Exit Within: the Gallegos Blog

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

Friday, May 13, 2016

The Dragon's Descent

Working on Laurice Molinari's series The Ether was a lot of fun, coming as it did at the beginning of the year over the course of three years. The series varied a bit in its execution each year. Where the first book had me reading a completed manuscript and concepting the illustration, the second and third book had to be painted before the final manuscript was in, in both cases. That meant getting a brief for the type of scene or image they wanted to see, which is a lot more challenging.

For the third book, we had the title and I was given the task of showing Vero armored up and ready to do battle. That's about it.

My initial sketches included a couple of concepts that I really pushed for, that were a bit more symbolic than literal, in that since we didn't have any text to go on, I intended to portray Vero armored, but with the enemy clearly indicated as wanting to destroy him. There were also a couple of others that featured the dragon in one manner or other.

A few of my unused concepts, digital over pencil

It took an awful lot of back-and-forthing on this piece for some reason, despite having numerous solutions that worked well. In the end we settled on one and I got to work.

I think by the time I got the go-ahead on the final, the actual deadline had passed. Not my fault! My sketches were in on time but there were very long stretches waiting on approvals, tweaks, new concepts, approvals. When it came time to go it was basically a matter of needing it yesterday. I got to work, beginning with an acrylic underpainting and then switching to oils.

I probably will never get to reading the other two books in the series, unfortunately, but I hope the direction I got does the stories justice. It is a shame I wasn't able to read the stories, as interpretation is a large part of what an illustrator can bring to the table. It's not that Art Directors and Editors have bad ideas necessarily (though sometimes, they really do), it's just that I think you tend to get the best from an illustrator when they are able to bring their whole creative selves to a project.

In any case, this series is wrapped up as far as I know, and it was good fun. The paintings, too, have been well received and all three covers sold fairly quickly.

"The Dragon's Descent" 12x16" oil over acrylic on heavy watercolor paper

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Still and Not-So-Still Lives

I've greatly enjoyed painting still life paintings the past couple of years, and have endeavored to make them a more regular part of my work. They are great as experiment labs and also low-commitment ways to explore lots of subjects. Lots of happy accidents can happen, they also result in art that is a bit affordable, at least when contrasted with more full-sized, fully-realized studio paintings.

Traditionally, the subject matter for still life paintings tended to revolve around common objects found in the pre-industrial age. Because that consisted of centuries worth of paintings, the objects portrayed in those paintings became synonymous with still life painting: flowers, food, small household objects, etc.. And since those objects still exist, they still provide good subject matter for still life paintings. For instance, my painting of mistletoe painted during the past Christmas holiday season was received well by the jurors of the Oil Painters of America, who selected it for their Annual Salon. It will thus hang and be available from May 13th, 2016 at the exhibition held at Southwest Gallery in Dallas TX.

"Come Here, You" 6x8" oils on linen
(purchase information / larger image)

But still life painting has and should continue to include new items and objects, as new items and objects are created. I'm not one who thinks the old should be abandoned, but definitely if new things come up, artists should paint them! To that end, my Hearts for Hardware series has been my contribution to the broadening of the scope of still life by including these modern objects.

"The Standard: True Colors"
8x16" oils over acrylic on canvas
(prints available)

But what of objects that aren't portrayed as being still? While any artist could observe objects in motion, and through repeated observation could try to cobble together the impression of motion, now with photography we have lots more options. By combining photographs with imagination and having the objects present to work from, there is also I guess what one might call not-still life painting.

"23d" 8x8" oil on masonite
Available through Every Day Original

Friday, April 15, 2016

Lost in the Trees

4.5 months makes the longest break I've had on my blog in 10+ years. I'm ok with that. Blogging gurus always say don't apologize for breaks, just pick up and move on. Ok.

That the past few months have led to that break is not surprising, in retrospect. 2015 was a very difficult year in many ways. At least half of the difficulties were very good things, indeed, like my shows at Indian Road Cafe and then my first legit solo gallery show at Krab Jab Studio. Moving to beautiful wine country in Northern California. A lot of the other half was due to the downsides of good things: the incredible amount of time and costs involved in seeing those things through. "Boo-hoo," I guess one could say. I agree, but it's been harder than it sounds in ways I don't need to write about.

(L:) "Flowerbed" 8x10" graphite and acrylic on toned paper

A couple of years ago, not completely intentionally at first, I started wandering a bit, artistically. I've always had personal projects here and there, usually one-off paintings I'd do between assignments. Meant to fulfill some creative need, or a hole in my portfolio, these were not done as often as I would've wanted. Each piece was a temporary detour off the long path I've been walking, creatively, since I started illustating 22 years ago now. But I never let myself get so far off the path that it might be tricky to find my way back.

And then I kind of did. Again, not really intentionally. At first it was just a large-scale 4x6' painting. But while off the beaten path for awhile pursuing that, I encountered a squash. Curious, I followed further down another gully. At the bottom of it was some old discarded video game hardware. Across the gully and up, I got a glimpse of where I was going to be living next and lo-and-behold, there was this gorgeous vineyard....

I'd come across some really amazing things while wandering off the path. I made mental notes about the locations of each thing I found. I wanted to be able to return to these places easily in the future. It's always hard to remember where on a trail you turned off and ran across something amazing some distance in.

(L:) "Thymiama" 8x10" graphite, white charcoal and acrylic on toned paper

And so I've spent the last couple of years traveling back and forth between all these varied places. Artistically it's been exhilarating. And I started putting together some plans to make this back-and-forth thing viable. But establishing these new routines is anything but easy and quick. Like having to plant my own food between these spots so I can make sure I'm fed--it takes a bit for that to mature to harvest, if it does. In the meantime, it's been a bit nerve-wracking trying to establish this new pattern.

And lastly there is what I feel is a duty I have to those who have followed my work all these years. A duty to continue to amaze you with the things I find in my travels. I know not every group attracted to each thing I'm doing will have an interest in the other things. My hope at least is that the other things in themselves will not be turn-offs.

But it means it's taken a lot more time to get anywhere. And it means that my website no longer reflects what I'm up to; technologically it's ancient and decrepit now, and I haven't been able to decide how to rectify that. So I've started blowing up a couple of parts of it. Eventually I'll blow it up to the point where the site is a simple 1-2 page "placeholder" for a rebuilt home for my work. In the meanwhile, I've been posting regularly at Instagram, and that's also probably been a demotivator to posting here. But I get that IG has little patience for context, which I can provide here.

Where I am currently, however, is a place where returning to updates here on this blog is probably possible again. Maybe even advisable. So, see you soon.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Decidua / Arctis

A couple of months back I was assigned a regular slot on Every Day Original, a great site for finding new original art daily, for $500 or less. If you are new to collecting original art or have been thinking about getting into the game, it's a great site to dip your toe in.

My assigned day is the 28th of each month for now. Unfortunately, this falls right into the dead space following the two major end-of-year holidays! Ah well.

I've thought about trying to use my art for EDO as a way to advance personal projects through small originals, or maybe preliminary works on larger studio paintings.

When we last spoke in October, I was between a slew of events that devoured a couple of months. The last of them was a one-two punch of IlluXCon and the annual painting retreat I've mentioned here a few times before. As I've said before, my goal with those painting retreats has been to work on non-commissioned works there, and this year was no different. I was once again behind the ball heading in. Last year, I barely managed to get it together to begin working on "Glossai Pyros." This year was no different as the retreat began the very day following IlluXCon, which itself had begun just a few days after showing at the Portland Retro Gaming Expo, where I had my Hearts for Hardware work on the road. Whew!

Working on "Decidua" at a retreat. Photo by David Palumbo

What I thought I'd work on at the retreat wasn't to be as I ran into delays with the model I was working with. So very last minute I had to call an audible. And by last minute I mean one day before leaving to IlluXCon. I knew my EDO post would be going up the Wednesday of the retreat, but I'd have no time until I got there to work on it.

So I dug through my Artist Proof sketches and pulled out the scan of the one at left, which was done on the back of a "Dryad's Caress" card awhile ago. I had the reference photo for it still. I also had a 6x8" canvas prepped so I went about redrawing it in paint straight on the canvas with tweaks and corrections. I did an underpainting, put an isolation coat on it and packed it. I also did an underdrawing of a small Hearts for Hardware piece, then packed and left!

Arriving at the retreat Monday after the show, I immediately unpacked and got straight to work. I usually do anyway because it's plenty inspiring being there and I want to work a lot there. In the midst of so many talents, I can paint all day long with very little fatigue that might set in at home on my own.

Long story short, I burned the midnight oil and photographed the piece to post on time. Having chosen an autumnal theme to the color version, I brainstormed some titles with Daren Bader late one night and arrived at "Decidua."

"Decidua" 6x8" oils on canvas
Available through Every Day Original
 As I enjoy working in series, I also chatted with Daren about doing so, and decided to go for it. Winter would match with my December offering, but as snow came early this year and I was plenty excited about continuing the series, I did the next one for November. Thankfully, "Arctis" brought snow in real life and we had to cancel primary Thanksgiving travel plans. On the one hand a snowy getaway would've been wonderful, but I was once again behind heading into Thanksgiving week and I didn't relish the thought of bringing my tiny setup with me. So I was able to stay home and work on this piece in warmth and comfort. I took a number of photos in-progress this time and made a little movie I posted around social media.

I'll naturally follow this with same-sized harbingers of Spring and Summer. The plan is to have them ready for late April and May, respectively, whether or not I'm still contributing to EDO.

"Arctis" 6x8" oils on canvas
Available through Every Day Original