Saturday, March 24, 2018

Mr. West and the Night Watch

Click on the image for a larger view.

At Christmas time I received a set of Richeson casein paints and I’ve finally had a chance to start working with them. This is my first work in casein. I call it Mr. West and the Night Watch. I worked entirely with tints and tones of blue with the only other color being the orange glow of the tip of Mr. West’s cigarette. Since orange is the compliment of blue, the tip of the cigarette seems to nearly jump of the painting. My reference source was a photo of James Dean.  

This is also my first attempt at a style of painting known as a nocturne (unless you count one of my earlier watercolor painting I called Tink). Nocturnes, when used of paintings, typically depict scenes at night or twilight. They can be lit by moonlight or street light or some other source but they are clearly scenes that are taking place at night. Nocturnes often do not display as much detail, colors are very muted and edges are less defined. The next time you take a walk on a moonlit night, notice how colors and details are different from what you would see in the daylight. Nocturnes can convey a sense of mystery, eeriness and a romantic moodiness that I find fascinating. 

As I said, this is my first time working with casein paints. Back in art school I did a fair amount of work with gouache, which are similar to casein paints in that they are essentially opaque watercolors. They behave similarly and they dry to a similar matte finish. However, I think I like the feel of working with casein better than that of gouache. The casein paints seem to have a slightly more “buttery” feel to them. They dry very fast. If I apply one layer of pigment over another too soon after laying down the previous layer, the brush will lift up some of that previous layer. I’ve found that if I resist the urge to keep working on one spot and instead came back to it after working on another area, then lifting was less of a problem. Waiting until the next day was even better. This characteristic of casein may take a little getting-used-to but it is a good characteristic when I need to fix something. It allows me to scrub out something I don’t like and start over. My understanding is that after about a 2 week curing time, the paint becomes significantly water resistant, though not entirely waterproof. I’d like to do some more work with casein paints as they seem to suit my particular style. I’m also hoping to do some more nocturnes. 

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas!

This is a digital illustration I did way back in 1999. My boss, at the agency where I worked at that time, enjoyed sending out an annual holiday package to clients and vendors and for about 7 years I designed and illustrated the card part of the package. This illustration was done with a  combination of Photoshop and...wait for it...Macromedia Illustrator.

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

The Office Solutions 101 Logo Design

I’ve recently completed the above logo design for a company which specializes in, “Bringing structure, logic and control to the workplace by optimizing workflow,” and ...“increasing productivity and devising workplace solutions for new businesses or established businesses that need assistance with growth and organization.” 

In other words, perhaps you recognize that your work environment could stand to have a little order introduced into the chaos. And maybe some optimization or modernization could help you to trim some waste and save some valuable time and money. Perhaps you sense that with a little tweaking, or a lot of tweaking, your office could purr like the well-oiled machine you’ve always dreamed it could be. That’s where Office Solutions 101 comes in.

Click on any image for an enlarged view.

This logo consists of a logomark representing the initials “OS” (in the form of a globe or circle and a stylized letter “S”) along with the logo type in the typeface of Venera, weights 700 and 500. The colors are Pantone 376 C and black. The logo works well in grayscale, single color and reversed applications.

I’ve also designed the logo to work in a variety of formats. The format shown above I’m calling a hybrid, in that it is a combination of the stacked and horizontal formats shown below respectively.

The hybrid version is my favorite but the other two formats can come in handy under certain circumstances. 

I also did a couple of layouts suggesting how the logo could be used in social media platforms.

Designing a logo can be a bit like bringing order and efficiency to an office. You have to research the client’s business, identify what matters and what doesn’t and boil it down to the essence of the business, removing anything that impedes efficiency. In the end you have a clear, concise solution that works exactly the way it should and is flexible enough to adapt to the inevitable and changing factors of time and circumstance. 

Saturday, February 4, 2017

A Personal Project: The Wild Wild West

The Wild, Wild, West
(click any image for a larger view)

Personal projects are fun. I find it almost therapeutic when I can draw, design and/or paint something where I am my own art director and I can work at my own pace with no specific deadlines. I finished this personal project several months ago. It is a mixed media illustration of Robert Conrad as James West, the lead character from the 1960’s television show The Wild Wild West. The show featured two secret agents – James West and Artemus Gordon – chasing adventure and mystery in the untamed west. Part western, part spy fiction, part science fiction, it was campy and amazingly far fetched. But I loved it.

Every episode title begins with the words The Night of... There was The Night of the Inferno, The Night the Wizard Shook the Earth, The Night the Terror Stalked the Town and so on for four seasons. 

Robert Conrad did all of his own stunts for the show. He has even been inducted into the Stuntman’s Hall of Fame for his work on The Wild Wild West.  In fact he almost died in a stunt involving a chandelier in The Night of the Fugitives. If you have a chance to see this episode watch for the scene where he leaps from a balcony onto a chandelier only to land on his head.

Conrad was also an excellent horseman. In most episodes he could be seen riding a black American Quarter Horse. When the show’s producers realized he was such a skilled equestrian, they replaced his original horse with one possessing a little more spirit. Enter Shadow Trail, the horse he would ride for the remainder of the series. 

It is worth mentioning that the The Wild, Wild, West is credited as the originator of Steampunk. Steampunk is a subgenere of science fiction/fantasy in which modern technologies are re-imagined as steam powered machines of the 19th-century.

James and Artemus travel from adventure to adventure aboard their custom locomotive. Each episode begins with the train delivering them to their mission (some time early in the day) and ends with the train steaming them off into the mysterious night. 

I completed this illustration in graphite pencil, water soluble oils and colored pencils on a gessoed masonite board.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Yellow Brick Road Trip Part 3

In my two previous blog posts I discussed the preliminary, drawing and composition stages of my latest painting, Yellow Brick Road Trip. In this final installment for this piece I want to explain a little about my painting process. 

I like to begin with an underpainting. Different artists have different approaches to this. Some artists skip the underpainting entirely. Many use sepia colors in their underpainting to lay down a warm tone. Some go a step further and add white to begin sculpting the highlights. I like a technique I learned from one of my favorite teachers from my Art Institute of Pittsburgh days, David Bowers. This technique begins with warm sepia tones and goes a step further by adding colors that are complimentary to the colors of the  final layer of the painting. For example, a blue sky will have an orange underpainting (orange being the compliment of blue) the underpainting for warm, pink, skin tones will be green and green grass will have a red underpainting. The complimentary colors of the underpainting help to make the top, final layer colors more vibrant.  

In this detail of the distant mountains, you can see some of the warm, 
orange underpainting showing through the cooler, bluish overpainting. 
The texture of the cold press illustration board helps me to achieve this look.
(Click any image for a larger view)

Usually, I cover the whole painting with the underpainting before beginning the final painting. This time I worked in sections.

Working in sections as I did on this painting, you can see that 
I have not yet applied the underpainting to the grass or the road.

Here are some details of the final painting along side the final sketches:

I made the Tin Man more sad in the final painting, 
with a more pronounced broken heart.

I always saw Dorothy with blonde hair for this painting.

And here is the finished painting.

For this painting I used water soluble oil paints which I really enjoyed. They are not as workable as traditional oil paints but they are more workable than acrylics. Traditional oil paints require solvents for thinning and clean-up. These solvents are toxic. Water soluble oils actually clean up nicely with water and brush soap. I found the brush soap was necessary to clean the brushes completely. The paints are workable for a couple of hours before their consistency begins to change and they are less workable. But they take several days to dry completely. Also, though they are water soluble they can not be used with acrylics. I contacted Windsor Newton on this question and a representative of the company wrote back to me to explain, “Acrylic dries by evaporation and oil colour by oxidation so mixing the two creates a situation that could cause either layer separation or cracking or blistering over time.” If you are looking for an alternative to traditional oils because you don’t like working with the solvents then I recommend water soluble oils.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Yellow Brick Road Trip Part 2

In my last post I explained a little about the earliest stages of my most recent painting Yellow Brick Road Trip.  In this post I’m focusing on some refinement I’ve done to the final drawing while transferring it to the illustration board. 

This is the drawing, ready to be transferred, as shown in my last post.

And here is the drawing transferred to the illustration board.
(You can click any image for a larger view)

I’m using Canson cold press illustration board. Cold press illustration board has a rough texture while hot press illustration board is smooth. I like the texture when I’m working with paint. When working with ink I often choose the smoother hot press board. 

At this stage I’ve added some more shading. But I’ve also made changes to one of the main characters. I had originally decided to give the Tin Man a more traditional look. By “traditional” I mean the movie version which I imagine is the version which comes to mind for most people. But as I transferred the drawing I decided to make him look more like a robot. I also decided to make him look sad and lost. 

In the movie version the Tin Man wanted a heart. In this illustration, I pushed slightly more toward the original story. This Tin Man needs a new heart because his original heart is broken.

There must be a story behind that broken heart.

The changing Tin Man.

The other characters transferred over without any significant changes.

The Scarecrow


The Cowardly Lion


In my next post I plan to cover the actual painting process.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Yellow Brick Road Trip

I’ve just completed a painting and I plan to share some of the stages of the paintings progress through my next few blog posts. The subject of this painting is the trip to Oz. I call this one Yellow Brick Road Trip

Strangely, Oz has found it’s way into several of my commercial projects as well, including two magazine ads where I used the theme of the Yellow Brick Road to promote a tile store, swapping out the character of Dorothy for one named Valerie. But that is the subject of a previous article which you can read by clicking here.

Getting back to this project… I’ve had a picture in my mind of a point in the story where Dorothy and her companions, having just come out of the woods, catch their first glimpse of the Emerald City. Here are a couple of very loose sketches I worked up for this one.

Click any image for an enlarged view.

While I already had a basic composition worked out in my mind, I still had two problems I needed to resolve. Should we see the characters from the side as they gaze out over the landscape or should I opt for a front view as they gaze out over us at some unseen destination? Should I choose a somewhat realistic approach or a more whimsical approach? The two sketches above helped me to resolve both issues.

There are also a couple of other issues I would find myself thinking through. Notice the differences between the two sketches of the Tin Man. 

I was torn between making him look like the traditional depictions of the character vs. taking him in a more modern, robotic direction.

As you can see by this more refined sketch, I opted for a compositional compromise where we see the characters from the front but they are still looking off at something to our right. I chose this because I eventually want to show more of the landscape and especially Yellow Brick Road. I also chose a less whimsical style. At this point I’m also choosing a more traditional look for the Tin Man. But as you will see in my next post, I changed my mind yet again.