Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Saga of the Cheerio Buckle

Taking a break from grinding on this to post real quick. I've been laboring away incessantly, making lots of little changes that are almost unnoticeable, but together they make things look significantly different. This is the biggest change - what I'm calling the Cheerio belt buckle. It isn't great, but I'm starting to find techniques for painting this kind of detailed bronze ornamentation, so prevalent  in Barbarian Chic this year (well, every year I suppose). It really draws the attention instantly - thanks to the high contrast and detailed patterning - and unfortunately it looks good enough that it makes everything else look bad in comparison.

I consider it a transitional step - already I'm getting ideas about how to rework it so it won't look so wonky - or rather so it's okay to look wonky. I think stuff like this could have been forged by rather primitive artisans, and it wouldn't necessarily be precise and perfect. But the problem now is that, because I used circles arranged into what is supposed to be an oval pattern, it LOOKS like it should be precise. These are all geometric shapes. But I realized - if I just replace the Cheerios with non-geometric shapes - something like runes - then it would be ok for them to be a bit off kilter and lopsided. Nobody would even be able to tell really.

Also, because the buckle is looking so good - I'm going to let it be the new standard and try to bring the rest of the painting up to that level as well. That won't happen by New Year's Eve (unless it's some kind of New Year's Miracle!) -- but I'm looking for it sometime early next year. That's how my paintings tend to work, ya know - pick it up every year or 2 and bring it up to a new level..

Anyway, back to work on it!! Gotta re-do that sword next!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Heart of Darkness

This is just  quick and dirty demo to serve as a reminder to myself of this little trick that I (Finally!!) discovered. The lack of it has been draining my work of punch and power all this time.

If you click back and forth between the 2 pictures there's one small (but very crucial) difference - one of them has a core of gray in the deepest part of the pectoral shadow - the other doesn't. It's surprising to me how much difference that small difference makes - and it must reveal an important axiom of painting. Color actually drains away the power of a shadow for certain purposes. This is a form defining shadow - an accent to show that the form turns more sharply here, more deeply into darkness, and these accents really punch up the form where it needs it. ---- and color kills them. The shadow must be done with black, then you can fade it until it looks right, but it ends up being gray, not a darker color. Or if you want to get fancy, use the complementary color in hopes they'll balance out and create gray, but that's trickier.

This is all closely related to something I'm struggling to understand about color - how to effectively use blacks in a painting. Mine have tended to be all color with little to no black or white (or other grays), and while it can be very attractive - there's something vital missing.

Saturday, December 24, 2016


Well, I'm having a blast with the newfound skillz! Here are the latest 2 pictures. On Fafhrd (below) I'm not going to try to finish it - it began life as just a quick sketch, so the drawing itself is pretty screwed up and so are many other things about it - but I did want to see if I could fix that insanely saturated orange skin and develop more of a three dimensional feel to it. On the fighter chick above I feel like another day or 2 could carry it to a whole new level, just with the right subtle little touches - but I really wanted to get these posted by midnight on Christmas Eve - maybe I'll take it farther in the next couple of days. 

Big year-end wrap-up post coming in the next week! Stay tuned! Oh, and you might have already guessed - but I've added a couple more progress images to the last post. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016


I'm picking up one from a while ago that needs some more attention. I don't think I ever showed my photo reference - I usually don't, but this time it's relevant to something I want to explain that I'm leaning how to do. 

I should have reversed these, so the original is on the left, but oh well! I've highlighted the important factor with red lines above - the way I modified the gesture. In the picture there essentially IS no gesture - her stance is ramrod-straight. If you trace the line of her spinal column it's boringly straight - in fact so are the legs, and then the head is just suddenly stuck on at a crooked angle as if the neck is broken - there's no nice smooth transition to it at all. 

The ability to modify reference is an important one to develop - there's almost always something you DON'T want to copy from the picture, be it the lighting, the color, maybe the position of the arms, or the gesture. Changing these things represents a pretty high order level of abstraction - you need to basically imagine what it would look like if it was just a little different and draw it that way, while still retaining the information you do want from the picture. If you want to be able to do dynamic art, then it's necessary to learn how to make changes like this. 

Ok, here's what this one looked like last time I posted it:

And in its most recent incarnation. Still more work to be done but looking a lot better:

I've managed to put the emphasis on the abdominals, as it should be. Those core muscles are what is creating that powerful gesture after all, and the center of a fighter's power-base. I used lighting and color saturation to draw attention to the torso, which is a trick I learned first from copying Tiepolo paintings, and then I also noticed Frazetta uses it. Which makes sense - if you're doing heroic paintings you want the emphasis to be on power rather than personality, so you direct attention to the torso, not the face.
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12 - 14:

Important factors:
I carefully modulated color saturation across the image rather than doing a global adjustment. It has a sort of spotlight effect centered on the torso/abs area, the same focal area indicated by the strongest lighting.

Added outlines almost all the way around, which I then carefully worked - making them thicker or thinner in each area as needed. This is a Frazetta thing, and I believe he did it very naturally, coming off 20 years as a comic book inker - he had amazing control over his brushes. I notice using outlines really tightens up the image everywhere - it does away with any sense of the figure disappearing into the background in places. It also gives great control over the silhouette - the curves.

Using black really increases the dynamic range and lets you get some serious punch in, in terms of contrast. So does using some powerfully saturated colors, but controlling where you put them (and using those "colorful grays" elsewhere, as Jeff Jones recommends. I think I need more of them though).

It really came to life when I added the green wrist bands - made me realize how color-starved the image was for anything cool. So I made the bikini blue, which was one of the best moves of all.

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                                   *  *  *  *

Just about finished!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Education Train rolls on..

I've stumbled upon another amazing resource for self-education in the form of Jordan Peterson's videos. This is an excerpt from his Joe Rogan interview - I chose this to act as a demo of his work because it's about how he reconciles religion and science. Actually he also reconciles psychology, philosophy, literature, myth, and a few other things as well, and weaves them all into a tapestry that so far has kept me fascinated without ever violating rationality or veering into anything ridiculous. While he is Christian himself, he isn't dogmatic about it and he freely talks about the comparative elements - the fact that it takes stories from older religions and that God is an invention of Man, while at the same time being also a connection to something profoundly deep inside us or between us, so that while the Bible is in no way literally true, it contains some of the most profound truths known to man - in literary and mythological form. He also discusses the idea that something does not need to be literally or factually true in order to be true, in spite of what a lot of science geeks will tell you - you know, the kind who love to sneer at and argue with religious people.

When I first discovered Joseph Campbell I thought he did this sort of thing - well, I suppose he does, but when I try to read his books I quickly get lost - not sure if he's just way too smart for me or if his writing style is just opaque and difficult. But I have no problems of that sort with Peterson - every video I've watched thus far is clear and concise and packed with an amazing amount of info all presented with passion. He's obviously had a lifelong interest in just the same sort of ideas I do, but whereas I've mostly made what connections I can intuitively, he has a vast education to draw from - Freud, Jung, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Dostoyevsky, Shakespeare, Milton, and on and on - all writing some of the most profound human truths of all time.

Much of his YouTube channel consists of recorded lectures from his classes at University of Toronto or Harvard, but I believe he's also put together some using edited-in material as well as just talking to the camera. The link I posted above - and am posting again here - goes to his Playlists, which give a good idea of how the videos break down into subjects.

Ok, enough babble from me - this has either caught your attention or I'm wasting my time writing any more about it.