Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Red Pencil Drawings

I was working in this style of drawing for around a year, not always, but as much as I can. I loved the old world look. And with the erasable colored pencils I was using I could cheat that look with modern easier to work with materials. Ultimately, I ended up abandoning this technique and going back to trusty ol' graphite on white paper for two reasons:

Although I could erase the red pencil, it is not nearly as malleable as a graphite and a kneaded eraser. These days I find I am erasing and redrawing more than I ever have in my never-ending quest to get my work better and better. (Funny, I always thought once you get good you don't have to erase anymore, you just draw stuff awesome the first time).

I also found that the natural beauty of the materials was influencing my judgment as to whether I actually had a good image and a solid drawing. These days I do my sketches in a rather boring style, If they start to look good I know there is something inherent in what I am drawing that is working, not just what I am using to draw.

All that being said, I haven't worked in this style in over a year, and I am starting to feel the itch to do so....

For those who are interested in this technique; I am using Stonehenge fawn paper, Prismacolor Col-Erase tuscon red pencils and General's white charcoal pencils.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Cover art for Miserere: An Autumn Tale

Finally, some new art I can show. And I am really proud to show this one. This is my first commissioned novel cover. Done for Miserere: An Autumn Tale by Teresa Frohock. It is being published in the summer by Night Shade Books and was art directed by David Palumbo.

Dimensions are 24" by 16" oil on paper on board.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Time lapse painting: Sword of the Four Winds

Almost forgot I had this footage, I did this awhile ago for a live broadcast over at the The Illustration Board I am going to start doing those again when NDA's don't get in the way. Also going to start filming more of my process and getting more of these videos out.

They don't look half bad at full screen if you want to see me painting the details.

Without further ado:

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Life drawing: Portraits

I am a firm believer in life drawing being a part of any artists development, lots and lots of it. I estimate that I have logged about 3000-4000 hours drawing and painting from a live model, most of which was done in the past five years at Watts Atelier.

By far my favorite life drawing exercise is the 2-3 hour charcoal portrait, I have done hundreds of these and never get tired of them. Here are a few examples:

Monday, January 3, 2011

Behind the scenes: "Discover a Muse"

This image is a great one to kick-off the "behind the scenes" series of articles for my blog. It shows the amount of work I am often willing to put into an image to try and make it something special.. or just how truly neurotic and perfectionist I can be. It is a glimpse into my thought process, usually I come up with and discard many ideas in my head. But in this particular project, to my great frustration, many of my thoughts ended up on paper.

For those who don't know, this painting was done for competition on the ArtOrder blog. The requirements were simple: participants were given a zip file full of reference provided by model Veronika Kotlajic to use as reference and we were to come up with an image that embodied the terms: strong, independent and sexy. I hadn't entered in a competition since I started getting freelance work a few years ago, but I had a break in my work schedule that coincided perfectly with the competitions deadlines, so I decided to go for it.

Veronika has a few egyptian style tatoos that inspired me to go in an egyptian goddess route. After some thumbnails and digital composites with the reference photos, I came up with this:

Looking back, it isn't half bad. In fact having just dug up the sketch today I am thinking I might revisist the concept. But at the time it was just not happy with it. It was solid, I could have made it work. But it just wasn't a winner, it didn't have anything special about that was going to seperate it from the what I knew was going to be a tough competition. (and it was.. here are the entries). After some more drawing and much deliberation, I decided to abandon this concept. I wasn't getting paid for it, and I didn't think I could win with what I had come up with, so what was the point?

I had done this drawing about a year before, and even had it enlarged and mounted on a board.

I had just never got around to painting it. I figured it might be a good place to start. The composition wasn't quite working for me anymore, but it had potential.

Much drawing ensued and I came up with these two ideas:

I liked the simplicity and flow of the wing-arms version, but my friends told me it just looked goofy. So I went with the first option, had the drawing enlarged at kinko's and mounted it to a board, ready to paint the next day.

When I woke up I wasn't happy with it again. I had a pretty strong visual in my head of this angel doing circus style acrobatics in the air, showing off... being all strong, sexy and independent. Somewhere along the line that just got lost. At this point I was getting pretty frustrated with the whole thing. This wasn't suppossed to take this long, it was just a competition and I had other ideas in my sketchbook I wanted to work on. But with so many hours already invested I decided to stick it out and see what I could do.

I played around in photoshop and sketched all morning and afternoon and decided to go back to the original backflip I had, replaced the scepter with a less distracting sword, covered up the breasts (again, too distracting) and for reasons I can't remember, closed the eyes. Went to Kinko's late at night, got a new print, mounted it and went to bed exhausted.

I woke up and looked at, and was again unhappy.. and very, very frustrated. I can't remember exactly how the solution revealed itself to me, I am just glad it did... Looking back it is so ridiculously obvious, I can only assume all my frustration got in the way of my thinking clearly and prevented me from seeing it earlier... Mirroring the other arm for a more symmetrical pose got rid of more clutter and gave me the flow and power of the initial wing-arm version without the goofy anatomy. Since it was a simple fix I redrew the arm on the board, opened the eyes back up and got to work.

Banged out this color comp in PS pretty quickly and the painting went smoothly, even pretty quickly up until this point:

I was damn proud of the face and shoulder area I painted, but the background colors weren't quite working as well on the final as they had on the comp. No big deal I thought. I messed around with it digitally and came up with a better pallette and figured I would just glaze over it to fix it.

This project wasn't quite finished with me yet.. it just had to kick me in the nuts one last time. I ran into serious technical issues with the medium I was using (M. Graham's walnut alkyd) I guess if you mix too much into your paint the surface will become too slick and will not accept another layer of paint. So my glazing layer beaded up (kinda like water on a car hood) and my attempts to correct it by adding more mineral spirits into the mixture caused the bottom layer of paint to peel off. The mountains and much of the sky was ruined... There was not much to be done but to lightly sand down the area and just repaint it, silently cursing digital painters the whole time. I have since switched to Galkyd lite.

In the end though, this was the result:

All the blood, sweat and tears were worth it though: I got to go to Chicago and exhibit my work in Veronika's gallery, where she ended up buying the painting. I scored the cover of the book that was made from the competition, I got a fair amount of exposure and accolades from the whole thing... and I finally broke myself of a bad habit of jumping into the final stage of a painting before it is really ready to be painted.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Years Resolution: Self-Promotion

2010 was a very good year for me: I made huge jumps forward in both the quality and consistency of my work, sold quite a few originals at Illuxcon, the illustration exchange and my first gallery showing and have gotten to work on bigger and better projects than last year; including Magic: The Gathering and my first novel cover (more on that to come in a few weeks).

One area I have been slacking quite a bit in though (or perhaps avoiding because of how I often perceive my own work) is self-promotion. My recent successes have given me both the confidence and the kick in the ass to start really getting my work in front of people. This isn't really a new years resolution per se, most of these ideas and plans have been in the works (or at least in my head) for months. But this seemed like a good time to formalize the plans and announce everything. So without further ado, here is what is in the works for 2011:

Plans for the blog. Which include a lot more content and way more frequent posts in an effort to attract more followers:

-behind the scenes... in-depth descriptions on the creation of some of my paintings, not just a generic step by step on how I usually work. But rather I will focus on one painting at a time and go through how the process evolved. What went wrong, what went right what I would have done differently, along with thumbnails, sketches, color studies and photo ref from each project.

-My life-drawing studies, both new and from the archives. I haven't mentioned or show this stuff at all on my blog yet, which is a shame since it was and is still such a huge part of my development.

-Time lapse videos of my painting. This might be a little slow going at first because of NDA's, but I plan to start filming my painting process a lot more and eventually have it be a regular feature.

-Random musings and philosophies on art - Just my thoughts and experiences related to certain topics such as style, commercial vs. fine art, why I work the way I work, If you paint a painting in a forest and no one is around to see it... you know, that kind of stuff

-FAQ's: similar to above: my somewhat in-depth answers to the age old questions man has pondered for centuries, such as: what brushes to you use? how long does that take you? and where do you get your ideas?

-Inspiration: From my biggest influences to artist I just admire. One by one I will talk about certain artists and what I take away from their work.

-Technical stuff- how to's on some of the more mechanical aspects of painting: mounting a sketch to a board, photographing oil paintings... as well as reviews and suggestions for cameras, printers etc. written specifically for illustrators.

-requests, suggestions... I am always open to these, in fact I welcome them. As well as artists, I would like this blog to appeal to fans and collectors. So please don't be shy with suggestions on features that you would like to see, what would make you suggest this blog to other collectors?

Other online self promotion: I plan to have a much more visible presence on some of the major art forums and communities this year. I spent some time today registering and uploading art to a few. If you are member of any the sites below please feel free to add me as a friend or contact or favored deviation or whatever it is exactly you are supposed to do on these sites.


(If you are a regular at these sites, and you see I am missing out on some feature or somethingorother that is helpful in generating traffic, please let me know... I am still trying to figure out all the different sites and their quirks)

Website redesign and overhaul: Still trying to figure out exactly how I want to go about this, but it is time to do something different and probably a bit more simple with artofmike.com. Thinking about having it act as a simple portfolio and a portal to all the social media. Suggestions?

Convention appearances: Huge plans here, lots of traveling in 2011. I will be exhibiting my work at the follwing this year: (Pheonix, Vegas and Dragoncon haven't been 100% confirmed yet, but will most likely be happening)

Wondercon San Francisco, CA April 1-3

Wizard World Anaheim Anaheim. CA April 29-May 1

Pheonix Comicon Phoenix, AZ May 26-29

San Diego Comic-con San Diego, CA July 21-24

Dragoncon Atlanta, GA Sep. 2-5

Las Vegas Renaissance Festival
Las Vegas NV, Oct 7-9

Illuxcon 4
Altoona, PA Nov 3-6

Ok... that's it, that's all, hopefully all my efforts will pay off and I will be rich and famous this time next year. Happy New Year everyone!