Thursday, December 31, 2015

Last painting for 2015

Lol I can't understand his abs at all - I could try to paint abs off another picture - maybe I will at some point, but I'm happy enough with this to call it done and move on.

Here's an older painting I did of the same guy. His name is Wanderlei Silva (pronounced Vanderlay):

Happy New Year!! 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

OK - about those new techniques..

First I did a threshold adjustment on the reference after making it greyscale. This really helps you see exactly where to put the lights, mids and darks. I kept this open alongside the full color reference:

I worked out the basic underpainting in greyscale, and it was rough as hell for a while (this was before I decided to start working smooth)

I then used an HSL adjustment layer to turn it to a flesh base color and a few color layers to shift the tint slightly in places, so it wouldn't end up all one simple flesh color. As I did this I was careful to avoid primaries and secondaries - they tend to look cartoonish. So I went more toward tertieries and 'dirtied-up color'. I also was very conscious of the fact that all my paintings until now have weird ugly colors - I tried to make them look better. I kept my brush very transparent for this color layer work, and used a soft round brush to erase the edges so they blend nicely. Also you can see that I used some chalk brush and layered over it with hard and soft round brushes to get a variety of textures and edges. At this point I had lost the brightness of the highlights, they need to be brought back up with a Levels adjustment layer. It was somewhere around this point when I wrote my Christmas day post and decided to start working smooth, so from here I started using a combination of soft and hard round brushes with careful transparency to smooth things out. I was going to just smooth it all out completely, brushstrokes be damned! But I found I didn't need to go that far - by smoothing out to the the right amount I pulled it all together and made it look coherent and gave it a nice sense of surface, without losing the vigorous brush work. n fct it looks much more painterly like this. 

I've come to realize one of my worst problems with attempted brushstrokes - I used to set the brush on low opacity and scribble around with it, thinking it would look like brushwork. But it just looks ugly. So now I'm using my brushes on full opacity and then coming back in and making blends by semi-transparently laying one color over the adjacent one, then picking that up and using it to blend at carefully calibrated levels of transparency. For this I use a mix of hard and soft round brushes. I did throw in an occasional chalk or oil brush, but they need to be partially covered to smooth the textures down quite a bit. 

For most of my older paintings I tried to be Kent Williams, all loose and rough, but on Christmas I thought about a largely forgotten idol of mine from the 70's - Richard Corben:

For many years I believed he did all his work in airbrush, because that was stated in some comic book and was the only information available until The Richard Corben Art Book came out, when we finally discovered he actually worked in many mediums. For most of his grescale stuff he used various mixes of ink, charcoal and pencil. His really excellent full color work was in oil paint or was done in greyscale and colored comic book style using a system of overlays he invented that revolutionized comic book coloring.  Turns out his airbrush work was the stuff I really didn't like - ironic, since I bought some airbrushes and learned how to use them because of him. 

Going forward through the 90's in my Alternative period, when I went all dark and gritty inspired by alternative rock and underground comix, I lost my feel for Corben's exaggerated cartooning style and turned more toward the darker, more expressionist artists showcased in Epic Illustrated, including Kent Williams. That's when I decided I'm an expressionist and that I need to always work with vigorous agitated brushwork. That idea obviously stuck, and it was really holding me back in my growth - now I see that I need to smooth things out for learning purposes, and I can doubtless be all edgy and expressionist later. But first it[s important to learn control.

Another important influence on this latest piece is Jeff Watts. He keeps saying not to just copy the reference but to use what you know - fix those weird looking areas and make sure it has a sense of roundness and solidity, which is often flattened out in photographs. Don't just copy shapes that don't make any sense, use your understanding of lights, mids and darks, put in a core shadow if needed, whatever it takes to make it work as an image with the illusion of three dimensions. 

I also think it was vitally important that my image had a black background and I put some very nearly white highlights in right from the beginning. Without this, it's easy to get lost and think you're using a pretty full tonal range when actually it's not even close. 


Using some new approaches - too wiped out to explain tonight - I'll do it tomorrow.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Reflections and Projections @ the dawn of the new year - Developing the Body the Right Way

One thing I've done over the last year is to get myself into better shape. I started a program of improved nutrition, fat loss and exercise beginning in May, and I'd say that by now I've developed a good base to work forward from. Lost 30 pounds, built a nice base strength and overcame a few pesky problems with joints that were threatening to prevent me from power lifting. And in doing all this I've learned how the body repairs and builds itself, assuming you're giving it what it needs. It's gradual growth built from small steps taken on a consistent basis. And before any real growth can occur you need to overcome any weaknesses and reach a good base level of health - undo the damage of a lifetime of bad habits. You can't put on any muscle until you've burned off the fat, because putting on muscle requires taking in extra calories, and if you're overweight this will only make you fatter. But - and this was a revelation to me - once you've reached somewhere around 10 to 20 percent body fat, things shift dramatically, and now extra calories will feed muscle growth rather than being stored as fat (as long as you're working out hard enough).

I started off right back in May - full-on fat burning mode and strict dieting, but somewhere along the way I lost sight of that and shifted into trying to build strength prematurely. So now I'm rededicating myself to fat loss as my primary goal, and I've set my deadline - lose 30 pounds by the end of June. It's back to the intermittent fasting and salads for lunch, getting rid of all the hidden calories like condiments and cooking oils. Going low carb and limiting even apples to no more than 2 a day (there's a lot of fructose in there!) I've made December a letting go month in many respects - sometimes you need to let go briefly to get a better grip, and this will fuel a new vigor in the coming year. I've also bought a few books - the Samurai diet and the Paleo diet (which are closely related, and are lifestyle changes rather than simply diets). New books get me fired up and provide new insights and motivation.

Another factor I've learned from exercise is that deloads and refeeds are necessary. A deload is a week spent using less weight than you've been lifting, to give the muscles some time to grow and relax a bit. And a refeed (aka cheat day or cheat meal) is a relaxing of the strict dieting protocols - in other words, letting go briefly to get a better grip. If you don't do this, you'll lose your grip entirely.

I'm going to apply these principles to my art studies.

I've been having a series of epiphanies lately concerning the way I'm approaching learning art. For one, I've been trying to paint digitally with visible brush strokes, because I want my work to look like real paintings, not like airbrush or CGI. But I think it's important first to unlearn the bad habits - to develop that base strength before you can start to move forward.

Meaning I should be learning to paint smooth first. Don't worry that it looks like CGI or airbrush - it's vital to first learn to draw the body accurately in terms of structure, proportions and lighting, and that's best done clearly and straightforward, not messing with artificial brushstrokes that just make everything more difficult and time consuming. I need to instead be paying attention to the overall figure and the composition of the image, starting with the big shapes and working toward the small by stages. After getting a good handle on drawing/painting basic figures and landscapes in monochrome then it's time to start working on the other elements - color and paint handling etc. And I should doubtless learn brushstrokes while actually using a brush and real paint rather than trying to imitate them digitally.

I also need to stop letting my gestures distort and have poor proportions, which is something I learned from Mike Mattesi's Force books. I went to those books because my Mouser portrait looked so stiff and rigid (in spite of being my most well painted piece yet), and I decided I need to loosen up the figure and get a little distortion in there. But here again, I need to go to basics first and learn to draw it properly before I start with the distortions.

So today is the last feasting day (I allowed myself 3 for Thanksgiving and 3 for Christmas - December is so hard for dieting!) and tomorrow it's intermittent fasting and the new stricter diet, but with a weekly cheat meal so I don't lose my mind. It feels great to have a good solid plan going forward into the new year!!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

My new film analysis blog has dropped!

I've finally gone public with it. It was created to contain my Black Swan analysis, which has been in the works for some time. It's actually not fully finished yet (the Black Swan analysis), but then each time I think it is I end up discovering new stuff that requires further investigation and more writing, so I decided to go ahead and post it - it'll be a work in progress for some time now.

The latest post is a quick stream-of-consciousness writeup on the character web in Marvel's Jessica Jones, the new Netflix series. Turns out it's all built around abuse and trauma and how different kinds of people cope with it, which for me makes it a  very intriguing show. I love when a work of fiction is built around some theme or idea, and I tend toward the more psychological ones, so this is right up my alley. I also am strongly interested in character driven drama, and JJ is an excellent example of that as well.

So, if you're interested in that sort of thing, pop on by and check it out!!

Oh hey, maybe I should post a link!