Tuesday, February 28, 2017

How Can I Get Whiter Impastos?

After the recent post about painting the Donut Jar, we got a couple questions about highlights.

Peter Drubetskoy said...
So, I've tried this a couple of times and had trouble. Even when the transparent watercolor layer is dry, the top layer of gouache, while looking OK on application, dries to a kind of grey semi-transparent layer - almost never to an opaque white layer, I found that white charcoal pencil works better for me, (but again, the watercolor needs to be dry-dry for it to work)
One caveat is that I use dried gouache that I re-wet, not fresh from the tube. But then if I want to use this technique on the go, I prefer to have dried pans of gouache instead of carrying tubes.
Do you have any advise here?

Fabio Porta said...
I usually have the same issue with gouache, and am virtually unable to lay white gouache on top of darker layers, as it gets too transparent. If I make it thicker, it's harder to lay down, so I guess it should be about finding a good balance?

Peter and Fabio, here are a few tips to get those white highlights whiter:
1. Use titanium instead of zinc white.
2. Use tube paint, not pan colors.
3. If the paint comes out of the tube runny, squeeze it out on absorbent paper first to make it drier.
4. Make sure the surface you're painting over is totally dry.
5. Don't scrub. Just put it down and leave it.
6. Use a thick impasto. For that you may need a stiffer brush.
7. You can push it into the paint to build up the blob of paint on the brush. 

Monday, February 27, 2017

'Smooth' Visits

Our son Frank is visiting, along with his dog Smooth, a husky mix.

Sofie and Princess, the Belgian draft horses, are keenly interested in this new creature. Smooth was nervous around them at first.

(Link to Facebook) When we get back home, he falls deeply asleep. I paint him in transparent watercolor, leaving the white areas and covering the surface with greys around the silhouette. 

I place those perspective strokes on the floor to help communicate the ground plane. The dark drybrush strokes on the fur come last. 

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Heath Robinson Exhibition Coming to Delaware

The Fairy’s Birthday, 1925, published in
Holly Leaves, December, 1925. W. Heath Robinson
(1872–1944). Pen, ink, and watercolor,
17 1/2 × 12 3/8 in. (44.5 × 31.5 cm). The William Heath Robinson Trust.
An exhibition of the artwork of W. Heath Robinson will open March 4 at the Delaware Art Museum in Wilmington. The show is called "Wonder and Whimsy: The Illustrations of W. Heath Robinson." 

Shepherd’s Hill, Highgate by W. Heath Robinson
(1872–1944). Pen and watercolor, 29 1/8 x 20 1/16 inches
The William Heath Robinson Trust.
According to the museum:
"While little known today, during his lifetime W. Heath Robinson (1872 -1944) was ranked with Arthur Rackham and Edmund Dulac as one of England’s foremost illustrators. Beginning in the 1890s Robinson developed a linear style that looks back to the innovations of the Pre-Raphaelite illustrators and forward to the art nouveau creations of Aubrey Beardsley and others. He illustrated a broad range of texts, including William Shakespeare, Rudyard Kipling, and the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen, in addition to children’s books he wrote himself. He is best remembered today for his humorous depictions of Rube Goldberg-like contraptions and gentle satires of contemporary life."
The show will be up through May 21, 2017.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Trust the Process

I always remind myself: "Trust the process."

Step 1: Research. I study the scientist's papers, look at photos of the fossils, and compare animals in our world that might serve as analogues.

Anchiornis sketches
Step 2: Thumbnails. I sketch these preliminaries with watercolor, gouache, colored pencil and fountain pen. I do these from imagination, pretending I'm watching the animals go through a series of actions. What is the moment to capture?

On some level I'm also aware of 2D design issues, but I'm really trying to project myself into the moment. I try to think of my sketch as a window rather than a piece of paper. 

Sometimes the first sketch is the best. Sometimes a discovery happens later. You will never know until you try a lot of variations. I don't get too attached to any of them.

Maquette made of paper over armature wire,
bulked out with epoxy putty, and painted in acrylic.
Step 3. Once the art director and I agree on the best sketch, I try to recreate in physical form the conditions of the sketch, to see if it works out spatially and dimensionally. 

This stage is where all the unexpected surprises arrive to add conviction to the idea—for example the dappled light on the tree and the cast shadow on the visible foot.

Step 4. Then it's on to the finish in oil. Check out the video below if you haven't seen it already.

Step 5. Make a Documentary Video. It's the age of social media, so there's more work to do. Creating a video is the final part of the job. Of course it's not officially commissioned. There's no budget for making a behind-the-scenes video. An outside crew could never get the personal angle that the artist himself or herself can get.

But I like to do this when I can because it helps the magazine reach more readers. We illustrators need to do everything we can to help our print partners win.
Previous post: How to Video Your Art
Book about the process: Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn't Exist
Link to YouTube video for this painting
The painting appears in the March issue of Ranger Rick

Thursday, February 23, 2017

A Dinosaur Takes Wing

Although a scene like this would have taken place 160 million years ago, I want the image to look like it was captured yesterday by a wildlife photographer's camera.

Anchiornis in Flight
It appears in Ranger Rick, a magazine dominated by wildlife photography. So I blur the background to suggest depth of field. I spotlight the action with an area of soft dappled light cast from the tree behind us.

The following 1-minute video gives a glimpse of the process.

(Link to Facebook video)

I make the paper-over-wire maquette by photocopying a flat plan drawing of the animal two times onto card stock. Then I make a glue sandwich with aluminum armature wire in the place of the bones. Then I bulk up the maquette with epoxy putty.

Here's an 8 minute video on YouTube of all three dinosaur paintings for the March issue of Ranger Rick Magazine.

(Link to YouTube video)