Monday, May 19, 2014

MicroVisions Part 3

With the first and second MicroVisions pieces under my belt, I finally got to concentrate on the third and final painting. Like the second, I began it with some sort of idea. This idea, however, was a bit larger than the piece I would be painting. Still, I figured that this was a chance to put together a study or proof of concept.

Once again, I returned to the well of small birds. But rather than pair a small bird with a fantasy trope, I decided to set this little bird on fire. Not a horrifying, consumptive fire, mind you, but a fire emanating from within. So, kind of a miniature phoenix...but not really.

Anyway, I started with a palette of burnt sienna, raw umber, burnt umber, cadmium yellow medium, cadmium red medium, titanium white, and payne's gray. I worked the piece up to a certain point and suddenly began to question whether or not I was happy with the color scheme. It was feeling a little monochromatic. So, I took a quick photo of it, brought it into Photoshop and created two alternatives for myself. I then showed the two options to my wife for her input.

Amy chose the more colorful option, and I'm happy she did. Though the piece didn't end up nearly as saturated, I think adding the cooler colors was the right way to go.

Since being asked in February to participate in MicroVisions, my plan was always to paint multiple pieces and let the organizers decide which one they'd like. Once I'd completed this one, however, I knew full well it would be the one they chose. Still, I emailed the options and awaited their decision. Not surprisingly, this was the piece I ended up shipping out to the Society of Illustrators for the show.

The really great part about this piece is that it confirmed for me that a larger, more involved painting involving a similar subject was absolutely worthwhile. Whether it will cause me to kick to the side the large work that I seem to have stalled on has yet to be seen, but I feel like this one's got momentum and may be the next thing I set to once I've completed my current slate of commissions. Either way, it's something I'll be keeping everyone posted on. I suspect that it will be a fun and challenging painting.

That I was invited to participate in MicroVisions this year is a little mind-blowing to me. Given the caliber of artists in previous years and the quality of work produced, I honestly didn't feel worthy. But I'm very grateful to have been included, and I'm happy with the work that I got out of it.

But really, that's not the important part.

After all, this show is actually about raising money for a student scholarship fund. This piece and the others in the show are to be auctioned off and that auction went live today (May 19, 2014). Hopefully, it goes well.

If you're still interested in seeing the works in person, they are still on display at the Society of Illustrators in New York City and will remain so through May the 24th. If you're interested in seeing all of the works online, they can be found here: link. And, of course, if you're interested in bidding on the pieces, the ebay auction can be found here: link.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

MicroVisions Part 2

After completing the first piece for the MicroVisions show, I started the second and third. To change things up, I began both of these with at least a kernel of an idea. The second completed was the most heavily referenced of the three in that it ended up being based on a photo of a model I'd hired a couple times in the past.

There's really not much I can say about the process of this one, as there really wasn't much to it. I had the photo and I laid out the composition with the paint and went to town. It actually came together pretty quickly. The palette this go around was fairly limited again and was mostly alizarin crimson, pthalo green, a little payne's gray, yellow ochre, flesh tint (Windsor & Newton), Naples yellow and titanium white.

Some of you may have noticed that flesh tint was used both in this piece and the last. I'm not sure a whole lot of artists use the color regularly (if at all). That it's called "flesh tint" to begin with has always amused me as it's a pretty unnatural color to be. Were anyone's flesh actually that color, they should see a doctor immediately. Consequently, I rarely use it to paint actual skin. More often the not, it's something I mix into other colors, and is only something I use out of the tube in skies and clouds (though it finds itself elsewhere from time to time).

Weirdly, the first time I used both flesh tint and Naples yellow was after they were forced upon me by a professor during a figure painting class in college. Looking at my palette at the time and watching how I worked, he rummaged through his own supply and added them to the fairly limited range of colors I was using. Something clicked for me with both colors and they've made regular appearances on my palette ever since (though I have to admit that Naples yellow gets far more use).

All that being said, it's pretty likely that flesh tint did, in fact, find its way into the skin on this piece (though mixed down quite a bit).

Looking at this piece in the context of the range of pieces contributed to the MicroVisions show, it's fascinating that many of the contributing artists chose to paint a female face or figure. I'm not entirely sure why so many of us chose that direction. Perhaps because we assumed it might sell well and raise more money? Perhaps because it's a subject we don't often get to do? Perhaps because it's been a recurring theme in art since antiquity? I can't really speculate much on the reasons why the other artists chose to go in that direction, but I know that all three of those factors passed through my head at one point or another while painting this piece.

When I passed my options along to the organizers of the show, this piece was not the one that was chosen, and again I was okay with that. I don't dislike it, either. The real problem is that I just didn't like it as much as the one that actually made the cut.

Next week, I'll talk about the third and final piece — you know, the one that actually is in the show. Speaking of the show, as of this writing (May 15, 2014), MicroVisions is still hanging at the Society of Illustrators in New York City and will remain there through the 24th of May. Might be worth a look-see.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

MicroVisions Part 1

Back in February, I was invited to contribute to this year's MicroVisions show. For the uninitiated, this is a show of small illustrations donated by artists to the Society of Illustrators for an auction to help bolster their Student Scholarship Fund. Given the cause, the virtual who's who of past participants and the amazing quality throughout the history of the show, I excitedly said yes, but truth be told I was nervous as all getout.

Why the nerves? Well, given the names of my fellow artists, I concluded early on that it was a foregone conclusion that I'd be bringing up the rear quality-wise. Seriously. Let's take a look at the names of the other artists, shall we?

Tran Nguyen
Nicolas Delort
Robert Hunt
Eric Fortune
Iain McCaig
Karla Ortiz
Greg Manchess

So, yeah. How am I supposed to live up to that? I couldn't. But I did have an idea.

One word: volume.

I decided that instead of doing one piece, I'd do three. The way I saw it, doing more than one relieved me of the pressure of doing that one, amazing piece that would blow everyone away while simultaneously curing world hunger, revealing all of the mysteries of the universe, and finally getting people to like me. By doing three, I could spread out such responsibility and decrease my risk of feeling like an utter failure while dramatically increasing the chances that at least one of the resulting images would be worth a damn. So I set to work.

As far as constraints go, there are virtually none with MicroVisions. There's no theme, no art direction. The pieces produced just need to be 5 inches by 7 inches. Vertical or horizontal. Given that I've of late been trying to keep some small pieces going at all times for experimentation purposes, I had a lot of spare boards laying around the studio.

The first I produced was a bit odd for me. A fairly confined value structure with a limited palette of leftover paint from a previous project. It was a pretty quick one that basically resulted from making marks on the board with paint, then wiping periodically until I saw something to build on. No preconceived notions, no photo reference. Just a bit of cloud-seeing and some crossed fingers.

Here's the piece that resulted:

It's an oddly muddy painting and is one of the most difficult pieces I've ever tried to digitally color-correct. I'm pretty sure this still doesn't do it a whole lot of justice, but the image above is as close as I've been able to get it.

If you're a curious art nerd like myself, the colors on the palette included Ultramarine Blue, Cadmium Yellow, Magenta, Flesh Tone (Windsor & Newton), and Titanium White. As it got close to completion I might have added to this list, but I don't recall whether that ended up being the case. I started the second and third pieces just before finishing this one and I did make an honest attempt at keeping the palettes separate.

Anyway, after I'd completed all three paintings, I showed them to the folks organizing the show and offered up whichever they wanted. Any reading this who've seen posts about MicroVisions on Facebook already know that this wasn't it, and I'm totally cool with that. But I'm not unhappy with the piece. It was a fun little exercise and I rather like the limited color and value.

Next week, I'll show you another piece done for the show and will follow that up with the third to coincide with the opening of the auction. As of this writing (May 6, 2014), the pieces are hanging at the Society of Illustrators in New York City and will remain so through the 24th of May. If you have a chance, go have a look.