And then there was media study 5!

So I was thinking last night about this set of verithin pencils I’ve had on my shelf since before I had that shelf.  These are like regular colored pencils, except that their cores are much harder—akin to a 2 or 3H pencil—and so they can be sharpened to a point to help clean up lines or details normal colored pencils are too soft for.  In the past I haven’t found them to be very helpful with normal colored pencil work, but it occurred to me that might be just the thing to look like pencil-style rendering with added color.

For this composition I laid down some basic tones with watercolor and then went to work with black, grey, and umber pencils to render this unfortunate reprobate and his charming hat.  The pencils do a good job of getting that scratchy pencil look, but they are woefully transparent, even after many layers.  Still I liked the drawing I came up with, and decided to add some additional tone to the background with a few more watercolor washes.  After the washes though, the background grew so dark it was overpowering the light pencil-work, so I came back in with a normal black colored pencil and punched up some of the shadows.  I also added some texture to the background areas with the verithin pencils to tie things together a bit more.  This is the drawing paper I use with pencils, and it took quite a beating with all the watercolor washes.

I also took another approach to sketching this composition out.  Rather than working on another piece of scratch paper and then transferring a final drawing I just went strait ahead and did the sketch, such as it was, on the final piece of drawing paper.  I think not worrying about the sketch so much will be helpful, especially with techniques like this week’s paintings where it’s impossible to maintain a sketch after initial coats of paint.  I’m pretty happy with this one, although it took until just this minute to realize that I intended to give this man glasses, and completely forgot.

Sidewalk Photos


Back to painting again today for a new media study, this time in oils.

I haven’t done a lot of work with oil paints in the past, principally because they are such a stinky mess.  Last semester I was able to take a painting class in a large (mostly) ventilated studio and I still found the fumes from paint and turpentine to be thoroughly unpleasant.  Here at home I have a much smaller (pronounced “cozy”) studio with no windows at all, so working with the fumes is mostly out of the question.  I’ve experimented a few times with water-based oils, but the paint itself can be overwhelming in such a small space.

Luckily today the weather was very nice, so I set myself up a little table on the back patio and tried another composition with the water-based oils.  The painting here is on unprimed bristol.  I’ve been warned in the past that anything you paint on should be primed with gesso to prevent the oil from rotting the substrate away.  However I don’t really like the surface you get with gesso, I wanted to work on paper in case I decided to come back in with some other media.  Frankly our local museum has a number of works on both unprimed paper and canvas that seem to have survived quite well, so I’m not really worried.

It took some time to build up a few good layers of paint—which of course obliterated my sketch—but I’m pretty happy with the textures I ended up with.  Usually oil painting is a multi-stage process, but I was trying to get things done in one day’s work, which lead the colors to get a little muddy as new paint layers mixed with underlying ones.  In some places it works, but in others not so much.  My biggest issue was trying to get the paint thin enough to do detailed photos with faces.  By that time the surface paint was so thick that adding small details over top was a no-go.  A good test run though.

A Newspaper


Hello and welcome to another episode of media studies.

So we’re back to pencil for this one, but I’ve taken a slightly different tact.  Rather than pencil over watercolor, this time things were reversed.  Also I gave things a try on my usual pencil rendering paper rather than watercolor paper to see how it would hold up under the water.

Before I started I was very concerned that the pencil rendering would simply smear all over the drawing as soon as I got it wet.  I used a full range of pencils—usually up to 8 or 9B—and the drawing surface smears easily.  I work with a piece of tracing paper laid over things just to protect the drawing.  Just to be sure I made up some scrap papers with thick pencil marks on them just to see what would happen.  To my surprise the pencil was very stable, even under some moderate brush work.  In fact, the major difference is that areas saturated with graphite repel the water, so colors tend to sit on top and pool like painting over masking fluid.  There is some loose graphite that at least gets on the brush, but it didn’t seem to effect the drawing at all.

This approach makes it a little easer to control where the color is going to go—as opposed to laying washes down first.  However it does tend to darken the tone of the drawing as a whole, so I’m still going to need to compensate in the rendering process.  Now that I’ve tried things both ways I think I can easily mix the two methods, laying down some base colors over all first, then coming back in later with spot color applications.  Isn’t learning fun?

Library Snails


Make way for media study number 2!

I know I’ve been targeting pencil for this project, but thinking so much about color and reviewing reference material has me thinking about paint as well.  If not for this project than for others.  In any case I recently came into a set of gouache, and though this composition might be a good testbed.  The funny thing is I got about half way into painting it and decided to paint most of the color out of the thing.  I had the notion to paint back over with some watercolor washes, but the gouache is too unstable.  That’s why it’s a media study I guess.

Anyway, this is gouache on a fine drawing paper I usually use with pencil.  It’s not very thick but it held up well to the water.  There was some buckling but nothing that taping the paper couldn’t handle.  I may try stretching this paper next time to see if it can hold up.  As for this technique, it was fun to try, but the results aren’t really anything I was aiming for.

Child in Wheat Field


With some time off this week I’m trying to do some media studies for the salt shaker project.

I’m still not quite sure what I want the final style to look like, but I’ve been thinking a lot about simple pencil rendering lately, so Im looking for ways to introduce a little color to that technique.

This is my first attempt.  I started with an old scrap of cold press watercolor paper.  After transferring the sketch I did some simple watercolor washes (left image), just to block out large areas of color, and to tone the paper so it would look a little weathered.  Once things were dry I came back in with the pencil to add all the real tone and detail (right image).

There are things about the color that I like, but this paper just doesn’t take pencil very well.  Even fresh the texture is too big, and that just gets worse after it’s been wet and wrinkles a bit.  I’ll have to see if I can find some drawing paper that can take watercolor rather than the other way around.

Illustration Project

I regret not having posted for some time, but I’ve been busily working away at this semester’s illustration project.  Unlike last year where a two-week turnaround was the norm, this semester focuses on a single integrated project that is designed and illustrated of the course of the class.  Exciting, right?

Without getting into too much detail at the moment, I’ve settled on a set of creative writing cards, some with leading images, and some with interesting words and phrases on them.  There’s a whole interesting back-story about pneumatic tube postal systems and old books and strange writings—I’m still working a lot of it out, but I hope it’s going to be grand.  I don’t quite have a title just yet, but I’ve been calling it the “salt shaker” project, after a friend’s comments.  Now that things are beginning to come together I hope to start posting things as they progress.

Salt Shakers

A friend of mine made an interesting remark in class the other day.  We were comparing the movies that come out of Dreamworks Animation like Shrek and Kung Fu Panda with Pixar’s fair, and she said the real difference between the two is how much work Pixar puts into the universe their characters reside in.

So, for example, in Kung Fu Panda the world is populated by a menagerie of talking animals, but the scenery is a human’s ancient China, with roughly human sized houses and human sized doorways and human sized object meant to be used by human hands.  Now compare this, she said, to the world where Sully and Mike from Monster’s Inc. live.  A world where objects are obviously designed for the “people” that use them, right down to the salt shakers.

Now it’s not that these details do anything to directly effect these movies.  Although a great deal of forethought went into the Monster’s Inc. salt shakers, the movies makes no effort to draw attention to it.  And at the same time, the discontinuity between a human ancient China and a population of animals is no more far fetched than having the animals speak (English or Chinese), wear clothes, or learn martial arts.  It’s all a part of our willing suspension of disbelief.  Both films are fantastic.

The point is simply that by including details like that salt shaker—even if they’re never addressed by the characters or the plot—you the viewer subconsciously get the feeling that there is a history there.  Some company exists somewhere in the monster city, and in it a monster designer who made a number of mockup salt shaker designs for different monster hand types.  Her monster boss took them to a monster mall where there was a monster focus group to find the most marketable design for that target 18-24 monster age group.  A design was selected, and forged, packaged, and shipped by monsters to a monster restaurant supply house where the monster proprietor of the monster cafe bought a dozen of them (monster).  It’s the little details like this that make Pixar movies that much richer.

An interesting point, I thought.