3/22/2014

iPad sketch videos

My partner, James Baker, and I have been sketching lately from the tv, in an effort learn together as he trains to draw with his left hand. He had a stroke last year which left him without the use of his right hand, and while he recovers, we thought he might try adapting the left hand in the mean time so that he can still enjoy drawing. 

Its been a difficult challenge full of ups and downs. As artists we are so tied to our motor skills that we tend not to even think about it. It is especially scary if you earn your entire living on your professional art skills which have been perfected in a very personal way over the course of your life. As I watch Jamie improve his leftie drawing skills, I am heartened to see how much of what we must know about drawing comes from the mind. The rest is output, and although it is very difficult to train with a non-native hand, it can definitely be done.  

My own recent experiments with iPad sketches from movie compositions are in tandem with Jamie's. We figure out a show that we'd like to study, usually something gritty from the fantasy or sci-fi realm, freeze frame a shot we both agree on, and start drawing. Jamie is doing it old school with pencil, watercolor and paper while I am trying out a new (for me) sketch tool. The important thing is that we are having a blast together while learning. There really is nothing better. 

I posted a few of these in a previous post, but I wanted to also share the videos. All are shots from Game of Thrones season 3.



the final image from the above video:








Thanks for stopping by!



3/15/2014

Latest Studio Painting/1st Color Pass Finished

Sunday is my painting day. I paint from about 10 am until 4 pm, using that time as efficiently as I can. I put on my headphones, crank up the latest history lecture I've been absorbed in, and paint. My painting space currently is one of the still life stations at Sadie Valeri's Atelier, which has excellent light and overall great art vibes. I really enjoy watching new students learn and go through similar trials and tribulations I went through as an art student. The dedication and determination is so concentrated that it permeates the air and makes me feel motivated all week long. It is an experience I feel fortunate to be a part of. 


This past week I finally finished the first color pass on my latest still life painting. This pass is about establishing the main color relationships in general terms rather than details. At this point, I will go into the fine details and creating areas of focus.  Below is a series of process images from the closed grisaille state into the 1st pass color stage.


The finished closed grisaille, the 2nd underpainting that establishes a full value range. Although as an alla prima painter by training I've never separated out the value stages in this way, I've found that painting the grisaille has enhanced my understanding of how deeply value relationships are tied to color. 


Beginnings of the color pass. There is a subtle range of color going on in the light areas of the flowers. Instead of focusing on those colors, I've painted them pure white in this first color pass. 


 In this stage I am also focusing a lot on the edges of things, making edges very blurry instead of sharp in any one area.


The details on the vase are painted very softly on purpose. Later when I work on the final color pass, I will sharpen up the detail where needed, including the highlight area which falls over the flower details of the vase.


Notice how blurry the edges are all around the subject. In fact, I probably should have painted them even softer. 


After the flowers and vase hues were painted, I began working on the hue shift in the background area from the bottom left up toward the top right. This is not necessarily a smooth transition in the actual set up, but an improvement in the light pattern that I felt worked better for the composition than what is actually happening in reality.


As I moved toward the butterfly and the shadow underneath it, I roughed in the color in very simple terms making sure to leave the edges extremely soft. The tricky part of this area is going to be the glittery, shimmery surface of the wings, which are feathers that have glitter applied to them. Instead of painting all of that detail, I just noted general colors and made the upper right area pure white.


The finished butterfly. I sharpened up a couple of areas in the light, but left the rest very soft.


The finished first color pass. As you can see the background gradient is still quite rough, as are patches in the vase and flowers. All of this will be addressed in the next stage as I refine the painting.

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Meditations on Still Life Painting


 The subject matter in my painting is a little odd, I know. When I set it up, I had been thinking about the fantastic dioramas in the Chicago Field Museum and thought I'd try recreating that feeling of an artificially arranged environment. Instead of using real flowers in my set up, I crafted paper flowers which I dipped in wax to preserve their shapes. Likewise, the feather butterfly is not a real preserved butterfly, but is instead crafted. I chose to show the way I set up the still life by including the string, clothes pin and tape so that the viewer knows this is a set up and is not real.

As a modern viewer of any still life painting, the audience knows that the subject has been set up by the artist, every detail carefully composed, including the direction of the light. We have a relationship to narrative painting that is different than it was in the past.

Dioramas from the Field Museum in Chicago. Taxidermy animals displayed in an artificial environment  made to look real, depicting a certain narrative of a scene that might have occurred in real life. The images in the far background are realistically painted murals. The foliage and tree branches are silk, wood and painted plaster.


Originally, still life arrangements were not seen with the same eye as we see them now. Natural History dioramas and still life paintings were similar in that they were narrative arrangements that represented a story to the viewer about something not widely known about the world, like animals on the plains of Africa or they were representative of religious beliefs or values like in many of the Flemish still life paintings of the 16th century. Viewing these depictions in our modern era, we know more about these subjects due to availability of travel, familiarity brought to us by stories told in film, the wide use of photography in remote places, and globalization via the internet. As a result, the still life in the traditional sense now holds less importance to us as an informative vehicle than it has been in the past. 


And yet, I am an artist in this modern age who has a desire to paint elaborate and narrative depictions in the still life format, creating the cart before the horse, so to speak. I wonder if in our modern era the tradition of still life painting can bring to us something of equal value or perhaps something new and different. It is a question I am thinking about a lot as I work on this painting. 

3/08/2014

iPad Sketching

This was a rough week at Disney Interactive. 700 of my coworkers, many of them talented and accomplished artists, were subject to a massive layoff and restructure. Over half of my office, which is Disney Social/Mobile, a division within Disney Interactive, was let go. The fact is that we all knew lay offs were coming for at least three months now, making our lives incredibly stressful. What none of us knew was how drastic the cuts would be. 

I am deeply sorry to lose so many wonderful artists at Disney Interactive, ones that really should be employed at companies so they can continue to contribute to the way in which we encounter Art in our everyday lives, in games, online entertainment, mobile devices, television, and film. 

Surviving in the entertainment industry as a professional artist is difficult no matter how you cut it. If you work as an artist in games, television or film, you are constantly subject to the whims of the market and where it decides to spend money, or new technologies, or shifts in the philosophy or ownership of the company. In the 20 years I have been working, I have had to refocus my portfolio and career numerous times, first working in traditional animation, then in cd rom games, print illustration, book illustration, then web cartoons, to various platform games, to online games and now mobile gaming. I can't say that I ever feel secure. As a way to cope with that, I've found that constant study keeps me motivated and feeling in control of my artistic interests, regardless of what happens at work. Even so, it does not take away the sting I feel when fellow artists lose their jobs, as I've seen happen a lot over the years, including myself at times. I feel fortunate to survive, and also sad for Art.  

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iPad Sketching

I recently got an iPad air over the holidays. In addition to my tree studies, for some time now I've wanted to study the lighting and staging of various live action shows that I admire. So I thought I'd start with a few shows, freeze frame the shot I like and do an observational study. 

I like to use two styluses, the Intuos Creative Stylus, which has a bluetooth connection with the iPad (although I can't really tell what the difference is between when its on and when its off) and the Nomad brush stylus. I like to use them together as each has a different feel, much like I would brushes of any real life painting.


I've also played around with various apps. There are so many out there, and I'm pretty sure I've tested them all at this point. The app I like the most is Procreate. It feels like photoshop, but has the basic stripped down interface that I need for painting, and adjusts that interface to work well on a touch screen. Other apps are clunky for various reasons, but Procreate has gotten it right.


Violet Crawley, The Dowager Countess of Grantham in "Downton Abbey". 


My first few attempts were frustrating because it seems that I cannot get the brush size or shape working well enough for me. Also, there is a slight lag between touching the screen and the brush stroke that is a little distracting. Other problems include the color palette; so often the color I thought I chose in the palette is not actually the right value. 


Worf from Star Trek Next Generation. 

The above painting of Worf was a little frustrating too because I felt like I was fighting the pen controls the entire time. Also, when I exported it to my photo stream, the painting became darker. 


I then tried a bigger scene to see how it works for capturing an entire shot, not just a portrait. I found the brush controls really difficult in that case. The city in the distance for instance is really rough, not all how I was attempting to paint it, but an ok study of the general set up and lighting. 

 Game of Thrones, Season 3, episode 2. Daenerys Stormborn on her newly acquired ship headed to Astapor.



Game of Thrones Season 3, episode 3. Daenerys Stormborn after she unleashes her dragon Drogon on the leaders of Astapor. (that must have been supremely satisfying!)

I love the lighting in this shot. I struggled with the styluses in this painting, trying to use the brushes to obtain a likeness in the eyes, nose and mouth, but finally decided that I need to think of these studies as just that, color studies. 

I plan to continue on to study shots and lighting. Its so far been a pretty enjoyable exercise overall. My hope over time is to build up some color script studies from sequences in shows I like. It will be cool to put them all together to see a progression. I have a massive list of shows and films I'd like to analyze…I'll need to chip away at them a little at a time.

Thanks for reading! My next post will be about the flemish still life I am working on - lots of progress on that!