Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Making of "Unfinished Melody", and videos for Noah's Art Camp

Yesterday, I posted about my new digital painting, Unfinished Melody.

Apart from being a deeply personal piece of artwork, I screen-captured most of the process to create some digital painting tutorial videos for my colleague Noah Bradley's 12-week online summer course, Noah's Art Camp.

You would need to sign up for the camp to gain access to the full one-hour tutorial videos, but to give you a brief overview, I made four videos, each covering one of the following topics:
  • I. Painting the Female Figure
  • II. Painting the Female Face
  • III. Painting Hands
  • IV. Painting Fabric

Apart from lots of process footage from Unfinished Melody, there are shorter mini-demos, live segments, and slide shows in each video, covering a variety of more specific related topics from basics like gesture drawing, to more advanced stuff like how to properly shade a young woman's smile lines.

In this video still from "Painting Fabric," I'm ranting about explaining the benefits of keeping fabric samples in your studio to use as live reference.

The origin was a humble sketchbook thumbnail, which evolved into a sketch from imagination, then a sketch using reference, and so on, all of which is documented in "Painting the Female Figure."

Noah's Art Camp also has weekly assignments with instructional video demos by Noah himself, and other artists like me have contributed tutorials and footage of their work. Go check it out to learn more.

Monday, June 24, 2013

New digital painting, "Unfinished Melody"

I want to share with you my new digital painting, Unfinished Melody:

A girl, despite being injured and surrounded by death, is captivated by a melody in her head, and attempts to rise up so that she can finish playing it.

It’s simultaneously a narrative painting and a dramatic metaphor for the current state of my artistic career, as well as a minor nod toward my 2009 painting, Half Her Heart’s Duet, created during a time at which I also wanted to (figuratively) burn all my paintings and start over.

Unfinished Melody toys with various themes: obsession, vulnerability, strength through adversity, and creativity. Music and musical instruments represent creativity/creation in both this painting and the earlier Half Her Heart’s Duet, and the small, half-shadowed stringed instrument in this piece intentionally resembles the shape of the guards’ shields, suggesting that creativity is a form of protection. While painting, I thought of each arrow as a bad idea, or a piece of shoddy career advice I received somewhere over the last four years. Some of them were deflected, and some stuck. The broken one that's stuck in her (my) leg is the notion that just good enough is fine. It's not. Just good enough will kill you, slowly. Her intent to rise up mirrors my intention to bring my whole self back to my art, despite so much advice to the contrary.

The specific imagery I chose also (I think) relates to various bits of media I consumed during and just before creating this piece. For example, HBO's Game of Thrones had just aired its infamous Rains of Castamere (Red Wedding) episode a week prior, so [SPOILER] the idea of mass slaughter was fresh on my mind.[/SPOILER]

There’s also a tiny part in one of my all-time favorite TV shows, BBC’s Sherlock, where Moriarty is telling the famous tale of Bach hearing his son playing one of his songs at the piano and stopping before it was finished, so the dying composer got out of bed and finished it. That's where the title came from. I thought the idea of being 'unable to cope with an unfinished melody' was a perfect way to describe this painting and what it stands for to me personally as the obsessed artist.

In my next post, I'll talk a little bit about how it was made.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Death to the Old, Long Live the New

Have you ever wanted to burn all of your paintings? You'd think that would be an upsetting feeling, but sometimes it's the best thing, because it means you've outgrown your old work.

"Fallen and Forgotten" adapted from a piece for ImagineFX. 2012-2013, Digital.

Allow me to speak from my heart for a minute: I outgrew my work a long time ago.

After starting the full-time illustration career, I lost sight of where I wanted to go next, so I just drifted on, and tried some things that worked and others that didn't work as well as I planned. Even "successful" pieces from last year like Omens were a stab in the direction I want to go, but fell just short of the mark. Then last week everything changed. I finally completed a piece that (I feel) is more worthy of my signature than anything that came before it, and is a clear starting point for the look and feel of my next body of work. I can't show off that particular piece for at least a year, because it's under nondisclosure, but waiting to release it gives me time to settle into a cocoon and undergo a period of intense growth and change.

I need to use the time to meditate on what my future career looks like, too. I want to continue working in games, and pursue more books after re-tooling my portfolio, but I might wait to pursue gallery work for a few years. Some might be upset by this, but after trying for a couple years to make it work, I'm putting oil painting on the back burner. I still plan to use traditional media, but probably more in the form of graphite and charcoal drawings. I think I jumped into oils prematurely, naively thinking I'd be able to put in the same level of quality as my digital work, but I need more training and practice in the medium itself before continuing down that road professionally. My sincerest apologies to original art collectors who expected more oils- it's not you, it's me.

As for burning my body of work so far, obviously that's not a real option (unless I build an Archimedes death ray like James Gurney). Growth is about building on the past, so while a lot of work will have to be retired, it won't be forgotten.

I'm so excited. Time to shut up and go draw.