Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Bird of the Day - Hen

Hen- 6" x 8" Digital over graphite, by Greg Newbold
This is the second to last in the Egg book series. This one shows a laying hen on her eggs. I really enjoyed creating the shadows on this one and the effect is better than I hoped. I basically just used a warm gray gradient fill over the top half of the finished piece on a multiply layer and then erased out anything that wasn't my intended shadow. Once again, I am a believer in experimentation and learning on the job. I had about two weeks to complete all of these images from sketch to finish. I figured out a streamlined process that allowed me to paint all of them in a quick and efficient manner. I also learned how to create some pretty cool shadow patterns. Here is how the drawing looked.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Bird of the Day- Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker- 6" x 8" -Digital over graphite by Greg Newbold
Another in the Egg book series. This one of the Pileated Woodpecker was a fun challenge. I was asked to make it look like the bird was attending to it's egg rather than pecking away at the tree. I decided the best way to do this was to have the woodpecker's head be silhouetted against the dark opening of the nest hole. It served the secondary purpose of creating a nice value contrast to lead the eye to the bird's head. I also had some fun with a little sunset lighting in the background. All of these were meant to be simple backgrounds in order to keep focus on the bird and the egg. The texture of the tree was fun to paint. Have a look at the drawing here.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Bird of the Day - Tern

Tern - 6" x 8"- Digital over graphite by Greg Newbold
Another in the Egg book series. Terns lay their eggs in plain view right on the sand with little to camouflage them beyond their speckled pattern and coloration. The biggest challenge in this one was effectively mimicking the texture of the sand and the subtle changes in color. Here is the drawing.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Bird of the Day- Grebe

Grebe- 6" x 8"- Digital over graphite, by Greg Newbold
Another in the Egg book series. Grebes pull vegetation out of the marshy areas where they live to build a floating nest. I did not know this fact. Goes to prove that you can learn something every day. I posted the drawing here.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Bird of the Day- Robin

Robin- 6" x 8"- Digital over graphite, by Greg Newbold
This is the cover image for the Egg book I just finished. I thought I would post one finished painting a day for the next week or so until I run out of birds. This one of the Robin is the cover as well as one of the interior images for the book.  I love the color of Robin eggs. I posted the drawing here.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Bluebird of Happiness

Bluebird- 8" x 6" - Digital over graphite, by Greg Newbold
OK, so I wasn't so happy with the drawing of this one. Of the eight pieces I did for the egg book I just finished, I liked this one the least. That is, until I put color to it.  In fact if you look back at the posts I did of the sketches here and here you'll notice this one is missing. I think it was because this one is different from all the rest and somehow didn't seem to fit into the group. This is the only one in which the bird is in flight and also the only one where the egg is not visible. The lack of value contrast in the sketch around the bird was also a factor.

 I was following the AD specifications for picture content, so, as often happens in the illustration world,  I did as requested. As soon as I got it done though, I decided it was not bad at all and the action of the bird swooping out of the nest box is interesting and fun. When I added the bright blue of the bird though, the focus became clearer also. The shadow falling away from the bird was also a nice element that I think worked out well. Inventing believable cast shadows is an issue for many artists. I am still glad that my basic drawing class in college covered this topic effectively.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Storm Over Kolob Finds Home in New Public Safety Building

Storm Over Kolob- 40" x 30" oil by Greg Newbold
I am pleased to announce that my painting "Storm Over Kolob" has been purchased for permanent display in the new Salt Lake City Public Safety Building. If you want to see it, they are holding public tours of new building through this weekend at 475 South 300 East in Salt Lake City, Utah. The painting is on display on the first floor just outside the main elevator bank. Because it is in a secured location, viewers will have to settle for a view from a few feet away, but I am assured it is visible and in a prominent place. I think the painting holds up well from a distance but I suspect employees will get the real pleasure from seeing it close up also. I am pleased to have another of my recent paintings find it's way into a permanent public collection on the heels of  the Springville Museum of Art's recent acquisition of "Beckoning the Peace of Wild Things". 

I also just delivered a couple of new paintings to my gallery Williams Fine Art in their new gallery space. Have a look at what is being offered if you missed out on this one. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Photoshop Painting Process - Meadowlark

Meadowlark - Digital over graphite, 6" x 8" by Greg Newbold
I just finished up the bird book I was working on and I have to admit, I am loving my streamlined digital process. At least for this project, my working method proved to be seamless, fast and yielded consistently good results. I thought I would go over the process a little to show you how utilizing the flexibility that Photoshop provides, without sacrificing the look of hand done work can make a digital painting look like a traditional work. One of my biggest problems with digital work is that so much of it "looks" digital. When I look at something and it has that plastic "computer" feel or I can tell which brush or filter gave a certain effect, I cringe. Below I will outline a little about how I took my graphite drawing to a fully rendered digital "painting". Infusing the hand done nature of an actual drawing into my work has been a helpful starting point.

1- I start with a full value traditional drawing. This was done with regular old number 2 pencils on Stonehenge printmaking paper. I like the tooth of the paper for smudging, but it is not so soft that I can't get nice lines. It will tolerate a fair amount of erasure as well. After scanning, I isolate the drawing by using the following steps: In Channels, I make a copy of the red channel. With a black and white drawing, it doesn't seem to matter which channel is copied. At the bottom left of the channel palette, there is a dotted line box. Click it to select pixels. This selects the all the white pixels.  I then go to the "Select" tab at the top of the Photoshop Menu and "Select Inverse". Now all the pixels that are black or shades of gray are selected. I create a new layer and use my paint bucket to fill with straight black. Now I have a layer that includes only the pixels of drawing. I click the "lock transparent pixels" button at the top left of the layers palette (right next to the word "lock"). Now that layer is transparent but I can also paint those "locked" pixels any color I want without messing up my drawing. I usually paint parts of  the drawing layer to compliment what is going on in the overall color scheme. In this case I painted much of the bird brown as well as some of the grasses. I "hide" the original drawing layer in case I need it later.

2-  I add a layer underneath the drawing and do a tan to brown gradient fill. The above shot is with the drawing visible so I can see how the new background wash reacts with the drawing layer. If I don't like how things are looking, I adjust the colors or try again. I don't like painting against a white background because it is hard for me to judge values and colors against stark white. I prefer a mid value upon which I can contrast lights and darks. The hue of the mid value wash also acts to unify and make harmonious the color scheme as it will influence all the other colors you place against it. and if painted over transparently, influences the color yet again. Some people call it an illustrator's "cheat" or lazy color scheme, but it works for me. With the drawing and the background gradient in place, I now have my mid-tones and darks in place.

3- I now add the deep shadows of the grass. I have clicked off the drawing for this shot to show you what it looks like, but I paint "behind" the drawing on another new layer that is between the background gradient and the drawing. This allows me to erase or change things without disturbing the background layer or the drawing.

4- Adding yet another layer above the deep shadows above, I continue laying in the grass colors for the background. Here again the drawing layer is switched off just to show what the colors on this layer look like.

Here is how it is looking at this point with the drawing visible. I want to isolate the overlapping shapes from the background which will simplify things like painting around and behind edges. To do this, I create another layer for the bird and egg to sit on which is just one layer below the drawing

5- Here is the layer with the base colors of the egg and bird visible. I turned off the grass and drawing layers to make it more visible. I use the lasso select tool to get the shapes based on the drawing and then filled them with solid colors using the paint bucket. I then painted more tones over this selected shape. Selecting the entire shape lets you paint freely to the edge without running off into the background- another advantage that speeds up digital painting. 

OK- so here is what the painting looks like at this stage with all layers visible. I have now reached the point where everything is looking pretty good but it lacks depth and detail. The highlights, details and roundness of the shadows are missing. I purposely leave everything a little dark to this point, so I have room for my highlights, just as I would with traditional paint. 

6- Now I add what I call the "overpaint" layer which is the top layer so far, covering all other layers. I leave it in normal mode and paint over the top of everything. Here is where I add detail, texture and highlights, I fix, soften or sharpen edges and generally make sure I like how everything is looking. Here is where I add the bells and whistles like the detail and highlight in the eye and crisp details on the bird's head and feathers. I still want it to look like a painting and not a photograph, so I resist going into too much detail and I try to make my strokes visible. 

7- The final step is to add just a bit more to the shadows. I wanted a bit more depth in the core and cast shadows and wanted to add a cast shadow to the egg. This was done using a soft brush and warm gray on a multiply layer above the overpaint layer. I erased out shadows where I added too much and sharpened the edge of the shadow on the egg. At this point I am finished with the painting and give it the once over to make sure I like it. I usually end up fiddling a little with the layers and contrasts a bit to get it looking just right. 

I mentioned using organic texture to paint this and I think it is one key to making digital painting feel more natural and hand made. I did a previous post that details how I import and use hand made texture in Photoshop here.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Celebrating Wendell Berry In Music

Andrew Maxfield the musician behind the "Celebrating Wendell Berry in Music" project recently profiled my painting on the project's website. I am always pleased when I get to see my work in print and this project has been exceptionally satisfying. Not only did I get a lot of freedom while creating the painting, but it has since gone on to great success in the fine art sector.

 Please check out the double album package that features the music that inspired my painting. All of the song lyrics are taken directly from the poems of Wendell Berry. One disc features choral music by Andrew Maxfield and the other showcases the folk/bluegrass talents of Eric Bibb. If you are a fan of Berry's work or even if you just like good folk and choral music, this CD package could be just your cup of tea. You can listen to and download a free song, send a free song to a friend or buy the entire double album package. detailed the sketch and also the painting process for my portrait of Wendell Berry.

My painting "Beckoning the Peace of Wild Things" hanging in the Springville Art Museum
"Beckoning the Peace of Wild Things" is also now currently hanging in the new permanent collection show called "Voices" at the Springville Museum of Art.

The announcement that the painting has become part of the Springville Museum of Art's permanent collection is posted here also.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Happy Birthday Rembrandt!

Today is the 407th birthday of Rembrandt van Rijn, one of my all time favorite classical painters.

Born July 16, 1606 in Leiden, Netherlands, Rembrandt is widely considered to be one of the most influential and important of all art history. Celebrate his genius today by enjoying a few of his works.

I have had several opportunities to view Rembrandt's works first hand as I have visited museums over the years and I never tire of studying  his brushwork, draftsmanship and technique. If you have never had a chance to see paintings from this master painter in person, I highly recommend a trip to any museum that houses his work. New York would be a fine choice.

I love to try to decipher the way he employed thick and thin paint. Rembrandt was arguably the godfather of modern oil painting in that he solidified many the patterns of classical patterns of oil painting that I learned in school and from workshops I have attended.

I particularly enjoy Rembrandt's effective use of light and dark value patterning and the way he leaves all the shadows transparent and relatively flat while building up thick opaque paint in the highlight areas. The early self portrait below, painted when the artist was only 25, is a great example of the transparent, flat shadow principle.

The portrait of Christ above shows the evidence of the very thick opaque paint he used in the highlights. This balance gives life to the painting. The light side carries all the detail and color while the shadow side carries the form and gives volume to the portrait. These are probably the two most important aspect of painting that I have learned from the Dutch master painter. Though I don't try to paint in the same manner as Rembrandt did, I know that studying his masterful works I can gain better understanding of what makes a truly great work of art and hopefully transfer those concepts into my own work. Happy 407th Rembrandt!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Agent Announcement

After a comprehensive search, I am pleased to announce that I have accepted an offer of representation from Jennifer De Chiara of the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency. Jennifer will represent my self authored picture book projects to publishers. Since this is a niche I have not yet been able to exploit (having my own picture books published) I am very excited to venture in this direction. Over that last few years as publishing houses consolidated and the imprints became less open to unsolicited manuscripts, it became apparent to me that I needed a literary agent if I was ever to have a hope of getting into the big publishing houses. This opens new doors for me as far as children's books go, but I will continue to represent myself in all other illustration markets outside of picture books as well as in the gallery and fine art markets. The first book that Jennifer will be sending out to publishers will be Scuffy- A Scarecrow's Tale. Long time readers will recall previous posts about this project since I have been working on it on and off for several years. I am excited to finally be getting it in front of publishers and look forward to finding a home for Scuffy. I will keep you updated on any exciting developments as they come along. Hopefully the book will sell quickly an I will be finishing up the paintings for this book in the near future.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

A Gift of Rockwell For Father's Day

A Norman Rockwell book. With all the Rockwell titles already on my studio shelf ( I own no fewer than ten Rockwell tomes), you'd think that another one would barely make a ripple on my excitement meter, but you would be wrong. It seems that every new Rockwell book I get, I find something new or the essay holds a new nugget that I had never before heard or thought about.

In short, Rockwell becomes fresh again for me as I see his work through the eyes of others. Telling Stories- Norman Rockwell- from the collections of George Lucas and Steven Speilberg is an enjoyable read not just for the many classic Rockwell paintings that are beautifully reproduced therein, but for the historical and cultural context in which writers Virginia Mecklenburg and Todd McCarthy places them.

I have read many books on Rockwell including his own autobiography but this one put Rockwell's work in a different perspective for me. One in which no previous book had quite been able to do. Time is always an effective filter and maybe it's just that enough time has passed and enough prejudices have been set aside that the public (including the art critic public) can now enjoy the real value of what Rockwell achieved in his more than sixty year career.

Rockwell's body of work represents an accurate snapshot of our culture on canvas done in what most would consider a brilliantly executed fashion. One cannot argue Rockwell's technical prowess (I have long considered his to be among the most finely crafted of any paintings I have seen) so it is nice to see he is getting his due as an artist and storyteller.

I truly believe that in another hundred years or two, when all the abstract expressionism and meaningless constructions that pass for contemporary art these days have faded from memory, Rockwell will still be enjoyed and lauded as one of the icons of twentieth century art.

I am also excited that at least the George Lucas portion of the collection in this book will eventually be on display for all to see as Lucas builds an new museum to house his art collection.

Get Telling Stories-Norman Rockwell here

Friday, July 5, 2013

Was It The Chicken Or The Egg?

Who knows? But for on my current project, I get to paint both. Here are a few more of the sketches for the project to go along with those I posted previously.

I now wait and hope that there are no changes. I can't really afford that on the budget they offered and I accepted. One thing I have learned through years of illustration, is that it never pays to cut corners.

Once I accept a project, I do my best regardless and I don't short change my client. I can't second guess or grumble about the pay, or the demands from the art director or client. I said yes. In these cases I try hard to be efficient, do good work and finish as quickly as possible. Sometimes that leads to a more well thought out and energetic effort and better results. We will see if this is the case here. I am still waiting for sketch approval.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Some Bird Drawings

I am working on a little easy reader project for an educational publisher dealing with different birds and where they lay their eggs. Here are a couple of the drawings.

I have been quite busy lately and as usual, the blog suffers. Hopefully things will get back to routine soon.