Exit Within: the Gallegos Blog

Bi-weekly musings, artwork, art-talk, and randomness.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

"Level Up" Solo Exhibition

Let's get to business before I ramble: the show runs now through October 3rd. The catalog can be found online, and the gallery ships. Can't quite shell out all at once? Talk to them, they're nice people.

Now to the fun, bloggy part.

Hanging along with 30-some odd drawings and paintings are two special pieces from my closet. It was great timing moving back to CA this past June since it gave me access to art from when I was young, some of which I've saved. As the title of the show was, "Level Up," it meant that some of this art had to be included, as it went with the overall theme, including how I continually mine the same sources of my youthful inspiration, whether I mean to or not.

When I was a wee lad, I lost my mind over Star Wars. This was long before the intertrons, so I had to chase down Star Wars things in real life, and this included a vinyl LP audio version. We listened to that over and over and over, but it was years after the first time I saw it in the theater at almost 4 years of age until I saw it again on VHS. In-between those years there were comics and toys to keep us occupied. And two more great films.

In those days my older brother and I would make our own comics made from folded 8.5x11" sheets, stapled. We would hastily scribble these things out and then sell them to one another once a week or so for a dime or whatever. One of my series was a retelling of the Star Wars story. I don't think I got through the entire story before this phase of our lives ended, which was probably most of a year or so, which is a looong time when you're like 7 or so.

I decided to frame up this page as it features a Stormtrooper. At my exhibit, it hung matted and framed beneath the most recent work in the show, TK-60918. The oldest and the newest, side-by-side.

Pretty much any pop-cultural thing I was involved with that had art in it was an opportunity for me to draw, either inspired by or by simply copying the awesome art already present. In this way I taught myself how to draw, since I could measure my results by an objective standard--the thing I was copying. My brother and I both continued drawing, supporting and competing with one another (in a friendly way) through high school, after which my brother chose other paths and I continued with the art.

From around 11-12 years of age I was crazy into Transformers, after which I got crazy for the NES and Fighting Fantasy gamebooks. I believe I've posted one of my Transformers drawings here before, but I included another in my show. What's interesting is the prior one at the link was earlier, so it's also a bit clumsier of a drawing. But, apparently I got into graphic design as those drawings went on. I was also into calligraphy so had these calligraphy pens I used to help me create that killer diagonal banner.

As these pieces were not available for sale, they will come home with me as the show ends. They've lived in boxes for years and years, but these two I'll leave framed and will hang somewhere in our new place. It's kinda nice to look back sometimes; while I vividly remember making some of my comics I don't particularly remember drawing that page, but the Transformers piece I do recall drawing some parts of it. I've often said each drawing and painting is like a time capsule for me. Every piece I do has wrapped up in it some part of my life, some hours recorded and whatever else was going on in my life as the context for those hours.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Console Obscura Podcast

On the eve of my solo exhibition in Seattle, I was connected with the guys at the Console Obscura Podcast, and recorded a segment with them which covers some of my early days, work with Magic: the Gathering, and my Hearts for Hardware series. It also included a full-throated defense of Mega Man vs. the often preferred Mega Man 2. Heresy.

Head on over to Console Obscura and check it out. The guys were super cool, and came out to the opening as well.

Some of you have wondered about prints from the Hearts for Hardware series. I did a few small Artist Proof runs in anticipation of larger releases and made them available at the show. I'd suggest you sign up for the mailing list at left for info on how to get in on these AP editions and their upcoming regular editions!

Tuesday, September 01, 2015


16x20" oils on panel
Available through Krab Jab Studio

Though it seems a lot longer ago now, in March 2014 I was Artist Guest of Honor at LunaCon in NY. At the time it was the largest single display of my work and was a bear to put together. In retrospect, it was good training for this year, which has included a small restaurant exhibit and a much larger solo exhibit.

I was asked to speak on a couple of panels--typical convention stuff--and was also asked to do a live painting demo for a couple of hours. Since my time heading into the show was consumed with preparation for the show, I was not really sure what I was going to paint. I heard the Star Wars costuming organization the 501st Legion was going to be around the show doing various things, so was put in touch with them and managed to procure the services of a Stormtrooper to pose for me, which is so like a Stormtrooper: poor guys and gals, always sent indiscriminately to do the grunt work all over the galaxy. I guess when you grow 'em to follow orders, they follow orders.

Operating number TK-60918 was therefore dispatched to stand for me while I painted for a very small number of people who wandered by the art show area. The nature of a live demo means you necessarily have to work differently, mostly you have to work fast enough so that the audience doesn't fall asleep or wander off. It also meant that working on an in-progress personal work or illustration would be no good, since that usually involves me paintings small things with small brushes, slowly. It's like watching paint dry.

The nice thing about painting a Stormtrooper is that your palette is automatically limited (unless you use weird colored lighting). That helped. Also, Star Wars.

So I brought a 16x20 panel, some paints and set about a block-in of the figure. Possibly it might've made more sense to leave the figure even rougher and spend a bit more time on the head or something. I haven't done many live demos in the past, so I'll learn this lesson.

Nevertheless, TK-60918 was extremely patient, having just arrived at the venue that morning from Staten Island traveling to Rye Brook, NY.

At the end, I had a roughly blocked in Stormtrooper on a 16x20" panel. Useless as-is. I shot some photos of TK' figuring that if I wanted to take it any further, I should have some reference. Then I put it away and got busy for a long time.

Not long ago, while still in NYC, I pulled it out one day and thought about what I might do with it. It's basically a portrait anyway. What kind of background might go with this portrait? I considered a window view with the Death Star outside, or a planet they were about to land on. But my mind returned to the hallways within the Death Star with that great wall lighting--a detail that concept artist Ralph McQuarrie was always great at incorporating. I had painted the background blackish, so I would need to raise sections back up to pure white. So I drew out the pattern and used a palette knife and some white alkyd to apply a thick coat of white, sufficient to obliterate the black again. I also left that area textural--I had just wrapped up a hardware piece where I use more texture generally, so this influence seemed to play in. Then I got busy for a bit more, and moved.

I proposed to include the painting in my upcoming solo exhibition. That meant I needed to finish it this summer. The show--in a broad stroke--is about my various youthful influences, and how I continue--consciously or unconsciously--to return to them in fueling my creative directions. And Star Wars figures heavily into my story as an artist. There are a couple of other Star Wars related paintings in the show, and I'll also be showing a sheet of art done as a small kid, featuring a Stormtrooper. They will hang together.

Now that I was moving along seriously with this, there were some things to resolve. First, when I did the background block-in based on my photo, I noticed that there were some big shape mistakes primarily in the helmet, so corrected those. But as I moved forward and started tightening up this loose block-in, I found lots of other smaller errors and corrected those as well.

Second, the paint I used live included some tube gray--Gamblin Portland Grays, specifically. These have a slightly taupe cast to them, but my interior now was all cool dark grays. So that meant I'd have to really obliterate, finally, everything I'd laid down originally. That's ok, since I was going for a final illustration look. I've done other pieces where I approach the painting with no pre-drawing and just draw straight on the board, so this was no different.

From there I finished off the piece. The hardest part was reserving the top end of the value (light-to-dark) scale on the figure until the end. Based on memory and the photos, one thing I loved was the shine of lights bouncing off the glossy paint. To achieve that, it meant that I could only go so light for everything else on the figure, so that when I placed those reflections they really popped. However until that final pass, the figure looked a bit dull, like a car painted before the gloss coat is put on.

In the end, I got a nice Star Wars portrait out of it all. It will be available this month as part of my "Level Up" exhibit in Seattle. Thanks so much to Greg for roleplaying the thankless job of being a Stormtrooper, in real life, and to the 501st Legion in general for their enthusiasm, dedication and participation in so many great events, including adding spice to good causes.

Snack Time Podcast

The good guys at the Snack Time Podcast, which covers the Magic: the Gathering universe in story and art primarily, had me as a guest to nibble on Ritz crackers and discuss my art. Over a bit over an hour we managed to hit on almost every phase of my career, from early to late Magic, with a discussion about my time running Daydream Graphics, and finally to my most recent work, including the genesis of my Hearts for Hardware series of paintings.

Hear me struggle to remember details about paintings 15-20 years old!

Go have a listen!