Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Can You Feel My Pain?

This self-portrait’s purpose is to illustrate the last week or so. I’ve lost track of time. It has been hard to count the days since the Pain Demon came for an extended stay. The worst thing is that I’m now behind on work so my posts will be sparse. Fortunately it’s only been about a week. I’ve got the demon on the run now but I wish I knew what caused him to appear so I could avoid it in the future.

The drawing is a bit comical. I did a serious version but that one seemed to be soliciting pity a bit too much. Besides, now that I’m on the mend, I can laugh at it.

At the same time the evil little imp arrived a glacier moved across the land here. No, not snow, that’s not such a big deal. It was a rigid blanket of über-sleet. Before it could be shoveled it had to be broken up into movable chunks.

My wife says the character in the drawing doesn’t look like me but I told her it’s not that kind of portrait. It’s the inner me. Yuck!

Oh, how do I have time to draw this when I’ve gotten behind on paying work? I needed the catharsis. My pain put to paper.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Demon Painter

I did this little ballpoint pen sketch for a friend who sent me a copy of my art book to sign. He's an artist too and I typically draw some kind of artist in the book then. The painting demon is a simple idea but I like it. I don't have to draw in these books but I've told myself I will and I have. The little exercise has given me some nice ideas that I've expanded on later. They're things I wouldn't have come up with had I'd not written the remargue-all-the-books rule for myself. Copies of those drawings are now in their own file and it has gotten pretty thick.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Me and My Big Ideas

A while back a book company contacted me and asked me if I’d do covers for three books for them that would be a trilogy. I suggested I do one long painting and it would be turned into three covers. The editor said that that was a cool idea. I was going to do it all at once but the deadline got tight and I was only able to finish a little more than a third before the first cover was due. It’s been a few months now and the publisher hasn’t asked for the next cover. I’ve got a partially finished painting and someone who saw the cover now wants to buy it. Right now I’m doing other work with tighter deadlines. At some point I’ll have the time to finish it up. If I’d done just one painting for each book I’d have already sold one of them. Above is the third I have. Me and my big ideas!!

The title of the books is “Majestrum” and it is by Matthew Hughes.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


Based on the "overwhelming response" to my drawing lecture I've decided to do things differently. This is why I'm not a teacher. I don't have a dynamic bone in my body -- I'm a yawn fest. It would've been better to post all those pictures one at a time. All at once they blend in with each other so I don't get individual comments.

As I've said before I like to study the visual properties of objects. On any airplane trip you'll find me staring out the window entranced by clouds. "Hey buddy, they're clouds! Once you've seen one, you've seen a million. What do you need to know other than that they're big puffy things and that rain snow and lightning come out of them?" Well, I have to know anyway. "Why don't you just get all of that from a book or go talk to a meteorologist?" No, I want to observe on my own and reach my own conclusions. Too often people miss important details when they observe and besides, my concern here is only what makes the clouds look the way they do.

When I was a kid a teacher asked me what color the sky was. I said gray with a purple tint. She said I was wrong, that it was blue but I could see out the classroom window differently -- it was an overcast day -- the visual proof was there. That’s one of many reasons I make my own observations and I don’t automatically accept what’s in books or comes from authority figures.

One day when I’ve got the energy I’ll write up my detailed and boring analysis of clouds. Till then I’ll tell you this: they’re pretty.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Simple Minded Sketcher

Note how the clipboard above has a number on it. That's how I keep track of them.

Writing this might actually lower the value of my little drawings. The reason is that it’s just too simple for words but I’ve still not spared you any.

Most of my drawings are done on 8.5X11 sheets of paper. I rarely use art paper. The paper I use now was chosen because it scans nicely. It’s Staple’s Heavyweight Printing Paper (acid free 97% white). I buy it by the ream.

I like drawing on loose sheets of paper. This way I can feel free to experiment and throw it away if it fails. I also like to file pictures by subject matter to return to later and you can’t do that with sketchbook drawings. When I travel I draw in a sketchbook and I photocopy those and file them by category.

Throughout the house I have clipboards loaded with paper and when I finish a drawing I move it to the back of the clipboard. Every so often I go through clipboards and pull out the sketches I like. I have a portable files with a few hundred unfinished drawings filed by subject matter. There’s a separate section for all of my Gnemo drawings that is also subdivided by Structures, Flora & Fauna, Landscapes, Scenes, People, Sculpture and so on.

More recently posted Gnemo drawings like the above are at: Gnemo's Sketchbook

(Here’s a fun hobby if you have a DVR, DVD player or digital freeze on your TV: Freeze facial expressions -- the kind that go by in a split second -- and draw them. I’ve got several pages of this stuff. It’s not something I usually refer back to but the memory of those drawings stay with me.)

I got into the habit of painting by day and drawing at night for concept jobs but I’m not doing them as much now. Almost all of my drawings these days are for my own entertainment but they’re also all plans for future paintings. Drawing for me is exploration. It’s simple relaxing way to try out a lot of ideas -- a test of merit.

There’s a bunch of stuff in my head clogging it up and this is my way of getting it out. I need to move around when I paint so I do that standing up but I like to sit when I draw. Here’s the thing you may find awful: I do a good portion of my drawing while I’m watching (listening to mostly) television. If I’m talking on the phone I’m usually drawing.

The above is a left over Christmas idea.

That’s my reasoning on my choice of paper and some of the psychology behind the process. Now pencils: I use five different pencils: a 4H, a 2B, a 6B, a .5 mm mechanical pencil with a 2B lead and a 2 mm lead holder with 6B lead. The last one I never sharpen. I just like the big blunt end. Typically I use all the wooden pencils on their flat edge to create broad areas and gradations. I like to roll the pencil around in my hand to make patterns and random textures. The .5 mm pencil is used to put in little sharp details. I’ll even create a bevel to it for a very sharp edge.

My hand doesn’t like to press down hard on things so for the most part I use the softer pencils. When I’m drawing from my imagination my beginning pencil lines are light and tentative but they’re all over the place. Sometime even I forget what they’re supposed to indicate. There’s a good chance you won’t even know what I have in mind doing in the first several minutes. I start the drawing with the big blunt ended mechanical pencil or the .5 mm pencil depending on how I feel.

If I’m drawing a person or creature I like to start with different parts each time or I’ll do a quick gesture sketch if I’m going for action. Part way into a drawing I’ll often realize I’ve lost my way and because of my do-everything-in-reverse brain, I’ll then do a few little thumbnails. Drawing tiny forces me to think about the whole. Then I start a new drawing based on the thumbnail.

You might say, why not do the thumbnail first? That makes sense to my conscious brain but not to my addled (literally brain-damaged as a youngster) artist’s brain. It’s not unusual for me to do a few separate drawings of things like facial expressions or I’ll do the opposite of what I do with the thumbnails and draw up large things like hand gestures so I can then draw them small for the finished piece. Another thing I like to do is loosely draw the same idea again without looking at the first drawing. The memory of the drawing is almost always an improvement.

I never stop myself from drawing anything silly that comes to mind. There's no governor on my thoughts as you can see from the picture below.

My habit with these drawings is to not erase much till I have a direction. Any one of the random lines might take me along a more interesting path. Towards the end of drawing I’ll go in and clean up lines and use my kneaded eraser for certain subtractive effects.

Too often I overdo architecture. I just want to see how complicated I can make it before I ruin it. Something that works well for me is to make a copy of the sketch and then continue working. I can always erase back to the previous version. Again see Gnemo's Sketchbook.

Almost all of my drawings are started with a blank piece of paper and sometimes a blank mind. I don’t draw or paint from nature as much as I draw the images in my head. There’s no clear purpose to it. More often than not I find one only when the drawing is done. A few, like the one below, clearly serve little real purpose.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Flame War

This is something I did for the French publisher, Gallerie Daniel Maghen. They have done some stunningly beautiful high quality books. The dragon book this art is for will have the work of many illustrators. I've seen some of the art and it is all first class. If you think of dragons as a thoroughly explored subject, this book will change your mind.

At the bottom you'll see the sketch they chose for me to paint. I asked them if the wanted the dragon more malevolent. The art director said yes. The painting at the top is the result. Please don't tell me you like the sketch more than the painting -- it always hurts me when someone says that especially when it's true. At some point I'll come back to this basic idea and explore it further.

Tomorrow, if I have the time, I'm going to talk about how I do my pencil drawings. I expect you'll find it pretty boring. The approach is pretty straightforward. A bigger future project will be about painting tricks -- little things that can make a big difference. This will be highly theoretical and tediously tiresome. So you see, there's a lot to look forward to.