Monday, December 20, 2010


I've been very unproductive of late; travel, the holidays and visiting with family are taking up most of my time until the end of the year. I'm hoping 2011 will bring me time to get into a routine and be more consistent with making art and blogging it.

The past couple days I spent recording and editing the new "Drawn Today podcast". This was my first crack at this sort of thing, and my first try at using the editing software. While I don't quite have the "cool, laid-back audio personality" nailed down yet, the episode went fine, so have a listen!

Monday, November 29, 2010

New cover progress...

I'm starting to finish a cover for a startup RPG company that I've had on the back-burner for awhile. Over the past few months, I designed their main characters in preparation for making them a cover. Since this young company has no existing art, I chose to do this first so that when it came time to doing the cover, we would have very specific looking characters which would allude to the content in the product and avoid looking generic. RPG characters and covers are usually quite detailed to the delight of the fans.

The concept for this game revolves around a fantasy world where people from the "real" world are captured and brought into this other universe. The emotions of these captured ones become a power source in the fantasy world. My sketches for the cover revolved around the bad guy drawing power from a boy and confronting the heroes. The usual problem arises of depicting everyone clearly, even though some are facing away. Its just as important to show the party of heroes as the main area of action, so we can see the eventual player choices that you may have once you play the game.

The thumbnail I chose is the 2 inch tall quick sketch above. I've decided on a set of stairs to separate the characters out, and tilted the scene for that all important "excitement". I want to have a teleportation portal/door in the background that acts as a light source, and I have indicated some basic actions for the figures.

After a photo shoot, I begin constructing the figures as rounded "dummies" or mannequins. Since I shot my reference in my friend's small apartment, there is camera lens distortion on the figures, with parts closer enlarged unnaturally. Drawing the bodies of the figures out this way is helpful in translating the photo information to something that works in your made-up 3-d space. The discipline of this also allows for the armor and details to be drawn on top more easily.

Above is the final drawing, after some changes to poses and positions. At this point the figures are about half referenced, as my changes had to be drawn without new photos at hand. This isn't much of an issue once the bodies are covered up with their gear. The main bad guy is drawn without reference, and I just took a quick shot of my own hand in the mirror to add the realism you need for a hand. Currently, the boy is pretty weak, and I'll try to refine him to the point that you don't question him being done without a reference photo.

A quick indication of some tones and this is off to the client and ready for a color study...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Illuxcon 2010, the big "RESET"

I'm now officially now back from Illuxcon 2010, which just took place in Pennsylvania this past weekend. Personally, this convention is a giant "RESET" button; the event serves to refocus, re-energize and reward my efforts at my goal in becoming a successful fantasy illustrator. If I was getting sidetracked or lazy, this event puts a stop to bad habits and introduces me to new techniques, friends and opportunities.

Illuxcon 2010 was even more fulfilling than the 2009 version. The highlights of my experience fall into 3 categories: socialization, appreciation and motivation. I met with old friends and made new ones. I am motivated by seeing the great artwork, and realization that the attainment of similar results is within reach. I appreciate others, their processes, and was appreciated myself in turn.

Not too many tradeshow photos made it onto my camera this year. It was basically the same set-up as last year so I didn't record the room much.

The first artist I made my way to at the show was Ralph Horsley. Listening to him for the past few months on the Ninja mountain Podcast talking intelligently with his British accent I was expecting Richard Attenborough with a paintbrush. I have immense appreciation for his effortlessly crafted and minutely-detailed scenes of mayhem. At the start of the show I figured him an elder statesman of the genre, but by the end of Illuxcon, he was buying me drinks at the hotel bar as we enjoyed deep discussion on our art and a burgeoning friendship.

I was infatuated by the Hildebrandt's work years ago, and it was a real thrill to meet Greg and his partner, Jean. I started my convention with an hour's chat with Greg which was quite interesting. at 71 years old, he still gets up early everyday and paints 7 days a week. His personal energy is truly amazing and points to a roadmap of longetivity and success. Here is Greg working on a dragon painting...

Travelling to the USA, you just have to embrace the food. American cuisine can be truly wonderful if you are a connoisseur of various meat products. I watch alot of "Diners Drive-ins and Dives" on food network, and its a mission to find that sort of stuff when I go. This breakfast consisted of:
A Bacon, of course
B Token healthy stuff
C Fried applesauce
D Reconstituted sausage product
E Breakfast onions
F Breakfast cake
G Corned beef hash
H Finale of biscuit and sausage gravy

One of the great things about Illuxcon is discovering artists I've never heard of who I end up adoring. Patrick Jones' works immediately struck a chord with me with their old-master's craft. He is a rare illustrator who intentionally mutes the contrast in his work and pursues a soft, unified and painterly quality for the purpose of the longevity of the aesthetic object.

On the last day I reaquainted myself with Todd Lockwood. He went through my portfolio thoroughly and we discussed the topic of thumbnails. To repay him for the generosity of his time I helped him pack his wares up. I didn't know what I was getting into at the time, and the way we reinforced his packing box, it should last a few hundred more conventions.

Most artists understand the purpose of the thumbnail, but Todd's demonstration and his thinking behind it gave me a new outlook on the process. Perhaps a later blog post will go into more depth on what I learned...

The socialization at Illuxcon is one of the best things about it. Its basically the size of a big wedding, and the artists are your family. You are always an arm's length away from someone you want to talk to and someone who can enrich your passion for art.
A hotel bar in the middle of nowhere needs the action brought to it in the form of a $30 fooseball table and some tape. It was fun until the stink-bomb incident.

I booked a table at the Friday night showcase event, basically a mini-show within the show for up and comers. At the last minute I made some prints to sell and give away, and gathered some art that would fit in my luggage. This was a great experience, being on the artist side of the table and talking to fans, buyers and friends. It was a real thrill to have the tables turned for a brief moment with Donato, Greg Hildebrandt and others appreciating my work.

My friends Laura and Chris chatting with Donato: the man.

I finished off my trip with a "Chicago style" hot dog at the airport. I was really hoping for sausage gravy on it, but no luck...

Illuxcon is over and I'm back at my lonely house in the woods. I have new motivation based on new knowledge and confidence.

Time to paint.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Illuxcon prep

Getting my ass in gear for Illuxcon now... man the time snuck up on me. I ran out of time to make any new originals, but I spent the past couple days ordering a set of 2-sided bookmarks for giving out/selling and promotion. Since I'm fairly new as a freelancer, it will take some time to research and collect promotional and sellable items using my art. I plan on eventually making t-shirts and prints, but in the short term hopefully this makes my showcase table at the convention not too bare. Since I have to take 4 planes to get to Altoona, Pennsylvannia, I'll likely just take a carry on and avoid luggage disconnect. This limits what I can bring, but with 7 2-sided bookmarks I will have 14 images floating and promoting me, which should be effective.

I like using online printing services. They are cheap and offer simple solutions and good variety of options. Since I live in the backyard of the oil industry, anyone with a grade 7 education makes 100k a year here, so I don't even bother looking into expensive local services.

Check out the newest Ninja mountain podcast for some chat on Illuxcon:

And another one that mentions me for 1 millisecond...

It's gonna rock!!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tuesday night headstudy

Lat night my portrait group got together again in my garage for another alla prima session. It's been about a month since we've done this, but it's good to get going again.

Last night, Laura was kind enough to sit for us. I put the lead white away and used titanium for this in anticipation that the opacity would lend itself more appropriately to clean, smooth female skin tones in one layer of paint. Laura is such a happy person, but you would never know it from this picture. I'll have to remember to request a slight smile when appropriate; the pain of holding one is probably worth it for posterity to remember you as a happy person rather than a tired one.

(I'm having trouble with the battery in my photo lights, so this is just a low-quality photo not using the proper equipment I detailed in an earlier post. The result is the canvas grain adds some grit to the image)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

smoke and mirrors and podcasts.

I'm still in my first year as a freelancer, so one of the things I'm experiencing is the "NDA backlog" of work I cant show because the products haven't been released. I'm sitting on 11 illustrations that wont be shown for months, so things may seem a bit quiet here, but they ain't. As I get further into the career, this should dissipate, as I can roll stuff out more regularly even if the work is old as the NDA timeframes pass.

Today's "smoke and mirrors" distracting you from the lack of work being shown is a little comment on art podcasts:
Working from home is great for concentration and getting things done, but the social aspect definitely lacks. I discovered a bunch of art podcasts (radio interviews) awhile back and they have been great for providing not just information, but the needed background chatter and simulated social interaction you need when working alone. I highly recommend artists put these on to break the silence. Having been to a couple conventions in the past year and meeting many other artists in my field, I am finding the podcasts very interesting because I know the work and personalities of many of the participants. Having your friends converse in the background while you work approximates an office environment where the water-cooler talk is always interesting and on topic. I have found many times the podcast conversation touches on exactly what I was thinking recently or broaches a topic that is perfectly timely to my current work.

Give these a listen:

I also just posted a poll to the right asking artists what pencil they use. I'm going to switch up to using a mechanical pencil again after using the col-erase for a few months. I think the choice of your tool is very important and tied intimately to your drawing style. I'm just curious as to what others use...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Last night's headstudy

Did another headstudy last night with my weekly group. We had "lazy-eye" John come out again to sit, which he was more than happy to do to get out of the house.

I switched things up this time and used flake (lead) white and a top quality oil primed portrait-grade linen rather than titanium white and crappy Michaels' bargain canvas. I'm usually painting on a pre-toned surface, but this time went just with the raw white background.
The use of these different materials resulted in a very different end-look. The stark white linen accentuates the thin, sketchy alla prima look but also allows for a more pure and fresh look to the colors. The flake white, also being less opaque added to this aesthetic, and its density shows a more obvious stroke. The paint surface overall is much rougher but more painterly and telling of the direct technique.

My usual approach is to paint an academic method in a sped-up manner, but I'm finding I run out of time trying to get a smooth finish while having enough information in the features. I am now leaving the backgrounds thin and the clothing simple as those things can be worked on later if desired. The goal is to find a formula where the materials and end result are in harmony with the task being attempted. This rougher look might be a more logical approach for males, while younger and female portraits may be better done with titanium white for a softer finish.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Tuesday night's headstudy

Tuesday night we painted a girl with very red hair. Having just finished putting a coat of green paint on the wall behind, it turned out to be a lucky coincidence that the color went with the model. Her eyes were the same color as the wall.
My pal Scott, always the experimental one primed his canvas beforehand with the roller just used to paint the wall, giving him an instant and exact background to start with.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

New characters...

I've been away visiting the parents for a few days, but before I left I finished a new character...
Wrend The Vile "is a man seemingly wholly committed to the acquisition of power. Even having gone so far in his youth to sacrifice an eye to the worship of Xarx, believing the physical loss would reward him with greater magical prowess."

For these single characters with straightforward lighting, I don't use any reference, instead I construct the figure comic-book style and build the costuming on top. As I'm finishing I will often take a quick photo for parts that would be hard to invent, such as hands or complex fabric folds...

Today, I did the drawing for the next character... a "Trollblood Druid." This is my usual col-erase pencil on stonehenge "fawn" paper with watercolor and white highlights. For this particular one, I started using a black General's layout pencil to go over the linework for a deeper mark. I was finding the col-erase pencils are too light to get bold line-weight and hatching that stands out. I'm happy with this new pencil and will likely be using it now in addition for more line variety and control...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Last nights headstudy

I did another alla prima portrait last night with my weekly group. This week we had Scott's neighbour, John kind enough to sit for the price of a case of beer. Being retired, he was more than happy to add "art model" to his list of life experiences. He was still as a statue.

This photo is taken with my new lights but without the polarizing gels and filter. You can see the small specular highlights. One easy trick to minimize those is to use Photoshop's "despeckle" filter. It will slightly blur your image and isn't perfect, but it is a help nonetheless.

I picked up some flake (lead) white today. The added density of this white will help in the more sculptural brushstrokes used in single-layer work. Its one of the differences that you may notice in the surface quality of older paintings versus today's art which uses primarily titanium white. (which is brighter but less stiff)

Oh yeah, anyone in the Edmonton area interested in sitting, just contact me. We can pay $ or give beer.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Log monster

something just for fun... a log monster to get my drawing warmed up again.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

More equipment, finally.

I fully admit to being a little cheap when it comes to buying supplies and equipment which I could otherwise borrow or do without. As mentioned in my last post about lighting, I'm now finally getting around to purchasing some necessary things for my studio. One can only use poor reference and deal with the morons at Staples for so long.

My lighting set arrived a few days ago, and so far I think what I got should do the trick. I bought the bottom end set, which is a bit smaller and less powerful than my friend's, but the basic function it serves is the same. I got the H30088 kit mentioned in the other post, and its a nice, simple package that comes with all you need to get started. If you already have an SLR camera, this kit will make the big difference between average and great reference photos.

A quick test shot below shows how you can have 2 independent lights. One is a wide, soft output using the included softbox or umbrella and the other a bright rim-light. The color filters also allow for colored light, so you can get lots of effect going if needed.
In the below photo is a life-sized wooden posing dummy I've had for years. This prop helps when you are arranging fabric that needs to go on a human frame and stay in position for a long time. I've also used "Woody" to lay upside down in awkward and painful poses that would be next to impossible for a model.

This past Sunday we did another portrait painting session at my studio. My usual nemesis in portraiture is making the head too wide, and having problems getting initial proportion. I experimented this time with another tool I've had lying around: a gridded window card.
I duct taped this to one of my light stands, and had an instant measuring tool for flattening the space and getting the proportions down. It worked great.

Lastly, I broke down and finally got a 13X19 large format color photo printer. A common tool for fantasy illustrators, these printers allow you to make large, sellable-quality prints to leverage your artistic efforts. Another main use is the ability to print your rough drawings off at a fairly large size to mount on Masonite, seal, and paint on top of. (another common process thanks to Donato Giancola)
Below are some links to various large format printers. I went with the Epson 1400, as it was at the bottom end of the price spectrum with Epson's recent rebate. I've heard the B8550 is better, though.

The reason I went with the cheaper model is that I've heard that larger run prints are better off being done by a printing service, due to the time and cost of ink if you do it yourself. Some online printers are below:

Now to make some art and make it all worthwhile!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Photographing artwork

I had a chance a couple weeks ago to take proper photos of my newest paintings, and I thought I would show the great setup we use. My pal, Scott has researched and become a proficient photographer in the last couple years, and he has a great method for photographing artwork that gives you no glare.

"Polarizer gels are used on flashes in conjunction with a polarizer (linear or circular) on your lens to decrease specular highlights. This is primarily used when you want to photograph flat artwork. The most common setup involves 2 flashes positioned 45 degrees (relative to artwork surface) on equal distances from either side of the piece. Each flash (light) has a polarizer gel on it aligned in the same direction. The polarizer on the lens of the camera is aligned so it's axis of polarization is perpendicular to the polarizer axis on the flashes. This will eliminate unwanted specular highlights in the artwork."

In the below photo we are using 4 lights, but the more common (and affordable) setup would have 2.

Another tool that can be used is to photograph a printed color matching card with the painting to use to color correct in photoshop. Looking at some pure color boxes, just tweak the photo to match the sheet rather then trying to judge shifts in your more complex artwork.

Below are photos take seconds apart in the exact same lighting conditions as shown above. One quarter turn of your camera's polarizing lens filter makes the difference below.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

High school confidential

I'm teaching a fantasy art workshop for teens next week and thinking about what to present. I think the best thing I can do for the students is to give them some perspective and hope to motivate them for long-term self-learning.
Being a good artist is a lifelong journey of continual improvement. There is a misconception among non-artists that "talent" and ability are innate and an artist is just a person with inborn abilities. We all know that's "total crap" (see previous posts), so I'm going to show my students my own work when I was their age to demonstrate that my current skills have been a slow climb from the same place that they are in.

When I was in school, I always had the expectation that every year I would get better. The yearly routine of going through successive grades provided me with obvious signposts to my development. I expected to be better in grade 11 compared to grade 10, etc. I kept all my work from grade 7 through college, and its fun to pull it out once in awhile to see exactly how "bad" I was at a certain point and the slow progression that took place. I was no prodigy, but I was quite a consistent worker and was experimental with different media and techniques. (probably because I didn't really know any sound procedures) Even early on, my love was in the finishing, shading, and coloring and not so much with the drawing. That is consistent with my current skills.

Digging into my big box of old art, I've taken out a few pieces from high school to show my students. They can compare this to their own work and see that they are fundamentally the same as me, with the same potential. In hindsight, I can point out things I wish I knew then and show them how the work could have been better. Time permitting, I'm going to do some sketches this week to show how I currently would have tackled my high school art for comparrison. Here is the first I just did...

Grade 9 Spiderman

Suggested drawing method: 2010

Students today have many more resources for learning then I did in the 80s. All the books, DVDs and websites out there are making todays young artists learn much faster than was possible back in the day. Hopefully this perspective and comparison of student to professional in my work will breed some confidence and hope.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

New Character: Steampunk Dwarf

Here's a new character I just finished for some clients. There is a party of 3 adventurers and a bad guy to do. I will do the others next month after some more pressing work.

For this guy, I looked at tractors as inspiration for his armor. He's got some "Ghostbusters" type equipment including his green-goo-gun and his remote control baddie-sucking device. I made his warhammer like a blacksmith's hammer, as that seemed to make sense.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Alla prima portraits

Recently I have organized with a few other local artists to paint portraits from life in my studio. We have started a regular routine of painting "alla prima" portraits of paid models, family and friends. "Alla prima is a style of painting where, instead of building colors up with layers or glazing over an underpainting , the painting is completed while the paint is still wet. Strictly defined, an alla prima painting would be started and finished in one painting session"
We're having lots of fun and want to do it regularly every week. We pay 60$ per session, which lasts a few hours with breaks. Last night we painted my brother-in-law, Ryan:

I find direct, one-session portraits to be a real challenge. I'm quite sensitive to color nuances so I have a hard time balancing my tendancy to describe every small color shift accurately while leaving time to actually render the likeness and details. To help this, I have been using a limited palette which has been great for removing some of this distracting choice from my color range.

My current palette is:
  • Ivory black
  • Burnt umber
  • yellow ochre pale
  • Alizarin crimson
  • White
  • (optional) Blue or green as needed for clothing and background
Hopefully in a year I'll have a big pile of portraits and be good at it.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Weekend artwalk

It was a great experience this past weekend to participate in the local Edmonton Art Walk. Celebrating its 15th year, the Artwalk is a showcase for 300 local artists on the city's busiest avenue at the busiest time of year.
This was my first "retail" experience, where I'm selling physical work and being an "artrepreneur". As a new freelancer, I'm learning some some things about what and how to sell. The Artwalk is geared towards the general public, and as such is telling of what the majority of everyday people are interested in spending money on.

The physical display aspect of my presence went really well. Originally, I had planned to make a display with 2x4s and peg board. Thinking this was going to be an ordeal and likely result in something cumbersome, I decided to check out a store supplies retailer. This was a godsend, as I found everything I'll ever need for display and tradeshow purposes for reasonable prices. I purchased the standing racks as shown below for my still lifes, and had an attached basket which held some fantasy drawings. My initial thought was that the drawings were just an addition to the more marketable works, so they weren't displayed with any fanfare.

I brought along one portrait to show and also had some signage advertising workshops. Thinking that my prices were going to seem high to the average buyer, I made the sign below to help explain how value is derived:

I was definitely off the mark here, as I didn't look at what other vendors were selling their stuff for, and eventually realized that I was under-priced; especially in regards to my drawings.
The photo above shows how I was positioned, and it worked out great. With my back to the crowd, there was no intimidation or sales-pressure for people looking at the work. Customers could watch me draw which gave people insight into the time-consuming creative process and appreciation for the craft and effort in the work. Sitting directly next to the work allowed for an obvious link to who made the art and how it was done. Conversation with people caused others to stop and listen in, and if a sale was being made, it created a sort of "feeding frenzy". When other customers saw the conversation and sales happening they are more likely to buy themselves. As compared to the second day (below photo) the first set up was optimal.

While there was much praise and interest in all my work, it was actually my fantasy illustration drawings that made up the bulk of my sales. The reason is likely the lower price compared to an original framed painting, but there was also definitely an affection to the content. I'm surprised how well the fantasy art was received outside of an illustration-specific venue or convention. Many more people than I expected responded favorably to the narrative work, especially the classically-inspired fantasy scenes that I enjoy, such as "Perseus and Andromeda". (I sold all of my narrative drawings, and only 2 paintings.) I assume it was the novelty and uniquness of the work, and I could sense an appreciation for this direction as opposed to strictly wall decoration. This response has inspired me to focus more on these things instead of watering my production down with items that I thought were more "accessable" and saleable. Instead of making 2 distinct bodies of work (wall art and commercial art), I can now feel comfortable in sticking to my "bread and butter" with confidence that the work will sell as originals outside of a fantasy-specific setting like a convention.

Its gratifying when people spend their money on your work, and makes you feel more confident that the things I personally like and create are appreciated by others. When someone buys a narrative or creative work, they are buying my art and personal vision, rather than a decoration or a technical piece or labor.

For my next convention or artwalk, I'll get prints made of the pieces that resonate the strongest, and maybe brand my sign and "booth" more strongly in the illustration direction. Having some finished illustrations and painted fantasy art would help in this regard as well. I'll display the drawing more prominently so people don't have to discover the basket and sort through them. An important aspect I realized was eye-level, or making sure the work was hung high and easily accessed at a glance. Patrons walking down a crowded sidewalk filled with art aren't going to read small signs or search for gems, and they need to be "hooked" by the art that is most interesting. I heard and saw that the common price-point for the Artwalk that facilitated sales was in the $75-$100 range. People often have a budget and are looking to "collect" a few unique items from various artists, and so don't want to spend all their money on one piece.
Next year I will keep in mind this price range and have more options and product choices for that budget for my narrative work.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Raccoon skull final...

I was waiting until I had the chance to take a proper photo of this using the 4 light/ polarized filter method, but it looks like it may be awhile until I can use my friend's equipment to do so.

Anyhow, here is how the still life turned out from last week. Not the best photo, but you get the idea. I have an Ebay-bought antique gold frame for it that looks pretty sweet and should increase my chances for a sale.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

More rendering...

Rendered the skull, feather and candlestick, established the proper background tone, and nudged the lone flower to the left.
Ideally, I would paint for full days, and not just for a bit in the evening. If this was the case, I would have more adjacent wet areas to blend and soften into, rather than painting one object at a time as I'm doing now. The transition of the fabric to the dark background tone is a good example of this: It would be better to have painted these areas together, allowing the wet paint to be blended and softened for a subtle effect. Instead, I'm relying on trying to exactly match the values and hoping that this accuracy gives me a similar effect, without a patchwork look.

A key aspect of oil painting related to this is the "sinking in" of paint, where an area dries matte and looks lighter (and cooler) than when it was freshly painted.
Look at the image below:
Most apparent in dark areas, we can see how the fabric looks when wet (left) and dry (right). This sinking in of the tones makes it difficult to work on areas related to the dry part, and can be solved by spraying a "retouch varnish" over the surface to get the gloss and even depth back into the whole surface. I will be giving the picture a spray before I go too much further, so that I can properly see if my transitions look natural, or if the objects look too "cut out" from the process of painting them at different times. A remedy to this can be to add some fresh paint to both sides of a transition and make a new blend, but the surface must be uniformly glossy for me to discern what is needed.

Once I'm done, I will take a proper photo with 4 lights and a polarizing filter, and you'll see how even the surface actually is. These process photos invariably look poor due to specular highlights and uneven gloss/depth of tones. An example of this difference is shown here.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

getting into the details

Now that I'm into the second layer of paint, its looking more solid and the values are becoming convincing. I've blocked in the feather and leaves on the right and turned the flowers on the book so they are grouped with no space in between to lessen the random spotting of light shapes.
The foilage behind the skull has been added to a bit, but it's still looking somewhat random. I'll likely get rid of the leaf sticking out of the center of the skull at the very least.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Raccoon Skull: second sitting

Using large brushes, my aim for this stage is to fill up all the white canvas with a close approximation of the major tones. Due to the properties of oil being not totally opaque, this lay-in stage sets me up for the details to come. I still need to address the right side with another element.

I am tilting the canvas slightly forward to reduce the glare for the photo.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Memento mori: Raccoon skull

In a couple of weeks there is a local street sale, the "whyte Avenue Artwalk", which I will be (hopefully!) selling at. I thought I would whip up a few more still lifes to bolster my stock of sellable works.
Here is session one from last night: sketch in raw umber. I placed the scene a tad too much to the left, so I will likely add some rosary beads or something to fill the right hand empty space.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

NYC and IMC pt.3

I've been back from my trip for a week now, and the whole thing seems like a distant memory. Blogging long after the fact, I'll just do my best to recount the experience...

Arriving in Amherst, I had the impression this was a special place to host the class. The campus of Amherst college seems like an education-based themepark with manicured grounds and immaculate period buildings.

Dormitory building...

Checking into the dorm, I picked up my keys and nametag. Glancing at the other nametags waiting to be claimed I recognized many of the names of the other students, and immediately had the feeling that the talent level of the students was going to be quite high. I was expecting only a handful of other professionals, but there were perhaps 25% professional fantasy illustrators and 50% returning students out of 85 attendees. The IMC is now on the radar for serious aspiring illustrators, and rightly so.

Studio building...

Inside one of the studios...

The first day was art school deja vu. After settling into 2 different studios, we posted our sketches up for a day-long critique session. Preparations ranged from thumbnails to completed paintings. The instructors assigned to each studio went through their criticism and suggestions for each sketch. The next day or so was a battle to decide what improvements we had the capacity or inclination to address and to make necessary changes. Many students had full computer/printer setups in their dorm rooms which helped them to adjust their images and facilitate planning. Without a computer, and after spending 2 hours waiting for a photocopy at the print shop, I made the decision to not fight my lack of tools and to just have fun with my project.

Wall of sketches...

Rather than thinking of my illustration as a portfolio piece, I wanted to just use it as an opportunity to try some new things without the pressure of professional results. I made my first color study in oils on a small version of my drawing. Ideally, a few variations of mood/lighting and color should be explored on even smaller panels, but again, I wanted to experience the week without getting bogged down on any one task.

Reference and color study...

The next few days consisted of this routine:
  • Sleep in until around 10am
  • go to studio and see whats going on. Squeeze out paint. Start painting.
  • Eat lunch
  • Lecture
  • Paint a tiny bit
  • Eat supper
  • lecture
  • Paint until bedtime... usually around 3am.
We seemed to be eating all the time. Since the college was being operated for a number of summer groups in addition to the IMC, we were on a strict cafeteria schedule. It was a combination of not burning any calories sitting all day, and being fed bountiful, awesome all-you-can-eat food. I tried to have salad routinely, but I also had just as much pizza and ice cream. The food was like going to a quality buffet; not like the creamed corn and "tater tots" I was expecting.

The cafeteria...

The twice-a-day lectures were a good mix of practical and theoretical. One of the talks was on getting good reference photos by using professional lighting equipment. The stunning action shots that were taken as demonstration have convinced me to step up that aspect of my craft.
Other memorable lectures included discussions on business issues, color theory and "talent"... which BTW is "total crap"...

Faculty of the IMC: (from left) Donato Giancola, Scott Fischer, Julie Bell, Boris Vallejo, Jeremy Jarvis, Dan Dos Santos, James Gurney, Greg Manchess, Irene Gallo.

The artist faculty members also had paintings on the go; which is a good way for students to witness technique and discuss methods with the instructors. My respect and awe for the instructors grew enormously in the presence of their creations...

I had fun making my painting. I used my fingers to smudge alot, enjoyed the freedom to be loose, and basically just gained some experience as I work towards the goal of using oil paints for professional work.

By the end of the week, I hadn't learned to paint masterfully or had my world turned upside down by shocking new information. The experience of the IMC was more a rounded, cumulative absorption of information based on being in an epicenter of illustration excellence. The students and faculty are a caring and sharing community with a common goal, which I'm glad to be a part of.

Another account of the week can be found here: