Friday, October 8, 2010

Big, bad, bald Bruce Willis portrait from Die Hard 4

Another watercolor painting I did sometime over a year ago. I took 2 separate elements and put them together for one painting. In hindsight, I should have probably chosen to make the car/helicopter collision behind him a little larger to fill more of the background.

And it doesn't come off as clear in the scan as on the original, but I had tried to do a subtle effect of smoke rising from the bottom portion of the image. Maybe if I had had some of the smoke slightly obscure some of the lower pants areas in a few places it may have worked better than having it appear to only be behind him.

The stronger parts are the face and most of his shirt. I also think I did a decent job of making parts of the holster actually look like worn leather. The hand ended up a little bit overworked and nothing I did after a certain point was making much of a difference.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Marlon Brando, Bruce Lee and Bruce Campbell...some older acrylic paintings


While I was putting together the multiple scans of the Mummy piece, I decided to just spend another half a day scanning some of my older larger paintings that were still kicking around here.  It was also a good procrastination tactic to avoid working on some new ideas that I had planned on starting today. Even if the end result isn't fantastic, I figure its good to at least have some record in case a fire or hurricane happens before I get them properly scanned or professionally photographed. Scanning these in as many as 16 parts and then photoshopping the images back together was a super miserable bitch to do. So when you're looking at the enlarged scans, you may see some of the "seams" of these jigsaw puzzles...they didn't fit together 100 % perfectly, but close enough was good enough for me and my gypsy ways.

I'm posting these three  together today mostly because they're all acrylic paintings (a medium that I have yet to post any examples of), and also because they're older works from my college days at RISD...almost 20 years ago.

The painting pictured above was done from a black and white photo of Marlon Brando, and was done with a limited palette of burnt sienna, ultramarine blue, yellow ochre and white. It measures 16 X 22 inches.

To the left is obviously a painting of The Green Hornet and Kato from the 1960's television show starring Bruce Lee. I can't even remember what the original idea behind it was but it looks like I was composing it like a insert movie poster. Inserts were done in this dimension (tall and thin) and it looks like I might have left open space up top for some lettering. The dimensions on this one are 12 X 42 inches.

Below, is a portrait of Bruce Campbell from the movie Army of Darkness, a movie that I saw several times with a bunch of my college stooges at the theater that year. I remember that I worked for two summers at a movie theater in Pompano, FL. and that a group of us used to rummage through the 35 mm film trailers taking several of the better ones home. I remember cutting a few frames out of an AOD trailer and having kinkos turn them into larger prints to use for photo references. This one also looks like I purposely left a lot of open space above his head like it was a comic book cover. Maybe I was going to add a monster in behind him, but I don't really remember anymore. I am guessing that I either got lazy or lost interest and painted in a quick dark background instead. It is 17 X 27 inches.




Apparently, I work a different style when painting with acrylics. I like to show the brushstrokes and lay down chunks of paint in places building up a nice bumpy surface of dried plastic colors. This last one especially looks a little raw and unfinished.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Universal Monsters...Boris Karloff as The Mummy & Lon Chaney as The Phantom of the Opera

Here are two pen and ink stipple pieces I did of two of the original Universal monsters. I love these movies, and always in the back of my head have ideas for images I'd like to create for Dracula, Frankenstein, Wolfman etc. Even though these are of practically the same subject matter and share the same style and medium, and done more than a decade apart, these were very different experiences for me...

        
This one was drawn over two years ago, and the actual image measures 5 X 10 inches. After doing this one, I immediately wanted to switch to a smaller pen tip on future drawings to be able to draw even smaller dots for more detail in certain "finesse" areas...that, or work larger...or both. One problem with this type of drawing is that due to the huge amounts of time these require, it can be discouraging to really want to "go big".

Additionally, I think the paper in the sketchbook that I was working in may have wanted to bleed ever so slightly. I am constantly learning the same lesson over and over again when it comes to the quality of the supplies I work with, and how working with the wrong stuff can easily sabotage your efforts...or make you work twice as hard as necessary. Still, I had fun doing it and I liked incorporating the text into this piece.
This one below was done at least 12 years ago and fills an entire illustration board measuring 20 X 30 inches. I couldn't even begin to remember how many hours I put into it, but the answer "too many" works for that question. Also, my scanner had to do scan this in 8 segments that I reassembled with my amateur photoshop skills. If anyone can recommend to me somewhere that I can go to get large images scanned at a reasonable price, I would be forever grateful.


Everyone who sees it appreciates it for what it is, but lets just say that if I could do it all over again I'd make a few changes. For the most part, it would consist of fixing all of the compositional issues. There's way too much black. I'd lower the 5 circle portraits, make the logo bigger and more interesting and make the large background face of Karloff much bigger to better fill the entire space instead of having all that black. I wish that I could find the old sketchbook from this time period to show the original 3 inch sketch that had the composition much more like I wanted it to be than how the finished piece actually turned out. 

Having drawn this one so long ago, take into consideration that there were much less easily accessible resources for me to use as reference. I know for sure that I didn't have a computer at the time, and that the internet would have been all but useless anyway. I actually made reference photos for this piece from pausing a laser disc to photograph  the TV screen, and then went somewhere to have the photos developed. Even that crazy process would be way easier today with a much higher quality of result using high definition TVs, blu-rays, digital cameras or even screen caps with a computer.

It would have to be a long time before I could pull a re-do with a new Mummy piece. I'd rather tackle some big ambitious pieces with some other classic Universal Monsters first but the Mummy just has such awesome potential for detail work with all the wrinkles and bandages that I'll definitely be back one day for sure.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Five watercolor paintings of girls without clothes

My first few blog posts will be some older paintings and drawings. No great reason for this other than to have them seen by everyone I get to come visit this blog...they were originally in other blogs like Myspace. I'll do some brief walkthroughs on them as  I have pictures of them in various stages of completion.

This was the first one I did after a break from painting. I worked pretty tight on these which means I like to have a fairly detailed underdrawing done first. Something that provides fairly accurate dimensions and proportions where as I lay more and more layers of color down I can also erase the pencil lines as I progress.

Even at this early stage I had come to the realization that the 10 X 15 inch dimension of the paper was going to be too small to accomplish the detail I would have liked to paint with her face and hair. Those specific areas would have been much easier to paint at a much larger scale. I chose to do this painting for a few reasons.

I liked the idea of some of the edges of her body simply fading into the white of the page (which is why I never painted in a background). Her body is posed with a nice long stretch to it. And the blue hair was intended to be a nice punch of color in an otherwise light and open image.

As I go along, its a continuing process of managing both the layers of colors in the right places and the contrast levels of the image. The idea being, that if this was photocopied as a black and white image, it would still look correct. This is about halfway through the process, and as you'll see with a lot of my work that I generally like to use a limited palette. Many times I can use as little as 3 colors in a painting, my favorites being ultramarine blue, yellow ochre, and burnt sienna. But as a rule, that's just what I use most and then choose some other brighter colors more sparingly. And I never use black as a color out of the tube. I will mix my darkest value from other colors making it as warm or cool as needed. The idea being that whatever this darkest dark is will be black to the naked eye. I just feel that once you start mixing in the actual color black (from out of the tube) into your palette that the process can get muddy and dull.

This stage looks a lot more like a finished result with the dark hair laid in, and more attention has been paid to details like the face and tattoos. Because of the issue I had with working some areas smaller than I would have liked, they have already been overworked and I have laid color over areas I wanted to remain lighter. The executive decision becoming one to go back over some areas with colored pencil to make detail corrections. Not a huge deal, as I wasn't able to get the blue paint to be as vibrant a color as I would have wished.




I get to a point where its a fine line between your eyes playing tricks at you from looking at the same image for so long at such a close distance and feeling paranoid about making the mistake of overworking areas I won't be able to easily hide or fix. A good idea is to pin it to the wall and walk away from it for half a day or so and look at it later with fresh eyes to find any obvious issues (that you were too close to see previously) that need attention. This one came out fairly well considering...


  1. I was knocking some rust off while doing this piece.

  2. After starting, it was pretty obvious I chose to work a little too small for this specific image.

  3. the paper this was done on had been stretched on the board months before and somehow the surface became a little worn which made some of the edges hard to control and some unwanted bleeding happened throughout the process that I was constantly fighting.
After finishing that slump-buster and having dealt with all kinds of other issues that I shouldn't have with future paintings going forward like damaged and bleeding paper or working too small, I felt that future images would have a much more satisfying end result. Not really much to explain here, another underdrawing I'd be erasing bit by bit as more and more color is laid down...

I assume I'll be explaining less and less of the process with each image as there is no need to repeat the same information too many times, just new issues and information relevant to the specific image...

As you can see, this one is much more of a close-up done on the same size paper as the last. Hopefully succeeding in avoiding all of the major frustrations of trying to cram 10 pounds of detail into a 5 pound bag.

I tried to block in all the warm colors first using yellow ochre, burnt sienna, and another red whose name now escapes me. I tried to be a little more impressionistic on this one hopefully showing more pronounced brush strokes and blocks of color and less finer blending. But since my process is more about layering lots of light washes of color over one another, some of that gets lost by the final stage of the process.

Next was obviously to lay in some cooler values of ultramarine blue and another cooler purple-ish red (alizarin crimson maybe??? can't remember).  Depending on the person and the lighting, skin tones are generally not accurately represented solely with the flesh toned or peach colored crayon in the crayola box. People have skin with a lot of purples and greens in areas like eye sockets and because of things like veins under our skin. Its kinda cool realizing how fun it is to know you're painting green on someones face and its going to look correct.

Much farther along now and actually starting to tackle some of the details. I'm starting to block in some of the darker values including the hair so that I have a good reference of contrast on the painting as a whole to know whether certain other areas are rich/dark enough. The warm tones seemed a lot darker than they actually are when they were the only values on a white page. Once I put something much darker on the page, they lightened up considerably as my perception of the whole was changed. Its all about the little relationships. the relationships between the warm and cool values and also the light and dark contrasts. Its hard to know where one needs to be without its opposite being worked at the same time.

As you can see, it is an unconscious priority to finish the boobs a lot sooner than the rest of the image :) It happens...Even back at RISD (almost 20 years ago) during a 3-day painting session with a live nude model. At the end of day two, a friend of mine pointed out to me how I had two perfectly rendered boobs in the middle of an otherwise still mostly unfinished painting. Sounds perfectly normal to me. 


And now the end result...I was extremely happy with how it came out and how much less stressful this one was to do because of a lack of bullshit issues, faulty materials and poor planning. I stuck mostly to the source reference image and didn't make too many editorial changes other than not pushing the purple hair color as bright and funky as it actually was. Also, the background tone almost wasn't there but I decided it would look strange with just the white paper background and only one cropped edge. The muted green works good as a subtle opposite value to her skin tones as opposed to maybe repeating the purple.

OK...blah, blah, blah, I actually got more detailed with this underdrawing wishing to make sure that I had all of her tattoos in the right spots and the right proportions because its a lot easier to erase a pencil line than a splash of paint put in the wrong spot. I had already identified a potential problem area being her chest which had a lot of light reflection on it. So I already had it in my mind to keep considering how to get it looking anatomically correct while also accurately fading the tattoos in and out of the bright spots. I also made the decision to not paint her right arm as it was in the source photo. It would have been cut off by the border and instead tried to imply that its going further back behind her body and blocked from view by her torso. I also did more liquid masking than I normally would to preserve some of the highlight areas in her face, hair and bracelet instead of having to remember to paint around all of those spots.

This time, I started with darker and cooler values laying in washes of blue to establish shadow areas and set most of the tattoos in place to allow me to erase a lot of the drawing sooner than later. My thinking being that if I didn't start too dark, that some of the tattoos would look right under some washes of skin tones rather than trying to paint them on top later on and not feeling as much like part of the skin. Then some warmer tones to start working those relationships.

Each painting takes on its own personality and dictates a different order for the process. I knew not to leave the background as an afterthought and to start working on it earlier on. I knew with all the details at the edge of the hair that doing the background first was the right choice. If I did it after the hair was done, I would have some issues with washing out some edges and detail. At first it started to look like a half-assed sunset or a shitty bar drink with one syrupy color sitting above another in the same glass. Since I wanted it to remind me of neither of these things, I knew it needed more work.


I am always constantly convinced that these aren't coming out right and they're a lost cause. Its usually during the last 10 percent of the work that it really starts to come together quickly.  I think I did an adequate job of getting the chest to look correct, and I think the colors and lighting on her face are good. I remembered to work the tattoos throughout the process to make sure they feel incorporated properly in the image as part of her skin and agreed with the lighting. I worked more on the background and eliminated that fruity drink look going darker to help make the body pop forward into the foreground. If I had one thing to fix on this it would be to somehow eliminate some of that unintentional outline effect around some of the edges of her body.

No major challenges with this one other than getting the likeness correct...something in and of itself meaningless to almost anyone viewing it unless they personally know the model. Working a little smaller with this one, a more straightforward painting. I felt the biggest challenge would be making the hair look real and correct.

Once again working on the background at an earlier stage to make it more a part of the entire image and to also help get the contrast relationships down to help show depth and pop certain parts of her forward. I was also considering to possibly fade the hair out into the background a little more than in the source photo.

Just more progress. Working some of the facial details and putting in more cooler values in the skin tones and shadows while also darkening the background. I'm also blocking in some basic shadows in the hair to get some sense of the flow and lighting.

Hair is a real bitch for me to paint. I find it extremely difficult to preserve a lot of the highlights properly or capture certain details. It got to a point where I ended up way off from the source image and kinda winged it in trying to do what made it feel and look correct. At this stage just keeping with working the skin tones and relationships, while further darkening the background and fighting through the frustrations I experience rendering hair.


One technique I end up using for working with hair after I've already painted certain areas too dark is to go back in afterward with a clean wet brush and scrub out some brighter highlights. It can damage the paper but it also creates an unique effect where the paint I'm scrubbing out gets pushed out and around the area I'm working to create a darker outline around the highlight maybe actually helping create even more contrast. Like I said, hair can be a bitch to do...definitely not my favorite part of most portraits.

This one was for sale on eBay and as a result found myself receiving the strangest message...

My wife died in 1998 in lake bonny fl and this is her. I need to know who painted this portrait. so please if you know the artist I would really appreciate the knowledge before I bid.

I explained to him that I had done the painting a few days before and that the woman who modeled for it was definitely not his wife...


Thank you for your reply. And might I add that it is a great painting. When I seen this painting it brought out a lot of feelings in me even though she's been gone 11 year. And in all honesty it freaked me out. Thank you for the info.


Now all I want to do is see a picture of his dead wife. And while dropping hints that he should send me a picture, I offered him a good deal on the painting...

I'm fighting demons within myself over this. I miss my wife dearly but for me to move on I don't need  to see a likeness of her. But to look upon a portrait of her likeness every now and then would be so sweet. I do wish you the best on this but it is something I have to figure out on my own. Thank you for your time and patience.
So, the end result was I got a little creeped out over a painting I did, and some other "lucky" bastard bought it and gets to look at a haunted painting of some other dude's dead wife every day.

Another smaller piece. More of a straight-up face portrait/head shot kinda deal. This one appealed to me for a lot of different reasons including the tattoo, exotic features and another hair challenge. So yadda, yadda, here's another beginning line drawing.

To not repeat myself too much, just an early stage of blocking in darks and lights and working on warm and cool relationships in the skin tones. This one was easy to do and no problems really arose including, surprisingly, the hair.

This is the "one step away from finished" shot and everything's basically just farther along. I think I'm getting better at working the painting as a whole instead of working individual parts to differing stages of completion. It saves a lot of work because a lot of times you fool yourself into thinking that certain things are correct until you lay in the darkest parts of the painting and then realize there needs to be more work in other areas that previously seemed to be dark enough.


Done. In a lot of ways, this one was my favorite to do even though I am not happy with one part of it. I think the tattoo could have been done better and I think the brush I used wasn't fine enough for what I was trying to accomplish. On the other hand, the hair I  happy with and ironically, I did it petty quickly and effortlessly. I left it a little less "finished" than her face but thought it looked fine and didn't want to keep working it until I had messed it up. She has a pretty face, and I really enjoy doing detailed facial features a lot. 

Uno mas. One note of no significance was that I decided not to include one of the 2 necklaces she was wearing. I think it had a gold sailboat hanging from it...but not in my painting. Anyway, another pencil sketch so I know which colors go with which numbers.

There were several places where I wanted to preserve the white of the page for highlights. Especially on the gold chain and glass container hanging from it which would be doing a lot of the work of actually representing the jewelry itself. So I went heavy with the masking fluid. And again, at least laid down a little tone early on for the background to help resolve contrast issues earlier in the process.

Getting to the more detailed-oriented stages. Having by this time also erased all of the underdrawing and worked out the way to show the jewelry. The photo is a little misleading being a little warmer than it actually is, its still a good representation of the stages of progress.


And finally done. The major concern on this one having been getting the glass reflective jewelry correct without ending up with stuff looking outlined. Also not making the color detail around the eyes too prominent and ending up making her look tired or beat up. Generally, any shadows being dark enough without looking like bruising.

Sorry that this one was a long post, I just felt like putting all of these paintings together in one post.

'Hitman' Bret Hart...wrestling with watercolors

Here's a quick post while I get ready to start some new sketching. Its a watercolor painting I did over a year ago of one of my top-5 all-time favorite wrestlers Bret 'the Hitman' Hart. Having grown up on a steady diet of 80's WWF, I was/am a huge fan of him, Ravishing Rick Rude, Ricky 'the Dragon' Steamboat and Rowdy Roddy Piper.


Having met Bret several times in the late 90's did nothing but help raise my opinion of a childhood favorite. He was always a cool dude with us and never really ever said no to taking pictures or signing autographs. As a fan, and considering all the things he's gone through over the last decade, it was an extra bonus to get to see him again at last year's Wrestlemania.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Doctor Who vs. Doctor Who

This post will hopefully be shorter than the first one. No step-by-step pictures of the process with their accompanying explanatory paragraphs...and only two pieces of artwork instead of five. Two Doctor Who images for the price of one blog.

The black and white image measures approximately 8.5 X 11 inches and was painstakingly done dot-by-dot by hand with a fine point (the specific size escapes me) rapidiograph pen. I love doing these types of illustrations even though they are tediously time consuming. I think I have a sadistic thing for tackling challenges like this was, especially doing the pinstripe suit without having to go back in later with a bunch of corrective white-out. The sad thing about these stipple or pointillism pieces is that they're a hard sell. Compared for example to the color piece, it's smaller, took ten times as long to do and is in black and white.  It almost impossible to get the same value for your time selling an original piece as it is for a vibrant color painting that I can do ten times larger in one tenth of the time. I really can understand it from a consumer's point of view, but it won't stop me from occasionally doing them.



Anyway, there's something surprisingly stress relieving for me in doing one of these pen and ink drawings. I think for one, there's a lot less to worry about. I don't have to consider any color choices, cool to warm relationships, etc. Its just about the black and white as you mindlessly bang away with dots for hours on end.

               
This second one is a larger watercolor painting measuring 10 X 15 inches. Just a basic floating heads arrangement. Looking back I could have maybe done a stronger composition like the pen and ink one has. But its still a solid painting.

Where the above drawing took the better part of week to do, this sucker only took 2 full days to wrap up. Bigger and faster. 

My love for this show goes back to the late 70's and early 80's. I used to sit at home when I was a young kid and watch episodes starring Tom Baker (arguably the best to ever play the role of The Doctor) every evening at 5:30 on the South Florida PBS station while my mom made dinner for the family. I think most American fans of the old show associate Doctor Who with only one actor, that of Tom Baker. I'm sure I'll eventually do something with him in it.