Monday, June 28, 2010

Sketchbook Peek

Now that I've wrapped up this last Figure Drawing project, I have a dilemma. Because I've never been able to keep a sketchbook, I intended from the beginning to fill this one up; I bought it for that purpose. That was part of the project--to stick to filling a sketchbook. Some folks fill tons and tons of sketchbooks, but I've never been able to. I abandon them. You can tell I was not entirely optimistic because I just chose a store-bought basic one, not a fancy bound one. Looking back, I would have of course bought a nicely bound moleskine or something. After being tossed in my backpack many times as I biked (NC) or rode the subway (NY) to and from class, it's gotten a little beat-up, at least along the spiral binding. Each page is perforated for easy removal. It would be easy to remove the pages and break the book up. Most pages have multiple drawings, a lot of which weren't put on this series of blog-posts.

As an artist who draws and paints to earn his living, I would have an interest in selling these. I'm kinda wedded to the book as a complete whole. Ideally, I'd find a way to sell the entire thing. It'd be nice knowing the whole thing went to one person. Otherwise, I'd be parting it out. But parting it out means that each sheet has multiple drawings, and the whole sheet isn't always tidily arranged. A few of the drawings weren't so hot, or weren't finished sufficiently (ran out of time). Sometimes those drawings are on the same page as a better drawing, sometimes so close that I couldn't even cut out the nicer drawing in a rectangle without including part of another. The best way to sell the best stuff would be to tear each page out and then cut each nice drawing out in isolation. But then I'd have a butchered collection. What to do?

Well, this is the book in question. I thought it'd be fun to let you all have a peek at the entire thing, since a lot of it hasn't been posted in this series. So, here's a video of that. What would you do--leave it whole, cut out pages, or cut out individual drawings? Somehow, I have to maintain my Ramen and PB&J diet.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Figure Drawing, Pt. 20


 The finale. Well, for now.

(Above) 5.5x8" pencil, 20 min.
(L) ~4x7" brush pen, 5 min.

I'm disappointed that it took so long to fill up my book. When I began it, while living in Asheville, NC, I actually thought that I'd fill it while there. At the start I think I had it in my mind that I might go draw weekly. Ha. 2.5 years later, I finished. Granted, there was a 7 month break while in CA, before moving to NY. But still.

Process-wise, the main change was my introduction of the brush pen to my drawing kit. A small change, surely, but drawing with a medium you can't erase was very helpful. Once an artist gets rolling in his career, it can be hard to pick up a new medium due to the time needed to get control of it. When I first brought it to a session, back in NC, the drawings weren't so great, as I got used to the fear induced by the medium. Coupled with the short drawing times, loosening up was very helpful.

If you're ever in NYC, the Jazz and Sketch nights I went to are great, and highly recommended. The models are generally very good, and the live music a fantastic accompaniment. The classic illustration originals hanging around the room are inspiring. It's not full of pros--there is a nice mix of folks.

On that note, a word of thanks to my buddy and fellow artist Arkady Roytman, who's headed up the Jazz and Sketch night for some time, faithfully setting up, tearing down and managing a crowded room to make a pleasant experience. He's mopped up spilled ink some other artist got on the drop-cloths, dealt with the models, and even managed to do enough art in and among all this to post a figure a day for over three years now on his blog. Arkady is leaving NYC soon, and the Society is losing a great help. Best of luck out west! 

Though I knew it was the last session for me, I didn't do anything different. I just went about the business of drawing as usual. I wrapped up the evening, shook Arkady's hand and went home. This particular project was over. Funny that it should have a little of that graduation-feel to it, but since I'd put some hard limits on it, and tend to pretty stubbornly stick to them, it did feel like that a little.
(R) ~6x12" conte, 20 min.

There will be one more post wrapping up this series in the next few days, and then I'll be off to the next thing, which I'll begin posting here in short order.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Duels of the Planeswalkers on Steam

This Xbox Live title has just been released for the PC, for download via Steam. So now the rest of you can get in on the game. It sells for $9.99.

The game features reprints of my art, and further details were blogged about awhile back here.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Balance of Power, Director's Cut

Last summer, I debuted my painting "Balance of Power," which came with me to a few shows and was generally very well-received. I was quite happy with it, myself. One of the benefits of showing art in public is watching people react to it, or not react to it. Folks had very good reactions to seeing this painting, which pleased me of course. What was quickly apparent was that everyone's attention headed to the upper-left, to the figure of the woman. That's great--there are two figures, and she has the "superior" position in a few important compositional ways.

However, I felt the male figure got a little lost in the shadow of her presence. Even for myself, I found this to be increasingly the case. My wife hung the painting in our living room, so I've also had the opportunity of living with it most of the last year--you can see it hanging in the background at the beginning of a YouTube video I posted a few months back.

Additionally, late last year I discovered and began using Gamvar, a final varnish for use on paintings. Prior to this, I had been coating paintings with Galkyd, alone or mixed with Galkyd Lite. This creates a nice shiny finish, and a good isolation layer that cleans well. Technically, however, it's not a varnish per se. Which means, of course, that you can rework such a painting. So....

Recently, I finally began reworking it. Basically, I wanted his headpiece to have a more interesting shape, and for the patterning to be more refined. I also wanted to touch up the portrait a bit. I began by doing some very quick digital shape studies. Once I found one I liked, I overlaid tracing paper on a print, so I had a to-scale head. From there, I reworked the headpiece. I refined the patterning of the small stones that made up the mosaic. Then I scanned it back in, printed it at actual size, pulled the painting off the wall, transferred it down, and began painting.

While working, I also decided to darken the area of the distant wall behind the woman's arm. I also re-painted large portions of the face. It ended up being more work than I thought, but it'll soon go back on the wall and I'm much happier.

Before / After

Further, I finished with a couple layers of Gamvar, so I won't be tempted to touch it again. Ok, Gamvar can be removed with mineral spirits, but I've never tried doing that and have little interest in it. Leave that to a conservator generations from now!

The new version replaces the old elsewhere on my site, where you can see a detailed version of it as well.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Plein air: Cloister Park, Winter

Winter in Summer, well almost. I attempted to go out for a day of plein air painting back in February. While living in England, I had hoped for some snow that would stick so I could paint outdoors in the snow. It never did, but I got out to paint anyway, only to discover that the freezing temperatures and bad surface conditions foiled my attempts. I retreated, tail between legs, and finished the painting in the studio.

You'd think I'd have learned a thing or two about painting outdoors in the winter. I am, if anything, stubborn when it comes to things I want to do. Maybe the more appropriate description is dumb as a rock. The jury is still out (which just means I don't want to admit to the latter).

In any case, it was by all accounts a long and unseasonably cold winter in NYC this year. Long periods of snow, which did stick, and which piled up. So, I thought I'd go out and paint at the nearby Cloister Park. There's a very nice European medieval building there (really, it's actually Manhattan). However, the light during the time of day I was out was pretty flat, so there was no good angle really. So as I trekked around, I came upon this bend in the path. My wife says I sometimes pick odd things to paint when I do landscapes. What she means is this scene isn't the point of Cloister Park--there are 3 scenic highlights within the park that are meant to attract attention, and I suppose most folks would go for the easy bet and paint those. But the light raking through a stand of winter-naked trees off-frame to the right, on a ridge above the path, was interesting. So I set up and started painting.

If I was smart, I would've brought gloves. Perhaps the jury is in after all. The strong winds pushed the total chill to about 20F. About every 15 minutes I had to stop and warm up my fingertips. I got nowhere fast, and after barely blocking in the composition, my brain caught up with reality and I packed it in. I hadn't brought my camera (verdict: guilty) because I intended to simply paint outdoors. So I walked home, grabbed it, and headed back out to take a few shots. Then I finally went home.

12x16" Oils on Canvas (purchase details)

Over the next few days, I started in on it again when I had some time. As with the England landscape, I figured I'd make it a tighter finished piece, perhaps not as tight as my illustration, but something in-between, which would allow me to play a little more. Work caught up with me and I had to put it away, with not even a full day of work left on it. And so it waited for a few months. The cold weather finally broke, we got our late spring, and just as the humidity is rising and the temperature climbing, I was able to pull it out to finish it up, cognizant that it would be difficult to get in the mood to paint snow as summer sweltered on.