Monday, April 24, 2017

Process Post: Oh, To Be Free!

This painting happened accidentally in a way. After having finished my children’s book, which, at the time of this writing, is still yet to be published, I had many conflicting and contradicting feelings. I was both drained but energized – the children’s book took a lot out of me but I learned so much that I wanted to create something new. In a similar way, it felt good not having to create an image for someone other than myself, but then, it seemed difficult for me to create something without a prompt. Where would I start from? Where was my base?

I had started working on a big piece that tried to incorporate what I learned and utilized an existing sketch. However, that got nowhere fast after I quickly got to coloring it. I’ll likely pick it back up but it stalled me.

I often have feelings similar to writers’/artists’ block but I’ve always told myself that those things don’t exist. If you’re stuck for ideas, just start working. Start drawing, start painting, start writing.

I don’t always follow my own advice.

While I created small sketches here and there, I didn’t think much of them. There’s a very different mindset between what I create in a small sketchbook and what I end up creating digitally. In a funny kind of way (funny to me), I consider my digital work much more painterly than my non-digital work.

But then, I just got hit. I’m not sure it could be described as a bout of inspiration. More like an image in my head flew at me and smacked me in the forehead. I don’t believe in inspiration, but I do love when that happens.

Lucky for me, it happens a lot.

So I started sketching and ended up here. Unfortunately, I don't have the original version of the figure, but it went through a TON of refining to get to this place. Anatomy is still a weak point so my first attempts are always rough and I'm always trying to get better. So this black outline started off very differently and I had to keep redrawing it to get the positioning right.

Things were moving in the right direction – there were a few things I needed to fix, namely the positioning, the lighting at the top, and how I would position what you’d later see as the dissipation elements (for lack of a better/more accurate phrase) - which is what seems to be falling off the figure. You can see that the black line drawing looks very different from what I ended up moving forward with. I also have a different color-only version that I deleted from the final version.

For very personal reasons, I was pretty committed to using very primary and heavily saturated colors - blue, red, yellow, white (ish). Non-personally, this was new to me. As you may have noticed (or not, I don't mind) my color palette is largely, not saturated. It's very pastel, light, unsaturated.

This was not the case here, as you can see with the figure, and the background, which I played with a lot.

This was also the first time I used a mixture of brushes in my painting, starting with a flatter 'Oil' brush by Kyle Webster, creator of Photoshop brushes extraordinaire. You can see the first background here by itself here.

I've been playing with the idea of using his brushes because I know they're used by a number of artists I admire. The brush was helpful in laying down large swaths of color but it was too smooth. It felt unnatural, almost too easy, and definitely too much like it was done via computer. This isn't a knock against the brush. Actually, it means I need more practice with it to make it feel like it's not totally computer-generated. After all, the brush I use now is computer-generated, but I've found a way to use it without having the painting look too computer-generated.

So I started using the other brush to develop more texture within the painting itself. I painted over the background, and the figure - and you can see that the initial oil wash was helpful in just putting down a base color. This may be a technique I'll use in the future. You can see the textured version here. (This is only slightly different from the final background. I duplicated the 'stars' layer to make the brighter and then added a upper-right corner light, using Kyle's brush because it needed to fade)

However, I kept going back and forth with the additional flowy material (named 'flowy' cause I have no other better name for it). This took a lot of time. When I started with color, it didn't look right. And then I would draw it in like but then when I colored that, it also didn't look right. I needed to take some time to really think about it. Sometimes, it helps to draw it in another medium.

I came to a solution via another drawing which you can see here.

Interestingly enough, while this drawing started out as a study of how to solve the problem, it ended up turning out into an entirely different painting.

I came back to 'Oh, To Be Free' and started working on the 'flowy' elements much in the same way I did in the drawing and came back here, really enjoying the way the element made the limb disappear in a way.

I ended going in a different direction but still based on the pencil drawing. The 'flowy' elements ended up creating a void in the figure, which allowed me to play with space. From there I added the stars, the invisible elements (which I'm noticing is a pattern in my work), and cleaned up the figure a bit.

Again, while this piece comes from a very personal space, it's interesting because I was still able to learn and play with new tools. After a long bout of commissioned work that taught me a TON in terms of visual communication and problem solving, it was nice to take what I learned and apply it to a new piece.

Please enjoy, 'Oh, To Be Free!'