Stop copying me! - NO.

Hey guys, sorry I missed Thursday's update, but hey, better late than never, right?

This last week, I've been trying to paint outside of my comfort zone.  I've been doing "straight" painting, mostly one layer, no photos, no 3D, based on a drawn sketch.  It's been fun, and frustrating.  I feel like I got a lot of out of it, which is awesome - But one of the things I got out of it was confirmation of some fairly large weaknesses, which feels less awesome.

I've ALWAYS hated learning to do other people's stuff.  I hated learning other bands' songs when I was a musician, and I've never liked mastercopies as a visual artist.  After seeing my shortcomings stare me in the face on Thursday though, I am biting the bullet.  I could figure out how to solve all my problems on my own, but WHY?  There have been painters for thousands of years, and studying what they've done keeps me from having to re-invent the wheel.

I'm starting off with Sargent, 'cause I love his stuff, and because he's great at characters, which is definitely an area I need to improve.  I started yesterday with a one-hour study of Madame X:

One hour isn't enough to get the subtle brilliance of Sargent - but I can do it as a warm-up at work most days, and I'm hoping at the stage I'm at, we're talking 80/20 rule.

This morning, I did another hour study, this time of a Sargent self portrait.

If things go as I am planning, tomorrow I'm going to try for a longer session, and one that has multiple figures and a background.

I am also happy to report that I'm having more fun doing these than I thought I would.  Instead of being tedious, I'm seeing it as a puzzle, and a chance to really push my observation.

Because it's what I want to work on, all of these, while digital, are done on one layer.  I am sampling colours sometimes from the original, because I know I can match colour, it just takes longer.  What I'm focusing on is strokes, and *which* colours are laid down next to each other.  Remember, when you are doing a master-copy, there is no such thing as "cheating."  You can do it 100% by eye with no tracing or sampling if you want to, and that will be helpful - but you can also chose to focus on the things you feel you need the most work on, and recognize that you don't have enough hours in the day to do everything the hard way.

Anyway - once again, sorry I'm 2 days late, and thanks for reading!


Taking sketches to the next level

Yesterday at lunch, I drew these 3 thumbnail sketches.  Each one took about 2-3 minutes.

This morning for a warm up, I figured I'd paint them into quick colour-comps.  I started by fixing the borders of the drawings and converting to pure black and white.

After that, I spent about 25 minutes in total painting.

Supposed to be late evening in the forest, just before the sky turns colour for sunset.  These were all painted on one layer, with one brush (the standard chalk brush in Photoshop with transparency and brush size turned on.)  The point of these is not to have finished paintings, but to be able to see a little better what colour and lighting would do to the locations.

Sorry, just a quickie today!

Busy day at work, and I don't have a lot of cycles for a blog post, sorry :(  Rather than skip though, I thought I would share two paintings.  The first I did recently, the second I did 4 years ago today, at least according to Facebook.

Done this Fall.

Done this Fall.

Done 4 years ago today.

Done 4 years ago today.

Improvement happens.  It doesn't happen as fast as you want it to.  It doesn't come easily.  It does happen.

Just keep swimming.


Kooks and Legends Animation film festival - Poster work

Ok, today is election day in the states, and I'm too stressed for a full painting analysis blog post...but I figured I'd share the process work I did for this film festival poster.


My only brief was to "Make a cool poster."  I went to the festival this year, and there was a sweet French cartoon that reminded me of Moebius' work, so I thought I'd take it in that direction.  I started with a page of simple thumbnails:

Rough thumbnails in pen.

Rough thumbnails in pen.

Definitely borrowing some of Moebius' compositions...but if you're going to do that, do it from the best!

Nothing leaped out at me as "good" or "bad" from those 8, so I decided to take all of them and make colour comps.  I just took a picture with my phone and mailed it to myself.  In Photoshop, I set the layer as 'multiply' and then put colour underneath.

Fast colour comps

Fast colour comps

I showed these to the client, and she liked all the ones on the top row.  For the final poster, I drew it in Photoshop on an 8.5x11 image at 600DPI.  I changed the colours around a little bit, but I followed my ideas pretty closely.  Here's the final poster:

The Poster

The Poster

If you are an animation student, I encourage you to enter, the show was very popular this year, and there are cash prizes!


Ok, that's all from me today, sorry for the short entry, but real life intrudes.  If you are American and registered, GO VOTE.  If you are anything else, find a registered American and tell them to GO VOTE.

Thanks again!  Talk to you on Thursday :)

#inktober post-mortem.

Another November starts, another #inktober in the can :)  I think this is the 3rd one I've finished, and the 4th I've tried.  I ended up doing 41 drawings in my project, and I really like about 2/3rds of them, so that's pretty good odds.

Things like #inktober are GREAT for figuring out what you like to do.  If you give yourself a wide-reaching topic and then just observe yourself, you'll probably find out a lot about the kinds of things you are both comfortable and afraid of drawing.

Some things I learned this year:

  • Confirmation, I can draw a "natural" outdoors establishing-shot scene with almost no thought.  Those are definitely my default, 'what do you draw when you have no ideas?' images.  I tried to push them a bit this time into new terrains and varying close and far, but I like them, and it's important to remember that - I don't think I'd really enjoy any personal project that didn't contain at least a couple of these.
  • I'm better at drawing things I'm scared of than I thought.  Mechanical stuff, creatures, indoor scenes - they all get me a bit gun-shy thinking about them, but when I sat down and started drawing, I did alright.
  • Drawings for me really are about the idea, not the finish.  At least at this stage, I don't see myself making a drawn comic book, because I LOVE sketching.  I tried markers to make my work more complete, and it didn't do much for me.  I'd rather get the idea out and then take it to paint if it needs to go somewhere in a finished form.  Thumbnails are my jam!

Here's a gallery of my contributions to #inktober - tap the picture to move to the next one.

Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed it!  I'd love to hear what you got out of #inktober too!

Tool experimentation

Two very different looking images in this post - I'm trying different workflows to find new ideas.  The first one I started with a line drawing on my iPad, and then painted in Paintstorm until I took it to Photoshop for some lighting FX and final tightening.

iPad&Paintstorm and then lighting FX in Photoshop

iPad&Paintstorm and then lighting FX in Photoshop

The second has a very different feel - it was started in Unreal Engine 4.12 and then the character, some more texturing and lighting done in Photoshop.  I really enjoyed both methods!

Unreal Engine and then Photoshop

Unreal Engine and then Photoshop

Vineyard thumbnails

Starting to do some ideation for my fantasy IP.  Working title is "Grapes of Wraith"

These were drawn in my sketchbook with a Stylo black pen, then just photographed with my iPad and dropped into photoshop.  No need for hi-res scanning for things this loose.

Thumbnails from behind the curtain.

Thought I'd share with you guys the "in process" work I've been doing on my next painting for my Cyberpunk Cambodia project, "Agrarian Utopia."  Normally I start from 3D or a line sketch, but I've been watching a lot of Feng Zhu's Design Cinema videos lately, and I thought I'd try his "creative chaos" method with photos.  It was a lot of fun, and definitely pushed my thinking in ways I might not have considered on my own.





Spending more time on something

Thought I'd share the "before and after" on this concept illustration.  I did the initial 2-3 hour speed painting back in May for #maysketchaday, and this week I decided to revisit it.  I'd guess I've spent about another 15 hours on it.

The initial idea.

The initial idea.

The updated version.

The updated version.

There's nothing "wrong" with the initial painting, in fact, I quite like it - but there's no denying that if you want to convey more detail and information, the additional time certainly helps!

IMC - Final Thoughts.

Ok, I'm back home again, and trying to put my thoughts of the whole week in order.  First off, here's my final piece:

If you are into that sort of thing, here's an animated gif of all the steps:

The process!

The process!

Trying to talk about the entire event in any holistic way is really difficult.  It runs from Sunday at noon through the following Monday morning a week later.  There are just under 100 students and just around 20 faculty and staff, leaving, eating, making art and friends for the entire time.

I went in asking to get my ass kicked, and I hope I got that.  It sure felt real.  I had a weird moment halfway through where I realized I was still making one of "my" pieces - There wasn't an epiphany where suddenly I was leaps and bounds better - but why would there be?  My art is my art, and probably many of the things I feel uncomfortable about will ultimately become the trademarks of what makes my stuff successful.  I like my final work, and it feels better to me than the stuff I created in the years prior.

The lectures were great, as always.  It's amazing how many of your heroes suffer from "Imposter Syndrome", and yet still managed to succeed and produce work that stands the test of time.  There was a tremendous outpouring of heartfelt stories, emotions and advice.

I made a lot of new friends, from all levels of the search for Mastery.  I learned things from people who I'm pretty sure would say they are not as far along as I am, and I showed some professionals things they didn't know.  

I really can't recommend this event enough.  The staff are incredible, the other students are incredible, the event is incredible.  When you factor in that food and lodging are included, it's really NOT that expensive, I spend more getting to and attending most cons for 4 days than this event for an entire week.  Don't worry that you aren't good enough, you come away changed regardless of your level.

This one is a game changer.

Thanks again for reading, you guys are the best!

IMC - Mid-Week Update

Hey guys!  Live reporting (as it were) from the Illustration Master Class, where I'm working on a keyframe painting for a far-future-with-magic project, similar to the Rifts RPG or the Destiny game.

After Tuesday's post, I've just been working into and out of the painting, trying to block in forms and making things read properly.  

The first thing I did was rough out the textures better, and work on the environment.

From there, I shot reference of my friend Julia as the foreground character.

Always good to have other illustrators and models to pose for you!

Always good to have other illustrators and models to pose for you!

I shot about 50 pictures of Julia, and then "Frankenstein'ed" them together into a pose I liked, and put her into the painting.

Next I repainted over the entire image with the art history brush to remove the textures and detail, and to unify the whole thing.  With everything back on one layer and simplified, it became easier to push shapes around and make things more dynamic.

First pass at the bugs, and painted the mound into an actual form.

This morning I built a model for the bugs out of Sculpey, and shot more reference photos!

I have nicknamed these guys the "Land Shrimps" me, they feel like a cross between a Mukade, a shrimp and a lamprey....cute pets for every toddler!

I have nicknamed these guys the "Land Shrimps" me, they feel like a cross between a Mukade, a shrimp and a lamprey....cute pets for every toddler!

As things stand at 9:30am on Thursday, I have comped in the bugs, and I'm just about ready to start giving them some colour/texture love.

What is also going on this week that I'm not talking about yet is a tremendous number of demos, talks, and sharing between the teachers, the other students in my group, and the other types of practices going on.  This really is an incredible event, and I'm planning on a final update where I'll talk more about the whole of the experience.

I hope you enjoyed seeing these "ugly phases" of my painting, and how the whole thing comes together.  When you break it down like this, I hope you see that there's no magic, just a lot of small problem-solving that adds up to (HOPEFULLY!) something cool at the end :)

Thanks for reading!

IMC - The composition process

Today is day 2 of the Illustration Master Class in Amherst, MA.  I figured I'd give you guys an update on the event, and mostly on my process here.

Prior to showing up, we were given a choice of briefs to work on.  I chose "Magic User" - Pretty broad, but it seems to have appealed to a fair number of folks here.  I'm working in the digital room, so everyone around me is on either their laptops, or, for some of the people who drove, their full-sized desktop rigs.  Before we arrived, we were expected to have a couple of pages of rough thumbnail sketches.  I mostly did mine on my Ipad in Procreate.

Feedback from these was overwhelmingly that I was playing too safe, and that they were, quite frankly, a bit boring.  I blame my lack of comfort with figures, but there's only one solution...


MORE THUMBNAILS.  In this case, I did 65 more yesterday.

Thumbnails - quick, ballpoint pen, ugly - and oh so necessary!

Thumbnails - quick, ballpoint pen, ugly - and oh so necessary!


From those new thumbnails, I arrived at something I felt better about, and then did 3 slightly tighter sketches.

From there, a bit of thought into the characters and the creatures.

By the end of the first day, I had drawn a rough sketch and from that I began creating a rough 3D model of the environment.

Today we continue to refine the environment, and shoot reference for the people.  


I hope you enjoyed reading a bit about my process in this.  I'm going to continue this on Thursday, and then I'll do an overview of the entire event once it's done.


Thanks again!