Here’s a foray into abstraction that I made a little while ago and just recently put up for sale. Inspired by the flame effect of these frames, I created a couple of illustrations in ink and colored pencil based on a painting I did in college. The painting was about the death of Baldur, a Norse myth, and like many Norse myths Loki is in it causing some trouble. I represented Loki’s shapeshifting nature and destructive actions as a kind of cubism on fire.
It had been a while since I’d made the painting, and I found these illustrations had a notably different style even though I had the same approach in mind. I haven’t done much abstract work and I’m finding it to vary quite a bit when I do. While the painting felt rough and smokey, these feel streamlined and slightly Joan Miro-ish.
I also realized I go back and revisit the same themes periodically. These Lokis are based on an earlier painting, and the colored pencil box I have has a painting I made from the story of Ye Xian which I also painted on a scroll in the Chinese folktale series.
Last one in the Harvest series skews tropical with papayas. This ended up being both the biggest fruits (only four on here) with the smallest details (little black seeds).
I changed up my approach on this one and worked pretty evenly across the whole thing. This also has the most variety in colors of the set: dark green and black for the seeds, yellow and orange for the inside, and yellow, green, grass green, and a clay color to desaturate the skin.
3rd of 4 in the Harvest series – avocados, cut open to show off the green insides and shiny pits. Same approach as the others: start at the bottom and slowly develop a pattern along the way.
These are made with Prismacolor colored pencils, and on this one I used seven colors total: green and yellow for the insides (blended with ivory), grape purple and grass green for the pebbly skins, and brown, dark brown, and yellow (blended with ivory) for the pits. It took a try or two to figure out the right appearance for the pitted halves.
Another fruit in the Harvest series – this time, a little pile of blueberries. This one’s more of an experiment in subtle patterns within a dense texture. I varied the amounts of blues and purples, and tucked in the stem area here and there to aim for something random-looking but balanced. I also made the front/bottom area a higher contrast and slightly bigger so it would give a proper sense of perspective.
Like the persimmons, I started on the bottom and gradually worked my way up. It got a little tricky to avoid a pattern that was too regular. Some areas started to get that fishscale-like regularity, and I found the best way to avoid that was to jump to different parts of the image while laying out the initial blueberry outlines. I think the hand (and eye) tend towards patterns that are both (1) regular in frequency and (2) trailing off in whatever direction you write. It’s the same issue with writing sentences on whiteboards, though (annoyingly) it can happen even on a tiny scale like this. Sometimes the best thing to do is to keep interrupting and switch to something different frequently to insert the randomness yourself.
A few months ago I had a little extra time in the evening and ended up at Corridor with a glass of wine and my laptop. While I was there, I was struck by the lighting and the rhythm of the layout. Two other people were there, quietly enjoying a dinner, so I surreptitiously snagged a photo that I decided to make into a painting.As with all paintings with photo references, I start with a sketch. It’s nearly impossible to correct weird angles or proportions after the fact so I always do this when it’s from a photo. The lighting in this is a bit darker than I’ve done before – a good test of me slowly attempting to improve the balance of dark tones in my paintings. Part of the challenge is that I get them looking right in person and then the photo is just…off. When I take a photo or scan them I always need to adjust them to match what I see. The dark tones are built up from a mix of burnt umber and ultramarine blue.
I listened to the High Resolution Design podcast while painting this one. I think it helped keep me in an industrial design headspace while I was painting all of these lights.
Here’s a bright little drawing of persimmons from memory. I drew this with Prismacolor pencils to experiment with blending techniques to replicate the muted sheen on the fruit. To get this look, I lightly filled in layer of orange and red and/or brown around the edges, and then pressed hard to blend a peach color for the sheen and orange for the rest. The leaves are a mix of two shades of green, ivory, and a pinkish brown.
I started with the fruits at the bottom and completed each one before moving to the next because I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to add something else in here (a pixie in hiding? a knit fruit? a glass ball? make one float up?). I briefly contemplated an Escher-like transformation of the leaves into birds. I ultimately opted to fill it in as you see because I liked the visual rhythm.
I’d started this illustration a while back during a Two Buck Tuesday event at Kaleid Gallery, and felt compelled to finish it now that we’re well into fall. I’ll be taking it full circle and bringing it back to Kaleid for the annual HARK! Holiday Show and Sale in about a month.
Vinyl records are a surprisingly good base for a painting! I recently came across a call for entries for a show titled “Extended Play: A New Spin on Vinyl Classics” that invited artists to use albums as the basis for new paintings. This is a collaboration between Art Attack SF, a neat gallery in the Castro, and a little bar called Church Key in North Beach.
Music lyrics seemed like a good inspiration, and I went with the first thing that came to mind since it had a few distinct images in it: Cat’s In the Cradle by Harry Chapin (or Ugly Kid Joe, depending on your era). The first part of the refrain combines lines from nursery rhymes: “The cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon, little boy blue and the man in the moon” I had three albums to work with so I decided that little boy blue was the least interesting of the three and focused on the others.
“Cat’s in the Cradle” was pretty straightforward; a cat, holding a cat’s cradle string game. I opted for human-style hands to make it easier to show the gesture for holding the cat’s cradle.
“The Silver Spoon” was less clear. I thought about combining it with Little Boy Blue but I decided I’d paint these out of my imagination (i.e. no reference materials) and wasn’t confident about how a boy would turn out. I already had the cat and the moon, so the next thing that came to mind was an owl because of the Edward Lear poem “The Owl and the Pussycat”. The owl could hold the spoon.
“The Man in the Moon” I felt needed a cravat. He seemed like he’d be out having a cocktail.
I wasn’t sure that the acrylic paint would hold onto the vinyl. I’d just had a painting fail where I’d painted a few layers on a found canvas that ended up not sticking on it. To my annoyance I’d discovered that the gloss seal and the paint were just barely holding on, and they peeled off in one plasticky piece. I did a small test paint patch that I attempted to peel/scrape off the album and it held quite well, so I was relieved I didn’t have the mess around with sanding and sealant experimentation to get it to hold. The one tricky thing about working on the album was that it was difficult to make the underlying sketch. I used a white pencil to sketch the basic forms, and it really only showed when the lines were nearly perpendicular to the album track. When they started to align the pencil would slip into the groove and fail to leave a mark.
I tried something different on the colors for these: instead of starting with warm tones as the base, I built it out of cool tones. It has a different look to it, so now I have a better sense of how I might use that approach in the future.
I decided relatively late what to do with the labels. I had started painting the cat before I had a clear idea of what to do with them, and partway through decided to make the label a collar-style necklace since it had a nice rainbow gradient. On the owl, the label had some playful hand-drawn lettering for the band name so I decided to leave just that showing, and the curve made it look a little like a worm that could be in the owl’s beak. On the moon, I decided the man in the moon would have a round head but be occluded by the label. The label also had Columbia’s logo of the dog and phonograph so that made for an interesting thing for the moon to look at. As I was filling these in I also realized the center holes weren’t filled in, so on the cat and owl I styled these to look like pendants.
They were looking a little incomplete floating on the albums, but I didn’t want to eliminate the album background completely because it shines in a neat way. Since these all had a nighttime feel I added fields of stars to the backgrounds of all three.
This is a painting of Tahuya, a spot in Washington that has a genuine inland fjord. Fjords: not all in Norway!
My sister Tiffany has a neat little place right on the water and this is a painting from a photo she took just outside. Since it’s a fjord that connects to the ocean, it’s saltwater and there are bunches of oysters, clams, and mussels. The water’s edge is littered with the shells which get bleached by the sun over time and can be seen in the shallows.
There were a couple of surprising color behaviors while I painted this. I can’t recall this happening with other paintings, but the gel that I use as an isolation coat between layers added a slightly purple sheen in some light, at some angles. That made it tricky to see my progress. Check out this video below to see how it looked mid-painting from one angle to another.
The other color trickery emerged when I got a scan of the finished painting. All of the dark areas are primarily a combination of ultramarine blue and burnt umber. The ultramarine blue in particular made the ripples look pretty dark – correct to my eye when I see it in person. The scan lost a lot of the nuance, though, and it took a half dozen adjustment layers & masks to get the image resembling the real thing. The scans usually don’t need much (if any) adjustment, and I’m not quite sure what it is about this one that made it different (technique? dynamic range?).
A sketch from a discreet location – the Palace Theater at The Speakeasy in San Francisco. Alan and I have been supporters from their earlier days as Boxcar Theater through this latest, grandest iteration of The Speakeasy. We were there this Sunday to join as extras on a little promotional material. As part of that, I had more opportunity than usual to check out the Palace Theater portion. Enjoy! Or better yet, see it yourself.
I don’t usually paint on 3D objects…but when I do it’s usually for a gift. This is a Zelda-themed repaint for my friend Jeremy who has a whole black/white/red setup for his motorcycle & gear. The helmet was pure white with black accents, so I took a few photos and went through a couple of rounds of mockups to figure out the look.
Visualizing on a curved surface is tricky! I considered taking some reference photos and mapping them onto a 3D object so I could spin it around, but (as I often do) opted for the quicker visualization figuring that I’d work out the fine details as I went. These Photoshop mockups just overlay vector masks onto the photo, and I eyeballed the curvature to fit the viewing angle.
Photoshop Test #1 was about establishing the overall placement for the classic Hyrulian crest with a little decoration on the sides. Jeremy wanted to incorporate “It’s dangerous to go alone” on it so he found the phrase in a glyph system designed for the latest game, Breath of the Wild. He also wanted more black along the sides and front, so for Photoshop Test #2 I figured out how to extend it without interfering with the letters (or vents).
Once I was ready to start painting, I knew I wouldn’t be able to mask the fine detail for the glyphs. Instead, I measured the front and printed them out to fit that length. Since it’s a curved surface, I also needed to work out how they would wrap evenly. To get this look, I cut vertical lines between each glyph so I could carefully bend the paper. I taped it over the area to paint them to use as a visual guide, and that worked out pretty well.
The rest I’d masked carefully though I ended up doing a lot of cleanup on the edges. Since I painted it (rather than spraying it) the paint didn’t leave a clean edge on the first pass. I wasn’t ready to invest in the kind of system (and masking, and ventilation) I’d need to do a proper spray, so it’s a good thing this worked! I used Testor’s Paint which seemed to grip pretty well. A final gloss coat by a professional painter helped seal it in. Ready to go!