Wednesday, June 29, 2011

IMC 2010/11 Progress

With the demands of my summer classes, I'm limited to just a few hours a day to work on these, but I am making progress. The dragon piece has most of the high-flying dragons painted and screened back with glazes of titanium white. I've also worked on the rocks a bit more. The second figure from the left is still bugging me. He feels awkward and a bit off balance. His hands are also a bit chunky.

I'm also resisting the urge to add more dragons to the background behind the figures. The sky behind them feels empty, but I'm going to try to stay true to the original plan. Although, I could easily explore this in Photoshop, along with some brightly colored costumes for the acolytes and their leader.

The "Beauty and the Beast" piece got a bit of refining, mostly in the cast shadows and edges on the figure and the trunk and head of the beast. I also spent some time on the beast's ear. I may end up repainting Michelle's legs completely from the knee down. Something went terribly wrong in that area, and I've lost the sense that she's actually being cradled by the beast's tusks.
Making great progress on this one as well. And a big THANK YOU to Dan Dos Santos for suggesting a stay-wet tray for my acrylics. I've gone about three days without my paints drying out. More on my paints setup next time.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Painting Progress

I managed to dedicate about four hours to my IMC 2010 and 2011 projects. My new stay-wet painting tray is making a huge difference. That, and the fact that it's a cool day here in the East Bay. My old "Beauty and the Beast" painting has been sitting by my drawing table for over a year now. I hadn't painted in acrylics since last year's IMC. This morning, it felt like a good time to return to the piece after reworking and further developing parts of my dragon painting. I had the idea of adding evidence of wear and tear on the parts of the dragon nearest its exhaust, possibly to suggest the age or health of the monster.

The "Beauty and the Beast" piece just needs many more hours of patience and discipline. I'm approaching with a combination of glazing and opaque applications of paint, slowly finding my way.

IMC Day 4 and 5

My dragon model didn't hold up to an application of black acrylic paint, but it still proved useful along the way. I decided to start on the sky first in order to get over the initial anxiety of committing paint to the board. I had never worked much with magenta, pthalo blue or Naples yellow, but together they created a nice foundation for the sky. My paint set up was all wrong. I learned late Thursday night from Dan Dos Santos that I should work with the paints in a tray with a bed of moist paper towels. The normal palette that I always use at home was letting the paint dry too quickly. I was also starting to regret choosing not to bring my oils this time.

At this point, I took a chance on painting the shadows with a base of warm colors. I wasn't sure if these colors would end up buried under additional layers of paint, or if I might keep them like this, thus minimizing the amount of detail in the shadows.

I also found later that my camera had grossly exaggerated the head of the foreground figure. Jeff Mack kindly did a few corrections to the figure, and shared with me his cloud painting technique used with acrylics. Jeff used a vigorous scumbling technique with a round brush to simultaneously push and blend the paint. The result is texture similar to that of an orange peel.

With just one more night before the final show, I put every ounce of energy into the figures. I eventually had to accept that the piece would not be finished by the end. The priest's outstretched hand also wasn't reading well, so I painted over it with the sky color. Somehow the design of the dragon itself had also changed along the way. It was missing a shell segment near it's tail. Without it, it does look a bit more sleek and aggressive, but I would like for it to be true to the original concept. One habit I'm trying to break is that of changing things when I get to the painting phase. The temptation to make even minor tweaks is always there, but it's risky to experiment like that with traditional media.

The surface of the dragon was inspired in part by volcanic glass and bones. It looked really good when initially painted with dark, cool blacks, but the blurriness of the composite gave the low-flying dragon a greater sense of scale. Having it more in focus is what I imagined for the scene. The dragons are closer to the size of modern fighter jets, as opposed alien mother ships.

The images above are more or less where I stopped painting at 5:00 a.m. on Thursday night. The night before I had stayed up to about the same time working on a drawing for the faculty gifts organized by Tara Larsen Chang. She was kind enough to entrust me with the task of personalizing the first few pages of the Moleskine included in Boris Vallejo's gift. I found myself reverting back to my love of rendering organic forms in graphite right out of my head. The drawing went surprisingly well. Writing a dedication page was very hard. I was so nervous about misspelling something that I wrote the message in pencil first, then in ink. Then, I realized later that I had forgotten to erase the pencil. Nonetheless, it was huge honor considering how long I've enjoyed and studied Boris' work. I ended up missing the closing ceremonies on Friday at 2:00 p.m. when the gifts were handed out. I had gone back to my room to get something, and ended up taking a 30 minute nap.

Overall, IMC 2011 was yet another challenging and inspiring experience. I'm not sure if I'll go again next year. My short-term goal is to be very busy with projects and preparing for midpoint review at AAU. My long-term goal is to crank out about 10 years of strong professional work. It's time.

IMC Day 3 and 4

The first of the guest lectures on Monday were fantastic. We saw Peter de Seve, Mo Willems. De Seve has been one of my favorite illustrators for a long time. He gave an inspiring presentation at CCA several years ago, and since then I've been of his work and sense of humor. Willems, on the other hand, was new to me. I had seen one or two of his books on the shelf, but never felt compelled to pick one up. Aside from also having a great sense of humor, he has a mastery of storytelling, and shared a handful of tips and techniques for effectively pacing a story with color, text and composition.

I was able to squeeze in a photoshoot with the help of Mike Maung who sat to the left of me in the first floor studio. He posed as the dragonist priest, and I posed for the acolytes. The lights had already been broken down from the previous night's photoshoot, so we did our best with the interior lights in the auditorium. They had just enough intensity to give me some good shadows and highlights. Unfortunately, my camera was set to shoot at low resolution. The lack of a proper long lens also resulted in some distortions on some of the reference.

The next step was to create a composite of the dragon sketch and the photo reference. At this point, I was debating as to whether or not I should just mount and paint over the digital composite, or spend time drawing it again in graphite, and then fixing and mounting that drawing to my board. I opted for tracing the general contours from the composite on design vellum, and then transferring the lines to my illustration board after its layer of gesso was dry.

Drew Baker was kind enough to make his printer available to us during the week, so I was able to print a sheet of roughly quarter-sized grayscale versions of the composite, and a few sheets of reference images. I had a tough time deciding on a palette for the figures in the foreground. Should it be monochromatic, or should I separate them from the background with color? I met my goal of getting to the painting phase by Wednesday, but still had a few questions about how to proceed.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

IMC 2011 Day 2

I made some good progress today. It's already around 1:30 A.M. and I have a few more minutes of energy to share today's experiences.

This morning started with a short jog to the campus memorial, a few stairs, some calisthenics down by the baseball field. A light breakfast followed and I spend the first few hours further developing my new sketch. The cropping along with the addition of several other dragons in the sky felt like a good decision, so I stuck with it and moved on to a larger value study. Right now, the figures are the biggest challenge. My classmates have been shooting some really gorgeous reference (of some really gorgeous classmates). Details like hands, folds and facial expressions tend to look their best when done with proper reference. Tomorrow will be the day for shooting my photos.

This morning, I also followed through on my decision to at least attempt a paper model, and it was surprisingly successful. The downside was that it reminded me completely by accident that the u-dragon actually looks best when I reverse the head and tail. If I decide to flip it, I'll do the work in Photoshop to avoid driving myself crazy with yet another value study.

The value study also led to some interesting textures, and a few new ideas on what parts of the dragons might be illuminated other than the areas closest to their exhaust organs. I also have a pinch of black Sculpey 3 to help with referencing the surfaces of the dragon's shell. I'm looking forward to getting some much-needed rest.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

IMC 2011 Day 1

It's close to midnight on the first day of crits and lectures, but it feels like I've been here for a few days already. I'm not too happy with not making time to prepare a stronger batch of sketches for today, but it was a busy and hectic week back home.

I have settled on a scene with a uranium dragon (u-dragon) from my Dragonist mythos. It depicts a u-dragon in streaking overhead while congregation of Dragonist clergy and acolytes gather on a craggy cliff. My goal is to complete the drawing by Monday afternoon before starting in on the painting. Thus far, the biggest stumbling block has been in choosing a cropping for the main u-dragon overhead. The scene is fairly effective with the entire dragon in view, although most read it as an alien machine of some kind, mainly because of the overall form and vapor trail from its hind quarters. And yet again, some conflicts and doubts about the piece have already begun to set in in ways that they never did when I worked on personal pieces. Come to think of it, it is a bit too much to digest input from several people, including peers and faculty. But ultimately, it comes down to making a decision about which advice to follow.

a strong, memorable composition
a successful group scene from quality reference
a vibrant color palette
an original an inspiring dragon concept

Limits and Challenges:
1. first attempt at a major group scene
2. u-dragon design unresolved
3. dragon form reads better in other sketch

Resolutions to above:
1. Have classmates pose, or build costumes from sheets, towels, etc.
2. Silhouette is strong. should try cut paper model tomorrow, like Gurney.
3. Save it for another painting.

Lastly, I should mention that author Milton Davis (Changa's Safari) was kind enough to pen an amazing draft for a Dragonist short story called "The Signal" My original plan was to take on a critical scene from the story for IMC, but that will have to happen later this year. This collaboration has been very exciting thus far. Milton has a real talent for storytelling, and he has been very helpful in helping me to move this concept to the next level.

This year's lecture on using reference included Greg Manchess, Scott M. Fisher, and Dan Dos Santos. Each had roughly 20 seconds to explain each of their slides (an average of about ten or so) and share their process for using and manipulating reference. We also got a crash course in photographing with lights, and a fun lecture from Ian McCaig mostly focused on drawing and inspiration. After last night's lack of sleep and the general good energy and anxiety, I'm feeling a bit more relaxed tonight.

I'm going to attempt one last sketch before turning in.