Quail Painting

My sister-in-law expressed interest recently in having some small quail paintings commissioned. So, when I had a little extra time and a square of toned canvas left over from another project, I thought I would do a little quail.

Oil Painting of California Quail by Jameson Gardner Art

There isn’t a whole lot to say about it. It is a California Quail—the kind that we have running around here in Utah. the canvas is an 8″ square and it’s painted in oil.

I suppose it might be interesting to note that a general rule in oil painting is fat on lean—you thin the first layers and build it up thicker on top. Thinned oils will be difficult or impossible to lay down on unthinned paint unless it is already dry. Which is why I follow that rule until my last layer. I often like to let everything dry for a couple days and then come back and do some glazing with an oil liquin mixture (usually burnt sienna, my favorite pigment). Below is an in progress shot, before I did any glazing or added any of the environment.

WIP Oil Painting of California Quail by Jameson Gardner Art

 

The Monument

Dimensional Illustration of woman pondering monument with tilt shift effect. By Jameson Gardner Art

Many of the ideas for my illustrations are driven by a mood or feeling. I had an idea in the back of my mind for awhile for an illustration of some kind of monument. I remember a war monument at Soborna Square in Chernivsti, Ukraine that kind of inspired me in this regard. Having lived there for several months, I walked past that monument in all sorts of weather. It was the wet and misty days, though, when the monument seemed to really tell its story. Those were the days when you wondered about the old Babusya who’s father was taken in the war, and how it must have been for her widowed mother so many years ago. That was the feeling I wanted to convey here.

I sculpted a little angel 7 or 8 months ago and started gold leafing it right before we moved. The process was kind of tedious and when it was halted for the move, I ended up setting it aside until now. So, when I finished the gold leaf I wanted to do more than just have a gold angel laying around and I thought I might be able to use it as part of the monument in this dimensional illustration.

Below is my original thumbnail. I sometimes wonder if I should even bother showing those—they are often just a pile of scribbles that allow me to think the image through better.
Preliminary thumbnail of woman and monument

With a basic idea of the composition and the angel already sculpted, I proceeded with planning and building the other components. Everything had to be scaled with the angel in mind, so I did a lot of measuring and looking through my lens (as usual). I cut my cobblestones from the chipboard on the back of a big drawing pad and glued them down to a sheet of foam-core. I did a radial pattern where the monument would sit and a sort of path leading up to it. This I sprayed with a stone texture, then painted with acrylic and doused in model building “water”—you know the stuff they use in rivers by tiny railroads. Same process for the monument pedestal, except for the star which I made from super sculpey and covered in gold leaf. I painted the background in oil over the top of the background for my crashed spaceship illustration. Why stretch another canvas when you already have a big one that will never be displayed in its current state anyway?

Set up for dimensional illustration of woman and monument by Jameson Gardner Art

The woman was also made from super sculpey, onto which I glued the tiny clothes that I made for her. I also made her hair from deconstructed yarn and put new fabric on one of those little cocktail umbrellas.

Here is more detail on the Angel:

Sculpture of angel with sword and wings for monument illustration by Jameson Gardner Art

As with almost all of my dimensional illustrations, the final image  (top) is composited from several shots from the same angle. I’ve learned some good tricks for studio lighting, but I always try a few different things with the lights so that I have plenty of data and detail should I need it in the final. For example, I could only get the kind of wet reflections on the ground by having a diffused light source directly behind the monument. Obviously, my background is directly behind the monument, so in addition to my standard shots with the background, I took a couple shots with a piece of white foam-core.

This last image just has an artificial tilt shift effect on it. It kind of brings back the miniature feeling that I work to avoid when shooting my photos 🙂

Dimensional Illustration of woman pondering monument with tilt shift effect.  By Jameson Gardner ArtHope you enjoy!

Mermaid Painting

I’m the type of fellow who can get bored doing the same thing for too long. I also find when drawing or painting that a frustrating problem is easier to solve if you let it sit for a bit and come back to it. You can look at it with a fresh eye and you’re less likely to make stupid decisions when you’ve cooled off a bit. So, while painting the clipper ship commission that I posted about recently, I also started working on a mermaid as a way to take breaks.

Mermaid on rock in surf ©Jameson Gardner 2014

It wouldn’t be much of a break from oil painting if I started another oil painting. So the mermaid would be watercolor (sortof). I’d been meaning to order some Arches paper from Utrecht, but not knowing I’d want to start this painting until the day of, I wasn’t in a hurry and didn’t have any suitable watercolor paper. So, I just did the drawing on a sheet of regular drawing paper. I wanted to show a moment of decision when the mermaid, having received a potion from the Sea Witch that will make her human, resolves to use it. It is a big decision that will require sacrifice and provide an uncertain future, so, it is supposed to look a little ominous and she a little melancholy.

I got my reference from the great and vast internet. Usually for something like this, I’d prefer to shoot my own reference, but I didn’t plan this in advance, and had to settle for Pinterest and google. That can, of course be risky if you don’t play it right. Just yesterday, I was dropping off a painting at the Harris Fine Arts Center at BYU, and among some works hanging there, I assume from a freshman drawing class, I noted an image that I have definitely seen before, probably in National Geographic (it kind of destroys your credibility as an artist when it looks like you just copy other peoples photos). That being said, I’d be very surprised if you could correctly identify any of my internet reference sources. That isn’t just because my sources are obscure, but because when I create a piece I have an idea, and usually thumbnails or sketches of what I want. Then if I can’t shoot my own reference, I look for images that can inform my work and fill in the details I need. I usually use reference from the internet to help me accomplish a piece I’ve already planned, I don’t plan a piece based on the reference I find.

While drawing I ran up against another little quandary. I haven’t ever imagined that mermaids would actually wear clothes. They are fishfolk and fish don’t have a lot of use for clothes. I also felt that adding shells or something like that would automatically introduce her into our system of morality. And wearing only shells she’d probably fall nearer the skanky end of that spectrum. Initially I imagined that I’d just use the age old tactic of long hair to cover her chest. I tried it and didn’t like the result. It kind of ruined the balance and composition. So, I finished the drawing with the hair on only one side. When I was done, I asked my wife what she thought. She said she liked it, but pointed out that even if they don’t worry about clothes in mer-culture, there are kids from human culture, who’s parents are deciding what values of modesty etc. to teach them, who follow my instagram and other social media. That was a valid point. I gave in and determined to do two versions. The authentic mermaid version, and the approved for all audiences version. I traced her torso and added shells on a separate paper, intending to paint those as I painted the main image and digitally combine them later.

Mermaid on rock in surf ©Jameson Gardner 2014

When the drawing was done I mounted it on a panel using matte medium. I painted several layers of transparent washes until I came to a point where I was of two minds. One of my minds said “I like this, it is kind of high key, but you should keep it.” my other mind said, “If you are going to put that on your blog or website, people will want deeper values and more contrast.” Lucky for me, modern technology lets me have my cake and eat it too. I photographed it, and continued painting digitally so that I could keep the original how it was.

Mermaid on rock in surf ©Jameson Gardner 2014

When I digitally paint into a traditionally started piece, I tend to use similar methods to the traditional medium I started with. In this instance, that meant several additional transparent layers.

Being finished I’m glad to have all three versions—the original, the digital and the digital with shells. Hope you enjoy it too.

Mermaid digital color sanshells squish2 blog

Mermaid digital color detail blog

Clipper Commission

Clipper Ship Emerald Isle

I just finished this painting of the Emerald Isle, a clipper ship built 1853 in Bath, Main. The client commissioned this to commemorate her ancestors, several of whom immigrated to the United States aboard the Emerald Isle in 1868.

With some information about the ship and the ancestors’ crossing, my first step was to do a series of thumbnails with different perspectives, croppings, and the ship in different attitudes. I sent this sheet with several of those to the client to begin our dialogue about the composition. Over and over I’ve heard artists and illustrators caution not to include any thumbnails you wouldn’t want to paint, because invariably, those will be the ones the client will choose.

Well, of my thumbnails, I didn’t really like the composition or perspective of #3 or #6, but I thought I would include them for variety’s sake. The client liked #6 🙂 With a little discussion about what she liked about 6 and the compositional and dynamic advantages of #2 (my favorite), we were able to make a plan to adjust #2 to suit us both.

Clipper Thumbnails

Next, I prepared a larger sketch and value comp implementing the adjustments from the thumbnail. When the client approved that, I moved on to painting.

Clipper ship Emerald Isle commission value comp.

Though I paint on both canvas and panel, if I have the choice I usually go for panel. Gessoing it myself, I can not only control the overall texture, but also that of specific areas.

Once the board was gessoed, I made my first time-robbing blunder. Every project has to have one or two, so I am happy that this one wasn’t too bad. I didn’t have any transfer paper on hand—so I decided rather than go to the store, I would just make my own. I sprinkled a sheet of thin sketch paper with graphite powder and rubbed it in with isopropyl alcohol. It looked pretty good and I proceeded to make the transfer tracing from a printout of my sketch.

When I pulled the sketch and transfer paper away, it revealed a mess of graphite in which I could sort of make out the crumbly outline of a ship. I had used too much graphite powder and it caked pretty thick in some places. I wiped away of as much as I could and re-gessoed. While the gesso was drying I made a trip to the store to pick up some transfer paper ;).

Process shots of clipper ship Emerald Isle Commission.

Finally with a good transfer, I went over the drawing again by hand, sealed that with matte medium and did some light acrylic washes to establish a little color and value. Then, with the acrylic dried I switched to oils and painted the sky. Next I did the sails, then half the water. I painted the hull before the water on the right side so that I could let it mostly dry before doing the waves that overlap it. Once it was all painted in. I spent time making adjustments etc. and then I did some thin glazing with burnt sienna (my favorite pigment) to help tie the colors together—I think I’ll have to make another post later about my approach to color. I hope you enjoy.

Clipper Ship Emerald Isle commission on Easel.

One Week of Inktober

I decided to participate in Inktober this year. The whole thing was started by awesome artist Jake Parker a few years back, and the gist is to create an ink drawing each day during the month of October. Of course, it helps motivate you not to slack if you are sharing those daily on social media. I’ve shared each of my drawings on Instagram, but I thought it would be fun to include the first week’s worth together in a post.

Inktober drawing of girl with hair blowing. painted with acrylic washes. By Jameson Gardner Art.

My first Inktober drawing was this portrait of a girl with her hair blowing a little. I try not to judge my success (it’s hard) by how many people are following me, or how many likes an image gets. There is always that 18 year old who’s drawings look like mine did when I was 10 (literally, I don’t mean a fine artist who is intentionally simplifying or exaggerating forms—I am just talking plain old amateur), yet who has thousands of followers. That can get me down if I’m not careful. Anyway, despite that, I do pay attention to the response. This first one had, by far, the biggest response on Instagram. Maybe it was because it was the first day and people were pumped to look at the first round of Inktober drawings, or maybe people just liked it. A few days later I went ahead and painted some acrylic washes onto it to see how some color would look.

Inktober Girl 1 Drawing

Inktober 2

For my second drawing, I imagined up a scene of a soldier in battle who is surprised by a goblin leaping through the air. I didn’t love the composition on my sketchbook page, so I broke it down and tried to create a sort of fractured comic frame. I don’t really do comics or graphic novels—but it was worth a shot. The response on this one was significantly lower. It has still reached what I’d call the medium range. I think I posted this one later in the evening which may matter too.

Inktober drawing with fairy. By Jameson Gardner Art. Inktober drawing with damaged spaceship. By Jameson Gardner Art.

My third drawing was a fairy. Response to her was low. I spent quite a bit of time on her and I thought she turned out pretty nice. I wonder if displayed small on instagram, she didn’t have the bold blacks to attract attention. Some of the nice details of the drawing may just have been missed at that scale. Don’t hesitate to click and view her larger to see if you agree with me.

The damaged space ship was next. I admit it was a quickie. It got only slightly better response than the fairy.

Inktober drawing with frigate heeling in the wind. By Jameson Gardner Art.

This frigate was next. I worried a little while drawing it that people wouldn’t understand the angle of the masts and spars. the wind is supposed to be coming from the right. So the spars are angled to allow the square sails to still catch some power. That is also why it is heeling to port—all the pressure pushing the masts that direction. Anyway, I guess my fears were unfounded. This one did second best for likes. I don’t know if it was the drawing or if people just love ships.

Inktober drawing portrait of girl. By Jameson Gardner Art.

Inktober drawing with dragon skull. By Jameson Gardner Art.

So, this other girl portrait wasn’t my favorite. It is just as simple as the first one, but not as elegant. I guess it is just a little dull. The response wasn’t great either. It’s tied with the damaged spaceship for likes. I’m not surprised.

Last drawing of the week was the dragon skull. I tried to combine features from dog skulls with antelope skulls. You are probably wondering why I didn’t just look at lizard or dinosaur skulls…. well, because I didn’t. 🙂 The Dragon Skull scored in the mid-range. It was a later evening post too, so that might have affected it.

Hope you enjoy these. Inktober isn’t over. There is more to come. Check out my progress on Instagram @jamesonart

Crash Landing: Dimensional Illustration

Crash Landing

I’ve finally finished a dimensional illustration I had started several months ago. I find it is a lot easier to finish something when you have a deadline. This piece was a personal project, so it was easy to delay or get distracted by other ideas. Well it’s done. Hope you’ll enjoy seeing some of the process that brought it together.

I started with the basic idea of a spaceman climbing from the wreckage of his ship. I did some sketching on the idea and some designs for the ship and came up with this:

Original sketch for Crash Landing illustration

I then proceeded to create a 3D model of the ship with Sketchup. I would use this model as a plan while building the physical model. Here is a printout onto which I have written the dimensions. When I was a kid I hoped and expected never to use math in my career. Well I mostly don’t—except finding ratios, which I use all the time.

plans for spaceship model

I started building the fuselage from foam, which I coated with a clear acrylic to protect it from the hard resin that I added on top of that. Well five coats of acrylic wasn’t enough. The foam melted and shriveled—I started over with wood.

Process shots of building spaceship model for dimensional illustration. by Jameson Gardner Art

The original sketch had the spaceman right next to the ship, which is why I spend so much time on the detail of the ship. I later decided to move the pilot forward. I am not sure which I would have liked better, but once I built the pilot at a larger scale, there was no going back.

Here is a new comp that I worked up as a guide to painting the background,

spacship hero ref b

I always paint my backgrounds in oil. I usually end up with narrow enough depth of field that the background blurs a little, so I don’t worry too much about the little details when painting.

Painting the background and shooting the set

After shooting, it was on to digital cleanup and adding the smoke.

I hope you like it.

Watercolor Girl in Armor

I just wanted to draw something the other day. So, I found some reference of a face and did a little drawing.  Just plain faces are great, but I have a tendency to want to add swords, bows or laser cannons to a lot of the things I draw. So, I put this girl in a suit of armor. I liked it. and I decided to watercolor it.

Watercolor painting of girl in armor by Jameson Gardner Art.

Luckily, I had done the drawing on Arches 88 a fairly hefty printmaking paper. Unluckily, I hadn’t done it on watercolor paper. I did scan it and try printing the drawing onto watercolor paper. It worked fine, but the only watercolor paper I had laying around was some of that cheap stuff that you buy in a pad at the craft store. I don’t believe that more expensive is always better… but in this case it is. Cheap watercolor paper has this weird artificial tooth that feels like it has been stamped on.

I opted to just try painting on the original drawing. I tested the corner of the paper first, and I’m glad I did. it sucked up the water and pigment like a rookie camel at his first oasis. This printmaking paper has no sizing (the stuff they put in paper that makes it less absorbent) and that wasn’t going to work for me. I ended up coating the paper in acrylic matte medium, which rendered it significantly less absorbent. I did the coloring with Acryla gouache handled watercolor-style. You can do all the same kinds of washes, but it won’t lift of bleed once it dries.


Preliminary drawing for watercolor painting of woman in armor by Jameson Gardner Art.

Drawing for watercolor painting of woman in armor by Jameson Gardner Art.

I tried to design armor that would look elegant, but functional. We have a surplus of  warrior women wearing armor or outfits that reveal all but the most vital areas and protect none of the vital organs. This is my take on Women’s armor.

Progress shot watercolor painting of woman in armor by Jameson Gardner Art.

All in all, I was relatively pleased.

 

 

Schooner: Painting an Old Drawing

Sometimes you get part way into a project and decide to finish it later. Then, you find yourself clearing out space a few years down the road and wondering if there is someone to whom you can gift a half finished painting, or if you’d better just drop it off at the thrift store. Luckily, today’s is not such a story. I finally got around to painting the schooner that I drew several months ago.

Oil painting of classic sailing schooner by Jameson Gardner 2014

 

I started the drawing while working on my dimensional illustration project Five Months On the Ice as a way to satisfy my urge to draw something a little bigger after painting a pretty small ship for the backdrop of one of my images. I used some of the same reference I had collected for that backdrop and synthesized it into a new angle and composition.

 

schooner Drawing Progress

 

After the charcoal sketch was complete, I sealed it with matte medium and toned it a little in oil with burnt sienna and ultramarine. That is how it stayed for nine or ten months.

Sketch of schooner on masonite, toned with oil color.

Finally, I decided it might be fun to paint it, so with some of the same old reference, I got to work.

Schooner Ocean and Sky Painted

 

When I am painting over a drawing, I tend to compartmentalize things rather than working everything up together, as I would when painting from life.

Work in progress on schooner painting by Jameson Gardner, 2014

 

Once finished, I went ahead and framed it in this pretty mahogany.

Oil painting of classic sailing schooner in mahogony frame by Jameson Gardner 2014

Digital Tower Sketch

While procrastinating the initiation of my daily adventures in sawdust and spraypaint, I started a digital sketch. My original intent was just to do a basic line drawing of this little fantasy house tower thing. I ended up doing more than just the drawing, but I’d still consider it mainly a sketch. I’m still no pro at purely digital art, but there are definitely some fun effects you can incorporate quickly. I particularly like how soft brushes and masks on my texture layers can create atmosphere. Enjoy!

Fantasy Tower digital sketch by Jameson Gardner Art

Don’t Give Up On Your Fairy

Finally photographed the fairy I started working on a while back. She’s been finished for around a month. But rather than buy fake leaves and blossoms, build branches and paint a sunset, I figured I would just wait ’til spring and use the tree in the backyard. Was it easier? Maybe. Building your own scene takes a lot of work on the front end, but it means you have a completely controlled environment when shooting. That means you don’t have to worry about the sun moving, the wind blowing, standing on a bucket or bird poo.

Dimensional Illustration Fairy in the Blossoms by Jameson Gardner

One of the first shots... terrible.

One of the first shots… terrible.

I got a few good shots, though. And the real blossoms and real sun worked out nice. It didn’t seem like it would when I started. I hesitate to include it, but I am going to post one of the first shots I took to prove how bad it can seem when you start. Don’t give up till you’ve got ‘the one’—I had to move to the other side of the tree, rig her up with wire instead of thread, stand on a bucket and knock over my camera before I was satisfied.

 

Fairy body in progress

Taking the photos isn’t the only part where solid effort and perseverance is valuable—I’ve learned from experience that if you want something to look human outside it’s clothes, it has to look human inside too. A wireframe covered in clothes and stuffed with fluff just doesn’t do the trick. This means I sculpted the whole body even though most of it was going to be covered in a dress. It seems like extra work, but it is definitely worth it.

Fairy Wings in Progress

I cast the wings from clear acrylic using a silicone mold that I made with a polymer clay original. Again, seems like more work, but I couldn’t think of any other way to get the translucence and form I wanted.

Finished model and dress

Hair and dress? You bet—hand made and carefully applied.