Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Breakfast To Go

Breakfast To Go- 9" x 12"- Oil by Greg Newbold
I happened upon this moment one morning just after sunrise in the Heber Valley of Utah. I was fortunate to be there and capture a few pictures of the beautiful early morning lighting and the witness this young calf as he patiently followed his mother while she munched on her own breakfast. This painting is available at my newest gallery, David Ericson Fine Art, in Salt lake City, Utah. I'm pleased to join David's stable of talented artists.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Fading Color- Highway 9, LaVerkin

Fading Colors- Highway 9, LaVerkin; 12" x 9" Oil, by Greg Newbold
On a painting trip to Zion National Park with painter and friend David Meikle, we raced the sunset back toward Toquerville to see if we could capture the last light on some of the buttes. Light was fading fast but we managed to get back to this spot along the Highway 9 and snap a few photos. I am constantly amazed by the beauty of the state in which I live. It's always fun to capture a moment like this in paint. This one will be available at Alderwood Fine Art in Salt Lake City in the next little bit.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Who's Afraid of Photoshop?

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Digital by Greg Newbold
Another fun theater poster project just came off the table (or the desktop, rather) and I am pretty happy with how things progressed from concepts to finish. This one was also for the Footlight Players in Charleston, South Carolina. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf was written by Edward Albee in 1962. In 1966, the play became an award winning film starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. It tells the sad tale of two middle aged people in a caustic marriage as a drunken night of verbal and emotional abuse plays out in front of a younger couple. 

Step one was to watch the film. I readily admit that I had a hard time watching it and wondered how it has become so critically acclaimed over the years. It was like watching a train wreck and I felt like I needed to take a shower afterward. It's possible that this was the intent of the author, but I would rather not subject myself to that subject matter. That said, I had a job to do and I dug in and came up with the three above options. The client gravitated to the screaming mouth, which was appropriate given the amount of bickering that pervades the work.

Photo collage with some painted shapes around edges.
This rough is a combination of painted shapes and sections of my own photos pieced together in Photoshop. I make these types of roughs quite often and then I usually create a  separate finished drawing which becomes the basis for my final art. This one was so simple and was already working so well, I decided to just paint over the top of the photo comp. Now, there has been a lot of discussion on various blogs about whether this type of "photobashing" is cheating, so I will put in my two cents here. 
Photobashing is a common practice in concept art circles where the essence of a scene must be captured quickly to convey the idea to the production staff.  An artist takes existing photos and cobbles them together and paints over the top, adding effects and shifting colors as needed to get the result that tells his story. Of course with the pervasiveness of Photoshop in the commercial art world in general, this technique has spilled over into illustration and even trickled into the college classroom. 

Starting to refine the shapes and paint textures over the top
The most common complaint is that photobashed pieces are not really art because the artist did not draw the piece "by hand". Don't get me wrong, I respect the amount of time and drawing skill that many artists put into their work and would never want to downplay that. I am one of them. That said, my approach to this piece was to get the best result possible in the quickest amount of time. I used the tools and knowledge at my disposal to do so. I created the concept, took my own photos and rendered it in my own style. I just don't see how this piece is any less a piece of art than one of my oil paintings. 

adding more over painting, shadows and textures
I am fairly certain that if Leonardo Da Vinci or Johannes Vermeer had had Photoshop at his disposal, they would have been using it to the full extent of it's capability. It's just a tool. Essentially, digital technology is no different than a tube of paint, or a palette knife. In the hands of a talented artist, the results can be amazing. When wielded by an artist with an under developed skill set, it becomes a crutch. The resulting work from these two artists can be like night and day. One will likely be individual, stunning and highly crafted while the other will be clumsy, stiff and carry the telltale signs of a piece that has been heavily digitally manipulated.

Final work with final detail, lettering, and signature added
So what makes the difference? I think the bottom line is that those who allow tricks to overpower what they have to say and allow the easy use of photos to squash the way they naturally draw, will stifle their creative potential. When I teach college courses, I always encourage students to draw first. I make it mandatory that each student show me thumbnails and roughs before doing a photo shoot. Then they are required to show me final drawings before executing the finished art. It is paramount that the student have a concrete idea of what they want to achieve before getting caught up in the deceptive lure of photography. Photos have their place. I use them a lot.  But make photos fit your vision, do not resign your vision to merely what the camera gives you.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Miracle in Bedford Falls

I recently had the chance to create a new poster for Miracle In Bedford Falls For Footlight Players in Charleston South Carolina. This play is a musical stage version of my all time favorite Christmas film It's A Wonderful Life. In case you somehow live in a cave and have missed the 1946 Frank Capra classic starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed, you can watch it on Christmas Eve this year, like I do practically every year, much to my family's chagrin. I have somehow not instilled a love for the film in my children, but there is still hope. Anyway, back to the project at hand.

Creating new art for a story that is so iconic is a bit daunting and I didn't want to copy the familiar climactic family embrace that features prominently on most of the video versions of the film, so that was automatically out. Also, since this is a musical version, I wanted to somehow imply this aspect in the art. Other iconic symbols that I considered in the sketch phase were snow, Christmas bells, George Bailey, fir trees, holly, angel wings and more snow. I came up with four possible options to show the client of which, they chose the snow globe idea. We decided to add George to the snow globe from sketch one and add some musical notations to the swirls of snow.

Once again I created the hand lettering for this poster and incorporated it into the illustration. The client is thrilled with the result and I hope that it adds to the popularity of the production.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Life Runs Uphill...Both Ways

I finished this little piece for the Friend magazine last week. The article recounts the author's trip to Africa where he noticed the giraffes avoiding a muddy waterhole. The guide said it was because of the crocodiles. He looked but could not see any. Later from a higher vantage point, the mud covered crocodiles could clearly be seen as they laid in wait for an unsuspecting victim. Life has a lot of snares, some we cannot predict and some of our own making. That was the thought in my head as I laced up my running shoes this morning.

So, I was thinking, which tends to happen a lot when I am too tired to talk with my wife as we battle the miles and fatigue. In this contemplative state, or possibly just a state of exhaustion, we passed another jogger running the other direction just as we rounded a corner and started up a mild hill. She called out a "good job for running the hills!" I jokingly responded that it was uphill both ways. As I worked my way to the top of the rise, I got to thinking how true that statement really is. 

Life runs uphill both ways. The trick is learning to run the hills. 

We often times lament life's challenges, wishing that somehow life were easier or that if only such and such would happen, things would be better. Well, news flash, everyone has challenges. I just think that some people are better at taking the obstacle in front of them and overcoming it. People I admire seem to somehow transform tough things it into a positive. Just because I am not where I want to be in this regard, doesn't keep me from trying though. I have come a long way from where I was, but it's still an uphill battle. For example, I don't get as upset or stressed as I once did when stuff happens, because I have realized that stuff happens to everyone. I don't get as jealous of other's success as I once did, I try to be genuinely happy for them because celebrating another's success doesn't diminish my own success or my self worth. I try not to compare my work or situation to someone else's because they deserved whatever they have worked for. Good for them. My work is mine. If I want it to be better, I need to keep working. I try not to be disappointed when something doesn't go my way or slide my way in to wallow in the mire of self pity (at least not for long). It can be hard sometimes, but I think all of the above are things that trap us. In a sense, they are like the crocodiles in the mud. They wait for you to wander too close. You can't get eaten by a crocodile if you don't wallow in the mud.

I'm still learning to run those hills. They still feel uphill both ways, but I'm getting better at staying on the path rather than in the mud. And running those hills.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Rainbow Bridge

Rainbow Bridge - 16" x 12" - Oil on board by Greg Newbold
I just finished up this private commission of Rainbow Bridge. Speaking of private commissions, anyone interested in a painting for Christmas, get your orders in now! If I know in advance, I will have a better chance of getting yours done in time for the festivities. Contact me through Facebook or my website.

The natural wonder that is Rainbow Bridge is located in a finger of Glen Canyon that is now only accessible from Lake Powell in Southern Utah (true, you could hike in, but I really don't think many people take the arduous overland route). The first time I visited it in the mid 1980's it looked pretty much like I have depicted in the painting. Record runoff two years in a row had filled Lake Powell to capacity and the water had backed up all the way under the natural sandstone formation. Climbing on or under the bridge is restricted today out of respect to the Native American tribes who deem it sacred, but the time I visited with my Boy Scout troop, we took the opportunity to cliff jump directly underneath the bridge. I can't remember if it was discouraged then , but we did it anyway (oh the shame of youth). After a short swim to the other side, my fellow intrepid teenage adventurers and I scaled the slope under the bridge to take the plunge. I estimate that the drop was between thirty-five and forty-five feet, but after I launched myself off, I swear it felt like a hundred. After slamming into the water and then fighting back to the surface for a welcome gulp of air, I decided once was enough.

Lake Powell is currently more than one hundred feet below capacity which now makes the hike from the water to the Rainbow Bridge more than a mile. When I first went there, the boat docks were maybe a hundred yards from the bridge and that was only to keep boat traffic a reasonable distance away. It would take several years of above average snowfall to fill the lake again. I am not sure I will ever see Rainbow Bridge like that again. My friend who commissioned the piece said that her family went to Lake Powell many times while they were growing up and this is the way she wanted to remember it. I guess this view is just water under the bridge, so to speak.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Wait Until Dark Poster

Wait Until Dark- by Greg Newbold 13" x 18"- Digital
I have been lucky enough to do a number of theater posters recently. The latest is for the stage version of Wait Until Dark by Frederick Knott which was adapted into the classic 1967 film starring Audrey Hepburn as the blind lead character terrorized in her own apartment by a group of thugs looking for a drug stuffed doll. Having only seen the film, I was not aware that it was a play first, but I revisited the film to get a fresh feel for what the play is all about. After seeing it again, I knew I wanted to focus on the lead character of Susy in a close up with dramatic lighting. The match plays a key part in the action when Susy douses the killer with gasoline and then threatens to light him on fire.

I set up a photo shoot with my wonderful model Betsy and photographed a couple of different options. I wanted to invoke the feel of old film noir movie posters in the color palette and also by adding the distressed  edges and scratches. I created and scanned my own hand made distressed folds to make it look like the poster was worn along the folds as well.

I also took the opportunity to handle the title design. I found a very retro feeling font that was appropriate for the overall feel of the poster. I also distressed the type layer to match the rest of the image. I'm thrilled with how it turned out and the client, Footlight Players Theater in Charleston, South Carolina, was as well.