30×30 Challenge Completed!

I did it. Barely. Installation for this show was supposed to be Wednesday, but I had to push that back one day. I needed to make scans of the artwork and my beloved old AGFA flatbed decided it didn’t want to scan color any more. A friend came to the rescue, and the rest of Wednesday was spent mounting the pieces. But at least the art was done!

The opening was fabulous, well attended, well appreciated. There is just one problem.

There’s still art left!

 

And Your Little Dog Too!

And Your Little Dog Too!

 

This piece was pointed at a lot, usually accompanied with a smile. But it’s still there, (at least as of this afternoon) hanging quietly on the wall with no little red dot next to it’s name. So I decided I’m going to post one image a day (or so) for the rest of this month. I think at least one other artist was planning on doing so as well. You should be able to see all the posts on Avanti’s 30×30 facebook page. If you see something you like, call the gallery.

See you tomorrow.

Advertisements

A Novel Diet

For the past long while, I have been writing a young adult novel. (It was referenced in an earlier post here.) About two years ago I finished the first draft. If you were to read it straight through, it wouldn’t make any sense, but that is what I am told first drafts are for. Over the course of the last two years, I dragged the tale, kicking and screaming, into some semblance of narrative cohesion. The first weekend of October was spent grabbing the last chunks and shaking out the inconsistencies.

There was just one problem. That revised draft came in at over 135,000 words. A nice sized chunk was removed when I found a scene had been duplicated twice. (All for the sake of changing one sentence.) Another lengthy scene was great fun to read, but alas, it had nothing to do with the plot and didn’t move the characters forward either. Whack! So after rough cutting this gristle, I got the beast down to 129,718 words. Still way too much, but enough of a change for me to realize this is possible.

I read somewhere that a YA novel should be between 50,000 and 80,000 words. If I ever wrote a YA novel in 50,000 words, my son would disown me. He prefers books that double as exercise equipment. And that’s in paperback. 80,000 words seems like it would give me enough room, but I’m not convinced this story can be told that quickly. So I’m not setting a final word count goal. It would be nice to be in the neighborhood of 100,000. It would be nicer, I think, to tell the story beautifully and efficiently, to let the story dictate what it needs. And if that takes 115,000 words then so be it.

I will try to post word counts regularly. I’m not just cutting, though. I’m editing too. There are several areas where my critique group has asked for more, and they shall get it. The result, as is the way of all diets, is that there will be days when the weight won’t come off. Yesterday yielded a net gain of 69 words. But I think they are better words than the ones that came before. So I will not despair, but hone, and trim, and tighten until the story says I’m done.

October 8th: 129,787 wordsJeand'YvelWeb

Here’s a newish version of the first scene. (The first version was back in that other post.) It has a watercolor wash for the under-painting, and then black colored pencil on top. I got midway through the trees in the background and realized they were too dark in the wrong places. So I erased all the colored pencil off the trees and started over. It made the lighter areas sort of muted. An interesting effect, but not one I would like to rely on.

Painting Outside the Lines

FoxgloveWeb

This is a foxglove growing next to my studio. It is not what one normally thinks of when one thinks of foxglove. That tall, spiky flower to the left is what we expect, not this strange frilly cup. I assume what we’re looking at is a mutation. (Any botanists reading this feel free to step in with an informed opinion.) But it really seems to me as if nature is painting outside the lines.

As a representational artist, this concept brings about an involuntary twitch. However, if I stop and think about it, (breathe, calm down, it’s just a flower) it’s kind of inspiring. After all, if Mother Nature can do the unexpected, why can’t I?

In a workshop with the wonderful Dan Santat, he lamented the fact that so many artists paint the sky blue (mea culpa). He suggested orange, or purple, or green, if that’s what the painting needs. The minor disclaimer here is that he was specifically referring to children’s illustration, but I think the concept can apply elsewhere.

I recently read ‘Grave Mercy‘ by Robin LaFevers. About a quarter of the way through, I almost stopped reading. It felt like a very predictable plot-line unfolding. The friend who recommended the book said, “Just keep reading”. I’m glad I did. Everything I expected to happen, did happen. Just not in the way I expected it to. Ms. LaFevers was painting outside the lines.

I’m currently working on some art that is interesting in the concept stage, but it’s not right yet. That’s because I haven’t taken it far enough. I’m still too close to what one would expect.

For some of us, it’s a difficult thing to do – paint the sky green, write a likable villain. But it’s where our best work can come from. How do you take things beyond expectations? Do you exceed pre-defined borders in your art? Tell me why. Send me links.

Let’s enjoy the view from the edge of too far.

A Mermaid’s Tale

Mermaid9

In an earlier post I mentioned a project I’m working on. It’s a young adult novel and someday I’ll tell you more about it. This time I want to talk about one of the members of my writing critique group. Brenda Winter Hansen has written a lovely YA fantasy novel set in the waters off the coast of Ireland. She and her novel have been accepted to the Whole Novel Workshop, put on by the Highlights foundation. All she needs now is to get there and she has set up a Kickstarter project to achieve her goal. (It’s now on Indiegogo. See the link below.) This artwork was commissioned for the rewards to those who contribute to her project. You can find out about it here, and if the link changes when the project goes live, I’ll update it, so you might need to check back. If all goes according to plan, the project should go live on Wednesday, March 20th. Go look at her project. Right now. I’ll wait for you.

Back? Cool. Remember to check in on Wednesday and donate if you can. And don’t forget to tell your friends.

(Fair warning: what follows is a LONG post.) In the meantime, I thought it would be fun to go through the process of creating the art. Brenda was generous in giving me a free hand and it definitely helped having read the story. That being said, when we chose this sketch to take to finish, we weren’t sure if she was even a character. But she fits the story, so she got the part.

The original sketch is on the left. I redrew her on 140# Arches hot-press paper.

The original sketch is on the left. I redrew her on 140# Arches hot-press paper.

Perhaps this would be good time to mention that I’ve never painted an underwater scene before. I didn’t even have a clue how to start. Luckily someone posted a Photoshop tutorial on Deviant Art on just this subject. In about a half an hour I had a reasonable underwater background and much better chance of pulling this thing off.

The first wash.

The first wash.

At this point I mixed A LOT of paint. The basic green I used was Terra Verte from Dan Smith Inc. I have some issues with this pigment, but I won’t get into them now. It will be a suitable subject for it’s own post. I also mixed up some very old Windsor Newton Prussian Green, a separate puddle of Indigo (WN) and Terra Verte, and for the top, the ‘under-surface’ of the water, Cerulean Blue (WN) and Permanent Green Light (DS). I wet the paper as evenly as possible and finally started slapping down color. I had, however, forgotten that Cerulean has a tendency to not play well with others and it ‘precipitated’, separating from the green. Actually, it didn’t just separate, it dove into the paper and latched on. Momentary panic set in, followed by vigorous scrubbing, and a bit of swearing. You can still see the where the blue stained the paper in front of her face. The rest of the background went in comparatively easily. I set it aside to dry, and started breathing again.

The first layers of skin get painted.

The first layers of skin get painted.

When I was in art school sometime back in the Jurassic, my watercolor instructor wouldn’t let us use black. We had to mix it. She also gave us a great formula for Caucasian skin tone: Cerulean and Orange. Since she made us mix our blacks, she made us mix our oranges as well. (I don’t think I’ve ever owned a tube of Orange watercolor.) This time I used the aforementioned Cerulean along with Cadmium Red (WN) and New Gamboge (WN). Unfortunately, at this point in my process, I have several pools of paint mixed up and I start getting sloppy. I just dip my brush here and there, add a bit of water or a bit more pigment, keep things moving. As a result, I have no idea exactly what colors were used in the green and blue parts of her skin, the fishy bits. I started with the green, painting over the areas for both green and blue. In the picture below you can see the blue has been added.

She gets her hair done and I deepen the skin tones.

She gets her hair done and I deepen the skin tones.

The first layer for her hair is straight Indigo. I think I went back in to the flesh tone a little bit here.

The fish get some definition and she gets some outlines.

The fish get some definition and she gets some outlines.

I gave the school of fish behind her a bit of definition and then went in with colored pencil. I used black on her hair and then started on her edges with the black as well, but it was too flat. I grabbed my trusty Terra Cotta colored pencil, but that was too warm. So I covered the Terra Cotta with the black and successfully avoided a horrible Goldilocks metaphor. It looks as though I added another layer to the background here as well.

The first 'finished' version.

The first ‘finished’ version.

It was a good days work. I took her into the house to my resident color expert.

“That’s a good start,” she said.

“Start?”

“You never use enough contrast,” she said.

Sigh.

Mermaid10

The next day was spent carefully adding layers, deepening shadows, refining linework. I showed her to Brenda that night, and while we all like the art, it still wasn’t ‘there’. The big difference you see here is the result of this being a scan and the others from our Canon point & shoot.

The 'final' final.

The ‘final’ final.

This is where my resident color expert (aka my wife) gets her real due. I knew the piece needed ‘more’. I just lacked the confidence to be as drastic as I needed to be. I’m fussing and fuming over how to proceed and she just points to a glob of paint on my palette.

“What’s that green?” she asks.

“Permanent Green Light. It’s too bright. I can’t use that.”

“Just mix it with this other stuff. It’ll be fine,” she says.

I do the tiniest bit, knowing it’s hopeless. It isn’t. It’s gorgeous. I don’t care if it makes me a wuss. I take my wife’s advice because she knows what the hell she’s talking about. The Permanent Green is very yellow, so it contrasts with all the blue green in the picture, popping the mermaid off the page. With the green in her fishy bits plumped up I move on to the blue and have a bit of fun. I used Lapis Lazuli (DS). It’s the real stuff, not synthetic. The batch I have is a greyish blue and it gives a lovely depth to her blue as well as a slight contrast to the blues around her. Her pink skin needed more warmth too. I didn’t want to use my skin tone mix, that would push her more to the brown side. So I used a thin layer of Garnet (DS), also the real stuff. Her hair got a little more black (mixed, of course), and a few more touches here and there, but after a day of sketching, a day of drawing, and three days of painting, I think she’s done. That may not keep me from fussing with her until she gets sent to the printers, but all in all, I’m pretty pleased with the outcome.

And don’t forget what this was for. Check out Brenda’s Kickstarter campaign. Donate if you can. Thanks.