Monday, 21 May 2012

Mor Bheinn from Culcrieff

Mor Bheinn from Culcrieff
A couple of posts back I featured a sketch of the view from our little self catering cottage in Crieff showing the peaks over Loch Earn. This is a close up of those peaks with Mor Bheinn (big hill) in the centre and Ben Vorlich's white peak to the right. I was very taken by the haze which clearly separated background and foreground. I also liked the dusting of snow on Mor Bheinn, how it is in shadow while Ben Vorlich catches the sun and also how the scale of the trees conspire to make those hills look even more formidable.
This painting is experimental on two counts. Although it is painted with Sennelier oil pastels which are classed as drawing tools, I took advantage of their very soft buttery nature by treating the pastel sticks as tubes of paint, adding colours to a glass mixing palette (i.e. drawing splodges of colour onto the palette) and mixing them together with a palette knife. The final mix was also applied to the canvas with aforementioned palette knife. I really like the effect and although I will never give up paint, this does actually have an advantage over oils and acrylics in that the mix on your palette will never dry and you will almost be able to use 100% of the colour on your palette because the knife scrapes up every last bit off the glass, even when there are mere smearings left.

Rule of Thirds
Had I followed the standard rules of composition, the line of foreground trees would be sat higher up so they occupied the bottom third of the canvas; the so called 'rule of thirds.' You may disagree, but I think placing them so low further accentuates the height of the hills as it looks like they're being forced off the page by the humongous beast mountain! Okay maybe that is a slight exaggeration, but it does illustrate my approach to many personal pieces; I like to play about and see what can be learned. Anything worth keeping then gets fed into the commercial skill set. Finally, because the painting has some impasto strokes I took the photo with the main light source coming from the left. This matches the painting's light source and creates shadow from the impasto, giving the impression of more fine texture detail. Click on images to zoom.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

A is for Alice

A is for Alice
Once upon a time long long ago, I woke in terror to the random realisation there had never been occasion to to illustrate Wonderland. We all know what these famous characters look like right? Actually no, not in a situation where I am responsible for creating my own version of them. I've never had to think about it before because I've always been spoon fed Alice imagery and there have been so many iconic visualisations since 1865 it would be almost impossible to think one could stay within the bounds of the original idea and still create something totally unique. I have enjoyed the relatively recent trend of moving the story on to Alice's teen years where she is often depicted as a stripy socked knife wielding psycho goth, but I wanted to avoid that (for now) and go back to my very first introduction to Wonderland. I can't remember my exact age, but I would have been between five and ten because we performed Alice's Adventures in Wonderland as an end of year school play at infant school. I played the Dodo and still remember being horribly embarrassed at having to wear green tights. That's right, girls' tights. Green ones. How I suffered for my art! Thinking back to that time my overriding impression was a confusing riot of nonsense, noise and colour and I had no idea what was going on. This was nothing like a normal story where all the elements related to the world I knew, but like millions of kids I completely loved the idea of escaping
Rabbit Detail with reverse Clockface
humdrum reality through mysterious portals. I kept the focus sharply on the characters by leaving the background less detailed which, together with some aerial perspective has the effect of making the characters stand out more. I also made the Tweedles and Chesire Cat larger than they should be as a nod to Alice shifting size through the story. This is unsettling as our brains know that objects further away should be relatively smaller (that Father Ted sketch still makes me laugh!)

Crayon Tool Settings
Edit Layer Texture
This image was an attempt to capture my initial impression of some of the more famous characters. It was created in ArtRage Pro with the humble crayon tool which is actually much more powerful than it first looks. The image (left) shows the crayon tool settings - just two: Pressure and Softness, with a reset to default button. For this image I set Pressure to 40 and Softness to 0 which, together with a graphics tablet has the effect of laying down colour with hard pressure but blending colours together with light pressure. These two characteristics make the crayon tool very intuitive to use as you can colour and blend in the same stroke. For this image I reduced canvas textures to a minimum but you can add texture via the master canvas settings or for even more control, on a layer by layer basis by using the layer pop-up command, Edit Layer Texture. In addition you could also add texture with the powerful stencil system. If all my digital painting tools were taken away and I was left with just these, I'd still be pretty happy. :)
Click on images to Zoom.