1hr Demo at Ringling College in Florida.
Together with Thomas Scholes, I had a lovely time doodling for a crowd of passionate Illustrators, Game Art, Animators and many other young artists. I started the event with an old painting of mine, (Tigers) and added a Singer Sargent to the mix (Lady Macbeth).
I’d come to campus with the plan to do a character in an environment - portrait style - though, with the ingredients chosen for the painting I was unsure of what the final image would become. To start, I chose a classy painting of mine, with a lot of work put into the personality of texture, color etc. This is an excellent starting point for a new painting, too often I would spend a massive amount of time filling in all the white space on the canvas. This way, not only is the canvas now full, but its full of texture and value with my personality.
Here, I chose a Sargent to bring myself into the mindset of some classic portraiture. In entertainment, I hardly ever enjoy character designs on the traditional flat background… Sure you can see the clothes they wear, and what their facial features may be, but there’s a sense of soul captured in fine portraiture that the entertainment industry lacks. A sense of atmosphere surrounding the character, bringing him into the realism of the world eventually seen on the big screen. The unique relationship that the character shares with his items, the wear and tear of every day life are all crucial to creating a believable individual.
Lets take a look at Norman Rockwell, an iconic illustrator that romantically swept America off their feet with his lovable characters and their unique stories.
With a concept as simple as “A girl at the Principles office” he’s able to bring a massive amount of information into the story with his design, composition, as well as the physical character and their facial emotion. We understand that she’s been in a fight, based on the black eye of course, but the slop of her outfit and the tornado that tore through her hairdo suggests the intensity of said fight. The most impressive part of this scenario, is her smile. The pride and adrenaline still pumping through her body, she stands bold and perfectly content in her situation.
Compositionally, you might suggest that this is a static, head on image. It works to ensure we know exactly what the scene is about, but at the same time, I find myself flying around the image with all the diagonals and hard lines pointing us to new areas of the artwork. Using elements to create authenticity in the scene but also to lead the eye. Elements such as the bench, file cabinet, “PRINCIPLE” sign, gaze of the characters and even the highlights of the cheap tile flooring. What at first glance seemed to be a centered composition has proved to keep my eye busy, gliding smoothly through the in depth story that Rockwell planned to tell. This type of attention to detail is character design at its finest. Where as, its not simply about the design of their costume, but in fact the living being and the feeling of entering a moment of time with this character.
With these concepts in mind, I push forward into the abyss as I hack a Singer Sargent with my old artwork. I combine the two images using layer modes in photoshop, while distorting them to create interesting compositional lines at an abstract stage. At this point I’m flexing my cloud muscles (you know the part of your brain that finds images in clouds) I must force myself to ignore the features of the two combined images, and blur my eyes to find the third image appearing as I casually push and pull the shapes created by this mess.
I’ve found it! The point where Macbeths jaw line became a pair of eyes I could start to flesh out the character within. I always enjoy working from a dark image and bringing details into the light, rather than illustrating a pair of eyes, a sword or hat, I push and pull on a shape, color and value into what appears to be an object. The thought behind this being : Draw what it looks like, not what it is. If you don’t draw what it looks like, it’s not going to look like what it looks like :
This observation is obvious in my final painting. Where I hadn’t drawn any eyes, nor nose, I didn’t draw any fingers or any features at all. Instead, I built the shapes of light, and their relationships to the shapes of dark. You see, the brain doesn’t see eyes, or a nose, but can decipher between shapes and their sizes to help your brain understand the complex world around it. For example, seeing a face in the clouds… Not because there is a biological form in the sky, but the bulbous shapes are instantly recognized and perceived as a “face”. Cool stuff.
As soon as I’ve established a male captain of an old ship as my subject, it was time to bring in a third image, to trick my eye into seeing new details and designs for the final sketch.
Seen here is the last Image slapped onto the painting. Perhaps you’ll notice when the GIF turns a little orange red. This gave me the last boost needed to find details with the captains jewelry, the design of his sword and shield, plus it added fancy pattern on his cloak for me to detail at a later stage.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and have learned something from it. Be sure to check out more of Thomas Scholes work (Grey landscape painting) at his website artofscholes.com. If I get a chance, maybe I’ll do a detail pass on the captain. Till then, Happy Painting!