Friday, January 28, 2011

Moonlight Ambush

Moonlight Ambush - Acrylic on canvas, 15" x 12"

The soldiers of the American Revolution were not ones to surrender. A few years back I had a fun assignment for Boys' Life magazine to illustrate a historical fiction piece in which a main character gets taken hostage by the British Redcoats. In a brave midnight ambush, his fellow countrymen storm the farm where he is being held captive and rescue him. In this piece I wanted to give a bit of an homage to a couple of my favorite Golden Age illustrators who were both masters of dramatic historical subject matter- Howard Pyle and N.C. Wyeth. Any similarity to their iconic work is purely intentional.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Loomis on Toning a Color Palette

The first project in my Intro to Illustration class this semester calls for incorporating a "toned" palette. Some of my students asked for a more in depth explanation of how this is done. One of my all time favorite descriptions on how to do this is contained in the long out of print Creative Illustration by Andrew Loomis. His brief but meaty description on how to incorporate a toned palette into your work is above. Notice that only one color in the mix stays pure- the toner color itself. As you mix in the chosen color, all the other colors shift toward that color, thus creating a unifying effect.

The key to creating color unity in a toned palette is to not overdo the amount mixed into the various other colors. To heavy a hand will result in muddy, monochromatic color. You will notice the influence of the toner color in the skin tones of each of Loomis' examples, yet the flesh tones feel totally natural in context. I frequently use a "toner color" to unify my color scheme. I think Creative Illustration is a must read for any illustrator, or artist for that matter. I found my copy of  for $30 about eighteen years ago after a lengthy search. It's still available, but no longer so affordable. If you can't find or afford it, PDF facsimiles are available online as well.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Picture Book Marathon

Picture Book Marathon logo designed by Nathan Hale

Starting February 1st, I am going to run a marathon. OK, not really one of those huff and puff perspiration soaked masochistic torture sessions where you kill yourself to perambulate 26.2 miles and then collapse in a sweaty heap type races. This one might actually be possible if you work at it every day. I signed on to run the Picture Book Marathon. Jean Reagan and Lara Koehler have set up a handy dandy website with all sorts of tips and hints at with all the info you need to join in. By reason of me telling you all, I am now accountable to try and finish the thing. The goal is to write a rough draft for a picture book 26 times in the month of February (you get a couple days off). I figured since I am always talking about writing and illustrating my own stories, I needed a kick in the pants to actually write some. Well, so far so good. I cheated and jumped the gun by writing my first one already. I have also begun to compile a list of possible story ideas to make the work a little easier. I am hoping that the simple act of deciding to write will help get the creative juices going. Join in- it'll be fun and you might find that you have a real winner on your hands by the end of February.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Shirt Design

I was recently asked to do a t-shirt design for the local high school swim team. They always commemorate their trip to the State Championships with a team shirt, so I was excited to help since my son swims on the team. I wanted to do something with a little of a retro flair in the vein of motorcycle logos. The lettering was modified extensively from an existing font and the wing emblem was hand drawn and cleaned up in Photoshop. I added some distressing to give it an aged look. I like how it turned out and look forward to seeing it on the shirt.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Lion-Fish Demo

Lion-Fish; in class demo- Holbein Acryla gouache on board- 6"x6"

Today in my Illustration 1 class at BYU I did a painting demo to get the students started. They all have a good basis in drawing, but many of them have little or no experience with paint. I remember feeling the same way as an undergrad student. I had never painted much with acrylic in high school art class, preferring to work in Prismacolor pencil or watercolor. It was inspiring to watch Robert Barrett (whom I now have the pleasure of calling my friend and colleague) create a simple acrylic portrait in around two hours. I now enjoy this demo process from the opposite side of the coin as I try to pass on some of the things I have learned to my students. This fish represents about 2.5 to 3 hours of work. About an hour was used in research, sketching and transferring the drawing and then two hour in class painting. It is not finished, but I thought I'd post it anyway. It goes along with my previous posts the Dog-Fish and the Cat-Fish.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Evolution Of A Picture- Part 4

Crimson Harvest - by Greg Newbold - 24" x 14" acrylic on canvas

Dusting off this step-by-step tutorial has been a lot of fun. I hope you have enjoyed the previous installments. Here's the fourth and final post on this project- enjoy!

With the finished drawing in hand, I now prepare the panel onto which it will be transferred for the final painting.  I use a variety of surfaces depending on the result I want to achieve.  For this picture I chose a canvas covered hardboard panel. I don’t like the factory texture on most canvas boards so I prepared the surface by scrubbing on several coats of unbleached Titanium colored acrylic gesso, sanding a bit in between if necessary.
I then project the drawing onto the canvas and begin laying in rough values with diluted semi- transparent acrylic paint. I do this in a fairly monochromatic manner to establish the value relationships. For this piece I used a mixture of umbers and purple, though the chroma and saturation varies depending on the project. I then begin to lay in color and texture. I tend to be impatient and have been known to employ a hairdryer to hasten drying time. The acrylic paint is applied opaquely and then glazed over with transparent washes to build up to a finish surface that I like. These washes are sometimes mixed with different mediums and at times merely thinned with water. Glazing helps to unify the color scheme and adds subtleties to the surface that I enjoy. I often scrub the glazes back off to varying degrees ( I use a damp tissue or paper towel, sometimes fingers) before the paint is completely dry. This results in some of the wash remaining behind in the lower areas of the canvas surface.  The shadow areas have a more transparent paint quality while the highlights are built up with opaque paint. The paint nuances continue to build through successive layers until I am satisfied with all the areas of the painting. This painting needed around 30 hours of working time to complete, not including the planning and drawing time.
I like to have a consistent level of finish  all over the canvas and work the edges as much as I do the center. The brightest highlights and cleanest strokes of color go on last.  When I think it is finished, and if I have the luxury of time (some jobs are sent out minutes after the paint dries) I set it aside for a day or two and come back later to evaluate whether it needs any final touches. The painting is then varnished with a satin acrylic varnish and sent off for photographing and framing.

Evolution of a Picture part 1
Evolution of a Picture part 2
Evolution of a Picture part 3

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Evolution Of A Picture- Part 3

Once I have my composition well in hand I carefully evaluate what additional reference material I may need to complete the painting. Usually this involves finding a model and appropriate costume. I am always on the lookout for the right model and scope out people at church, school, neighbors and friends to enlist in the cause. Most people when approached are willing to work with you and I always compensate them in some way. If I am in a bind, I know this guy that models for me quite a bit. He works for free and is always available right when I need him. The only problem is getting my spouse to shoot the photos. (Thanks Hon!) I usually take loads of photos and then filter from them the information that I need to flesh out my drawings. I pay particular attention to faces and hands as well as drapery and shadows. These seem to be the hardest areas to get right if you don't have good reference material, and look the worst if you try to "fake" them. I always shoot detail shots and sometimes finesse the drapery  with a tug here or there to get the folds and shadows right. You will never be sorry you took a little extra time and attention at the photo shoot stage. It can make the difference between an average work and a really good one. The drawing at bottom is the one I used for the final painting. Note that the basic value patterns are already established. Early in my career, I often neglected to do a full value study which sometimes hurt my work.  Since I did this painting, I have put more effort into making sure the value study is clear.Photoshop is a great tool for laying in values quickly and getting the pattern working. I simply scan my sketch and lay in grey tones in a multiply layer.

Evolution of a Picture part 1
Evolution of a Picture part 2
Evolution of a Picture part 3
Evolution of a Picture Part 4

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Evolution Of A Picture- Part 2

Yesterday I posted page one of my process tutorial. Step two for me is to do research on my subject. At times I have to do this simultaneously with the thumbnails, especially if I am not convinced i know what my subject looks like enough to draw from my imagination. The rough sketch on the bottom is a combination of elements from the research photos and my imagination. Tomorrow I'll post how my photo shoot factors into making my final drawing. Click image to see it larger and read text.

Evolution of a Picture part 1
Evolution of a Picture part 2
Evolution of a Picture part 3
Evolution of a Picture Part 4

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Evolution Of A Picture- Part 1

For the next few days I will post pages from a packet that I put together for my Illustration 1 class a few years ago. I am teaching this class again right now and thought I'd post it here for everyone's benefit. This first page shows a bit about the project and how I begin the process with thumbnail drawings. These are all done from my imagination before I shoot any photographs. Click on the image to view large enough to read the text.

Evolution of a Picture part 1
Evolution of a Picture part 2
Evolution of a Picture part 3
Evolution of a Picture Part 4

Friday, January 14, 2011

Super Chicken

Super Chicken - Mixed Media/Acrylic- 9.5" x 13"

Muscle and Fitness magazine asked me to do some illustrations for an article dealing with the following question. Can you eat too much protein? I posted another image from this series earlier here. I depicted the body builder in several ridiculous situations in which he was attempting to consume mass quantities of protein in various forms. Thanks to Michael Touna for the opportunity to work on this project.This piece was done in mixed media/acrylic on illustration board and printed as a full page.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Genuine Fake Picasso

A genuine Picasso
Stories abound on the web of people who have purchased a "long hidden masterpiece" by world famous artists such as Pablo Picasso. As I mentioned yesterday, fakes and frauds abound in the art world. Some are relatively easy to distinguish, others not so much. A quick online search will reveal hundreds of stories about fake artwork, about those that make fake artwork and those that pass it off as the real thing.  So is the signature on a piece of artwork what makes it valuable, or the quality of the artwork? An interesting question was posed by the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Thomas Hoving  as recounted in Provenance
"If a fake is so expert that even after the most thorough and trustworthy examination its authenticity is still in doubt, is it or is it not a satisfactory work of art as if it were unequivocally genuine?"
To Picasso himself the answer would be yes. "If the counterfeit is a good one, I should be delighted," he once said. "I'd sit right down and sign it." In the 1940's a dealer asked Picasso if he would put his signature on an unsigned painting of his that a client owned. Picasso agreed, but when he saw the work, he realized it was not actually his.
"How good a client is the owner? he asked the dealer.
"One of my best." the dealer replied.
In that case, the painting is mine." said Picasso, and signed it.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Former forger John Myatt in his studio

Earlier this week I showed my version of a Van Gogh. That painting was never meant to fool, but some copies pass from "fake" to "forgery" when they are created with the intent to deceive.  I recently read the book Provenance by Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo. The book recounts what has been called the largest and most damaging contemporary art fraud ever perpetrated. In the late 1980's through the mid 1990's con man John Drewe (aka John Cockett among many other aliases) used impoverished artist John Myatt and a host of dealers, museums, art experts and collectors to execute a massive forgery scheme. Over the years, it is estimated that Myatt, initially unaware that Drewe was passing his work off as genuine, painted well over 200 pieces of art by such contemporary artists such as Alberto Giacometti, Roger Bissieres, Ben Nicholson and Graham Sutherland.

John Myatt's version of Ben Nicholson

 Drewe was by all accounts a patient master manipulator who through means of elaborate deception inserted himself into the art inner circle and gained access to the vaunted archives of  the likes of the Tate Gallery and the Institute of Contemporary Art.Once inside, he mined these archives for possible information, letters, catalogs or ephemera. He would then twist this material into what would appear to most as legitimate and undeniable "provenance", the paper trail that legitimizes every work of art. He went to great lengths to do this including faking exhibit catalogs by inserting photos of Myatt's "masterpieces" into the actual pages. He also forged sales records and had Myatt create new art based on descriptions he found in log books and in letters.

One of Myatt's Fake Giacometti works

By the time Myatt was fully complicit in the fraud, he felt trapped, and needing the money, continued to turn a blind eye. The scheme finally unravelled when the forged provenance of arguably one of Myatt's best efforts, a "Giacometti", failed to pass muster with the gatekeepers of the Giacometti foundation. Ultimately, both Drewe and Myatt were convicted of fraud and served prison time but the damage was done and dozens of paintings and drawings persist in museum and private collections worldwide. Many still consider them genuine  because  nobody can prove that they are not the real thing. I found Provenance a fascinating account that is well worth the read.

More about John Myatt here
Provenance by Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Like Father Like Son

Indian Ambush- sketch by Andrew Wyeth

Years ago I came upon a copy of the October 1965 issue of American Heritage that contained an essay and portfolio on the work of illustration giant N.C. Wyeth. On the last page, son Andrew who's fame and accomplishment as an artist would eventually eclipse that of his father recounted his informal art lectures at the feet of N.C..
Such instruction  was typically general such as describing "the quality of folds in a drapery and the way light comes across it. But once young Andy was drawing an Indian ambush (see above) and his father showed him what was wrong: the [natives] had taken over the entire picture, obscuring the mounted soldier whose danger was the point of the drawing. In a quick pencil sketch (see below) the elder Wyeth brought the imperilled rider more to the foreground and hid his attackers behind the trees.

Revised Indian Ambush sketch by N.C. Wyeth

Of his father N.C, Andrew said "we had a remarkable friendship, of course he was my only teacher, and he was a wonderful, remarkable person. When he died, I was just a clever watercolorist- lots of swish and swash. When he died- well- now I was really on the spot and had this terrific urge to prove that what he started in me was not in vain." 
It is evident in this rough sketch the level of skill N.C. possessed as he so easily corrected the flawed composition. The fact that the drawing survived is proof of this lesson's impact on his son. Andrew learned well and, I think through him and grandson Jamie, the Wyeth tradition turned out just fine .

Monday, January 10, 2011

Van Gogh Deja-Vu

My version of Vincent's Chair - Oil on canvas 28" x 36"

When I was working on my undergrad degree I had an art history class in which we were given an interesting option. We could either write a scholarly report on an artist of our choice from the period or make a copy painting instead. For me the choice was easy and I immediately chose the painting option. I had always admired impressionist painters and Vincent  Van Gogh in particular. I didn't realize at the time how difficult it would be to research his materials and working methods, let alone find adequate reproductions from which to work. Of course observing the actual painting firsthand would have helped, but given that the painting I chose was at the National Gallery in London, that was not an option. I did my best to replicate Vincent's work and got an A on my project.

Vincent's Chair, by Vincent Van Gogh, 1888

My professor noted that it was one of the best Van Gogh copies she had ever seen, though looking back I realize I made numerous mistakes in my interpretation. First off, I did not concern myself enough with finding suitable materials and the relatively smooth cotton canvas I used does not come close to the course textured weave of the original. My attempts at the thick paint stokes of Van Gogh also pale by comparison. I managed a certain level of paint thickness, but having seen many originals by Van Gogh since then, I realize how skimpy my application was in certain areas. Also, I suspect my colors are not all that accurate particularly in the turquoise blue of the door and some of the yellows tend more toward to green than to the orange that I think they should (never having seen the original, it's hard to say). That said, it was a fascinating exercise and one that I think is valuable to any artist looking to learn the process of a master painter. Such deconstruction is a time honored technique for students as long as you don't get sucked in to the art forgery end of the business like John Myatt did in the late 1980's and early 1990's. That is a subject for another post.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Tripped - Finish

Tripped- 10" x 8" Digital

Here's the final art for the Boys' Life story I just finished. I have to thank my art director Scott Feaster for such a generous deadline. It really gave me time to explore some nuances with Photoshop. I think this one captures some fun textures and atmosphere.Compare to the previous sketch/comp that I posted to see how it progressed from start to finish.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

New Harvey Dunn Book

The Prairie is My Garden- By Harvey Dunn

One of my favorite things about Christmas is that if I don't get exactly what I want, I can still hope to get it a few days later on my birthday. That's what happened this week when I opened up the new over sized volume on the work of Harvey Dunn written by Illustration House founder Walt Reed. This long awaited tome does not disappoint.

Harvey Dunn - Illustrator and Painter of the Pioneer West is a fitting tribute to the artistic legacy of  Dunn, arguably the most influential of all the artists who studied under Howard Pyle. Dunn studied for two years under Pyle and went on to notoriety in his own work but also became a great teacher. He is known  mainly for his depictions of prairie life on the American frontier, though his career range of subject matter was broad and deep.

Harvey Dunn's artistic descendants include John Steuart Curry, Dean Cornwell, Harold Von Schmidt, Saul Tepper, Mead Schaeffer,Mario Cooper, Arnold Friberg, John Clymer, Ken Riley and the list goes on. This book represents the largest collection of Dunn's work ever assembled and color reproductions abound, with most of the surviving paintings being newly photographed for this volume. Reproductions of original magazine pages fill in the holes where the actual art has been lost..

The Calf Path- circa 1912 by Harvey Dunn

At 10" x 13" this book has space to show off the juicy brush strokes, incredible compositions and the enviable value and color control of Dunn's paintings. I found myself lingering over all the works I had seen previously as well as discovering for the first time, dozens of paintings I had never seen before. The book also contains a section profiling many of Dunn's most successful students as well as a facsimile of a booklet long out of print called "An Evening in the Classroom." This section is a treat in it's own right as it collects from classroom notes much of Dunn's considerable wisdom and advice on the art of picture making. I am currently reading the book from cover to cover and look forward to being inspired by the work of Harvey Dunn for a long time to come.

The Harvey Dunn book is available through Flesk Publications

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

No See Um - Finish

Opener for "No See Um and the River" - Digital, 11" x 17"

Just finished with this illustration for Boys' Life magazine. The story is a fictional account of two boys working for a turn of the century Alaskan trailblazing crew.  This one was also done completely in Photoshop. I am still somewhere on the upward arc of the learning curve but each successive piece elicits more confidence. Thanks to all my Photoshop whiz buds that help me with their tips whenever I call.