I found a few frames with an art deco feel and decided to make a few illustrations to fit. The process on these was pretty simple: colored pencil outlines on watercolor paper, and the rest filled in with watercolors.
These reminded me of something you might find in a beach cottage, so I just went for the first thing that came to mind: turn-of-the-century bathers. I worked from the memory of Halloween costumes so the suits may not be entirely authentic. Cute though!
I’ve been browsing the Library of Congress archives for interesting things to draw. This 19th century photo by Matthew Brady stood out to me because it was a woman (not too many in the set) with an interesting expression and an even more interesting description: “Edith O’Gorman. Escaped nun from Canada?”
She has a bit of infamy around her story. After serving in a nunnery in Canada, she published a book in 1913 called “The Trials and Persecutions of Miss Edith O’Gorman” detailing stories of terrible treatment. It looks like she spent the rest of her life traveling as a lecturer (adding to an anti-Catholic sentiment stirred up by the press at the time) and avoiding death threats. She appears to have changed her name a couple of times and embellished her Irish heritage a bit along the way. In my cursory research there’s quite the mix of true accounts vs sensationalism, but she clearly riled up people and made herself a prominent figure.
Rather than celebrate or demonize her, I opted to use a period-appropriate technique of representing what I imagine motivated her. The language of flowers was popular in the late 19th century/Victorian era as a discreet way to express feelings. I took a loose interpretation of this with the following:
I’ll definitely do more portraits in this style as I find interesting people in that era.
I got a commission recently from an unexpected source. A few months ago I started posting close-up details of my paintings & drawings on Instagram and Tumblr. I figured it would be an interesting opportunity to show off the details you’d see if you could see it in person. One such post was a detail of Statement VII (the doctor): specifically, a close-up view of his hands jotting down notes. This caught the eye of our friends Kevin and Allison as they both work in writing/journalism and they inquired about a commission. I offered to change up details if they liked (different colors? new photo shoot in the same pose with one of them?) but they opted for a painting from the original photo.
The detail I posted on Instagram is about 3″x3″, and the new painting I created is 12″x12″. When I checked the original photo, I realized I’d skewed it a bit more warm/orange on the original painting. I liked some of the purple tones so I shifted a little bit back towards that for this version of it. I also pulled the crop back slightly to show cuff details for both hands.
While I was working on it, my friend Jeremy saw it and pointed out that it had a distinctly different feel to it when viewed from different angles. I often adjust the angle on reference photos for new paintings, but it never occurred to me to try that for this one. I rotated it a bunch of ways and decided that there were two that I felt looked best, so when I completed it I added hardware to allow it to hang two different ways: the original orientation, or turned 45 degrees for a diamond shape. I’m not sure which I prefer: I figure that can be a choice made based on where it’s going and what they’re in the mood to see.
Enjoy your painting, Kevin & Allie!
This was a leisurely-to-finish painting based on an old photo that I later realized didn’t quite have enough detail in it. I originally started this back in February with the hope of completing it for submission into an art show. The show was canceled so I shelved this for a while in favor of other projects. I’d only gotten as far as the burnt umber layer, and it’s been lurking incomplete around my art table for a while. I decided it was high time to finish this one.
I initially started running into the lack of detail while working on the (too pale) skintones. I considered keeping it pretty blocky as I liked how the clothing looked, but it just didn’t look right against the rest of it. So, when in doubt: more dots. While mixing grays from scratch I ended up with some nice purple tones so I shifted the color scheme towards that. I used a bit of crimson to offset a few muddy tones, and right at the end, toned down some of the detail around Edna (on the left) to add a little more perspective.
I came across an art show “call for entry” about an upcoming show looking for a range of commentary about guns. There are a lot of potential themes here: power, protection, sport, identity. The one that stuck with me was the use of a gun to amplify expression – specifically to sharpen and escalate an emotion.
The first part is in charcoal: a pointed finger, a direct expression that can still contain a great deal of context and shades of gray. By a subtle change of gesture – invoking a pointed gun – it both heightens the tension and throws a conflict into a stark contrast where fewer options exist. The use of ink also casts it in the light of something that has frozen in its state, a rendering that might be in a newspaper or book.
I came up with the gestures first and took a few reference photos. To get the best contrast, I moved around until I got the light source to the front and top of the pointed finger. I had the idea that the “gun” gesture hand should be more stark in appearance than the other. To figure out how this would look, I made a Photoshop mockup. While doing this I decided to try out different mat colors, and it occurred to me that I could make a custom mat shape too. I started with the standard mat rectangle and added angled edges to show the progression of the escalation.
Creating the charcoal hand was pretty straightforward. Charcoal is (relatively) forgiving: you can build up the shadows, and then pull back in the highlights and lighten areas with an eraser afterward. Ink: not so much. My first attempt was a bit messy, and I realized my reference photo for the gun gesture was a little bigger than the other. I decided to use the first reference photo for all of the hand except the thumb. This helped unify the two tremendously. I also changed my approach to the ink and used a brush pen so I could get more line variety. It took a lot of concentration to work this way, but more care in the linework paid off. Of course…when I cut the mat I realized I’d drawn the ink hand too close to the edge of the paper. To fix this, I cut out the hand and mounted it on a new piece of paper. Ta da!
Here’s a new abstract work I created for the “Over the Top” show currently at Works/San Jose.
While considering the theme for the show, one of the first ideas that came to mind was radio waves and their dependence on a clear line of sight for transmission (I was a college DJ in San Luis Obispo, an area surrounded by hills). As I explored this further, I realized the electromagnetic spectrum itself was filled with potential imagery. While the majority of it affects us, much of it is not directly visible…and a lot is obscured by the atmosphere. I created the whole painting, layer by layer, with vivid colors and imagery before bringing in the “atmosphere” across everything outside of the visible spectrum (the rainbow). Some details are still visible while others gradually disappeared in the process.
I based it on this graphic from NASA and quite a bit of reading about each of the layers to get ideas for what to paint. Here are the layers of the spectrum you may be able to glean, laid out in logarithmic scale of their waves from the bottom to the top:
This painting changed dramatically along the way. Though it ended up the way I imagined, it was difficult to choose to continue since getting there meant fundamentally changing its look and losing interim details. In hindsighter, I wish I had created the lower layers with stronger contrast so they’d still be visible after the atmosphere was added. The final version did end up pretty close to my Photoshop mockup, though, so it got where it needed to be. The prog-rock-fueled red-and-black style will have to wait for another project.
Just finished this commission for a painting of Tobey, the furry friend of Alan’s co-worker Melinda. Last month, Alan was transporting an earlier painting, The Big Yawn, to its new owner at his work. Melinda spotted it and asked about a commission for her nursery.
We started by reviewing a few dozen photos, and she narrowed it down to six for me to look through in more detail. I picked three and did quick Photoshop mockups on different canvas shapes. One in particular had great lighting and detail, so I adjusted the angle and gave it a close crop to better match the intense staring-at-something-behind-you look cats often have.
The color layering (including the awful blue stage every painting goes through) worked to particularly good effect in the eyes. The fuzzy blurring of the white areas also helped soften the rest to make the details stand out more. Usually on these, especially on the paintings of people, I’ll just paint the edges black if I’m planning on adding a frame. I opted to paint around the edges on this one – so every layer I painted that you see here I also painted on each of the four edges (where applicable). It’s good practice in working out what looks right from different sides to ensure that changes in viewing angles won’t make the perspective look odd.
Enjoy your painting, Melinda!
This month’s Two Buck Tuesday at Kaleid Gallery in SJ featured an opportunity for figure drawing amongst the regular mix of demonstrations, musicians, and artsy happenings. Since I missed the last two, I was glad to get a chance to go to this one. This evening had a first-time model, Katherine, whom the organizer had spotted at a steampunk convention and invited to model.
I wasn’t in a charcoal mood, so for this evening I used a few new Neuland markers and a basic drawing pad (Strathmore Drawing Medium, 14″x17″). The markers are great! I mostly used the fineOne Outliner (refillable!) and the feel of the nib and quality of the ink made me draw more deliberately with it. I’m very happy with the results and will probably use this from here on out. The highlights on the staff sketch are from the fineOne Brush tip with ink #803, a nice green/brown color that happened to match her fabric. I haven’t sketched much other than foliage with that one, but now that I see it’s a pretty good pairing with the black, I’ll use it with it again.
Here’s the full set of vinyl toys & musician portraits I made for the Hues/Muse artist takeover at Chromatic Coffee last month. A few sold, so for the ones that didn’t I’m looking into either potential retail spots in SJ or online (possibly Etsy?) to hang a shingle & sell the rest. If you see any you’re interested in or if you’d like something in a similar style, let me know!
Here’s a preview of two projects-in-progress that will be for sale! In May I’m joining artist Celeste Young for an artist takeover of Chromatic Coffee. The theme of our show is Hues/Muse, a collection of works organized by the moods of eleven different colors. I’m working on ’em all now and will post both sets once they’re ready.
I’ve been in the mood to do more illustration, so the first set of goods are portraits of musicians. It includes the only suitable choice for purple: Prince.
The second set of goods are a bunch of custom vinyl figures. I’m painting/decorating them in different styles of arts/crafts. The green choice is this Topiary creature. Maybe I should name them!
The opening reception is Thursday May 7th from 6-9pm, and they’ll be shown for the month of May. More details to come on Chromatic Coffee‘s Facebook page!