Thursday, November 24, 2005

Progress From The Front Lines 11/24/2005

Well, I'm glad to say that the Black Sabbath Album cover reproduction painting is finished and shipped out to it's new home. The feeling of being done with it is great, but I have to admit that it sucks not to have it nearby anymore, just to have a look at it for a bit longer. I got so used to constantly stopping and looking over the painting, even just in passing, that now that there is just an empty space on my easel, it seems like I need to fill it back up again with something.

With this final post for the painting I wanted to highlight the layering approach I mentioned in earlier "Front Lines" postings with two examples that hopefully show what I mean.


With the right angel's wing, I was basing my drawing on the plan that I created at the very beginning of this commission, and basing my colors off of the cd cover directly. You hopefully get a general idea of the color in this photo, but I have to warn you that the photograph isn't a precise representation due to the color of the lights I used to photograph it. I suppose I'll have to work harder on making the color in my photos appear more "true" in the future, but for now I'm sort of shooting from the hip.

But this is a general fill in, so to speak. I'm not too concerned with details, other than making sure that the outside contour of the wing is as close as I can get it so I don't ignore the actual plan underneath the paint. Inside the wing I'm less concerned with getting everything accurate, although I do try to still follow the plan in order to block in color and shapes.


The finished wing involved a lot of layering in the end. To be honest, I think I touched it up even more after this photo was taken. Yet you can see that the focusing of the color and details lays on top of the generalized version. Details like the lighter blue tips of the feathers actually wasn't saved until very last (which would make my old professors shudder, I'm sure) because I didn't want to avoid them in the same process of "general" to "focused". My reasoning is simply that this is a reproduction, and so I'm not developing the image as much as following the plan already laid out, therefore the common rules don't necessarily apply in the same way.

If you think back to the drawing tips I gave in earlier posts, the same could apply here. The highlights pose as critical landmarks on the image which I can measure by to ensure I'm painting the right color in the right spots. What's more, the color relationships need to match the original, and I can only correctly gauge those relationships with all colors present.


This photo shows the middle angel's hand, and pretty much the same concept as the photo before. Blocking in the colors is important, but not painting them so closely that I actually finish this section of the painting. If you look closely you can see that between the fingers, the drawing is actually showing through. I worry about filling that in after everything is blocked in, but I also advise you to make sure you don't leave any of these gaps unattended to. It would be very embarrassing to call the painting "finished" only to one day see a small gap you overlooked.

But again you can see that the ultra small details are acknowledged, not left until the very end. Normally if I were painting this as an original creation, I wouldn't bother with details at all until the end, but I'm creating an exact replica, and need to be mindful that I don't unintentionally drift from the drawing underneath in any aspect, which includes those pesky details.


The black between the fingers has been filled in, and the tones and values of the fingers and hand smoothed out to fit the original. This process is repeated for every single square inch of the painting, and I am constantly referring back to the original. It's almost like a tennis game, going back and forth between the painting and the original image.

Of course, I'm not a copy machine, and relying completely on my own eyes is very foolish. One of the cardinal rules I think any artist should follow is to never assume you've done things right the first time. It's probably what makes most artists such a pain in the ass to please, but it results in near perfection if heeded to. What I'm getting at is that my eyes can easily deceive me, even on something only inches from my face. In fact, that close relationship with my work actually is to my disadvantage, because I might work on something for hours only to realize afterward that it doesn't work with the rest of the painting, which I somehow ignored during that time.

The best cure for this is to continuously step away from the image you work on and look at it from a distance. Putting a fresh perspective on it resets your eyes to see things as others will see it, and often reveals obvious errors that until then you never even noticed. I also use a mirror a lot to get the same effect, and some also do things like stand the images upside down, or try to surprise themselves with the image during the middle of the day in order to catch their mind unaware. If you ever looked at photos of yourself, and were shocked to notice things like the part in your hair is actually on the other side of your head, you can start to understand how this works; looking at yourself in the mirror is different from how others actually see you.

If all else fails, nothing works like an extra set of eyes, and that's what my brother provided at this stage.

The photo doesn't show it very well, but the sock on the right leg of the rightmost angel isn't completely smooth and gradual in the application of the white paint. Collin also noticed that the shadows on the center angel's gown were darker than the original image from the cd sleeve, particularly the one just above her knees. I missed those areas, and was surprised that Collin didn't find even more. The five minutes he spent going over my painting and scanning the colors easily could be worth half an hour of me looking. I had spent well over forty hours looking at this thing by then, and was too used to seeing it to see the problems that remained.

Nitpicking done, peer reviewed and personally "acceptable", I took this out to the owner for their critique. In the end, no matter how many people tell you it's ok, the person who commissioned it is the final word. I had actually planned on laying down a coat of acrylic gloss medium over the finished painting, but before doing that I wanted to make sure no drop of paint on this thing was misplaced, so I let the commissioner have the painting with the understanding that it wasn't officially "done", and I wanted to make sure they thought it was ok. They ended up liking it exactly as it was, without the gloss coat, so I said goodbye to the painting a little prematurely, but happy none the less.

Here is the final painting. I hope someone out there finds this worth the read, but otherwise, I hope you all enjoy the images!

Click the image above for the larger size!


Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Progress From the Front Lines 11/01/05


Well, I somehow let a month go by without the almighty update from the front lines. Trust me when I say that I have worked on this painting, I just have neglected to update the blog about it.

So here we go...

Up above you see the gray color that I mixed specifically for use on the angel's gowns. I ended up doing this with just two colors, the gray and the tanish pink of the angels' skin. Now, although I say that these colors were specific to those areas, that doesn't mean I just slap it on to have a finished painting. I consider these base hues (hue basically is another name for color) that I can modify to become darker or lighter in value. Usually this is done by simply adding white or black, but I noticed during painting that some areas were actually leaning toward different hues. If you look closely at this angel close-up, you can see that there are areas of the gown that seem blueish in comparison to the base color, as well as parts of the skin (look at the arm) which are much redder than the skin hue.

If you have ever painted, you might have come across a lot of color theory which explains why this is. So forgive me if I try to sum it up quickly.

Basically, light comes in color. Indoor lights tend to be very warm, leaning toward the orange spectrum, while day light is very cool, leaning towards blue. What this means is that shadows also have color to them, and those colors are often the compliment of the light's color. Warm light results in cool shadows, and vice versa.

So with our angel here, we see that the warm light hitting the skin has resulted in a much cooler red being seen on the shadow side. The same with the shadows on the gown...more bluer than the original gray.

"But," you may ask, "what does that have to do with adding black and white, like you mentioned earlier?" Well, the way I paint usually involves a bit of both. Therefore, you accommodate the darkness/lightness of the hue, and also accommodate the "temperature" (warm/cool) of that hue to achieve the optimal color. Too often artist will not see the temperature of the shadows they wish to depict, so if anyone can take a lesson from today's posting, it's to pay attention to the color of your light!

Of course, in addition to being extra mindful of color when painting, a reproduction like this demands exacting precision and minute attention to detail. Pretty much what I have to do is look back and forth between my original album art and my painting to make sure each drop of paint is exactly where it should be. You may think that this is essentially filling in the number painting, but in my case that's not it at all. Granted, if you were a machine and could meticulously paint each color exactly as it should be from the start, that's a way to do it; but I can't do it that way.

What I do is layer the painting. Think of this as focusing the lens on your camera; essentially every shape and form is there from the beginning, when it's blurry, but as you sharpen the image everything finally goes into focus. That's how this painting is coming along - a slow focusing of elements from "general" to "exact".

The first thing to do is lay down the base color, making sure if falls exactly where is should go. Now this is trickier than it sounds because in this case I'm still making sure I don't obscure the drawing underneath. Therefore, I apply paint to only areas that closely match the base color, and avoid other areas, like shadows. But I only do this to the extent that I can make sure my shadows look exactly the same as the original, and I only do it with the larger areas. Smaller areas I just lay down the color, and go over it with refining paint layers later, since I don't have to worry too much that my marks will stray too far from the original.

It's a very, very time consuming and meticulous process, but it's a great experience for someone like me, since I feel it helping me develop my sense of color and form even more. By training your eye to recognize something exactly as it is, your drawings and paintings in turn become that much better.

You can also see that I'm working from left to right. The reason for this is very simple...I'm right handed. This way, my work isn't obscured by my hand, and I can easily see how the work I am doing right now matches up with the work I've done.

See you next post!