Monday, April 23, 2007

Sarah Study

The painting at the end of the live session with the model.

The final image, finished and embellished from memory.

Our return engagement of the pose seen in the prior post "Life Painting 4-15-07" took place yesterday morning--I chose another viewpoint and did a small study on a square canvas panel. I decided to try a quiet, flat decorative approach--this is really a colored drawing more than a rich layered oil painting. I don't know why, but I felt an impulse to make a pleasant design rather than strive for the intense optical observation of Sarah existing alive in space that I chose to pursue in the earlier life painting sessions of the front view of this pose.
I took a snapshot of the painting at the end of the modeling session, then worked on it from memory for another hour or two. I concentrated on the figure, and abstracted the background and chair into pleasant shapes. The result is a decoration image of slightly stylized forms, very light in emotional content.
It's odd how various your moods can be in almost identical situations, and surprising how directly the act of painting will reveal them. I didn't want to struggle with this piece, I wanted to relax and amuse myself--so I made a painting devoid of much psychological resonance. It's just a pretty picture, but there seems to be room in my personality for many levels of expression--in fact my head feels pretty crowded at times!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Dr Syn, Alias the Scarecrow

The rough pencil and final color versions of the
introductory image that began the painted
series--the gallows was deemed a bit
too grim, so we replaced it with Scarecrow's
compatriot Curlew. These costumes are fun to paint!

On page six the first two panels have been combined into
one in the final art, which improves the clarity and flow.

I strengthened the watercolor and gouache with Dr Martin's
Tech Inks on this story--evident here in the intense yellow
around the candle flame.

As you scroll up, the small pencil layouts for each
page are followed by the final painted art. I changed
the splash (first) page considerably from the rough
layout because the shape relationships seemed too
static--the contour of the Scarecrow's shoulders is
too similar to the horizontal lines of the house and cliff.

A snapshot of the story pages near completion in my studio.

A few years ago Disney Adventures Magazine comics editor Steve Behling approached me about illustrating Pirates of the Caribbean stories, and I began collaborating with writer Michael Stewart on one of the delights of my career as a visual storyteller. We created a string of a dozen or more short stories full of rollicking adventure laced with humor, featuring everybody's favorite pirate Jack Sparrow. Michael never failed to strike just the right balance of wit, whimsy and excitement in these little gems of entertainment suitable for comic readers of every age.
Along the way I suggested we bring another colorful Disney swashbuckler into our Jack Sparrow adventures--the marvelous Scarecrow of Romney Marsh as portrayed by Patrick McGoohan in the terrific three-part television series from 1963, Dr Syn, Alias the Scarecrow.
We introduced the Scarecrow into our Sparrow storyline just before a decision was made to generate all Pirates of the Caribbean comic book material from European studios--but thanks to the determination and efforts of Steve and fellow editorial true believer Jesse Post, Michael and I were soon reunited on new Scarecrow solo adventures. My affection for the character demanded a special treatment to present him to a fresh audience--I realized I had to paint the pages! Steve indulged me and it's been so much fun visualizing Michael's inspiring stories, I still find it hard to believe Dr Syn and his heroic alter ego are looking back at me from my drawing board--it's a lucky project!
I've scanned the layouts and final art from one of the stories, along with the splash page from the first story of the series.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Life Painting 4-15-07 (Part 2)

Here is the final stage of today's session. The
painting isn't finished, but I have repositioned
her right foot and refined the forms, color and
tone over most of the figure. The group is meeting
again for the same pose next Sunday, but I may add
a few final touches to the above painting in my
own studio, choose a different viewpoint next
week and start a new painting.

I worked on her left leg, right arm and face
for about three quarters of the session today
and then remembered to take a snapshot
of the progression.

We met this morning at Whisky Row Artist's Trio for another three hour painting session of this beautiful figure pose. I was a little slow hitting my stride at the outset but after 30 minutes or so I began to feel engaged, and am pleased with the results. It always difficult to return to a painting in progress--your mood, focus and energy have shifted and you must decide if you will attempt to preserve the feeling and attitude of what you've already put on the canvas or follow your fresh mood and discover what direction the painting will take. I usually choose the second path and did so today.
I did quite a bit of work with the palette knife, though I applied the paint thinly, creating a syrup-like consistency by dipping the knife in walnut oil and stirring it into the paint on the palette. By using knives of various sizes it's possible to paint a very smooth finish and create soft edges this way, dragging the paint along the canvas and pressing it into the surface to obtain a flat application.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Life Painting 4-14-07 (Part 1)

A snapshot of the painting so far--this
state represents about
two hours of
physically moving paint on the canvas.

A snapshot of the painting-in-progress
and studio/model stand setup.

I began an oil painting from a model today at the atelier of three fellow artists, Bruce Fee, Fred Poore and Gary Melvin, known collectively as the Whiskey Row Artist Trio. One of our favorite models curled into a lovely pose she recreated from an earlier gesture/short pose session held months ago. I brought in my original drawing of this pose to use as a guide, every artist attending today found a viewpoint they favored---and away we went!
I started this piece slowly, using burnt umber to streak in large masses of tone, then wiping them back out and restating the large shapes until I felt both the gesture and the composition were working well. I then mixed a batch of a cool blue-tinted gray on my palette and blended this as needed with the warmer colors to lower the tones and keep the hues quiet and harmonious as I began refining the forms and light and dark shapes. After painting for several years with student grade Daler Rowney Georgian oils, I've switched to artist's quality M. Graham Oils, which contain much finer and stronger pigments. The unaccustomed strength of the Graham paints requires careful mixing on the palette to control the tonal values of the colors and avoid an (in this case) unwanted circus poster intensity. The rich luster of the Graham pigments aren't muddied or dimmed by this mixing though, they retain a subtle radiance even in very low tonal harmonies.
We meet again tomorrow morning for another three hour session--I'll post the results.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Adam & Eve Progression

After a few doodles,this composition sketch
seemed to express the idea best.

In the initial block-in I drew the figures, tree and background
with loose washy strokes of diluted oil paint, over a canvas
panel pre-toned a cold turquoise blue . The main goal here
was capturing the telling attitudes and gestures of the "actors"
and arranging the shapes of the composition effectively.

Here details of form, structure and modeling have been
added--the snake's gesture has been sharpened, and a bit
of anatomy built up in the figures. The tree structure is
vague, and the color and tonal scheme is still undecided.

Now the entire picture has been lowered in tone and the
contrast heightened to focus attention on the characters,
especially Eve and the Snake. I've adjusted details of acting,
anatomy and pose; the snake's hands and body, Adam's right
arm, Eve's face and hands, and I've repositioned Eve's legs
slightly. The structure of the tree is better. One more good
painting session may finish this piece--it needs a final pass
to harmonize tones and color, and add subtle finishing details.

A while ago I was invited by my friend Bill Wray to join him in a show of cartoony humorous animal paintings at Lunar Boy Gallery in Astoria, Oregon. I did seven pieces (view images here), but didn't complete this Adam and Eve picture because I decided to exclude human animals from this set of paintings.
Above are snapshots of this fantasy image in progress--I need another session or two to finish it, I'll post them as I proceed.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Casein Still Lifes of Dolls

In my studies of the history of illustration I often saw casein paintings, including many originals in the cavernous attic of my friends Walt and Roger Reed's old Illustration House headquarters on Water St. in Norwalk , Conn.. I was eager to try this milk emulsion based medium, but it was obsolete and could no longer be found in art stores by the time I came along.
Recently this medium was reintroduced by the Jack Richeson Co. under their Shiva brand, and I immediately purchased a set of colors and began to play. I love the peculiar handling characteristics and warm matte surface of this medium!
For the past several years I've done an image or two of spooky character dolls for the Halloween window of the Arts Prescott Co-op Gallery . I love the designs of the Tim Burton stop motion characters from The Nightmare Before Christmas and The Corpse Bride films and usually paint still lifes of one or more of the articulated dolls I have. Above are a few of them.

Watercolor Life Drawings

I returned to semi-regular life drawing in the late 90's after a dry spell of about ten years--I began with dusty mediums--graphite, charcoal, prismacolor pencils--but eventually I wanted the speed and flow of wet media. This urge prompted my first real exploration of watercolor--I started with a cheap children's craft set of cake watercolors in a tin, then a fellow artist I met in the class suggested I invest in a set of M. Graham's beautiful watercolor paints and buy sheets of actual watercolor paper. (Before that I was painting on the pages of an ordinary sketchbook).
The results were rejuvenating! I became enamored of the glorious spontaneity inherent in watercolor and have since painted hundreds of life sketches in this delicate medium. Above are a few examples.

Portraits of Exhaustion

The two self portraits above were painted
in March as a release from several months
of nearly unbroken grinding effort to finish
print projects. The gaunt bleak-eyed visage
is an accurate portrayal of the state of spent
energy I was suffering from. I painted it the
day after I'd worked a continuous 36 hour session
to finish a project. I'd slept about six hours
and decided to capture the dead stare of the
zombie I saw in the mirror. Its not a very
pleasant painting, but it's certainly honest!
The second smiling portrait was an attempt
to nudge my attitude back toward my usual
cheery demeanor. ( I think the eyes still
look exhausted though.)

Dead Rose Tea

My wife ordered a pair of these Jack Skellington
mugs through some sort of coupon promotion
that accompanied the film's original release.
They took so long to arrive (nearly two years!)
that we'd forgotton about them until the package
came. I gathered some withered roses from
our front yard and tackled this still life
with thick paint and palette knife.

Popeye Still Life

I began this painting as a demo in the co-op
gallery I belong to,
I used mostly palette knife except for the anchor
tattoos and the lettering on the spinach can.

Blue Tea Cup

This painting is a favorite of mine--it seemed to
complete itself while I watched from an interior
distance and the mood it evokes is a
reflection of the emotions that inspired
its creation.

Still Life with Curious George

My friend Mike Manley and I both painted this still life
set-up while he was visiting Arizona after attending the San Diego
Comic Con a few years ago. I was fascinated by the various textures
of the different objects--especially the wavering lamp flame!

Dead Jay

I discovered a still-warm jay in my driveway one morning as I was taking out a bag of trash--other than a missing tail the bird seemed whole and unmolested. He inspired this somber little thanatopsis.

Recent oil paintings

Made In China
The severe expression of this small clothed doll
I found in a thrift shop captured my fancy--I imagined
I could feel the resentment of the assembly line
worker forced to paint an endless stream of these
small masked portraits.

Although I've been a complusive sketcher since childhood and have always drawn from life at every opportunity, over the last few years I've made time to paint for no other purpose than to express my own spirit. I've been fortunate in my illustration career to earn a living as a visual storyteller, and I love to bring a narrative to life through artwork, to animate and understand characters and explore their emotions and behavior in myriad situations. I expect to tell stories with artwork for the rest of my life, but I can't deny the intense pressure of creating vast amounts of intricate drawing under deadlines--often unreasonable ones--has lost the appeal it held in my eager adrenaline-charged youth. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m choosing projects carefully and arranging the rest of my affairs and responsibilities to allow me to give my best at a pace I can enjoy.
This improved schedule is also driven by the desire to draw and paint as a window to my intimations, to make visible my reactions to stimuli and experience free of the specific parameters that shape hired work.
The pictures above were painted from life over the last few years, usually during a brief respite from a pressing deadline. With each painting I am more amazed at the subtlety that can be expressed with oils—the medium draws forth ever more sensitive perceptions as you paint because it is so responsive to every whim and observation. Although I love watercolor and casein for the unique results possible with each, oil is the richest medium for the painter.

Pencil and wash studies

Two other studies from the same session as the prior post--the leaning pose is strengthened with a bit of black watercolor wash.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Two Pencil Studies

These two drawings were done several months ago--late 2006 I believe. This model is a favorite of our life drawing group--she's gifted with an inherent grace that inspires a beautiful image from every pose.

Sepia Ink Life Drawings

These three life drawings were done in sepia ink with an old fashioned steel nib dip pen (Gillott 303) and sable brush. It was a bit nerve racking because there was no chance to correct a mistake or backtrack over a line too many times without irretrievably damaging the paper, but for some reason I had the impulse to tackle the sessions tightrope style, with no net. I had to work slowly but it was a good bout of discipline, though I probably won't attempt it again for a while!

Conte, pencil and wash on gray paper

Conte on pale paper

This drawing was done in 15 or 20 minutes using conte crayon on very light gray toned paper, with a touch of white gouache to catch the sparkle in her eyes.

Opening Chat

The initial post of this blog (March 20) was my foray into the blog world, instigated as a step in learning to revamp and maintain my website. I didn't expect so many days to pass before delving into regular posting, but I intend to begin a constant flow now--so here goes!
I'm balancing various pursuits at the moment, and enjoying them all--after more than two decades of an almost constantly exhausting pace of producing thousands of images for countless clients in many fields of commercial art, I've recently moved into a new pace of choosing projects that inspire me to my best effort through some particular attraction of the subject matter. I'll be posting art from some of these works over the next few days, but today I'm sharing some of the personal work this new slower pace has allowed me to explore. Above are examples of recent life drawing sessions--a welcome chance to play with various mediums and relax into a study of the beautiful nude human body, unpressured by deadlines and format restrictions---