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.
This is a nursery I painted for friends Virginia and Gabe, with a Care Bears theme. The starting point: many Care Bears-themed items, which varied quite a bit in colors and were stuffed full of bears, stars, clouds, and rainbows. To unify these extremely colorful items, I suggested going for a simple sky and clouds theme with lots of little white stars and a few happy yellow stars. (which stars get faces? Did they have names? I have no idea.) This simpler background would also be easy to change into other themes, like space, Super Mario Bros, or others if they want to change it up in the future.
Similar to the approach I used for Hannah and Amanda’s jungle-themed nursery, I took a few photos and made some mockups in Photoshop to get a sense of the scale of the design, and how the layout would work with their furniture. While doing this I started messing around with accent colors and came up with the pink and yellow frames for the windows. We took a look at these mockups together, and it was a go.
I learned a few things along the way.
After painting my grandfather, I wanted to create a portrait of my grandmother in a similar vein. I found a photo Alan took at her birthday party in 2012 with a neat layout and a great expression. The one drawback: the birthday cake was decorated like a giant cheeseburger. It was pretty funny in person, but for this photo it just seemed…odd.
I did a hefty amount of Photoshop work on this to make it look like a more traditional birthday cake. After digging through Creative Commons for a while, I ended up compositing two or three different cakes with a few photos of lit candles to come up with the final reference photo. From there, it was a similar process as the others, with an especially low point midway through. Got to keep on going ’til it works!
Now that I am aware of these, I should (hopefully!) be able to avoid them next time..!
This one’s a wall mural I painted for the nursery for our friends Hannah and Amanda. The starting point: a jungle theme, butter yellow walls, brown curtains, and a few items including a curtain and a blanket with monkeys.
After taking pictures of all of the walls, I made these mockups in Photoshop to work out the design beforehand. We ended up scaling back to two walls instead of three, and I painted this over two rainy days. I masked the square and the crosshatched lines with painter’s tape, and sketched the plants freehand. I’d attempted to paint the circle by using a string pinned to the center, but after a few dashes I realized it wasn’t curving consistently; I got better results going freehand with the rest.
While painting, I mixed the blue and green to create an extra green for variety for the plants…and after painting one bush, I realized that the mixed color blended too well. I needed more contrast, so after adding in some white it was good to go. At some point I’ll remember these kinds of things before I begin rather than during painting..! It all came together in the end. With the inspired addition of the pith helmet, it’s a room fit for baby Zachary.
This little painting is for Conrad, the son of our good friends Cordelia and Jørgen born in December. Hoping I could find reasonably accurate info about Norwegian nursery rhymes, I ventured online to locate a suitable one. I was surprised to find that “Baa Baa Black Sheep” (“Bae Bae Lille Lam”) was one of the rhymes mentioned repeatedly. While the cheery “Sol Ute, Sol Inne” sounded good too, I liked the cultural crossover of the other and went ahead with it.
The sketch came quickly, so I inked it on the canvas and started painting right away. This is when I realized the first of two issues: I didn’t have a clear idea what color palette I would use here. I’d already painted the canvas a springy, almost minty, green, and had the thought that pointilism in a contrasting tone would really pop out. Now I had an orange and green canvas that just wasn’t looking right at all.
Time out to plan the color palette. My spontaneous coloring was not working out, so after walking around the house a little, I grabbed a few books for inspiration. In one book I found this palette which seemed right, so I picked a few others and made a few Photoshop mockups. I showed them to Alan for a second opinion, and he thought that the first scheme looked best; and that the initials I’d added for Cordelia, Jørgen, and Conrad looked out of place. Somewhere along here I also decided there needed to be a blackbird to balance things out.
Once I had the color scheme, the rest came quickly. I picked up the canvas to paint the edges, and realized I could see the dots better if I could keep moving the canvas around. That’s how I ended up with this one-handed balancing act between the canvas and the round paint palette.
The second issue came to light as I was painting, and noticed that the ink stubbornly came through. I went a little heavier on the paint to break up the lines a bit, but will have to remember to use a lighter hand with the prep sketching in the future. After I finished it up I lacquered it but good with a sturdy finish so it will hopefully survive a baby’s attentions.
This is our holiday card for 2009, inspired by We Have Lasers!!!
We shot the photo in our hallway, after fumbling with the lighting a bit until we got various hallway/bathroom lights working reasonably well together with the flash. The lasers are a color-adjusted variant from the hi-res laser background on the aforementioned site. It was a tad tricky to adjust them without killing the glow. Minor retouching courtesy of the Spot Healing Brush and Surface Blur (a tad shiny, yes), and the whole thing is topped off with the year in the ever-classy Brush Script MT font…beveled for good measure. Goodbye, 2009! Hello, 2010!
Update: This is the first of what ended up being a series of Chinese folktale calendar repaints.
There’s a Chinese restaurant called House of Chu within walking distance that looked somewhat questionable from the front, but once we finally went in, it ended up pretty tasty. For some reason they were also giving away calendar scrolls. I’ve been looking for interesting things for re-paint projects that wouldn’t involve a nearly-complete re-paint, and this was just the ticket.
I wasn’t entirely sure what to do with it, so as a first step I mixed up a similar yellow to fill in the background. I opted not to fill in the calendar areas entirely, so if you look closely you can see some of the dates along the side, and “San Jose” around the bottom. I have no clue what it said originally in the top left.
The first time I saw this I imagined water flowing down the steps and into the courtyard. Why? Heck if I know. I added it, flowing magically from a spot inside of the building and it looked right. And then I got utterly stuck about what to do next. I knew I wanted to add something in the sky above the whole thing, possibly clouds or cranes. I’d taken a photo of the scroll-in-progress and attempted to use the Brushes iPhone app to sketch out the clouds while on the train to SF one day. After less-than-stellar results, so I ditched that approach.
I decided to dig around and see if there were any stories from Chinese mythology involving water. I found a few promising deities but next to no stories, and none seemed like a good match. But Chinese dragons–ah ha. Those have both the association with water and the weather, and can fly. Dragons it is! I used Photoshop for a test run of the clouds, and the dragon foot. One reference printout and a bit of painting later, and it’s done.
There’s a bakery in downtown San Jose that has very tasty desserts, and so-so service, that I’ve gone to a couple of times with coworkers. The last time I went, I came across this… creation. It fascinates me. I never thought a cake could be ugly, but here it is.
I honestly can’t tell what they were going for here, between the cross-sectioned slab plastered on the side, those hash marks stuck on at random angles, and that poor sugar decoration that just gave up the ghost. I stared at it for a while and could almost see a reindeer, but not quite. My friend Andrea was equally puzzled. So I took a photo for posterity and mostly forgot about it.
Recently I realized this could be a fun artistic challenge: what is this thing? Something about the layout and the color scheme seems redeemable. So here are three interpretations of it made in Photoshop over the course of one movie (Pineapple Express), and two CDs (Creeper Lagoon, Shivaree). I used a Tablet PC, which is challenging due to the parallax and the inability to easily and precisely nudge things. I’m also using it to write this blog entry via handwriting recognition, an exercise in patience.
Over the last couple of months I’ve been slowly repurposing my computer area in our study–first a height-adjustable desk, getting a non-Ikea chair with a footrest, and today I stepped up to a 24″ widescreen monitor, the Samsung T240.
First rule of a new monitor: got to get some new wallpaper. I wasn’t finding as many darker, subtle images as I hope to find online, so I decided to noodle around in PS and see if I could reproduce a look that I’ve had in the back of my mind for a while.
This is my attempt to recall from memory a few things that catch my eye when driving at night: the way the hills look along 280 when you can see just a few stars, and the way the headlights silhouette the cars and bounce off the road. This was a process of layerings lots of very soft brush strokes, and erasing to get the harder edges. It’s amazing how much colors pop when you zoom way out. Sometimes I feel like I’m cheating tinkering with opacity on layers, and running Hue/Sat to fix the colors because it feels like it should be more painstaking than that.
This also reminds me of the title cards from my favorite cartoon ever, Batman: The Animated Series. I might have to do some more of these.