Monday, September 19, 2011

Back at it and the genius of Tiepolo

Well, I am guilty without excuse for not updating this blog.  The last few months I've taken a bit of a rest from art; just doing what's required for my commissions, and not much more.  We all need a rest once in awhile; and I've been both taking it easy for the summer, but also using my energies for other important things on the domestic front.

 I'm now rusty, my confidence is down, and my routine is off, but with Illuxcon just over a month away, I've got to get back in gear. The best way to do this is to get excited and challenged by a new project that I'm motivated to do well.  I'm just starting to think about compositions for a new multi-figured battle scene for a client.  Tonight I scribbled out some ideas, and I'll use this to also get back into gear with blogging, since there is no issue with disclosing work in progress.  Stay tuned for my progress on this illustration!


This new project is perfect for me to work the rust out because my favorite thing to illustrate is complex fight scenes. A big influence on my thinking comes from the Venetian artist Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. I love Tiepolo for his dynamic, non eye-level scenes of decorative intertwined figures. His preparatory drawings are an education in good design.

2 things Tiepolo instructs us on is how to use the body as shape, and how to organize values. The figure is treated dynamically and better shape-use is gained from not being locked to an eye-level perspective. On top of this structure, Tiepolo designs the light/dark patterns with a broad wash, liberally linking areas for tonal simplicity, but with enough logic that the design can be replicated using figure reference in the final painting. His drawings are particularly instructive for fantasy art, because the scenes we create demand this energy, and require these design strategies to coordinate complexity into simplicity...


 One broad wash and a few touches of deep shadow are enough to indicate the light and determine if the scene is balanced and simple enough to proceed to paint.


The above image has its values designed in strong, unbroken diagonals for maximum movement.


The scythe blade (below), although logically in the light is treated as a dark shape for balance in the empty upper left space.



Notice (below) how the tonal planning makes it to the final painting.  By a more liberal use of value grouping, Tiepolo creates scenes that are more dynamic and decorative than the randomness of observed phenomena.   Diagonals, S curves and linear tangents are more important than rendered detail, but we don't get the sense the images lack realism even though the parts are more designed and less observed.