In the early 2000s, illustrator & matte painter Craig Mullins was an active member of the Sijun Forums. A couple years ago I extracted all the valuable info from his posts on the forums, pasting it into one big file. If painting is your thing, there are a few gems in there—


Other tricks to make them seem fashion-ish:

large distance from upper eyelid to eyebrow(reverse this for a tough guy)

No nose at all

High contrast, graphic lips and eyes

Don’t shortchange the back of her head either.

Do not model the forms and planes of the head, use the eyes and lips and the outline of the face to show form. This will also help the matte quality of the skin.

These are very general cliches, don’t abuse them or it gets into lens flare territory.
Illustrators play a lot with shape design and like to flatten out the picture plane (I did here) and it just gets confusing at first.

Try to make objects sit on same plane and inhabit same space, you will have to work and think harder to do this. Shadows not black. Darker than reflected light, but not black, to simulate some atmospheric or bounce. Values are 0-hightlights 1-3 halftones, 6-7reflected light area, 8 core shadow and cast shadow. Notice that all shadows would be the same without reflected light! REflected and ambient fill are what prevent shadows from being flat black.

Nex, paper quality is important. I think the Fred school uses newsprint, but they do not use additive and subtractive technique, as the paper would not stand for it. They like to emphasize control anyway, so newsprint is great for that. Please correct me Fred if I am mistaken.

I would try any good quality cotton paper or vellum. Try using a razor blade to scrape some charcoal onto some paper(or just grind it on the paper) and use kleenex folded up to dab into it just like paint. If you really want a smooth buildup, mix a little baby powder in with the charcoal. It will not affect the value. Once you have spread this around, you may notice the grain of the paper has filled with charcoal and will not accept any more. use a LITTLE spray fix, outside only. This give the paper some tooth back and allows you to buld up a little more value. You can repeat this process until the paper is black, and control it all the way. That is the technique you see in those ACCD car drawings. markers and chalk. Yu can also do your drawing, fix it, and then put on some tone, so your drawing does not get smudged away. At each step, however, if you have some lights to pick out, you have to do this before you fix, cause you will have to realy grind it off once it is fixed.

On the above image, I did the drawing, if it can be called that, fixed it, put down one pass of powdered charcoal, then lifted my lights. I went darker with just a charcoal pencil.

Sometimes creativity is not so much pulling someting out of a vacuum, but putting something down and it suggest where to go next. It helps to stay loose in the beginning. If sit down to draw and arm, you are already limiting yourself. Scribble, through some ink on it, bury it in the backyard. Resist the urge to draw a thing. When you have interesting shapes down, look a it, flip it rotate it, whatever, maybe there is something there. Eventually something will emerge, but you have to have the patience to let it. Don’t render until much later

When I started digital, there were no wacoms that I could afford (and we liked it!), so I adapted the gouache technique to take advantage of what I could and minimize what I was giving up. I did not use a wacom for a long time because of what Fred mentioned. It seemed to be a half baked transitional tool to make going digital a little more comfortable. I can see liking a tablet if you express well with line.

I think using the mouse made me a better painter. I had to concentrate on major masses and getting the big picture right as opposed to rendering with a thousand tiny strokes. This is called “licking” and can be seen from 4 miles away.

Is there anyone out there who can do a semi passable drawing with a wacom? I can’t, but then my linework on paper is pretty ugly. I run to the paper sometimes to work out something tricky, but that’s about it. I learned to draw with shape, as probably a painter should. Another case of the media leaving it’s mark on the artist.

The values are something that I have always had. I could always just do it. I have learned what I am doing by analysis, because you have to be quite reliable to do things professionally. All the other stuff I have had to stuggle with. I think shape design is still my weakest area.

If you want learn to show form with value, do basic shapes. It’s the best way that will give you a lot of freedom later on.

Doc, yes I like John Berkey, but not as much as you might think. Come to think of it, I would have done well to study his work more carefully, as his shape sense is really amazing.

Rinaldo, I remember when I was painting with acrylics and gouache and would do a neat little sketch. Then time to do the full size finish. It is tough, like copying splatter patterns. I found in the end that it took a lot of doing to get the confidence to be as free with “finished” work as the sketch. But with digital, the challenge is less. You can do anything with no risk! That’s why I bought a computer in the first place.

Frost, I have seen your stuff and I like it a lot, and as you area more advanced than some, I always thought you would figure things out for yourself soon enough. I will look more carefully and give you some more pointed feedback if you want.

Kain, I don’t use the smudge tool much. Almost never on the color channels, as it destoys edge details. I use it more when painting on masks.

you are such a good drawer, have you checked out Drew Struzan? His media technique is very flexible. He does a line and tonal drawing, knocks it back with acrylic airbrush and then models and works lights back in with prisma pencils and a little paint for the brights. It is a great technique if you like to draw and you work with shapes well, like you do
I am not taking any figure classes per se right now. I paint from the model, but no mentor. I do pour through every book I can, though. And I copy I lot, always have. Great way to learn.
B. G. I think your color comps area very nice I wonder if some of the color variation is from compression. That suggests an interesting idea . Paint something, and size it down to 100 pixels, and then size it back out That way you can see your foundation without the distracting details. Blurring just wipes out your edges.

I am not saying block in fuzzy, but what are the basic colors? Warm, cool, red, gray, light dark, what? The closer you block in your values and colors to what you think they will be in the end, the less work you have to do, and you don’t have to “fight” and alien color or value.

So the silhouette technique works as long as there is some contrast between the figure and the ground. It could be very slight and still work. In fact, low contrast could help the shapes suggest more to you than if they are screaming black and white.

If you only have two, you have to simply decide where is the best place to go from light to shadow. Look at comic art, two values, good decisions and great shapes.

If you ad a third value, add it to the lit side. In general keep the shadow side very low contrast and make your error in too little information. Make you lit side precise.
One thing to think about is the value shift from light to shadow. If your white car goes from #1 in light to #4 in shadow, the shift is , hmmm, help me out here, uhhhh 4 minus 1… 3!!!!

So you see where I am going with this. Other local values should also shift by that amount. A black tire that is 7 in light should go very dark in shadow. There are always a million caveats, but sometimes it helps to think this way to give yourself a place to start.

Looking at your pic, I would say the cast shadow is a little strong. Look at the white car and the pavement, they are different values in light, as they should be in shade. It is not actually linear, but in a simple image it’s best to think this way.
One thing in general to keep in mind is in any picture there is a lightest light nd you should limit your brightest value to that spot. What surface would be picking up the most light in this top lit head? Since skin is all the same local value and color, you don’t have to worry about that complication. If you look at most heads from the side, you see that they are curved, meaning the planes of the chin and cheek and forehead are not all vertical. They “wrap” upwards as they go higher. So the forehead is facing the sky and receives more light. And there you have rationalized a criteria for making the forehead lighter than the cheeks.

You could make the nose your number one bright, as the nose and forehead often compete.

The same idea happens at the other end of the value scale.

If you put your brights all over, it gives the “blown out” loo
One good way is to block in your painting with a gradation at first. You then have a nice palette to start, just pick up numbers from the grad.

I like HSB, as this color model is the easiest to apply to painting, and breaks color up in an understandable way.

Since you are relating all colors and values in an image to all the others, it makes sense to grab what is there and “nudge” it one way or another. As I have said many times, I like to start with an old painting that has been messed up or a photo that may have an interesting color relationship. The subject of this photo has nothing to do with the subject of the painting.

Get into the habit of characterizing every color you see. Describe it by asking yourself three questions 1)what color (hue) is it? (red, yellow, blue green, etc. Brown is not a color!) 2)Is it intense or dull? 3)How light or dark is it? Should sound like HSB…

Answer these three questions and you will be able to recreate the color later. I have seen sketches of Frederick Church with this type of notation.

Thinking in an organized way will help you troubleshoot things down the road. Ask yourself

Silhouette OK?
Drawing OK?
Values OK?
Color OK?
Hue OK?

The drawing is usually off 80 percent of the time, and the value is off 19 % and the other 1%, don’t worry too much about. Of course, value and drawing are inseparable in painting. Is aspects of color, get the value right (the “b”) and the other two will take care of themselves.

As I said, when I first started with Photoshop, I did not know how to paint with it, and i did paste photos together, now I use destroyed photos and old paintings to start on.

I like Gouache

Use Windsor newton only. Maybe at first try only B+W to see if you like it to keep it cheaper? If you go with color, you can get around the metal pigments (cobalt, cadmium) there are substitutes. Just buy a warm and cool of each primary and a lighter and darker earth tone (dark yellows and reds). Only use permanent white! Zinc white is not nearly as opaque. Any black, or no black will do.

Brushes- just good watercolor brushes. Sable flats are good. Be sure to get yourself a windsor Newton series 7 #2 round ! A must have and there is no substitute.

Use double thick cold press illustration board.

If you want to rule lines, you can set a straight edge on a book and run the metal ferrule along it. Works nice. Gouache painters usually make their own out of plex.

Now the important part. USE PLENTY OF PAINT. Don’t get cheap. PUT A STROKE DOWN AND LEAVE IT ALONE. Blending and feathering and fussing around are BAD. Not only will this look ugly because it destroys your shapes but the moisture and the abrasion will bring up the paint from underneath. If you ever had that problem of the paint coming up from below, this is the secret.

It is a very flexible medium, and can be used thin to thick, or a variety of ways, but this is the best way to start with. If you have enough paint on the board, you can soften and edge or two later.
I like Fred’s idea: lasso big areas and fill with color or grad. Paint away. If there is a lesson in these quickies, it is to get away from the problem we all see over and over of rendering before big shapes are in, or god forbid, the white of the canvas is still showing. That will do it.

Also, in a 1000*1000 image, start with a 200 pixel brush, see how far you can get.

Also, blur the image a lot, what do you see? Sharpen up a few edges that look sharp in your original. Just an idea, never done it.


The sky is also a strong light source. Your darkest darks will be in areas that cannot “see” either reflected light from the ground or light from the sky. Your windows on the right side of the building should be a dark warm color, not a cool grey.

how to make sth look big:

Here are a few tricks I know of:

PERSPECTIVE: Use of the proper perspective is important. Make sure when doing large objects in the distance that you use the proper ‘lens’. ie. make sure your vanishing points are pretty far apart so the image has a ‘telephoto’ look to it. Choosing a low angle (worms-eye view) with your horizon line near the bottom of the image helps to make things look monolithic.

ATMOSPHERE: as extralobe and Sumaleth suggest, fogging or ‘aereal perspective’, making the object fade into the background like distant mountains.

FOREGROUND OBJECTS: Have your mega-object partially occluded by something else that we already recognise as really large, such as a skyscraper, or 747 or clouds, etc… If those objects are clearly in front of the subject, the mind gasps in wonder at the massiveness of that object.

DETAIL: Scale detail accordingly. The eye recognises certain details like cutlines, bolts, pipes, panel break-up, etc… making these things denser on larger objects immediately lends scale. Conversely, be careful not to ‘overdetail’ smaller objects. Large surfaces are usually made up of many pieces because it is difficult to manufacture large panels. This gives the eye a human context to reference scale from.

CROPPING: Showing just part of the object tells the eye immediately that this object is too big to even fit in one view! As in the thumbnail below, you can have just a detail of the object in the forground to compare to something of human scale (the car, or some figures running around) and then repeat the object in the background. Make sure the object incorporates some detail that is clearly recognisable from the foreground so you associate the two as the same. Notice how even the more distant ship is still cropped – making it seem even bigger.

The image below shows how low angles make things even more massive – anything looming over you immediately gets a sense of dramatic size. Note also hav the foreground skyscrapers and the helicopter lend scale. You already know that the buildings are big – this one dwarfs even them! the larger building also has a lot more intricate detail and structure, suggesting that it needs more to support its massive size. the building in the background repeats the structural pattern, showing just how high the building goes up.

Now my brushes are getting a bit smaller. Although to some, they are still quite large. Everything tends to slow down, too. I’m still thinking of big shapes, but values are getting more precise. Half tones are developing at this point. I make sure to keep them slightly lighter so as not to lose the overall light and shadow separation. If this were to occur, one might say that it is overmodelled.
Gouache and acrylic are very different but can be handled in a similar way.

Don’t think about the different medium; think about working either transparently or opaquely. Most media can be used either way (maybe not water color, but gouache is opaque water color). When you work in either manner, the way of thinking is similar.

So, what do you like about oils? Need to know how you work with them. I would guess that you like to paint opaquely and blend a lot to a high finish, very smooth. Cant really work that way in acrylics.

If the opacity aspect of oil appeals, use Cel Vinyl, a very opaque acrylic that is used for animation cels. I wonder how business is? you can get it in LA at their Culver City factory on Lindblade st.

If it is the blend that you like, you are out of luck. I don’t know of a controlled way to do this. Try an atomizer to keep it wet? Probably not. If only a few key areas need a grad, do that first and then paint around them.

I won’t suggest with time being short to learn a different way of think about form so that blending is not required. Blending is a nasty habit, that is why they give gouache to beginners. Blending (also called licking) can cause bad eyesight and hairy palms and everyone knows what you have been up to. Long term plan, learn more about different ways of painting.

The most controlled way to use acrylics, and one that suits the liquitex translucent variety very well is to use it very thinly.

This is really the same technique used by many old masters, but without the separating value and color.

Get your drawing on the board; use fixative to keep it there

Using a series of 20-30 very thin washes, wet your board and lay in the wash, tip the board so the wash runs equally everywhere. Lather, rinse, repeat. The goal is to get the board to a middle value that is flat and very thin. One the paint builds up (if you get impatient) it is all over, and you must work opaquely, and there goes any hope of Òblending.Ó This is probably the source of frustration with your earlier attempts. A finished acrylic painting has barely any paint on it at all.

Once you have a nice middle value (usually done with a warm earth tone), gradually work dark and lighter with thin washes. DONT use acrylic white, it sucks, use acrylic gesso.

If you want to feather things, keep a damp sponge nearby to dampen the board with. When you paint into this area it will feather well, as it won’t have an edge to dry quickly.

One more tip that will save your butt-

Get some 100% cotton vellum (must be this) and fold up a few paper towels and place them on your palette. Get the towels good and wet (not standing). Butcher trays are great for palettes, cause they have edges. Place the vellum on the towels. The moisture will leach up through the vellum and keep the paint you mix there wet, but not wet enough to upset your delicate

Also, do copies (exact copies) of master paintings. This I would like to see. I gave all mine away

I would suggest, and I do this myself sometimes, to start at lower rez, and then blow it up to fine tune it. Just donÕt put any edges in low rez. Low rez also allows more freedom with the brushes. Painting quickly in large areas is painful at best at 5k.

Do try to find higher rez source. Then shrink it and do your block in. Go back to your original file and rez up your painting and finish it. you will probably learn the most that way. Of course you can just work on the hi rez if you want. If you are doing small changes this works fine. Larger stuff should be toyed with at lo rez.

Most of the work I do I use no line drawing at all, just areas of color and value and carve away. Just a different way of working.

This is a neat point. The less contrast and texture you have there, the closer your two values can be and you still have an image. The more contrasty the texture, the more contrast you have to put into your two values in order for the image to read. So you started off flat, that is fine, it allows you to use values that are much closer to what they will be in the final ptg. I am sure you have been fighting that black form the first stroke.

You could start from B+W and then use that as a mask channel to fill with the appropriate color and value.

Another good way to start is from flat and very low contrast shapes. Fill your canvas with what you think will be close to the final tonality of the ptg. Then pick a value that is slightly darker. Paint in the big masses. I think you will find that that suggests more volume for the beginning than super high contrast.

Strong shapes are great in illustration and painting, but not as useful in matte work.

Right now you image is really really dark. The sky is almost always brighter than anything on the ground, unless the sun is out and reflecting on something. There are a few exceptions, but not many. A distant mountain range is always darker than the sky above it. So yes, a lot of ambient fill with a brighter sky (the source for the fill) will help out a lot.

From the middle… Then the darks and the lights at the end.

My only suggestion would be to do the rain one over, but take a half an hour, do it the same looseness, same level of detail, but go Slower. Think about everything you are doing and why. Think about your bigger shapes first and vary the brush sizes. This will help your shapes a lot. Fast and loose is good, but like playing a piano, you have to start slower.

I saw a painterÕs easel once (who painted very loosely) with a huge sign above it the said think! Think for 10 minutes, paint for one.

You asked me once where I felt you needed improvement, and I think I have an answer for you now. I told you to draw from life more, and I stand by that. Why? Cause it will help you do exactly what I am talking about above. You cannot copy shapes working from life, generally. This will help you with those niggling little structural problems that crop up once in a while. You have to think very carefully about what you are doing. You MUST simplify because of time. That simplification will be the basis of better shape design, which is where you should be going. Everything you can leave out will make your images stronger. I see up to now a fascination with surface and the turning of form from light to shadow. Try to think more simply about the graphical shapes that make up your picture

I have been looking at the work of Richard Schmid a bit and it is interesting how he works. He starts with detail first, reasoning that why put down a stroke that you only have to modify later? Make a shape, and eye, etc. correct, and then relate further work to this one correct one. This way you are not getting a cascade of errors by relating elements to earlier elements that were not that well considered.

A by-product of this method is you are sometimes surprised at how little you have to do to make an image work.

Of course you need quite a bit of experience to work this way successfully. Most beginners work this way instinctively and teachers are always wrapping their knuckles about it. I know I had to break the habit.

It is fun to think that even the sacred cow of Òblock in the major areas firstÓ can be inverted. This image was done with these first, basic shapes, but then just a few extra edges and details to finish it.

I really donÕt know how to answer your question easily. Start from the middle value, and then it might help to go to the values that you know you have to have. In this case, the windows are close to the lightest value and the carpet in the light is close to fully saturated and bright. The upper left is farthest away and shielded the most from any light source (direct or reflected, but 90 percent of this image is lit by reflected light) so make that your darkest. So you have light, dark and middle. That gives you some idea of where the rest should go. You have to be very sensitive to where the light is coming from, whether it is a point source or a diffuse source, and what temperature it is. No problem! Takes practice.

I did like the painting on the wall. Here it is at 100%

AS far as layers goes, this was done pretty simply, no fancy or numerous layers. I did ÒbleedÓ some warm red around the lit carpet. I work on a new layer until I am sure I have not screwed anything up, then merge it down. Turn it off, looks better? Throw it away and try again. Looks good? merge it down, make a new layer and keep going. It is just a different version of undo.

Keep in mind to keep lit areas sharper, edges crisper, with darker areas having softer edges.

This is Photoshop as usual, I have been playing with painter, but geez, I have trouble with 50 interactive variables. I know what I want, and controlling all that stuff to get what I am after is frustrating and time consuming. I sense that people who use painter find a few tools and brushes and modes that they like and stick to them.

Pierre, I am surprised that you think of hue (color) first. I always think of the value first. Digital has helped me think well about color, because it is so quantifiable. Many traditional artists find their way with paints, ÒI use Windsor cerulean blue for skies, rose madder for skin and orange for catsÓ and never really think about abstracting it. If you fall into formula, it can be limiting. If you understand more about color, the more you can play with it. The first step is to know that value and color are different. You can do so much just by playing warm and cool differences. On that site about Zorn I read that he used a limited palette, I believe it.
A lot of people I sense are kinda mystified about what gouache is and if they have ever used it, how on earth is it ever used in a productive way. You would know what I mean if you had ever tried it. This style is a bit like impressionism, but whereas impressionism shape design reinforces the flatness of the canvas, this style uses shape to try and reinforce form. By that I mean those little strokes wrap around something as opposed to being random. Filters in PS do what impressionists were after in some cases.

You CAN blend gouache, but only a little bit, and if it the two values are very close, and if there is plenty of paint on the board.

So why do people think this stuff is good to learn to paint with? As you can see, the painting is executed by little, independently mixed and applied ÒtilesÓ of paint. You have to get good a mixing. To turn a surface, you have to mix one color, decide exactly what color goes next to it to turn the form, and mix that one two. Adding to the misery is gouache has a wider value range while wet than dry. It dries toward a middle value. Very difficult to match exactly.

Also the paint is water soluble, even after you have applied it. This means you have to use enough paint, and mix it to just the right viscosity, and then put it down, and LEAVE IT ALONE. That is what brings the color underneath up and makes mud. You can paint on gouache even with a 1/8 inch layer of paint down.

So what is this teaching you? Look at the color, mix it accurately, mix it well to a proper consistency, put it down and leave it alone. Think before you act, think, plan, execute. If it isnÕt right, it wonÕt work.

What bad habits does this help break? Sitting with your nose 2 inches from the board, not looking at the model, not thinking, blending away, getting caught up in the buttery, blendy forgiveness of oil paint.

The Quaker oats man is done in gouache, as is Uncle Ben on the rice package. it is very flat (not glossy) and was very easy to reproduce. Because it has no gloss, it has a limited dark value range. High key is the Way.

This image was planned from a photo, I did a drawing first, then painted. It departed quite a bit from the source. It was damaged by water in a move, so I rubber-stamped it a little. There is a lot of funky stuff in the drawing. I was pretty early in the program.

Would I recommend using this stuff? No, not on my worst enemy. It is boot camp, and if you think pain is good for the soul or for learning and discipline, go ahead.

BTW, Syd Mead only paints with gouache.
I can’t believe I am saying this, but look at some of the top illustrators from the 60 and 70Õs. I have Bill Sienkiwicz sketchbook and he said something that I agree with. You can see hints of this illustrative style in his work, but it is cool, because he learned well from them. He did not ape the technique or style, but he learned what ÒchoicesÓ (SienkiwiczÕs word) they made in what not to paint. They really simplified things to make the design stronger. I think this type of thinking will help you with your comic work.

People like bob peak, Robert heindel and Bernie Fuchs all simplified stuff a lot, and it was all screwed together really tight by flawless drawing.

Syd always works standing up. He says he likes to swing the pen from the arm to get energy in his line work. But other than that, I think he works as you might suspect. I know Doug likes to fog in his shape with a light gray marker and then go in with a dark fine pen to finish things out.

have noticed that most of your descriptions of surfaces are exaggerated as reflective. When something is totally reflective, there is no light and shadow, only the reflection of the source, so the image starts to have a huge amount of contrast. The diffuse or matte quality is downplayed. This is fine, but sometimes you need a variety of surfaces and materials to make something seem more real. This also makes your highlight shapes much more visible, which brings me to the second point:

Highlights (reflection of source) are a great tool for describing form. I notice that in most of your pictures you use a circular highlight shape. This is correct, if you are describing a sphere and a circular light source. So I think that you could assume a circular source, but distort the highlights so that they describe the form better. A cylinder highlight runs in a line. The edge of a flat plate is really a tiny cylinder, so treat it as that. I think it will help as I stated above, to give variety to your forms and adding the occasional matte surface will help with variety of materials.

Example is vaders helmet forehead, eye, and cheek. They all have similar highlight shapes. The only one that really would be this way is the eye, which is spherical. If you played up the difference in highlight shapes, the forehead and cheek would feel like a different form. If we think about these three areas in terms of my first point, the eye is more reflective than the dark helemet, so play up that difference. Unless, of course, the helmet is perfectly reflective, which it is not because it is black (perfectly reflective would be chrome), so it has some diffuse characteristics. Actually, you could reverse the situation; make the black shinier than the eye. A difference is the key.
I suppose this is common knowledge, but a surface becomes reflective when the light rays hitting it are reflected in a direction that is somewhat equal to the angle that they came in on. The law is angle of incidence equals angle of reflection. The degree to which the surface is matte is how much scattering, or randomness happens to the incident light when it leaves the surface. If the rays are perfectly reflected, you get chrome. The other way is those matte cubes. The primer you spray on car fenders is a pretty matte surface. The roughness of a surface is a general indicator of whether something is matte or reflective. A rough surface causes the light to be bounced randomly because each light ray is hitting a tiny surface that may be turned at an odd angle. Think of it like bouncing a golf ball on a really smooth driveway. You know where it is going to bounce. Bounce it on a pebbly or rough surface, it is going to very unpredictable. There are many surfaces in between.

With water, you see the light source reflection, but where there is no bright source, you see what you would see if it were a matte surface, which is clear with water, so you see through it. Look at muddy water. The particles suspended there act as a matte object, and makes the areas without a bright source reflection brighter. seen the green algae filled waterways in Venice? So the contrast difference between a source reflecting in water and not is lower. Water also reacts very apparently to the fresnel effect, see below.

A common error in architectural renderings is casting shadows on glass. Does not happen. UNLESS the windows are dirty, then you get a similar thing happening to dirty water. Same thing were to happen if you made a dirty chrome sphere. Think of it that way. Take a chrome sphere, it is 100% reflective. Now dust it with auto primer. The reflections are still there, but not as contrasty, and you can begin to see effects of light and shadow. Now spray more on. Same thing happens even more. Now coat it real good. It is now a matte surface.

I did a repaint to that truck; you can see that car paint is a combination of matte and reflective. See the front of the car where it rolls under? That area is shaded from the key light as well as the bright diffuse source of the sky, and it gets darker.
What you are seeing with a dark versus light reflective surface is the relative difference between the value of what is reflected and the value of the material. Vader’s helmet is dark, so the reflections, which have nothing to do with the actual color (called local color), so the contrast makes it seem shinier. Think if the helmet was white. Take a photo of and sample the highlights, this highlights of the dark and light helmets would be roughly the same. But the areas with no reflection would be much darker than the same areas on the light helmet. This is what you are seeing in water.

What out 3-d bretheren have termed the fresnel effect, the lower the viewing angle the more a surface reflects. You can see this almost anywhere. One place that you can really see it is in a head. When you see a head from ¾ front, the far side of the face is turning away from you sever
guess I should have said I am after the emotion rather than the motion. I am after a picture that would evoke the emotions of being in a battle. One thing I begrudgingly give saving private ryan is the battle sequence that was shot with damaged lenses, screwed up time, confusion, grainy contrast, confusion, etc. I think these devices were pretty effective. I would imagine that to be there you would not perceive things normally, if for no other reason than massive amounts of adrenaline making you temporarily insane.

I was after this feeling, but I will continue with other pics on this same problem. The lack of contrast, confusion, mixed battle lines, etc. were all intentional. My point about using more blood was ironic; it is just that sort of convention that I don’t want to use. Same with motion blur.

Action, motion, etc are all secondary to the feeling of being in this battle. They will help, but I don’t think they will get me where I want to go.

One idea is to go with the opposite direction with contrast and detail. Here I have muddied it together, but maybe the way to show the heightened senses is to makes a very high contrast image with extreme detail. Not detail that necessarily resolves into forms and materials, but odd things that you might notice while drugged. I will play with it When I start my pics they look very similar to your image above. I paint in patterns and shapes until it starts to feel like the thing that I most want to express. That is my thumbnail…your above piece looks like a thumbnail all blown up to full resolution because of its lack of refinement. it is the lack of refinement and polished rendering that is haredest to balance when trying to still retain the feel of the image. I often get the feeling early in the piece but find that the proportions are poor and the space does not read. I see this in your image above. When I go to start rendering it, it is a balancing act to keep the abstract feel or emotional quality in the piece and what the image looks like spacially. I completely believe that it is possible to keep your feel and still have a decent amount of purposful rendering so that we as viewers have something to look at as well as feel.

you totally nailed the feel of battle with your placement of helmets and all the repeated little hacks and slashes (metaphoric design elements…conscious or not)in your marks…there are so many diagonals that I dont even want to count them all…there are no verticals or horizontals…except implied ones with your shape placement. this is where your movement and feel is springing from…the metaphoric design and the color. Your shapes are at times very organic…though uncared for at times too. The same goes for your brush strokes. that is something that I really get out of nc wyeth and goya…they get action but their same abstract compositional devices that you are using are more cared for and are much clearer to read than the pic above….how much of that you choose to add or throw out is up to you. But I also think that good proportion and good space is important to you. I see these things in your other work…though I do see that less in your figures. oops…did I say that? : )
I see a lot of traditional design in your stuff. To be honest, it is that as much as your ideas that draws me to your work. You have those two aspects balanced well.

I guess what I am saying is that balancing the abstract and the clear spacial and proportional narrative is difficult. Keeping the same feel you talk about and having good proportion and space as well as expression is something that can be balanced in many ways. The above piece doesnt feel balanced this way. Thus it feels unfinished.

Hehe tweek, glad it looks like a concert. The situation is not much different. I should put a few nuns in there to really confuse things.

Dude, just one layer. I paint for a few minutes on a 2nd layer, then toggle it, looks good, I drop it and start a new layer. Sort of like an undo that goes beyond one or a few steps.

jason manley:
When I start my pics they look very similar to your image above. I paint in patterns and shapes until it starts to feel like the thing that I most want to express. That is my thumbnail…your above piece looks like a thumbnail all blown up to full resolution because of its lack of refinement. it is the lack of refinement and polished rendering that is haredest to balance when trying to still retain the feel of the image. I often get the feeling early in the piece but find that the proportions are poor and the space does not read. I see this in your image above. When I go to start rendering it, it is a balancing act to keep the abstract feel or emotional quality in the piece and what the image looks like spacially. I completely believe that it is possible to keep your feel and still have a decent amount of purposful rendering so that we as viewers have something to look at as well as feel.

you totally nailed the feel of battle with your placement of helmets and all the repeated little hacks and slashes (metaphoric design elements…conscious or not)in your marks…there are so many diagonals that I dont even want to count them all…there are no verticals or horizontals…except implied ones with your shape placement. this is where your movement and feel is springing from…the metaphoric design and the color. Your shapes are at times very organic…though uncared for at times too. The same goes for your brush strokes. that is something that I really get out of nc wyeth and goya…they get action but their same abstract compositional devices that you are using are more cared for and are much clearer to read than the pic above….how much of that you choose to add or throw out is up to you. But I also think that good proportion and good space is important to you. I see these things in your other work…though I do see that less in your figures. oops…did I say that? : )
I see a lot of traditional design in your stuff. To be honest, it is that as much as your ideas that draws me to your work. You have those two aspects balanced well.

I guess what I am saying is that balancing the abstract and the clear spacial and proportional narrative is difficult. Keeping the same feel you talk about and having good proportion and space as well as expression is something that can be balanced in many ways. The above piece doesnt feel balanced this way. Thus it feels unfinished.


The old idea in most media is called fat over lean, meaning that you work thinly at the beginning and move to thicker paints in the end. And keep in mind that you start in the middle values and move lighter and darker. You can usually just add a few soft accents for the darks, and the lights get thicker and thicker. This is just one way of working.

I started using Photoshop before tablets were widely available (or affordable or practical, I can’t remember) so a lot of the stuff on my site was done with a mouse. All the 500 nations images are mouse. The marathon stuff is mostly mouse. They have a lot of photos in them as well. I have not used photos in this way for a long time.

If you work with a mouse, be sure to work large, including working zoomed in so that a large arm movement is what is controlling the cursor. Keep your other hand on the numeric keypad to control the opacity, in order to simulate the pressure sensitivity. There is not much that is not possible with a mouse that is with a pen. This may be less true with different styles. But with my style, which is rather direct and can work with flat shapes it is not as much of a burden. Actually I like the mouse sometimes, because it forces you to be more decisive, and not hide lack of structure and drawing behind a lot of calligraphic fireworks. That is the idea of learning to paint with gouache in the first place. It is too easy to hide behind oil paints inherent pretty textures and blends.

When I started doing digital, nobody including me had a clear idea of how to paint with Photoshop. I originally bought a computer (a quadra 700 with 36 MB ram) as a way to scan in color roughs and explore different ideas before committing to blocking in a larger finished painting. I was working at the time with gouache and acrylic, two media that by chance have many similarities to how Photoshop works. Over time, I learned to control the pixel side of things well enough that I could do the whole thing digital. Convincing my clients that it was OK that their image was done digitally was hard at first. I think they imagined chrome spheres bouncing on reflective checkerboard floors. But even then, if the illustration was for print, they drum scanned it. That meant peeling the illustration board. If the painting was gouache it came back in a tube and all cracked off. So they finally saw the logic in saving the money of not having to scan.

Getting the files to the client was also an adventure. At first I had to hoof it in to them on a floppy, then a Syquest drive. Then came aol, and I even paid and set up some clients and taught them how to use it so I would not have to drive. Things are much better now, I can live anywhere I want, and I am going to do just that, hehe.

If you like my work, I am flattered (or maybe you don’t like, but think it is technically good) but keep in mind a few things.

1) I had the benefit of somewhat proper training, which a lot of people here are too young or not as fortunate to have had
2) I have been working hard at it for a number of years. I have done piles of images, probably thousands by now. You cannot underestimate the importance of “mileage.”
3) Doing commercial work has the strange benefit of forcing you to do things that you would never have tried if you were a fine artist. It broadens you.

I see the influence of my work in a lot of things posted on this board and I have mixed feelings about it. I looked at and emulated a lot of artists that I admired, and you can still see definite echoes of them in my stuff today. I think that is what is happening here, and that is fine. What I don’t like to see is if someone is too influenced and tries to get work with this and the work is sold as “I am cheaper and available.” That does nobody any good, and I have seen it happen to other illustrators, and not a few. But I know that people might learn from where I have been and move on to bigger and better things. I will do the same, and that is part of the reason for my hanging out around here.

Keep in mind that an artist is very different than an illustrator. Don’t need to explain this. But I see many illustrators who want to simply “do their thing” as a fine artist might and then expect a client to recognize their genius. Realize that you are solving their problem, listen to the client and try to do it.

To make something bright, you can do it by making some areas dark, so there is some contrast. A more sophisticated way is with color, but that is beyond the scope of what I can do here.

I think yours is fine, but you have lost contrast in an attempt to make it bright. Hold your lights for areas that will do you the most good.

A general rule of painting regardless of media (general rule) is “fat over lean.” This means you paint with thinner paints at first and as the painting progresses, the paint is used thicker and thicker. If you think about it, this would also mean that at the end stages, the paint you are applying and the area you are applying it to are similar in value and color.

If your block in is then nice and thin, you can use a wet into wet process to get some color and value grads. Keep the forms that you are rendering very large, like the whole sphere of the head. Don’t noodle at this point. Another difference between thin and thick paint is the edges that they naturally provide, with thin wet into wet being softer and thicker being harder. The digital analogy is use the pressure sensitivity and keep it transparent early on, and then turn off the opacity control later.

But your question about making grads in gouache is a good one. The whole point of beginning painting in gouache is that you can’t do this. You have to find the edge of a form, mix the definite value and color, and then paint it that way. No mooshing or disguising textural effects allowed. This forces many good habits and good shape design and thinking about the basic form you are painting. So think about how to break your forms this way. Take a photo and run the posterize filter on it. This is a little of the way you should think in with gouache. There are no gradations, yet the information is there. I like the mosaic filter sometimes, because that does the same thing, but shape is eliminated from the equation. Very good for analysis of form and finding out what is there, not what your preconceptions are. Take a photo of a head, run mosaic on it. Look at the mouth, I bet it does not look like 2 red earthworms with dark lines around them the way most beginners paint them. This is a similar lesson to the betty Edwards “draw it upside down” exercise. Try even to paint from the mosaic filtered image.

This is why a lot of images I do here lack detail. I am trying to go back and get a better foundation under what I am doing, to focus on bigger forms and shapes. This is what makes images really look nice, and yes, especially when the detail is added. Which I will do…later.
I can’t go on forever on this one, but I think you missed the idea of atmospheric perspective. If you have access to a 3-d program, put some cubes with texture maps out on a plane and render it with generous fog. The farther you go away from the camera, the more the fog influences the local color of the object. A black cat of a roof a mile away is not black.

Forgive me if you already know this stuff, but are having trouble applying it. Look at your forms, and evaluate each one with respect to how far it is away from the viewer.

Your picture is a little more complex in that it is backlit, so the fog is not only obscuring, but a little diffusing as well, and that can make it a light source. The end result is really just that the fog is a lighter value than it would be without that bigass light source behind everything.

So, two things to summarize,

1) your values still bounce too much, there is too much contrast for it to read as “big.”

2) Organize your values more in line with atmospheric perspective so that your forms will “stack” better. This is done by really thinking about where things are in the z-axis.

Example- The left foreground pillar is closer to us at the bottom. That is the way I read it anyway. You see in my sketch that there is a little more contrast and a little darker at the bottom? That shows that it is tilted away from us. Being more sensitive with stuff like this will start to make things read as more real and less like flat abstract shapes.

The whitewashed walls in sun could almost go white in a few places. Right now the read on the material is grayed somewhat to me.

The heavy black you are using for windows does not do the rest of your careful work justice. In the back they are punching holes in space. There are two windows on the left right by the curve of the tree that you have backed off a little value wise, I think that looks better.

Nothing wrong with black, in general, although “painterly” types like to stay away from it, preferring to go with a very dark saturated color instead.

It is just a convention of industrial rendering, a cheap and very effective way of keeping your depths organized.
I don’t think this helped much, but what I did was take out some of the contrast in the bg to make it stay back there a little more.

This is not always desirable, depending on what you are after, but with straightforward naturalism like this it is basic. I tried to keep the blacks under the platform in the foreground, and removed them from behind the mech.

Sometimes you might want a maximum contrast between a foreground object and BG, to create some attention and drama, but realize that in this kind of situation it brings the BG forward.

I have huge gamma problems working on a mac and posting in a PC world, so forget subtlety, which is what this requires.

Sporq, from the middle values out, especially if you are starting or are unsure of your subject. You can go darker and lighter later only if you need to.

I have been looking at Mucha a lot lately, but not the painting as much as the drawing. Interesting that seeped in! I think the Sargent influence will always be there, it’s part of my brain now.

This also from around my place, by pt. Dume

Composition from 50 printing dots from the corner of an old magazine that had a little tiny golf course add with some trees like this.

the fog, if it is being hit by sunlight, is pretty much the same material as the snow, and much closer. I think it should be a higher value to get the feeling of sun.
2 watch the really subtle differences in the radii of the anatomy. Yours seem to have the same very rounded feeling all over. Example, look at the shoulder that is being hit by light. The top of the shoulder blade is a faster radius than the deltoid, which you can really see in the photo. You have kind of generalized that into one shape. If you want to get really fancy, the deltoid is creating a cast shadow onto the shoulder blade. You would see this in a man, but maybe not here. They are the same muscles as in a weightlifter, just subtler. You gotta put em in. I know you are fanatical with the detail to care about such things.

3 The overall lighting in this situation is a direct top key light, a diffuse overhead cool light and a strong diffuse bottom warm light. The reference has all kinds of reflectors and fill tricks to it that have obliterated a lot of the anatomy. I screwed up her left shoulder blade, but too lazy to fix the jpeg. Don’t look at that! What I tried (unsuccessfully) to do is break where each major surface is facing. top of shoulders, in shadow of head is lighter and cooler. Vertical surfaces are darker. Downturn surfaces are warmer and brighter. You can really see this in the sphere of the hair. Also her upper right arm is a different plane than her lower arm, which is facing the warm light from the grass. This is the problem with reference like this. Take your own, then you can light it to show you exactly what is going on.

To those who think this is improper to use reference this way, it is not artistically. Artists have used photos this way since their invention. I have a lot of documentation on this if you don’t believe me. Photography has had a huge impact on art, in many, many ways.
I did not intend that the sphere be reflective, but if it reads that way, hmmm ok If I remember the passage in the book it says something about the globe being a swirl of caramel colors with fine inlaid gold lat and long lines, of the finest imperial manufacture.

Ceenda, I use all the tools a lot. The lasso thing you see on the globe is a little “technique-ey”, I should probably stay away from it.

I sometimes have a picture in my head, or a particular lighting condition, but sometimes I just start painting and let the image suggest things. Digital is nice because you can work it endlessly with no media problems, and you can try overlays and wacky ideas all night. It is a great tool. I use layers to keep spatial order and as convenience in masking, but sometimes it get to be a bother when you have to search which layer is where, so with sketches like this, I use just a few layers and as things progress, I flatten them. Once it is flattened I can manipulate edges if needed. But I mainly use layers to allow freedom to be gestural and free and not worry about things. This helps the artwork and just cannot be done with something like watercolor.

Frost, I will use the adjustment tools, but not for major changes. This will mess things up with banding and crushing. Try to keep your values to the middle of what you think they should be, without going really dark. Then you can tune it later with the adjustment tools and rest assured that you won’t have far to go. If you look at some of the edges that your eye sees as hard you will see that the value steps on either side are pretty close. This softens the apparent hardness of the edge. It is still crisp, but not jumping. I think you are making a lot of progress with your work Frost. Work from life more

But ya know I worry about anyone taking what I am saying too literally.

Blitz, now that i like my wacom, I generally block in things with a large brush with the size turned off and the opacity turned on. Sometimes I might reverse this to get other effects, but do play around with it. The big brush opacity block in does look like watercolor. I try to keep some of the freshness that that brings. Despite what I said above about media buildup, you can overwork something into a big mess. If this happens, it is usually because I am not understanding the forms well enough to simplify and design things well. time to start over and refocus on what is important.

El Caseron, I am 36, old man. The figure and part of the globe was from an old sketch, and when Ceenda mentioned it in his thread I brought it up and thought to expand it a little. I would guess there is about 2 hours in the things total. The original is 2000*1000 pix

Flushgarden, no I am not mad about your email! But it bothers me that I can’t answer them anymore. I can’t believe you are 19. Your apple man is great. Not only did you understand the forms, but you simplified them beautifully. The rib cage is a great design. Fix those ellipses on the joints, though. They are really important to get right, no matter how fast the sketch.

Don’t think if I used one technique or another. Mix and match as you see fit. I do see you put that suit tutorial to very good use. hehe…
Photos give the impression of bright light through blowing out and overexposure. The skin, a much darker local value than the pants, are exposed correctly. The pants are gone. If you were sitting there, you would see the detail in the lit side of the pants, you would see detail everywhere. The eye has a much wider exposure latitude than film. So, when working from a photo keep this in mind.

One trick photographers use is bounce light. They have the dilemma of “what doe I expose correctly, the lit or shaded side?” So they use big reflectors to bounce light back into the shaded side of things so they can crank down the exposure and hopefully get both lit and shaded sides.

This painting is too ambitious to try without adequate reference at my current level of skill. In a few years, maybe. This was almost a provocation to fail. That was one of the things I was curious about in doing it. I will take some photos of my wife and fix things, but also fix the logical problems in the pose and other issues. I have resolved to work this one out to the extent of my current abilities.

here are two ways to get this to look big.

1) exaggerate the atmospheric perspective. Quick and dirty and effective. Hide it all in low contrast.

2) make everything perfect. Perfect drawing, values, everything. Seems obvious and you say, I would if I could, but no eyeball perspectives, get the exact diminishing scale on everything. And objects of this size and complexity have a large number of different types of materials and details. You have to do each one and think about each one.

That is really hard. How do you show the difference between marble and brick at 2 miles?

This is really one of the tougher subjects to do well. Keep at it, all the other comments I see make sense to me. And leave that fisheye alone. It’s a photographer’s trick that will just make things 5 times harder.

Nori, I was thinking about your question about color and shadows and light temperature. The secret is, if the drawing is correct and the values are correct, you can do just about anything you want. Remember that value makes the form read and color is an independent variable. You can go nuts if you want, and you should sometime, just to underscore the lesson in your mind. Maybe I could cook up an exercise if there is interest.

That said, let me say that 95% of the work I see lives or dies on the strength of the drawing. It is hard work, but it will pay off. Drawing from life is the best way to learn it well. Drawing from photos makes you copy shapes, not internalize the forms and interpret them, which is the basis for a lot of naturalistic art. Draw from photos as a convenience, yes, but don’t make a steady diet of it. Try not to let yourself fall into relying on the flat shapes you see in photos. You will cripple yourself. Photos are great for information about form.

There aren’t any “warm light always have cool shadows” rules that are absolute. In a relative sense, two grays next to each other can be either warmer or cooler in relation to each other. It is important to remember that it is VERY relative.

I think that the human eye relates to a warmer light and cooler shadow the best because a warm sun and a cool diffuse sky by chance exaggerate this system. In a lab, the warm/cool difference is perceptual, and not nearly as strong. You can break it any time you want and not have it interfere with the forms reading well.

Value- how light or dark it is.
Hue, color- the red, green, blue component
Saturation- how intense a hue is

They are independent variables. Play around with Photoshop’s HSB sliders; you will get the hang of it.

For instance, there is no such thing as brown. It is really a dark red. Earth tones are just dark yellows and reds.

I have always been a little to analytical, and I think that you can break down problems in painting into different areas. Drawing, values, color, in that order. Get each right. They can overlap, ex. If a value is wrong on a receding cheek, the cheek structure looks wrong. Is it a value or drawing problem? Well, both. In the same way, make a gray scale of your image and see if the values are reading OK.

Many people tell me their painting needs zip or life, but these things come from solid basics.

The exercise I was alluding to a while back was from my color theory with Judith Crook. She devised a neat exercise where you take photos of the same place (a complex space with a good variety of textures and materials- architecture is good) in direct morning and evening light. You then paint them, but try to exaggerate the differences between the two lighting conditions. It is a great exercise, feel free to try.

The photo question is such a popular one. I have talked about it a lot, but I will paraphrase again.

Photos cannot be a substitute for life drawing and painting. Remember when you went behind the old barn as a kid to blow up some spray paint cans in a bonfire? You told you mom you were, um, going to help ladies cross the street. How did she know you were not being straight with her?

Likewise with experienced artists. Paintings done from photos where the artist has limited experience in painting from life scream this from 1000 miles away. But the artist thinks he had the blinds pulled that day. How do they know? Everyone knows. And it is not bad- IT DEPENDS ON WHAT YOU DO WITH IT. Is it a literal and dumb transcription of the limitations of film stock? Or is it the basis for something further? That is up to the individual to decide what it is, and what value it has. And being able to go further is provided by working from life.

But sooner or later, if you do art long enough, you will grow very bored and restless with the photo stuff. What more is there? When you are starting and wrestling with controlling the medium, you think if you can get it to look like that photo, you have succeeded. Well, you have! I did this when I was first learning (don’t tell synj). But art is a lot more than that, and when you draw from life and let the photos go, you will see a lot more possibilities in art. You will never be bored again.

Another thing I have said and people don’t believe me is a beginning artist and an experienced one can trace a photo and the experienced artists will look much better. GETTING AN ACCURATE OUTLINE IS A SMALL PART OF GOOD DRAWING. Sorry for the screaming. You must see the form and express it after internalizing it. If you are not standing in front of an object, you cannot perceive its form. Photos are flat. They have their place, esp. to an illustrator, but be careful of using them INSTEAD of a lot of life drawing.

I think the old way of drawing from plaster cast at first is a great way to start, then to the model. Then, after a long while, you will be able to look at photos and pull info out of them without being a slave to the flat shapes.

And colors and exposure latitude. Here is a photo and a sketch done on location. The photo did not see what I saw. I will use the photo for drawing and shapes perhaps, but I am glad I was there to get what the camera could not.

The other thing is to resist the temptation to make every form go from very dark to very light. I know that when you put a light on an area it is so much fun that it is easy to overdo it. Gouache highlights on marker renderings have this a lot. Start in the middle, with bigger shapes, and let the thing emerge from the grey. Hold back your darks and your lights until the very end, and you will see that you don’t need to make that many highlights.

Try to paint at higher than 1000*1000 pixels, at least. You can go higher if you want, and this will give you control to make it soft and hard where you want
The tank is a little too small. I assume we are standing at 6FT, it looks like we are looking right at the German soldiers eyes and we are looking down at his feet. If you draw an eye level here, and also assume that the street is mostly level, then everything that falls on that line is also at 6 ft. In fact, you can find the size of any object in an image if you know the size of one thing. So the gun mount looks like it is a little low.

Other than that, try to hold back your lights a little more. I know it is fun to put white on every form, but try to get it to read without doing this, you will get much further in the end. Look at the foreground soldier’s helmet, and the cracked wall. They have the same value in the light. If there is a very strong side or backlight it could blow out like this, but I don’t feel this from other elements in the scene.

I am an absolute novice at oil painting. When I did real paintings for a living, it was always with gouache and acrylic. The number of oils I have done is very low. God the stuff is frustrating. You would think that the drawing would be OK despite the change of medium, but if you cant control the paint, NOTHING is correct, from drawing to values to color. It’s all screwed. These are my first baby steps into this most amazing universe of oil paint. No other medium has the strength of color, the range of technique and the extreme value range (yum) as oil paint. That is why I am going there, but it is so intimidating to go where giants have been.

The abstract quality of the work is just as much a subject of the work as what you would traditionally think of as the subject. It is about paint, and the nature of the physical object that you are producing. Every great painting, whether naturalistic or abstract, is a beautiful object. It is a subtle point, and maybe an advanced one, but one to think about.

Malorum- They are painted on cheap canvas board. The heads are on the first layer, meaning there is no painting underneath. I am trying to do as many of these as I can, and storage is a big problem, and very few are worth keeping, and I am a cheap bastard, I just gesso over them. Some boards have 3-4 paintings under the surface. The heads are a virgin application of paint, so to speak.

The seascape is also a first application, if I remember, but it does not look it. If you go to, you will see gallon cans of gesso for very cheap. I trowel that stuff on the board and use the side of a house brush to make that rough texture. It ends up looking like the paint is a lot thicker than it is. But that painting has no turp use in it- it is all “short” paint.

Collismo, Yes, I was only partly successful with what I was seeking there, the bottom two, esp the jaw area of the bottom left, are not clear. Clarity and simplicity was what I was after, always, and these are a little short. Actually the seascape was done the day after I had painted the same rock with disastrous results, but doing it allowed me to think through the problems and do it again the next day much better.

Elijah, hmm glad you like them. I am not sure about the emotional quality, these seem a little academic and deadpan to me, but I am happy that you saw value in them!

Joachim- acrylics are better than nothing! Get some odorless paint thinner, no prob with the smell. Yes they are wet into wet. It is limiting techniquewise, once you start with glazing and scumbling with oil, the doors really open up with the paint. But that is one nice thing about acrylic, you can break that old “fat over lean” rule because acrylic is so robust and flexible. If you want, I can talk a lot about the tricks of acrylic, I remember many.

Glad you like them sear! I thought they might not be graphic enough for you. I will be moving in that direction, eventually.

Micke, Hehe, if I can impress you, I am happyJ I am going to make mountains of these, I have a lot already, but all are of this quality, so I will not bother. I will find some other place to dump em too, as not to spam anyone.
Hey Gecko, I think you will love working with oil. Work thick!

Blakk- I would like to see Helen van Ick’s work. I am always looking for great work, and sometimes you just might find it on cable TV. I think Chuck Jones should be in the Louvre. As far as you not being too impressed, well, I am just beginning with this, and I will get better. I am farther along than when I started.

Rinaldo, Glad you like the colors, I have been working on them. Eventually I would like to paint the heads with the same color freedom and the outdoor color sketch.

Nori- I have tried every form of working, and still try different stuff all the time “what would happen if I…” As you get more experience, you can answer that question without have to do it. I can paint entirely by shape in PS and gouache, but not oil yet. I am still thrashin around with it.

Blackpool. I have never tried a finished head in oil, whatever that may be. I would imagine I would draw more carefully, being less “symbol” oriented in my shapes, and work thinner to thicker. Or to say I would hold back on the thicker paint until later. But generally, I would be more careful with the drawing.
Toastyken, I generally listen to the overall enthusiasm or lack thereof when I post something. Some of the things I like, not many others do, and some that I am reluctant to post get a lot of response. I like the idea of a “collective editing” this board can provide. So I agree with you that it is fine if someone is not overly positive, they should feel free to say so, but if some one is genuinely enthused, they should say so also. But silence can be deafening as well
Lunatique, yes I see your point. I guess I wasn’t mortally wounded by blakk’s post, I am secure enough to handle that. I have seen a lot of posts on this board that don’t contribute much, but I don’t know if blakk’s fell into that category. The only thing that I found unfortunate is implying that the work looked like something on TV, and therefore worthless. That is an unfortunate simplification of how you go about finding value in art or anything.

The first image was a cool overhead light, and the rest were done with those photographers spot lights. Quite warm by contrast.
Bg- Glad to find you hooked, as I am. Is it the colors? Try working in a limited palette, like black white, a medium dark red and ultramarine. Can’t get into much trouble. You can get almost real color by just playing the warms and cools, and simplifies the variables you must contend with. But as I always say, it probably is not the colors! Post em and let’s have a look
I have not done anything on TLOTR yet, I might. I talked to them a while ago,. But was entangled in FF at the time they were filling their ranks. They do have some very good painters, though.

Balistic, thanks! Interesting that you have quite the opposite opinion of Blakk. That is why I post these things, it is always a surprise, and it does change my opinions to hear other opinions.

Bishop, I guess Blakk is right, in an absolute sense. We all suck the big one in comparison to many great artists, I guess that goes without saying, which is your point
Milkman- These are from the model. I generally work a lot out of my head, but the only thing that allows this is having done so many of these in the past (though not with oils) As to you other question, I am thinking and looking, hard to do both at the same time. Relying on raytracing to show form and lighting are just not enough. If you like my work well enough to ask about it, trust me enough to tell you that you are crippling yourself by not using nature to learn. Secrets? That’s the biggest one right there.

Daryl, My advice is to slow down. The fewer stokes and shapes, the more accurate and well thought out the must be. So when you start, draw the big shapes slowly and accurately. You will be surprised how far along you get very quickly.
It’s Fred! Did you get the check? Yes, these are done at calabassas, the seascape done on my own. I have not tried longer poses with a head in oil, I would love to. It would be a whole new thang. I think I am inclined to work as quickly as can and still get the main info down more or less correctly. I think I would like to try something like asaro, but what attracts me to his work is the drawing is wonderful, but it is not concerned with finish. So I think a carefully controlled spontaneity (sounds like a contradiction) is what I am ultimately after.

You can have close values and still separate shapes, but you must have low contrast within the shapes. Then they separate. The example below I exaggerated the fog a bit, which is a good illustration of this idea.

Also, men generally have the eyebrow and eye close together, while women have a large separation.

The eyelid usually covers about 1/3 rd of the pupil. If too much is revealed, you get pop eyed or surprised looks, in which case you need to make the rest of the expression match.

The first thing to do is to get the acrylic white, take it in your dominant hand, carefully move to a trash can and.. drop it . It is useless. Use gouache white or use acrylic gesso. The gouache white works because you almost always mix it with the polymer based acrylic, so it get bound up with that and does not come back up if it were straight gouache. Liquitex gesso is a fine white. What you generally want with a white is bright white and covering power, or opacity. Acrylic white is thin and translucent and will drive you nuts.

Another thing to think about is paint thickness. If you are working on some sort of fine tooth ground (illustration board) and you put down a thick layer of acrylic, it fills in the tooth of the paper and subsequent layers become hard to handle. It is like painting on a plastic bottle. There are techniques where you can do this, like using acrylic to imitate oil paint, but why not use oil if you are going to do that?

The way most illustrators use acrylic is in thin glazes on gessoed or straight illustration board. You do a drawing, as careful as you like and then fix it with something. Then get the board nice and wet and brush on a transparent coat of thinned paint, usually a darker color that will be a unifying base to the whole image. Turn the board on edge and let the water even out the paint, a few runs adds a little interest. If you want to get fancy you can do wet into wet at this point, do fun textures, wild colors, whatever. But the goal is to get the board to a close enough middle value that you can work up the major areas as lights and then just add a few dark accents. The lights are worked up as glazes as well, always thin, this allows control and protects the nice tooth of the board. You go thick and opaque in the lightest areas. Watercolor brushes and synthetic nylons are good brushes to use, but a toothy oil bristle brush can work nicely for textures.

This way of working is with liquitex acrylics, which are translucent. There are other types of acrylics that are more suited to opaque styles more like gouache. Cartoon color in Culver City ca. makes cel vinyl, a very opaque acrylic used for animation cels. I used that quite a bit, it is very matte and reproduces well. Even though it is thick and fills the tooth of the paper somewhat, it has it’s own tooth that allows further work. You can glaze over it as well. I did migrate to this from the translucent acrylics toward the end of my paint days. Transparent glazing technique is very time consuming but allows extraordinary control and effects. I am more a direct worker; I think it comes from learning with gouache.

Everyone who has worked with acrylics knows once they dry, they are not coming back. That includes on your series 7 Windsor Newton watercolor brushes, so be careful. But this does create a problem, how do you keep the stuff wet on your palette? If you mix a puddle of paint, and if you are working in the transparent method, a small amount of paint, it starts to dry at the edges of the pile right away. Then you have little bits of dried paint in you brush and on the painting. Yeah. And since you worked long and hard to get that puddle of paint to the perfect viscosity, you don’t want to add water to it and ruin the masterpiece on the palette. So what to do…

So, the tried and true trick is to use a butchers tray, one of those enamel ones, but a good Tupperware might work even better, but good luck cleaning it. Take some paper towels and fold them into a long strip, put it at one end of the palette. Get it really wet with clean water. Squeeze out your paint on the towel. It will stay wet as long as the towel is wet. As it dries, just add water to the towel and the water will wick underneath the paint.

What about that paint you were mixing? On the remaining mixing area of your palette, lay down a few paper towels, get them nice and wet. Lay a piece of 100% cotton vellum on the towels. No, it will not rip up. It does have to be 100% cotton vellum, though, anything else will not work. The water wicks it way very slowly through the vellum and raises the humidity on the mixing surface to near 100%, keeping whatever is on the paper at whatever level of viscosity you made it. It really works. Not my idea, old illustrators trick. As with the paint blobs on the towel, add water at the edge and let it wick under the vellum. At the end of the session, put a tray fro the school cafeteria over the butcher’s tray to keep the water from evaporating. I usually put it in the refrig to keep things just as they were, but you don’t have to.
Try the Struzan technique, everyone does at one point or another. It is efficient and fast and really quite adaptable because it really relies on drawing.

1 Gesso ill board. Do drawing to full value, very precisely, but leave out information from upper middle lights upward. The drawing should look like a high contrast drawing, with the lights blown out.

2 Use an airbrush to make general color and gradations. Don’t render with it! Do not wipe out your drawing with opaque paint. The paint is the secondary player here to the drawing and the lightest lights that come later.

3 Do the rendering and careful halftones with prisma colors or maybe a little paint and brush. Use paint to build up the highlights, as the pencils do not have the covering power needed.

4include in portfolio and get laughed out of every art directors office you go into. It is a shame, his work is quite amazing. It was killed by a flood of inferior imitators that cheapened the value of his work.‚‚

My first thought is always to paint from life, but since this is inconvenient at best, you have to do the next best thing. And really where bang is at, drawing from life may not be the best thing. The model moves, time is limited; there is SO much information there that it is easy to become overwhelmed. Academies used to have the beginning student drawing from plaster casts, which I think is a great way to start- it has many of the advantages of drawing from life but few of the drawbacks. Only when they had that mastered could they draw from the model. So buy a plaster head, if you can.

But if that is not a possibility, use photos. Trying to draw out of your head from the start is a sure way to blow a gasket. I know I do sometimes. These photos (I bet you can’t tell where I got them) are B+W on purpose. The whole idea with starting out is to eliminate variables (motion of models, color, time, etc.) The best way would be to start with drawing, but everyone wants to jump right in with painting, so I think this approach is a good compromise.

READ all of the Sargent notes on my site before proceeding. You want the big picture here. Start from a middle gray, then establish your darks. That will leave you with a middle tone for most of the head that is in light. Carefully work up your lights from there. Work with a large brush at first (and later if you can manage it) and work zoomed out. Don’t get into the detail at all. If you really want to fix yourself of this, run a mosaic filter on your photos so there is no detail. This can be really helpful to see just what is and what is not there. And don’t worry about masterpieces, make them ugly almost on purpose. Let that they are correct make them beautiful. I should have spent more time on mine, but if I had they would be less finished than they are, but the shapes would have been more accurate.
What is your light source(s)? What temperature are they and how strong are they? You have to have this stuff in your mind when you are painting something this quick.

It looks like the sun is directly behind him, but there is a very strong cool source off stage right. If this is true, rethink it with this in mind.

When you mix compliments, try altering the value of the compliment to the same as the color you are greying out. Example, take a 70%red, mix a 70% percent green and then mix them together. Then you get greying without changing value. It is a lot of work, but it works well, very decorative.
You can handle values, so just bump things a little bit toward one color or another, just slightly off grey.

Also, think about just warm or cool greys to start with. You can get more elaborate later
first did this with charcoal on charcoal paper. You ground up the charcoal by rubbing it on some scratch paper till you had a pile of extremely fine charcoal.

You then mixed it with baby powder to dilute it. You then used nonstick tape to mask the area to be worked. EVERYTHING else had to be covered. Then you used a lithographers pad to spread the charcoal baby powder mix onto the surface. The baby powder filled in the surface of the paper and allowed you to slowly build up a gradation. When the paper’s tooth was filled, you sprayed some fixative on the paper and that gave it some tooth again. Back to another coat of charcoal. Sometime you could repeat this process 10 times. And the fun part was you could not see the rest of the drawing, so you could not compare values. You quickly learned the value of accurate roughs.

The paper was amazingly unforgiving. It showed the slightest imperfection or prior fingerprint. It was time consuming. A good example could take 15-20 hours. And the slightest slip up at hour 19 is disaster. For example, if the fixative had a little buildup and spit a little on the paper, you are done.

Try to think about what you are doing, analyze before you paint. A lot of useless rendering and scribbling just weakens the image. If you have 40 minutes, that time does not have to be taken up in frantic scribbling. Think about it, then do it. Make a stroke, evaluate it. It is hard at first, just the opposite of what you think you should be doing, but stick with it, and you will get faster.

Play up the differences between materials. Look at the penknife and the surface it sits on. You have 3 materials, ground, steel and plastic. The steel should have the least texture and “scribbly” contrasty stuff in it. You have rendered them all the same.

See the shadow shape of the body of the knife? What in that shape is not helping describe things? How could it be simplified, cleaned up. I am not saying a total lack of texture, but the design in the drawing must be there.

Maybe the ground could be a little more scribbly. Try to play flat areas off areas with more texture. The more variety you get into the image that better it will be. Flat areas against textured areas, big shapes and a few small shapes. Create contrast with as many different parameters as you can.

…never look at forms in extent but in depth. Never consider a surface except as the end of a volume, and the more or less broad point which it directs towards you.”


What he means is don’t look at just the shapes, but what is going on in the interior of the shapes. Silhouette can carry a huge amount of info, yes, but it is not a good way to progress with seeing and drawing. later, ok.
What Tinusch said! Start from a middle value. Don’t be afraid of your darks- In digital, they can be removed very easily. In traditional media, be afraid, very afraid.

So think in the beginning, with your nice gray BG, is the figure lighter or darker than the BG? Where is the light coming from? Big shapes and big questions.

I had a teacher once say to paint the big silhouettes like the lights have been turned off, or to update the idea, like a 3-d rendering with a fairly high ambient value.

But the main thing is to not be afraid to play in the paint; there is no way to get lost. Oblagon has been doing a lot of work like this lately

It seems that every form that your mind can identify has been rendered with full value, ie going from full dark to full light. It makes things “bounce” quite a bit and look a little metallic. If the light source is the sun, maybe the entire figure could be rendered in very few value steps. Also, the local color of the skin, rock, foliage etc actually varies from surface to surface, but when you assign a full value range to all, as you have, this is lost. Tell me to try again if this makes no sense, or if this is intended, to be quiet.

high key, low contrast makes it feel bright. You can do it other ways too.

Low key low contrast would make it dark? Yes, I think so.

I guess what I was trying to say earlier is get as much as you can out of the shapes before applying rendering/values to the forms.

But keep in mind the shapes don’t have to have hugely different values if the texture is “quiet”. By quiet I mean low contrast. The more “active” the texture, the greater the value difference between shapes must be in order for the shapes to read.

I have overdone the simplification to make a point. Start with large blocks of flat color and be very careful with your values. Make do with as narrow a value range within the shapes as you can. I know the temptation is to pile the white highlights on those rocks, but resist. Instead, spend the time designing the shapes that will really describe the rocks well from the angle you are looking at and you will find the urge to noodle leaving your trigger finger.

All this goes especially for low contrast underwater diffuse scenes.

I like BGs as an image much more, but mine would need less work to make it into a workable matte, IMHO.

The exposure latitude of film is pretty narrow, and photography is generally exposed for the lights. The eye works this way too but can adjust very quickly to differing light levels. So when you look at photography, especially low light stuff, you will find many lost edges and areas where different forms combine their shapes to make much more complex and abstract shapes. Mostly in the shadow areas, that is. I the light, stuff separates and there is a lot of form and color.

his is an exercise that was part of a color theory class at Art Center. The teacher was Judy Crook. The two small studies are tiny and done a long time ago that is why they are a bit crude.

The idea, if I remember, was to take a photo of some complex outdoor architecture and do three studies-

The first is to use correct values, but make the colors arbitrary. There should be no color dominance in any area. This is an exercise to make the mind separate value and color.

The second and third follow these general ideas:

After the cool night, a lot of moisture is in the air, like being under water almost. The sunlight is shifted a little cooler, greener and yellower. After the sun creates wind and heats up the land, the moisture burns away and dust is picked up and blown around. A sunset is warmer and a bit less diffuse. The arm cool contrast of light and shadow is a bit more pronounced.
So the second study is cool light, warm shadow. The colors and values are softer, and the warm/cool difference is a little more muted. But the relative difference is definitely there. And it is not something that should be brutally followed, as you can see there are breaks in the formula. If it were followed too closely, it would look cartoonish.

The third is warm light, cool shadow, more like afternoon into evening. Again, it is not a formula that will guide every last color choice, as what determines color is a million different little mechanisms. But it is a general starting point.

make your halftones (areas that are in light but not highlight) a little darker, and keep the highlights bright, flat and clean. A fully reflective object does not respond to diffuse light and shadow. This Frog, like 99 percent of all objects has some matte qualities, some reflective qualities

I hear what your are saying about composition. I have the same trouble too. It helps to not think about the subject for as long as you can, just think about the shapes and the abstract quality of things. Think shapes and gesture and volume, not surfaces and forms and objects. That comes later, all in good time, but the tendency is to be too specific too early, at least with me. I am not sure if mine is any better, but it is different.

Steven, I have found 3-d to be a real help in thinking about layout and staging. Make some very simple models, with the correct gesture and play with them and positions and lenses and such. Sometimes it really helps getting over a hump like this.
Gouache will dry towards a middle value, the darks are darker when wet and the lights are lighter. The farther from the middle you go the more pronounced it is.

Also gouache dries quickly, a plus in commercial work, and it is very flat, so it reproduces very well.

You can blend gouache wet into wet, and planning where you want your softest edges and doing them this way is the best way to go. That is another reason why it is good training- you have to think and plan.

you can paint over gouache without lower layers coming through (as long as the color is not “fugitive” in which case it will always come through). The trick is to mix up plenty of paint, use a good sable brush nicely loaded, lay down the stroke, and leave it alone. Blending will make a muddy mess. So it does enforce good habits early on. If you want to soften and edge just a little, you can after everything is dry, and it helps to paint thickly so there is enough pigment to pull around. Syd Mead paints very thickly. His early work used the wet into wet preplanned blending technique, as do his sketches, but in his finished work and more recent stuff he uses an airbrush quite a bit. I have to say I like the wet into wet better. He would do the drugged out 60 backgrounds with some kind of solvent-water resist, then paint over it with gouache.

But in the later part of my painted illustration career I used acrylic and cel-vinyl, as I believe Greg Pro does. It is similar to gouache, but does not come back up when painted over. So it allows more abuse and changes. You can block in a painting pretty thinly to start, and get thicker as you go.

First thing, the drawing must be accurate. Looking at a matte that is nice and loose can give the wrong impression, there is a lot of pick and shovel work that goes in before you start painting. Check that ellipse in the lower left. Lot of things that you don’t think of right off the bat are like the scale of floors in perspective. Floors are like figures, they are things of definite scale that must be correct. Look at the scale of the foreground building and project that back to the other buildings. This is where resolution comes in handy. Pay really close attention to your horizon line, know where it is at all times.

As far as values goes, be simple at first. What would a big cube look like if it where sitting out there? Extrapolate from that to other materials and local colors.

Read also what he said about simplification. I think many times people identify a “painterly” style a lot of loose strokes. Simplification is usually overlooked, but really is more important. Look at the white cloth- there is not a lot of “painting” going on in sargents. What forms he has chosen to paint are done with very close values.

gimbal- it was a pencil drawing on paper, with thin oil paint rubbed on and lifted for a few lights, then opaque lights, still using oil. Scan it, redo it completely in PS.

I have been reluctant to mix traditional and digital, but now that I think about it for more than a few moments, that is the dumbest thing ever. So I try. works fine, will continue. Pastel is next.

s45b- realistic ???

This started life as a 10 min charcoal on big newsprint. The model would not take off her clothes, so we asked her if she had something more interesting than a bathing suit. Out come this thing from the 18th century. Must have weighed 20 lbs. Scanned the drawing, messed it up in ps.

A really shiny well organized portfolio says -insecure anxious newbie just out of school- A bunch of coffee stained things bound with twine says -too busy doing real work to polish turds- But it can also say the opposite -sloppy work habits and bad attitude to standards-

The trick is to find out who you are going to interview with. If it is a human resources type, go spit and polish. If it is someone in the trenches, go with the casual approach.

Geez, Malachi, don’t off yourself by rendering 50 trillion cubes… Look at some photography first and see what is the best way to paint it. Most buildings are complex enough that the detail makes them a little fuzzy, esp as the distance increases. Also it is unusual to have a perfect grid, it happens but not as much as you would think. I know it may be in bad taste to use one of my things as an example, but look at this one, see how things stack up? Starting with a 3-d model would never have gotten me here. Get one of the “above [city]” books and look through that and approach it as a painter would.

Try to look at reality as much as you can, and think how you would paint it. Most people starting out put too much information in things, making shapes that make logical sense but not visual sense. The shaded side of the building and the ground, for instance, there is no indication of it. Your mind knows that it is there so you might want to indicate it, but it would jump out at you. Also look at where the legs and ground meet. nuthin there. this is largely a thing of deep shadow. In the light, things should separate.

But sometimes you need to show things that you cannot see. Sometimes drawing from the model the ribcage will be obscured. Figure out a way to show it. Also working from photos requires a lot of knowledge to do well, because they obliterate so much information. Stuff copied from photos without this knowledge is really really obvious.
So you see it can get complicated. It takes a long time to figure out what to play up and what to suppress. That is a huge aspect of naturalistic art.

To start answering the above question, your mind has to work in two mutually exclusive ways simultaneously. It has to analyze the 3-d forms, local colors, materials, lighting etc. But at the same time, you have to submit to just the information that forms in your eye, to just look at the 2-d shapes and edges, not what your mind says is there.

So the progression is, the real objects that you know to be there are lit by light that you are aware of and have analyzed, and that results in just a bunch of values and colors and edges. There are artists who work in one area or other predominantly. Hogarth lives in the structure, Sargent “submitted to the values.” He did not care for anatomy, but was accurate enough that he did not have to be (I suspect he knew a lot more than he let on). Have these two ways of thinking and seeing when you are looking or painting something live. Blur your eyes and think and analyze why you are seeing what you are seeing. If you are a fine artist working only from life, you can stop there, but to paint something out of your head, you have to use all your experience to reconstruct what was there, or to project what would be there if the subject where in front of you. Then you can go about translating what you know to be there into a bunch of shapes and values.

To work out your head you have to be adept at both ways of thinking. Well, it helps.

here’s a tip- When you draw from life (or just doodling, really) don’t just draw the figure in isolation, draw a box around it and make a composition instead of a floating collection of heads and torsos. That way when you get to the required several hundred thousand (ahem*()() figures, you will have done the same with compositions. That skill responds to practice just like any other.

that is the real strength of oil to me, the huge value range from mid dark on down.

I would say you need to slow down and be more precise. And only draw what you can do well in the time alloted. Think,solve a problem, learn something by really looking. It is arbitrary to say that you have to get the whole figure in in a certain amount of time.

The one thing I hate about digital is not having daylight in the room. I wilt. But I work at night almost exclusively. No distractions or other “life” stuff to deal with. but working in the day makes doing darker images really hard.

If painting, keep what is in light and shadow clear. This doesn’t mean a high contrast image, just make sure that the lightest area of shadow is clearly different from the darkest area of what is in light. The problem is “halftones too dark.” This applies to only areas of similar local value, though. The lit side of a black cube is darker than the shaded side of a white cube.

Uh I could go on, but… one more thing. If it is outdoors, there is the point source of the sun, and the diffuse fill of the sky. They are your friends and use them.

Yes, that is a good idea, to go through the process as many times as you can, but don’t neglect doing more finished work. Sketches and finished stuff support each other, you can’t neglect one for the other. Sometimes you really need to control something exactly, and what you learn there can be abbreviated in sketches.

But copying photos can be useful in the beginning to learn control of media and to learn to look hard at things. Don’t skimp on working from life, or you will not be able to see the box that photography can put you in. I think most artists start with an eye for naturalism and progress to more stylistic interpretations, which is natural. Working from photos too much make you a shape designer, the least interesting of all.

But photos are not the devil, as I have said before, look at better illustrators who work from them exclusively. What so you do with photos that makes it good or bad. It is not sufficient to answer the question “working from photos-good or bad?” and judge all according to the answer. It is a tool to be used well or embarrassingly abused. It’s mostly abused, though, imho.

I work hard at eliminating details that are unimportant. But yeah. important details should be done exactly.

I know that this is not everyones thing, so to detail pictures, just make sure you have enough rez and take the time, as much as you can stand.

Think of it this way. You have a pic of a guy standing there that is 2000 pixels high. You think it would be greatly improved by a wristwatch. OK, paint a wristwatch in roughly the same perspective and lighting in a new file, also at 2000 pixels. Then cut and paste and scale. done!

It is harder to make it look good without the watch.

Also tougher to make it look good without maximun color and value contrast that dodge and burn creates.

That tends to be the first reaction if something doesn’t look right, more contrast, more detail. If works, but only up to a point.

I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with detail, it is just that it is generally the focus of beginning artists to the exclusion of more basic and important stuff. A solid head is good whether it has detail or not. And I don’t mean naturalistic drawing only.

Beginning artists gravitate to detail and contrast like moths to a flame. It takes years for them to realize that that amazing pectorals they spent three days rendering is not sitting on the ribcage. “I meant to do that!, that’s my style!” Why I don’t teach anymore. Good drawing is a prerequisite to just about every kind of representational art there is. If someone is weak here, it screams from 952 miles away, especially to those who know better. I am still struggling to learn how to draw, it is really hard and takes a lot of effort. For years I was not even aware of my vast ignorance. That is probably still true.
Good drawing is, well, it is tough to say, but I think of it as clarity of thought revealed on paper. Look at the le soupe guys- they draw really really well, but it is stylized. Look at Disney animators drawings, does not look like a photo but it is excellent drawing. Look at Rockwell, looks like a photo, it’s good drawing too.

So my thought is for a beginner to focus on design and drawing and structure and not worry about the details.

But, with that foundation, details are great. Mister B could draw a lot better than some of his contemporaries, IMHO. And yes, Sargent was an athlete of drawing. Different levels of detail, really great art just the same.

As I remarked there, I abused the wide lens as these were to contain a lot of information about the environment. Josh Tsui, the art director, would send me a paragraph and a plan view with notes and I would generally build something in 3-d (witness my pathetic 3-d skills) and then paint two roughs and send them off for one to be picked. I would then collect references from around the net and get at it, with more attention to textural information and fewer lost edges than I would normally use. They needed to have ambience, but they needed to be direction for texture artists and modelers as well.

The 3-d was very helpful in picking and generating a perspective. Given that they are a wide lens, 3-d can do this easily. Would have been simpler to wing it if the lens were longer. But since people were going to have to build this stuff, no Escher-isms were allowed.
Make some cubes out of cardboard and set it up. Look at what is going on and experiment with moving things around. Try to explain the values that you see by using the rules that you already know. If you see something that is not covered, you can make a new rule or disregard it. There are all kinds of subtle things that happen that fall outside of the body of rules that appeared in the cubes exercise. But what is the point of all this? Eventually you are going to start adding variables and complexity but still out of your head. If you make too many rules, and it is easy to do looking only at cubes, you will become overwhelmed as you start adding complexity. So the point is to keep it simple, to do only what has the most bang for the buck.

You really start to see benefits from this exercise when you start adding things. Like one white and one black cube, One shiny, one matte, one black satin cylinder and one matte white cone. Then crash the shapes together to make a lamp or something. Then start adding materials and local colors and values to the lamp. Then try a pulse rifle…

One big thing I see on the above drawing is the shaded side of the left cube would be getting quite a bounce from the lit side of the right cube. I agree with Sumaleth’s crits

lev_0, my thinking in reserving your extreme lights and darkest is a way to use the middle tones well enough that you don’t need the extremes. I see way too much color dodge stuff and crushed blacks where they should not be in beginners artwork. So that breakdown was done with this in mind. I am always happier if I can make things work without resorting to contrast. Then there really is a different value for every surface.

But the real killer that often slips through the cracks is a good separation between light and shadow, and the old bromide, lightest light in shadow is darker than darkest dark in the light. Given of course equal surfaces and materials.
Acrylic is a neat medium, it can be used easily in a variety of ways. The one huge drawback is the value range is restricted, ie the darks are not that dark, and saturation in the dark range is pretty weak.

Don’t try to blend wet into wet thick paint. It is better to see the corners on the forms and paint them that way. It is a solid habit to get into anyway. What is top, what is side, where do they meet. When you find the largest radius form in your image, then maybe you can do the gruntwork of getting everything wet and blending, but only where you need to.

If you absolutely must blend, you can use it like watercolor, (the head below) or impasto. Probably the best it to start thin and then go thicker as you go. The old fat over lean rule. But acrylic is so abusable that you can work the opposite if you want, I am playing with that now some. You can run it through and airbrush if you want. yeech.

If the color underneath has not dried yet and is coming back up, just wait for it to dry. Better yet, work on the rest of the image while waiting, that is also a good habit and will force you to paint the image as a whole as opposed to get frustrated with blending the cylinder of a finger or something.
If you want to wing a wide angle perspective, just move your vanishing points in closer to the center of the page. Voila. Try it with figures, that is hard.

debris on the ground is like any other thing, except it kinda falls inbetween a texture and identifiable forms. But the basic approach still applies: blur your eyes a little and paint what you see. Can’t go wrong. After a while you will be able to paint it from your head.
4)no texture possible. But you build up samll flats enough, it starts to feel like it. That’s what texture is anyway.

The butterfly was a charcoal drawing from life that was scanned and then combined with a pastel (one I think I posted here a while back) and then manipulated in PS. Pastel is great because it mixes just the right amount to not go muddy and allow the particles to mix optically. Complementary color strokes go over one another and vibrate to a rich gray instead of mud. This is a major headache I have with oils when working in one sitting. They just make mud in my ten thumbed hand. Glazing is a way around that, but time consuming. That is why I am taking another look at acrylics, but they have a long list of drawbacks as well.

So scanning pastels can really make some nice textures to play with.

If something is buggin you about a pic, 99% of the time it is not color. It is drawing, then value, then composition, with color coming way down there. And if it is color, deciding on a different local color for an object is way down on the color hierarchy as well. At least it seems to be for me. But I know it is tough, when you don’t know how to fix a drawing, what can you do? I face that all the time. It is tempting to screw around with other stuff in a vain attempt to spackle over the problem.
All I wanted to do here is illustrate my point earlier about eyes. In general, the eye is in a socket and behind eyelashes and also under a brow, and is shaded most of the time. It is very common to paint the whites too white. But it is a general problem as well. The eyes are what people look at the most, and so people paint them bigger and with more contrast than is really there. So you have to learn to look really hard and see just what is there and what is not. It will surprise you. I am learning to do this slowly.

So you can see that I painted the form of the brow and socket with care, and if you do that, your eye fills in the eye. I did exaggerate this a bit for effect. But you have to know the generalized forms of the head to do this from your head.

Try not to work out of your head at this stage, you are not learning as much and reinforcing bad habits. Draw from life (your hands if models are scarce) or master copies. No photos yet. You have to be much further along to use them correctly, and it will turn you into a shape artist that will limit you further along. Understand the forms that light acts on to create the shapes that you see. That is the order, not the other way around.

Here is a project for you. Take any artist you like that paints academically, and do a forgery for me. Post your copy and post your source. If I can tell which is which, you are not done. You have to learn to subject yourself to what you are seeing, you are not getting that yet. This is a good exercise, and a good way to look at how another artist thinks.

Don’t use more colors, that is the last thing you need. Use fewerBack to top

Learn form (as a sculptor would see things), how light works on form, how value describes this, then about color. Then fancy strokes.
If you stick with copying the shapes you see, you will never be able to draw out of your head, and you will be very limited to what you can do with whatever reference you might have. So do it right from the start! This is the real reason to me for drawing from life, so you CANÕT sit there and copy the shapes you see. You are forced to make your brain think about what is going on in space. If you donÕt have the time, money, etc to draw from life, draw your hands or in a mirror. DonÕt become another casualty of photography. Learn to use it well by drawing from life first. And donÕt trace anything. You have to be really advanced to trace well. And tracing and claiming you did not is like the 4 year old covered in chocolate with a belly ache saying they didnÕt eat the cake. It is painfully obvious. There is nothing wrong with it at all if is done well, but if done too early in development it will just delay learning anything.

BTW, this is the stage that I am at right now. I am struggling to understand form and how to depict it on a 2-d surface. The illustrator training I had was very much get some ref, stylize it in some hip way, dodge the photographers attorney, call it a day. Luckily 10 years of job experience and earlier ID training finally got me off the golf course back into the life studio before it was too late. Maybe it is.
Now there is an easier way thanks to the MIRACLE BREAKTHROUGH of modern technology:) Use a 3-d program to set up a few subdivided planes. Set your camera and lens how you want. Print and lay the tissue uponeth. And it can really help if you make a few bounding box cubes to block out the main masses, you can really make sure you are not letting a improved composition slip by. If you are really good at 3-d, build in some more detail. Or just skip the drawing altogether and build it and render and ship it.

When I did illustration for a living, like with paints, I would do a layout fairly small, say 14×17. This is small enough that you really can get a VP a long way off he page. Once that was finished, I needed to get that drawing to 30×40 or thereabouts, so it was off to Kinkos at 4AM to blow it up on the copier. Sometimes it took several generations and then you had to tape it together.

And now a trick that comes from Syd Mead himself. Gouache is opaque, meaning that you could transfer your drawing to the board and then the blockin would obliterate it. No good. So how to get the drawing on top of the gouache blockin? Tape the corners of the drawing as reinforcement, and press thumbtacks through it and into the board. There you have perfect registration marks so you can transfer, paint, retransfer, etc, with perfect alignment and no slipping. Also, use a graphite sheet in-between the board and the drawing, don’t rug graphite on the back of the drawing. It’s messy and inefficient, and you often have to go over the same lines several times.

So if you ever see a Mead original out of a frame, this is what those little holes are for.

One more super cool tip, in a 1-point perspective situation, you will find your VP getting painted over all the time. Take a thumbtack and punch a hole to mark it. It’s precise and permanent. You can also see this on mead originals.

There can be a logical reason, or it can be arbitrary or even just design/decorative. As long as you get the value right, you can’t go far wrong with any color or saturation. Ceenda, the green grass problem is a good one. Look at real grass, yes it is green but there are a million variations and a lot of it is dead, which is brown (not really a color, but a dark orange red) So these compliments of strong local color bounce in the eye like a Monet creating the richness that I think you are after. Also, the transparency of plants gives a bright yellow green when backlit in strong sunlight. The surfaces are also a little reflective, so the pick up a cool bluish tone when light from the same side as the viewer and especially is they are facing upwards towards a clear sky. So there you have a rationale for doing more than reaching for the grass green.
Try to “sneak up” on it after you have the basic warm and cool colors laid in. Loose a lot of those edges, at night you would not see them.
See the harder shadow shape of the chin go into the softer, rounder jaw area and then go hard again into where the jaw bone goes into the ear? Play up those differences. I did too much here to make the point. If you look at the jaw, there really is no line there at all, just an area of shadow.

Same idea on the lower lip. You have it outlined, but there really is a lost edge there.

Also look at the lit area of the far side of the neck, keep that nice and crisp. There is a lot of contrat in that shape and it tells a lot about the shape of the lower face, so it calls out for a little more care.

Take a photo, or better yet, look at, some trees and blur it a lot (squint) Paint that!

Trees have are very specific in their major forms, from type to type. Leaves do not exist!

I bet if you look at the head in it’s simplest form, there are different values to the forehead, nose and cheeks. If the light is diffuse from above, whatever faces upwards will get the most light. Feel your own head, look at it in the mirror, I bet your nose faces upwards more than than the front plane of the forehead. Even though the cheeks may face upwards somewhat, the light is cut by the diffuse shadow from the brow.

So get these big planes of the head working first, don’t worry about smoothing anything.
If you are interested, try this image again, but in a dark room with a bright light. Make a difference between light and shadow and don’t confuse the two. Where a form turns away from the light and goes into shadow, make the edge soft. Where a cast shadow falls on a form, make the edge hard. A simple and greatly abused system, but one you should know.

I played up that feeling in these lips. There are many examples of form and cast shadows here. You should ignore the light coming in from the opposite side, just let it go off into dark.

Also, when you are drawing, constantly check alignments of things. See the corner of the mouth and where it lines up with the eye? The top of the ear and the brow? Be precise and make all these relationships as accurate as you can. What you are doing really is putting an invisible and informal grid onto your minds eye. very helpful.
Get a good anatomy book and copy the drawings and photos for a while. Make accurate copies. You don’t know enough yet to try and make this stuff up.

And then go to life class. Don’t think about why this is difficult or inconvenient, simply do it.
I put a little reflected light into downward facing planes in the shadow. Really any plane that get exposure from a lit plane.

I think you should work the whole image up at once. Get the body in there and get the big major shapes so you can start judging relationships. Some don’t work this way, but it takes longer to get good at it and if you start with the big picture, you are more open to happy accidents that may take the picture where you might not have thought of in the first place.

Only thing would suggest is holding back where you work the forms up to the highest light and then a reflective highlight. Keep that where you want the eye to stay and play awhile. Right now you have a lot of highlights scattered around (including some not really supported by the halftone information-shame!) that makes the image “bounce and chatter.”

I know it is so tempting, you put on that first reflective highlight and it looks so cool you just have to keep going. Resist! Try to make the image work with the halftones as long as you can. By halftones I mean the values and form that are in the light but are not the brightest light or the top of the form. If you take this as far as you can, you will be surprised how little is needed elsewhere, and the highlights don’t become needed as well.

The color is a little monotone, with variations in material and local color not well thought out. This is a complex mechanical subject; there would be so many finishes and materials that should be used. I kinda covered them all with dust. The glass windows and the glass cockpit help.

The little ship is not my design. The value range on it is a little deep, the blacks got a little out of hand. It could be fixed by a few more dark accents in the foreground.

The red glow in the hangar is just not working. It is bright enough that it would be influencing more stuff around it.
Study how light falls on cylinders and cones, then look at real drapes.

As the drape goes to the top, the radius of the fold decreases. This is simple, but where it hits the ground you should study the real thing, then understand in the abstract why you see the values you do, then you can do it out of your head. Try to do just the forms first, the pattern makes it a lot more complex

You are all right! I have a few custom brushes that I like, or reach for out of habit (bad). Some tell me they see that thing too much. It is a brush made from a gray scale of a high contrast painting of a tree against a white sky.
Another thing to keep in mind, read the Sargent notes again. Which are now in word format!!! He talks about “false accents. ” This means overstating a value, and it exactly what I mean with the glistening lip highlight, dodge/burn thing.

He does make the distinction between something finished and a sketch, how they are different from the outset. When you make a sketch, you exaggerate the values and local color. Look at friar tuck up there; it works of silhouettes and contrast. Look at the dude smoking. The skin, collar and wall are all of very similar local color, but they are also very close in value in the painting. This would be the start of something more finished, I think, if I understand JSS correctly.

This is just another idea of how to get more out of painting from photos. In most of yours, there is a lot of contrasty surface details, scrubby marks that in one sense create a lot of textural interest and activity, but also can hide that the foundation is not as strong as it could be. My suggestion is to simplify things as I have done, and then work activity back into the surface, if you want. Right now, the texture is taking over a bit and it is loosing organization. Get the big, blocky shapes to say as much as you can, then whatever texture you include will be that much more effective. You can do it all at the same time, just be really aware of the drawing.

Also try to paint the forms of what you are seeing, go beyond what is in the photo. The main head I am guessing was flatly lit in the ref. I eliminated the light in front of the figure, making the front planes dark. Changing things like that in studies from photos can really teach you a lot. It becomes more thinking and less shooting fish in a barrel.

One point, though. The color of her skin as it goes back is out of key with the background. Skin is really influenced by the surrounding color, and is only warm in a pretty neutral environment. In a very cool environment, the skin is pulled in that color direction. It is still relatively warm, but in an absolute sense, the skin should be really green.

Drawing first. If you get nothing else right, get the drawing at least ballpark. Whether you are using soft fuzzy areas of color or hard comic outlines, drawing is still the beast. And gesture is the most important thing about drawing, to me.

Then value. Many different ways to show form with value, but it has to be consistent. “Synthetic” lighting, like Burne Hogarth or a 3-d program has the light source as coming from the viewer. The greater the angle of the surfaces normal to the line of sight, the darker the plane. This is not the greatest or most “expressive” way to paint, but it does show form. So does plan and elevation, so that shows that form is not all we are after

In a more naturalistic style, like these sketches here, make sure that nothing in the shadow is as light as anything in the light, and nothing in the light is as dark as anything in the shadow. Read that carefully, what I am saying is contrast is your friend. Extreme examples are comic books, but you don’t have to go that far. Just don’t mix up light and shadow. How do you decide what is in light and shadow? You have to know form and how light works on it. No other way. You get that from life painting and drawing. Reliance on photos to learn this will mess you up down the road.

Then Color, and only then color. And just start with making it all brown or something simple. Then think about relative warms and cools. Warm on the lit side, cool on the shadow side. But it is relative, not screaming orange and ultramarine blue. Then you can get into more subtle things like local color interpreted through tinted light and reflected light, etc. But keep in mind, as you get fancy with the color, should your time be better spent on the drawing? I make this mistake more often than I like to admit

I am not saying that you should separate all these as processes. When I paint a blob that will become a head or a torso, I am thinking about it’s length, direction, edge quality, value, color, etc.

I know that is a lot to think about, but you can erase that eye socket, if you analyze it for the above characteristics and it comes up lacking. Do it again, and again or cut the background back over the top, till you get something that is right. Then move on to the next shape.