Thursday, September 19, 2013


As promised yesterday, today I present you with the second of my quick study paintings done just before IlluxCon.

 While I could have dug back into my catalog of model photos, I decided I needed to do something different. Really different. I wanted the second piece to clearly be a fantasy image, but that's about all. I pondered this for a while and began to list off things that I hoped the piece might accomplish thinking that placing these restrictions on myself might result in an idea. What it resulted in, however, was my thinking of this second piece as being very precious and important. So I threw that all out the window and looked at it another way.

One of the things I am often asked to do at events and conventions is to do drawings on the back of my artist proofs.  For those not in the know, artist proofs are essentially Magic cards printed with a plain, white back instead of the Magic logo. Long ago, artist proofs of various products had a very real purpose. They existed so that the artist could see their work printed in hopes to control quality. As time passed, artist proofs became less necessary as the printing process continued to improve and the margin of error continued to narrow. The artist proofs Magic artists get nowadays, for example, are issued to us long after the print runs have been completed. Indeed they seem to exist for only one reason: they're highly collectible as there are only 50 in existence of any given card.

Now that I've gotten that explanation out of the way, I can tell you that one of the side effects of the artist proofs existing is that Magic artists are often asked to draw on the blank, white back of them. Sometimes specific images are requested. More often than not, however, I've been asked to draw whatever I want.

While I do try and treat each drawing as a unique piece of art rather than an opportunity to knock out a stock image I could do with my eyes closed, themes have inevitably developed within my drawings over the years. One of the themes I've revisited most often involves the juxtaposition of fantasy/horror tropes with small birds. The origin of this theme is hard to explain but suffice it to say that I've always had a fascination with little birds throughout my life. Sure, the larger avian species are cool and all, but the little guys who nonchalantly flit about have always been the most interesting to me. Especially those cloaked in browns and grays, eschewing bright plumage like that of their flashier cousins. Appearing unremarkable, such birds are nevertheless ever-present, always watching.

And so, I decided to treat this second painting as I would the blank back of an artist proof and visit this theme not in pen or marker, but in oil paint.

©Steven Belledin

The first session took about an hour and consisted of me blocking everything in using colors I had left over from another painting I was doing at the time. Initially, it had some interesting qualities that evoked the idea of a monotype, but not really. Essentially, it was just really scrubby and loose, but I am kind of kicking myself for not photographing the thing at this stage.

The second session consisted of me finishing the painting over about two hours.

Like the first study, this is oil on primed harboard and measures 5" x 7". As I see it, this piece is not about the zombie, and so I titled it accordingly. Or maybe I was just trying to be cute. Whatever the case, I call it Chickadee.

The takeaway from these pieces is that I should do more. I enjoyed painting them immensely, they involved very little risk, and they got a pretty decent response. Above all else, they're a fast means of getting ideas out in a very tangible way and in a more fleshed-out manner than my lackluster sketches allow for. How often I'll get to do them and how many I'll be doing in the future is something I can't rightly answer, but I suspect that you'll be seeing me talk about more of these as they come into existence. I'll be sure to include the failures, as well.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Study of Apathy I

This past weekend, I had the fortune of being included in the Weekend Salon of IlluxCon. It was an interesting show and as usual managed to both crush my soul and provide ample amounts of inspiration. If nothing else, the show managed to remind me of how hard I should be working if I want to be included in the main show. But then no one who has ever read this blog should find it surprising that I see my work as inadequate.

Anyway, between the cross country relocation, my assignments and two weeks spent chained to a desk doing concept art, I was left with very little time to prepare for IlluxCon this year. In addition to this lack of time, I was for a variety of reasons also short on new work to display. And so, given the circumstances, the best I could do as far as new work went was to paint a couple quick pieces that I hoped would be worth a darn. Work on these pieces was done while taking short breaks from painting my assignments at night after long days of concepting in-house in the weeks before IlluxCon, and their completion came down to the wire. Indeed I was expecting to have to varnish at least one of them during the show itself.

I decided that the first of these pieces would be figurative, and at the end of the day did not include any fantasy elements. It would be just a straightforward study. And were this a normal discussion of my work, I would show you a sketch at this point. However, where this piece is concerned, there was no sketch. I had a reference photograph I took of a model from a couple years ago (the same model that can be seen in my as yet unfinished and only recently unboxed personal piece), and a primed 5" x7" piece of hardboard. And some oil paint. And brushes and such.

Here is the result:

©Steven Belledin

Aside from what I've already said, there's very little to add. I guess I could say that I blocked the whole thing in in about two hours and then refined it in a second session that lasted about an hour. I guess I could also tell you that I enjoyed painting it quite a bit, and that I'm not entirely unhappy with the piece — especially given the fairly minimal time investment.

Tomorrow I'll show you the second one, which is quite a bit different.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Where I've Been...Sorta

I'll open this post with the obligatory apology for my absence. I have not posted anything for over a month and I'm not super happy with myself over the fact. If nothing else, it nags at me that the entire month of August will be unrepresented in my blog archive.

June, July...September. Fail.

I also apologize in advance for the amorphous nature of this post and it's total uselessness. If anything, it exists purely to assure anyone curious enough that I am, in fact, still quite alive, and have not given up on the blog.

Still, in my defense, a lot has happened since July 29th, and I thought I'd take the opportunity to give you all a bit of a rundown to bring you all up to current events.

First, we completed the move from New Jersey to Seattle. This involved two stays at two different temporary housing facilities, two stays at two different hotels, and finally an apartment. It also required a tractor trailer with a driver called Virgil, and about six weeks of time total to get us and our stuff out of the Garden State and deposit it in the Evergreen State (which over the summer took on a brownish color in Seattle).

Second, we managed to completely unpack. Normally, this would have been a slightly more leisurely event, but I kind of needed to get my stuff squared away before the 19th of August for reasons I will get to in a moment. I also had painting to do and apparently have an inability to think clearly when all our worldly possessions are crammed into boxes. Rather than painting, I felt the need to help our stuff escape its respective corrugated prisons so that I might create chaos from order only to enstate a new order, which allowed me to finally start painting on a "Blue Monday" with a clear mind.

See what I did there?

The short version is that we got moved in and settled. We even managed to take the time to clean the mystery stains out of the basement carpet.

Mmmmm... mystery stains.

Third, as mentioned above, on August 19th, I started a two week stint as a concept artist. It was a short burst and it was intense. But it was also awesome. During that two weeks, I did lots of stuff I can't talk about. Some of the stuff I did was with a pencil. Some other stuff was digital. And when I was finished doing stuff I can't tell you about during the daytime, I would come home each night and paint more stuff I can't talk about.

Funny how secretive I must be about what it is that I supposedly do all day. I mean, I'm not exactly starting coups and unseating dictators. Not exactly. Steve Belledin: art spy.

Anyway, with those three big events, time became a very precious commodity. I was busy. Really busy. Too busy, even, to get stressed about any of it. I had so much on my plate that all I could do was focus on one small thing at a time and ignore the bigger picture. I just had to trust that the bigger stuff would fall into place while I slowly completed things on a checklist. Fortunately, my faith in things working out was well founded because they did, in fact, work out. Plus I got all the things done I needed to do.

Except write anything for this blog, of course.

Now, I do have some false starts of posts begun over the last month that I'll be looking over again — mostly to do with moving one's studio and the kind of people you deal with when you move (people who tell you you're wrong for liking cities you like and such). If they're worth something, I'll try and bang them into shape. They just won't be particularly timely anymore. But, there might at least be enough useful information or entertainment value to excuse their existence.

Of course, all this depends on how the coming months go. I've got a few art posts that need writing and IlluxCon to prepare for. Then there's the painting that I need to turn in before the con. And then it's off to do more concepting once I'm home from the con, plus more painting. I'm sure I could afford to skip a meal or lose a few hours of sleep to make a post or two happen. No one will notice. Right?

How did I get so busy? And why am I so happy about it?