Saturday, June 14, 2014

Frazetta's artistic shorthand, moving through realism and blocky vs rounded form

A comparison between my latest and the painting it was derived from. Mine is very labored, with much effort toward realism and surface smoothness/modeling. I also pushed the color saturation into very near the cartoon level (computer art allows this much more than oil painting does). Both are mostly secondary colors, though his involves strong primary reds.

One thing in particular I notice, that made his much easier and mine exceedingly difficult - mine is almost all transitions, while his is almost all strong darks and lights. In fact his is blocked in roughly from a deep understanding of the human form and anatomy (very Bridgemanic) and lit in such a way that it consists mostly of the light color and the deep shadow color struck in boldly, with very little transition in between.

A big part of Frazetta's strategy involves hard raking light with very little fill light - this largely eliminates the transitions and throws everything into solid darks and lights that define form very simply.

Of course I realize it's his experience and understanding that allowed him to do this - it'll be a while before I'm capable of such simple direct statements. It's through these labored paintings that I'm developing my visual library and my understanding not only of human form but also of how painting works. So, while my eventual goal is not complete realism but a dynamic stylized and simplified approach similar to Frazetta's blended with Williams, the way to get there is to continue to do these realistic and labored paintings.

I also need to do a lot more figure drawing - both referenced and invented, as it's a much faster way to develop the figure/anatomy library. In fact I need to move beyond that and start doing thumbnails for entire compositions.

I love the fact that this breakthrough painting for me is a combination of Williams' early primary subject (Bruce Lee) and Frazetta's simplified coloring system.


Looking at my Flickr page and another revelation. That Frazetta alpha male stands alone amid a gaggle of gently rounded feminine forms. Even my males, no matter how muscular, are built from graceful smooth curves. Much more Hogarth than Bridgeman. That blocky figure is like a brick in a basket of eggs. So powerful. Now I know. It's weird how you can go so long and never notice things like this about your own work.


I just realized that what I'm doing with this post is the exact same thing I did long ago on the old stopmotion board with a thread called "Things that work well and things that don't". That thread was also about ways to work simply and directly that result in a stronger finished product. A lot of animators go to a lot of extra work to weaken their animation - for example things like making puppets realistic rather than stylized and from foam latex or silicone rather than hard marionette style materials, doing lip sync or even having talking puppets (which makes it into a cartoon or an imitation of living actors), showing puppets always walking from here to there when in live action films this is often elided with a simple cut. As I recall, the only person on the board who really got it was Trickfx*, and from that point the thread turned into my introduction to Eastern European Puppetfilm, which embodies these ideas of simplified stylization and suggestion rather than explicit copying of reality. All the extra work it takes to make puppets and sets and stories "realistic", and all it really does is take the imagination out of the equation and force the telling of "realistic" stories rather than symbolic ones, which when done right are actually far more powerful.

* Nick also got it, even though in his own work he tends toward the labored and realistic.

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