Heroes Playing Poker

Heroes Playing Poker Parody of Dogs Playing Poker. By Jameson Gardner Art

I’m sure most of you have seen some of the paintings by C.M. Coolidge of dogs playing poker. According to Wikipedia Coolidge was commissioned to create the paintings as part of an advertising calendar for cigars. Dogs Playing Poker has become an icon of American low-brow art. It is the type of art the common man can get really get behind—the type of art that looks great cut from a magazine or calendar and slipped into a cheap frame to be found 30 years later in your grandmother’s attic among Uncle Leonard’s boyhood effects.

Naturally, I had mixed feelings when I was approached by a client about doing a parody of one of Coolidge’s paintings—a portrait of the client playing poker with a few favorite comic book superheroes. The concept was undeniably fun, but not the type of art I had seen myself making as I studied in college. I took the job.

First step, as always, was to work out an initial sketch. The basic composition was already set by original Dogs painting, so I just had to figure out how to fit in our new characters. This is the first sketch I sent to the client.

Sketch for heroes playing poker commission by Jameson Gardner Art

When that was approved I shot and composited reference photos.

Composited reference for Heroes playing poker painting by Jameson Gardner

Using the reference I began the final drawing onto which I would paint. I also sent photos of this drawing to the client, getting feedback until the drawing was approved.

Drawing for Heroes Playing Poker Painting by Jameson Gardner

Finally I got painting, and then it was just a matter of pushing paint around until it landed in the right spots… Which can be a little tricky when it is supposed to be a portrait of someone specific, but their head is only 2 and a half inches tall. (Yes I did negotiate an increase in painting size, but the client only has so much space in his office.)

Painting process of Heroes Playing Poker by Jameson Gardner

Dogs Playing Poker by C.M. Coolidge

Heroes Playing Poker Parody of Dogs Playing Poker. By Jameson Gardner Art

Hope you enjoy!

Colorado Part 2: Subjects of Opportunity

I rarely find myself making plans for a photo shoot. In fact, the only times I really have were for magazine article and cover shoots for the BYU Universe, my own engagement photos and illustration reference shoots. Otherwise I’m usually taking photos of opportunity. I like to have my camera with me, and if I see something I like I can stop and get it. That of course is what all my photos from my Colorado cabin vacation were. I actually had some half baked plans about visiting certain places when the light was just right. However, I didn’t do any of those things. But I did carry my camera and shot what I liked.Night photo of the Milky Way among trees. By Jameson Gardner

I’ve been wanting to get some star photos for awhile now. But living in a light dome, as most of us do, It meant driving 3 or 4 hours to make it worth it. I hadn’t gotten to it when vacation time rolled around. So, my first subject of opportunity, once we got out of the light pollution and up to 10,000 feet, was the stars. My methods may have been a little unconventional, but then if you get the image you want, is there a right way?

I didn’t want to be maxing out my ISO and getting noisy or having my shutter open too long and have the stars turning into little lines. So I used my fastest lens and also used it on the lowest stop to get the most light. I think I ended up doing f1.8 with a 10 or 15 second exposure. That meant less noise and faster exposure, but also that my foreground elements wouldn’t be as sharp, and my field of view was limited. I did a bunch of expirementing, including using other lenses etc. Once I knew the view I wanted, I did two parallel columns of 4 shots and stitched them together manually (photoshop just doesn’t get it quite the way I want). This solved both the field of view problem and also when viewing the full image, the depth of field issue with the trees isn’t really an issue at all.

View of valley up Hall's Gulch, Colorado. By Jameson Gardner

This one (above) was also a panoramic stitch. We came across this view while on our way up Halls Gulch. I wanted better resolution on the details and less distortion than my 18-55mm was offering. so I went for the 50 again. I’m not real big on going crazy with processing. If you’ve read my other posts you know that I sometimes feel that editing way beyond what was really there can be dishonest and detract from the actual beauty of that scene or person as well as from the truly amazing moments that don’t require you to drag a bunch of sliders etc.

I do like to make sure that the values and colors are at least as good as they looked to my eye, though. It is amazing how the human eye can automatically adjust when focusing on a slightly different areas of what you are looking at. A camera can only output a single exposure (though, raw data is great because it records more and lets you be flexible in post) and that is often the culprit when you look at something and say “wow that looks great”, then take a picture and think “at least it did in real life” (composition is the other half of that coin). These clouds are a great example. In my image above, they look pretty much like they did when my eyes focused on them at the time. However, if I had exposed for that, the landscape would have been way off. So I got my best all-around exposure and then made adjustments after stitching.

The Artists Father by Jameson Gardner

Next up, my Father. I shot this while he was relaxing on the cabin porch. There isn’t a  whole lot to tell other than that the lighting was good, and my mom thinks he needs a new hat. But, the men out there know that it isn’t so easy to replace a good hat.

Alpine Outcropping by Jameson Gardner

This outcropping is another example of what I was saying before. I saw it and thought, “wow that is perfect.” but it didn’t come off quite the same until I was able to make some adjustments.

Elk Skull at Ruins of Miners Cabin. By Jameson Gardner

And finally, this skull. We found this near the crumbling ruins of an old cabin while hiking. I believe it belonged to an elk. Like my father this one didn’t take much. I just bent over took a photo and it came out nice 🙂 I hope this, like the others, really just captures a moment and a feeling. Stay tuned for my final installment of Colorado vacation photos, in which I will be sharing some artifacts.

Painting a Princess

Graphite sketch of princess with decorative french hood. By Jameson GardnerI’ve been drawing and painting again (bet you wouldn’t have guessed). I wanted to do a queen or princess with a kindof renaissance feel. I’ll admit right up front this isn’t supposed to be a historically accurate period piece. I guess it would be more of a historically inspired fantasy piece. Using a combination of some headdress references i found on Pinterest, a vintage photograph (for her face) and my own imagination I figured out the gist and went ahead and started drawing. It wasn’t for a client, so I didn’t plan it all out in detail—I just wanted it to have a certain feeling. I did the drawing on a some paper that I inherited from my grandmother. I’m not sure how old it is, but it had definitely yellowed and even has a little bit of foxing starting to show up. That is right—the image above is not just a bad scan with smudges, that is the actual color of the paper.

Originally I was thinking to achieve the feeling I wanted I would use watercolor. I got attached to the drawing though. I wanted to keep it, and decided to print a copy to mount and paint. Unfortunately, I get impatient and wasn’t willing to wait 4 days and pay extra to have it printed really nice. I ended up with decent copy from a copy shop (I made them print it on my paper, which helped a lot). I mounted it on a masonite panel being careful to preserve the top surface so that it would absorb my paint. Just in case, though, I tested some water with a brush on my backup copy and determined that no matter how much fixative I used, the ink was not going to hold fast if it got good and wet.

Plan B: I coated my carefully preserved top surface with matte medium and broke out the oil paint.

Progress on oil painting of princess by Jameson Gardner

I started with a wash of Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine and lifted some highlights out of that before I went to town on the opaque parts. It is 11 x 14″ so she has a 3 inch face. I know some people are great at painting small but this is right on the verge of being too small for me so keep that in mind while you judge 🙂

I used a very limited palette Burnt Sienna, Yellow Ochre, Ultramarine, and White. You can get lot out of just a few colors and it is way easier to feel unified. I tend to do some transparent washes at the end to unify things even more as well. You’ll notice the blue of her blouse, pretty bright above, is tempered by some Burnt Sienna in the final below.

Oil painting portrait of princess by Jameson Gardner

I tried to be transparent where I could and let it just fade away rather than paint up to the edges. I also decided not to paint a background and just let my original wash show. This was all to try to keep it in line with my original vision. I’m pretty happy with the result but I feel like I lost the quality of the graphite drawing in her face in a way that I wouldn’t have with watercolor.

To get a high resolution image I took multiple photos in segments and merged them in photoshop. I let photoshop do it and—as usual—the old girl didn’t catch the vision of how to bring things out proportionally. So I did it manually. When finished I wanted to double check to make sure I hadn’t skewed or stretched it. I overlayed the digital file of my original drawing, which lined up pretty much perfectly. That is when I had the thought that maybe I could get closer to my vision by bringing back some of the pencil over the top. All it took was that drawing on a couple of transparency layers and there it was 🙂

The original painting still looks pretty good (even better in real life) but I think the pencil overlay version really matches what I wanted to share. So, here it is:

Fantasy/Renaissance Princess by Jameson Gardner Art

Is that cheating? Well if you belong to some kind of purist traditional school, yes definitely. But, let’s face it, these days the fact that I drew it on paper with an actual pencil and then painted with actual paint probably puts me closer to those purists than to a lot of what is being produced in the digital world.

I hope you enjoy! I’m considering making prints of this—if you’d like that, leave a comment, head over to my Website and shoot me an email, or contact me through my Etsy shop to let me know so I can see what kind of interest there is. Thanks 🙂

Colorado Part 1: Rocky Mountain High

John Denver sang about a rocky mountain high. Of course there are always nitwits who hear the word “high” in a song from the 70’s and dismiss it as a drug thing. These days Colorado has plenty who are willing to hop on that train. But, anyone who’s bothered to spend a little time away from it all, and I don’t mean on a crowded beach or a ski resort where you use the wifi in the lodge, will understand a little of John was talking about—The wonder of the earth and sky. A place where the air really is clean (and thin) and you can see the clouds of stars that are up there, not just the few pinpricks you get back home.

I returned recently from a vacation in Colorado. We spent 12 days at 10 or 11 thousand feet in a log cabin that my grandparents built. It is in the mountains between Pitkin and Tincup and is the type of place where you get your water from a spring, your heat from a wood-stove and when you need to use the facilities you make a short trek to the outhouse.

I have enough photos from this trip that I’ll have to break it into a few parts. Part 1 will try to give a feel for the nature of the area.

View from upper bowl area looking up to ridge. By Jameson GardnerThey’re called the Rocky Mountains, but the rockiness becomes much more distinct the higher you get. The shot above is right around the timberline looking up to the ridge that tops the mountain on which the cabin is located. Below is a stream on the same mountain but at the cabin’s elevation.

Stream among trees in Rocky Mountains of Colorado. By Jameson Gardner

Cumberland Pass  12,00 Ft elevation. By Jameson Gardner

This one is from Cumberland Pass. My first photo in this post is taken looking up the other side of that ridge in the distance. Below is a 360 degree panoramic from on top of that ridge. I put the panoramic together from 25 full resolution portrait orientation shots. It might be overkill knowing that most people will only see it on this blog in web resolution and when iPhones can do a cute little panoramic with a lot less work. But, there is just something nice about knowing I could print it 8 ft long at 300 dpi without even scaling it up 🙂

360 degree panoramic of Cumberland pass area from adjacent ridge. By Jameson Gardner

Fox in the Rocky Mountains. By Jameson Gardner

Here is a little fox who came sneaking around sometimes to see if we had any leftover food. He was cautious, but not afraid. I had to make some squeaking noises just to get him to hold still and look at me while I snapped this.

In addition to hiking and exploring, I spent some time throwing my tomahawk. I’ve created and uploaded a little video of that for your viewing pleasure. Hope you enjoy, I also hope it makes people think twice about breaking into my house 🙂

Of course while at cumberland pass I also had to take a “selfie”, made possible only by the little fish eye attachment that screws onto my lens. Cute huh?

Jameson Gardner selfie at Cumberland Pass

Last are some pretty little alpine ponds fed by springs from, you guessed it, that ridge featured in all my other photos.

View looking over ponds at the treeline to vista beyond. By Jameson GardnerI think what John Denver is saying in that song is that reconnecting with the earth and the beauty that is out there gives you a kind of high that no chemical can. Just make sure to stay hydrated or you could end up with a splitting headache more akin to some kind of Rocky Mountain Hangover.

 

May the Fourth: Star Wars Drawing

Yesterday was May the Fourth—Star Wars Day. I couldn’t let an opportunity like that pass my drawing table. So, I figured I’d draw and ink something starwarsy. Honestly, I spent a lot of my childhood drawing images inspired by Star Wars. A quick search through some old nicknacks turned up these two images:

7th grade Death Star Drawing

This one appears to be the surface of the Death Star. It is drawn on the back of a note card for a 7th grade research paper about what it takes to become a culinary worker. The next one is a tiny TIE Interceptor found on sheet of random doodles from the same era.

tie interceptor doodle

 

I didn’t find any examples in my quick search, but as a kid I always loved to draw a couple capitol ships pounding it out with the turbolasers while star-fighters zipped around them. So this year on Star Wars day, I figured I would do something along those lines. I started yesterday and wanted to finish yesterday, so I had to keep it relatively simple—this wasn’t going to be the full battle of Endor or anything.

I began by gathering reference. You’d think a quick google search for Star Destroyer would turn up plenty, but most of the nice detailed images were pretty recognizably the reference for every peice of fan art, Star Wars book cover and spoof meme you’ve ever seen. So I turned to my secret weapon—3d model libraries. If you want to see a vehicle from an angle that google can’t provide, you can be almost certain some other geek has already made a 3d model of it. Some sites, like the Sketchup warehouse, have a bunch of models downloadable for free (but you have to sift through all the wedges with cube on top created by twelve yr-olds and titled star destroyer) or there are other sites where a small fee will grant you access to some pretty professional models. I managed to track down some decent models, which I arranged and lit to use as reference. Once I had that it was just drawing, inking and coloring.

The coloring I did digitally and the image below showcases some of the different layers and elements used to make the final image.

Process and layers for starwars image by Jameson Gardner

As you can see, I had the original ink layer, the basic colors and shadows and a watercolor texture scan. Together:

Star Wars Battle by Jameson Gardner

The process results in what I hope is a nice comic-book sort of feel. Hope you enjoy and may the force be with you!

 

Three Unattached Drawings

Sometimes I put aside whatever project I am “supposed” to be working on and do a drawing just because. I’ve got quite a few of those, but I’ve picked out just three to share. Stylistically these are very different. That tends to happen when I am doing art just because. I don’t feel like I have to follow my usual forms. Style aside though, I am showing these together because they have a lot in common.

All three originated as ideas of mood and style. All three are based on found reference that I collected to help realize the idea I had already formed. This is common with my just because drawings—you don’t have time to shoot your own reference when you are changing plans in the spur of the moment. All three also feature a moody woman—it’s not the only thing I draw, but it is a good fall-back for a simple composition and plentiful reference.

I think I’ll arrange these chronologically:

The first one I call Afrodite. Bad pun? Well, I doubt that I am the first one to think of it. The concept was simple, I wanted to do a woman with a natural hair style and sort of stern face. I wanted her to be relatively thin for contrast with the big hair.

Charcoal drawing of woman with afro by Jameson Gardner Art

So then I needed reference. I had a good idea of what I wanted the image to look like, but unless you are Frank Frazetta the easiest way to discover how much your imagination can fall short in the details is by trying to draw straight from your head. That doesn’t mean you should be a slave to your reference, and it especially doesn’t mean that you want your work to be just a copy of some photo you found on Pinterest.
For this, I searched and searched until I found a face that matched what I had imagined pretty well. Then I composited that with an image that matched the style of hair I wanted. As I drew, I translated the reference back into my original concept, but with the details and proportions that are harder to make up.

I went for toned paper to fill in all the mid-tones in the flesh, and so that she could fade into the background without any transition in value.

The second image started with a desire to do an illustration of Vin from Brandon Sanderson‘s Mistborn novels. I wanted a soft loosey-charcoal sort of feel. Obviously my first impulse was to show her mid-allomantic leap with hair and cloak streaming. But, after searching extensively and finally settling on some reference I thought would work for her face. I decided just to focus there and see if the style I was imagining would work out rather than getting all involved in a big illustration. I drew this one in charcoal on white paper and then scanned it and added values and a little (very little) color digitally.

Mistborn's Vin charcoal drawing by Jameson Gardner Art

Is she still Vin as just a face? Maybe so.

Lastly, this girl who feels misunderstood by everyone—even her crow. I used the same reference gathering and compositing method as with the first. The head, body, dress and crow were all from separate images. As happens every fairly often with me, I was a little inspired by Arthur Rackham. Unlike the previous two I did save some process shots of this one.

Pencil sketch of girl with crow by Jameson Gardner

Here is the pencil sketch based on my composited reference and with my own imagined background. I then proceeded to ink.

Ink drawing of girl with crow by Jameson Gardner

The drawing was on 100# bristol which was great for the ink, though I went ahead and left a lot of the pencil intact. I mounted the drawing to a board, created some texture with matte medium and painted it with thinned acrylic gauche. The nonabsorbent surface made for a little different painting experience, but it meant I could lift paint from areas like the clouds. It also meant that since I paint in alot of thin layers, if I wasn’t careful, I would lift paint from areas that I wanted to stay put.

Illustration of girl and her crow by Jameson Gardner Art

 

Hope you enjoy these three. I am sure to be making more like them.

 

 

 

Sunset At the Lake

I was about to write a little rant about HDR photography, but I’ve decided to save it until I have some images with which to illustrate my points. There are plenty of “good”, “bad” and “why?” HDR images to be found online. But, I figure I might be taken more seriously if I prove I can produce some of each myself. So for today, I’ll just be sharing a few shots from an evening by the lake.

A couple gulls head home for the night. By Jameson Gardner

My parents are bird watchers, I am more of a landscape and cloud watcher. Naturally when they invited me on a walk by the lake with them, they looked at birds and I tried to get photos of mountains, dirt and whatever else was around. I did find myself framing some shots and wishing an interesting subject would plop down in them. Alas, nobody sailed by in a boat, walked up in their hipster garb or trotted past on a horse. Even the seagulls kept their distance 🙂

Gull feathers litter the shore of Utah Lake at sunset.

I ended up with some plain old landscapes, a few shots of myself and an abandoned tire.  The one above is actually a composite of two exposures of the same frame. Basically I’m just simulating a graduated neutral density filter to get detail on the shore without blowing out the sky. It’s the only shot to which I’ve really done any editing. Everything else is pretty much as shot, with the exception of bringing up the shadows  just a titch on me and the tire. I don’t really believe in making things artificially vibrant or saturated etc. Stay tuned in the future for my HDR rant 😉 I was actually a little surprised by how naturally blue the water seemed at that angle and in contrast to the sky. I guess I am just used to looking down at it from the benches at which vantage it usually looks brownish, greyish or at best light blueish.

I hope you’ll all forgive the lens flares—though, what do you expect when we are pointed right at the sun?

Sunset at Utah Lake by Jameson Gardner

An abandoned tire on the shores of Utah Lake at sunset. By Jameson Gardner

I also took a few panoramic sequences. This one below is the only that I’ve stitched so far. Photoshop’s photomerge tool is helpful, but I often find myself fixing things or doing big chunks manually when merging more than 4 or five images. Photoshop can also lose track of things if there are areas of busy detail or which lack distinctive landmarks. I could have achieved this one in two shots with a wider lens, but there is something about knowing that I could make an enormous print at full resolution which appeals to me (even though I’ve never had a reason to do it). Go ahead and click on this one to get more of the panoramic goodness 🙂 It’s been scaled way down for the web, but should still be fun.

panoramic image of Utah Lake and Wasatch Range. By Jameson Gardner