Exit Within: the Gallegos Blog

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

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Glossai Pyros

"Glossai Pyros" 18x24" Oils over acrylic on panel
(detail view | purchase info)

For the fifth year running, I attended a fall painting retreat last year. It continues to be an amazing highlight of each year. You'd think I would get blasé about it, but it's still a pinch-me sort of experience.

All but one year, I've worked on a studio piece, not a client illustration. As if fate was shaking its finger at me for the one year I brought a client commission to work on, it turns out that that particular painting got stuck in development limbo and has still not seen the light of day, despite being done 3 years ago!

(L:) Hard at work. Lauren will kill me for this photo, but it was the only good one of me working

This year, I was hugely busy leading up to the retreat. I spent a few months on a big, frustrating project that in the end went nowhere. The retreat landed right towards the end of it, but I certainly didn't want to spend my retreat working on it. I had an idea, but the time was approaching and I had not so much as a thumbnail, though I did have an idea in my head. I was getting worried that I would show up unprepared.

The weekend before leaving, I contacted a couple of models hoping to book a last-minute reference shoot I could take with me. I also reached out to a young lady I'd met a month before. I had asked if she'd be willing to model down the road, thankfully, and she was. She was the only one to respond with such short notice. As she lived out in the area I'd be in, we arranged for her to come down on Monday, while at the retreat. Whew.

The first day of the retreat is not always that productive. I brought a small side thing to work on a bit, but there are only a few hours after setup to work until dinner happens. Being everyone's first day in, we're all eager to catch up with one another. Afterwards, my model showed up and with the help of Lauren Panepinto--book designer extraordinaire--we set about shooting reference. Poor Lauren, she spends a lot of time attending photoshoots with illustrators, and here she was having to do it again on her "off" time. Well, it was a working retreat.

Prior to the trip, I ordered some string LED lights, and did a couple of self-tests to see if they would work. They don't let out a lot of light, being like very thin glow sticks. A tripod and time exposure and a dark room were necessary. With Lauren's help, I wrapped the LED lighting around the model, she'd hold it in place, and I'd go set the camera, shoot, review and reshoot as needed. We tried a lot of variations and got a few fantastic shots. I was thrilled by the results, and that evening got to work.

As with "A Fractured Mind" the year before, I set to work with no prior drawing. I had a board pre-primed and toned with a mixture of acrylic Raw Sienna mixed with a bit of gesso (if I recall correctly). From there I went straight into oils, drawing out the scene in oils directly on the board. As I've been happy with all my recent attempts to work like this, directly on the panel, I hope I can find more opportunities to do so in the future.

(L:) End of day 1 underpainting

The next morning, I had an under painting in Mars Violet with a bit of Alizarin Crimson in it. I thought I knew what I was going for, but just in case I grabbed a small scrap of primed paper and did a tiny little color study. I don't do these often in this way, but it became a very simple and undetailed map of where I was headed.

(L:) Color study, 2.25x1.5" Oil on paper
The notes indicate that the background would be painted in a mixture of Raw Sienna, Alizarin Crimson, Burnt Sienna, (Gamblin) Chromatic Black, and a touch of White

A few people came over that day and made especially positive comments about this little scribble. I thought it was rather funny, I mean they're all accomplished painters and artists in their own right, so compliments can be hard to come by sometimes. This often happens with very, very loose sketches. Perhaps it's that the viewer can at this stage import into the image all the ways in which they can see it turning out more awesome than the artist will actually make it. I mean, the artist rarely hits his own vision, too.

But objectively, there's nothing really there. Ah well, I'll take a compliment where I can get one.

That said, as the piece went on during the week, the feedback was generally positive, which I appreciated. The vibe is always so fun and positive with these fine folks that it really would make a pretty wonderful day-in-day-out work environment, and this from someone who can go all week without saying a word to anyone, if left alone, and be just fine (arguably).

This year, the retreat moved from where it's been held for about ten years to a new venue in rural Pennsylvania, which was gorgeous, and the shared work room had large windows with a beautiful view. As I arrived first, along with Scott Brundage (who has suffered driving me to and from every year), I snagged this prime spot. Maybe an hour or two at sundown the sun would beam straight into my eyeholes, and we had to lower the blinds a bit, but really, it made for a wonderful week to have this out behind my easel.

(L:) Sometime on day two, background blocked in

From there it was just about executing. It was an exhilarating painting that came together last second, with the help of a great model and friend, and painted among inspiring artists, with their feedback. I got about 80% of the way through by the week's end and polished up the rest here and there after.

You can see a large view of it and purchase information for this painting here.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Parthenope: Interiors, Pt.2

"Parthenope: A Papa Sam Story"
Written by Bruce Heckman
Illustrated by Yours Truly

This softcover children's book is available now, featuring 10 original illustrations in full-color.

Regular edition is $12.95 and available on Amazon with Prime Shipping

10 numbered books will be signed by me, and include a pencil drawing remarque inside, such as the one above.

Limited remarque edition is $60 (+s/h) and available right here.

(To read this series of articles in order, start here)

This is the last week I'll be discussing this project, having now shown half the illustrations to be found in the book. After all, I need to leave you something to look forward to and motivate you to pick up a copy!

"Home in the Bay of Naples"
digital over pencil

When I agreed to the project, it was certainly before producing sketches, and may have been before really reading the manuscript. As it turned out, the illustrations all called for multi-figure scenes, and took a bit longer as a result. One problem of course was then finding models for the various characters!

When possible I try to use friends or family, whether for pay or as a favor I might be called to return someday. Marc Scheff, probably the most-used model of the past year in my illustration circles-- sort of the Fabio of fantasy illustration--graciously posed as my Poseidon, even cajoling someone into allowing him to lift her in the illustration shown last time, to get that pose (I swapped her out for my actual Parthenope later). I paid him back in a small pencil portrait which I did on-the-spot in his studio, and an unspoken IOU I figure he'll cash in down the road.

(L:) Marc Scheff, 2.5x3" pencil

The story is told by the narrator Papa Sam, who recounts the story of pasteira to his granddaughters while making a pan of it. This allowed me to bookend the myth with real world scenes. I don't do a lot of what I might call, "Everyday Art," scenes with nothing fantastical in them. Having a collaborator in the author, I also asked him to think of people I might use for the various roles. It was a lot of fun, using Bruce and his lovely granddaughters as models. A friend of Bruce's came down to the studio for a long session of photographs as Parthenope. Having never modeled for an artist before, she still did a great job. Other friends came over on a moment's notice with their young son to pose for the cover painting. And as usual I roped my wife and self into it as well. An ensemble cast, to create ten illustrations for a fun project. Get yours here.

"Papa Sam Starts Storytelling"
digital over pencil

Monday, February 23, 2015

Every Day Original: This Twilight Garden

I'm pleased to share with you today a new small painting, produced for Every Day Original. The goal of EDO is simple: to present one new original work of art every day (even weekends and holidays!), which is priced at $500 or less; usually less. It's a great resource for collectors looking for smaller artworks for special wall spaces, who just like small originals, or who are on a budget and enjoy not being shown things they know are far beyond their budget. However, for those who've considered moving into starting a collection of original artwork, it's a great place to do so gently!

The works themselves are largely produced specifically for EDO, which is also interesting. Typically it isn't just art that's been sitting on an artist's site for awhile. It's a sort of online gallery of daily offerings. As such, this small painting is only available through EDO.

There are no guidelines besides, "Make it good." I decided to reach to music, which has been an occasional place I go for inspiration when illustrating other projects. It isn't a realm I've mined for illustrative purposes on its own. The great thing about illustrating music (especially non-commissioned) is that it has enough abstraction in it, typically, to allow me to approach it and experience it in a slightly subconscious way. It's different than illustrating stories, which I also enjoy, which requires a bit more in the way of comprehension and representation whether narrative or metaphorical. With music, it's much more...I don't know, I feel as if it puts me in the place where dreams come from--at least certain music, and specifically when I'm listening intently, as I did while having this track on repeat for a long time while sketching and working.

For this piece I picked a favorite track of mine, "This Twilight Garden" by The Cure. It was a b-side track so isn't perhaps as widely known, but for 20+ years now (!) has been a song I can return to any time and bliss out. There are a few songs that seem to have tapped right into a part of your soul, allowing it to manifest outside of you. Maybe you know what I mean. This is one such for me. It's like having a part of your emotional state reflected back at you. Amazing that music can do such a thing from time to time.

There's not much else to say about it, except that I hope you enjoy the resultant painting in conjunction, or quite apart from its source material. If you're interested in it, I hope you'll pick it up at Every Day Original. And after you've stopped by to take a look there, do stay and look at the amazing selection of other artwork they've made available.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Parthenope: Interiors

"Parthenope: A Papa Sam Story"
Written by Bruce Heckman
Illustrated by Yours Truly

This softcover children's book is available now, featuring 10 original illustrations in full-color.

Regular edition is $12.95 and available on Amazon with Prime Shipping

10 numbered books will be signed by me, and include a pencil drawing remarque inside, such as the one at left.

Limited remarque edition is $60 (+s/h) and available right here.

(For Part 1 about this project, see here)

Early on, the author communicated his hope that the book would have interior color illustrations. While I would love to do a fully painted book with multiple illustrations, such opportunities are rare simply due to the cost.

While talking over dinner, we got to talking about Bruce's love of older, more classic children's illustrators like Arthur Rackham and the like. I love those illustrators as well, so it was a nice commonality. It also resulted in the proposal that the interior art be done in some sort of style along those lines.

"Poseidon Saves Parthenope" digital over pencil
(Detail view / pencil original information)

Were I a proficient watercolorist, that might have been the solution outright. But while watercolor can be faster than oils, it isn't necessarily, although the drying issues are of course not an issue. The number of times I've used watercolor are very few, and usually they involved my cat. It's a very different medium than oils, and I find it a bit unusual when an artist freely moves between the two. It's not unheard of, of course, and is certainly impressive. So for me to do the interiors in watercolor might even be slower than oils. You do build speed over time and repetitions.

Over the years, I've produced digital illustrations. Sometimes they were straight digital creations, but more recently they are some form of hybrid, usually beginning with some kind of traditional under-drawing. In them, there is some attempt to create a digital replacement for my painting. I've always known that would take a long time to accomplish, if ever, and I still work on a tablet, not a drawing monitor like a Cintiq. But it hasn't happened, quite, nor do I expect it to any time soon. My aesthetic has been molded in part by the medium. So those digital pieces look a bit like my work, but not really the same.

So I decided to make an attempt to create some faux watercolors. I would create fairly detailed drawings, as I might with an actual watercolor, scan them, and then use various tools and tricks to make Photoshop produce a look a bit like watercolor.

That allowed me to produce something faster than usual, in color, and without resulting in simply a less-successful oil analog.

It was a lot of fun, actually. Certainly I was learning on the job, and there was a bit of upfront experimentation before I could really dive in. The original drawings were done in pencil on bristol.

"The Sirens" digital over pencil

(To read the last entry in this series, click here)