Monday, October 28, 2013

I'm on Conceptart now

I've re-activated my old forgotten account from 2004 and started a new sketchbook there, as well as launching myself into some serious artistic training, beginning with 20 daily gesture sketches via

This is like boot camp for artists - if you're serious about learning CA is the place online to go.

My sketchbook there has pretty much supplanted this blog as a daily or near daily progress report. But I'll still post my finished pieces here when they roll in.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Got started back to work on Longbow today..

Click back and forth between them in Lightbox or whatever it's called to see the differences.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Look at this limited palette cover work by Kent Williams..

Similar to the Mark Behm video I posted recently, but it's pretty obvious he used much brighter colors than burnt and raw sienna with black and white. Looks like a pretty powerful yellow and red, maybe both cadmium? And black. White too, or he couldn't have got that flesh tone. Then something blue - can't tell what kind of hue. Or maybe the cool purplish color in the bg was mixed from his red and black? I'd like to try to do something with a similar palette. That really low chroma palette I just used was making me feel kind of restricted, though I must say I was amazed what I was able to do with it, and it really did demonstrate to me that you can use blacks or grays to cool a color significantly and it helped me to get cools and neutral grays into the flesh tones.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Started posting on deviantART today

After trying to connect with Conceptart but finding it's down again. Seems to happen a lot. I checked "is down?" - there's actually an online service that you can check for balky sites to see if the site is really down or if it's on your end, and there's an endless list of recent and old comments there from people complaining because it goes down so much, and apparently the format has changed and the forum isn't nearly what it used to be (some peoples' opinions anyway).

SOooooooo.... I went over to deviantART instead and submitted Victorious and Spearpoint Diplomacy to the account I created there 4 years ago and have never used. And I didn't bother to snoop around first and check on how things are done round those parts -- lol, hope I didn't break any norms..

I'll put my deviant page in the sidebar (*if I can - it won't let me post a link to my Flickr set of drawings and paintings.. )

* I discovered it will let me edit old links, so I swapped out my Luca Cambiaso and Ubaldo Gandalfi links for my devianART and Flickr pages instead. Man, talk about downgrading..

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Victorious finished

Full size on Flickr -- download if you want. Once there, click on the three little white dots down in the righthand corner and then on View All Sizes.

Welcome to my studio!

WElcome to new readers who might have found this through my other blog. I've decided to finally make this one publicly visible, after almost a year of being private. It's a very special day - I've moved my studio up from the cramped space behind the animation table in the basement into a spare bedroom with two windows (one with a northern exposure even!) so I can put a fan in one and get a good cross-ventilation going. Plus I now have room to move!! And new studio equippage - detailed in the last post. As you can see I've moved lots of the paintin' stuff into its new legit home. This at a time when my painting is starting to look pretty good - so it really is going legit!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Wow the table easel came in already!!

Wasn't expecting it so soon, not till next week really, but it was on the porch this morning. Here it is, along with the new drawing table and chair:

Together the easel and table make a really nice studio easel type of setup, although it occurs to me, that one thin slat of wood extended downward will have a lot of pressure on it - especially considering it has a big slot cut up the center of it. It does seem very well-made though, looks like it will hold my brushes in the side drawer. And what I like about this setup that no studio easel I've ever seen allows, is that I can scoot my chair in and get my legs right in under the painting. No leaning forward, putting pressure on my lower back, and extending my arms out in front of me all day killing my shoulders/traps. If this ever breaks, as seems likely with just one clumsy knee-bump while scooting the chair in or out, I'll make one that doesn't hinge open and closed and that doesn't have the ability to extend the bars up and down - just a fixed-position, rock-solid version without the folding/travel functionality, and with much stronger wooden supports - probably several of them rather than just one thin one. Ah, it's going to be sooo good to break out of that tiny confined little space behind the animation table in the basement, and to sit on a nice comfortable chair while I paint! In a room with ventilation even!! Not to mention the coveted Northern exposure!

I got this easel on Amazon for about $50 - saw the exact same model on Jerry's Artarama for about twice that and was about to buy it when I decided to check on almighty Amazon. It's the Ravenna Table Easel with Drawer by Art Alternatives.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Converting value sketch to color...

Painting is well underway now. So far I've used only the palette Mark Behm was using in that video clip - burnt sienna, raw sienna, black and white. I captured color swatches off a Dick Blick page of oil colors, pasted them together to make a single image, then opened it in photoshop and used it to pull colors from. Then I made a palette as a separate image where I pre-mixed swatches... aw heck, easier to show you:

I just added the blue-grey background to make it easier on the eye - the BG is actually white so as not to screw up colors I mix over it.

I did start with these colors, but they've been modified many times via adjustment layers and different types of blending layers, as well as a warming filter over all of it. I can see though I;m going to need to add a couple more colors. I don;t think this is a good palette for me - I need stronger colors. And this might be a bit off - the burnt sienna looks kinda purple to me.

Preparing to switch over to Alkyd paint. Thanks Wacom, now I know I can do this!!

I'm so glad I decided to get a tablet, and that I stuck with it even though in the beginning I sucked terribly with it. I remember trying to draw a necklace on an old Fafhrd head I had done originally in oil pastels, and I couldn't get my highlight line to sit right next to the shadow line. Now that I'm so used to the stylus I can do stuff like that super easy.

This gives me immense confidence that I;ll be able to handle paintbrushes after futzing around with them for a while too. I had myself convinced for a good while there that I:m just not cut out for painting, I'm used to drawing media instead. But if I can get used to the stylus to the point where I kick ass with it like I do now, then I can do the same with paint. I plan to switch over once I;m set up for painting, and spend all day every day painting the way I've been doing with the tablet (though Ill still work out my drawings on the tablet first).

Also my tablet work has helped me to work out my painting method, because I'm doing it exactly the way I will in paint - develop the original drawing into a value painting, then work in color. Ah, the old traditional separation of drawing, modeling and coloring! Ya know, those classical master guys were pretty smart cookies!!

Oh, and I just ordered a nice little tabletop easel with a bar that extends downward off the front edge of the table so the painting is right over your lap. This should be perfect - I always did my drawings on my lap, either on a drawing board or a pad. It's how I want to paint too, no need to hold your arms extended way out in front of you all day while your shoulders burn and your back aches. I still remember how painful it was when I did the paintings from earlier on this blog. I was planning to put my canvas or canvas panel on a board sitting on my lap and lean it against a table - that's exactly why I bought the drafting table (which came in yesterday, along with the chair - wow, next day delivery!) But this will be just as good, and should give me a bit more freedom since the painting isn't actually sitting right on my lap. But I love the fact that I can pull my chair in and get my legs way in underneath it - which I don't think most floor easels will allow.

Pics coming as soon as I get the easel and get it all set up in my current bedroom. I'm moving the bed into its new home today and expect the easel early next week. I just couldn't take another 6 to 8 hour session crammed into that tiny space behind my animation table sitting perched way up on that extremely hard uncomfortable high chair. I also have very bad memories of long periods of time spent pre-mixing colors, many of which I ended up not using anyway. No more doing that either!!

Super limited palette

Ran across this little gem the other night - talk about a limited palette!! He used only black, white, and burnt sienna. No real cools at all, except for the black I suppose. I need to try this. ** Note - he usually uses this palette plus raw sienna, which is yellower. It looks like he has some raw sienna here - maybe he just forgot to add it to the description? Anyway that sounds like a much more useful palette.

Ok, it looks like the greys are very cool in comparison with the warm sienna. I love the way he only used a couple of brushes, all flats and brights, and used the corners for details and lines. I also notice he doesn't use different brushes to blend, he seems to just keep using the same brush he was just painting with, not even cleaning it first. I guess you develop a feel for when most of the paint is gone and it's ready for blending. Looks like Burt's been putting on some weight..

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


Here you see my original pencil sketch followed by scanning it in and working it over with the tablet. It's actually kind of scary how much better I am with digital aid.. if only I could use the transform tools and liquify filter on paper! Though I know if I stick with it I can improve my pencil work drastically -- it's just been a long time since I was really in practice. One thing I notice though - working on the tablet is a lot more like painting, using wide swaths and patches of value rather than lines. I suppose drawing with charcoal and chalk would be similar. But eventually I'd really like to improve my spacial awareness and eye/hand coordination to the point that I can draw it right the first time, without needing all the modification. And you do that by drawing - probably without the safety net the tablet affords.

For now I think I'll keep working like this - sometimes starting with pencil, sometimes doing it on the tablet right from the get-go. Then I'll project the drawing up on canvas and paint it up. I've just ordered a drafting table and chair plus some scrubs and a lab coat to save my clothes. I'll be setting up shop upstairs in a spare bedroom with 2 windows so I can get some ventilation going and hopefully avoid the strokes Frazetta suffered.

Here it is a little more finished. Enough for tonight.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Cyborg finished, and crits

Comments and crit on my latest couple of pieces..

In some ways I think they look great, but then they're just really exercises in copying from a photograph with minimal changes. On Cyborg, I feel like it looked stronger in the early stages - more painterly with rough edges -- you could really see the hand of the artist. But somehow as I added in all the little highlights and finishing touches it all smoothed out until it ended up looking kind of generic - almost like a photograph. Ok, not entirely, but more than I really want for my work. I should have gone bolder on colors, darker on shadows. Harder on some edges. I also need to get some blues and greens in the flesh - the purples I:m using are just too warm - need to cool it off.

Ahhh, really  though, I guess I'm talking about how I want to progress from here. When I look at the painting, it does look pretty good really. One thing though that I wish I had approached differently - I mean it's freakin' Cris Cyborg -- and I made her look almost like a pinup!! At the time I had no idea who she was, it was the only picture I had ever seen of her, and it actually did make her look kind of cute. It was when I decided to include the tattoos I had to research who she was and look up better pics - then I found out what she's really like. Now I wish I had done her brutal and fierce. I think I'll do another one, maybe a few drawings too. Thanks to doing this painting I've learned about the gritty grimy world of womens' MMA fighting. I'm fascinated. Hell, Degas did the ballet - Lautrec did the circus and the nightclub scene - I think I might do the MMA world for a while. It'll really help with my learning the anatomy.

MOre in general - I think I need to switch away form the tablet now. It finally allowed me to paint successfully for the first time as far as I'm concerned - and I've developed this system (sketch, adjust it, value drawing in monochrome, then start working over it in color). Now it's time to do it in paint on canvas. I think the value drawing method is what's going to get me through - it's underpainting.

Also, I want to stop copying the exact shapes I see in a picture and instead strike lines to the bony landmarks. Need to refresh my memory on them a bit from the Hale books.

Monday, October 7, 2013


Notes --

I love this way of working from reference - but block in roughly and then keep carefully measuring and refining as you go. I used dividers right up against the monitor for comparative measurements, and also held a pencil to get the angles of lines, then slid it over keeping it as close as possible to the same angle.

Above is yesterday' progress (oct 8). Didn't do much work the day before because I was in a sleep deprivation funk - trying to switch myself to a diurnal schedule. Below is today's:

Saturday, October 5, 2013

New exercise - working from reference now

Jeff convinced me - and besides, I remember how strong my drawing got back when I used to draw from ref all the time. I was super stressed at first, but decided to quarter off the image and just block in. Amazed how well it worked..

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Waiting

Why isn't it getting darker??!

Things I've been learning, things I need to do

Ok, things I've learned lately that I need to practice until they become 2nd nature (and then 1st) :

Midtones -- run them alongside the dark shadows. Jones seems not to do this.

Greys - colorful greys. And neutrals. All the colors shouldn't be fighting each other for attention.

Start using reference dumbass. If you want to be able to work without it later, you still need to work from the actual human body to develop that essential understanding of how it really looks, not textbook theory.

Also, some conclusions I've arrived at - that I've always sort of known really :

Stop thinking of myself as a student and doing exercises - it doesn't happen until you know you're an artist and just start kicking ass.

It' a sort of alchemy between your personality, your self esteem, and your knowledge/skills. When I used to do really good drawings I always felt like I was showing off, I KNEW I was good. I never felt like I was struggling. But also I had developed the skills needed through years of drawing experience. So it's not empty narcissism, it's just an acknowledgement of your abilities.

Recently it occurred to me that the time when I stopped drawing coincided with when I got my 1st computer and got online, and I can clearly still remember how addicting it was, and asking myself how I ever got along before the internet. So it's quite possible that drawing used to be something I did to relieve boredom, and then the internet took over that position so I didn't need to draw anymore.

Also, about Jones again - it' clear a lot of his inspiration comes from cartoonists or illustrators with a very loose fun style, like maybe George Herriman (Krazy Kat) or somebody similar. Who's the magazine illustrator who drew the swaybacked fat horses and the little caveman in such a delightful cartoony style, that Frazetta borrowed so heavily from in his funny animal stuff?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Some advice from Jeffrey Jones via George Pratt

I got another email from Amazon saying they still can't get ahold of a copy of the Jeffrey Jones sketchbook I had ordered through them. so I clicked through to tell them to keep looking. Then I started searching online to see what it's going for elsewhere. Pretty steep for the most part, I guess it was a very limited print run. But I also ran across a bunch of other Jeffrey Jones stuff, including a blog entry (an epitaph really) by George Pratt from shortly after Jones' death. This is excellent stuff!! And Pratt was actually with Kent Williams on that fateful day when Jones invited the whole group of young art students to go out and do some landscape painting with him. I had heard about that story from Kent somewhere before - in one of his books I think. But I misunderstood it in part - Kent said he was a student at Pratt University (no relation, as George mentions in the blog post), and so I assumed it was a bunch of Jones' students (in fact this is why I assumed Jones was a teacher at Pratt - I was probably wrong on that count too). But rather they were a bunch of students who spent an inordinate amount of time studying Jones' paintings and trying to figure out how he did it, and when they discovered he was going to be at a nearby comic convention they went and talked to him there, filled with hero worship, and that's where he invited them.

Following are a few extracts from Pratt's excellent writeup that I personally find very relevant:

Watching Jeff paint was a revelation. We had been struggling to emulate the effects of what we saw in his works through the printed medium. His paintings look so effortless, deceptively so. They seem to be a rare balance of delicacy and density, sensitivity and energy.
When we were landscape painting Jeff started with a simple line drawing, indicating shapes and positive and negative. He was designing from the get go. We, on the other hand, were seeing too much of everything in the field. We were trying to take it all in. Jeff focused on a manageable piece and designed the hell out of it. His compositions were so simple, iconic. He worked such a simple design into a sublime arrangement of simple value structure and limited color. And he attacked the canvas! Where we thought he was being dainty and delicate he was scrubbing the painting vigorously. It was an eye opener for us.

Then, after about thirty minutes, he would wander off into the woods and vanish. We continued to butcher our pieces, struggling vainly to pull the damn things around, trying to save the parts we liked, all the while killing them. Jeff would sort of show back up and look at what he was doing, assess it, then get back to it. That was another lesson. He didn’t just keep hammering at it trying to hew it out of the canvas against all odds. He assessed what he was seeing, looked at what it needed and solved for x.

He also talked about “air”. That we’re not painting objects but the air between us and the objects. That objects were like vessels for air. And if I would severely limit my pallet, like taking just burnt sienna and viridian green and white, and go out landscape painting I’d begin to see what he was talking about. A warm, a cool and something to shift value. He said there’s no way to effectively explain it, you just had to experience it to “get it”. So I did what he said. Went out with those colors, or lack thereof, and painted. And I saw it immediately. Atmospheric perspective made more sense that day than any other.

He talked about the use of grays, colorful grays. How the grays hold it all together, “binds the galaxy together” to quote Star Wars. And then the color that you do use is important, and it has a purpose.

I remember telling Jeff how I was trying to do more work out of my head as I was feeling trapped by my reference. He understood where I was coming from but said, “My work looks the way it looks because I shoot reference. I need that information, then I can play with it.” He said it was good that I was playing with doing stuff out of my head, but that the reference gives the work knowledge it wouldn’t otherwise have. He said he never understood why artists are embarrassed to use reference. It makes no sense. The artist shoots the reference, it’s their own photos, taken with their particular eye toward composition and light.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Carlos - tonight's painting exercise

It's so good to finally be done with that massive project that took up 7 months of my life!! Now I intend to do a bunch of quick exercises. This was totally freeform, starting from a really loose rough tablet sketch. An important thing I learned (to late) on the last project - the color picker will only give you pure colors (plus greyed versions of them). So I started the painting by picking a bunch of pure colors and blending them at around 50% opacity right on the canvas, then I picked from the mixtures. Worked mostly with really big hard brushes at near 100% opacity.

Mignola and Nord

I did a recent post in which I said my holy trinity of artists have one thing in common - they're masters of figure painting and anatomy. I need to add to that - because they have a couple other things in common as well, and these guys are right in there with them. 

Design, Simplicity, Style. 

None of them generally render out detailed backgrounds, or anything unnecessary at all really. Just a powerful composition, a few figures (some only partially rendered at times), a clear narrative and clear action. The vast majority of artists - including almost all of the crappy ones - have a tendency to think they need to render everything out in complete detail. In fact they seem often to put an inordinate amount of work into utterly unimportant things while leaving the important things out, or paying them scant attention. 

One thing I notice about all of them (my favorites that is - not crappy artists) - when they render anatomy it doesn't interfere or make the pose look static. It enhances the figure, the gesture. 

I suppose they're all masters of the graphic elements of design. They know exactly what's important, they get that just right, and let everything else fade away. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Lucky break!

Since Nehwon is an alternate version of Earth and Leiber capitalizes frequently on that fact, I always wanted to try to figure out as precisely as possible where Fafhrd and the Mouser are from, to help get a fix on their national characteristics. Obviously Fafhrd is some kind of Viking, but it was never clear to me if he's from northern Germany or maybe Sweden, Finland or Iceland, which are all in very close proximity and share a common linguistic ancestry (the Germanic languages).

And while he's always made it clear the Mouser was from the south, and that it's somewhere on the shores of the Mediterranian, that covers a lot of territory. There's Italy and Greece on the north shore, and Africa on the south, with several mideastern countries jammed in close proximity there. The description stops at 'flat-faced and swart'. But how swart exactly? I always wondered, is he more like a Roman, a Greek, or maybe darker skinned and more hot-blooded?

Well, there's one story that explains it clearly. It's Leiber's first adventure he wrote about the Twain - Adept's Gambit (originally titled The Grain Ships I think). At this point the characters of the rogue adventurers were still fairly rough but definitely coming into focus, but Nehwon was not yet there - it's set on Earth in the kingdom of Alexander the Great. And, thanks to young Leiber's correspondence with and admiration for the elderly and dying H P Lovecraft, he developed a strong sense for historical accuracy. That's actually an element I dislike about the story, too much repetition of the names of countries and kings and important historical figures etc ad nauseum - but it's thanks to that completionism that he finally (?) gives the actual earthly locations for both heroes.

In Fafhrd's case it doesn't actually help - he simply says he hails from the area surrounding the Baltic Sea. Ok, that includes northern Germany and the tricorn peninsula of Sweden, Finland and Iceland. But he gives the actual city for the Mouser - it's Tyre, which turns out to be in Lebanon. I googled for the faces of some Lebanese people and found quite a few young men who look very Mouser-esque to me. Included are Adrian Monk and Corporal Klinger, as well as Keanu Reeves. So, they aren't necessarily all dark and hawk-faced (like Klinger).

I also checked a map of the Mediterranean and confirmed my suspicions that it's the Inner Sea Faf and his little buddy spend so much time sailing about, and there actually is a thin wall cutting it off from the Atlantic (Outer Sea obviously) - the real-life corollary to the curtain-wall destroyed in When the Sea-King's Away.