Friday, July 6, 2018

Study Time, Episode 2: Return of the Paintbrush

1996 sketches for my illustration Kirins.

In my previous post, I showed preliminary sketches for some of my older paintings, side-by-side with the finished illustrations. In this post, I will show you the next step: the color sketches done on top of photocopies. 

Finished Kirins, 1997.


   I still use this method after all these years.      
    Before I start the finished illustration, I make several letter-sized photocopies of the sketches in order to look back at while I work. (I sometimes even work out the shading on them.)
    Some of the copies  I use  for “coloring”— and these also help me to loosen up!



   The “coloring” prep-study is the fun one: just like with a coloring book, I take my paints and messily play around with them on a photocopy of the sketch. Neatness is not a factor here—I'm just trying to see what colors might work for the finished picture. Sometimes I'll try several different pages of this before I get to a color scheme I like.

    The important part about this is not to start getting too detailed with the color sketch—you don't want to take that fun away when you get to the actual painting.


is a painting that I would love to “restore” when I have more time. I only have it now as a picture file from a scan, and it needs quite a lot of enhancement before it can be enlarged enough to make prints. Above is the original color sketch for the painting and below is the finished painting. 
    Here's some more photocopied sketches that I've kept all these years, Elmer's-glued in blank books. Beside them are the finished results. 

     I mentioned my love for fauns in previous posts, and this is probably Mister Tumnus’ fault. I had plans to do as many seasonal fauns as I had done faeries, but so far have only done Spring (see this post) and this one, that I just call Pumpkins.

    Because autumn is my favorite season and full of spectacular color, I love seeing big orange pumpkins every Halloween. (Yes, and I am also one of those pumpkin spice fiends. I do have my vices.) I don't have the color sketch for this one, unfortunately. Which is also the case with this next one...


    This was done when I had a pet iguana named Hugh (right), so it's no coincidence that a lot of my dragons during this time looked like iguanas. Because iguanas are vegetarians, I figured a hypothetical vegetarian dragon might be as vividly colored as a rainforest parrot, or as the flowers this particular creature eats.

    This is another picture in which my signature somehow got chopped off in the original photo I had taken of it and I needed to fit my name in there again, somewhere. (The original was sold a long time ago.) 

    Oh, and here’s some more photos of Hugh the Iguana. You’re welcome.


    This began as a drawing I had done in college after wondering how anything with six wings could possibly fly. I gave my Battle Seraph some Asian-influenced armor and arranged the wings like the petals of a flower. Even in the original pen and ink picture done back in 1986 (which I don’t have anymore) I saw the wings as being red, and so in 2009 I finally did a color version. 

The sketch of the Naiad (on the left) was another potential illustration 
that never got to the painted stage.
    I wrote before that it’s fun to revisit old pictures and try to improve on them. An artist’s skills always get better with age—because you've accumulated years of practice, of course! (At least, this is what I keep telling myself...)


    I’ve been told a few times that the boy in this picture looks like Harry Potter, but I did this picture in 1995, long before the first of J.K. Rowling’s books emerged here in the States. The idea was to have a human boy (with my cat Fish sitting in his lap) reading stories to his friend, a centaur girl, and showing her the wonder of books. 

    This painting was eventually donated it to a library back in New Jersey. I later tried to rescue and restore it from the only photo I had of it.


     And here's my cat Fish.  She came with that name from the animal shelter where I got her. 

    I've always had black cats. She was my second rescue and I had her as a companion for fourteen years. She and two ferrets traveled with me on the cross-country move to  Arizona.

    Speaking of centaurs, here’s the original color sketch for this smirking, tattooed fellow. In this case, I was in too much of a hurry to even use paints before wanting to get to the actual painting, so I grabbed some colored pencils and made this fast, messy color sketch. Voila!


    The actual painting was also one of the fastest I’ve ever finished as well, done on a dull Christmas day in 1997—the centaur ended up having my undivided attention and I’m still pleased with the speedy colors I’d picked for him. And I think he likes his tattoos. 

    I was also pleased with the colors I quickly picked in this picture of Caesar, which was for a bookstore co-worker. He posed for it himself. I took a reference photo of him sitting on a library cart and holding an umbrella as his sword.

Here’s the stages of my picture Sister Moon, which features three little girls with a magical winged lioness. I had an actual storybook idea for them at one point, but this was as far as it got.

    As I mentioned in the last post, this is one of the old paintings that I no longer own—so I “rescued” it from an old photograph and digitally restored bits of it. I enhanced the colors, making the moon much rounder and the stars brighter, as well as re-drawing missing pieces of it with my computer mouse!  
    (Did I mention I really need to get a digital tablet with an actual stylus so one day I can do things like this much better? Drawing with a mouse is like using an Etch-a-Sketch.)

The same story goes for the Merman, which I mentioned in a very early post, had vanished to parts unknown. But I managed to hold onto the preliminary sketches all these years, and once more, restored the painting from an old photograph.

   Here’s some pages of these books that I pasted the studies into. There’s even some sketches and colored versions of pictures that were in the works but, as of this blog’s date, still haven’t become paintings. However, I did start The Purple Fairy, which is in the "half-finished" painting pile along with the Keats illustration. Both are still works-in-progress that someday I'll have time to get back to!
   More fairies, more warrior women, more monsters… Again, ideas and sketches that never made it to the actual painting stage.

And did I mention foxes?

Here’s the progress (below) for the two Kitchen Dragon illustrations I did for my sister’s husband, Rob Lanning.

The Toaster Dragon (top) and The Sink Serpent (below).

    The Owl Watch was mostly an excuse to paint a picture of a barn owl, which is my favorite type of owl with its dark eyes, heart-shaped face and toasted marshmallow coloring.
    Lastly, here’s several stages of Yaira, a character from my story Heaven and the Dead City. I talked a little about the progress of this painting originally in this post.) 

    While I want to write Heaven and the Dead City as an illustrated novel now, I still have 100-plus pages of the graphic novel that I might put up on Patreon on a weekly basis so that any interested people can find it. 

    Although I began that version of the story eight years ago, it was a big learning process for me. It helped  to teach me a different, somewhat more linear painting style, and a lot of work went into it. Later in this blog, I will let you know when I start serializing it on the pages on Patreon!


Now that I've shown you all this old stuff, let's bring on the new stuff. 
                                                                                                                                                                                       Coming up next!

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Study Time, Part 1

Green Man color sketch from 1996.
    I moved to a new apartment last June in the middle of the hottest week of the year in Arizona. If you’re a booklover, you know what a herculean task it is to pack up your library of books into boxes. And after a while, it feels like you’re lifting piles of bricks instead.
    Along with all my artbooks, reference and fantasy novels, I’ve amassed a huge amount of sketchbooks and journals, some of which I haven’t looked at in years. In the middle of this move, however, I couldn’t help but open a few of these for old time’s sake—and I found a lot of old prep sketches and color studies for fantasy paintings that I’d done in the ‘90s and early 2000s, which I’d dutifully Elmer's-glued into blank books to preserve them.

    Before I get to the more recent projects that I’ve done over the past year in this blog, I thought it might be fun to take a look back at these early illustrations and the scribbles and messy painted photocopies that led to the finished artwork.

    When I prepare for a color painting, I do several preparatory "studies"—which sounds like an awfully sophisticated way to describe just making photocopies to shade and color. I doodle a rough sketch, then make a cleaner sketch which I then take to a place like FedEx Kinko's to enlarge and make more copies on which to paint.

    I then take the enlarged copy and put it on my lightbox to trace onto the nicer illustration paper. (Usually bristol paper, vellum surface, or hot press watercolor paper, which has a smoother surface—but has some tooth to it, so I can add colored pencils, chalks or pastels to the artwork.) When it's been traced onto the good paper, I usually first make more adjustments to the pencil drawing.

    Now, this next part varies. Sometimes I take one of the other photocopies I've made and use a pencil to shade it in and figure out all the light and dark areas and shadows.



    In later years, 
I've skipped this step and just shade right onto the actual drawing, but my early sketches do have a tendency to look like coloring book pages.

The Rose Fairy, 2005.




    (Hmmm... filing that idea away for later.)                                             

    Ever since art school, I've been doing variations of seasonal fairies, whether as illustrations or just sketchbook drawings. I also like to experiment with enclosing images in box-like frames and decorative borders. 

The Green Fairy, 1998.

The Leaf Fairy, 1998.  
This next one is called
Siren of Warsaw, and I remember the most fun part of it was painting the wave the mermaid was riding on. 

   I think I need to do more circular pictures! In this case, I used a compass with an extension to draw the actual circle, but for smaller circles I use circle templates, even coffee can lids of different sizes. I once used a dinner plate because it was the right size.

Winged Mermaid, 1998.

This (below) is the photocopied sketch for Artemis, which is originally a portrait of co-worker from a bookstore I had worked at in New Jersey. The concept of her as the Artemis was her idea and I took some funny reference pictures of her posing with a yardstick and a dowel-rod that were handy stand-ins for the Greek goddess’ iconic bow and arrows.

The Snow Fairy, 2003.

                                                                      Next up:

You'll see more early sketches and some of those color studies that I told you about earlier in this post. You'll see my messy painted photocopies and how I came up with the colors for these old illustrations.