Wednesday, May 29, 2013

In the Green Shadows

Medium: Watercolors, India ink, various mediums
Size: 25x20 inches
For detail closeups, prints, and original painting: -click here-

"The Lady drew herself up tall, and the lanterns dimmed by comparison to the unfiltered aura of her being. She was slender, with emerald eyes, and up close, Lily could see the fine veins that traced under her translucent skin like a fan of tattooed lace. Her hair was thick and black, and coiled in a serpentine cascade of braids. Jasmine blossoms were twisted into the strands, like sweetly perfumed stars. She wore a green silken shift with a subtle pattern woven into the threads, and belted at the waist with a tangle of jasmine vines. The patterns in the silk of her gown shifted and writhed like living runes, and her stark face was both terrifying and beautiful."

Started with this scribble of the faerie Queen Mab (lady of dreams) in my sketchbook. Looks faintly like Southeast Asian statuary. Regal. Distant. Slightly alien.

And her handmaidens.

Then a thumbnail to try and figure out how these initial elements might be placed on the page. Thumbnail sketch is only about 3 inches wide. Very quick. Mostly composition and placement of everything. I had some faint ideas of lanterns (the circles), and two twisted trees that Mab stands between.

Once I knew the rough composition, I had some other figures that I needed to develop in order to fit into that framework, and also determining more exactly the shape of the trees that Mab was standing between. So more scribbling in the sketchbook. A lute player lounging behind her, and more musicians in the tree branches, as well as fey spectators.

Now to combine things with Photoshop. Scanned all the sketches and moved things around in Photoshop so that they were all roughly in place.

More Photoshop combining.

And still more. Sometimes I mirror flip the sketch back and forth at this stage to spot balance issues in the composition. The reversed view gives a fresh vantage.

After I settled on the composition, printed it out and refined the sketch as I transferred it to the final drawing surface. This is one of the intermediate transfer sketches.

And the final transferred piece, ready to paint.


I seem to be fascinated by poppies lately. Well, I guess I always am, but more so in recent pieces! But they have been fitting, as flowers of sleep, and these pieces have been about dreams.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Museums, Gardens, and Markets

Farmers market this morning.

Japanese garden in San Mateo.

San Fransisco Asian Art Museum for the terracotta warriors exhibit.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Muir Woods

Hot hot day today in Oakland. What to do? Pack everything up and head out to take refuge under the trees. Spent the day amongst the redwoods of Muir Woods. As soon as I got there, I was reminded that I really need to do it much more often.


We weren't the only ones with that idea. It was rather packed with people. But even all the crowds along the walkway can't diminish the beauty or the majesty of those ancient giants. And when you stand on the path and crane your head up to see the sun streaming through from so high up, and hear the distant rustle of the leaves, there is a peace and calm that steals through you.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Dreaming Beyond the Gray

Dreaming Beyond the Gray
Size: 25x14 inches
Medium: Mixed
Detail closeup views, prints ($16.95) and original available -here-
* * *
Some of the in progress stages:

Initial concept and thumbnail doodles in my sketchbook, and some notes to myself about coloring.
First pass at a sketch for the figure. Actually started to develop this much further, but then when I got to the ribbons attached to the sides and back of her dress, a thought occurred to me. What if they not only held her dress on, but her whole facade, like a full-body mask.
 Resketched with the new approach. And the blackbird flying into the void of her body.
Transferred the sketch to the illustration board. Sketched out the poppies and the woman fairly detailed. The rest of it was going to be left to chance and serendipity. Large scale application of the experimental techniques I've been playing with in the past month. Took an inch wide flat brush and slapped India ink all over the upper third and right side. Then I tilted the page and let the drips trickle down,
 After letting that dry, I was fairly certain I had completely screwed it all up and was absolutely hating how it looked. I considered tossing it entirely, but decided to sleep on it and see how I felt in the morning. 
Well, sunlight didn't help my perspective. I still hated it. But I slathered some white and green and decided to keep slogging onward. I focused on the parts I knew I could handle, within my comfort zone: the details of the gray queen and the raven. Detailed rendering so that I could ignore that huge black splotch staring at me from the other half of the piece.
 That made me feel better. Slightly. Brave enough to try tackling the Splotch. While painting the queen, I started to see shapes in the textures of the upper green areas. Distant walls of a city.
 Okay, the scary randomness was starting to get a little more under control after the city appeared. I worked some more on the poppies at the bottom, the only other part besides the gray queen that I had purposely planned. As the sloping ground started to resolve, I saw eyes and ghostly shapes waiting among the poppies as well.
 Hello, my friends.
 And the darker foreground ruins.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

More travel sketchbook. Ballet class

More sketches today, while sitting around, at my daughter's dance class.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Travel Sketchbook

Been a while since I've dragged this sketchbook around with me.  Daughter's preschool class took a field trip on the ferry and into San Francisco today, and I decided to do some drawing. As usual when I do these, they are sketched directly with pen, quickly, on site. Gesture drawings for the most part. Good way to exercise visual memory and quick transfer of what you see down to paper.

Passing by this dock, I liked how all the lines led up the ramp, and you could glimpse the ship through the archway.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Playing with Paint

Sometimes you just have to mess around to stir things up a bit. I had a dream a couple of weeks ago, and I wanted to paint it. And by the way, though I've been asked it often, I rarely if ever paint my dreams. They're way too boring and prosaic to make good images. I mean, unless you like to see a painting of an artist freaking out after forgetting to pack or ship things to a convention (That's an illustrator's version of the stereotype "Student's Nightmare" know, going to school and finding out that it's final exam time for that history class you never signed up for, and by the way, it's in French).

Anyway, getting sidetracked. So I DID have a dream I wanted to paint. But it involved much darker tones and saturation than I usually get. So I dug through the closet and pulled out everything that looked like it might be useful, which included: Stamp pad refill ink, India ink, metallic watercolor medium (that a friend gave me from a stash he found in his closet, thank you Stephen), granulation medium, frisket, rubbing alcohol, and scrap pieces of illustration board, some with washes that I had started once upon a time then discarded. 

I set about making a mess with those. And after a half hour of fun, I had this:

I propped them up to let the ink drip down the page (ala Jackson Pollack & UC Berkeley's stuck-in-the-60's art classes!) making bigger runny messes on my desk and drawing boards. After that, I walked away and waited for them to dry.

Over the next week, I've done these pieces with the results of that initial ink-mess. With the addition of Daniel Smith watercolor ground (for the broad areas of white), white gel pen, and watercolors. My initial impulse to paint that dream hasn't really materialized in any of these, but they've spawned a host of other images. It's a very un-planned process. I'm just looking into the shapes that the texture of drying paint and ink leaves, and then pulling out details and focusing them into images.

These have all been relatively small pieces. Hopefully you'll be seeing some of these techniques combined with my standard Steph-watercolors for some larger and more ambitious images in the near future. I have some ideas of where to go with it, but so far it's rather nebulous.