In Which We Analyze John Park

Keeping on with my "Tuesday is painting analysis" trend, this time with John Park.  John is one of the concept artists I'm looking at a lot these days, and I thought it would be fun to pay some attention to one of his Hawken images.

The full image

The full image

I'm a sucker for mechs, and I'm a sucker for forests, and I'm a sucker for desaturated colours....so this is my jam :)  This is a classic "concept art" style piece, showing the basics of the world and the mech design in a mood painting.  This would be used to help set the direction of the project, and then further design energies could be put to the individual elements.  It's loose because it's about evoking a feeling more than tying down any particular design.

The 2-value version.

The 2-value version.

Not a terribly successful 2 value composition breakdown.  I actually think this image could probably use a bit more contrast to make it pop as a painting, although it does capture the intended mood, and it's important to remember it's concept art, so *maybe* we can relax some of the stringent composition requirements.

The 3-value test.

The 3-value test.

It does work VERY well in 3 values, so maybe the default two value read just needed to be scaled down a bit.  Nice separation of form.

The 4-value check.

The 4-value check.

Like with Stalenhag, I like the 3 value one better, but this breaks out some of the smaller forms.  Still works.  I don't think anyone is going to argue that the mech in the foreground is not the subject.

The Subject

The Subject

There are certainly similarities between John's work and Jaime's.  A lot of care has been placed into the silhouette and the basic form of the mech, but the interior detail is quit loose.  The details near the edge of the silhouette have been firmed up, but most of the rest of the mech is very sketchy - in fact, it doesn't even really work in perspective, if you try to line up the parts!  Definitely the legs and lower body are less detailed, but from paint strokes, contrast and the fact that mist covers them up.

Rim-lighting is used to show form change rather than a lot of rounding of shadows.  Unlike Jaime, he doesn't seem to only go with or cross contour - he's doing a bit of both.  On the more rounded forms he's going cross, and with on the flatter shapes.

Brushes seem to be mostly hard but I think he's got opacity turned on, he's just pressing hard for the most part.  I think he's using the lasso tool in some places to select his shapes.  On the left-hand gun, you can pretty clearly see some simple "Photoshop round brush"

Detail is implied and mostly occurs in shadowed areas.

The other mechs

The other mechs

These are even more loose, and are basically two-value objects within the silhouette.  Forms are "lumpier" and more painterly than the subject mech, and he's pushed the values *way* back to match the background.

The extreme foreground

The extreme foreground

I really like how he's pushed back the subject into the painting by using the mechanical ruins in the extreme foreground.  There is detail here, but unlike the operational mechs, no rim lighting, so it doesn't pop out and become overbearing.  Nice implied detail and texture, and it sells the war-time story nicely.

His treatment of the ground is quite similar to Jaime's, consisting mostly of horizontal strokes of textured brushes.  He's using the default Photoshop grass brush a couple of times.  Compositionally, he's using the puddles of water and the reflections in them to draw the viewer back into the painting, while the horizontal bands give a sense of depth.

That LOOSE tree.

That LOOSE tree.

This tree is so loose it is practically scribbled in, but it works.  Value and shape and the illusion of film depth-of-field let him use it as a framing element and to establish a sense of place without it being obvious for it's lack of finish.  Notice that the branches nearer the subject have more detail and a tighter finish to them.

The background forest looks like it was started from photo textures, but then heavily painted on top of.    He's added those god beams from the sky to draw the composition and motivate the sharp rim lights for the subject.

Even though he's used a photo, he's pushed back almost all of the detail with atmospheric perspective and decreased contrast from brush strokes.  By the time it reaches the ground plane, it's pretty much just a unified desaturated grey-green.

....which brings us to the colour choices as a whole in this painting - Green predominates.  Warm greens in the front, cool in the back on the ground, and the reverse of that on the man-made parts.  The exception are those red missiles, which serve to draw your attention to that part of the subject.  There's just enough desaturated browns and reds in the areas around the mechs that the colours sit together nicely.  I feel like Stalenhag would have put some industrial yellow or even white on the wreckage, but Park leaves in green and grey.

Lessons:

1:  If this works in two-values, it is grey and black and not white and black.  Low key painting that feels brighter because of the warm tones of the light and the sharp highlights.

2:  Repetition of form - The mechs get less and less detailed from the wreckage to the subject to the back of the painting - but because we see it in one place, we expect to see it again and "buy it."

3:  Keep colours unified, don't go nuts trying a bunch of different things.  Start monochromatic and use a different colour when it needs to be there to serve your painting.  

4:  Very loose and painterly foreground elements are fine if the composition makes you look in the midground.  Trust your composition, don't fight it.

5:  When you use photos, paint down the extra details so they don't draw attention.

6:  Don't be afraid to let your paint strokes look like strokes.  You are making a painting, not recreating reality.

Thanks for reading and going through this image with me!  Did I miss anything you think is important?  If I did, drop me a note!

Thursday I'm posting from San Diego Comic Con!