Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Painting With Texture in Photoshop

I recently learned how to import my own gesso texture into Photoshop and paint with it (see previous post here for full image). Some of you Photoshop pros are now saying something like "well, duh", but for me it was a big step forward. It's also much easier than I thought it would be. I am working with Adobe CS4, so I don't know how closely the following applies with newer or older versions.
STEP ONE was to chose a gessoed masonite panel- the type I usually prepare for my oil and acrylic paintings. I took black acrylic paint and with a sponge, worked paint down into the textured surface. I wiped most of it back out with slightly damp paper towels so that the deep texture retained the paint but most of the high texture peaks were wiped clean. I then scanned this 8" x 10" panel on my flatbed scanner at 600 dpi.

detail of my gessoed texture

With this scan now open in Photoshop, I adjusted the levels to exaggerate the contrasts a bit, pushing the darks and lights further apart. Next, under the EDIT tab at the top of Photoshop, scroll down to DEFINE PATTERN and click it. A box will come up with a thumbnail of your new pattern and a prompt to name it. Click OK and your pattern is now saved in the textures section of your Brushes Palette. To paint with this new texture, simply open the brushes palette and check the texture box. Click the word TEXTURE and your current selected texture will show up. To the right of your texture thumbnail is a small arrow pointing down. Click it and the textures in this palette will pop open. Your newly scanned texture will be at the bottom of the list. Select it and you are ready to paint with it.

Things to keep in mind when painting with texture:
If you want your texture to echo exactly what you have scanned and mimic a real gessoed board, DO NOT CHANGE THE SCALE SLIDER after you begin to paint. If you do, the size of your texture will not be consistent across the canvas.
You can choose to paint either the highlights or the valleys of the texture by leaving it NORMAL or by selecting INVERT. Normal will paint the "high" points of the texture much as with drybrushing and if you select invert, the paint will fill in the low points of the texture and leave the high spots relatively paint free. I found this to be very effective when I wanted to "glaze the shadows" without killing my texture. Keep in mind that when switching back and forth between the two, it is easy to forget and you may end up painting your highlights in the depths and the shadows on the peaks of the texture. I decided that INVERT would be for darks and normal would be for lights, so I could keep it straight in my mind.
Also, the depth slider allows you to determine how prominent or subtle you want the texture to appear. I found I liked the texture depth at about 70-75%. Using the OTHER DYNAMICS setting in the brush palette also is incredibly useful in order to take full advantage of your Wacom tablet capabilities, as it allows for softness at the edge of brush strokes, but that is fodder for another post. I hope this makes sense. if you have any questions after having tried this out for size, just shoot me an email or comment.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Asleep At Sea

Last week I posted another piece from this Stormalong series and it just so happens that this weeks theme on Illustration Friday,  "asleep" also fits in with that group of paintings. In the story, Stormalong is so big, that there is no room for him to sleep on the ship. He is resigned to sleeping in (and filling up) the entire lifeboat which is pulled behind the ship. I have a thing for full moons and sunset colors, so it's no surprise I worked both things into this piece. I was also the model with my cooperative wive acting as photographer (she does that a lot- thanks babe!).

Thursday, May 26, 2011

New Pochade Box

Last week I finally received my lovely new plein air painting box. Open Box M out of Cody Wyoming custom makes these boxes for artists all over the country. I have used this exact box before, borrowed from friend Rob Adamson and I loved it. It is carefully hand crafted out of quality hardwoods and is light yet very sturdy. All of the brass fittings and hardware are precision made specifically for these boxes.

All you need is a tripod to mount it on and you are ready to go. My box is the 11" x 14" pallette/panel holder, small enough to fit in a backpack. The color mixing area is just about right for painting outdoors as I generally work pretty small. Spring loaded rods hold your panel securely in place and can be adjusted to hold a piece approximately 18" wide if desired. I love the functionality as well as the look of this box and I can't wait to get out and break it in.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Angler Fish Goes Green- Color

Angler Fish Goes Green- 7" x 6" digital

A while ago I posted a drawing from my sketchbook of this eco-conscious angler fish. My initial intention was to paint it traditionally like my Cat-Fish and Dog-Fish pieces, but I decided to paint it in Photoshop instead. I give myself projects to create digitally in order for me to continue to improve and increase my digital skills. I learned something very helpful from my friend and fellow illustrator Will Terry about how to mimic my painting textures digitally. He coached me through creating a texture using the Define Pattern tool  under the Edit tab in Photoshop.

I know there are probably a few people out there saying "how in the world did you not know that?", but it was an important revelation for me and I think it will change the look of my digital work for the better. It allows me to use digital versions of my own painting textures to give my illustrations a more random and organic look. I'm pretty excited about it. If enough people are interested, I'll do a little step by step sometime to show you what I have learned. I'll be using this as a self promotional piece.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Quail Mama

A couple of weeks ago we discovered a by-product of last fall's neglectful yard clean up.  Tucked it into a corner behind the empty propane tank I have been meaning to swap out since barbecue season ended, I left a half used bag of mulch. 

Well, a resourceful mother quail has taken up residence in the leaves piled behind the bag and laid a baker's dozen of speckled eggs. I had noticed some comings and goings the last couple of weeks, but thought nothing of it since we always have quail in the yard. On closer inspection, I realized she was nesting back there and her dutiful hubby chirps at me from the nearby pine trees if I get too close. I am not sure how much time is left in the incubation period, but I'll try to get pictures of the little fuzzy chicks when they make their way into the world.

Bird watching previously on Life Needs Art

Friday, May 20, 2011

Sun Soaked Sailor

Stormalong Title page- 19" x 14" acrylic/mixed media

I did a series of paintings for a reading textbook illustrating the American folk tale Stormalong. It tells the tall tale of a giant baby that gets washed up on shore after a shipwreck. The town folk raise him into a giant sailing man and he has many far fetched adventures on the high seas, including a hair raising battle with a giant octopus on the ocean floor. This was a very fun project and included eight paintings. I'll post some of the others another time.


For those of you who entered the Life Needs Art blog birthday giveaway, the drawing was held this morning. The following individuals had luck on their side and were drawn from the hat (actually a paint encrusted Cool Whip container) and will receive autographed copies of my book The Touch of the Master's Hand.

Mike Blake
Chad Grohman
Spencer Harris

Thank you to all who entered and to all of you who check in on this blog on a regular basis. It has been a fun ride to this point and I hope the first year is only the beginning.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Last Chance to Win

Hey all my fellow blog followers! Tomorrow at midnight the Blog Birthday Giveaway drawing will close. Don't forget to enter for a chance at some cool prizes. The more entries, the more I am giving away. So far, odds are still pretty good for you, so why not throw your hat in the ring? First, you must be an official follower of Life Needs Art and then email me your name and username with the headline "Life Needs Art Giveaway". I'll slot you in the right category.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Got 10,000 Hours?

"Practice isn't the thing you do once you're good. 
It's the thing that makes you good." 
- Malcolm Gladwell

I get asked from time to time how long it takes to become an established artist. Not an easy question. If you have ever wondered how long it takes to master a skill, you should read the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. He puts forth the idea that although there are many other factors that lead to success in any given undertaking, including talent and opportunity, the number one factor in becoming a "genius" or "master" of your craft is hard work. In fact, 10,000 hours of hard work, says Gladwell.

An innate gift and a certain amount of intelligence are important, but what really pays is ordinary experience. Bill Gates is successful largely because he had the good fortune to attend a school that gave him the opportunity to spend an enormous amount of time programming computers-more than 10,000 hours, in fact, before he ever started his own company. He was also born at a time when that experience was extremely rare, which set him apart. The Beatles had a musical gift, but what made them the Beatles was a random invitation to play in Hamburg, Germany, where they performed live as much as five hours a night, seven days a week. That early opportunity for practice made them shine. Talented? Absolutely. But they also simply put in more hours than anyone else.

The answer to the above question "how long will it take?"  is linked to how you answer the question "how hard are you willing to work?". After reading Outliers, I did the math and if you dedicate your time to your craft at a rate of forty hours per week, you can reach that 10,000 hour threshold in 4.8 years. At four hours per day, it will take you nearly ten years. 

No wonder that when you look at it, there really are no overnight success stories. Some people are just lucky you say. In the right place at the right time.  As professional golf champion Gary Player once said, "The more I practice, the luckier I get".

Friday, May 13, 2011

Asian Cats On Safari

Asian Cats- Acrylic 18" x 24"

I did several pieces for Utah's Hogle Zoo a couple of years back including this one as well  as the very first post on this blog. In celebration of the first birthday of Life Needs Art which was this week, I am having a giveaway. Click here to find out how to enter. Thanks everyone for following my art adventure!

Birthday Giveaway details here

Life Needs Art 1st Birthday Party

Drat! Posts from the last two days have disappeared- I can't say if they will be coming back, so here we go again (grumble, dang Blogmonster...)
Anyway, my adventures in blogging began one year ago yesterday (keep reading to find out about the party aspect)! It has been an adventure and a pleasure to try to share with anyone interested nuggets of artistic wisdom, highlights from my career as well as what I am working on currently. I appreciate all who have been following and commenting here. It makes me feel more connected to my art, fellow artists and art lovers. I had no preconceptions when I started this thing other than I wanted an outlet to document my work and to show things that I am doing and things that I am interested in in both art and my life. Well, over 150 followers and 45,000 page views later, I am gratified that so many people enjoy sharing my artistic journey with me. 
To celebrate, and to try to get more people following in the fun, I'm Throwing a little party. A prize drawing actually, and here's how it goes:

Life Needs Art Birthday Giveaway: THREE WAYS TO WIN!:

METHOD ONE: Current Follower Giveaway-  Using the headline "Life Needs Art Birthday Party", email your name, username and email address to greg@gregnewbold.com and I will enter you in the drawing for current followers.

METHOD TWO: New Follower Giveaway- Using the headline "Life Needs Art Birthday Party- New Follower", email your name, username and email address to greg@gregnewbold.com and I will enter you in the drawing for new followers.

METHOD THREE: Referral and Blog Friends Giveaway - Using the headline "Life Needs Art Birthday Party- Referral Drawing", email your name, username and email address as well as the username, name and email address of the friend you signed up to follow the blog to greg@gregnewbold.com and I will enter you in the drawing for current followers. If you have your own blog and spread the word about this contest on your blog, send me your name, your username and email address as well as a link to your blog showing reference to this post. You will be entered into this drawing ONCE for EACH friend you get to follow as well as for each blog post, so there are more chances to win! If you win,  I will verify your referral by emailing them to confirm and to check blog links if you do that- no fudging here please.

Entries will be accepted until midnight May 19th

Since this is just for fun and to reward a few lucky followers, I reserve the right to determine what and how many items I will give away, but right now I am planning to give away at least one autographed copy of my book The Touch of the Master's Hand for each of the three drawings. Winners will be contacted via email for specific delivery instructions. If you already have this book and win, I will discuss an alternate prize with you which might be a book, poster notecards, etc.

Thanks for spending some of your web time with me and good luck!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Villa Rialto Poster

I am doing an editorial piece right now of a construction worker which reminded me of a similarly themed piece I did a couple of years ago. The painting was intended to be enlarged to the size of a construction trailer for a developer in Arizona. The mountain in the background depicts the vista seen from the development. I tried to create a heroic feel with a bit of a worms eye view combined with the stylized landscape and monumental sky.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Plein Air Cottonwoods

Afternoon Cottonwoods - 8" x 6" Oil on masonite
By Greg Newbold

Yesterday I pulled out a couple of the paintings I did on my California painting trip from last fall and spent a couple of hours working them up to finish. I was not satisfied with how either of them were looking and the paint had turned pretty dull during the drying process. I was pleased and surprised how much the paint came alive again when I brushed some medium back over the top of the entire painting to "butter" up the surface. I don't like to paint back into a picture when the surface is dry, so a bit of medium helps the paint to slip a little. One area that did not revive very well was the sky. The color was too dull and rather gray, so I repainted the entire sky pumping the blue a bit and using cleaner mixtures of color. I rather like how this little picture looks currently. Now to find a buyer...

Plein Air Painting previously on Life Needs Art:
California Plein Air Trip 2
California Plein Air Trip 3
To the Desert Again

Friday, May 6, 2011


I was a mere beginner... My first published work done as a student.

Everyone starts somewhere. For me, and I suspect it's the same with most artists, this beginning lies far back in my subconscious, alongside memories of  bedtime stories beside a loving parent, that first traumatic bike crash or the fish I caught barehanded. I simply do not remember the first time I picked up a crayon and tried to draw. I do remember countless hours spent drawing and coloring though. I remember getting frustrated with coloring books because the drawings were not always what I wanted to color. It seemed boring to me to simply fill in what someone else had drawn regardless of my attempts to shade or blend different colored crayons together. My mother suggested early on that I might like to make my own coloring books which I thereafter created with a childlike passion. I recall even creating a custom dinosaur coloring book for a friend's birthday and being disappointed when he did not find it as cool as I did.

Many afternoons were spent drawing on the cool cement floor of our then unfinished basement family room. My brother and I would unfurl huge end rolls of newsprint which my father brought home from his work as an ad executive (the rolls were leftovers from the newspaper press checks he visited). Epic murals of tank battles, dinosaur filled landscapes, or snowmobile races emerged from the never ending rolls of paper. By the time I was about eight or nine, my brother discovered a basketball and I was left to pursue my art without him (though younger brothers sometimes joined in the fun).

Pencils and crayons led to watercolors and then acrylics as I gained more and more confidence in what I loved to do. My parents were ever supportive and never discouraged me in my artistic quest, for which I will be forever grateful. They later told me that they had no doubt I would make a career of art simply because they could see how passionate I was about it. Well, If you count back to the first time I sold a piece of art, I have spent about thirty years as a professional artist. If you go back to the first published work I created, I have been an illustrator for twenty-one.

I searched my files for some early examples of my work (like the floral watercolor I did at age 6 that my mother kept) but was only able to locate what I recall as my first published color illustration. I did the above piece for the campus fantasy magazine early in my third year of undergrad studies at Brigham Young University. I think I got paid about $100. Well, you gotta start somewhere.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Boys' Life Cover Concepts

Cover sketch/concept #1

I'm going through the concept and sketching phase for a Boys' Life magazine cover project I am working on. I usually have to do a couple of rounds if ideas to get things approved and here is how things have gone so far.The story is historical fiction about an orphaned young man, Matt, arriving to spend Christmas with an aunt and uncle in the Sierra Nevada area who have agreed to take him in. They are all caught in a blizzard and the boy has to rescue both of them when the uncle breaks an ankle out in the barnyard and the aunt gets caught in the storm as well. At this stage, I am drawing nearly everything out of my head. I will concern myself with all the details when a concept gets approved. I did look at some horses and cabins to get a better idea of where to start, but the figures and poses are drawn from my imagination. Concept #1 shows young Matt just arriving at the farm. Since this is for the December issue, I thought the lantern added a nice Holiday glow.

Cover sketch/concept #2

Editors wanted to show a little more of the action of the rescue, so I did another version with the Matt struggling to get his uncle into he cabin. This version, although very dramatic, seemed too graphic as the figure of the uncle was a bit lifeless.

Cover sketch/concept #3

I did another version, this time showing the rescue of the Matt's aunt. I usually prefer to show faces in my compositions since it seems to engage viewers easier, but this one seems to work. Editors decided maybe it showed too much of the story's conflict resolution, so I went back to the drawing board.

Cover concept/sketch #4

In this version, I show Matt as he struggles to pull the sled holding his uncle across the farmyard to the cabin. It seems like this composition is closer to what the editors were hoping for, so I think this one may end up being selected. I will have to make some compositional adjustments to allow for things like the bar code/address box in the lower left corner, but I am looking forward to painting this one. If not, I'll just figure out the next possible solution. That's just how it goes sometimes.

Opening spread sketch can be seen here