The musings of a fantasy illustrator. Artwork, art-talk, and randomness.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Ding! 60


Tax-deductible. Yay.


A few months back this would've been an achievement, but now 60 is the new 50. I started playing WoW almost a year ago after getting a free copy at Comic-Con. Thanks Blizzard! 11 months later, level 60. I already have Burning Crusade (for, you know, work) so unless I'm interested in, say, Warcraft III Battlechest (which I never played), I don't think I'll have anything to get hooked up with this year, since Starcraft II is who knows how far away.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Orderly

I do things in blocks. Typically, I'll gather up projects I have and sort them out mentally. I don't like going back-and-forth between the various stages of working if I don't have to. I prefer being in one mode as long as possible. So, I'll pick a group of projects and do all the research necessary for all the pieces, filing away reference shots I find online and making notes to myself. Next I'll try to do all my thumbnails for all outstanding projects. Following that, I'll take reference photos for the whole bunch.

After a long photo-shoot, I'll sit and do all my sketches next. My sketches are fairly tight and I can typically do 2 on a long day. These involve gathering all my reference and drawing, then scanning and doing some digital touching-up for presentation. Then comes the submissions and any tweaks that are necessary.

Likewise I do all my board prep work at the same time. Finally, my favorite part: the actual painting. It's intimidating to have a stack of boards ready to paint on, especially as deadlines approach. However, it is quite rewarding to see that pile of boards get knocked down in rapid-fire since all the preliminary work has been done.

Upon finishing a group of projects, I like to take a day off to recharge and clean up the accumulated mess. Usually a day or two following I'll catch up on other business, including website stuff, all the while mulling over ideas for coming projects. Then the machine cranks into life again and the whole cycle starts over.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Don't Try This at Home, Addendum

Speaking of pizza at the end of my last post on baking oil paintings in the oven, I should include these cautionary tales, lest you think my Jackass-warning sign was for show.

Episode 1

Like most people, I don’t use my oven all that often for actual, you know, culinary purposes; once a week or so is typical. Some ovens have two dials, one that only sets temperature, one that sets the oven mode (bake/broil/off/etc.). This means that you can turn the oven on without manipulating the temperature. At my old place, this meant I would just leave the dial at 200F and turn the other dial to bake or off, as needed. I’d stick a painting in, turn the dial to bake, and the oven would be set at 200F.

You can see where this is leading.

One night a DiGiorno pizza made its way into my oven. I love it when that happens. If I recall, these are baked at about 400-425F. The pizza was enjoyed and life was good. I then did an evening painting session, stuck the painting in the oven, and turned the oven on. Of course, the last temperature the dial was set at was now like 425F. My wife yelled out at me a few minutes later, “Is it supposed to smell like that?...There’s smoke coming out of the oven!” What a smell. With the speed of an Olympic hurdler I dashed into the kitchen from my studio, leaping over stacks of books and my cat along the way, and pulled the painting out. There was indeed smoke pouring out of the oven. My first layer of painting, once a brilliant cobalt blue, was now nearly black. The Hardbord had grill marks on the reverse which are visible to this day. You’ll note through all this that said wife remained upon the couch through the entire ordeal. I don’t even think the oven had reached the target temperature. Now, had I taken a nap that day or left the house, well….

Episode 2

I don’t often do painted color studies, but I did one that day. It was a small oil study, maybe 6x9”, for a personal piece I never ended up doing. Part of why I never ended up doing it was that I had done this lovely oil sketch I was quite pleased with and stuck it in the oven. I then went back and did some other stuff. The same wife as was mentioned in the first story decided to bake something, maybe some Banquet Chicken (you mustn’t assume we only eat prepackaged foods!), and preheated the oven, again to like 350F or so. A few minutes later she opened the oven to insert the breaded, yummy morsels, and some choice expletives were vocalized. I could guess what had happened from the other room. My oil study, done on treated Bristol paper, was now a lovely shade of coffee-stain, with grill marks reversed-out in white. It looked rather antiqued in a way, the colors all muted as if they’d survived for centuries. The look of guilt on her face negated any need for expletives on my part, but I lost all heart for doing that painting.

I’m happy to report that those were both probably within a year of each other, and early on. No incidents since then, and I now have an oven with one dial—you have to turn it to the temperature to turn the oven on, ensuring that you will correctly set the temperature each time. This is much safer. As well, we’re both well-trained to always check the oven first! When in doubt, I'll lodge a small brush horizontally behind the knob as a sign to check the oven before adjusting.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Don't Try This at Home

Recently I challenged readers with the advanced kung-fu of using the Pet Hair Pic-Up™ to remove lint from dried oil paintings. There is another thing I do that is so hardcore, it’d make Bruce Lee wet his pants if he considered trying it. As with the last post, most of these specific techniques (i.e., ones you don’t learn in basic art classes) are relevant to me and probably no one else. There are good reasons, and they have to do with the belt level required to attempt them. You need a belt color deeper than black. Trust me, this color exists—I’ve seen it within the bitter, evil eyes of my cat.


Drying oil paints is a subject that every oil painter can talk about endlessly. If you are around oil painters and everyone is out of conversation in one of those awkward silences, ask, “How do you all dry your oil paints?” You’ll instantly re-start the conversation for hours. This will also be a good time to exit the room unnoticed.

My method is still by far the easiest, fastest, and most potentially fatal of them all.


No, really, I will not be held responsible for your 3rd-degree burns and ruined life. You think I'm kidding?

This method is the easiest: it requires no manual labor or attention like the hairdryer method. You stick the painting in the oven and walk away (once you’re a seasoned pro). It is the fastest: I can hit a painting in about an hour with any combination of solvent or oil or paint, where drying mediums alone can take 24 hours. While the old lightbulb trick can sometimes yield these results, it only works on about an 8” diameter at a time; work bigger and you have to reposition the lamp and wait longer. Most potentially fatal: you run the risk of burning your house down and perishing, screaming, in horrible all-consuming flames.

The method is as follows. Take your painting, ideally on something sturdy and shove it in your oven on the middle rack. If you are using heavyweight paper, tape down the edges to a sturdy board like a piece of masonite; it will probably curl some and you’ll have to deal with that later, but you’re in a rush aren’t you? That curling will usually undo itself after not very long. If you are using illustration board you can count on it curling some too. Since I mainly use paper mounted on Hardbord masonite, I have none of these problems, but I’ve used other materials as well.

Next, turn on your oven. Paper ignites around 450F, and petroleum distillates (paint thinner) ignite right around there too. Ditto, turpentine. There isn’t a ton of either on a wet painting, but enough to start it up. It will vaporize into the air and that vapor can be ignited—I don’t smoke, so I haven’t bothered researching that. In any case, leave windows open because the thinner will evaporate quickly off the painting and build up in the air. It smells none too pleasant, and the smell of hot wood can sometimes be off-putting as well. It disappears shortly, however, but keep those windows open.

Oil paints don’t ignite, so that’s not an issue, however the pigments can “burn” and this starts happening somewhere around 300F. Your whites will turn brown and other unpleasant stuff. That’s way hotter than necessary. 200F will do the trick, this is often the default lowest setting anyway. Ovens can vary in temperature accuracy anyway, so experiment with higher temperatures at your own risk. I’ve done my own tests, but do yours if you want to know for sure.

And that’s it. If you know for sure your temperature is set correctly and that your oven is not crazy under-calibrated so that 200F actually produces 400F or whatever, you can leave your oven unattended. After years and dozens if not over a hundred paintings, I’ll even leave the house or take a nap (!) with the oven on; impasto passages can take a bit longer, as can passages containing heavy amounts of slow-drying oils. Often I’ll check email, write a blog post, or go for a run with a painting in the oven.

Limitations: size. Most ovens can comfortably accept a 12x18” board but not much larger. Working bigger means you have to move to one of the much slower methods or use more drying mediums that interrupt your flow as you work with them in mind. I swear that when I eventually settle down and have my dream studio I’m going to drop $10k on an industrial pizza oven. 56x37” capacity, oh man. Don't ask where I'm going to get $10k from, dreams don't need realities barging in. I’ve always dreamed of working larger but my Guerrilla Art Studio doesn’t allow me to, and drying time would affect me at larger sizes. The only question is whether they allow temperatures low enough for my needs. Oh, and don’t imagine that pizza parties will not be had! If it doesn’t work, perhaps some overhead food warmers would be good. Would you like fries with that?

More on this topic was posted here.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Movie Night!

Fridays, when schedule allows, is movie night at the Gallegos home. Netflix is usually involved. So is homemade pizza. Sadly, tonight doesn't allow as I am behind on a deadline. So I'll let you have the fun with a collection of YouTube movies that all sorta revolve around art and stuff. All have been pre-screened for your entertainment pleasure!


I would so make this my favorite cafe.


It gets a little less impressive towards the end, but so does much of the art.


This may help explain why I've never been fascinated by Maxim.