Vance Kovacs Analysis

This year for Spectrum 23, I was up against Vance for the award for concept art....which was an honor to even be considered in the same section!  I love his work so much.  He conveys so much information with such loose paintings!

Catacomb

Catacomb

This kind of composition is totally my jam.  Single, small character in a quiet, lonely place?  Yes please!  He's created a "frame within a frame" composition, divided into clear foreground, midground and background.  The character sits on the rim of the foreground, and the environment detail exists primarily in the midground.  I love how vertical his composition is within the ultra-wide image shape, and how he's used the diagonal god-beams to add drama to an otherwise static painting.  Value-wise, it follows the standard dark-medium-light as it goes backwards into the frame.  The environment feels very megolithic, but he's used smart negative shapes to add interest and a bit of space to breathe.  He's put a slight spotty texture on top to look like dust and debris in the god beams.

2 values

2 values

This is pretty hard to read, but feels to me like a giant mouth with teeth.  Not sure about the white in the upper right corner, but it gives more space to the image, and keeps it from feeling too symmetrical and locked into the center of the composition.

3 values

3 values

Wow!  Ok, that's a textbook use of values.  You can tell from this that the lighting is very flat and even, because there are no highlights that "jump" out of their space in the painting.  Each region very clearly stays in its value range.

4 values

4 values

Four values doesn't add a lot to this image, but it does give the sense of depth and a path back into the painting.  Four values is also where we see highlights come into the mix.

Traveling Stick Salesman

Traveling Stick Salesman

I love how loose and graphic the character is.  He's made of literally 3 tones and values.  It's amazing what a good silhouette will give you!  Vance has used the classic walking stick maneuver to make it feel like a person, and to lead the eye into the painting.  The only anatomy he's defined is that great deltoid muscle, but that's enough to sell the lighting and sense of realism.

The foreground

The foreground

This is very loose, and he has decreased its importance by keeping the contrast very low.  Vance is using cross-contour brush strokes to establish the form, except for a couple of highlights that are with the contour.  He's using simple brushes and no real textures.

The indication of vines continue the vertical theme of the rest of the painting, while the trunks have enough form to keep it from feeling graphic.

FG vines

FG vines

Here, he's refrained from cross contour strokes, and instead builds up form and volume with overlapping vine strokes.  There is a little colour and textural variation, but not much.  Again, it's dark, and it's meant to be used as a framing element more than a descriptive one.

Midground vines

Midground vines

This is where he does most of the describing of the environment.  There are some textures overlaid, but most of his strokes are just vertical vines.  You can tell that he's added back in some of the negative space with lighter colours, instead of painting dark on white.

Background vines

Background vines

Literally, the background trees are just a collection of simple vertical strokes.  Super loose, completely designed so the viewer's eyes ignore it.

 

Learnings:

  • Stroke direction to help tell your story.
  • You don't need a lot of contrast to sell a location, use as much as is appropriate.
  • Throw some kind of diagonal into the image to keep it from feeling too stiff.

Thanks for reading as always!