Exit Within: the Gallegos Blog

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

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

Monday, January 26, 2015


"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.

Last year, I was contacted by a gentleman named Bruce Heckman. It was one like many such requests I get, wherein they are seeking an illustrator for some project they'd like to realize. I'm always willing to work with creative individuals to help realize their projects if we can work out the details. In Bruce's case, we were able to--that he lived fairly close by meant we could also enjoy a nice dinner as we talked about the project in greater detail.

Bruce's book is a children's retelling of the Greek myth of Parthenope, based upon the imagined history of the Neapoletan pie called pastiera. The book even comes with a recipe! The scope of the project was ambitious, and I was commissioned to create 10 illustrations for the book, told by the narrator Papa Sam.

Now, anyone with the funds can commission me to paint ten paintings. But, that would be very expensive. We talked a bit about this and arrived at a solution wherein I would produce one scene as a painting, which could be used as a cover as well, and then create the other interior illustrations in a sort of faux-watercolor style. These would be fairly tight pencil drawings, scanned and then colored digitally to look something like watercolors. It would speed up the project considerably, and allow him to get his fully-illustrated book. It was an idea that worked well, and we proceeded.

"Parthenope" 18x24" Oils on panel
(larger view / purchase information)

While projects by indies (as I call them) don't usually get the widespread distribution or "fame" of commercial clients, they often have fewer restrictions and can be more fun as a result. This is part of why I've allowed myself to work with indies when possible. And it was a pleasure to work with Bruce on this project.

Detail view of painting in-progress

I don't recall exactly when I switched my methods back to using tracedowns. For awhile I had been doing detailed drawings, printing them out on paper and then gluing the paper to board to paint on. That worked well, but eventually I've come back around to this tried-and-true method. One advantage is that I can trace down in stages. When you print out a drawing and then start slinging paint around, you can start to be too precious about retaining the lines. With a tracedown, you can put down a part of the drawing, paint, and then flap the drawing back over and trace down the next part. Or, if you lose the drawing you can get it back by tracing the missing bits down again since the drawing is hinged behind. It doesn't take much to align it properly again. I like that flexibility even if I don't always use it.

So I keep the print out of the drawing taped and flapped to the back of the board the entire painting, or as long as I might need it. This photo above shows me early on in the process. I started the painting right there, on the figure of Parthenope, and worked my way out from there. That's not how I always work, either, but well...process is fine but as you can tell there's always room to change things up!

(R:) Parthenope sketch
8x10" pencil on paper
(larger view / purchase information)

Over the next month or so I'll be highlighting images from the book's interior illustrations.

Up top I've linked up the purchase options, which include ten books which I'll sign and number, in which I'll do a unique sketch of Parthenope.

Part 2 of blog coverage of this book can be found here, which discusses the interior art.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Vero's Fire

For three years running now, I've had the pleasure of having my December/January period include work on Laurice Molinari's The Ether series. As I write I am wading into the third book's illustration, and the second book, Pillars of Fire will be released later this month.

With the first book, I was able to read the manuscript and so come up with concepts. As an illustrator I live for that. Unfortunately with the second book, I was not able to do this, and so was given a concept that the publishing team wanted to see portrayed. While it certainly limited the possibilities, it's not always possible to read the manuscript one illustrates. Fortunately the image that was requested was compelling enough. That isn't always the case.

When working in series, I sometimes like to find ways to visually tie one image to the next. That's not always possible either, nor necessary, but I've always found that the most cohesive book series have some sort of visual guidelines that are established and followed through a series. That signaling can come from anything: palette, value range, cropping of figures, perspective, figure arrangement, and so on. If a series is not going to have any obvious visual ties, it's best if the second book does something significantly different right off the bat, to keep from establishing a pattern that might be expected in subsequent illustrations.

When being asked to portray Vero sort of holding this ball of flame, it provided an opportunity to tie the cover to the first book. With the first cover, I sort of thought I'd painted myself into a corner with regards to opportunities to create visual threads in future covers. It's a very specific sort of composition, unusual even within my own body of work. Since I was being asked to portray Vero again, quite prominently, I used the opportunity to expand the first image a bit.

"Vero's Fire" 9x12" Charcoal on paper
(larger view / purchase information)

Whereas you only see Vero's face in the reflection of his sword in the first illustration, I sought now to portray him more fully, but keeping his eyes in the same region of the illustration as the first book, and also sort of head-on. The background was a bit dim, and I kept it dim here as well. On the one hand you can see the protagonist more fully, on the other he's still a bit obscured, being lit only by this magical ball of flame.

I did get to read a sample chapter from Book 2, but it wasn't directly relevant to the scene here, so it was of limited use. Much as I enjoyed working on this image, my illustrator's heart always longs to know what else I might have come up with had I the opportunity to read the story! The world of The Ether, at least in Book 1, was visually rich: I came up with many cover concepts for it, all quite different from one another. I have no doubt I would have found more gems to illustrate here. As for Book 3, well you'll have to tune in some months from now....

"Vero's Fire" 12x16" Oils over acrylic on treated watercolor paper