Sunday, January 29, 2017


Done with Clip Studio Paint because I prefer the way it lets me draw over Photoshop.

*   *   *   *

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Taking Fafhrd Farther

I can't help myself - I need to just keep working on this one, trying out different painting methods and ideas.

This is probably my favorite version (above).

I don't know - it was looking pretty good, but it's getting kind of pale and delicate looking. In some ways it's an improvement though - it's looking more unified now. 

But really I must say I prefer some of the earlier versions. Ok, time to stop on this one! I feel like I've developed a lot of new tricks and can make bodies look more solid and three dimensional now. And all this practice is definitely helping. 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Refurbishing Fafhrd --- Squaring Up

I got disgusted with the previous version of this painting due to the items I listed in the critique (last post), so I decided to try to fix it. When I did that version I was doing what I had always done in pencil, only in full color now and using a stylus and tablet. That's why to me it looks more like a fully rendered drawing rather than a painting, or like an airbrushed picture. But that's not what I want my work to look like. So this post details my attempt to correct it according to my critique.

First I just wanted to punch in some real darks - all the way to black in the darkest shadows. And I needed a lot more middle value colors - I noticed the previous version went rapidly from darks to lights with very thin zones of middle value - another factor that makes it look weak. Also, rather than work with soft round rushes and lots of transparency from the beginning, I wanted to start with some hard edged opaque brushes, make some good hard edges and definite shapes, and then blend them as much as needed later, only where necessary.

Pectorals still looking booblike due to roundness...

Much better! 

The big form shadow still had curves in it though. It was fighting the more squared-up form I was going for. 

So I squared that up too. Blocky, baby! Oh yeah!

I'm being careful to light the planes properly - darker or lighter according to where the light source is. Those planes facing directly toward the light will be the brightest, and as they turn away they get progressively darker until they fall into shadow. You can see this clearly in the three tiers of the abdominals. The middle row is more downward-facing, so darker. 

Then it was largely a struggle to bring back in some roundness, but built around the planes and corners I had established - so more like subtlely curved planes with gently rounded corners rather than curves all over. 

Dropping in a few surface details goes a long way toward making it look more finished.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017


Somehow the thin lines - outlines and for instance under the pectorals or between the abs - make the image look weak. So do the colors. And the anatomy and figure look very strange - I really do need to get to the figure drawing and learn what people actually look like. I'm drawing an assemblage of parts - like a mannequin pieced together - ribcage, pelvis, arms, legs, head - all joined weirdly and somewhat mismatched. Especially at the big joints - the waist and where the limbs join the torso. Shoulders especially are difficult - they're so free floating it's hard to understand how they're really supposed to work. Drawing a lot from photos or life will help with all that.

On color - I'm thinking about it a lot since doing this one. I need those colorful grays! I'm using mostly primaries and secondaries - cartoonish colors. What I need a lot more of is the tertieries - the mixtures of a secondary (orange, green or purple) with its complement (the primary opposite it on the color wheel - for instance red is the complementary of green etc). Tertieries are subtle complex colors that are hard to identify - you can't just instantly say That's a pink, or a yellow, or whatever. So they're the colorful grays - also known as dirtied up colors. They make a painting look more realistic because they're less saturated.

I think one of the reasons I tend not to use them is that you can't get them out of the Photoshop color picker. Unless there's some trick I'm not aware of (there are many!) - all I can get out of it is primaries and secondaries - so I need to grab a complementary to some color that's already on the painting or make a floating palette and mix colors on, and blend them together, then paint with it.

Also I need to use a lot more black and white. In fact, I want to do some exercises by starting with a bold line drawing done in black, with the darkest shadows filled in solid black, and put down a middle value color and then white for the highlights, and paint it up from there. That way I won't be afraid to drop in those full blacks and whites, which is a problem for me. If you don't have them already on the image, your eye fools you into believing you have a good full range of values. Until you compare it side by side with another picture that actually has a full value range, and suddenly you see how woefully inadequate yours is!

*    *    *    *

When you see one of these ^ it means some time has gone by since I finished the post but I'm adding some info. And if it's been more than a day I'll add the date. 

I also realized the simple curves everywhere make it look feminine. Which is sort of appropriate actually because this is a very young Fafhrd, and according to the stories he looked like a girl when he was young. This would be slightly after that, in the late teens I suppose or very early 20's, when he was getting big and beginning to brawn up a bit. Later in life he would become more typically masculine, requiring very different shapes and paint handling techniques. 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Fafhrd Through the Ages

Here's a progression years in the making - beginning in 2014:

There are qualities about this version that I really like - in particular the gesture and the vigorous powerful brushwork, plus the strength of the color, though that orange is overpowering, isn't it? I think it's a very successful sketch, but always wanted to upgrade it.

Then, just a few days ago, I dusted it off and put in some more work, wanting to see what I could do to it with my upgraded 2016 skills.

This is how it currently stands. It isn't really finished - I wanted to get as much done as I could before the end of the year and get it posted - I may or may not work it some more. Not sure because no matter what, there are fatal flaws with this one that I can't fix, like the stupid J. C. Penny's catalog model pose. Weird thing about it - in many ways I like the previous version better. Because it's so smooth now he looks tender and delicate - and I've completely lost the gesture - the spine has become stiff and straight. But the important thing - I'm really advancing my ability to paint airbrush-smooth, bringing it all up to Ultra-HD resolution. Crisp and clean, with no caffeine! That's really allowing me to work the form and the surface, and I'm also getting increasing control over every aspect of color. Plus thanks to the aforementioned Cheerio Buckle saga, I'm now using my improved dexterity for some much more precise and detailed detail. 

Really I don't like this one much. I see it as a transitional piece. I'm halfway to being able to combine the airbrush smoothness with the chunkier, more powerful approach, and hopefully to do it all faster and better. But until then, I guess I'll be making a few weird paintings like this one to develop my control. 

Oops - I took too long making this post - it's 2017 already!! 

*    *    *    *

A thought -- the smooth painting, at least as I'm doing it here, represents the materialist aspect of things - form, surface and light rendered as theoretically perfect - making the body into a mannequin or action figure (or a CGI model). The more painterly or what I'm calling chunky or loose painting is attempting to depict the metaphorical - the spiritual or ethereal, the atmospheric or the inner nature. You must develop skill with both and learn how to combine them in a way that works. It's similar to the differences between prose (prosaic or practical/utilitarian writing) and poetry; the metaphorical/essential/ethereal art of writing. They're two different modes of thought, two different filters for interpreting the world and its meanings, and today it's most common to use either one or the other and to see it as bitterly opposed to the other. That's one of the things I fondly recall about the 60's and 70's - the artists commonly understood how to combine both modes. The world we live in today unfortunately seems to be characterized by divisiveness. 

*    *    *    *