Saturday, August 31, 2013

TLC Workshop: Beauty and the Beast

By Justin Gerard

Last week Cory GodbeyIain Mccaig and I did a workshop in Seattle for TLC Workshops.  
It was absolutely fantastic.  There was action, romance, drama, pencil drawing and Iain did real-life, actual magic tricks in front of everyone. It was a great experience and if you are wondering if I would recommend that you go to one, then yes. Yes I do.  

While the workshop was more fun than a basket of kittens, I was only able to get through the traditional aspects of my work (Cory hogged all the digital glory for himself). So I am posting a follow-up here to shed some light on the digital method I used to finish mine.  

...Just in case there is anyone who plans to finish the one they started in at the workshop...  *ahem

You know who you are.  

The Value Comp

The Watercolor Painting

The Digital Trickery

Now, since no one is seeing how this went from watercolor to digital finish, and I might have lied about it, I am going to show the digital steps I went through to arrive at the final. 

As I mentioned in the class, there isn't a great deal of "painting."  And as you can see, it is actually a little more like photo-editting that I am doing over the watercolor. Most of the layers are transparent. The goal of this method is to preserve the original painting as much as possible, while pushing the colors and values farther.  

The final surface textures and rendering was done largely with Photoshop's new "Mixer Brush Tool."  I don't actually understand the tool, but it allows me to push and pull areas on the image that need a little more softness in the transitions and a little more sharpness in the details. It can be tedious to work with, (mostly because I am still figuring it out) but I like the visual result.  

Friday, August 30, 2013

David Jon Kassan

David Jon Kassan is a figurative painter from Brooklyn. I think some of you already know his work. David does a lot of workshops and use to share his process. His technique is very impressive, so take a look on his WIP, his DVD and his videos. It could very useful fot traditional AND digital painters.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Art Director is Right

by Donato

The act of creating an illustration is a collaborative process.  Whether the artist is working with an author, art director, marketing director or editor, it is a relationship which must be nurtured and negotiated in order that both parties come away with a productive experience from the creative process.  We have all heard horror stories about how difficult it can be to work for a corporation, a difficult editor, or an art director who just doesn't see the value in what the artist is trying to accomplish.  Yet, for every story an artist can recount about these horrors, I bet that every art director has two such stories regarding artists which by far dive deeper into the abyss.

Thus with that in mind, I attempt to appease and negotiate with my clients on a sensitive and empathetic level, absorbing all their requests and incorporating as much as I can of their concerns, while still attempting to push my thoughts and agenda on the art.  Some days you get it more your way, and others you need to give back.

Over the past couple of months, I have undergone two such experiences where the tide of changes has gone against me. Yet to my wonder and pleasure, the art which was created turned out far better than what I had originally conceived of.  Unfortunately one of these projects has yet to be released, thus I cannot share it with you, but pasted below is the other success!

Rex Regis is the cover illustration for a series of novels, the Imager Portfolio, I have been creating for Tor Books and authored by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.  A thoroughly enjoyable series of renaissance wizardry in a setting of political intrigue.  This is the fifth book in the series.

My original submission for the final art was the cover with a simplified background.   I thought it was perfect, with the blank negative space allowing for a strong silhouette to the figure.  But my client disagreed.

The request of the art director, Irene Gallo, was to add something more to the background to provide context and visual density to the piece.  A library was suggested.  Considering I love illustrating books, and a few maps were already on the table before the main figure, it was actually easy and fulfilling to add the various elements to the composition.  Irene and I have a long and deep relationship spanning nearly 20 years, thus when she calls me on an issue, I perk up and listen.  I listen not so much to appease my client, but because I trust her judgement and she would not be making critical comments unless it was warranted.

In this case, the art director called it 100% right and the piece was dramatically improved for the better by these changes.

It is fine to gripe and grumble about changes beneath your breath, but to be overly hardened to comments that could potential improve your work is to close the door on a way of thinking which may push your art forward in wonderful ways.  Be a sponge, absorb new ideas, meld them into your work, cushion the harsh comments and make your work stronger and better for it.

Good Luck!

Rex Regis    18" x 26"  Oil on board    

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

10 “Easy” Steps To Illustration.

Illustration is easy!

You toss armloads of passion, paper, paint and frustration into a single-minded person and let the dough rise for 25 years.

I think that every good illustration stands on the shoulders of all the successful ones and the failed ones that went before. Our ability to improve lies in the way we learn from mistakes and happy accidents, sprinkled with glimpses of greatness. We all know that feeling when a brushstroke just land particularly right, or when a series of seeking strokes suddenly makes us achieve the effect or look we have been trying to nail for weeks months or even years.

After a while we build up a list of things that we KNOW must be solved or at least be taken into consideration when pursuing this career called illustration. Here is my checklist of subjects that I try to keep my mind wrapped around while painting a piece:

1. Story

Something needs to happen in an illustration. There need to be a little story within the image sketching for that right moment within the story is crucial. I find it the most rewarding if I capture the moment while it is taking place rather than before or after. Let us say a knight and a dragon. The image “snapshot” could be taken after the battle is done with the dragon dead and the wounded knight gasping for breath, or when the knight enters the cave and the dragon wakes up to meet the challenge, or, as I prefer: when the knight is dodging flames from the mouth of the dragon straining his body to get that deadly strike in.

I am not saying the other 2 images could not hold a story. My point is without story there is nothing to aim the rest of my checklist at. Story is where it starts. Without it, you are just drawing stuff.

Elminster´s forgotten realms

2. Composition

Composition is all about staging the story right. It is about chiseling away noise until the story is told by fewest lines as possible. It can be very useful to sketch thumbs and compositions in greytones too to establish value for clarity. This step is the hardest part for me and where I spend the most energy. I often go through 10 to 15 thumbs before deciding on anything.

3. Action

I was showing a fighting scene I just painted to a fellow artist Todd Lockwood, many years ago. He was very polite and said he liked it alot, but…” you know what Jesper? I always try to capture the figures out of balance while fighting as if they were in the middle of a movement”
I noticed that I had drawn a barbarian fighting with the feet flat on the ground. If you want to capture a story while it is taking place action is needed.

Decent journeys in the dark

4. Posing

To show action, you need to pose the figures right. I have always been a huge fan of extreme foreshortenings, but overdoing it can make a figure unclear to read. Finding the right and especially interesting pose, takes a lot of sketching and oftens drag you out to the floor acting it out yourself to get the feeling of it right. I remember one time where we discussed how much shit a role playing character drags along. So we fitted me up in a chainmail, put a backpack on the back and strapped swords, axes and shield on. In the end I was not able to move at all let alone pose cool.
When trying to find the right pose for a figure I focus on the emotion of the character and try to avoid too theatrical solutions.


5. Expression

Expressions is by far my weakest point. I envy artist who can capture emotion in gestures and facial expressions. My brother tells me that all my figures have the same scowling glanze. At least I make a point to have the face convey some kind of emotion.

Wren´s Run Vanquiser

6. Design

There is in fantasy an archetypical set of stuff that the different classes has equipped that signals who or what he is. Maces for clerics, staffs for wizards and so on. bending the rules is often more interesting. I think the key teori is to know and study historical costumes and weapons, knowing how the work in order to invent your own versions.

Figure for Paizo cover

7. Details

I heard Paul Bonner say once “When in doubt; add more details” Details makes the eye go on a little trip of experience. Needless to say, that it is a thin line between overdoing it and creating a too busy image. But I do think that details add a credibility to a figure. Who really thinks that Conan can manage himself out there in the snow only wearing a loin cloth and some boots?

Plots that span centuries

8. Colors

Colors makes the mood. staying within the grey or darks is the easy way out. But I always try to replace dark or black areas with a vibrant color instead. Creating color schemes, testing them in numerous color roughs is what works best for me.

9. Silhouette

Everything in a drawing needs to have a clearly readable silhouette. Doesn't matter if it is a light figure on a dark background or a dark figure on a light one. I learned this very early on by coloring comics. having only the colors to focus on I could concentrate on telling the story clearly that someone else had already gone through all the turmoil of drawing.

Wow of Malice

10. Personality

When you mix all of it together it still can be a little ordinary. What is your personal style? your edge, your trademark? All I know is: as soon as I stopped looking for it, people started telling me they could recognize my style.

Playing your weaknesses, emphasizing your strong assets, I think is the start of a personal style.

Beast Token art, magic the gathering

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


-By Dan dos Santos

This Friday is the beginning of the 2013 Dragon*Con in Atlanta, Georgia!

DragonCon is the world's largest SF/F convention. Attracting more than 50,000 visitors, it is the definitive convention for cosplay enthusiasts. It also has a incredibly impressive art show, attracting SFF/F artists from all over the world, including many of our friends here on Muddy Colors.

This year's Artist Guest list includes:

Jim Burns
Omar Rayyan
Justin Gerard
Dan Dos Santos
Todd Lockwood
Don Maitz
Janny Wurts
Mark poole
Annie Stegg
Kelly Freas
Travis Lewis
Tran Nguyen

and many, many more.

And that is just the art show. 'Comic Alley' boasts an equally impressive list artists from that genre as well.

In addition to exhibiting original works, and selling prints, many Artists will be partaking in panel discussions and doing live demos.

On Monday, I will be doing a live demo. I will be painting a portrait from life of ComicBookGirl19, the model who poses for my White Trash Zombie series.

Live Portrait Painting Demo, with Dan dos Santos
Award-winning illustrator demonstrates techniques, discusses methods, and answers
questions while he paints one of his favorite models, ComicbookGirl19.
Mon 11:30 am; Hanover AB [H]

Also on Monday, Justin Gerard and Annie Stegg will also be doing a demo.

Traditional Painting Techniques, with Justin Gerard and Annie Stegg
Annie and Justin demonstrate how to create an illustrated scene from initial thumbnail to final brushstrokes.
Mon 10:00 am; Hanover G [H]

Here is a small sampling of some of the other programs and demos throughout the weekend that may of interest to our readers.

Narrative in Picture-Making, with Todd Lockwood
A round-table art discussion with fantasy artists.
Sat 7:00 pm; Hanover AB [H]

Demo: Painting in Watercolor, with Omar Rayyan
The artist creates a watercolor painting from start and finishes with a Q&A. The art will be auctioned for charity.
Sun 10:00 am; Hanover G [H]; 2.5 Hrs

Visual Engineering: How to Construct a Great Image, with Don Maitz
Tips and methods to improve creative image making by understanding and applying the basic raw materials of visual construction.
Mon 11:30 am; Hanover G [H]

Taxes for Artists
CPA and artist Christy Nicholas explains how to be sure you don’t pay all those nonexistent art profits in taxes.
Fri 5:30 pm; Hanover G

Professional Illustration for Games and Publishing
A step-by-step overview of procedures and timetables for development of a professional illustration assignment.
Fri 7:00 pm; Hanover AB [H]

Sculpting Fascinating Creatures of All Sorts
A tutorial on sculpting all sorts of creatures both real and imaginary from a variety of mediums from the armature up.
Sat 7:00 pm; Hanover G [H]

So stop into the Art Show and say 'Hi' to all of us! We hope to see you there!

4 Days Left!

As many of you know, MC contributors, Greg Manchess, Donato Giancola, and Dan dos Santos, will be offering intensive 12 week internships as part of the SmArt School program.

The class sizes are extremely limited, so many are already full. However, there are still a few spots left. Enrollment for these classes will end on September 1st. That's just 4 days left to enroll!

The nice thing about these mentorships is that they are just that, 'mentorships'. Which means you focus on the problems areas you specifically have trouble with.

Unlike workshops which attempt to cram a ton of technical information into a very short period of time, these classes are geared towards artists looking to make long-term strides. They are perfect for artists who are trying to get over that 'amateur' hurdle, find their unique voice, and turn their portfolio into something commercially viable.

So if you've been debating any of these mentorships, now is the time to act.

For more info, or to sign up, visit:

Monday, August 26, 2013

Convention scribbles

                                                                   By Petar Meseldzija

During the past weekend, I attended a comic convention in Valkenswaard, the Netherlands. It was a very pleasant and a quite busy event. For two whole days, I was signing and doing little sketches in my new art book. Here are a few convention scribbles I did at the Dark Dragon Books booth.


Awards Week

-By Arnie Fenner

The Chesley Awards and the Hugo Award for Best Artist will be presented this weekend at LoneStarCon 3, the 71st World Science Fiction Convention taking place August 29 through September 2 in San Antonio, TX. Since the Chesley nominees were covered in a previous MC post, I thought it'd be nice to recognize the Hugo finalists.

Everyone should be able to watch live via Ustream starting on Sunday, September 1 at 8pm CST. Good luck to all the nominees!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Hush : Part 3

-By Tim Bruckner

I’d thought that the statue would need to be assembled from twenty pieces. Sectioning the cape into three parts as opposed to five parts, making Catwoman’s right arm one piece instead of two and making Batman’s left arm one piece instead of his glove being a separate piece brought the total down to sixteen pieces. All primed and ready for paint.

I’m not a big fan or paint modeling. I’m not sure if that’s the right term for it, or if there is a term for it. It’s the practice of some painters to go in with an airbrush and spray a darker color into various recesses throughout the sculpt. More often, this is used to define muscle groups. I’ve seen it done well, by that I mean with restraint. The effect is subtle and can accentuate certain areas with highlights or shadows. But rarely is it done with restraint. I’m not sure where the practice started. But these days, you almost can’t find a collectible statue that hasn’t been paint modeled to one extent or another.

One of the most important things a sculptor has to consider is the play of light and shadow over a piece. Not only does it define it, but it creates mood, intent and texture. Paint modeling subverts the sculptor’s intent in favor of the painter’s prerogative. This isn’t to say that paint should be applied in flat, even applications. Painting in highlights or recesses with dry brush or creating a pointed, heightened focus in the service of the sculpt goes a long way to bringing that piece to life. I think less is more in this instance. Just my personal opinion.

With this piece, I wanted to try and mimic the night lighting in the art. DC felt strongly that the piece should be more in keeping with the paint application of the first Hush Batman statue. My hope is, should a variant be released, we’ll have the chance to explore an alternate paint scheme.

These are pix of Batman and Catwoman’s heads as stand-alones. I painted an iridescent white into Batman’s eyes to pick up any reflected light to accentuate them as much as I could. I did several tests in tinting Catwoman’s goggles. These are a very slightly tinted blue. A more concentrated blue seemed to obscure her eyes and compromise her expression. I’m not sure what the tint level will be in production. The factory will be able to use a much more transparent resin and so a fuller tint could work really well.


Tentative and tender:

The money shot:

Hush: Batman/Catwoman turns:

They say never say never. So I won’t. But for all intents and purposes, this is my last commercial piece after forty-four years as a free-lance sculptor. I hope to spend some time on my personal work and accepting commissions. What I’m most interested in is seeing if I can surprise myself. Design myself into a corner and see if I can sculpt my way out. I’ll keep you posted.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Hush : Part 2

-By Tim Bruckner

I continued the same approval-in-process with the wax work on Catwoman. Getting an approval of her right leg gave me both. Being able to get the okay on her head meant I could go to finish as I needed.

Having finalized the assembly of Batman let me take his body to finish. I’ve been asked what are the advantages of working with wax? One is being able to cast multiples of an element and modify them to make variations on the original. Batman has eleven belt pouches. I sculpted a master, made a mold and cast up copies, modifying them as I went along so no two were exactly alike. I can’t think of another way to do this without costing me a butt load of extra work.

I had nearly all the parts of the statue done and needed to see how they worked together. In particular, how the smoke would play against the body of the base and in relation to each other. I took two set of pictures of each angle; with the smoke units in place and without them and Photoshoped them into position using the opacity tool and removing the color to give me some idea of how they’d look as translucent cast resin pieces.

I’ve discussed mapping smoke in a previous post. The trick is to be hyper aware of how contours will play against each other as they are seen through each other. After I had the master molds for the smoke sections, I cast up resin tests to ascertain how dense the smoke needed to be. This test was the most transparent of the four tests I did.

I worked toward finishing Catwoman’s body, making corrections to the clay as I went along.

With the first Hush Batman statue, I left markers of Catwoman and Poison Ivy and wanted to do something similar with this statue. I sculpted in two sections of ivy in honor of the role Poison Ivy plays throughout the story. With the master wax of the base complete, I cast a resin and worked the wax smoke sections to the resin for a final fit, then cast all the base parts ready for paint. I tried a bunch of finishes for the smoke, trying to get just the right level of translucency. Sandblasting the resins seemed to work the best.

More finish work on Catwoman, adding her belt, left arm and head.

Working the master wax of the cape and the nearly completed Catwoman to a resin of Batman let me lock in final parts positions. I made a couple of modifications to the wax cape and finished it as one piece knowing I’d have to go back later and find the best places to cut it into castable sections.

Over the ear or under the ear? In the art, Jim had drawn Catwoman’s goggles band to be positioned behind the top of her ear. He does this a couple of times. After I’d sculpted it according to the art, it was decided to go with the preponderance of the evidence and not this particular frame. I made the adjustment with pix of her arm attachment.

With Catwoman’s head as part of her body, I needed to keep Batman’s head as a separate piece so the factory would be able to make some minor position adjustments to compensate for any casting distortions.