Speed Painting!

I’ve never been a big fan of digital painting, mostly because I’m not very good at it. I could give you a litany of it’s short comings but I’ll admit it, it’s just frustrating.

I know, I know, boo hoo you cry, and your right.  Well it’s time to do something about it. And not just because I’m being forced to by a class assignment either (though that always helps).

We’re starting a unit on speed painting here in concept art, and after watching a thoroughly engrossing instructional video (complete with highly entertaining  French accent, “reactors” were prominently featured), we all selected paintings to reproduce sanz-paint.

Guess what, it was loads of fun! So much so that I did three.

This first piece is a reproduction of an illustration by Gianni De Conno for the book When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit. De Conno is one of my favorite illustrators because of the way he works with color. My reproduction is on the left, and the original is on the right. I made it smaller so, well . . . honestly, to cover up some of the inconstancies.  Don’t give me that look. It’s my blog.

The second reporduction is from a sketchy sort of study painting by Gustave Caillebotte, one of the French Impressionists. The original is called Man and Woman under an Umbrella. Again, mine on the left, original on the right.

Now I said before that I did three speed paintings for class. Being the scoff-law that I am I decided to paint the last one by hand, a gouache reproduction of John Singer Sargent’s Portrait of Madame X. Unfortunately I neglected to scan it before turning it in, so you’ll have to wait to see it.

Obviously it was superb, fantastic, shiny, I may have heard the word “genius” at some point, who can remember. If you could see it I’m sure you would agree. Oh, but now of course you’ll build it up to something beyond magnificent in your head. You’re doing it right now, I can tell. *sigh* Now when I finally post it there’s no way it can ever live up to your expectations.

Just remember when you finally see it, it IS magnificent, it only LOOKS bad because YOU built it up so much.

In any case, I had a lot more fun at this that I though I would, so I’m thinking of doing a few more of these over the winter break. Hopefully it will be a good way to get some practice with color theory.

A Tooth? A Marshmallow? Why no . . .

This little fellow is the final design for my Alien Creature concept art work. About the size of a large bean (or a small Brussels sprout, whichever you prefer), these little mobil vegetables do their part to clean up their environs by scouring surfaces with their little trunk-like proboscises. Often forlorn, they emit a dolorous low-pitched moan to indicate their presence to others.


The Cuthbert Modern Doctrine Engine

As HER loyal subjects, it is our duty to HER MAJESTY QUEEN VICTORIA to maintain an obedient and steadfast household, free from the undue influence of subversives.

To aid in this task. A.C. Cuthbert & Sons of London present a SUPERLATIVE NOVELTY in MECHANICAL AUTOMATA, the Cuthbert Modern Doctrine Engine.

Keep abreast of HER MAJESTY’S latest proclamations and an eye on your household with this capitol apparatus.

— Completely automatic operation, requires only 200 drams of whale oil a day.
— Stately modern appointments and a handsome enclosing cabinet, fits in to any decor.
— Fully serviceable by household staff and common laborers alike.
— Licensed and approved by Her Majesty’s Ministry of Information.
— Couture and haberdashery of the finest Egyptian linens. Numerous styles provided for the discerning buyer.

An Instrument of HER MAJESTY’S Evangelism for the Modern Home.


VIGILANCE AGAINST SEDITION is every loyal subject’s mandate.


Remember going to the theater as a child?  I do. We used to go as a class a few times each year.

Well now I know what it’s like to be on the other side. This past spring my classmates and I designed posters for the Coterie Theater (or Theatre, if you prefer), and their upcoming fall season. And guess what! My design for a musical adaptation of Mark Twain’s Life on the Mississippi was selected as the official poster.  You can see it on their website right now (what are you waiting for? Go, go…).

Seeing as I had one nice theatrical poster under my belt, it seemed a shame not to give some of the other plays a try.  The other three posters won’t be used by the Coterie (because my talented friends designed the official ones!), but I think they all go together nicely, don’t you?

A Shadow Menagerie

Some fun with silhouettes I’ve been working on for a new project called The Grunion, more to come, and soon I hope…

In the summer of 1759, French Controller-General of Finances, Étienne de Silhouette, was faced with the grave task of stabilizing the French economy. Grave, both in the sense that the Seven Years’ War with England and its allies (now in its 3rd year) had required unprecedented outlays from the French treasury to finance the purchase of desperately needed epaulets for King Louis XV’s military uniform, and in the sense that the King would—as French tradition demanded—likely have Étienne executed should he fail to improve economic conditions to a stable state.

Although Étienne enacted a number of long overdue tax and financial reforms, his early efforts were stanched by a series of inauspicious coincidental events, leading Étienne to the conclusion that his work was under attack through dark sorcery, most likely from agents of the Portugueese Prime Minister Sebastião de Melo’s, known for his employ of court hypnotists.

Via an anonymous tip, Étienne learned of a sinister cabal who had infiltrated the Académie des Beaux-Arts, placing its members as high-ranking instructors, who in turn popularized the use of new foreign-origin pigments. Chief among these was the liberal use of caput mortuum or “Mummy Brown”, a dull brown pigment derived from the wrappings of Egyptyian mummies. By lacing paintings with this compound, agents could then cause figures appearing in the paintings to whisper short messages, the idea being that wealthy aristocrats might hang the paintings in their bedrooms as decorations, and then be so influenced as they sleep.

Thanks to Étienne’s new tax policies, the French aristocracy was now largely isolated from day-to-day economic affairs, however, with growing European trade the raw materials of paints and canvas were now more readily available, enabling members of a growing middle class to afford works of art for the first time—thus threatening to extend the cabal’s influence even further.

To address this issue, the famously pecuniary Étienne set about popularizing the use of black cut-paper portraiture, a favorite craft activity of his youth, as a more economical alternative to to traditional painted portraits. Through an aggressive advertising campaign, so called “Silhouette” portraits soon became quite chic among the French populace. Popular wisdom held that having one’s silhouette cut on a regular basis, such as on a birthday or a regular feast day, would provide a record allowing the subject to select their preferred age at which to live out their afterlife in Heaven.

Étienne’s efforts eventually proved successful, reforming and strengthening the French economy. Unfortunately for Étienne however, many of the new practices and traditions that developed in parallel with silhouette portraits met with the King’s displeasure. The situation came to a head in 1761 when a number of smaller rural municipalities, inspired to question the need for an aristocracy now that art was accessible to the masses, produced local coinage with special slots allowing local residents to insert their own silhouette portraits over that of the sovereign. When news of this practice reached the palace at Versailles, French philosopher and noted statesman Voltaire reported that King Louis XV “…sent forth servants to the count of 22 with strict instructions to return, each with a separate piece of Étienne’s anatomy, and each on a separate day”.

Despite his gruesome demise, Étienne’s eponymous legacy lives on as a popular art form, a common device in the visual arts, and as a guard against the undue influence or possible enchantment of other forms of pictorial art.