Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Posted by: Dave

I'm sure with the rampant art instruction and ateliers popping up all over the place, most everyone is already acquainted with what a "block-in" constitutes.  For those of you who don't know, or for those who want to see how I do it, here comes the fun.  A "block-in", also known as a "construct," pretty much lays out the proportions and shadow patterns of a subject.  It usually does not deal with edge quality or form, but merely structural components.  This is usually either further rendered into a  more completed drawing (see historic example above), or executed in preparation for a painting.  The likeness of the subject should be achieved at this stage, as no amount of shading or rendering later on will yield a likeness if the shapes are not correct.   The block-in here is part of a still life of a coyote skull, and before all you hippies start whining about hunting coyotes, I didn't shoot it....I ran it over with my car.  

I always try to start with the largest proportions first, usually the contours.  Proportions are simplified into large planes, represented by thick juicy lines.  These lines more or less give you a margin of error and are easy to erase.  Think of lines like relationships.  Soft thick lines are non committal, like a floozie you would meet in the back alley of a truck stop.   When you make hard dark lines on the other hand, you are pretty much married to as it is hard to get rid of.  The lines shown here are made by holding the pencil from the back, which gives full range of motion so you can draw from the wrist.  As the block-in advances, the lines become more refined and committed.The beginning of a construct is where I do most of the measuring, usually with a plumb line or the back of my pencil.  Height and width are always the first two things I measure.  After awhile, measuring is not as useful as merely making visual comparisons.  I remember back in my teaching days I would tell someone their proportions were off in their completed construct and they would respond with "Waaaaaaaah, but I measured, waaaaaaah." I would always have to explain that there is quite a bit of room for error when measuring with tools, and therefore your eyes are more accurate. Afterwards, they would worship me for my insight and flog themselves with sticks for ever doubting me (at least, that's how I am going to remember it in my head.)  In addition, visual comparisons are also extremely easy when sight sizing.  Using things like a black mirror are a huge help as well.  Also, abstraction of shapes can also be helpful (instead of thinking of a shape as an ankle, think of it as a dead baby penguin.)  Disassociating yourself from what something actually is enables one to draw it more objectively.

After the contour seems accurate enough, and I stress enough as its not going to perfect, I begin to work more interior landmarks, and eventually the shadow pattern.  Always simple to more complicated.  Larger lines to smaller ones. Below is a good example of a block in by Charles Bargue from his drawing course.  If  you haven't picked this book up yet, do it. 

Clearly this drawing isn't meant to win any beauty competitions, but it will be very useful after I transfer it and start painting.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Results are in

Posted by: Dave

The results are in for the ultimate zombie art contest.  The judging process was extremely difficult, and little 8 year old Penelope spent two commercial breaks deliberating over the winner.  In the end however, it was Raoul Vitale with his "Lawyers of the Living Dead" piece that took the grand prize.  However, everyone who entered is really a winner, as they are making manly art that rules.  Congrats to all.   Please take some time to look at some of my favorite entries. 

Raoul Vitale - Winner

Rahul Kumar

John McLeod 

  Craig Stevens

Norman Chu

Richard Morris

        Vince Natale

I have to say that having so many amazing entries really makes me happy I have this blog.  Thanks to everyone.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Iron Maiden Part V

Posted by: Kate

In real time this painting is just about done, but time warp to a couple of weeks ago, and here is her face after wrapping up the first-painting of the eyes and nose, side by side with how it looked at the end of last post.

I've got some nice gooeyness in the eyes, and that highlight on the nose is totally gratuitous but adds a bit of realism.  Nichole does an excellent job with her make up and for all I know puts a lot of effort into not looking shiny, but in a painting pretty much anyone will look good with a little bit of bacon grease shine on their nose.  It's like with dogs.  A healthy painting has a wet nose.

Now for some fun stuff.  As I mentioned before, Nichole is covered head to toe in gorgeous tattoos by her husband Joshua Carlton, who is pushing the limits of realism in that medium.  We recently attended a tattoo conference with him and saw first hand how tough looking dudes covered in tattoos turn into blushing girls in his presence.  I'd provide a link to his website, but since google images turns up over 2,470,000 results he's rightly decided he doesn't need one.  On her chest is a mask design that I thought would make this a really awesome frontal portrait.  I've always liked front facing portraits but everyone else has to be all fancy with their three-quarter views and such, hating on my frontal portraits.  Well, in this portrait I wanted the viewer to experience the double gaze of Nichole and her tattoo, so it had to be frontal to work.  Double anything is twice as good.

Above is a sequence showing how I painted her hair.  I laid in a Jackie O-like mass of transparent black (ivory plus ultramarine blue and red iron oxide) using a wee bit of Gamsol.  Next, I began massing in some of the lighter areas with a little white.  In real life the lighter areas are a bit bluish and the transparent areas reveal the red iron oxide wash in the background underneath, so very effortlessly I achieved a play between warms and cools.

Again using my trusty combo of ultramarine blue plus red iron oxide, I created a transparent brown that could nudge either to the blue or the red end and did a little test area for the carved lion's head that she's leaning on.  There actually isn't a carved wooden lion's head on the IKEA office chair that she's sitting in, but I thought the only thing cooler than the double gaze of Nichole plus her tattoo would be a triple gaze.  I have nothing to go on except several google images of antique carvings and a design I made up, and I was angsting a little over how this completely made up element would turn out, so this was my test run to see if I could get it to work.

Here I've sketched in the position of her body and limbs with soft vine charcoal, which is completely removable and thus completely useless in all other regards.  The clothing was then painted using the same approach as her hair.

Finally I was able to lay in the background.  Normally I would lay in the background as soon as possible so that I could get the big picture, but I've been operating without a mahl stick this whole time and I can't risk inadvertently smudging flesh tone over a nice background with the heel of my hand.  I've been trying to use a broomstick but it looks ridiculous and weighs about a pound.

And that's all for today.  I have two chocolate bars in the kitchen and they aren't going to eat themselves.  Oh, and this.