Last Monday, I had a couple of hours of down-time at Disney.
This happens every now and then, when there is a slight lag in the production pipeline.
Sometimes when this happens, I’ll go ask questions of the art-jedi-masters that I work with, organize my office, play a song on someone’s guitar, pet someone’s dog or play a game of ping pong. Last Monday, I decided to make another painting.
I have been talking on the podcast and here on the blog about how I’m trying to loosen up in my painting style. I attempted this a few times with little success, always falling back into my more meditative, detailed methods.
There were a few flirtations with spontaneity, however. Evidence of said flirtations can be found in the Alien Janitor painting and the development work that I’ve been doing for a client’s graphic novel project.
However, it was not until this most recent concept piece that I feel like I really found a successful balance between spontaneity and confidence.
How did this happen? I’m not entirely sure. I just didn’t think about it.
I began with a technique that I learned in a book called The Skillful Huntsman. I won’t go into detail about this book right now, because I’ll eventually release a podcast episode devoted entirely to it.
For now, I’ll just say that there is no other art book that has provided as much practical insight as that one.
I grabbed two random images from Flickr.com. (One was a photo of someone dressed up like Charlie Chaplin and the other… …well, I honestly can’t remember the other one.)
I used the transform tool in Photoshop to scale them both WAAAAAAY up. I converted both images to grayscale and layered one on top of the other. I set the top image layer to Multiply.
What resulted was a grayscale abstraction. Both images were no longer recognizable. I moved the images around and rotated them until I found something that was interesting compositionally. I was looking for a set of shapes that would spark an idea.
Then, I began searching for shapes, trying to make sense from the abstract grayscale image.
I placed what was supposed to be a humanoid figure near the base of the tree, just to give a sense of scale.
This figure disappeared later since it was a dark figure against a dark tree. A few light blue strokes became the suggestion of a river.
I pulled out a few vertical shapes in the background with only a couple of gray-green strokes.
A shaft of dramatic light, a column of fog and a bunch of twisted vines came next. I moved the silhouetted figure in front of the column of fog so it would be more discernible. The dark shape in the foreground became an abstract group of plants.
I added more details, while trying to keep up the fast pace of the painting.
I didn’t want to get too caught up in the little details.
I added some red-orange accents to compliment the green-blues. That was a purely clinical choice, but it worked really well.
In the image to the left, you can see my signature. I thought I was done.
…but as I zoomed-out to admire the results of my own playful experiment, I felt like it needed one more interesting element.
The image needed a better story.
Every chance I get, I add a monster.
I thought the hiding creature looked a little too much like a character from ‘Bone’ so I covered him with leaves and moss.
I changed his pose to make him look a little more ‘lurking’ and less ‘lounging.’
I also made him larger. I wish, now that I had made him larger still. (Maybe I’ll go back and change that when I get some time to do so…)
I love the looseness of the piece. It was a tremendous joy to go from blank screen to finished painting in only two hours.
Those of you that listen to my podcast and read this blog regularly know that this is a big win for me. I have been striving for this kind of spontaneity and excitement in my paintings for quite some time. I can’t wait to do another one.
To keep moving at a quick pace, I had to let a lot of things go. The composition is far from perfect, there are some real inconsistencies in the forest elements and the light is not emphasizing the characters like it should.
That said, overall, I am really happy with the final result. I have been aiming for something like this for a long time. Its so nice to hit the target on the first shot every once in a while.
Until next week, my friends… go well.