8/01/2019

Sketchbook Challenge!

In June I attended Light Grey Art Lab's artist residency in Norway. It was such a great experience to go somewhere remote and spend it with artists from around the world, sharing our experiences and having fun. I will never forget it! Part of what we had to do as a requirement of the residency was give a presentation about our inner art life and practice and also challenge the other artists in the residency in some way. This is my challenge, which I thought I would share publicly. 

Enjoy!



























I am posting my monthly e-sketchbook on Patreon, as well as bonus video and process on paintings while I figure out tiers. Donating $3 is a great value, IMHO. ;)

5/10/2019

Patreon

I've decided to start up a Patreon account as a supplement to my long running blog, where I write about my art process, experiences, and share images and other information regarding art. 



Since 2006, I have been writing and sharing on this blog while also working full time. These days I am taking time off from work in order to develop my personal art more fully, work that is a departure from my commercial portfolio. At the same time, I would like to continue to share and expand my art process with time lapses, video demos, materials recommendations, notes, concept development, book recommendations, class recommendations, and sharing of ideas. 


Patreon is a place where I can do more, share more, and get a little support while doing so.


Throughout 2019 I will offer two monthly tiers: 
  • thank you for your support @ $2 per month 
  • my monthly downloadable e-sketchbook @ $3 per month (beginning first week in July)


The sketchbook will be a PDF each month and will include sketchbook studies and paintings, thoughts about sketching, materials, how-to sketchbook practice, and other material that will only be offered in the e-sketchbook. I will continue to share my sketches on social media, but the e-sketchbook will be for patrons to keep, plus the bonus patreon only material.

Thank you!




3/25/2019

Sea Witch Concept Exploration

I have a few narrative ideas that I am finally working on in earnest, now that I am on hiatus from studio jobs and focusing on my personal work. One of my ideas involves a reinvention and extended version of the classic, "The Little Mermaid", focusing on the story of the Sea Witch.

For this story, I wanted to fully explore who or what the Sea Witch might look like in the aesthetic I want to create. My story has a few evolutionary versions of this character, but to start I wanted to focus on what she might have looked like during the classic tale when she meets the little mermaid.

Since I haven't done a lot of creature work in my career, I thought I might dive into an online course to see where it might take me. I found a summer online course at CGMA with Bobby Rebholz  that seemed to fit the bill for a general overview of creature invention. I'm so glad I took the course. 


The first thing we focused on was iterating. We put together pages of references for research and then had to come up with as many variations as we could, anything that came to mind immediately. This stage was really amusing; I could have gone on forever!





After submitting the sketches, we focused on picking out a couple of thumbnails that worked best. I had a hard time choosing and in the end regretted not choosing a few different thumbnails. However, going through the process was entirely worth it no matter what the result. 


This sketch, above, for instance, seems less threatening and more benign than I would have liked to express. The design is based on a manatee, who are pretty gentle creatures, and a lion fish, which are quite poisonous.


I really like the idea of a fish that has fins that come up towards it's face when wishing to appear threatening. This variation was based on salamanders and flying fish.


After we submitted ideas for a few basic designs, we focused on iterating the head. This was the class I think I got the most out of since the head is really what the characters interact with and is so memorable and impactful in dialog scenes.


These versions (above) were really fun to draw. I looked at everything from giant squid to walruses to even bats. In the end, I decided they were too derivative of Cthulu for the sea witch I wanted for my story. In my story there is another creature of the deep that I want to be reminiscent of Chtulu, so I decided to save any mouth/head tentacles for that creature instead of this one.



^^^ this page is just me messing around, to be honest. lol

Next class we focused on a few poses for the few variants. At this point I knew the manatee like creature was not really cutting it for my story, but it was still fun to draw.



While I am not entirely sure of this ^^^ design, I do like the slinky quality it offers. I also like wispy hair and head lures that might throw off unsuspecting prey in the dark. I like bioluminescence, in general, for a Sea Witch, and tentacles of some sort for arms seem creepy. When I drew this version I was thinking about moray eels, as well, which have such great faces. 



For our last class, we had to do a few studies of the final animals that we were studying as a basis of our design. I landed on the Hellbender Salamander and the Bamboo Shark as most of my inspiration points, but there were definitely some other ideas in there, too. 


And the final painting of my final design for the Sea Witch.



And a few detailed head studies and a version of the witch in full light.


Although I am most likely going to edit and revise this character to fit with my story, I am glad I went through the process of taking a creature course. There were a lot of great discussions about considerations, acting, and posing that I hadn't thought about and I learned a great process for coming up with an entirely new animal. 

I am unsure when I will be able to finish my story in full since I am pretty deeply in the process of creating a huge series of paintings, drawings and sketches around a fairy/dryad/seasons story at the moment. But I will keep picking away little by little on my Sea Witch story, as much as I can. 

Follow me on instagram and twitter, where I post every couple of days.


https://www.instagram.com/paintkatt/


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Thanks for reading!





1/28/2019

"Earth", "Sun", "Moon" Mini Series/ Process

For quite awhile I've been kicking around the idea of a series of paintings having to do with our solar system in relation to earth. Although I have a lot of ideas, I wanted to start off with a really small series that included either animals or insects each relating to the Earth, the Sun, and the Moon. After a lot of sketching and thinking, I landed on a cicada, a bee, and a moth. I chose these insects because cicadas hibernate in the earth for many years, bees are active in sunlight hours, and moths are nocturnal.

I also wanted these to be illustrations rather than scientific studies of any specific species. It was really a challenge...I messed around with embellishing each insect with symbols and landed on a few, but then altered those in the final paintings. 

All of these are drawn on heavy weight duralar vellum, a surface I really like for graphite studies. The warm tone you see underneath is a table top.



I gilded each 6x6 panel in three metal leafs, copper to represent the Earth, Gold to represent the Sun, and Silver to represent the moon. (I ended up double gilding the copper panel to remove the seams you see in the photo)


I should note here that these panels are all oil gilded rather than water gilded. Oil gilding involves applying oil size and allowing it to dry for a specific time before adhering the metal leaf. Water gilding is a different process that yields great results, too, and is often used for making very slick and shiny surfaces, which I wasn't necessarily interested in for these little pieces. Also, I gilded the panels straight onto a white gessoed surface instead of applying a base color (typically called a "bole"). 

I scanned my drawings, made line drawings in photoshop, then printed out the designs to the specific size I needed, and then transferred them to the gilded panels. This time I used white graphite transfer paper so that the line work could show up against the metal leaf. 



I painted a closed grisaille underpainting first so that paint adhered to the surface before adding color. I'm glad I did because the metal leaf was slick to paint on, requiring some layers of paint as a base before adding color.



One really cool thing about the metal surface is that it reflects light even in the middle of the night with all of the lights turned off. I tried to capture this a bit. (Sorry for the shaky cam!)



After the grisaille under paintings were finished, I moved to detail color work. I found with each one that balancing the transparency of the wings for "Earth" and "Sun" against the metal leaf was quite difficult. I probably spent more time working on the wings than any other aspect of each painting. It was also difficult to gauge the color structure while painting because the shimmery metal leaf would change during the day and change the nature of the color. In some cases I repainted the color layer twice in order to adjust.



Varnishing these paintings took a few tries, as well. I ended up reapplying the varnish and stripping it a few times. I think a matte varnish works really well with these. The metal leaf still looks shimmery and the painted surfaces end up having a nice matted quality that contrasts well.

The finished paintings, "Earth", "Sun", "Moon".




I plan to continue this series with larger pieces later this year, which I am very excited about... For the mean time, I am in the midst of two more gothic themed paintings, one of which you can follow along with on instagram and twitter:



Thank you for reading!

1/24/2019

"Ancient Grief" plus process

Participating in Inktober for the past two years has really been helpful in improving my inking techniques and exploring new ways to render a subject in ink, and it has also been pretty great for generating ideas that I'd like to develop further. This painting, "Ancient Grief" came out of a series of sketches I did as prep for Inktober while I was thinking about a connective narrative for all of the pieces for the month.


"Ancient Grief", oil on gessoboard panel

For the past few years I have been waking up around 5:30 am. After I get some coffee, I spend a few hours drawing in my sketchbook in the living room, usually while listening to ambient music on my headphones. I've found that if I don't think too much about what to draw, subjects begin to tumble out of my mind. This entire series of sketches was one of those mornings. 

Apparently I am not alone in this experience. Many artists and writers dedicate their early morning hours to their craft and have reported it as a unique period of productive creativity. This short article sums it up pretty well: Why You Need to Write First Thing in the Morning.  

Early morning sketching has therefore been at the very core of finding images that resonate for me and is a sacred part of my process. 



Most of these sketches ended up being a part of a larger narrative that I used for my Inktober pieces, a story that I've not finished. I wrote about my last inktober series here.

But one sketch in particular stood out as something I'd like to paint rather than ink; it had an extra sense of mood and emotion that brought it into a different realm than the other sketches. I developed it as a larger sketch in order to figure out more details and think about a composition that might work as a painting.




After the sketch was finished, I transferred it to a panel using saral graphite transfer paper. (Next time I would rather use an oil transfer for this step, which I'll talk about that in later posts.) This time instead of painting on a white board, I decided to tone the entire canvas with raw sienna, yellow ochre and white, and then painted in the rough shadows before going into color.


For the palette, I chose a pretty limited palette of Natural Pigments Lead White #2, Lead Tin Yellow, Yellow Ochre, Cad Orange, Raw Sienna, Transparent Red Oxide, Burnt Sienna Raw Sienna, and Italian Green Umber. 


Originally, I was going to use the exact same limited palette of custom mixes I made for my Seasons series (as described in my last post), but I thought instead I could just create the mixes in a close enough range to match that palette on the fly. 

Also, I wanted the keep the focal point on the emotion of the scene and didn't want to distract from the color of the character. I wanted the fairy to have rich red hair and pale skin, similar to some of the Pre-Raphaelite paintings I had just seen at the Palace of Legion of Honor in San Francisco. 


This painting by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, "Bocca Baciata", 1859, had such a beautiful contrast in the hair and skin that I wanted to see if I could create a similar contrast and delicacy in my painting.

Although she is laying on a bed of fall leaves, I thought I would depict them as a monochromatic drawing rather than paint them in full color. Originally I wanted the leaves to be much more loose and sketchy, but after I painted the fairy and the bone, it seemed like I needed to tighten up the leaves...so they became sort of a monochromatic painting in the end.


Hard to believe, but fairy wings and insect wings are really time consuming to paint. At first I thought they might be the easiest to paint, requiring just a few highlights and accents to make them feel transparent. However, I ended up fiddling around with the details quite a bit to get them to look shimmery, and honestly I still feel like they aren't shimmery enough. (This reason alone is probably why I will make a billion more fairy paintings...)

Since this painting is connected to the story of my inktober pieces, I am going to continue along with these paintings and more inks throughout this year. Stay tuned for more and follow along! 



If you've made it this far down the page, thanks for reading!