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!

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.

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.

 

Dimensional Illustration Finished Series

Dimensional illustration portrait of adventurer prior to shipping out on a seal hunting schooner.Dimensional illustration of dock scene with explorer prior to shipping out on seal hunting schooner. From art exhibit "Five Months on the Ice" by James Gardner at Gallery 303, Harris Fine Arts Center

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally decided to post the finished series, as I promised. If you haven’t been following along, I have various posts documenting the production of these illustrations. The series tells the story of an adventurer who signs aboard a seal hunting schooner.

Dimensional illustration of schooner sailing near drift ice. Framed between icebergs.

Dimensional illustration bow of ship amongst drift ice. From story Five Months on the Ice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The_vessel is out too late in the season and strikes ice. When the schooner begins taking on water, the crew abandons ship–all except our hero who was rendered unconscious by a blow to the head. He awakes to discover that the ice has closed around the vessel and locked it in place. After gathering supplies, he strikes out, knowing that the schooner could be lost at any time. Unfortunately, I had to pick and choose my scenes. I wasn’t able to illustrate many of the adventures he experiences on the ice. 

Dimensional illustration from Five Months on the Ice. Arctic survivor trudges toward a ship wreck locked in the ice.Dimensional illustration featuring wreck survivor struggling ashore after five months on the arctic ice.

 

 

 

However, I did one of my favorite scenes—when he finds the Ship with the angel figurehead just as he is about to give in to exhaustion and cold. After resting, resupplying and weathering a storm in the Angel ship, he strikes out again. Eventually (five months after the original shipwreck) he sights land and struggles ashore.

Shots From “Five Months on the Ice”

Ice ship from dimensional illustration exhibition "Five Months on the Ice"

These are images from my recent show in Gallery 303 at the Harris Fine Arts Center. The project illustrated the story of an adventurer shipwrecked and stranded on arctic ice. All of the images were created by building miniature models, sets and props to photograph scenes from the story. Each prop and set was designed and built specifically for the scene in which it was used. I have included a few individual pieces as they were hung at the show, but I will be posting individual images of the whole series later too. Hope you enjoy. It was a lot of effort, but a lot of fun to spend five months on the ice with my character.

Dimensional Illustrations and miniature models on display in Gallery 303 at Harris Fine Arts Center in "Five Months on the Ice"

Fisheye image of "Five Months on the Ice" on display in Gallery 303 Harris Fine Arts Center

Miniature model on display in conjunction with dimensional illustration prints in "Five Months on the Ice" at Gallery 303 Harris Fine Arts Center

Lighting in the Gallery was a little harsher for my models than would be optimum, but their primary purpose was to be photographed in my studio for the illustrations and they looked great like that, so I won’t complain.

Dimensional Illustrations on display in Gallery 303 Harris Fine Arts Center

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Two Little Heads

The title says it—I’ve been working on two little heads. Behold.

Two heads for use in dimensional illustration

These are both for part of my current dimensional illustration project. It is the same character. One is for a portrait taken before his adventure begins, the other is after months at sea and surviving on the pack ice.
I cast resin copies of the original sculpey model to use for different scenes. I’ll be making some little clothes soon.

Finished Ship Hull

Hull of mini frigate from side view, for ice-bound ship illustration. Figure head in sculpey and gold leaf. Hull from balsa wood and styrofoam

The hull for the ice-bound frigate is finished. I stained it with special walnut, put a layer of thinned acrylic over that, and weathering was done with 220 grit sandaper. I sculpted the figurehead with sculpey and made the wings out of wood. Both are gold leafed, sealed and painted with a little acrylic to age it. I am not an expert sculptor and making a face that small proved a challenge.

Hull of mini frigate from side view, for ice-bound ship illustration. Figure head in sculpey and gold leaf. Hull from balsa wood and styrofoam