Saturday, July 26, 2014

Friday, July 25, 2014

Attempting constructive drawing

Why is this so hard? I thought I understood how to do it - hell, I've done it before!! But for some reason now I'm all freaked out by it and feel like I have no clue. Putting planes on the face where all I see are smoothly curved surfaces feels like randomly deciding where to draw corners on a ball..

Monday, July 21, 2014


Tonight I suddenly decided I've been doing what I've been doing long enough. Basically that was just to get used to digital/painting/color/ and to build up my visual library and consolidate my understanding of anatomy by working from reference. The 3 imagination pieces I've done are really weak, not at all like heroic fantasy art! I've really had something like this in mind since I did the Frazetta piece recently, studying the way he works and slowly absorbing it. He paints like a comic book artist (not surprising, since that's what he was).

I did a bunch of sketches working out a pose, and after I found a decent one I had to draw it several more times until I was happy with it. I really need to work on my techniques for constructive drawing/painting!! So that's my course now for a while.

Saturday, July 19, 2014


Barely even did a sketch for this, then just dove in to color. Amazed it's coming out at all really. Reminds me of one of those paperback covers from the 60's done in gouache - I like the saturated look of it.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Calibration required… ?

Well I discovered today that apparently other people see my paintings very differently than I do. Pindurski did a paintover with little arrows and circles all pointing to various areas in the solid black background and said some are nearly black, some are grey, and on his monitor the difference is very clear. I had to crank up the brightness on mine until it literally hurt my eyes, and then I could see it.

I do keep my monitor turned way down to nearly as dark as it goes - not only is this supposed to increase the life of the display (the part that tends to break down first on iMacs - it's always been the case for mine), but it's a lot easier on the eyes as well. If I turn it up halfway the white web pages are blazing like the surface of a 100 watt lightbulb.

And suddenly a conversation I had recently with Bri in the Sky makes a lot more sense!! He had done a dark queen painting that looked really murky and too dark to me, even her lightsabers looked dull like the batteries were burning out. I adjusted some things and posted it, and he was shocked at how ridiculously bright I had apparently made the whole thing.

So I ordered a Spyder monitor calibrator today. They apparently adjust black levels as well as just color, so maybe that's going to do the trick. Or maybe I need to crank up the brightness and turn my monitor into a spotlight a couple of times on each painting to make sure my blacks are really black and there are no hidden surprises in there that I can't see..

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Taking another look at Kent Williams

Now that I've been learning some new things about painting, and especially because I'm starting to work loosely, it's time to re-examine KWMS. I'm actually pretty surprised at how carefully and accurately rendered his figures are - especially the outer edges. No matter how loose or crazy his technique might seem to be, those outer edges are meticulously and precisely drawn. Also his flesh painting technique is not as crazy as it seems at first glance. Usually what seems to be wildly splattered or slashed paint turns out to actually be carefully controlled for the most part, and even blended down to the necessary amount to make it hold together rather than fall apart into a mess.

That crazy coloring on the neck and chest - if you're looking at the face which is the focal area, it sort of visually blends into a nice flesh tone. And of course the strong black shape surrounding it contains it. As long as he maintained the strong contrasts of darkness around the outside and light values within it's going to work. I think it's because of that strong outer black shape that he was able to get away with such wild paint work inside. And of course some of the obvious brush marks of blue/white on the face are because it's makeup sitting on top of skin. But looking at just the edges both interior and outer, they're very carefully done. It's clear he maintains a careful balance of good technique with wildness, and I suspect he has a plan for how to keep it from getting too wild.

How much is distortion, and how much is realistic depiction of an extremely skinny model? The hand is obviously exaggerated in a very Egon Schiele way, but the painting on it is again careful and accentuates the solid form and shapes.

In his drawing you can really see the precision of line and shape. Slightly exaggerated I suppose - it's hard to tell really. Is the exaggeration on this one mostly just in the background? I think there's a little on parts of the arm and hand. Was it just the little bit that he was unable to avoid, or was it deliberate? I'm going with the theory, at least on this one, that he mostly tried to be as accurate as possible but a little wobble crept in here and there.

EDIT - it's also clear that he draws very directly, for the most part putting bold lines down and not going back to change anything unless it's really off. This is very different from those artists who draw very light guidelines and carefully check proportions/measurements before beginning to solidify it. So he seems to use a rather organic approach - state it boldly but with every intention of complete accuracy, and then mostly go with what results. If something is slightly off he doesn't seem to worry about it. There;s a strong element of improvisational commitment in how work, it seems to serve as a recording of his attempts, his state of mind when he did it. Almost a form of performance art. Rather similar to straight-ahead animation really. Get into the right headspace and go. If something goes off a little keep going, if it all goes wrong scrap it and start over, or bust out the eraser.

Aside from the deliberate dismemberments the figures are done almost completely realistically. The wildness and distortion is almost all in the background.

Looking back now at my latest, that hand is really sloppy!!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Time to get loose

A little searching turned up the website of Xia Taptara (who did the tutorial in the last post) @, where I discovered a writeup he did on loose painting. I suppose I was picking up on the fact that his technique is a bit different from the usual digital/concept art approach - he says he goes for a more 'analog' looking style based on Frazetta, Zorn, Waterhouse, and Sargent. Well I'm extremely glad I stumbled onto this today, I really needed it!! If I would have continued to think of this as strictly a concept art/digital illustration thing I wouldn't have the right attitude toward it, it would feel artificial to me. Lol ok, ignoring the irony of that. But THIS I can sink my teeth into with gusto!!

And it's not just a modern art thing either - painters have always worked like this - it's just that the classical ones mostly refined it to perfection afterwards, though Titan and a few more were known for leaving non-focal areas pretty rough. It's really just an alla-prima approach; direct painting. And very Kent Williams.

Note to self - liking the Thick Heavy Brushes for this - smoother round so far.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

John Singer Sargent painted like a concept artist??!!?!

Over on I keep seeing this particular approach to digital painting that I think of as a specifically concept art/digital illustration thing, you know, very loose where you can see all the edges, partially transparent strokes etc. Like above. I've resisted this approach because my influences are mostly from the 60's and 70's and art history. But I was intrigued because I like the way people build form using this technique - each brushstroke defining a single plane. Very quick.

Then watching this video I suddenly realized - it isn't really just a newfangled digital art thing - it's just loose painting, like Sargent and many others have done. Oh, well that's different then!!

One thing I remember quite well from long ago was a PBS show with a woman teaching how she paints. Wish I remembered her name or the name of the show - I only ever saw the one episode. She painted very loosely, effortlessly. She said people ask her all the time how to do it, and they aren't interested in learning all the other stuff, they just want to be able to paint loose. But she said the first step is to learn how to paint well - realistically and in detail. The second step is to get a lot of experience doing that, and eventually you'll have absorbed all the lessons of art to such an extent that finally you can paint loose. Reminds me of my favorite Dave Sim-ism - "First you get good, then you get fast, then you get good and fast".