Fantasy Art

Monday, October 31, 2016

Moon Model

It"s funny that having changed this drawing so much it's actually looking more like the model than it did before.  not that that's very important to me.  By the time I'm completely finished with a detailed drawing or painting I've changed the face and hair entirely.
I've decided to give her one of the straight-bladed moon sabers that they use even though she didn't actually have one in this pose.  I've never actually seen one up close so this drawing is somewhat inaccurate. I'm told they glow like lightening and can cut through solid stone and that the blade can kill you just by touching you.  I kind of doubt all that, but I do get the impression that if I pressed the question I might find out first hand.  Moon folk are secretive about their technology.

Then I gave her some nicer hair.  Starting to like this drawing now, I'd been prepared to throw it out at first because it just looked so unflattering.  It's always worth the effort to see if you can salvage a piece.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Expert Help

Yesterday I was expressing my dissatisfaction (some people call it whining) with the model's pose.  I don't like the way she hunched her shoulders so I erased her arms as best I could and tried to think of a different posture to put them in.  This simple and obvious decision baffles some artists who feel as though they are stuck with whatever is in front of them like it or not.  They are sometimes surprised by my decision to just omit something if it doesn't look good from my point of view. 
 I'm surprised by their surprise.   Apparently there is more  to imagination than the ability to add things to a drawing, it also requires imagination to leave things out.

I was so indecisive about what to do with her arms that I called in an expert to advise me.  This is Mischief the cat who has been my assistant and moral support for 14 years.  She assured me that when in doubt scritches behind the ears are always appropriate.  Sort of obvious when you think about it.
It tears me up a little bit to post this because Missy died a week ago today and I still can't stand it.
 In my solitary little studio world she was my best friend.
I have other cats of course, I am an artist after all, but I hardly know what to do without her, she was one in a million. I don't actually have a million cats despite what some people will tell you.

In addition to finding a more pleasing and narrative position for her arms I'm also re-establishing her hips and thighs.  The model has a lovely body but some postures flatten out a girl's curves which is just sad.  But when you are drawing, it's your drawing, you are always free to enhance it anyway you see fit.  This is possibly one of the reasons I hate doing portraits because there's no room for imagination.
I also erased her hair while I decide what to do with that.   Most of the erasing was done with a paper towel.  One has to be careful not to scrub too hard or the drawing paper will become smoothed down and the charcoal won't adhere like it should.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Life Drawing on the Moon

The basement door can lead me anywhere, even occasionally to Jeskarrah's twin moons Kath and Ohdray, where warring houses battle incessantly for supremacy over the mother planet and her people.
Despite the exotic setting this was actually a terrible pose which is why I paid more attention to the model's attendant moon goblin than to the model herself.  With her left arm crooked over the cushions  she took on this hunched hulking posture that was so unattractive  I just couldn't keep drawing.  Plus I really didn't like her haircut.  She's actually a very sweet and pretty girl, but the pose was really a bad choice.

Monday, October 24, 2016

If you don't know what to draw just Doodle.

I go through phases where I have no ideas to draw so I just doodle little curlicues and stuff in my sketchbook.  Some of the resultant designs show up in later in fabrics, jewelry, architecture and stained glass.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Bot and Souled

Almost finished here but I've started to lose the strength of contrast that I had initially so I'm just going to go back and darken the dark areas and drop in some even brighter highlights.  The previous coats of paint are almost completely dry at this stage so I can add a clear dark gray glaze over a light area without picking up white paint into my brush and dulling down the glaze.

In addition to darkening the shadow areas I drop a shadow onto the floor beneath her and add just enough brown to the floor to justify the brown colored reflected lights on the robot without actually making the floor look like wood or dirt.  A little rusty maybe.  When everything else is done I finally paint the wires coming off of her head.  If I'd done them earlier I'd have to paint around them and that'd be a big pain.

"Bot and Souled"
Oil paint on wood panel.
I gave this one to my brother who really likes robots.

My brother has a great story about a robot, he could tell it better than I can.
When we were small (he's 4 years older than I am so I'd have been very small) we lived in a town called Newport Vermont.  Somewhere close by, but not really close, was a construction company with a bunch of old trucks and other useless junk rusting out in the back yard.  My brother Ken who was always a scientist, explorer and master spy discovered an old electric motor of  some kind lying on the seat of some broken down truck.  Well they weren't using it for anything so Ken decided to carry it home and build a robot out of it as kids do.
Carrying this heavy sucker all the way back to the house was a monumental task for such a small boy, but his enthusiasm for the realization of his dreams lightened his load.  After all once he was the master of a robotic army he'd never have to carry anything again.  Mom and Dad would be so proud.
  Well it turns out that our father has different ideas about the legality of walking off with other people's belongings just because you think they don't need it and the prospect of a robotic servant to do all of our chores in the future did nothing to sway his scruples.
So Dad made the poor exhausted lad carry the thing all the way back to where he found it and apologize to the owner.  
It was a lesson to us all.  Dad remains as morally inflexible as he ever was and Ken has never built a robot servant out of stolen parts again.

The End

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Playing With Toys

All of the apparent drastic color differences in the robot from one picture to the next are just the result of my crappy photography skills and the changing light in the studio.  I've really changed almost nothing on the actual robot except to add some very pale blue to the light areas.

I found a Silver Surfer toy in a thrift store and some kind of hubcap thing on the ground.  Both are useful visual references for painting this kind of thing.  although in this photo they're sitting on a blue box in a warm colored room so the color is opposite of what I've showed you.  I took them outside a few times to get a better idea of how the reflections should look.

Buying "Props" is not only a great excuse for collecting toys, but they really do help.  Set toys up in front of a desk lamp and you can get a very good feel for lights and shadows.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Creating Contrast

Adding paint to the background, I've done virtually nothing to the figure, but she is looking completely different now due to the change in contrast.  It was a challenge to make the background very similar in color to the robot, but maintain enough contrast for her to stand out.  I kept the back wall a neutral gray while the floor could be a cool blue which contrasts well with the warm colors along her bottom.  The sign painter in me jumped on that as a solution to the problem of contrast, but it creates a different problem.  If the floor is blue then the reflected light below her should be blue too which would dilute the illusion of chrome.  She'd just look like a shiny blue robot.  In truth a chrome object in an all blue room would just be blue.  It would still look reflective because of all the intense black and white reflections, but there'd be no warm browns to provide the visual shorthand that this is a chrome thing.
We see them all the time, hubcaps, bumpers, door handles, we know what it looks like; blue sky, brown dirt, black reflections, white highlights.  I used to airbrush chrome lettering all the time back when that was popular and it was an easy formula to follow, but it may not work here.  I'll go back and forth on this during the painting process.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Painting Robots From Life.

I didn't take a lot of step by step photos of my work back when I did this but I used the same method that we saw earlier with Tracing the Goblin Queen.  Then I strengthened the lines with India Ink.  Once the ink was dry I washed over the canvas with a thin brown under-painting.
Notice that the color on the Robot is as minimal as the colors in yesterday's post.  Except for the brown under-painting there's very little here besides black and white and just a touch of blue.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Drawing Shiny Things

Sorry for the delayed follow up, we had a long and horrible weekend.

So last week I showed a sketch of a shiny robot  drawn from life and I promised a demonstration of how to depict reflective surfaces in a drawing, which incidentally works the same as it does in a painting.

I used a jar lid to make some circles on the paper.  My father always said "use the right tool for the job."  I have my own saying, "use whatever's closest so you don't have to get up and go looking for stuff.

I made a few too many circles and a couple irregular shapes representing nothing in particular.

Using a wide charcoal stick I drop a shadow below and a little to the left of each object.  This suggests that the light source is above and a little to the right.

With the same charcoal stick ( you can use a graphite pencil or anything else you like, but I like charcoal) I dropped in a shadow onto each object.  But you'll notice that the circles on the top row are shaded in their low left area while the circles in the second row are shaded on the top right.  What gives?  The top row are opaque objects while the second row are transparent.

Now I use  a sharper pencil to create some reflections.  Reflections don't behave like shadows.  Shadows and rays of light move in whatever direction they move  without regard for your point of view.  Reflections on the other hand always come straight towards your eye.
So if the ball on the top left is a dull stone, but the one on the right is a chrome plated ball then the stone one has no discernible reflection on its surface, but the chrome has nothing but reflections.

So let's imagine you're looking at this ball on a wooden table at the park.  There's an open field all around you but a tree line in the distance behind you.  The curve of the ball will compress the reflection to a thin dark line at its point closest to you but will expand as it moves to the sides.  But it will continue looking like this weather you move the ball or yourself.

To give the paper some tone I smeared the whole page with a paper towel.

With the tone in place I could use an eraser to pull out lighter spots in the top right where the light is hitting them.  We've turned the second ball into an opaque, but highly polished ball of stone like jasper or something.
Notice that the two transparent balls have a light spot on the ground below them because the light shines all the way through them and onto the ground.  Also the ball itself doesn't seem to have a shadow on the low left because light is scattering all around the interior surface of the glass ball.

Now using a white chalk I exaggerate the highlights even more.  This makes it all the more shiny.

Just for the fun of it I got a couple colored chalks and added a touch of blue on the chrome things.  Not much, and keep it up near the top.  The color is concentrated at the edges and diluted by the over expanded reflection where it bulges towards you.
Also a touch of brown at the bottom reflected from the ground.  I added this tiny amount of color to illustrate what a small role color plays in creating the illusion of metal or glass.   Most of it is accomplished in black and white, color has very little to do with it.
 Many beginners including myself long ago tried to depict things like armor with silver paint.  Wow did that look wrong!  And it's really quite easy to do it right.

Here I added some red to this darker transparent ball.  This would be how you'd depict gems or a grape, or wine in a glass.
Also notice the reflections on the cube here at the bottom.  If in fact there was a row of trees behind us a chrome plated box would probably show a truer reflection than a ball because there'd be less distortion.  But as you go around the corner you might be tempted to draw the reflection in perspective with the box like it was painted onto the surface, but it's not painted on it's reflecting right back at you.  So even the mirror surface facing the right would keep the tree line level from your point of view.

I draw way better than I teach, but I hope some of this made sense to you.  If you'd like me to clarify some part of that please let me know even if you discover this blog  a hundred years from now.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

That Girl's a Robot!

I'm going to be honest with you here, my model was not actually a robot.  She is in fact a very nice lady.  She's tall and strong and beautiful and can hold a difficult pose for a good length of time.  The kind of figure one would describe as statuesque...for a couple reasons.  While I'd love to hire her to model for action poses with swords etc she utterly sucks at the more sensuous poses.  She won't relax, ever.  Her posture is always perfect, kind of like a statue.  Her back is always straight, her shoulders are always high and back   So as I sat there roughing out this drawing I thought to myself "This girl's a robot!"  At which point this drawing just gushed out the tip of my pencil including all the highlights and shadows.
A classmate asked me how I did that so I did a quick demonstration over on the left hand side of the page.  I'll reproduce that again for tomorrow's post.
The key thing to remember about shading a shiny stainless steel robot is that the shadows are exactly the way they appear on the actual model, all you do is exaggerate them.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

New Friend

This started as a loose scribbly sketch with no real intention or plan. It wasn't intended to be a robot at first just a human figure but something about it looked robotic so I rolled with that. Then when I did the mouth shape he had this huge surprised grin so I asked myself what could make a robot so happy? What makes Me happy? Well finding a little frog, obviously.

This painting has in some ways been one of my most successful ones since I've sold a bunch of prints and bookmarks.
But in another way it has been a failure because so many people interpret this as a giant robot despite the frog and the cattails.  It's probably because of the low angle

I gave the original to my brother because he likes robots.
My brother has a story about a robot...

I've had the strangest reactions from people about this picture.  Most people think it's cute, but some say "why is he killing that frog?"  One lady said it was the saddest picture she'd ever seen.  I asked why and she said "Because the little boy doesn't get to be a person anymore he's just a robot."
People see things in accordance with their own expectations or beliefs.  Fantasy fans like myself think of robots as happy sidekicks like the droids in Star Wars, but to non fantasy fans the idea of a robot often evokes a person who has lost their soul or humanity or personality.  A person who has become a mindless machine or who is trapped in a mechanical routine existence.
I don't quite know what to do with this knowledge, but it will probably be important to a guy who is selling fantasy and science fiction art in the fine art market.

So tell me what you think, does he look cute, or sad or gigantic or frogicidal?

Friday, October 7, 2016

Lorelyn by the Lake

There's really no law in the wild lands of the northern marshes, travelers must see to their own protection.  Lorelyn is an excellent swordsman and her left handed stance  makes her even less predictable than most, but knife throwing is her greatest skill.  When fighting is unavoidable she'll dispatch or at least dissuade her opponent from a distance.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

A Narrative Pose

This was a ten minute pose which I found most intriguing.  It doesn't take much to turn a pose into a narrative and this one succeeds nicely.  Perhaps it's not always clear what action is being acted out, but it's clearly something and that sparks my imagination.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

John Carter and the Castro District of Mars

 I had read the John Carter of Mars books when I was was thirteen and only vaguely remembered them later so I decided to re-read them recently.
 Here's a couple thoughts.
1.  Women in these stories exist only to be kidnapped by bad guys.
2.  Kidnappings only exist in these stories to give the hero a reason to be wandering around discovering strange new places and killing strange new people.
3.  No one is ever fat.
4.  While no one wears clothes as such they do all wear "harness", but "harness" is never really described.  There are descriptives such as "plain, decorated, gem encrusted".  They're made of leather with buckles and medallions that clank as people walk and they sometimes have pouches or hidden daggers, but it's not really spelled out what they look like.
So I thought to myself, in the almost childlike way that I occasionally approach my life, "I wonder if there are photos of naked men wearing leather harness on the internet. it so happens there are...a LOT of them!   I freely admit that I've referenced those pictures a number of times when designing costumes. Which brings us back around to yesterday's discussion of the Castro district in San Francisco.

So I drew a flying taxi like you'd encounter in a place like Barsoom and I often think of this drawing as John Carter and the Castro District of Mars.

Of course this isn't really John Carter or Mars or even San Francisco, those are all fictitious.  This is just  Ned the Barbarian hailing a flying boat from the Moons of Kath Ohdray.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Not That There's Anything Wrong With That

This model frequently takes poses that imitate famous works of classical art.  I don't know what if anything he was mimicking here.  Of course even a familiar pose looks entirely different if you are looking at the model from another angle.  
A friend of mine  asked me what this character was supposed to be doing.  He said "He looks like he's hailing a cab in the Castro district and I would know!"  I had to ask for an explanation because mine is a sheltered life of non-worldliness.  The Castro District is a gay neighborhood in San Francisco.  Naw!  He doesn't look like that!  Does he?  Well I guess if my gay friends say he looks gay, he probably looks gay. 

Monday, October 3, 2016

Beyond The Goblin City

Some times weird empty spaces give you an opportunity to put something creative into the drawing that you wouldn't otherwise have put there.  Sometimes those odd choices are where all of the narrative of the picture comes from.  A distant city or landscape tells a different story from an interior.  A menacing monster tells a different story from a protective one.  An elegant fruit bowl and wine glasses tell a completely different story from a scrap of bread on a wooden platter.