Friday, June 23, 2017

Deciphering Flesh Tones

-By Howard Lyon


Color is a fascinating and challenging part of painting.  It can be defined as hue, saturation and value. Today, I am going to focus a little more on saturation. Saturation being how intense or gray a color is.

Before I get going though, I think I need to add a disclaimer to this post. Painting from life is the best way to understand color. Also, photographs of paintings are by no means the same or close to observing a painting in person and only capture a small range of color and value discernible to the eye.


With that out of the way, I do think there are some important things we can learn about color using the computer and photography. Also, photographing paintings for later study can help to reinforce or add to observations made in person. I mention this along with the disclaimer because I am going to use a photograph of a Bouguereau painting to make some observations today.



I have long been fascinated by William Bouguereau’s paintings. There are other artists whose work I admire more for their artistry and subject, but I am hard pressed to think of another artist who achieved such a high level of technical skill. He could draw with great accuracy and had a wonderful eye for value and beauty, but for me it was ability to paint skin with very subtle shifts in hue and saturation that draws me in.

When Bouguereau was at his best, the flesh in his paintings looks like there is blood flowing just under the skin, vibrant and alive. You also see so much color. There is no ‘flesh color’ but many slight changes in hue and saturation that work together to create the impression of flesh.


In an effort to understand color a little better, I came up with a way of examining a photo of one of his paintings. I did this a few years ago and posted it on my site, but I did a little variant this time and I think it is more useful. Again, it is full of limitations, but maybe it will further cement knowledge you have or generate some new thoughts.



What the heck is going on here!? Let me explain. I am sampling colors from the face and hair. Each number and circle on the right show where I sampled a color. On the left, in column ‘C’ I filled the square with the sampled color and corresponding number. Column ‘B’ shows each of the colors, but with all of their values more or less equalized to a middle value. Column ‘A’ shows the colors with their saturation levels maxed out.

For me, column ‘A’ is the most revealing. When the colors are all shown at full saturation, the narrow range of hues used is much more obvious. Look at row 8. That color is from the white of her eye! It is really a very gray yellow, but it isn’t as clear until the color was pumped up to full saturation. It is also neat to see the progression from swatches 5 – 19, from the top of the forehead to the chin and up the neck and see the small shifts from orange to red and back to orange.


In the image above, I have arranged the same colors descending from red to yellow to show the spectrum of colors used in a clearer way. I kept the original numbers paired to the swatches. Again, we have the sampled color in column ‘C’, the colors almost equalized (there is a little variation) to a middle value in column ‘B’ and the full saturation in column ‘A’. Now, column ‘B’ stands out to me. Look at the top three rows, where the reds are nearly the exact same hue, but vary in saturation. They appear more blue or purple, warmer and cooler mostly due to their different saturation levels (they aren’t the exact same hue, but quite close). Look down the rest of column ‘B’. See how the colors vibrate and pulse in and out based on their saturation? More so than the fully saturated column ‘A’. The variety you can get by changing the saturation just a little is very exciting to me.



Color starts to do some interesting things as you drop out the saturation. You can achieve a sense of blue, green and purple by dropping the saturation of red, orange and yellow. It is as if grey starts to take on the properties of a compliment when placed next to a color of similar value. The gray gives your more saturated colors life that they don’t posses on their own. By working the saturation, you can create the appearance of blue veins under the skin, the purple flesh some complexions have around the eyes and cheeks and the cooler tones around the mouth and jaw.


If you are curious about giving this a try, next time you are painting flesh work in a neutral gray of similar value to the color you are working with and see what happens. See if you can create the appearance of color beyond those you squeezed out of the tube. That isn’t to say you should or shouldn’t use a full range of colors to paint flesh, but it is a worthwhile approach and exercise to try it if you haven’t.

Of course this won’t make you paint like Bouguereau, but hopefully it will either remind you or help you see how wonderful gray can be in adding life to your work.

*The photographs in this post are from the Art Renewal site and the Truth in the Bright Light of Day blog.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

AD A/B Testing

By Lauren Panepinto
  
So I was up at Illustration Master Class this weekend and as I was portfolio-reviewing, I noticed a trend gaining popularity with artists, and I was happy, because it's something we talk about over at Drawn + Drafted's art business bootcamps a lot. Having a leave-behind that has a choice involved. Usually a choice of business cards that have different pieces of your art on the back.

Alix Branwyn
The snake is the most popular (also the one I chose) - the visual hierarchy is more more clear in that one, and it really pops at the smaller size
It seems like such a little thing to do (and the advent of Moo cards offering up to 50 different backs to business cards or postcards made it very easy to pull off), but making someone stop and choose really has a big effect.

Bruce Brenneise
The purple/spaceship card is the favorite, and I'd suspect that's all about how it has a lot of color, but doesn't get hard to read at the small size, where #1 is a little confusing to parse what's going on, and 2 & 4 are more monochrome

Irene Gallo of Tor Books and Tor.com agrees, when we were talking about it on facebook, she said "being able to pick my favorite after a review makes huge difference in how well I remember people. It's kinda weird how much a difference...I'm suddenly emotionally involved, I've made a _choice_. (Also, artists don't always know what their best work is)"

Martin Gee
Surprisingly to no one, the Boba Fett, BB8, and C3PO/R2D2 ones are most popular, but Martin uses the whole set (with the belly band shows) as a set to give away to Art Directors and bigger clients. The Boba & Boba one just kills it for fan fave character + adorable clever concept.

So there's not one, but 2 bonuses for making cards with multiple backs: first, making someone stop and choose between options does a great deal to cement your work in their memory.

Nicole Grosjean
The unicorns are the winners, the full illustration over the watch (though those watches are awesome!)
Unicorns are easily a fan favorite, but the illustration reads easily at a small size and the unicorn has a pleasing silhouette, where some of the other cards are a little busier.

And second — you have a very concrete way to focus test your portfolio pieces. It's going to quickly become obvious that one image will run out the fastest. Many of the artists I talked to also seemed surprised at which image was the winner. Pay attention, because other artists and art directors may have one favorite, and non-industry fans a different favorite.

Nicholas Elias
Showing off the cool multi-design display case that you can order with your Moo cards. I'm pretty sure I took the top card (Ares) - his silhouette really pops here with the lighter background.

It's also a great way to see how your work is shrinking down. Remember it's especially important for those folks who are interested in doing book covers - your illustrations HAVE to look great in thumbnail. And they have to grab someone's eye as they scan across a shelf. Seeing which of your pieces catch people's eyes is invaluable info. Reverse engineer what you did, and apply that to all your other compositions as well.

Julia Lynn Powell
The portrait card on the right is the most popular, and you can really tell in this picture how well it pops off that card. That one was my choice too, and the piece is gorgeous in person, so this was a great reminder.

Really what this let's you do is called A/B Testing...on ADs! So I'm calling it A/D Testing from now on.

You're welcome.

Clark Huggins
Clark says he runs out of the Blue Faced guy (the ad for Reckless Deck) and Captain America the most,
but I love that Aquaman - such a great book cover composition.
 Thanks to all the artists who posted pics of their card choices! I'm putting notes under each image about which have been most popular, when noted.


Naomi VanDoren
Naomi says she runs out of the two fox dragon ones (top right 2), but i think I picked the bottom right - more book cover like for me to remember.


Angela Rizza

Anne-Katrin Hermanns
Anne-Katrin splits her art between scientific illustration and fantasy work, so it's helpful that she can keep cards with both options at the same time, without having to cram multiple images on a small card.

Brandy Heinrich
She says the Koi is the fave

Candice Broersma
The top left 2 are the most popular, although I'd have a hard time picking here. So much good book cover feels.

Christine Rhee
The bear & the goldfish & face pieces are most popular. I definitely would pick the bear, but I was lucky enough to get a whole set...again, a good strategy for wish list clients

Dawn Carlos
Nice strategy - she uses the top card (a cheaper non-Moo print) to pass out at cons with her booth location written or stickered on, then at her booth people can choose between the Moo cards below.

Dominick Saponaro
The left two are the most favorite
(I picked the blue frog - and I later hired Dom to do covers that related directly to that piece)

Elizabeth Leggett

Gwenevere Singley
The middle two go first. My choice was the 2nd from the left. Great conceptual illustration.

Jennifer Geldard

Jon Hunt
This is a 2-sided postcard

Kate Santee
Roller derby wins!

Laura Garabedian
The bottom three are the more popular, the tree in the bottom middle a slight winner. I think I picked that one too, cool concept.

Lily McDonnell
Unsurprisingly the Joker is the fave

Linda Adair
The angels (left 2) are the more popular ones. I love the Halo effect on that one.

Louisa Gallie
The tree is the fave, the girl with the knife the runner-up

Marcelo Gallegos
The two faces on the patterns go first, and I agree with the feeling that they must go bc they are so easy to read at the smaller scale and the orb just pops.

Marisa Erven
Bottom left is the fave - which I agree with, definitely draws you in, over the other two

Matthew Warlick
He's actually run into a problem - this is a double-sided card but people generally take two thinking it's two different cards. 


Preston P. Jackson
the center 2 cards ar ethe most popular, depending on whether Preston is at a fantasy event or general art event. Im pretty sure I picked the fantasy one in the middle.

Randy Vargas
These are new so no crowd testing yet, but my would be the top right bc it's book covery, and the dragons would probably be fan faves

Sam Lamont
Cthulhu beats skeletons
Robbie Trevino
The big yellow hand is the fave (and was my pick)
Tanya Finder


Live Demo This Sunday!



Please join us this Sunday for this month's Live Event. In this installment, Dan dos Santos will introduce us to a variety of Mixed Media techniques.

Learn how you can combine a variety of media, including pencil, gouache, acrylic, markers, airbrush, colored pencils, and oil paints... all in a single image to create stunning results.

This Event will be streamed live via YouTube for all donors of $5 or more. Donors of $10 or more will receive a downloadable copy of the video afterwards.

Event takes place this Sunday, June 25th, from 3-6pm EST

All Patrons, including new Patrons, should check the main Patreon Page 15 minutes prior to start time to receive their link to the event.

Get more info, or sign-up, here: https://www.patreon.com/posts/live-event-for-11862819

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

10 Things...What You Cannot Know


--Greg Manchess

I just returned from teaching our tenth year at the Illustration Master Class in Amherst, Massachusetts. Rebecca Levielle’s initial idea of teaching with friends has turned into an amazing week of learning in our art community.

This year I was reminded of how the process of growing as an artist is shared by every artist. Each evolves and must pass through different levels of understanding on the way to mastery.

But none of us reach new plateaus on a schedule, or in quite the same way as those master painters before us. Some students understand certain aspects before their peers and then run into a different level later that slows them down. Back and forth and up and down, our progress is never a perfect diagonal line upward. No normal brain gets to escape this. It is frustrating.

And entirely practical. Our species creates imagery and finds a way to express thoughts outside of our body. We’ve learned to do this over time, and we continue our never-ending need for visual stimulation.

Thinking of those IMC students and answering questions about my work all week, I compiled the list below to point out facets we all have in common for the process of artistic skills. 

Your mileage may vary.


You cannot know what you don’t know.
Relax into the work and apply unbending patience. You cannot see or understand the levels one can attain until you have gained enough information to visualize those levels.

That’s why we get fascinated by someone who seems to ‘see’ where they need to improve, sets a goal to get it, and then does. We think they have something special. Perhaps what they have is something easily attained. If only we can quiet the pressure we feel to do so.

The take-away: Accept that you need more information.

You cannot see what you don’t see.
You’re standing on a hill. You look outward over many hills and valleys and spot your goal. Then you set out downhill to reach the next hilltop. While in the valley, you cannot see your goal. Not even the hilltop in front of you. But you still climb.

Likewise for painting an idea. You set the goal, and you begin. The effort of building an image is like that downhill trek. You can bottom-out in the valley, lost in the weeds, but as you continue to climb up things get clearer until you reach the top and head out again. While you are in that valley, you cannot see the goal, but the valley is necessary.

Skills improve with time and effort. Not in a straight line, but in a generally upward diagonal, much like the stock market. An artist must trust that the stage they are in at the moment will improve over the long run. You cannot see nor implement the kind of ability you want in the present as you will in the near future —if enough effort and focus is applied.

Take-away: Make the trek anyway.


Mental tolerance.
An artist has to tolerate the fog of an unrealized idea. The effort needed to find clarification can be simple or nearly debilitating. But what kind of growth is built from already knowing where you need to go? What kind of character is built from a lack of effort? Why is anyone interested in the gift of automatic knowledge?

Unfortunately, we do find fascination with people who seem to not have to work to attain something. The reason is curiosity. We want to know why no effort was needed because we intrinsically know that work is necessary.

Take-away: Stay with your idea, even through the changes.

Focused observation skills.
We think we see what we are looking at, but often we miss subtle shapes that inform our minds about how to define an edge or capture a shape. Many students at IMC missed the subtle sculptural edges of a simple forearm. Edges they might’ve used to make a better drawing of the arm, or any other part. The smallest indention will give clues to musculature, character, and shape.

Take-away: Sweat the small stuff.

Listen without judgement.
Teachers who say they weed out the ones who will make it by being harsh and dismissive are merely amplifying their own ego. It is important to be firm with a student, but not to the point of dream-killing.

Finding someone with a growth mindset, who can point out your successes and failures without dragging you through the mud, is critical to your improvement. When you find them, listen with the mind of an athlete. Take nothing as personally as it may feel, but look for the clues for further real improvement. Listen without comment. Listen without explaining what you meant to do.

One can only absorb so much information before the extra gets dumped and you have to reacquire. But remember that repeated long-term effort is more important than short bursts of learning.

Take-away: Absorb from all quarters.


Drawing is your super-skill.
Learning to achieve a line with character is the ultimate knowledge necessary to create compelling drawings. Making many, many lines is what it takes to discover and repeat good line sense.

Is that too hard to figure out? A pitcher throws baseballs into a glove thousands of times to achieve speed and accuracy, but somehow we think the moment one attempts drawing, it must be instantly good, or they can’t create.

Insanity.

Take-away: Draw first; think next.

Learn strong composition.
Putting elements on a page seems simple enough, but it is the rearrangement of elements that creates impact. It may feel comfortable at first to place things in the center of the rectangle because our minds love to clean-up and organize random visual forms, but it takes repeated effort to learn how to balance and counterbalance elements across a two-dimensional plane to gain depth. Resist the temptation to keep things organized, and learn how to overlap elements for visual interest.

Take-away: Learn what makes compelling pictures and drop the need to be an “artist.”

Learn to handle pigment.
At the IMC, I watched students try to put down paint like a pro. They really did want to not only try hard, but to achieve. The problem was that many were judging their strokes too soon.

Simply because you laid a paint stroke on a surface doesn’t mean you know how to handle paint. But laying many strokes down builds a catalog of effort and each new effort after is weighed against the first. All this is recorded in your brain and once it feels the need for repetition, the brain builds memories needed to re-achieve.

Paint strokes are like calligraphy. We believe we need to know how to hold and manipulate a pen to get a result, so why not the same for a brush on canvas. Take-away: Traditional training is critical.

Watch others progress.
Students and peers around you are achieving at different rates. Causing yourself grief over not having what they have is a waste. You may be ahead in other ways.

Learn from them. Watch and pay attention to how they may be progressing. This is one way that we help each other.

Take-away: We don’t grow in a vacuum.

Get close to success.
As above, when we watch others achieve skills we want to own, we mirror their success. As a species we are very good at mimicry. And it is, after all, how we actually learn. Place yourself around others who are better than you whenever you possibly can. Strive to get connected to people who have a growth mindset. This is an infection you do want.

Take-away: Use information that is readily available.

Embrace fear.
Damn near any new endeavor causes some sort of anxiety about getting better. We want to achieve things quickly. We strive to be good at something fast. We have an intense desire to avoid work. Yet, work is where the learning is. The work is the point, not necessarily the final painting.

Learning to paint involves fear. Fear is going to be there no matter what you have in mind. Embrace it. Work with it. Use it. Fear is what the brain needs to improve.

Take-away: The way around is through.


All photos by Irene Gallo

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Thrain II

By Justin Gerard


I'm back this week with some new Lord of the Rings imagery! This time, from the Appendices. The image is of Thrain II at the East Gate of Moria, after defeating the orcs at the Battle of Azaznulbizar. This scene is of a victory, but one of the most costly ones for the dwarves of Middle Earth. 

Today I'll be briefly covering a classical oil technique that I use to help me when working in color. 


To begin, I start in the usual way, working from tiny thumbnails up into tight drawings. Thumbnailing is a proven, reliable way to keep me from lighting myself on fire in the later stages of the painting. It works 75% of the time, every time.  


Drawing

Once I arrive at a satisfactory drawing I bring it into Photoshop and lay in a toned underpainting. 


Digital Comp

For this image, I knew that I was going to want a more saturated evening light. Usually, I prefer to work from a desaturated underpainting to a higher saturated final image. For this image, I decided to flip things and begin from a place of higher saturation, and then use grays and muted complimentary colors to push the saturation back and arrive at the color I am looking for. This is called "killing chroma," and is something I learned from the dutch-flemish painters, who use the technique to give life-like color to the faces of their portrait subjects. 


The trick is to find the color that works as the perfect compliment to your background fill color. In this case, a payne's grey mixed with white offers an excellent counter to the warm umber tones. 

While it's always best to have solid photo-reference and a good color study to help you choose your colors, I do find this technique very useful for keeping a unified palette when working from imagination/memory. Since I have started from a place of such high-saturation many of the color decisions are already made for me. It then becomes a matter of how much I want to push and pull the blues and greens to offset the warm tones of the image. 

For shadows and colors I use semi-transparent Normal layers. For highlights and details I use Screen layers. For a more in-depth look at how I work with Photoshop Layers, check out my previous post here. And to see the brushes I use for my work, you can check them out here