Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Important factors leading to breakthrough

Before I forget - these are the vitally important factors leading up to the breakthrough I'm experiencing:

  • A few days ago Rob stopped by after about a year. This was the fateful visit where we were both on our best behavior unlike the last few years, and I told him I'm no longer a liberal. As a result we got along better than in many years.
  • I showed him my fully-stocked bar and we did a few shots. 
  • After his visit I decided I wanted to make prints of my best work so I can show it to him without admitting him into the studio, where I still don't trust him. So I finally put all those ink cartridges I had bought a few months ago into the printer and researched the best kind of paper (after making a lot of fuzzy crappy prints on regular so-called 'bright white' paper). 
  • After making a few good prints and being amazed at how awesomely amazing they look I decided to punch up the color saturation and contrast in Bemused, the direct precursor to where I am now in my techniques...
  • As a result I finally started to really bring in the darks, almost black, for the first time. Ironic considering I go by the name Darkmatters all over the web, and do night photographs consisting of lots of darkness..
  • I also finally decided to download a bunch of pictures of bodybuilders and actually study the musculature. Immediately it added a whole new dimension to my anatomy book studies - I see now how necessary they both are to each other. Neither is sufficient by itself. 
  • Last night (when I posted this update) and the night before, as I painted, I imbibed of the sweet libations. Coffee drinks both times. Not to get drunk at all, but to get a nice buzz going. I half suspect this was actually very instrumental in unlocking the old skills from the pencil drawing days of the 80's. 
  • I studied a Conan painting by Ken Kelly which is actually extremely good, and I suspect Frank might have sketched it in for him or helped in some way - either that or Kelly just really knocked this one out of the park. Here's the image:

And of course vitally important is all the prep work documented on this blog beginning in November of last year, drawing drawing drawing and blowing the rust off the old skills. 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Drawing it together with shadows

I always did intend to put in a big shadow fro the left bank. After looking at the St John painting I finally just did it, which simplified all the busy stuff in the creek behind Faf and unified the entire painting. Now you get the feel of them being down in a crack in the earth, in a deep pool of shadow.   There's also a strong sense now of fitful light playing across the landscape. I've also been simplifying things around the edges of the painting and in deep shadow. This is beginning to take on those primordial aspects I discussed earlier, where unimportant elements dissolve into colored mists and things are seen often in silhouette.

Friday, August 23, 2013

I looked at the J Allen St John book and in particular at this painting. It's a bit hard to see it here, but in the book the printing is different - lighter I think. What I noticed is that he uses warm colors to advance and cool colors in the background, as well as higher contrast in foregrounds. Everything is built up from many brushstrokes of different colors and applied very robustly, brushstrokes plainly visible everywhere and his edge treatments are strong without being too crisp. 

I also noticed he often seems to use a certain trick I've never seen before - if a limb is in shadow for instance, the center of the limb is shadowed, but both edges catch rim light. Sometimes the opposite is true, light in the center dark on beth edges. He also uses the same trick with color, for instance strong reds at the center of a limb, fading to weaker pinks or yellow at the edges, always calculated to bring out the roundness of the forms through shadow and color. 

Comparing this to my Bemused (now Red Fish) I noticed my coloring is very flat in comparison, as is my use of shadow. I also feel like I put too much delicate perfectified detail everywhere (I've felt that way for a long time). So I made a copy of my painting that I could go nuts on so if I screw it up it doesn't matter, and I scrubbed in some darker shadows and some color, on a new layer that I ended up applying as Darker Color I believe - no, scratch that - I ended up switching from that to Hard Light which looked slightly better. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Almost Mouser!

Modified yet again (from the Shemp variation below). This is getting damn close!

Converting it into color.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Maybe Mouser

Decided to work on different takes on the Mouser. For some reason I keep seeing him with a huge Jewish nose -- it gives the face a lot of character and a forward thrust, plus allows him to display his arrogance better. The noses resemble their swords, a long thin rapier for Mouser and a heavy thick broadsword for Faf. Is it just me, or is he starting to resemble Liev Schrieber a little?

Also, working in 3 tones like this (actually 4 here) allows me to work exactly the way I used to in my sketchbooks when I'd build up lines to various thicknesses and use the eraser just as much as the pencil - a drawing tool rather than just for corrections. Wow - if I approach it like this, then I can actually draw with a stylus! It's when you try to do the single-line stuff that's impossible. I like the way this technique resembles ink and wash.

And I love that what I end up with can serve as an underpainting...

Here's a modified version of it. Doesn't say Mouser to me at all, but I like it. Has a bit of a Shemp vibe to it somehow.

Very happy with how my technique has improved since the last one. It occurs to me I could go even farther - do it all on separate layers, one with a loose wild screwed-up scribble-sketch that you then trace (the good parts of) onto the next layer to begin the actual drawing. Separate layers for each tint and one for the background tint as well (not the BG layer though - I realized if it's on a layer rather than the BG itself, then you can adjust transparency to get just the tint you want).

Working 'blocky' with big brushes like this will dramatically speed up the whole process. Then you can just come in  and work the edges and whatever else is needed, but you've already got all the big decisions made.

In my epic conversation with Oldschooler via PM we've been discussing airbrushing t shirts, which has made me think back to those halcyon days. And I suddenly realized that when I first started doing T shirts I was at a point exactly like I am now with the tablet painting - taking forever to do everything in these weird roundabout complicated ways. I bought a few videotapes that demonstrated ways to approach the airbrushing process to simplify it and do it in an orderly intelligent manner. As soon as I had watched those tapes, my time immediately dropped from like 8 hours to more like 2 or 3 (for fairly simple shirts anyway, not the really complex portfolio pieces). Not up to pro standards obviously, but a huge stride in the direction, and the quality of them also improved drastically.

And I already know how to do the same for my painting - it's a matter of figuring out the design first through sketches (I'm seeing a combo of digital and paper sketches) to work out poses and composition, value plan, color comp. Import the final sketch and work it up just like above, the 3 tone on a toned ground system ala the great masters, ink wash style. This gives you everything you need - the 3 major tones of light and dark, composition, etc. Then it becomes your underpainting. Flatten it into one layer (not the BG) and start a-paintin' away overtop.