Friday, September 28, 2012

Izzet Staticater

This is Izzet Staticaster, one of 5 pieces from me in the Return to Ravnica MTG set.

Like the others of this series it had simple origins in what I call a Lasso Tool Shape sketch. So I really didn't draw anything in the usual sense of using line. Rather, I made shapes and filled them with flats and gradients. What this did was let me not get wrapped up in the details too soon. But I was tight on Sketch deadline and threw some random bridge/industrial junk in the background, cause I had no idea what I was going to do with it yet. But it set the mood.

I call this next image a 'midstate', now, but at the time I thought I was just about finished! There were many more hours to go though. After a pretty thorough crit by some trusted peers, I had to dig back in to get it to where you see it at the top. Once again in this version and the final image, the program 'SketchUp' was helpful to get the background. I have always been a reference Frankensteiner, a face from here, a hand from there. I realized with sketchup I could do the same thing. A bit of this building, a tower from here, a flying buttress from there, merged with drawing out of my head to bring it all together. Sketchup won't give you all the answers, but it will give you a heck of a platform. Playing with Sketchup took the backgrounds on these cards further than I ever had before.

And here is a detail shot of the face. Some neat loosey-goosey stuff happened in the painting of it, and I resisted the urge to go in and overwork it. Sometimes you just gotta let the stroke be the stroke.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Sketches, drawings and doodles.

Thought I'd share some recent sketchbook action. Whether it is in a sketchbook or loose paper, more and more I realize the voice of an illustrator- that thing that makes them unique, is often strongest in their drawing, rather than in their painting.

A great friend said to me years ago, "Scott you can paint like a M-fer, but your drawings underneath suck, and you try to make up for it in the paint and you can't." Harsh but so true and a watershed moment for me. After that I spent way more time working on the drawing than I do the painting.

But usually I am only drawing for an assignment, and it is only recently I figured out, it is the drawings you do for stuff that isn't an assignment where you see real growth and risk taking. And you cross your fingers some of that adventure can make it back into your professional art w/o the reality of a 'real gig' freezing up your flow. (Which still happens to me all the time.)

Some of these drawings are in a small moleskin, and the others loose. Moleskin drawings are from the local town Fair, trying to capture creatures in the wild. But they moved so fast, I'd sketch a quick essence, and finish them from memory.

Someone asked me about the weird paper the other drawings are on. I love going to flea markets and finding stacks of vintage office supplies, pens and pencils and PAPER. (Anything to get me excited to draw.) This paper came from a sale like that, I have no idea what it was for, but it pretty great. Nice weight, slightly tinted, close to what is in my moleskin, but a little lighter. Rounded corners makes it feel special, lol. I wish I had the binder designed to hold it, alas, I have to keep hunting for that.

Every now and then I take these sketches into the computer and do color study on them and decide if I want to take them further. This is one I might like to actually paint someday. Something about it feels like a happy place between my children's book work and my grown up work.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Counterflux- MTG painting

Here is a fun one that was a bit of a blur to produce. I was working on 5 MTG paintings for Return to Ravnica, which was my biggest contribution to the game in years. But while I was doing these I also had to finish the art for Lottie Paris 2 AND do a massive amount of silhouettes for Jodi Picoult's "Between the Lines".

In the end this meant I had to produce 80+ pieces of art in a span of 2 months. I went into full hobo mode, and somehow came out the other end smelling like roses. (Though my family may disagree with me on that score!)

This is the final image:

And here are three stages of it.

1. Like my other Ravnica pieces, I didn't start with a drawing so much as I built it up with lasso shapes. You can feel the silhouette work I was doing for 'Between the Lines' bleeding into all of my images for this set.

2. I don't love doing perspective, so imagine my joy when I realized I could build the background in Sketch-up and riff on top of it!

3.And here is the painted background using the sketch-up model as a roadmap. At this stage I had not even started the figure beyond the rough silhouette you see in the first sketch.

A final detail of the face, which was an exercise in subtly for me. But the truth of the matter is, I kept painting that eye, and not liking it. So I repeatedly blurred it out to paint it again and again till at one point I thought, "Hey that looks better all smudgy!" And left it as you see it.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Oil Painting- Not So Soft

This piece has been hopping on and off the easel for too long. So I thought I's share a quick snap shot of it to encourage me to finish it.

Nothing digital here. In the beginning I started the piece as if the Oil paint were water color- almost. But more syrupy, sticky watercolor. Think about pancake syrup. (I dis-like normal liquin, but like Liquin Fine Detail.) This thin translucent underpainting let me spatter turp into it to eat away texture and get some sweet dragging effects with old, frayed brushes.

Then that dried and sat forever collecting dust till I picked up some more opaques and started in again finding a balance between translucent and opaque.

Then I tried something new. Oil based sign painting enamel. (Like pinstripers often use.) Most of the design work is created that way. Oh oh oh, how sweet the solid laydown of paint was. It would take me many coats of normal oil paint to achieve what enamel does in one coat.

The crayon wording and sketchy areas are oil pastel. Which is so great for drawing on an oil painting (That is dry.) and wiping off if you make a bad move or even using trup to melt it into a stroke. I planned on painting lines over the more broken crayon stroke.

But a great friend, Dave Seeley, is suggesting there might be something cool to leaving some marks almost crayon like. Oooo contrasting textures, I like that thought a lot! Thanks Dave!

Who knows! Painting should be fun, take risks, don't lock yourself in to a preconceived vision all the time or you may miss the piece talking to you. Really it will try to talk to you. Don't be stubborn, open yourself up to the conversation, and give it the opportunity to change your mind.

Here is an earlier detail shot. Darn it, her eyes are not in alignment yet. Thus she is never finished.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

King of Marbury- cover

This piece was a pleasure to do for Such a great story 'King of Marbury' by Andrew Smith.

Often in my 'grown up' work I do more traditional Sci/fi Fantasy themes. But there is that inner fine artist in me from back in college (SCAD class of '94) that yearns for something more cerebral.  The guy who would do paintings inside of suitcases to symbolize 'moving on'. (And then write songs about them and perform them on crit day- but that is another story.)

This was such a well crafted, creepy-cool short story that it filled my head with images. In the beginning I tried to put everything in there including the kitchen sink. But thankfully AD of Awesome Irene Gallo, got me to focus.

Early sketches:

And this is the full piece prior to crop. Because it was for, we had a ton of freedom. So I went with a circle.

Some detail. I learned a lot painting that fly. Really enjoying texture brushes rather than smooth ones. I made a silhouette first then built him up. Things like the 'white' where the wings overlap the body were done by adjusting the 'spacing' in brush controls and making one sweeping stroke to get a line of highlights (rather than taking a small brush and painting each mark one at a time.) The rat has a bunch of 'grass' shaped brushes to make the fur.

Monday, September 3, 2012

New Magic Art! Nivix Guildmage

I am pretty psyched to have my largest contribution to Magic the Gathering in years hit the streets of Ravnica. I should have 5 cards in the set (Return to Ravnica), which is the most from me since the Time Spiral series.

Simply put, the MTG fans are about the best fans any artist could ask for. So it is a pleasure to have new artwork in that world. Tap away my friends.

The piece is 100% digital.

The finish was a blast to do, but I set a really interesting challenge in creating the work, and that was, I never did a 'drawing'. I started with shape. A lot of my digital technique comes from using the lasso tool on Photoshop to create shapes which I fill with flats and gradients. Even some of the finished areas are tiny little lasso shapes that are lightened and darkened.

The point of this is that the simplicity of shape lets me not get caught up in the details too early, cause that can be a prison. This let me focus on energy and mood and composition, and the detail becomes the frosting on a pretty solid cake.

What you see below is the actual 'sketch' I sent for approval. Art director Jeremy Jarvis had to strap on his trust helmet that the details would emerge out of the simplicity. And he did. But I think that trust comes from years of working together.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Sketch book action- Brush Pen

Takin' a breather from all the ball point drawing and grabbed one of those super sweet Japanese Brush pens! I'd tell you the name, but it is top secret! Actually, I don't know the name. I just stumbled on it walking around Pearl paint one day. And there is almost ZERO English on it, so I am not sure what it is called. But I will sure need to know when it is time to buy refills!

LOVE love love this pen. The line gets so darn thin, then wham you are into the thick. My only wish was that it was waterproof, alas, prolly wouldn't be so smooth if it was.

Also did this little 'goodbye to summer' illo with it. Tried something I've been itching to do. After I sealed this ink drawing with Crystal Clear, I did oil-paint washes on top of it. I think there is something here. Must do more!

And here is the pen itself so you can hunt one down! That's all for now folks!