also never realized that they pretty much all have the same background composition (my Fafhrd paintings, not Frazetta's work) except for the facial closeup - there's always an X form there, a big V at the top and an inverted V at the bottom. The closeup is more boring, being just a straight hedgerow.

On the positive side, I can easily see that my work does not suffer from the things I hate most about for instance what I consider the poor Warren cover artists - stiff awkward poses and shiny plasticy skin on what appears to be a manikin. I'm talking to YOU Ken Kelley!! No wonder he's at his best when he does robots - but even they suffer from it a bit.

Also, though I've been studying Frazetta's methods and techniques and art so much recently, it's good to see I'm not subject to copying his style at all. And to be fair, I've been studying the work of a LOT of artists, all the way back through art history.

I do need to work on more dynamic poses though or think more about the narrative of the paintings. But seeing these all together shows me that I have indeed gone through a pretty dramatic growth period - even before my recent more serious studies into oil painting and drawing (as documented on this blog).

I can also see that his physique has undergone changes between each painting. From an unrealistic almost cartoony bulkiness in the 1st, to his weird skeletal gauntness in the last (need to flesh out those emaciated gouges beside the abdominals - the external oblique should smoothly meet the rectus abdominus, not leave big empty notches like that!) But honestly I think I did his physique best in the latest drawing, in the post just before this one. It feels really good to see the steady improvement. And, also in that lqatest drawing, I can really see the results of my recent studies in figure drawing/anatomy - powerful sense of form developed through god placement of plane breaks and keeping it dark on the dark side, light on the light side. Man, that really does work!

Decided to check out the older paintings in greyscale and desaturated - very interesting:

This shows me that I've actually been getting values right - it's just too much color saturation. Amazing to see what a difference desaturating can make. How did I fail to notice the screaming colors before?

I know - I reversed the order on some - sorry about that - makes it a bit confusing. But I wasn't being meticulous, just wanted to see them side by side. And of course - I just did a simple desaturate (sometimes assisted with a little contrast boost) - probably the best approach would be to desaturate certain parts and leave others vivid - in general I think it's the skin and hair that needed desaturating. Also those parts of the background in bright light or dark shadow - I tend to leave them full intensity when they should be greyed down and neutralized. But the point of this little exercise was just to quickly see what happened when I lowred saturation halfway and then all the way - didn't care to go into photoshop and do all kinds of fancy tricks.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

I can't believe it's not Fabio...

This was a crappy wash drawing I did a couple days ago on somr real shit paper, using the Tombow markers. I thought the paper would be like watercolor paper because of the heavily textured surface, but it doesn't take water well at all - the surface rubs off and turns into little scabby pills all over. After a while I gave up in disgust, ;eaving myself feeling like I now suck as an artist (it's true- you always feel like you're only as good as your last piece).

Then I decided maybe I could develop it farhter in pencil - it helped a lot, but the heavy texture really makes it difficult, plus I had to cover up a lot of really dark wash so a lot of it disappeared into pure blackness.

Considering taking it another step - maybe several coats of clear coat and then paint ovr it - though I have a feeling the thick watersoluable Derwent 8B pencil will smear even under all the plastic.Or wait - hey, yeeeeaaaahhhh.... it's already in digital file form, isn't it? I could photoshop it, couldn't I? But I remember  a couple of times trying to photoshop a heavily textured drawing doesn't work very well... unless maybe I can just change the colors of the drawing and work over the crappy background a bit...

But in spite of the problems, there's a strong quality of form and anatomy that I like about it.

Also, I now feel like I need to draw in carefully developed tone, the way I always did through the 80's in pencil - that allows me to develop form as I go, responding to changes as I see them taking shape. This works better for me than trying to think through a drawing all at once in broad washes etc. I mean, look at the sense of round form in the chest here, as opposed to any of my wash drawings.

It's really hard to get good pictures of shiny pencil drawings - I need to do it invery low light to avoid glare and then try to bring the light levels back up in photoshop, and a lot of middle tones just vanish in the process. So what you see here is a pretty rough and harsh version of the actual drawing itself. In fact, looking at the picture just above, I decided I needed to add some midtones beside that dark shadow core along the left edge of the torso - but when I turned around to work on the drawing I see they're actully there, they just don't come through in the photo. 


Wow, how could I have been staring at this picture for 2 days now and only just now realized that it's actually a rewoeking of my 1st Fafhrd painting??!! Much better-drawn though. If I just extend it down a little farther and put a sword in his hand, there it is! 

And I've even been thinking I ought to re-do the last Fafhrd painting, Longbow - but never thought about redoing the 1st one. I've ALSO been thinking I should take some of the drawings I've been doing (or am about to do, or maybe old drawings) and use them as the basis for oil sketches or paintings. wWell, I guess that's just what I'll do then. 

Oh, and here's what I was thinking when I suddenly realized this drawing is a reworking of the old Fafhrd painting - I was thinking I really need to start doing more dynamic poses - because he sort of looks like a male model posing for an underwear ad - or, hell, with that long hair blowing like that, he looks a lot like Fabio... Yah, that's when it struck me. Because people said that about that painting too. cue Twilight Zone theme...

Just a few minor touch-ups, mostly the the shadowed shoulder area - especially that highlight along the top of the clavicle ridge that was bothering me so much and the area all around it. Also managed to get a much better picture that retained most of the midtone detail this time, and took out all color information so as not to have to deal with artificial warm or cool tones like in the first pic of this post. This is really looking remarkable - possibly one of my best in certain regards anyway - in terms of the form of the torso. You do need to ignore everything form the neck up though to call it one of my best.

Ok, after tht last stement, you KNOW I had to draw a little more on it, right?

In fact, I highly recommend working like this - take frequent digital pics of your work and look at them - even write about them like Ilm doing - that actually helps develop your thinking farther than just looking at it with a blank mind. 

The structure of the head is all wrong - too late to fix that - things went very wrong there in the inking stage and now I just have to work around it. It doesn't look at all like him above the neck, but the sense of form overall just keeps getting stronger. In fact - it has almost a Corben quality to it (which is an extremely good thing). I really like the bright area on the chest creating a focal area there. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Carving form in pencil

Finally got in my Creepy Archives #1 book that I ordered literally like a month ago! Wow, how excellent to finally see how it all began! And it includes Frazetta's one and only comic story done for Warren, his  last before moving permanently into oil painting.

The stories are all pretty lame, all 8-pagers, based on the EC layout from a decade previous. But some of the art is just insane, and especially of course the Frazetta story. Reed Crandall also turned in some real winners, and a couple of other artists.

This had me looking up black and white horror coic art (and just b&w comic art) and I found some nice gems online. From all of it I got this impression of a certain way to draw - and I also got the sudden knowledge that in order to really be able to paint I must first be able to draw exactly the way I want the paintings to look. Same is true for ink drawings and wash drawings etc (and ink & wash is a precursor to painting - so you need to be able to do it in wash before you can paint it too).

There was something amazing about looking at all this more contemporary (for the early 60's) ink and wash work that's totally different from the classical masters... more assuredness of line and form. Something about the way they carv out form with swatches of lines. Oh, last night I also gathered unto myself all the Creepy Eerie and Vampi covers and lots of drawings and paintings by the main cover artists, Frazetta, Sanjulian and Enrich. Also lots by St. John - and I suppose it was largely pencils by him and Sanjulian (especially a very Bama-esque Doc Savage drawing/painting he did as a commission) that really gave me this idea of carving out form in pencil. I sort of did it above, but got a ways to go.

I LIKE this way of drawing!! Want to do lots more of it. For me it all starts in pencil.

Just cracked up when I realized how much that looks like Tarrantino!! Totally unintentional.

Realized I'm also getting this drawing style from pen illos from the heyday of pulp and magazine illustrators. Some by St. John that I found last night in fact.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Warm/Cool bias - No More Pre-Mixing - and no more Naples

Ok, I keep running into this everywhere now. In my recent oil sketch (gone horribly wrong) I randomly used cools and warms all over - in light and in shadow.

Last night I re-read parts of Alla Prima by Richard Schmid, and he was adamant that if lights are warm then shadows are cool and vice verse - in fact he said this is basically all you need to know about color.

I was dreaming over and over about - something. I understood it clearly as I was waking up and it made me laugh - but now it's buried. I can dimly remember I was doing something - carefully poritoning out - was it heaviness and lightness? Something like that. And as I was beginning to wake, still dreaming but able to think consciously a bit - I laughed silently because I understood it was a metaphor for light and dark values. And maybe warms and cools, since those are what I'm now learning need to be carefully portioned out alongside values.

Also, the Scmidster talked about the method I'm using now for pre-mixing little dabs of color on the palette. In fact he said exactly what I lamented recently - that it just takes for freakin' evar!! And it takes up too much room on your palette. He also said it's wrong. So is adding a little of the dominant color into each color on the palette or into your white. these are formulae and they don't produce good artistic results.

Good! I'm glad to hear it. I was NOT looking forward to spending another 2 hours mixing little dabs of color before each painting. And then only using a few of them before cleaning the palette.

Instead you mix colors as you go. You still keep the same mindset - be very careful to pay attention to value and color temp - just do it only as you need each color.

I like that a lot better.

I suppose doing a color treatment before beginning is also a good strategy - it can help you decide what colors you need.

I did learn a lot from the pre-mixing experience though, and in fact it was an invaluable experience. Without it I wouldn't know much about what colors I can make from what I have on my palette. I suppose someone like Shmid knows what colors he can mix because he's done his charts - I need to do mine soon. He said for years he always had them with him while working and would consult them constantly.

Also, I'm going to take naples yellow off my palette. It can be mixed from yellow ochre and white. Don't need it since I have 2 other yellows now. Hell, 3 if you count burnt umber!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Aquarelles are no better than Conte - they don't make as much dust, so don't screw up the paint as much, but still they smear into the paint. Now I understand why people block in directly in oil paint! The same color as the underpainting will be.

Last night I discovered Control+Paint, the website of the concept artist who's video I posted last night, where he teaches about drawing and painting digitally. Makes it all seem so easy and nice - but I had a super-frustrating day trying it today. I swear, very 30 seconds or so I was growling "NOW WHY THE HELL DID THAT JUST HAPPEN!!??!?!!"

I also realized that I really can't draw the figure starting from boxes or ovals or anything - I just need to draw the damn figure directly, and then I can fiddle around with bloxing off and measuring etc.

When I start by drawing a ribcage I just quite simply can't understand how the shoulders fit in - I don't leave enough room for them between the chest and head. I don't know - I feel like crap - maybe Im just being all down on myself. I know I was starting to work out a system. But what the hell - why wasn't the system already worked out long ago? Why with all the figure drawing and anatomy books doesn't anybody tell you about problems like this? Or is it just a failing on my part to understand what I've read? Ah crap - I just need to keep at it - I'm trying to transform myself as an artist and it aint gonna be easy.

Looking at the ecorche I just realized the shoulders can be visualized as balls sitting right onthe ribcage. Maybe I can work it out in drawings.

Oh, I should mention, each night after I paint I have little snippets of painting stuff turn up in strange ways in my dreams - I remember one two nights ago where I gave Lauren a guitar to be restrung and it had little varicolored dabs of oil paint all over the back of it! Hah! It was a palette! There were others too, but I didn't write them down and, as dreams tend to do, they vanished.

Ok, couldn't just let it go at that. This is my 2nd try - 1st sucked because made shoulderballs too big and too high. Another thing I did here was to stop thinking of the neck as a simple cylinder rising from the top pair of ribs, instead saw it as rising from shape bordered by clavicles and scapulae. I sort of drew that shape in after the shoulderballs and before the neck and head. I think I make necks too short and skinny. It also helped to look at the ecorche - helped to keep shape of robcage in line, I tend to make it bulge to far at the wide point. But this feels good because, for the first time in this whole explosion of drawing/painting, this one really looks like my style. 

Also, I've come to realize that, as I read somewhere recently, the best paint is undoubtedly fresh paint. I don't want to repeat that mucking about with super-sticky crap as it's drying and refuses to act right. So I guess I'll scrap the idea of keeping my tube paints in an airtight pill compact and the palette in something equally airtight. Ya just gotta waste some paint every freaking time - as much as it sucks.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Here's a nice video I found today - it adds something essential to my knowledge that fits in perfectly with the techniques I've been using.

Rather than pay attention specifically to what color to use, apparently the idea is just to use the right value and right temperature (with I suppose some idea of hue involved at some point, thougj maybe not very important really).

Just as no values in the shadows should be as bright as any value in light, the same applies to color tem - if you're doing warm lights/cool shadows (most common outdoor scheme) then your highlights will be the warmest, fading toward cooler warms as it nears the ende og shadows. Then colls in the shadows, fading toward warmer cools as it nears the light.

This makes several times recently that I've run across refernces to the idea of not worrying about specific colors, but simply chosing the right vale and color temperature. What a liberating concept!! It's sort of what I did on the oil sketch gone horribly wrong from last night, thugh for the basic colors I did pay attentin to flesh tones. Aside fron that though, I was dabbing greens, blues, purples, reds etc all over wherever the value was right.

Now add to that color temperature and it might all start go go together coherently.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Oil sketch gone horribly wrong!

I just want to record this before I hit the sack...

1st problem - DON'T DRAW IN CONTE CRAYON!! 

I don't know, I guess you're supposed to seal it or fix it somehow when you do, because the chalk just got into all my paint and immediately turned it into a muddy shitty brown mess. In fact after the first few brushstrokes I just used white because the conte instantly turned it brown. I was feeling like a badass though, and decided to ride it out and see if I could find a way to fix it without missing a beat - figured as long as all the chalk iss turned into sticky gum with oil paint them it;ll be stuck down firmly to the canvas. It kinda sorta worked. I just went ahead and scrubbed in the basic forms letting the chalk fuck everything up, but making sure I could still see the shapes.

2nd problem - MIX THE RIGHT VALUES!! 

My light mids are actually mids, and the mids and mid darks are both just darks. I kinda knew it from the very beginning too, but again, I thought it would be cool to see if I could deal with it on the fly. All gansta and shit, like Frazetta jr or something. 

3rd problem - MIX THE RIGHT COLORS!! 

Once in progress, I realized I didn't have any kind of strong primaries or secondaries, just these tertiaries, which look great, but you really do need strong primaries and secondaries too. Oh, before beginning I mixed up some little test batches of greens to see what I could make from my limited paletter - I could actually get some surprisingly good greens using black and naples, and black and ochre (or those earth tones plus french ultra), but they're very desaturated and neutral. So I've now officially added Cad Lemon to the palette. 

4th problem - DO AN UNDERPAINTING!! 

I now understand - there need to be darks under the darks and mids under the mids or you get white crap showing through.


Such a weird experience - the paint was all sticky and mucky the whole time, and it just kept getting worse. I thought I might be able to pull it off for a while, and did some great things (especially the pants I just ad-libbed right over the nude figure), but no. It looked great a couple of times - I worked in some greens and reds and purples, but somehow as I went they mostly got blended down into mud.
Part og the problem was that I was using colors that sat overnight in the fridge - I had cleaned off all the mixes but kept the tube colors on my palette. They were skinned over - had to peel that off (messy!) and they were still sort of partially dried and sticky as hell before I even began. Now I;m thinking when the airtight pill container comes in I need to test it with small dabs of color before committing to it entirely. In the end it might just be best to go ahead and waste a lot of paint in order to make painting better (or even possible). 


Preliminary sketches to work out the design, color comps, drawing it correctly on the canvas (prismacolors I'm thinking, or maybe aquarelles), planning the colors to mix and mixing the right values of them on the palette. And then, if you're lucky, it might just work. 

All this said though, I think it came out pretty cool in a lot of ways, and I love some of the handling - it became very much like a pencil drawing in full color, where I could just kind of make exactly what I wanted happen sometimes without quite knowing how - but I knew it was going to work. I guess that's a good thing.


I was just washing them in turps, and after a couple of days they were all getting messed up - the bristles starting to stick together as if they still have oil paint in them, all stiff as hell and need to be broken in before I can use them (which could easily result in broken bristles). After I washed them in warm water and dish soap they're much much softer and suppler and feel much happiuer. Also dry them as well as you can afterwards on a cloth. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Classical Woman, bistre on cream laid paper

The Conte crayons and pastel paper pad came in - I messed with them a bit today and was surprised to find conte crayons aren't the way I remember them. The ones I used to use years ago were more waxy - these are essentially just small very hard pastel sticks in the same range of colrs (Sanguine, Bistre, black and white). The older ones were like a cross between these and the Specialist square Cray Pas sticks. Did a frnezied bit of googling - apparently Conte was bought out by some massive corporation who was bought out by a bigger fish etc etc, until it's now all owned by BIC, who also owns Elmer's now? Crazy corporate world we live in.

After my initial few lines and the shocking discovery that the beautiful waxy (not messy, dusty or easily breakable) conte crayons of my youth are only a memory now, I decided to go back to work and actually discovered I like these quite a bit. Slightly messy, yes, but nothing like chalk or charcoal! Just a bit of dust when you're really bearing down for solid darks.

It's done from a video cap of a YouTube vid - her face had a quality that instantly reminded me of something drawn by Leonardo or Durer.

It might be apparent now from some of the drawings on this blog that the dry drawing media are my forte. I learned everything I know with a pencil in my hand, and it's the foundation of all my skills in art.

Apparently some people use these hard conte sketch sticks to draw on the canvas for an oil painting - interesting. I don't know about putting solid dense darks down like in the hair above, but everything else should be fine (maybe even the darks if I brush off any excess and maybe fix it - not with skim milk thank you!) This looks a lot like a burnt umber underpainting (bistre is like burnt umber, sanguine like burnt sienna) - but no waiting overnight for it to dry.. I like that!!

Now - about something that handles similarly to the Contes I remember so fondly - the closest thing I can think of would be Prismacolor sticks maybe..

Here's the updated version after a bit more drawing (and a better picture, more well-lit) :

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Broken Color

That's the answer - broken color. I was really hetting perturbed because my paintings all have this totally amateurish look with flat areas of undifferenciated color that I try to do something to in glazes, but it still looks flat like a paint-by-numbers set.

Discovered broekn color (did I post about it sometime on the twilight hours last night in my paint-fume induced zombie stupor after endless hours of painting?) It's what Frazzetta does and what gives his paintings vivacity and sparkle and oomph.

Oh god my traps are sore!! Easel painting means holding your arms out in front of you rfor hour after hour after hour as the muscles begin to burn, but you just have to keep doing it. For some reason the left one feels even worse, though I hardly ever used my left arm for anything other than holding the rag.

Before starting I oiled out the underpainting from yesterday with a very thin layer of Liquin fine detail that I wiped most of the way off with a rag - perfect working surface!

Anyway, pics :

Vigorous, beautiful, powerful, almost perfect! Needs a bit more color though. 

Screwed it all up immediately (good thing I knew it was time to snap a pic! I KNEW I was about to screw it up completely... ) Overblended, thought I needed to do this to provide a more complete foundation on which to paint some more. I thought now I could add daubs of color and bring back something like the original fresh vigorousness. Nope... 

Permanent record of my current painting setup

The palette I mixed up for this - pretty good breakdown - light and dark mid tones plus middle midtones,  each with many color variations that all remain within the correct value level. Middles and dark mids should probably be darker though, or the light mids a little lighter. Kept trying to make greens though and wasn't able to - think I need a stronger yellow. For darks and lights I added white or black to the mixes in small dabs directly with the brush - this worked really well because you need very little of the most extreme values, and they should be very desaturated. 

I held a rag in my left hand, and only used 2 brushes - one bristle filbert and one mongoose blender. Worked perfectly! So much easier cleanup etc. Also cleaned the brushes in the small turps cup - so excellent! No need to keep screwing up the big Sillycoil jar. 

Next time I need to put the right colors and right values in immediately and hardly blend at all - get it right from the very start. Every stroke a finishing stroke. 

Final result for today's excursion. Not too bad - much better than yesterday. If you get up really close you can see all kinds of super-subtle color variations, but they're too subtle is the problem.

But considering yesterday I didn't even know how to do this - it's actually a huge leap forward. And now I know to be bolder and braver with it and to mix up all the color patches I'll need.

Oh, when I cleaned the palette I left the pure color lumps and now I've got it languishing in the fridge - not sure if that works or not - need to google it.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Still Life W/ 3 Pots @ Cutting Board - day 2 lessons

Did a lot of glazing tody, and everything went so much better! Spoke wiht Jack out on the lawn about the rent checks I havent cashed yet and about painting - he's done some acrylic painting. Beside the point, but just recording it as journal type stuff.

Working with some medium is much cleaner and easier than without - the paint works much better. It also requires a lot less paint! I'm considering trying an underpainting already using some medium, and then working over it with more and with some turps added.

I oiled out the non-shiny parts of the canvas before starting, which I think helped a lot. Paint goes on so much smoother over freshly-applied paint rather than onto dry canvas. With medium though it dries a lot faster - after about 2 hours it was getting too sticky to work over anymore, so now I'm letting it dry. Ultimately my goal is to learn to do alla-prima, but I think it's a good idea to go ahead and use these lengthier processes during the learning stage - before I can do a/p I need to really learn about mixing colors to hit just the right value and color, and so colors are tied together throughout. In other words, I need to do my color charts.

I see that I'm really not painting the cylindrical and spherical forms properly - there's supposed to be a lot of midtone between the darkest shadow and the highlight, but I'm tending to put a hard edge like a core shadow instead. Work gradually up to the highlight. And really there is no highlight unless it's a shiny material.

Need to get some bigger mongoose or black sable brushes for blenders and for working with the thin paint. They're excellent for it. Also a couple of good W/N Series 7 round liners for detail work. Wait - you know what - I've already got a brand new #1 and #3 here for ink drawing - I think I'll dedicate one of them to oil and mark it somehow as no longer suitable for watermedia.

I'm doing a lot of scrubbing now. I like the way it looks - it leaves paint down in the crevices and shows the texture of the canvas. I suppose this is what they meant in the book I remember seeing once where it said Titian used rags and his fingers more than brushes at times. Not so much to apply the paint (at least for me)  - I put it on with brushes and use them as blenders, but do some scrubbing as well.

I wish I hadn't gone straight to glazes after yesterday's underpainting - glazes have more medium than frotties, and those should come in between. They'll help to refine the underpainting before getting to the glazing stage, which is more about tinting color rather than shaping.

The more I look at this the more I dislike the bright colors, all of which are too high in intensity. I decided to compare with a few Frazettas strictly looking at colors...

Color Comparison :

The John Carter one at the end is about the brightest thing he's done, and still not nearly as intense and saturated as mine. In places it is, but how knows how to balance that out with more neutral and low-key colors. 

It ocurrs to me that I may not use tube colors anymore, but I'm alays mixing 2 colors of the same temperature unless I need to mix complements. I;m sarting to think  need to always muddy up colors by mixung in the complement. Or is there something else to it? How do you make these more neutral desaturated colors? 

My colors when they get darkr retain full color intensity, they don't dull down at all. In fact the darkest blues look like the most intense colors on the canvas, which is totally wrong! Same goes for the dark browns. Bleugh!! 

I'm thinking it's time to start doing lots of quick very focused little oil sketches aimed strictly at achieveing certain color effects and no eye toward finesse or anything else. So rather than take a week of 18 hour days to finish one labored painting that I learn little from I can crank out a dozen in a day and supercharge the learning process.

A quick browse through Charles Reid's Painting By Design and Oil Painting Techniques, which I believe he contributed to, suggests that you generally use complements mixed together or near complements, almost always across the temp divide. And don't mix them thoroughly on the palette - let them only mix partially and finish on the painting.

Time to play!

All this goes hand in hand with the lesson I learned when I had to do an extreme desaturation on the 1st Fafhrd tablet painting. Now I just need to figure out how to desaturate my oil paints - and use broeken color. Frazetta mever uses just one color in any area - there's always 2 that partially blend but are also separate - I think slightly dfferent values, so they also model form.