Thursday, December 29, 2011

Greg Manchess - Feminine Skin using blocky, painterly strokes

 Red Arrow: highest contrast facial hues   Blue Arrow: color shifting shadow hues   Green Arrow: body hues

Blue Arrow: full value range   Red Arrows: limited value range of skintones

So after a bit of a break, I have finally got back into painting and have made a few observations on my road to creating art that is more brush “strokey” and “painterly than I have done in the past. I created three or four new female character studies, some of which have gone well. My last painting of a young blonde girl gave me an awful lot of trouble because I was unable to determine how to replicate the soft, smooth and unblemished flesh of a young woman. Hair, clothing, shoes and such are easier with the greater shifts in color, tone, temperature and planes, but to create the illusion of smooth flesh with its minor tonal changes and temperature shifts is hard.  I remember mentioning this to Gregory Manchess one day and his response was, “yeah, that can be difficult.”  So today, I am going to look at two of Greg’s lovely female character paintings to try to get some insight into how he is able to accomplish the feat. Because if you look at Manchess’ females, even with the blocky and thick strokes that he is known for, his women are still soft and feminine.

Let’s first look at Deja Thoris in his Princess of Mars painting. The initial thing that I notice (and it may simply be due to her skin tone) is that the value gradients in her skin, especially on her face are very gradual. There are very few areas where he creates a hard edge between a light and shadow area. The transitions are much softer and the value changes are much closer to each other. This seems to occur on her body and arms as well as her face. I guess this should be obvious, but it is as if he painted the flesh the same way he would have modeled a cylinder or sphere rather than a cube with it shaper plane transitions. You can get away with those sharper transitions in John Carter’s flesh to create a more manly appearance, but not in Deja. The other thing I see is that a shift in color temperature can help to define the form of a smooth object. If you look at the temperature shift on the underside of her right breast, you can see that the form is defined more by the shift from cool to warm than it is defined by value change as the spherical shape curves back into the thoracic region .

Moving on to the second image, this is one of a fairer skinned woman from a pulp book cover. Here again, I notice that the overall value range for the skin tones is small in the mid-key range. I will focus first on the area of the flesh in shadow because this most obviously reinforces the observation above that a change in temperature is defining the form more than the value shift. If you look at this image in grayscale, you can see that her legs are nearly the same value except for the extreme edges where the form curves away from the viewer. Though in color, you can see that the color shifts from a cool violet to a relatively warmer pink hue. This temperature shift defines this curved form without having to deal with a sharper gradient change which would detract from that appearance of a smooth surface. If we then turn our view to the rib cage area, we see that in grayscale, the value shift isn't that great but is enhanced by the temperature of the color in order the create a more obvious shadow area without a higher contrast value change which again would sharpen the surface and detract from the smoothing affect. Finally, the woman’s face has that same gradual gradient in values, and values in a smaller range to smooth out the form. The highest area of contrast being in the area of the cleft of the nostril where it meets the cheek and the cheek where it is in direct light.

Conclusion: In order to create the appearance of a soft and smooth surface when painting the skin of a young woman, smoother gradients should be applied, smaller ranges of values should be used and form should be defined by color temperature shifts and not only value.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Petar Meseldzija - Eowyn and Lord of the Nazgul Underpainting

I had the pleasure of the opportunity to attend Illuxcon 2011 last week, and one of the highlights for me was the chance to watch a painting demostration from Petar Meseldzija in person.  Petar spoke on the value of emotional content in your work and then gave a whopping 3 hours demo where he attemtped to paint a folk tale-esque countryside scene for a new book.  He stated that he was not entirely happy with the result however, the demostration itself was a huge success from my point of view in that it showed many insights into Petar process.  One important piece that cannot be underestimate is the power of Petar's underpainting.  In this example of Eowyn and the Lord of the Nazgul, you can see the level and finish of his underpaintings.  If you check out his personal blog you will find the exact colors that he uses, but what I think is more important is that he does not use a single color like burnt umber for his entire underpainting.  He uses variation of monochrome, both warm and cool.  For example, many of us use burnt sienna and raw umber.  Burnt sienna is a very warm orangy brown, where raw umber is a much cooler almost bluish brown.  This combination of monochromatic tones enables the underpainting to begin to exhibit characteristics which helps define form as well as create depth as well as begins to expose what color relationships should be setup moving forward.  And like a Norman Rockwell painting that I once noticed all the light leaks showing through, Petar allows portion of the his underpainting to show through in order to add depth, increase tonal qualities and in some cases, simply allows it to bleed through to fill "light leak" holes in areas where he hasn't push paint into.  The way he paints, he seems to obliterate parts of the image with his brush strokes and uses the underpainting in part to help reel the image back in as he moves the paint over the canvas (or panel).  It still boggles my mind how beautifully craft his simple underpaintings are.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Petar Meseldzija - The Noble Dragon

I have been looking through Petar's work alot lately and it is truly amazing to watch the progression in his art from his older work to his newer stuff.  You can actually see the evolution in his brushwork from painting to painting.  Though brushwork is not the focus of today's image.  Today, I want to point out the relationship between saturated and unsaturated colors.  In this piece called the Noble Dragon, you can see how Petar has used saturation to help divide the positive and negative space of this piece.  The wings and body of the dragon, along with the rider and winged horse make up the positive space of the piece.  In that area is where all the action is happening.  The movement is there.  The ferocity of the dragon is there.  The rest...well we don't care.  That isn't true, the negative space provides wandering area for the eye to explorer.  Just when it becomes too much to stare into the jaws of this monster any longer, you can turn your gaze to the wonderful little waves below.  Too calm now?  Look up and BANG!  Bright saturated blues and reds and yellows.  Primary colors none the less.  This elevated level of saturation helps hold your interest at the focus point of the image and allows the rest to recede off into the supporting environment.  If the water was a deeper, richer, bluer hue, what would happen?  You'd be looking at the water because the rods and cones in our eyes are more stimulate for more saturated color.  It is more "exciting" as it were.  So Petar keeps all the most important information, all the exciting colors at or near the focal paint and the action of the image.  Keep that in mind next time, you decide to render that little bird in the tree in the corner with cad red light.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Petar Meseldzija - The Rescuer (Sketch)

Today's image is an unfinished sketch from Petar.  I wanted to comment on this piece for a couple of reasons.  First, I was following along on MuddyColors that Petar was working on a sketch based on Frank Frazetta's Death Dealer. Petar reproduced that sketch about 8 times, tweaking the gesture and pose until it was EXACTLY what he wanted.  In some cases, the changes were so minor that one might not have even noticed the difference unless it was pointed out.  Yet he redrew the figure again and again until he was happy.  Secondly, I have been working on a sketch of Black Cat and I am finding that the pose and gesture very important to the feel that I want to convey.  Are the hips right?  What about the tilt of the head?  So I look at this preliminary sketch and wonder, "how many times was this redrawn to get to this point?  The gesture is powerful.  The weight distribution is setup so that you can feel this knight lunging that heavy spear into the dragon's mouth.  The shapes that creates are just lovely, slightly off vertical, the body creating a nice dramatic diagonal, a twist in the torso that shows the body at an angle that the volume of his chest really not just fills the space, but commands the surroundings.  I know that often people (myself included) can become a slave to reference, especially if it is good reference, but this image did not come from a camera shot.  It came from the meticulous tweaking and modifying a person's character, personality and actions so that this is not just a drawing of a figure, it is an avatar, an embodiment of the character that Petar is trying to share with the viewer.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Petar Meseldzija - The Unicorn Chronicles 3

Today I have choosen the Unicorn Chronicles 3 cover to analyze and I have been wondering what to say about it.  There are alot of things going on in this piece that make it strong, like the gesture of the horses (unicorns), the brushwork that denotes and emphasizes their coats, the energy of the movement.  But I think what really makes this piece strong is the simplicity of its design.  I have indicated a basic value pattern for this piece.  It reminds me of a conversation that I had with Dan Dos Dantos about simple but effective compositions in illustration, especially single figure images.  The value scheme of this piece focuses the viewers eye on the figure by making the figure the center of bullseye.  Dark values in the girl's hair are surrounded by much lighter values in the horses create a high contrast relationship at that point to reinforce the viewers gaze.  Also, the gesture lines of the horses all lead back to the figure.  The shape of the tree limbs work like arrows to guide the eye down towards the figure.  There is just layer upon layer upon layer of decisions that make you want to focus on the figure.  In addition, the figure then is also the most rendered portion of the painting.  The unicorns are adequately addressed for sure, but the details of buttons, and reflections on the belt and wrinkles in the pants make the eye want to stop and take in all the information that is being presented to it.  These simple yet effective compositional mechanisms create the foundations of an extremely strong artwork.  Layer on top of the Petar's masterful brushwork, exilerating color choices and mastery of animal anatomy and tree design, it is no wonder why this piece works so well.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Starting Anew - Petar Meseldzija Steel Bashaw 13

I have been gone for a long time. Other things have occupied my time, namely, creating paintings. One of the reasons for this art analysis blog was for me to idnetify things that I found appealing in works of art, analyze them and see how I might be able to incorporate them into my own work. Well, in order to do that you have to work on your own work. In doing so, I have identified a number of shortcomings in my technique, in my process and in my understanding of the principles of color, light, gesture, brushwork, etc.

This has prompted me to start this analysis project again with a more directed focus. I will be looking at drawings and paintings from an artist that really respect and admire, Petar Meseldzija for the next few posts (perhaps more than a few).

I have been looking at this painting all day. It is not the full painting, but the version is very good quality and enabled me to look at a number of things. The first thing that jumps out at me is the brushwork. This painting is just full of loosely placed strokes from the contouring cool raw umbery ones in the river bed to the short, unblended ones that wrap around the tree trunk. In each case as well as the majority of the remaining strokes, they are used to not only apply color to location on the picture plane, but they are used to define the form. WOuld the tree branches look round based on the color and lighting, even if the strokes weren't there? I would suspect yes. However, the brush strokes make them "feel" round, as if you can imaging taking your finger and follow the contour of those branches.

The next thing that I have identified that I don't exactly understand is the use of specific colors in the shadow areas. So the shadow area under the red cap is being warmed up by reflected light from the underside of the red fabric which warms up the shadow, even though the light is warm and yellow from the sun coming through the trees. The shadow on the underside fo the out stretched tree limb is a similar warm brown. I have read that warm sunlight will reflect off the ground and warm up a shadow, so that seems to make sense. However, the shadow on the same limb but closer to the base of the tree is significantly cooler. I can understand that the light is flooding in from all sides and not making the shadow as dark a value, but cooler? So warm light makes cool shadows unless reflected light warms them up, almost like having another warm light source. In this case, the limb has very few things to flect light into that shadow area. So it is cooler. Some light reflects up into the bottom of the shadow area fromt he ground which warms it relative to the cooler side shadow. Makes sense. But why is it that the limb further from the tree has such warm shadow when it is in the same situation? Maybe it isn't in the same situation. That left side of the image is cooler when you squint at it. No sun light is coming through those trees, so the light is cool, so the shadows would be warm.

I think I have it.  In nature warm light yields cool shadows unless there is something to redirect the light back into the shadows, like the ground or a relatively warm object. Cool light from a blue sky for example makes the shadows warm unless there is a relatively cooler object near to reflect the light back into the shadow to cool it down. This is already making me thing about the lighting in my current painting on the easel. Two things I need to do, get those brush strokes to help define the form and straighten out my light source temperatures.