17 June 2009

Steam-punk Wizard of Oz

One of the projects for the Illustration Master Class in Amherst MA was to create a cover image for a steam-punk retelling of the classic "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz."

Conceptually this combination of two worlds is ripe with possibilities. It is an area that I hope to mine for a few more pieces. The first piece is the cover image, and these are my preliminary works for that.

The scene I've chosen for the cover is from the beginning of the book, when Dorothy and Toto are in the cyclone over Oz. In the book, there's a moment when Toto falls into the hole where the cyclone cellar was, Dorothy rushes over to save him. Only to find that he's buoyed by the air pressure of the cyclone. I chose this scene because it allowed me to show that she was falling into another reality. Around her will be the gray and drab world of home and below will be the radiant colorful land of Oz. I hope to heighten the effect with color as well, choosing desaturated grays and muted tones for the house, and vibrant golden greens for Oz.

Here is the compositional drawing. I am working on developing angles, trying to set the stage so that there is the possibility that Dorothy might fall into the hole. She should be right on the edge. There may be further refinements in this drawing later, simple things like lifting her heel up on her left foot, maybe pointing that right foot. Or, maybe I'll try switching the feet around so that the right foot is forward and the left is back. Clearly she'll need a top too. Those changes will be made after getting a model to pose for me and taking some photo reference. This will also help to add to the overall steam-punk style too.

Here we have the initial value pattern. Again, to heighten that contrast between the drab world that she's leaving and the luminous world of Oz, I've tried to keep the house in 50% gray, and kept Oz and Dorothy in 20% gray. A simple triangle or zig-zag pattern really. (I guess staring at those Hokusai prints flows out here and there.)

Now, we come around to the more finished value study. While I will make adjustments to bits and pieces of the drawing, this will be the template for the final piece. The area's that will receive some immediate attention will be Dorothy's pose, the whirling cyclone clouds (they just aren't whipping around enough for me yet,) and defining the Emerald city down there on the ground (right now it's some geometric shapes.) The Yellow Brick Road should also be a bit more clear after the color, right now it's the white line that leads to the Emerald City.

Stay tuned for more developments. I may be releasing some of my sketchbook sketches going forward too, just for fun. Please feel free to leave comments, I like to hear what other's think!

PS: to see the next post about this image go to Post #2: Dusting off Dorothy

09 June 2009

Portraiture in Watercolor

This most recent piece was actually set in motion about 6 months ago, in an auction to raise money for a local school, I donated a portraiture drawing session. What originally started off being a 1 hour drawing session has morphed into this watercolor painting.

The girl is about 5 years old and her parents were the top bidders who won the portrait. The way that the painting came about is that we arranged for me to come to the school and to do some life drawing on the spot. But little children often suffer from Antsy-pants, soooo, I brought my camera with me. What I ended up with was two nice drawings that gave good gesture and sense of her proportions, and 2 or 3 pictures that were worth anything. Feeling good about that, I came home to the studio and set to work. Obviously photo's give one the ability to really get the details of the face. I really tried hard to leave things as fresh as possible, but my early inclination was to turn her into an 80 year old woman by painting into every nook and cranny of her face! Of course children's faces are soft and round, corners and lines have yet to happen, and so my intention was to create a sense that the colors and values were just ever so lightly floated there.

Technically, I felt that I found a good stride with this painting. I enjoy small crosshatching marks, and with watercolor one is able to build a rich color and texture due to the transparent quality of the paints. My heros for this kind of mark making would have to be George Seurat, his drawings are positively sculptural, and Andrew Wyeth (who could not just LOVE the way that he created his final paintings.) This kind of mark making shows up in some of my pen and ink work as well. For me it's a great way to develop tone. This was really the first time that I employed this method in terms of creating a whole painting with it.

Another note that I was conscious of during the creation of this piece was edges. There is a big effort to display hard edges, and to balance that with soft edges. The soft blending along the cheek and nose area are of particular joy for me. The outer edge is another place where I wanted to show some softness, as well as the rough brush strokes on the paper. For this I looked to John J. Muth for inspiration, I find that his blends and backgrounds are rich with wet into wet blends, and sensitivity to color and edges. I have to admit it was a brave moment putting those moves on there. At that moment, I had the head and shirt done, and most of the hair. So, I had to take a deep breath and launch into that, and well, the results are there on the page.

Finally, speaking of the page, the paper itself is a handmade piece of watercolor paper from Twin Rocker in Illinois. I was gifted a sample pack of papers from them, which I adore. One thing that I didn't account for was their sizing (the glue in the paper), and the way that it accepted water. In other pieces I've painted on Strathmore board, and Arches Hot Press. This Twin Rocker paper really should have been soaked then stretched rather than painted directly onto, consequently the watercolor didn't soak into the paper very quickly. However the back side to that is that the color also lifts very easily; making corrections was a breeze. The rough nature of the paper and the natural surface were positively a joy to work on.

I hope I have more opportunities to do portraiture, it was really fun. If I am being really honest, I admire this piece for the things that it is to me. So many times, I can create something and find that in the end, I am still not quite satisfied with the results. Here, I am.

01 June 2009

Comic Book Finals

Ok, fun only begins to describe this project. Originally I was contacted by a really great company, Shinteki, who do games and puzzles for corporations as well as private events. Defiantly check out their website, it's amazing! So their latest challenge involved creating several faux comic book covers, that's where I come in.

The puzzle will be running until June 6th, and I will post the answer after it's all over and done with. I just couldn't resist posting the images though, because I enjoyed making them so much!

Process wise, I decided that for the sake of efficiency and authenticity I decided to delve into Photoshop to make these. They each had a very similar genesis, starting with sketches/ thumbnails, up to final drawing in some cases, then on to inking, scanning, and photoshop. Very similar to how I assume many comics are made these days.

I wanted these to have a somewhat classic comic look to them, with a dash of pulp, spiced with a little digital pizzaz. To those ends, I worked out some of the stressed features on the images; dog-eared corners, worn spine creases, and faded and stressed edges.

An interesting side effect of streamlining the creative process was I found some unusual color choices, that I wouldn't have made had I done these traditionally. I guess there can be a certain fearless quality to laying down color in the computer, simply because it is so impermanent.

Even though I was using photoshop, I did make an effort to to use too many filters, and to use the effects in photoshop judiciously. Although I may have gotten carried away here and there, c'est la vie.

So, go ahead, these are the clues. I don't know if there was a prompting question on the actual puzzle, but all the information is in the images (or else it wouldn't have worked!) Give it a shot, and send me your solutions, for each correct solution I will give you a free drawing! Deadline's June 6th.