Friday, February 24, 2017

Trust the Process

I always remind myself: "Trust the process."

Step 1: Research. I study the scientist's papers, look at photos of the fossils, and compare animals in our world that might serve as analogues.

Anchiornis sketches
Step 2: Thumbnails. I sketch these preliminaries with watercolor, gouache, colored pencil and fountain pen. I do these from imagination, pretending I'm watching the animals go through a series of actions. What is the moment to capture?

On some level I'm also aware of 2D design issues, but I'm really trying to project myself into the moment. I try to think of my sketch as a window rather than a piece of paper. 

Sometimes the first sketch is the best. Sometimes a discovery happens later. You will never know until you try a lot of variations. I don't get too attached to any of them.

Maquette made of paper over armature wire,
bulked out with epoxy putty, and painted in acrylic.
Step 3. Once the art director and I agree on the best sketch, I try to recreate in physical form the conditions of the sketch, to see if it works out spatially and dimensionally. 

This stage is where all the unexpected surprises arrive to add conviction to the idea—for example the dappled light on the tree and the cast shadow on the visible foot.

Step 4. Then it's on to the finish in oil. Check out the video below if you haven't seen it already.



Step 5. Make a Documentary Video. It's the age of social media, so there's more work to do. Creating a video is the final part of the job. Of course it's not officially commissioned. There's no budget for making a behind-the-scenes video. An outside crew could never get the personal angle that the artist himself or herself can get.

But I like to do this when I can because it helps the magazine reach more readers. We illustrators need to do everything we can to help our print partners win.
Resources
Previous post: How to Video Your Art
Book about the process: Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn't Exist
Link to YouTube video for this painting
The painting appears in the March issue of Ranger Rick

Thursday, February 23, 2017

A Dinosaur Takes Wing

Although a scene like this would have taken place 160 million years ago, I want the image to look like it was captured yesterday by a wildlife photographer's camera.

Anchiornis in Flight
It appears in Ranger Rick, a magazine dominated by wildlife photography. So I blur the background to suggest depth of field. I spotlight the action with an area of soft dappled light cast from the tree behind us.

The following 1-minute video gives a glimpse of the process.


(Link to Facebook video)

I make the paper-over-wire maquette by photocopying a flat plan drawing of the animal two times onto card stock. Then I make a glue sandwich with aluminum armature wire in the place of the bones. Then I bulk up the maquette with epoxy putty.


Here's an 8 minute video on YouTube of all three dinosaur paintings for the March issue of Ranger Rick Magazine.

(Link to YouTube video)

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Courtship Display

What good are feathered "wings" if you can't fly?
Khaan mckennai, oil on board by James Gurney
Well, if a predator or another male threatens you, you can spread your wings and tail to make yourself look bigger. And you can attract females.

And since you are lightly built, your wings can help you jump a little farther and higher.


Clark, J.M., Norell, M.A., & Barsbold, R. 2001. Link and Link
This little dinosaur is Khaan mckennai, an oviraptorid. It's possible that the beautifully preserved fossils above represent a male and female.

I did these sketches in watercolor and gouache to show the art director at Ranger Rick, a magazine for young naturalists produced by the National Wildlife Federation. 



Here's a little video taking you behind the scenes (link to Facebook). The artwork appears in the new March, 2017 issue of Ranger Rick Magazine.


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Taking a Dust Bath

Sparrows do it. Donkeys do it. Elephants do it. And ostriches do it. It makes sense to me that a big feathered dinosaur like Yutyrannus would take a dust bath, too. 



I checked with a couple of paleontologists and they said that the 30 foot long tyrannosaur relative would more likely squat down with their belly to the dirt than roll over on their side.



In this short video of the process, I take you behind the scenes. (Link to Facebook video)

My sketches are in gouache, which gives a quick impression that I can show to the art director of Ranger Rick Magazine, where the illustrations appear in the March 2017 issue.


I make a new maquette because none of my existing dinosaur maquettes are in this pose. The head looks big because of camera distortion. 

The sculpt is made with a 2-part epoxy called Magic Sculpt over a core of Sculpey. I use aluminum wire for the armature. (Thanks, Clayton) Even though the maquette doesn't have a feathery surface, the big planes are clear, so I can light it and have a sense of light and shadow.
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Monday, February 20, 2017

New Dino Paintings: Flyover Preview



Here's a flyover preview of three new feathered-dinosaur paintings. (Link to video on Facebook)


The set-up for shooting flyovers is all home made. The camera is suspended from a Lego cart (tires removed). That cart rolls on two dollar-store metal broomsticks, pulled by a geared down Lego motor. Smoke machine is off to the right.

I'll be sharing more about these paintings over the next few days.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Hotel Catalina

Hotel Catalina, oil, 8 x 12 inches, Catalina Island
I painted this view of Hotel Catalina about 35 years ago. The layers of paint are fairly thinly applied on a panel that was pre-primed with a warm acrylic ground. For the window details, I used a 1/4 inch synthetic flat brush, using Liquin for the medium.