Sunday, July 31, 2011

Daily Sketch 7-31-11

My first of—hopefully—several-to-many daily sketch pages. Done as a mutual challenge with my good friend Tony, who's posting his daily sketches over at his blog, Motu Proprio.

...starting rather modestly, with the cleanup of a page of notes from 10 days ago, at the Nevada Art Museum (top-left, top-right, middle-right) and sketches of the racehorses on screen at one of the Reno casinos (bottom-right), and finally some horse-head sketches from tonight (bottom-left).

Got a new tube of watercolor: W&N Terre Verte (on the blackberry leaves, among others) and I really like it. It's smoother than the Grumbachers that I ususally use (because they're cheap), but it seems to wash away easier.

For some reason, my scanner made it blurry. I'll have to look into that...

Commission: Ana, 1

Thanks to my roommate's relatives, I now have two commissions. This is the first: 3 paintings, in acrylic, 24" x 36"

A tree on the brow of a hill, with a stream running by into a waterfall.

Here is the first stage of the three canvases, a quick graphite sketch to determine composition.

And here is the second stage: a semi-opaque glaze that will create an underlying tonal unity between and within the pieces, as well as adding richness to the colors I will paint over them. [I know it's a little hard to see the drawing underneath now, but that will soon be remedied...]

Coming soon: Stage 3, initial block-in...

EDIT: The remaining steps are now available, here.

Monday, July 25, 2011

On the end of an era...

Well, it's over. The last Harry Potter movie. Granted, it was over in 2007 when the final book was published, but there's something different about the Potter movies.

More than Lord of the Rings (8 movies is more than 3), more than Star Wars (because there was so much of a gap—in time as well as style and story—between the two trilogies), the Harry Potter series created a world with rules. Especially as the visual technology improved (just compare the quality of special effects in HP1 to those in HP7pt2), it was a world in which we came to expect certain things.

Stairways shifted, paintings were alive (and that's an idea I particularly love), space was malleable to an almost-cartoony sense (see the Room of Requirement), other people's memories could be experienced first-hand, and even typography was mobile.

It was a world rich in history (as clearly emphasized by the thick layering of paint on Ollivanders) and full of life. I will miss exploring the halls of Hogwarts, wondering where the next secret panel or hidden doorway will be.

If nothing else, it was immersive. I'll miss it.

p.s. I did like the books better, but there's something to be said for seeing the worlds you've read about.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Why I Create...

I create as a means of exploration.

There are things in my head—characters, vistas, cultures, metaphors, puns—that will never see the light of day otherwise, and often in the process of bringing them out, other things are discovered. That's why I am so interested in realism, in the Old Masters, in the Baroque, in fantasy & science fiction, even in typography. It's the ability to tell a story with an image, a phrase, a typeface; to convey more than what's there; to encourage the viewer/reader/audience to ponder, to bring their own stories to the piece.

And, of course, it's to create a pretty picture, to tell a riveting story. I've heard it said that you should draw what you want to see. Often that's the only way to experience something like one can write the story you're dying to read, not the way you want it; no one can show you a picture of what's in your head. They can get close, but no further.

That is, I guess, the hardest thing about being creative: when the image in your head doesn't match what comes out on the page. But that's why we keep practicing, right?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Books I've Read: J.C. Leyendecker

J.C.Leyendecker by Laurence S. Cutler & Judy Goffman Cutler

This was easily one of the best art history books I've ever read, thanks—in no small part—to the massive amount of "pretty pictures" contained therein. For example, the book collects every one (or very nearly so) of Leyendecker's 322 Saturday Evening Post covers, ranging from 1889 to 1986 (published posthumously, of course). But, aside from the wealth of illustration depicting Leyendecker's finished work and preliminary sketches, the book also contains a well-written text documenting the artist's life and struggles.

Yes, Leyendecker was not only gay, but lived with one of his models—the Arrow Collar Man, Charles Beach—from the 20s until Leyendecker's death in 1951. In their early years together, they lived a lavish life that can easily be seen in Leyendecker's paintings of fabulously graceful women and haughty, confident men (as well as being the inspiration for The Great Gatsby).

But what really comes through in the text and illustrations is a sense of Leyendecker the artist. While there was a "Leyendecker style," he always seemed to come up with a new twist on a problem: one need look no farther than his magazine covers, each one different, no matter the holiday. It is Leyendecker we have to thank for the icons of Thanksgiving turkey and football, for the baby New Year, for Santa in red and white, for the way in which nearly every American holiday is observed (especially by way of greeting cards).

And that's what makes a good book: learning something new. I highly recommend this text to anyone with an interest in the history of American culture, or advertising, or illustration. It chronicles the life and times of one of the greatest forgotten artists of the Golden Age of American illustration, and best of all, shows his sketches and works-in-progress, allowing us a peek into his techniques.

This is definitely going on my bookshelf.

Available on Amazon: here.