Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly- Demo

I have always liked movie westerns so when thinking of what might be a fun subject for a class demo, I figured I would do a gritty cowboy. What movie cowboy was grittier and tougher than Clint Eastwood's man with no name? Eastwood made this character famous in  the Sergio Leone" classic A Fistful of Dollars and sequels A Few Dollars More and the iconic The Good, The Bad and The Ugly?  The first step was to pull a few reference photos and create a drawing.

The final drawing

I didn't want to simply copy a photo, but rather capture a bit of the character's persona and add in a little bit of stylization to the drawing. I used elements from several photos to come up with my drawing which I then projected onto my cold press illustration board. I refined the drawing and added some value using Prismacolor pencils. I like Prismacolors because they don't get scrubbed off when applying wet washes of acrylic paint.

The next step in this mixed media demo, a variation of the technique used by friend and fellow illustrator C.F. Payne, was to apply initial washes of color starting with a nice warm yellow under wash. This process . I followed that with washes of brown for the hat and a flesh tone on the face and then the chosen colors for the shirt and neck bandana. I keep these washes smooth and even by tilting the surface and "drawing the bead" or letting the paint fall along the wet edge to avoid any streaks.

With oil wash lifted out

Next comes the "ugly" step where things can get scary. I apply a purplish wash of very thinned down oil paint in one pass with a wide varnish brush. The oil is very thin and settles down int he valleys of the board texture but since the binders are mostly obliterated by the thinner, it does not fully adhere to the surface. I then lift out the highlight areas using a kneaded eraser and sometimes a pink pearl eraser.

After Prismacolor application

When I have lifted all the areas I want to remove, I spray the surface with a photo retouch varnish to seal off the oil and give the surface a little tooth in preparation for some Prismacolor. This step can be overdone, so I use the pencil fairy sparingly and apply it with a light touch.

Stopping place- still a lot of work to do to finish

After I am satisfied with some of the colored pencil application, I come back with more acrylic and keep working the surface, pushing the lights and the darks, alternating back and forth with a little more pencil if needed until I am finished. I stopped this demo after two and a half hours, but there is still quite a bit of work left yet to finish this one up right. I'll post the final version sometime later and link to this post.

Addendum: The Finished Painting

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly - Mixed Media, 10" x 12'
Here is what the finished demo turned out like. I worked on it for maybe another3 to 4 hours in two sessions after I stopped the above demo. Total working time including sketch was about 8 hours. As you can see from the above photo, I spent a fair amount of time adding detail in areas such as the hatband and the beard. I also cleaned up and strengthened contrasts in the background while still keeping it ambiguous and non distracting. I added a stronger rim lighting on the edges to give the feel of bright sunlight.I'm pretty happy with how it finished up.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Leonardo's Lost Princess?

This week I saw a PBS documentary about a beautiful ink and chalk drawing that some believe could be a long lost work by Leonardo da Vinci. The work, now titled "La Bella Principessa" was rediscovered in 1988, and was assumed to be the work of a 19th century German artist. The hour long program laid out compelling arguments that this drawing may indeed be a long lost Leonardo including, the evident skill of the artist, location and carbon dating.

Not the least of these arguments was the fact that stroke angle is consistent with a drawing done by a left handed artist, which Leonardo also was. Notice how the pen strokes angle down toward the right, typical of a left handed artist. These same angled strokes are evident in the "princess".

Every artist leaves his unique hand print on their work and careful study can reveal stylistic tendencies that can be identified and tracked from painting to painting. Drawing style is one of these things that, like an individual's handwriting, can be matched and verified. The highly crafted nature of the work, the sensitivity to drawing and the delicate nature of the woman's features echo other Leonardo works as well. Though the documentary ended with no conclusive verdict on whether this is indeed a Leonardo, to my eye it appears to be such.

Read more on La Bella Principessa here.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Boys' Life Poster Ideas

Boys' Life Poster Idea 1

Poster Idea 2

Poster Idea 3

Here are three ideas I submitted for a Boys' Life commemorative poster I am working on. The concept was to celebrate the outdoor aspect of scouting and to have the magazine plainly in view as the scout enjoys an outdoor adventure (#3 is less obvious as he holds the mag rolled in his hand). I liked both 1 and 2 but they liked idea #2 the best, so I will now be working up more involved sketches based on that idea as well as scheduling a photo shoot. I'll have to locate the right age and look of model with a full uniform. Should not be too hard with all the scouts in my neighborhood.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wyeth Shape Design Analysis

This week I broke down the shapes in N.C. Wyeth's Treasure Island endpaper illustration for my classes during a discussion about shape design. The hallmark of all great narrative artwork is effective composition and I think good composition hinges directly on strong shape design. When designing an attractive composition, it is very important to consider the following items: 
  1. Positive shapes (the shape of the actual object you are depicting)
  2. Negative Shapes (the shapes around those objects)
  3. Masses of Light and Shadow
  4. How these masses merge into larger shapes
  5. How all of the above shapes and masses relate to one another
The top sketch shows a simple tracing of the major positive shape masses as well as the major shadow masses. See how simply Wyeth groups together his major forms in this piece.

Within those broad masses, are the shapes that define and separate the individual elements. In this case, the individual figures and details. This gives definition and nuance without breaking up the overall mass of the sihlouette.

The major light and dark tonal masses also act to define the individual forms. Note how many of the light and dark masses merge into one another when simplified.

Here is a posterized and desaturated version of the piece. More variation of shape is added to the broad shape and value relationships. to further strengthen the overall effect of the already effective shapes and silhouettes. No positive or negative shape is left unexamined. the result is an exciting and dynamic composition that jumps from the page and invites the viewer in.

By analyzing great paintings in depth, one can gain insights and new appreciation for the reasons why certain works are so appealing and effective. I think it all boils down to great shape design and composition.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Master Illustrator Copy part 2

My version of N.C. Wyeth's Treasure Island endpaper (detail).

In my last post, I showed my version of a J.C. Leyendecker painting. Here's my copy of a classic Wyeth image. As I painted, I determined that Wyeth must have given a slight warm tint to the canvas or possibly he was using a warmer version of black since his darks have a warmer cast than my version. 

Here again, the scale and medium used in the Wyeth piece are vastly different since my exercise was painted roughly 7" x 10" and Wyeth's is likely somewhere between 30" to 48" in width. Mine is Acryla brand gouache and Wyeth painted in oil. That said, it was very fun challenge to try to capture Wyeth's brush strokes and value arrangement.  

Monday, January 16, 2012

Master Illustrator Copy

My version of a J.C. Leyendecker

Making copies of  master paintings is a tradition that goes back centuries. Many museums even today allow students and artists to set up in the gallery and study the techniques of master painters by copying their works. This process allows an artist to break down color, stroke and layers to understand why a painting is successful without all the decision making that went into the creation of the original, thus speeding up the learning process (hopefully). For my Illustration 1 classes this semester, I decided to do a couple of master illustrator copies as demonstrations. Most of my students do not yet have extensive painting experience and this demo served to help them understand basic principles of painting as well as to talk about some basics of design. It was interesting to dissect another artist's technique and understand why a particular painting really works.

Detail of the Leyendecker original that I copied

I chose a nice painting by one of my all time favorite illustrators J.C. Leyendecker. I have long been a fan of his stylized depictions of the human figure as well as of his economy of stroke. I spent about a half an hour each on the two faces (one in each class) and then another hour and a half to two hours in the studio finishing things up. The main differences between mine and the great J.C.'s pieces are that he painted in oil and much larger. My version is in acrylic gouache (Holbein's Acryla brand) and only about 7" x 10". My under painting was also a bit more ochre giving the colors a slightly warmer cast overall. I began the exercise thinking I had a pretty good idea of what makes Leyendecker's work so effective and appealing but after careful study, I came away with a whole new appreciation for his brilliant picture construction. This is an interesting and useful exercise I would recommend every artist do once in a while. I totally enjoyed the process.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Santa Always Brings Art Books

The best thing about Christmas morning (aside from great times with the family)is looking forward to the inevitable pile of new art books under the tree. This year was no exception and I got some good ones. Some are brand new and at least one is very old, slightly used and long out of print. Here's a rundown and review of what the jolly fat man brought me. I have have only thumbed through them all, so these reviews are still cursory, but they all look great and I look forward to giving them all an in depth reading. Here they are in no particular order:

Blue Collar/White Collar by Sterling Hundley

My only complaint about this book is the size. At 6" x 9", this digest size book is a bit smaller than I would have preferred, but Hundley's work still packs power. It is sprinkled with process sketches and notes that look to be directly from the sketchbook. This collecetion showcases both Hundley's illustration and fine art career. His range and versatility are evident and I found myself inspired by the wide range of color, texture and composition in his work. This volume is a nice addition to my contemporary illustration books.

Howard Pyle- Rediscovering and American Master

This attractive volume has been compiled in conjunction with a special exhibition or Pyle's work at the Delaware Art museum. A number of authors and artists were asked to write on how Pyle's work has impacted American culture in the century since his passing. Howard Pyle was the premier illustrator and art instructor of his day with work appearing in magazines like Harper's monthly, Colliers and Scribner's Magazine. He is credited with influencing the visual depiction of knights, pirates and historical figures in every generation to the present. The reproductions in this book are top quality. I look forward to reading all the essays. Having visited both Pyle's studio and the Delaware Art Museum, this book will have a treasured place among my Golden Age illustrator volumes.

The Brandywine Tradition by Henry Pitz

This book has been out of print for decades, so I was excited to see it under the tree. Pitz was a student of Walter Everett who studied under Pyle, so I am sure there are many first hand accounts in this volume. Many years ago I confess to wanting to keep a Howard Pyle volume written by Pitz rather than returning it to the library. I think I was the only one who ever checked it out since it was eventually surplussed and I could no longer get it. I wish I had kept it and paid the lost book fine. This one I am sure will be an interesting read as well.

Robert Fawcett- The Illustrator's Illustrator by David Apatoff 

This book showcases the incredible draftsmanship and composition of one the best mid century illustrators. It contains over 250 illustrations, most in full color. Fawcett's prodigous talent as well as keen business sence led him to become one of the most sought after and well compensated illustrators of his day. I was particularly interested in the several sidebar articles that discussed Fawcett's working process as well as the numerous sketches and examples of photo reference. I look forward to reading and analyzing the volume more in depth. I am sure it will inspire for years to come.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Gallery Announcement

Near Dusk- 9" x 12" Oil by Greg Newbold

I am pleased to announce that I have agreed to gallery representation with Williams Fine Art in Salt Lake City, UT. Williams is one of the premier galleries in the intermountain west and I am proud that they will be selling my work. In the upcoming days, the following paintings will find their way on the walls of the gallery.

At Bird-In-Hand- Oil, 12" x 12"

Afternoon Cottonwoods- Oil, 6" x 9"

Rabbit Brush- Oil, 8" x 8"

Bales- Oil, 8" x 8"

Hills West of Bishop- Oil, 6" x 8"

If you are in the area, please take a minute to go check them out. Williams also has a vibrant online presence and happily sells and ships artwork to anywhere. I am excited to see where this new partnership leads.

Friday, January 6, 2012

My Favorite Model

My Favorite Model-John Ferguson Weir

I  recently had the opportunity to see a great new exhibit called The Weir Family- 1820-1920: Expanding the Traditions of American Art at the MOA on Brigham Young University's campus. (You can read more about the show here at Artwife Needs a Life) In the exhibit there was this fascinating painting by John Ferguson Weir. Up until the advent and widespread use of photography, it was common for artists to use what were called lay figures to stand in place of the model. It was obviously not practical or feasible to have a live sitting model for every hour needed to complete a painting.  These elaborate jointed models would be clothed in the same costume  and posed in place of the model. Many artists and critics disparaged the use of lay figures, complaining (and for the most part rightly so) that the figures were stiff and lacked any of the lifelike qualities of a living breathing human figure. We hear the same argument voiced any time there is a time saving innovation in artistic technique. The camera obscura, lay figures, photography and now Photoshop all have had their detractors, and you can argue both sides. My belief is that an artist needs a strong foundation of skills in traditional drawing and painting, ones that are deeply rooted in observations from life. Given that, any of these tools become simply a means to an end in the pursuit of artistic expression. But if used as a crutch or a shortcut, the lack of artistic skill will be evident. Any tool used effectively can yield brilliant results. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


Bales- 8" x 8" oil

 finished up this little painting over the Christmas break. I am gearing up to put a few pictures in a gallery and this will be one of them (if the gallery owner likes it). I started it on location as I documented here previously and then adjusted a few things and polished it up in studio.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Grand Canyon Painting Underway

Canyon Romance- in progress

I thought I'd show progress on a 24" x 24" Grand Canyon oil painting I just started last week. This one is based on a small study I did last year as a Christmas present for my wife. Have a look at the 5" x 5" version here. Not sure how quickly this one will finish up as I have to get back into the post Holiday schedule this week. I need to finish other projects first, but this one whispers to me every time I walk into the studio... "Paint me, paint me..."