Sunday, September 07, 2014

New INPRNT Store, DemonWars, and R.A. Salvatore!

I just wanted to mention that I have a new INPRNT store, for all your fancy print needs. So far there are 2 paintings up for sale, and I'll be adding new ones soon including some brand new personal works! Stay tuned either here or on my Facebook page.

Also I wanted to show off a cool mention by legendary author R.A. Salvatore on his own facebook page! I was lucky enough to work with him on his DemonWars: Reformation RPG, based on his Demon Wars novels and written by him and his son, Bryan. I also got to work with art director Irena Mandel, who was excellent. I was introduced to D&D and role playing games when I was 11 and like many many others, obsessed over the monster manual and the art contained within. Painting iconic monsters and characters for this game was like a dream come true.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Firefly - Bucking the Tiger

Earlier this year I did several illustrations for a Firefly RPG adventure called Echoes of War: Bucking the Tiger. This is one of my favorites, but it was tough to get Inara's likeness right. I just stumbled across a progress animated gif so I thought I'd share!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Process Post: White Dragon

I just finished up this small painting of a white dragon. One of my goals this year is to work in oil paints again. Digital painting is much faster for me, but oil painting will always be my true love--Something that will be a part of my life for as long as I can hold a brush. This particular painting is 2 projects rolled into one. The sketch is something I owe a friend from when he won a twitter contest last year, and the painting itself is currently up for raffle (which is still going on until Thursday night!)

I thought it would be fun and enticing to post process pics on my facebook page, but I also want to collect them all here for posterity. It began with a simple idea to have a portrait . Since I'm still wrestling with the medium of oil paint, I wanted to keep it simple yet interesting. I came up with a sketch.

I went with a traditional western dragon. Why not. I had the idea that the horns would be shiny metallic--something that looks like a valuable trophy or something, while also acting as a sort of natural armor.

I did a more "final" pencil rendering to define the shadows better and nail down the drawing. In the past I've glossed over this step which I now realize is 75% of the work! Most beginners to this school of painting, including myself, don't emphasize the drawing enough in their process. They do painting after painting without realizing why the end product never looks quite like they imagined. All I'm saying is that it helps me a lot.

I scanned in the drawing and did a quick color mockup in Photoshop. I played around with various schemes and settled on the one above. It's based on this still from Black Narcissus which has amazing visuals. The cinematographer is Jack Cardiff. I don't usually steal from movies, but when I do, I steal from the best.

I gessoed a board and painted it red, then I transferred the pencil drawing onto the board with carbon paper. Then I inked over the carbon pencil marks with india ink. I like working this way lately because it makes it easier to control my edges. I was finding that with pencil lines, I was losing the guide of the outline a bit too early for my tastes. The red acrylic underpainting is an old impressionist's trick. It'll unify and contrast with the paint over it, peeking through those little transparent areas, subtly effecting the color above it. 

Usually at this stage, I'd do an acrylic paint underpainting to build up some tones and value, but this time I decided to jump in with a build up in oil paint. This was dumb because I flooded the surface with wet opaque paint which I had to wait to dry before going in for finer details. A wasted evening I could have spent painting.

It was my intention to approach this painting in the way the flemish painters worked, by painting in monotone and building up color with glazes. I'll try that out some day, but old habits die hard and I just went in, trying to nail down the colors as closely as I could.

Here I added some "stubble" details and painted the horns. I painted these details in boldly, knowing I'd be going back and subduing the values and colors through glazes the next evening.

Finally, I went over the dark areas with a glaze consisting of dioxazine purple, olive green, and indian yellow. I also hit the horn areas with a more diluted version of the same mixture. Then I scumbled over the bright areas with a titanium white/indian yellow/dioxazine purple mixture (eliminating the gross veins in the process). I really wanted him to glow and seem almost washed out with a strong spot light or something.

I really feel ready to get started with some more ambitious paintings. Hope you enjoy this little step-by-step!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Was Outstanding

A bulk of the work I made in 2013.

Wow, it's been an interesting year for me. Thanks to everyone who worked with me, supported me, "liked" my art on facebook, bought a skull mug, and otherwise inspired and encouraged me to live my dreams. So many things happened! I think this calls for a bullet list.
  • When 2012 ended, I had had enough of working as a web designer. The work itself was fine, but working as a full time designer, I got tired of being laid off. If I was going to be poor, I might as well be poor doing what I wanted, so I bought a new tablet and made the resolution that 2013 was the year I would become a professional fantasy illustrator. No distractions, no baloney.
  • And it happened! 
  • I made a bunch of work, some better than others (see above). In previous years, I would consider myself lucky to finish 1 painting every few months. The above image doesn't even include much of the work I've done in the last couple of months!
  • I went to Illuxcon, not knowing anyone or anything about it, and met some great people. The fantasy illustration community is such a positive and supportive group! I think there is a love and appreciation of each others' work that isn't as strong in other related fields. I also got to meet and got feedback from incredible art directors Zöe Robinson, Jon Schindehette, Lauren Panepinto, and Marc Scheff. As well as living legends Jeff Easley and Donato Giancola (and many more!!!). I was hesitant to go, but it was very much worth the trip and one of the most valuable investments i've made in my life.
  • I got a wake-up critique from the afore-mentioned Jon Schindehette, which led me to make better work and to write an article about rejection that led to a feature in Imagine FX.
  • I got a job at a major animation studio working on a(n amazing) secret project.
  • I got to work with THE R.A. Salvatore on a project, and he sent me an e-mail!
  • I got to make a contribution to the Whedonverse! (I'll post more about that later!)
  • My daughter grew up leaps and bounds, and I was able to be there with her, working half time and being a dad the other half. Something that wouldn't have happened if I was at a 9 to 5 job.
Looking forward to 2014, I just want things to keep going how they're going, so I guess here's a list of some of my goals:
  • Ramp up on painting in oils again.
  • Get to work on Dungeons & Dragons.
  • Make at least 8 personal pieces.
  • Do a book cover.
  • See a movie in a theatre.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Happy Holidays!

 I hope you're having a casual post-christmas. I finished my yearly painting in a series I call "Alpha Santa", where I like to imagine Santa shaped by the harsh-environment of the North Pole. This one is called "God Emperor of Christmas". This year, as a departure from the last two years, I wanted to show him in a religious, reverent way. So I went with a centered composition, inspired by this painting from William-Adolphe Bouguereau.

The Motherland - by William-Adolphe Bouguereau
I've been thinking of what to do with the elves for a while, now. They are implied by the arrows in "End of the Hunt I" (the one with the yeti), and last year's painting with Rudolph was originally going to be Santa knife-fighting with the king of the elves. I have purposefully kept from doing to much research into various elements of the Santa myth (like why he gets to boss around a magical race of little people) because I am pretty certain I'd like my own version better.

Planning the composition was really fun. I decided to approach it very formally, placing elements in a very deliberate manner according to two inverted golden rectangle cascades. The result was a symmetrical (both vertically and horizontally) picture, where I got to have a lot of figures and elements. It was a very fun painting to execute. It was also a good opportunity to switch it up from the tilted-action perspective illustrations I worked on for the last 2 months.

Here are the last 2 years' Santa paintings. I like seeing how i'm slowly getting better over the course of time.

Monday, October 14, 2013

What the Highlander Taught Me About Being an Artist

Editors note: The highlander in reference is the One True Highlander, Duncan Macleod (played by Adrain Paul), not that pretender Connor (played by Christopher Lambert). This is a controversial topic which I won't go into any further. Please enjoy the rest of the article.

1. Style is something you cultivate, not obtain.

Duncan didn't pick out his katana on based on reviews and ratings, it was crafted and given to him by a powerful Japanese sensei. He didn't drive down to TJ Maxx and pick out a ponytail brooch because he kinda liked how it looked on some other highlander. I don't know where he got that sick ponytail brooch. Probably it was a gift from an Irish princess after a week of love making and adventure. His fine blouses were probably all made from silk that came from silk worms he raised for generation after generation since obtaining them in China in the late 1600s. The point is, Duncan's style stemmed from his experience and past. Not from what he hoped to be in the future.

2. You are never done learning.

Every episode had a training montage, because Macleod understood that you can always forget, but you can never stop learning. This gave him a great advantage over other immortals who stopped learning how to sword fight and divided their energy with other useless skills like pantomime or video games or writing blogs. All masters know this, but it's hard for us to see because we don't have the vision that they do.

3. Do not underestimate the importance of friendship.

The underlying rule in Highlander is "there can be only one", but Duncan Macleod always gave second chances, and even rescued immortals who would have taken his quickening given half the chance. Often, these immortals returned to help him when he was at his lowest, even saving his life from time to time. Putting yourself first without helping others is a good way to isolate yourself, and people will surprise you with what they have to offer when you least expect it. So pass on your knowledge and support, and some great things will come your way. It's not just about being the best, you should also strive to elevate the playing field.

4. Some rules are sacrosanct.

Never fight on holy ground, and never be late on a deadline.

5. Love often, love hard.

We've all done it. Maybe the deadline was too short and you gave yourself too many projects, or maybe you phoned it in because the pay was low. But regardless of the woman, Duncan Macleod always poured every ounce of himself into his love making, regardless of whether it was a one night stand with the Duchess of York, or a romantic evening with his life's greatest love (Tessa-something). It's important to always set the priority to be whatever project it is at hand. If a project is too small, don't take it. But if you do take it, give it everything you've got.

6. Imbue your tools with the essence of your soul.

Duncan's sword was made with the greatest of care by history's finest Japanese bladesmith and it withstood decades of abuse. But Duncan could have bought it from Wal-Mart and would still be able to defeat even the most powerful immortal, because despite your tools, it is what you bring to the artist's table from within -- the skills, experience, ideas, and practice -- that make you the artist that you are. Granted, using the right tools is also important, but even the greatest tools are nothing without the right person to wield them.

7. Carry on.

Many see Duncan Macleod as sort of an infallible Adonis, but we all know that he struggled with loss and doubt. What set the Highlander apart was his willingness to pick himself up and carry on, even after being discarded by his clan, losing Darius and Tessa, and even having to kill his demon possessed protege, Richie (spoilers). The best of us experience failures and set backs, and some of the greatest artists I've known have almost quit painting after periods of struggling, but those who become masters are those who are able to persist.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

9 Things I've Learned About No

drizzt beholder
My newest painting, "Eyes of the Underdark", based on applying some of what I learned from an important critique

I recently had the opportunity to get an in-depth portfolio review from Jon Schindehette, and I jumped at the chance, because my life-long dream is to be among the artists who inspired me to become one. That is to say, I want to be an artist for Dungeons and Dragons. The review was honest. Brutally honest at times. He pointed to enough flaws to rival even my own harsh inner critic. It's not easy to be told to study the masters when you've been out of art school for 10 years. His 2-page e-mail ended with "Got any specific questions for me?"

Well, I did have some questions, but there was one question that stood out among the others. It was a question with a seemingly obvious answer, but nevertheless I felt compelled to ask it: "Is there any project now or in the near future that we can work on together?"

I'll stop the story there, and jump to what I want to talk about, and that is the word "No." Specifically, I want to talk about the various things I've learned from various people and experience over the last few years.

1. Stop Avoiding No

Often, in order to avoid the No, we simply don't ask. We play out the scenario in our heads like a nightmare, and wake ourselves up just before the potential client says no. The problem with that is, of course, that even though it stamps out any possibility of a No, it also stamps out any possibility of a Yes.

2. There's a Bright Side to No.

A No usually comes with reasons. These reasons are a sign post. They are a gift. Essentially the client is telling you what exactly you need to do to get a Yes. Where before you were operating on limited information, now you're hearing from the horse's mouth what you need to do. All that is left now is for you to do it.

3. No Sets the Price of Carrying On.

Sometimes you realize that the things you have to do to get a Yes aren't worth it to you. This is when you know it's time to quit, or to pursue a different avenue, or do something completely different. This is perfectly OK. There are those who would make you feel ashamed of this, but that's about them and nothing to do with you.

4. No is temporary.

No means not yet, or not right now. You might even say that No means "yes, but later". This is not to say you should harass a client until they say yes, but use this opportunity to construct a map to where you need to go. Study the masters. Get feedback on those thumbnail sketches. Focus on anatomy.

5. No is not about you. 

No is not saying you're a bad artist, or a bad person. Don't get defensive. No is about the person who is saying no. If I asked you for a thousand bucks right now, would you say no? Would it be because I'm not worthy of your money? Or would you be more concerned with your rent, your bills, that Chinese back scratcher you wanted to buy? By the way, if you want to give me a thousand bucks, I'd greatly appreciate it.

6. Dare yourself to ask.

You can turn your fear of rejection into an adrenaline rush. I've done it. It's addicting. You didn't sit on the sidelines like you always do. You went for it!

7. Love the No, Expect a Yes.

Sometimes you feel like you deserved a Yes. There are a lot of people who always feel this way. They are called by many different names but what really matters is that they get more Yesses than you. They get more Nos than you, too. Which leads me to...

8. Yes=1, No=0. 

This means that if you ask 1000 people, and 975 of them say no, you still have 25 yesses. If you ask 20 people, and 100% of them say yes, that's still fewer yesses. For many of us, though, we overvalue the No so it counts as -1. Move past this notion.

9. Use the No as Fuel. 

Wear that No with pride. In the last few years, I've been rejected too many times to count. I use this as motivation. I no longer ever say to myself, "maybe you're not working hard enough." When I do get a yes, it always feels well deserved. I have a mountain of skulls beneath me, each skull representing a rejection, that prove how hard and high I've climbed.

    I don't mean to come off as preachy, but I see the fear of No affecting a lot of incredible artists. It's those people that I hope these observations will help, because the world will be a better place if the good artists step forward to rival the ambitious artists.