Saturday, September 17, 2005

Progress From the Front Lines 9/16/05

Well, I tried to get this up by today, but technically I'm typing this sucker in the wee early hours of Saturday, the seventeenth. So sue me.

Like I had mentioned in the earlier post, a lot of the original printed image was lost in the process of mounting the drawing paper. So, this is where my drawing skills come into play. For drawing onto my mounted drawing paper, I use Winsor Newton soft vine charcoal. I prefer the Winsor Newton brand because it's better quality, and usually very consistent throughout. I use vine charcoal simply because it's great for drafting and easy to correct; usually you just brush it off. Since it is so easy to remove, be careful not to lean against it and make care to not rub against is with your hands or arms.

Now, using a second enlarged copy I had from Kinkos, I referenced key points to rebuild the lost portions of the drawing. This technique is really the foundation of all realistic drawing. Before knowing this stuff I was alright on my own, but after learning how to measure stuff up, I think my drawing abilities have become much, much better.

The key to it is referenced distances. You may see the often mimicked look of an artist holding up his thumb to the subject he is drawing; but do you know what is actually taking place? In short, the artist is using that thumb as a ruler, and making note of the distance between key points on the subject. Any point will do as long as it distinguishable in both the subject and the drawing. These distances must also be vertical or horizontal in nature. Diagonals are too tricky to judge, but you can easily make sure something is level vertical or horizontal by using a level or even something like a plumber's line.

I really should have drawn up a quick diagram for this, but I'll just stick to explaining it for now. If you have questions or too many people tell me this doesn't make sense, I'll edit this posting with some visual aids.

If you take a look at the photo, you can see that I have some vertical and horizontal lines running on my drawing. These are to line up the distances of the wings. I looked on the reference copy and saw that the tip of one wing was directly below the left side of the "h" in Sabbath, so I drew a line straight down on my copy and knew that would be the same distance for the tip of the wing on my angel.

Next, I need to know how far the top of the farthest feather and how far the bottom of that same feather will be. Using a straight-edge (in my case a painter's stick that's been painted white) I measure from a distinguishable point on my reference to those two points. I mark this distance on the painter's stick with a tick mark of vine charcoal and then look to see if that distance is similar to any other on the reference. I'm not sure exactly what I used when doing this, but we can say for sake of argument that the middle angel's left arm, from the tip of the shoulder to the base of the pinky finger, is the same as the distance from the top of the wing to the top of the right angel's leg.

Once I know this, I simply mark out that same arm distance on my drawing, and I now have the new tick mark on my stick to measure out from the top of the drawing's right angel's leg.

You always should reset the distance after you know what it is from the reference. Never use your markings from the reference to draw on your drawing, because there will be a proportional difference. This is especially true in this case, since my mounted drawing stretched about 4 to 5% larger.

Doing this by eye can be less tedious, but inevitably less exact. The same method still applies though. You just need to speak to yourself the measurements; ie - "It looks like the distance of that feather's tip from the head is about the same distance as the length of her forearm, so on my drawing I need to make sure it looks about the same as my drawing's forearm."

I do hope this all makes sense for any of you interested. When I eventually get my website redesign finished, I'll make a point of putting clearer explanations of this technique down. So when pigs start flying, be sure to check that out.

This is pretty much the final stage of my redrawing.

Here you can also see that I filled in areas with black to better define them. Lines can be good at describing form, but broad areas of value change are better. Don't be afraid about laying down big areas of that vine charcoal either; it's either going to be brushed off or painted over. If you decide that you want to use it to fill in an area not completely black, but slightly gradated in tone, go over the vine charcoal with the side of your finger to lighten it, or use a tissue lightly.

And that is pretty much the redrawing stage of this project. Like I said earlier, if I did the mounting correctly, none of this would be necessary. But that is why being able to draw well is so key to any form of art, even if you decide to use a copy as a guide like I'm doing here. You never know when you'll have to fix mistakes or improve the copy itself.

Next time I'll start explaining the painting process. See you then.


Monday, September 05, 2005

Progress from the Front Lines

Technical jargon Warning!!! Ian is about to lay down the "art talk", which many may find completely uninteresting and otherwise not entertaining!"

Alright, so for those of you playing along at home, I just finished the mounting of the image to a piece of masonite, which I pretty much followed step by step from Donato Giancoloa's technique, as described in his website, which I highly recommend checking out.

I took my digital file of the modified Black Sabbath cover to the closest FedEx-Kinko's with a large scale engineer printer. With me I took a precut piece of drawing paper, cut to the size of the final format. Now, Donato uses Strathmore 500 series drawing paper, but I couldn't find the larger size he mentions. So I went with the 400 series paper, which has a slight manilla color to it, and is of a bit lesser quality all things considered. Yet I can get the 400 series in a roll, and so I have plenty to work with size wise, and it's not too expensive either. The paper ran through the printer just fine; The main problems were working with the Kinko's guys to get it done, since they never did anything like it before, and the fact that the drawing paper doesn't hold the toner as well as normal printer paper does. I'll explain how to fix that problem later on.

There are a few things that Donato brings up which I think are important for anyone trying this thing at home to keep in mind. Mainly, when mounting a drawing onto masonite, the process involves stretching the paper by getting it really wet. This is so the paper doesn't buckle and wrinkle when we adhere it to the surface using Acrylic Medium. But stretching the paper causes about a 4-5% increase in size, and it is NOT proportional due to the way the paper is made; ie- you'll see a longer stretch length-wise than width-wise.

This is especially important for someone trying to print out a digital file onto the drawing paper for this technique. First, if you have exact size requirements, you'll have to account for the increase in size when the drawing paper is stretched. What I did was simply minimize the output size when it is printed onto the paper by four percent. However, remember that since it stretches more length-wise, you are best off positioning human figures along the length and not perpendicular to it. This is because human faces appear alright if stretching taller, but look odd if stretched wider.

For the record I actually printed my image out the wrong direction, but I was lucky to not have any distortion to worry about after the streching.

And don't confuse the image size with the paper size. The size increase due to stretching is still fairly unpredictable, so just make your image size 4-5% smaller, and keep the paper the exact size of the final layout. You can trim the paper later, but you can't increase it to fit your masonite piece.

Once home, I had to worry about mounting the drawing paper onto the masonite. Remember that the paper is going to get really wet during this process, and going over it with a brayer to remove air bubbles is also going to disturb the printout. So, when the toner isn't adhering to the drawing paper, you're going to eradicate the image during the process unless you protect it with spray fixative.

I was hesitant to use the fixative though, since I figured that by spraying the stuff on the paper, I would affect the absorption of the water and cause it not to stretch as evenly as it would without it.

But as you can see, I probably should have just gone crazy with the stuff. The lower half came out fairly well because it received the most fixative from the position I sprayed from. The angel wings got wiped almost completely away, but everything else is still there, though very faded.

So, for those of you doing this at home, USE A LOT OF SPRAY FIXATIVE!

All is not lost though, and I'm just lucky that I had decided to keep a test printout from Kinko's. Although it isn't stretched like the final image, the size proportions are close enough to my final image that I can use it for reference to reconstruct the wings and other faded areas fairly quickly. I'll use the next post to briefly explain how I get that done.

As for this part, the finishing up comes with two additional coats of acrylic matte medium and sanding in between each application. These layers are to protect what's left of the drawing underneath. After everything is dry, I trimmed the excess paper off the sides and sanded the sides down as well to make sure everything is trimmed for framing later on, in case the buyer decides to do so.

After this point, I'm still pretty happy with what I have. The damage to the image could have been a lot worse, but I have more than enough to work with, and I'm still saving time by doing things this way, instead of drawing directly on to my support.

I'd reiterate that fixative is your friend on this one. But also, consider lightening up your image when it is sent to the printer because the printer lost a lot of contrast, so some of the darker areas didn't come out with the detail they actually contain. If at all possible, it's best to simply not have huge areas of black because that toner isn't going to stick. Keep it line art, and worry about values when you paint.