Fantasy Art

Friday, July 29, 2016

3 Minute Gesture Sketch

The purpose of this kind of sketch is just a warm up exercise.  Your focus is on the rhythm of the model's movement, the flow of the lines through the body.  It's only three minutes so you won't have time for many details.
There are many approaches to gesture drawing, some artists are very scribbly, some use a big chunk of charcoal and just block in shadows.  Some focus on just one portion of the body like an arm or leg while others like myself try to get as much of a drawing done as possible.  That last one may well be the wrong approach, but it's tempting because gesture poses are usually the most dynamic and interesting and I want to draw those more than any others.
You'll notice as we go along that the majority of my sketches are of women sitting.  That's because 90% of class time we draw women just sitting.
Fortunately for me many of our models welcome me to take photographs.  If I am fortunate enough to get a good photo of a nice pose I'll sometimes continue working on that sketch at home and may eventually get a very nice finished drawing from a gesture.  This experience is vastly inferior to drawing in person.  The camera loses a lot of information that you can easily see in person.  For example in the photo that thigh might just look like a solid white shape whereas in person you can discern several shifts in the surface of the plane.  This makes all the difference in the world as to the realism of your work.  Sometimes my experience can step in save me because I know there should be a plane shift there even if I can't see it.  Other times not so much.
   But the world does not measure us by the things we could have done if we had better opportunities nor by the quality of our reasons for the things we didn't do.  The world measures us by what we do nothing else.  So we do what we can with what we have.  Improve on what you have if possible certainly.  But if you learn nothing else in your life learn this, however much you have or however little, the importance of what we have is always microscopic compared to the importance of what we do.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Star Child

If you look at the art of Roy Krenkel, Frank Frazetta, and other science fiction and fantasy  illustrators of the 1970s you'll see lots of wild and impractical looking metal headdresses.  One evening I decided to design one of my own, and this is the sketch that I came up with.

I have a latent interest in metallurgy and jewelry design.   I took some jewelrysmithing, blacksmithing and welding classes long ago and got to make a few pieces of jewelry, some wrought iron, a coat of chainmail and a few crude swords and other medieval weapons. 
So in keeping with the sign-inspired art phase I was going through I created this framed-in piece with spirally hair and whatnot.  It's kind of like classic fantasy illustration run through a sign painter's filter to create a piece of abstract art.
Like always she is painted it on a recycled board from the sign shop.

Star Child
14 inches X 48 inches, Oil paint on wooden panel

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Kiss

Another dresser top that I used for a canvas a couple years ago while I was emerging from my sign painter past and searching for whatever was ahead.   You can especially tell because of the abstract, spirally hair.  

I had given myself permission to go right ahead and paint anything that occurred to me, no rules.
If no one buys it then it was still good practice.
"The Kiss"  36 inches by 18 inches, oil paint on wood panel.   
Fear holds us back from so many of the cool things we could do.  I was afraid for decades to take a life drawing class, but when I finally did it turned out to be the best thing I've ever done for my art, my career and my social life..  Because of a religion I no longer believe in I was afraid to draw pictures like this one for fear of what people would think.  But do you know what they thought of me back then when I was being considerate of what they might be thinking?  They thought I was wasting my life not doing anything worthwhile with my artistic talents.
They were right.
 I was right too, My world is full of people who would have been scandalized by this painting.  But if they ever even see it they'll get over it and nothing will change.
All the judgmental people in my life who's judgment I was afraid of and avoiding?  They were judging me the whole time anyways so what good did it do me to suppress my artistic impulses to try and please them?

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Captain Jess, Space Commander

A joke we often make in drawing class is that Circles make all art better.  There's no small amount of truth to it. 
One quick and simple solution to the aforementioned problem (yesterday's post) is to put a large geometric shape in the background.  Circles work nicely.  Once there the shape might suggest something else to you such as a door or window, a sign, a picture frame a mirror or a decorative mandala like the works of Alphonse Mucha.  
Sometimes you don't even need to explain it.  Sign painters especially window painters like myself would often drop a shape behind a foreground element just to pull it together and provide a color to contrast against.
So essentially I've taken everything that was a disadvantage about this composition and turned it into an advantage.  The background circle tucks in visually with the shape of the chair.  The ray gun that I drew initially recommended the science fiction setting.
I gave her clothes on her lower body which I couldn't see enough of anyways and left her breasts exposed because why on earth would you cover those?  Plus you may notice the upper body is angled just enough to show both breasts.  I just don't like a complete profile in a drawing, there's something artificial looking about it.

She was one of my all time favorite models but alas she moved away.  You always have the impression that her feet aren't touching the ground, floating and ephemeral. 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Negative Space

When an artist is attracted to a figure, a landscape feature or any object to draw there are two things to work out.
One is how the figure will look, the other is how all of the empty space on the canvas will look.  If you draw a tall skinny tree or a human figure they won't take up the whole paper unless you select a tall skinny paper for that purpose.  But most of the time you'll find yourself with composition problems.
A seated figure from the side can be very problematic.  The "L" shape of her body creates a big empty space above her that will be very awkward if you don't do something with it.
The good news is that solutions abound.  There could be another person standing back there, or an animal or goblin as I often do.
There could be architectural features, trees, curtains, Lettering or just an abstract design.  It's a ll up to you and the kind of art you are making.
Solving this problem has forced me to invent stuff and because of that led to some of the most interesting images I've ever done.
The model was not actually holding a laser pistol at that particular moment, (though she's prone to do so) but the posture of her hand suggested it.
I was disappointed that from my angle so much of her lovely figure was concealed, but you have to make what you can out of what you have.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Coloring Books

It's much too hot to play outside right now.  Hey you know what you should do?  You should order a bunch of coloring books on amazon.  You won't even have to go outside...well except to the mailbox I suppose.
Do yourself a favor and don't order any crayons in the mail for a couple months.  Not in Phoenix anyways.

Friday, July 22, 2016

How to Draw a Mythical Beast

Do you know how to draw a mythical beast accurately?   Ask them to pose for you.  Really that was kind of an obvious one wasn't it?

I always thought the word "gynosphinx" just sounded dirty somehow besides some of them are obviously male and "androsphinx" just sounds goofy.   I also find the word "sphinx" a little hard to say by itself so I prefer to call them cattaurs.   
 I asked her what they call themselves.  She gave me a contemptuous look and said "Jas" which means "us".  I guess I had that coming.   That word would work except that the centaurs, satyrs, minotaurs, some elves, goblins and even humans use the same word for themselves. ... Cattaurs it is.

Now I know what some of you are thinking: "Gilead who do you think you're fooling?  You're clearly delusional if you believe that you actually traveled to some fantasy realm where some mythical beast posed for you to draw her like this!"
OK OK you got me.
It would be impossible to pose like this for very long.  There was actually a tree stump there for her front paws to rest on and she didn't actually have a sword at all she was holding an overhanging branch which allowed her to keep herself in the right position fairly restfully.  But you know it's fantasy art, one has to improvise a little.

Thursday, July 21, 2016


Rarely seen these days, cattaurs (sometimes called a gynosphinx) used to range in great numbers along the cliffs of Mingus Morgul and the mountains of central Arizona.  Their numbers have diminished due to incursions on their environment and to being eaten by dragons.  But a mother cattaur and two cubs were spotted outside of Jerome early last spring.   Some authorities claim it was actually a mountain lion, but of course that's just plain silly. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

What To Do when You Just Can't Fix It

A teacher once said; "To do a great drawing, you must first do a hundred bad drawings."
It's discouraging to know that you have to go through that, but encouraging to know that all the great artists probably went through the same thing as well.
This short sketch was just plain bad.  It just didn't come out well, she had this cloth wrapped around her lower body and I couldn't see her legs from where I was sitting.  I tried and failed miserably to fake it.
So eventually I just quit trying to fix it and did the only other sensible thing a boy could do...

What could it be?

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Leaping Lizards of the Dungeons of Doom!

And here at last is the final painting of Ned the Barbarian fighting a dragon.
 Oil and acrylics on board, 2' X 3' Framed.
Like most of my art this is painted on a recycled wood panel cut to the size of a recycled frame.
Unlike most of my art I still own this one.  It's hanging on the wall of my living room, but it's still for sale.  $500.00 plus shipping. (Now Sold)

A few weeks ago at Comic Con several prominent artists called me Frank Frazetta.
You could not compliment me more no matter how hard you tried.
I used to go from worrying that my paintings were too derivative or not enough.  Now I just paint.

P.S. I just found out that "Dungeons of Doom" is an online computer game thing.  Just so ya know this painting has nothing to do with that, it just sounded like a fun goofy title.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Leaping Lizards!

After the convention I decided to do the entire image over in oil paints.   The goal was to try to get away from the extreme blue/yellow contrast and reach for a little more realism.
Oil paint can be very opaque, almost like smearing out slabs of clay.  It would be quite a waste to mix up a batch of muddy gray like these stones are made of, but I didn't have to.   I had a bunch of half dried up paint on the palette that needed to be used up so I scooped it all together in one big pile and only mixed it a little.  So as I smear the paint around with a palette knife I get an irregular color like real stone.

I also knocked out that wall on the left making it a more modern, open-concept dungeon floor-plan.
So what do you think, are the stones more stone-like?  They've got a lot of texture at this point and took a few days to dry.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Maricopa Con

Somewhere between the last photo and this one I forgot to keep taking pictures.  The bulk of the painting was done so it was all a shadow here and a highlight there.  The red reflections on the left suggest some source of firelight off screen and they help define the shapes that would otherwise melt into the shadows.

One huge composition problem with this image is the big empty space in the lower right corner, but it was time to turn it in for the program cover.  They made use of the empty space  with their logo.
They were happy with the art, but I was not satisfied with it so I went back to work on it later.

Maricopa Con is a great little gaming convention in Phoenix every summer.  It's sold out for this year, but check the website for info about next year.

Friday, July 8, 2016

More Contrast

Dissatisfied with the amount of contrast it had going on I darkened the shadow areas substantially and whitened the light areas.  This is a method you want to use if you know that your color is going to be a bit transparent.  Like with the dragon, a transparent green laid over the dark blue would hardly show up at all but painted over white it pops out quite brightly.  

That's a trick I learned from painting signs on windows.  As bright as your colors are they can't be painted straight onto the glass it just won't show up.
Paint the sign white first, then add the color and the sign becomes shockingly vibrant.

My point isn't made very well in this image because of the poor lighting
in the room when I took this photo.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Importance of Contrast

Getting paid for your work is obviously a wonderful thing, but there is something liberating about a project that you have no emotional investment in.  When you can just try any old thing and fearlessly accept whatever happens.
 For myself this kind of comfort comes of years of years of sign painting.  Every day I painted something new but used exactly the same process each time so in a way it was the same thing.  This made the technical part of the job completely predictable.  I knew what would happen if I mix those two colors or put this warm color next to that blue or used a ragged brush stroke which lets the underpainting show through.  So I could have a new idea and just paint it on the fly without fear that it wouldn't work.  It will always work.  It may not be great, but to some extent it will work.

 Knowing those technical things is the key to creativity.  Some art students and even teachers fear that if you  learn too much about technique it will inhibit your creative expression.  This is total nonsense.  It's like saying knowing how to talk inhibits your ability to express yourself.  It's literally the opposite of the truth.
Once you have an artistic vocabulary down you are free to roll with your ideas as soon as they occur to you without having to figure out how to do it.  You already know how to do it so it just flows from you.
So I always knew this painting was going to work even if I tried something weird and didn't really like it, it still works on some level.

So far I am liking this one, the warm and cool contrast appeals to me, but there is very little tonal (light and dark) contrast.   The flesh color has almost the same lightness as the blue.

 In grayscale this image almost looks flat.   This means that it will be hard to "read"
especially from a distance.   I'll have to do something about that.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016


This under-painting is a wash of blue house paint thinned down with flat finish acrylic varnish also available from your local hardware store.  I've used this kind of mixture many times to create an underwater look, but this time I'm just cooling the image down.  Once I add warmer colors to the skin and such the cool shadows will already be in place.  Also this gives the feel of cold dark stone surfaces, cold steel and cold reptilian flesh.
That's the theory anyways.  Was it a good idea?  We'll find out.
At any rate an under-painting is always a good idea otherwise you have to go over every tiny spot of the canvas one at a time trying to get rid of white spots.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Art supplies...Like House Paint

The beauty of Indian ink is that it's water soluble when wet, permanent when dry and doesn't bleed through your paint.  Never never use markers that don't say Indian ink on them.  Magic marker ink would bleed through a stone wall given enough time... OK they haven't existed for enough time, but stick around another thousand years, you'll see.  It would just be a big blurry stain when it bleeds through... trust me you just don't want to do that.
I've changed my mind about a number of things here in the inking stage which would be a disaster in an ink illustration, but I'm going to paint over this so it's no problem at all.
The base color for this board was an off white of some kind.  Probably from the discount rack at Home Depot.  I usually begin my paintings with flat finish acrylic house paint.  It's cheap and durable and can create many of the effects you want in your painting.

So now all of the mistakes are painted back out with white house paint.
The lizard's feet are placed where they make sense and stray confusing lines are erased.
Originally the model was in a deep lunge on level ground, but somehow here he looks like he's climbing a little bit so I changed the floor to accommodate that.
I don't remember what the deal was with that grey smudge on the left.  Perhaps some ancient-world hooligan has been writing on the opposite side of the wall with a magic marker.

Don't expect people to agree with you.  More importantly, don't feel like you need them to.
You deserve to live the life that you want to live, the one you are excited about.
When you follow your own path it will look like the wrong way to most people because it isn't their chosen path.  They will try to help you, to guide you back on the "right" track.   But their "right path" is only right for them, it's probably wrong for you. Don’t let their expectations lead you down their path.
I have people trying to help me get illustration work or to advise me on how apply my time and talents.  But they don't have the same vision I have or the same goals.
I think fantasy art is particularly susceptible to this because up until now there has never been any use for it other than book illustration, comics, and conceptual design.  So people who are in the publishing business or just fans of science fiction, fantasy and role playing games just can't see past the preconception that I'm somehow struggling to be an illustrator and failing at it.
I'm not.  Books, comics and concept art don't interest me, I don't want to do that.
 (except my coloring books of course)
I'm making art that happens to have a fantasy theme and I'm succeeding at it.  I'm not the first and in a short time I'll just be one in the crowd, but for now it confuses people who are in the publication business. Many of them are my friends and make well intended efforts to save me by guiding down the path of their own vision.
Twenty years ago I needed that kind of guidance because I didn't have a vision of my own, but now I do and I'm pursuing it even though I have no idea where the road will take me.  All I know is it's my road  and I hope you'll come along for the journey.

Monday, July 4, 2016

The Best Kind of Commissions

I don't do illustration work anymore, but I was asked to do the program book cover for a little gaming convention.  Not only is the organizer a friend but he also didn't try to tell me what to do he just asked for a fantasy painting of some kind.  I can take commissions like that all day, but it's extremely rare for a client to just give you free reign like that.  Plus of course I still own the original art and the copyright.
So basically this is a piece that I wanted to do anyways so I just did it and called it a commission.

I rubbed charcoal onto the back of the drawing and placed it on a sheet of wood paneling then traced over the drawing with a ballpoint pen.  This transfers the sketch to the board like we did in "The Goblin Queen"
Then I started making changes.  Lowered his left arm and gave him a shield.  Gave him a little more clothing to cover his butt, and changed the lizard a lot.  In many ways I'm making it up as I go.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Not Conan the Barbarian

 The world of Paracosm is teeming with life of every kind; insects, mammals amphibians and birds, but it could be said that reptiles rule the earth here, crocodiles in particular.
There are dozens of radically different species.  Some small as a cat and highly intelligent, they make good pets and loyal guard dogs. Others are huge, man eating dragons.  Some have developed fin-like legs and never leave the water while others appear to have broken free of the water completely and hunt high up among arid forests walking on two legs like a huge nightmare bird.

Some of our models are reasonably muscular, but none of them are the classic image of a character like Conan the Barbarian.  But I'm not illustrating books I'm drawing much more average people in their daily lives in a very hazardous world.  So this isn't Conan the Barbarian this is Ned. 
 Ned the Mostly Average Barbarian.