"On the River" - Mixed Media - 9 1/4" x 10 1/4"
Monday, May 31, 2010
Friday, May 28, 2010
I about cried laughing when I saw this Real Life comic.
SO close to home.
Me with Ron Spears at N.C. Wyeth's studio
Last July, I went on a cross country road trip to Hartford to finish up my MFA. My sidekick (or maybe I was his sidekick since he drove every mile) was good friend and fellow artist Ron Spears. Despite having an Apple iphone maps app, a GPS unit and a dog-eared Rand McNally road atlas, we still managed to get ourselves lost in a corn field in Michigan. In our defense, road construction and a driving rain storm combined to make us miss a turn off and then it was going to be a roundabout way back to get back on the right freeway. The "recaculating..." coming from our talking friend the GPS unit got so annoying that we started giving her nicknames like "Helga". Finally we turned her off, resorting to the iphone to get us back on track. We actually did manage to make it to all of our destinations including a visit to Brandywine, PA and the N.C. Wyeth studio. More about that in a future post, but here we are outside N.C's famed palladian window. I salivate over north light like that. In the meantime, you might want to check out this post by James Gurney about Wyeth's studio.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
"Here's the Deal" - acrylic - 19" x 13"
First thumbnail sketch - approx. 2" wide - roller pen
Final Drawing - approx. 4.5" wide - black Prismacolor
During my first session at the University of Hartford Limited Residency MFA-Illustration my assignments included writing and illustrating my own children's book. I spent many a midsummer night the first week creating a thumbnail dummy book version of "Scuffy, A Scarecrow's Tale", a project my wife and I had been writing. The story follows the adventures of our hero Scuffy as he overcomes his fear of just about everything in order to defeat his nemesis the crow. The full dummy book included a refined manuscript and black and white drawings for each spread. I also completed four finished paintings based on these drawings. I am extremely satisfied with the project so far and am in the process of hunting down the right publisher (anyone willing to have a look?). Here is a bit of the process.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
"Pip's Letter to Santa" - 6" x 6"-acrylic on wooden snowflake
OK, so it was May 24th yesterday and I woke up to snowflakes- giant snowflakes which didn't stop until we had three inches of the fluffy stuff on the ground. What cruel trick to play on all of us who have had tomato plants in the ground for over a week now. It was the record latest measurable snowfall ever at the airport (they seem to like to measure snow at the airport- go figure) Anyway, seeing all those flakes made me remember another snowflake that I did for a charity fundraiser called Robert's Snow. A bunch of artists were all given 6" blank wooden snowflakes to paint or decorate and the flakes were all auctioned off to raise money for cancer research. My flake was in memory of my father who had just passed after his own battle with cancer and I based it on one of the characters from my Christmas book The Barnyard Night Before Christmas. By the way, the snow was all gone by afternoon and I hope I don't see any more in my yard before November.
Monday, May 24, 2010
Me with one of the "beasts"
Beasts = Feasts
"Fat 'bow" - acrylic on illustration board, 9" x 9"
Friday and Saturday I got to go camping with my youngest son Will to a private ranch about 45 minutes up the canyon from home. Our hosts have a private lake there that was drained down for repairs. As a result, all the fish were congregated in what was left of the water. On his first cast Will caught a 22 inch long 3 1/2 pound rainbow trout . Despite waking up to 2 inches of snow on the tent, we ended up catching 7 "beasts" ( as he called them), six of which were 3 1/2 pounds or larger. The "small" one was merely 2 pounds. None were quite as fat as my "Fat 'Bow" though. I told Will that he might never have another fishing trip quite like this one, but he's willing to try again sometime.
Friday, May 21, 2010
Drawings From The Book of a Hundred Hands
by George Bridgeman
Details of hands from a few of my paintings
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Angler Fish Goes Green
7" x 6" - Prismacolor with Photoshop highlights
I Just delivered my first European project yesterday to a London based design firm for Toyota UK. I uploaded a high res file of my painting directly to their server, something I never could have done a few years back. the digital age has certainly opened up whole new markets to illustrators and I am doing my best to stay only slightly behind the curve as far as reaching them goes. I had a little time between projects so I worked up a new fish to paint. Deep sea fish are just so weird, I love them. Someday I'll have enough of these critters to do a calendar or maybe a book.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
I have a bird feeder right outside the window of my studio and enjoy seeing the mix of birds that come to feed. This spring has been a particularly cool and wet one for us and the birds seem to be feeding more than usual As a result, the feeder has emptied out with surprising regularity. The black capped chickadees, finches and even the sparrows are fine but I could do without a few of the bigger birds hogging all the seed (can you say starling?). Every once in a while nature brings you a gift. Yesterday this juvenile Western Tanager showed up and was kind enough to pose for a few pictures. I had a nice chat with him as we strolled the yard and then he said goodbye. That's why I keep filling the bird feeder.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Cat-Fish: Acrylic and metal leaf - 9"x9"
Since I was small, I have liked fish. I think it stems partly from Dr. Seuss books like One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish and McElligot's Pool. I always enjoyed the drawings in those books and remember carefully copying them when I was eight or nine years old. I also love to go fishing. My dad was a big fisherman and we fished a lot when I was growing up. My Dad, my brothers and I would take three day trips to fish the trout rivers in southern Montana, fishing hard from sunup to sundown. I still love it, but don't get out as much I would like. This picture was done for fun and to experiment with texture and different mediums like the metal leaf.
Monday, May 17, 2010
Thumbnail compositions for Professor Plum
David VanWagoner as Professor Plum
The photo "Frankenstein"
"It wasn't the Rope in the Conservatory that Killed Him"
Acrylic on Illustration Board- 12"x13"
As I mentioned in my last post, before I ever take photographs, I do many small studies to work out my composition and get a good idea of things like angle, cropping, overlap, scale, positive and negative shapes, value masses, etc. In short, I use these small sketches to give me a road map of sorts so I know where I am going. I can then engineer my photo shoot and pose my models to match my sketches. By working this way, I prevent my work from being held hostage to "whatever was in the photo" syndrome. Students and sadly even some professionals fall victim to this and end up settling for what was "in the photo" instead of taking the photos to match the vision they established in their sketch. It can take more time to work this way since one needs to gather props, costuming, scout locations and coordinate models beforehand, but it is always worth the effort when working realistically.
The third painting in the Truth Against Tobacco campaign was to depict Professor Plum with the smoke from his pipe forming a noose around his neck. I had the perfect model in mind- my Uncle Dave. He is a total character and his energy sometimes wears me out. He agreed to pose as a smoker only because it was for an anti-smoking campaign. I ended up flopping the composition and took several poses though I ultimately went with the one shown in the lower right corner. I shot several dozen frames and picked my favorites for what I call a "Frankenstein". I often take my photographs into Photoshop and fit them over my thumbnail sketch. I then cut and paste parts from several photos to get a photo composition that matches my original drawing. I don't worry about the quality of the seams too much since this version is only for my reference as I create the final drawing and painting. The "Frankenstein" for this painting consists of about five different pictures pasted together, many of which are also manipulated before compositing to change things like angles of joints, etc. It's not always pretty but I end up getting what I need for the painting.
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Michelle Christensen as "Miss Scarlet"
Selected Head Pose
It's important to get the gesture right.
"It Wasn't the Revolver in the Lounge that Killed Her"
Acrylic on Illustration Board- 12"x13"
Here is the second painting I did for the Truth Against Tobacco public service campaign. This one called for the right female model to play the part of "Miss Scarlet". I asked one of my former students Michelle Christensen, an up and coming illustrator in her own right, to model for me. She was fantastic, having done some professional modeling before, she jumped right into the role, bringing her own red dress and strand of pearls to the shoot. I always do concept and composition sketches before I ever shoot models (more on that next post), so I thought I knew the direction I wanted to go, but I figured since I had the model available I would shoot multiple angles. Michelle gave me more options than I asked for. I think it's very important to recognize when you are getting good information in a photo shoot and run with it. I have about 70 shots on disc and only about a half dozen made their way into the final piece. Some of the unused ones may make it into another painting some day- they were just too good.
When I shoot for a project like this, I always do full shots as well as detail shots. The full shots help establish the overall pose and angle and the detail give me the minute information that I need to polish the finish painting. Even with digital technology, you can only zoom in so close to the subject. Many students frequently make the mistake of not compensating for camera distortion (hence the long angle) or they completely forget to take any detail shots. This makes it very difficult to decipher the fine details and translate them to the final piece. I take care to shoot the long shots and the details at the same eye level and also I pay attention to the gesture if things like the hands and the angles of the limbs. I want the best possible silhouette- one that reads well as the actual object. Notice how much better the hand holding the cigarette (paintbrush) is than the one in the full shot.
Friday, May 14, 2010
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Home of the Brave- 24"x32", Oil
I just finished illustrating a fiction story for Boys' Life Magazine. I have enjoyed working with Scott Feaster, art director at Boys' Life and Scouting magazines for several years and he saves all the great fiction features for me (at least a lot of them). The story is a fictional account about the writing of "The Star Spangled Banner" and will run on the cover of the July issue. I did two interior paintings as well. This project also coincides with the 100 year anniversary of Scouting and the 2010 National Boy Scout Jamboree. If all works out, the painting will also be made into a poster and we are in discussions for me to fly to Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia to sign copies during the festivities. My two scout age boys will be attending Jamboree, so I would get to hang with them a little as well.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
In March I had my first gallery show. About a year and a half ago, I picked up my oil paints again for the first time since my undergrad college days. It has been a challenging and fun journey so far. The paintings are all based on places I have been and were painted in studio. The subject matter stems directly from my semi rural upbringing where we cared for animals, hauled hay, and grew our own vegetables despite living in what might be considered the suburbs. Many of these paintings are still available for sale-contact me.
Life Needs Art is one year old!
Once again I am honored to have had one of my pieces selected for inclusion in the latest edition of the Communication Arts Illustration annual. It's nice to have the recognition and exposure this competition provides. The painting was done for Utah's Hogle Zoo which is only about fifteen minutes from my door here in Salt Lake City. I don't often do high profile work locally, so it was fun to have this and the other two paintings in the series plastered all over town. I also enjoyed gathering my reference material from the actual zoo residents.