Friday, November 22, 2013


Well, the last studies are done, and the comp has been projected on the canvas...there's no hiding now, time to man up and get this thing done.

The sketch of Emily, above, really brought my confidence back.  I was having a hell of a time trying to get her expression right on the canvas, but this quick color study really locked it in for me.  Had a blast with all the red in this one as well.  The study of Heather is below...

Heather's sketch was by far the fastest, probably only about 20 minutes of easel time on this one.  Sometimes it's hard to tell how long I actually spend on these as I have 30 high-schoolers back behind me.  So a lot of the painting is really broken up; it's a good thing I don't work in acrylic.  I have to admit that doing these color studies before the final really helped me loosen up and enjoy the paint.  It's something that I may be adding much more of to my routine.

So, the painting has started in earnest on the final.  I started in on the carolers from left to right, one at a time.  They're mostly finished before I move on to the next, but there are a few little details on each that need to be filled in before the finish.  And I'm sure I'll find little things here and there to mess with, I always do.  Progress follows:

Projected on the canvas.

Most of Matt.  I also toned the canvas, but forgot to start shooting pics until this stage.

Lining on Heather.

Basic value structure.

Most of Heather.

Starting Emily.

Basic value, and a scarf.  This is where I cleaned my brushes today, had to head out early to pick up one of my boys.  Too bad all of the underpainting will be dry on Monday when I get back to the canvas... But hey, on the bright side, this should be almost finished for Tuesday's post.  Fingers crossed.

And the friday kicker.  After getting my butt handed to me at last week's figure session, I got back on track last night.  We had a new model, and she was absolutely awesome.  I kid you not, she was built just like a girl out of a Frazetta painting.  The gesture poses she gave us were great, and I was pleased with this final 20 minute endeavor as well.  Until next time.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Sketchin' with the paint...

Took some time to work up paint sketches of the two male carolers, Jeff and Matt (left and right respectively), today.  It was definitely nice to get back into the pigments, and I'm feeling much more confident about tackling the final painting for the card.  The colors will probably change a bit, more towards some rich and warm hues, but these cards usually end up pretty full palette.

I definitely had a lot of fun painting Jeff (gent on the left), his expressions were so great, and I'm feeling good about how I worked up some of the detail-ish stuff.  With Matt, I just kind of fizzled out after I had the big shapes slapped down.  And, I can definitely tell I was getting a bit lazy - what with that off-kilter hat and its glaring tangent where the red and white meet...

Anywho, Jeff was around 45-minutes of broken-up painting during my Art IV and Art I classes, and Matt was 30-ish split between Art II and my Independent studies.

I was using a pretty full palette on gessoed illustration board, a number two round hog bristle, a similarly sized round sable, and gamsol as a medium.  And these are in the 6-inchish range.

Friday, November 15, 2013

More Holiday Card

And not figure work, boy did last night's session kick my butt.  We took a couple of weeks off from our figure drawing session at the Dover Art League and I was feeling it last night when we picked back up.  Not to mention I situated myself in about the worst place I could - every pose was foreshortened hell.  Enough with the excuses though...but I'm still not posting any of what came out of last night.  Instead, some more work on the CRHS holiday card.

Studies for the other two carolers, I didn't have as many poses to choose from for these guys, but these two will work fine.  Will probably still do a few more sketches before paint, just to make sure I nail down the likenesses a bit better.

And here is the working comp that I okayed with the principal this afternoon.  Carolers front and center, the wreath will frame behind them with a pic of the high school inside it, and the Leyendecker-borrowed scroll with an old english-esque CRHS will close off the bottom.

I'll project everything to canvas on Monday and then start laying paint on Tuesday.  I'll take a bunch of pictures along the way.  And, deadline - Thanksgiving.

Also, this Friday's kicker - I made a video! Definitely not saving the world with this, but I had to do some video work for my grad class, and it was an interesting learning experience.  I'm definitely going to try and hone my skills with this and get some more up in the future.  Enjoy, and don't be to harsh.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


Well, it's time to start in on the high school's Holiday card, and the sketches came together earlier on this year during an in-service.  I typically take the opportunity to incorporate my boys into the card, but I was feeling something a little different this year.  There are a few elements that seem to make recurring appearances - scrolls, wreathes, maybe a street light.  But the main thrust of this year's card will be a group of carolers.

Some of the vocal jazz students were kind enough to costume up and pose for me.  They actually sang during the reference shoot, so that was super cool - definitely got better facial expressions than just asking them to fake it.  This is the first batch of sketches for two of the carolers, more will be up next Tuesday, along with quite a bit of progress on the finish.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Academic Work

I've been wanting to try some very academic graphite drawing for a while now.  I don't think I've ever been satisfied with the way that I draw with a pencil, but I think I'm starting to get there.  Somewhere around the second session on this, I realized that I could use the HB pencil to push around and blend the 2B and 4B - so that was pretty cool.  There is definitely more to do here, and we'll see where next week takes me, I really just want to see how far I can push this one.  A little detail below. Obviously the hair and the jewelry need a bunch more work, and I'll keep fiddling with the flesh as well.

And as a kicker, a little 20 minute oil study in Raw Umber and Titanium White.  I picked up Jeff Watts' awesome DVD on gesture work last month for my birthday, and have been itching to get my paints back out ever since.  I really love his philosophy on approaching the work - which seems to be fairly intuitive.  I especially needed to hear the bit about using MORE paint, it really does make a difference.  Go figure.  Anyways, the study is about 8x10 on canvas board, Gamsol was the medium, and a #2 round hog bristle was the brush.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Christmas Carol

So for the past four years or so, I have been intermittently asked to create the posters for our school shows.  The high school runs a drama production every fall, and a musical in the spring.  And I typically use these as an opportunity to get back into some pen and ink work.  The shows have not always been ones that I have been personally interested in, but I usually find interesting solutions that are fun to draw - one of the benefits of being the art teacher at the school is I tend to get a lot of freedom.

But this year was different, this year's Fall production is Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol." It's a story that is near and dear to me, even though I cannot honestly remember the last time I saw it (either on stage or screen).  But I do remember two versions that really stuck with me - Disney's "Mickey's Christmas Carol" from 1983 (the year I was born...holy moly) and "The Muppet Christmas Carol" from 1992.  I also remember seeing a pretty good version on one of the local college's stages back when I was in grade school, but the two mentioned earlier are the ones that really hit home.  So there was a lot of nostalgia attached to this poster, and it was quite fun to pull from while I worked.  So, on to the thumbnails...

...which were pretty bad.  But, some of the best advice I have ever received regarding sketches came from Jeremy Jarvis (the AD for Magic: The Gathering) about four years ago.  It was simply that a sketchbook should be the place to get the bad drawings out of the way.  That's stuck with me ever since I heard it, and it's really helped me free up my thumb nailing.  Regardless, I knew that I wanted to focus on the initial meeting between Scrooge and Marley, and incorporate the other Ghosts of Christmas as well, and I knew I needed it to be a montage.  So I looked back to some of these awesome Manchess sketches for "The Mongolian Wizard" for some inspiration, and the idea started to gel in the bottom right.

Still playing with the overall layout, but a flow between the figures is starting to come together.  I knew I wanted to keep the massive scale of Christmas Present framing the left side of the image, and I figured that Christmas future could frame the top right with his pointing arm, and then I could use his cloak to frame the right side and bottom.  Scrooge and Marley are going to be central-ish, and I tossed Christmas past in on the right, below Future.  Seemed like a plan.  I also took a little stab at Marley - really wanted to have some fun with those eyebrows and that nose.  Also, played with the idea of the village occupying the bottom center and an open doorway framing Cratchet and Tiny Tim.

And here's where everything seemed to click together.  CR Thespians splash would go at the top, credits and title in Oldish English font underneath, Christmas future framing top-right, Christmas Present framing center-left, Scrooge recoiling from Marley into Present's massive hand, Christmas Past sitting on Present's other hand looking across, and the village/town occupying the rest of the composition with that little open door framing Cratchet and Tim.  This also left a nice negative space on the right side for me to throw in the show times/dates.  Was feeling good at this point, so I took to a larger scale to lock it in.

 More of the same, just a little more clarity with how the lettering would fit in and some compositional noodling with the placement of Scrooge and Marley.  Now for the fun stuff.  Reference!

Knew right from the start that I wanted up-lighting on the Ghost of Christmas present, never got a decent sketch of it though, so you'll just have to live with the final inks.


And Marley.  Man, love that nose and brows.  Also, we were testing for PSATs this day, so I had a good chunk of time in the classroom alone to take care of these shots...except for one of my Advanced students who came in to get some extra work done and got to witness this nonsense.

From this point it was just layout on the bristol and a whole lot of brushwork.  And that was the one big change that I made to my process from earlier posters - the switch from a pen to brush.  I used a synthetic liner for most of the poster, but then just attacked it with black before calling it a day.  I had a lot of fun, feel like I learned a lot, and our Drama teacher was very happy with the results.  I'll call that a good day.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Studies for Muse

After tearing into one of Rob Liberace's DVDs on drawing the figure in motion, I took a crack at some in depth studies of my own.  Following Liberace's method pretty closely on these, black prismacolor verithin pencils on paper that has been toned with shelac.  I really liked the process, the hard surface of the shelac eats away the pencils pretty quickly, especially when I really dug into some of the dark areas, but it really let me move the black around like it was charcoal.

So these are studies for a larger piece that I have had kicking around in my head for a while now, and I really like how the far right figure turned out.  These also represent a bit of a new direction for me. 

For the past several years, I have had a fairly concentrated focus on the Sci-Fi/Fantasy illustration genre, but I think that's starting to change.   Maybe some of it's because as a teacher, I don't have to conform to some of the requirements/constraints that publishing puts on illustration.  Maybe it's because for the first time, I feel like I am comfortable with what I do, where I am, and what I think I want to do.

Now I certainly haven't lost my interest in the genre, it's just that I'm finding myself more and more drawn to the figure and the dynamism, emotion, and subtlety that it can convey on it's own. I'm not completely sure yet how this is going to translate into new pieces, but I'm feeling more directed now than I have in a while - so I'm excited to follow this track and share the journey along the way.