Wednesday, December 21, 2011

I like purdy colors

Posted by: Dave

So I have finished up the drybrush and ebauche and will soon be moving into first painting. You can already tell from a technical standpoint just how manly this piece is going to be. Watch out woodland creatures, you are about to get owned by this guy. The most challenging part of the piece thus far has been selecting the color scheme. The two color studies on the upper left were executed first, but after becoming indecisive, I made 7 more. I find that if you have any doubts, you may want to explore other options even if you end up selecting the first one anyway (people do the same for dating so why not). Like the famous illustrator Gomer Pyle said, even if the first one feels right, do another 49 to make certain. I did in fact end up going with a cooler color field as opposed to a warmer brown one. It gives more of a feeling that he might actually be outdoors as opposed to an interior. I am still playing with the idea of putting snow on the jacket as well.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Go look at someone else's blog for once

Posted by: Dave

So I thought I would take some time to use my blog to talk about other blogs. Ironic I know. Today, I would like to talk about Will St. John and Colleen Barry's blog "A Classic Point of View." Like Kate and me, they are another artist couple living and working alongside one another. They are both instructors and graduates of the Grand Central Academy of Art in New York city. Will recently was awarded a Shapiro Grant to study in Italy for several months, and Colleen joined him there as well. Italy is one of the greatest places to study art. It is the birthplace of the Renaissance, classical architecture, terrible discotheque music, and goofy looking clothing. Their blog documents their time and projects while in Italy. They are a good reminder of how much I need to keep practicing drawing.

A little about Will: he was actually born in the same hometown as me during the same year. Seems odd, I know. However, we have to look at the history of central PA during that time to truly explain this phenomena. You see, it was the same year of the TMI meltdown, and after the nuclear fallout subsided, we began to notice strange powers emerging. Some say this is where our artistic skills derived, leading us to become artists later in life. Of course, others say it came from hard work and talent, but the TMI explanation is way more interesting.

Check their blog out here.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Hunter

Posted by: Dave

So I am continuing on my series of paintings about men trapping and hunting poor defenseless animals because they are delicious. This piece, "The Hunter" has the same model as the trapper, but will include a variety of hunting gear attached to his jacket, along with a double barrel shotgun slung over his shoulder. Unfortunately I haven't had a chance to import my shotgun and antique pistol up from the states yet because apparently Canadians want lethal weapons to be "registered" and "licensed" and gun owners should pass a so called "safety test." Pfft. Thats all fine and dandy until you have to protect yourself from the king of England marching into your house (yah 2nd amendment).

Here you can see the drawing study with the head more or less rendered. I set up a mannequin beside it (which is almost sight-size) with his attire. I am still waiting on a couple items from ebay to arrive however, like his bandolier. The only challenge with the set up thus far is that all I have is a female mannequin, and a hunter with man-boobs isn't really what I am going for. I had to do some clever re-structuring underneath the jacket.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Vanitas in progress

Posted by: Kate
Wanna see some photos of my Vanitas in progress?

This is an early manifestation of the set up.  I find it neat how still life objects come together in paintings, and how they recur in painting after painting.  The turquoise table top is actually an old rotten shutter that I found in someone's trash while they were performing an illegal home renovation in Toronto.  I figure if they're already doing something illegal, how illegal is it for me to go through their garbage?  These same shutters appeared in my "Bottle Fly" painting and in Dave's Vanitas painting.  Which means that while Dave and I were purging furniture and kitchen ware to save money on our move across country, we decided it was necessary to keep a bunch of nasty old boards.

Here's a quick colour study.  It's kind of pointless.  I think I was trying to look busy or something so that I didn't have to help Dave with dinner.

Transferred skull.  This is a lovely panel that Dave made.

Wiped transferred outline away a bit so that it's easier to paint over.  The burnt sienna contrasts the turquoise and is going to make a neat underpainting.  I did this with my Bottle Fly so it's pretty much guaranteed to work.  When I apply the turquoise paint colour, I will do so with scratchy brush strokes and a palette knife so as to allow the underpainting to shimmer through.  The most important thing though, is to make sure that this underpainting is exactly the right value.  If you are tone blind, the monochrome setting on your camera can help you out.  But really, if you're tone blind, take up macrame or ice-sculpting or something.

If you look really close you might be able to make out two giant arrows that are pointing at two gobs of paint.  The gobs of paint are turquoise that I have mixed up to match the still life set up.  I have smeared them onto the still-wet underpainting to see if the values sit right.

Start of ébauche.

More ébauche.

I knocked back the underpainting for the wood a little bit.  There is now a motley of grey and red which I decided would work better.  It may not look like it because of the exposure of this photo, but I maintained the value when I scumbled over it.  The skull has been painted again and the flowers and shells are in place.

The skull was painted, oh, a couple more times.  For the final pass I switched to lead white.  As you can see I fudged the table top to make it about three times as thick as in the set up, and for interest's sake I added a keyhole, so ta-da, it is now a chest that the skull is resting on.  This is the first still life that I have completed from natural light and I finally have the warm-cool balance that I've been trying to achieve.  Time to go smash all my fluorescent light bulbs.

Not sure if these photos really show the full range of colour in the whites.  There's a lot of bouncing around from blue to yellow to red, which I think it kind of cool.  But that's the beauty of showing work online.  I get to say, "Oh, my camera doesn't really capture it, my work is so much better in real life," and you have to take my word for it.

Here are the pre-mixed colours I used to paint my "whites."

So the painting's done now.  Or is it?  I have this dead dragonfly just lying around, all like, "So is there a reason you've been keeping me in a tupperware in the freezer for six months?  Nah it's cool.  Don't immortalize me if you don't want to.  I'll be here the next time you go digging for frozen tater tots."


Posted by: Dave

1. Painting from "The Goonies." "Give me a nice big lickery kiss."

2. Painting of Vigo The Carpathian from "Ghostbusters 2." Who doesn't remember Vigo, the 400 year dark warlord who missed his kitten? For me, this is one of the most memorable paintings from my childhood, and still reads today as a fairly harmonious and well composed piece. The actual painting was exectued by Lou Police and is currently hanging in Ivan Reitman's home

3. Painting from the "Royal Tenenbaums." Just as cool in its randomness as its awesomeness. According to imdb, "The monster-masked men paintings in Eli's apartment are attributed to Mexican artist Miguel Calderon and were part of his 1998 exhibit "Aggressively Mediocre/Mentally Challenged/Fantasy Island (circle one)", though they were not actually painted by him. Calderón took photographs of his friends posed on motorcycles and, after deciding the photographs were not realistic, hired a portrait painter to reproduce them on canvas."

4. Formal portrait of Biff from "Back to the Future 2." Biff is one of my favorite characters from almost any film from the 80's, next to Lo Pan of course. On a side note, my friend brought up a very good point about the conclusion of the first movie which never really sat well with me. It was rather odd that at the end of the movie, Marty's family history had been completely changed with his father's altercation with Biff at the "Under the Sea Dance." The weird part is, his family didn't find it strange that all of a sudden Marty couldn't remember the last 18 years of his life upon his return to 1985. Makes you think.

5. The Necronomicon from "Evil Dead 2." The Necronomican is really one of the very few books nowadays that is worth reading. Also, if anyone responds with "what about the Da Vinci code?" You need to take a good long hard look in the mirror...then slap yourself across the face.

6. Sculpture from "Big Trouble in Little China." This was Kim Cattrell's only good role before she took the part for the grandmother in "Sex in the City."

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Name these Awesome paintings from Awesome movies

Posted by: Dave

I thought I would test everyones knowledge of art history and see if you can identify what movies these masterworks came from. I will post the answers in a couple days. (And if you are wondering why I didn't include the paintings from Samantha's gallery in "Sex in the City", it is because I wanted this to be a post about awesome movies with awesome paintings, not wussy paintings from estrogeny movies. If fact, if you have ever even seen "Sex in the City", please leave my blog and only return after you have watched "Commando" and "Deathwish 3" back to back to redeem yourself.)

Super bonus ID, name the movie this sculpture is from.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Big Trouble in Little China

Posted by: Kate

The ACOPAL Grand Prize Winners and Finalists have been announced and as usual we found out the results from better informed third-parties over facebook. Dave's "Trapper" piece was given one of the three Grand Prize awards and will be making an appearance in China. He was away visiting family on Thanksgiving, and on the phone the other day before we got the results he was all like, "Psshh, yah, I wasn't going to enter, but then I thought what the heck, and entered in like the last twenty minutes before the competition closed, and my painting's not even dry yet, and after entering I emailed Paul McCormack and asked him to reject my entry, but meh, whatever, it's not like I'll get anything."

Because Dave's painting is just too fresh to ship and needs to cure for several months in a meat locker to reach full potency, it will not be appearing at the Butler Institute in Ohio; it will be included for exhibit in the World Art Museum in China in 2012.

Monday, November 28, 2011


Posted by: Kate

Dave and I were asked to each provide a Vanitas painting for a larger, multi-artist project.  While Dave already had one, I had to come up with something specifically for this project.  The problem is that I'm not really down with the whole "endeavor is futile, life is fleeting, moan moan moan," message behind the vanitas genre.  The vanitas painters were the 17th century's emo kids.  I understand the historical context, but come on, we live to like seventy these days, no one dies of leprosy anymore (not in my neighborhood at least), and all the luxuries and pleasures we enjoy these days preclude the woe-is-me-I'll-be-in-my-room-with-a-single-lit-taper-contemplating-my-skull attitude.

I wanted to do a new take on the Vanitas theme.  The thought of doing a dark and grim painting was not inspiring; I wanted to do something bright and colorful, even feminine.  I didn't want to present death as scary and hideous.  In addition to bright colors and flooding light, I included some seashells (representing birth) and white hydrangea blossoms (I don't know what they represent but they're awfully pretty and they make me think of spring).

Here is my vanitas painting in progress last week when I had an awesome camera on loan from a friend.  Mine will be back in action soon, thank god, but it will be like getting back together with a fat, lazy and emotionally distant ex after having a fling with a toned cabana boy on vacation.


Here's a close up of the chompers:

Saturday, November 26, 2011

One manly little girl

Posted by: Kate

Here is a progress outline of how I painted a study/sketch/whatever you want to call it of my cousin's kid Emily.  My camera broke down part way through, but I've put this step-by-step together so smoothly that you probably won't even notice where a dozen steps are missing.

Step 1: Start drybrushing to place the features.

Step 2:  Succumb to boredom and dive into colour.

Step 3:  Keep going in spite of your instincts.

Step 4:  That's better.

Step 5:  Once dry, go over it again.


Step 6:  Out of curiosity I did something I tried on a project last year.  I imported a photo of the painting into my computer and compared it to the original photo by overlaying them in Photoshop.  I was doing this to see just how accurate my drawing was, considering I slacked on that part.  I was surprised to find that the only real error was that her left eye was a little far out.  See below for the correction.

Here's the face at the end of the orbital reconstruction:

Step 7:  Now finish it.

Looking at the picture here, her colour is a little saccharine, although pretty colourful for a palette with only black, white, yellow, and red on it, plus a cameo from Transparent Red Oxide.  I think I went wrong when I lost the half-tones in the cheeks, and also the whites of her eyes are a bit bright, but any darker and she didn't seem to be meeting your gaze anymore.  The white was necessary, but it kind of destroys the naturalism.  Actually I'm starting to feel revved up to do some more work on this painting.

I have a bit of a problem with how cherubic Emily looks here.  For one thing, in real life she's fascinated with all creatures slimy and scaly.  For another, in addition to being artistically inclined, she draws pretty manly subject matter.  Her granddad likes to hunt and she was recently caught drawing a picture of a hanging moose quarter.  Drawings don't get much manlier.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Lucie and the Wind--DONE

Posted by: Kate

Kate here after a long hiatus.  Dave did pretty great job running the blog there for a bit, although I might have to go back to my website and remove the link to this blog so that people considering buying my paintings don't stumble across Dave's Taco Bowel comments and get turned off by us.

Time to wrap up the Lucie painting.  I finished it ages ago but right when I was ready to photograph it my camera croaked.  Luckily I was able to borrow one from a very generous friend and so we'll finish this thing.

Here is the finished painting all greased up with essential oil of petroleum (a sneak preview of what it will look like with varnish):

I ended up repainting the face again.  The problem with titanium white is it changes colour, and I am not imagining this.  I used to think I was crazy but then a few years ago I talked to another stricken soul who had uncovered the truth (and actually had the most impressive swatch tests to prove it) and I realized I was not alone.  You are not alone either.  If you are having trouble matching your flesh tones from a previous day, or when the paint dries and for some reason there is an obvious seam between different days' work, the solution is to bin the titanium already and switch to lead for the final pass.  And wear gloves, please

Right when I was finishing the painting I had this revelation that if I want people to know my name I should probably put it, instead of a monogram, on my paintings.  Yeah, I thought of that all on my own.

Anyhoo, I should explain the title.  The reason why this painting is called "Lucie and the Wind" and not "Lucie in the Wind" (which some people have called it), is because I had Robert Munsch's children's book "Millicent and the Wind" playing over in my head while I was developing the painting.  If you're not familiar with the story, it's about a girl who lives in the mountains far away from other children her age.  With no one to play with, she entertains herself with the wind.


(I'm suddenly French)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Trapper Finished

Posted by: Dave

Here is a good image of the Trapper finally. I would like to give extra special thanks to our friend Angela for lending us her Canon 5D. This camera is good enough to shoot through time to capture images that haven't even happened yet. That's how good it is.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Posted by: Dave

Jason De Graaf got the answers right in about 30 seconds, and has proved his manliness among the art world. Congratulations. Our close second, who wins my infinite respect (valued at over 195 dollars), was Matthew Innis.

Answers to questions below.

Answer 1. Click here.

Answer 2. Belly of the pig.

Answer 3. Click here.

Trapper Finished (more or less)

Posted by: Dave 

Well, here it is in all its manly glory. Again, not the best photo but I wanted to show it anyway. I guess I should talk about some techniques but then I have to put some thought into this entry, and as my readers know, that's not my style. Instead, I bring you our first ever on-line blog competition (take that Underpaintings) to win the color study for "The Trapper". That's right, this is your chance to own a rather worthless non impressive original by yours truly.

Take a long hard look at the painting below before attempting to answer any of the questions.

Question 1

In "Commando", what did Arnold Schwarzenegger throw through Bennett to defeat him?

Question 2

What part of the pig does bacon come from?

Question 3

Which "Pantera" album cover features a man being punched in the face ?

email answers through here. First correct answers win. Please include mailing address with answers. NOTE: this competition is open only to individuals living in North America.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Painting Doppleganger

Posted by: Dave

Portrait painting by William Paxton looks like Mr. Pewterschmidt

Monday, November 7, 2011

Trapper 4

Posted by: Dave

First off, I am sorry about the quality of the photo. I have seen 8 year olds with shoebox cameras take better photos than I do. For photography questions, ask my wife. She's the brains of the operation, I'm just the trophy husband. I am sure she will do a posting on photographing artwork and cameras at some point in the future.

I am now starting to break down the face into smaller planes and more subtleties. I am working with some medium at this point. Some areas I will leave looser and more textured, while others will be tightened up. When it really comes down to it, the most important thing is how the piece reads visually from about 6 feet away. This is the optimal distance that most people will view works. If you ever see someone looking at a work from an inch away, they are probably an artist.

I have said this before; you cannot paint everything the same way and expect it to read as the proper texture. In my opinion, it is possible to over render something, at which point it can look graphic. You can see how much impasto there is on the collar versus the face. I built up the collar with thick brushstrokes of lead white paint which I let dry. I rubbed raw umber into the cervices then wiped the excess away, giving it a gritty quality and having the brushstrokes read as fur. I call this painting for "effect." This essentially means that I am not copying what I see verbatim, but actually using the various qualities of paint to emulate something. I did a similar thing to the hair. There are really only 2 ways to paint hair. You can render 100,000 of them, or group them together in masses. I hear a lot of people say to think of hair as fabric, but I prefer to think of it as slabs of bacon covering a giant ham.

I will try to upload some decent photos when I get them.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Video Review for Iain Mccaig's Visual Storytelling

Posted by: Dave

I had the good fortune to be able to watch the first edition of this series. Even though the DVD's seem to be targeted towards concept artists, I would have to say this series would be extremely useful for any fine artist who intends on painting narrative works. He gives you a lot to think about in terms of composition, design, expression, planning, and story. This is not a purely technical DVD, as it will take you through the processes needed to put the images in your mind into something visual.

One of my favorite points he makes about expression is how it has to be read in context. He discusses the idea that if you were to take an actor with a rather neutral expression, then put him in various contexts, the viewer will read his emotion differently each time (even if the whole time he has the same expression). Basically, you don't need someone screaming with rage and pulling their hair out to show anger. In addition, he manages to get me extremely emotionally invested in the characters he is talking about.

This is literally the only art instructional video I could watch the entire way through without taking a break. It moved very well, and before I knew it, 2 hours had passed. In addition, it has great re-watch appeal.

Iain Mccaig was the creative force behind the new Star Wars movie. He designed Darth Maul and many of the stunning costumes of the film. He is a veteran concept artist and storyteller.

Click here for more information on ordering.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Trapper Part 3

Posted by: Dave

So the piece is pretty well under way, but more importantly I have very exciting news. They have brought "Beavis and Butthead" back to television with brand new episodes. It is truly a great time in which to live. Remember these classic moments from our childhood? I certainly do.

Most of the piece has had at least one pass at it. I have spent a bit of time building paint up on the face, hand, and fur collar, especially in the lightest areas. The face is almost ready for second painting. For things like the collar, I always find it useful to start almost too soft to get the big effect before putting in any details. Edges and value relations are two of the greatest factors in creating atmosphere, so it is better to err on the soft side of things. They can be easily sharpened later if needed. In addition, I also try to not exaggerate values too much within each element of the painting. My wife mentioned value grouping in one of her "Lucie and the Wind" postings. And yes, that is a big shadow across the bottom right of the painting.

Detail of hand.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Trapper Now

Posted by: Dave
I am starting to move into first painting at this point. At this stage I always like to lay in the lightest and darkest notes in order to scale my values.
I begin to break up things into broad planes. As you can see, the face is still rather grey in chroma. I always find it best to work less chromatic and darker in the earlier layers. That way, lighter and more chromatic areas will be the thickest areas of paint as you build up more layers. The opposite is true of alla prima however. Always start overly chromatic in the beginning of a single session painting as it will gray as the colors mix together. This stage is about an hour and a half into the painting.
The piece as of now after a little less than 2 days of work. The photo is showing it quite a bit grayer than it actually is. I will continue to build paint and correct things, and break down forms as I go. This is the painting's "ugly stage." Paintings to me are a lot like kids. They start out attractive and exciting, then they go their their frustrating ugly pimply teenage years, and finally they look normal again whey they are all grown up.

If you have any questions about my techniques, ask them here.