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

Black and White Photos

I carry my camera with me fairly often even if I don’t have plans to shoot anything. It seems like it always turns out to be those times when I don’t have it that I see something of which I really want to get a picture.

It happened like that the other day. I was on my way home from an appointment, when I saw some beautiful interaction between light, clouds and mountain peaks. Luckily, I wasn’t far from home. So, I rushed there grabbed my stuff and jumped back in the car. I missed some of what I saw on my way home, but I still got some pleasing shots.

Clouds envelope snowy peak by Jameson Gardner

Interestingly, despite the pretty red light that bathed Timpanogos and Baldy, I convinced myself to go black and white with these—Maybe I’m just wishing I could be Ansel Adams. Hope you enjoy.

Moon among clouds over big Baldy. By Jameson Gardner

Mountain slope shows through window in  clouds. By Jameson Gardner

Clouds skirt around Mount Timpanogos. By Jameson Gardner

LDS Art Competition Entry

Oil painting of New Testament Scene at Galilee by Jameson Gardner Art

I found out in January that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (of which I am a member) was holding an international art competition. Submissions had been open since late Summer sometime, and the final deadline was February 27th. With the holidays and some other things I was working on, I didn’t get started ’til February. By which, I mean I didn’t even start sketching ideas until February.

The theme for the contest is “Tell Me the Stories of Jesus”. With a theme like that, your mind automatically goes to the New Testament. I didn’t want to rehash a scene that has already been done often and probably better. So, I was first thinking about doing the storm on Galilee before Jesus is awakened and title it something about faith before the miracle.

Brainstorm sketches for lds art competition by Jameson Gardner

I liked the idea, but wasn’t really feeling it at the time, so after a bit I moved on to something more figurative. I knew I didn’t have time to do something super detailed or extensive. I thought perhaps I could do a simple version of Christ with the Samaritan Woman at the well. The sketch below was for that concept, I just hadn’t drawn the woman.

Sketch of Jesus at Well by Jameson Gardner

After some discussion with my mother and sister, I abandoned that idea too. We discussed depicting scenes from other scripture or modern missionary work, but I finally settled in on a scene showing a woman inviting an acquaintance to come listen to Jesus who is disembarking from a boat in the background. It would embrace the theme without having to rehash any of the most popular bible stories.

This is the preliminary sketch:

Preliminary sketch for New Testament Painting by Jameson Gardner

With the composition decided, two of my sisters posed for reference photos. By that time, I was within a week and a half of the deadline. I went ahead and drew right on my gessoed panel, sealed that with matte medium and got painting.

Drawing on panel for oil painting by Jameson Gardner

I didn’t really have time for much more than a first pass at most of the painting. However, there were some areas where I had to come back and tweak—this girl’s face for one. I shared the in progress image on the left on Instagram and quickly realized I wanted to fix some things. Her eye was one of the main things bugging me—I’m glad I adjusted it.

Comparison of first pass with finished face by Jameson Gardner

The sequence below also shows how I pretty much had to paint one area and move on. This time constraint made it hard for me to build up the texture that I wanted since I didn’t have time for regular oils to dry before glazing. So, in the lower third I had to paint a blobby liquin mixture that mostly dried by the next day so that I could paint thinly over that and have enough time to glaze over that. Neither my usual nor my favorite way to work.

Four work in progress shots of New Testament Oil Painting by Jameson Gardner Art

In the end, I got it done for the deadline. I’m still kind of undecided on how I feel, though. Sometimes I look at it and think “you’re a failure” and other times I think “hey, not bad”. I hope some of you will enjoy it, and we will let the jurors of the competition be the ones to pass final judgment.

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!

The Land of Enchantment

New Mexico: The Land of Enchantment. My parents are from Los Alamos, so during my life, I’ve spent a lot of hours driving down to visit my grandparents in New Mexico. Honestly as a kid, I decided there were large swathes of that state that were rather less than enchanting. I think back then I had the idea that enchanting things had a lot of moss growing on them or were formerly inhabited by knights or trolls etc. I was kind of into medieval stuff more than Anasazi  or Pueblo stuff. Back then, the main appeal of Los Alamos was the lab’s connection to WWII and the atom bomb. I was happy to imagine soldiers in Willys Jeeps patrolling the canyons to make sure the Manhattan Project stayed secret. But beyond that, it seemed too dry and too sunny to be enchanting.

Then I grew up. I’m not sure if my capacity to recognize beauty increased or developed the same as my ability to appreciate the taste of bell peppers, or if I just happened to look outside in the morning instead of watching cartoons. I recently made another trip with my family to visit grandparents and I decided to take some photos trying to capture “The Land of Enchantment”.

Windmill at dawn with mist North of Espanola, New Mexico

This was taken off the highway North of Espanola when mist from the river was still clinging to the valley.

Pines in one of Los Alamos' canyons

These two are in a canyon between a couple of Los Alamos’ mesa fingers—also in the morning while the light was still low and sweet.

Plants surround path in canyon outside of Los Alamos, New Mexico

This is the valley South of Georgia O’keeffe’s Ghost Ranch home. I always wondered why she would move from New York to somewhere dry and kind of desolate. But I guess this is why, it makes you feel free. It’s also not always so desolate as it seems.

Valley across from Georgia O'keeffe's Ghost Ranch home.

Cliffs North of Georgia O'keeffe's Ghost Ranch home

The cliffs above are North of the Ghost Ranch.

I’ll admit this arch is not in New Mexico, it is South of Moab Utah. Still pretty cool—red rock and all, but definitely not as enchanting, is it? 🙂

Looking Glass Arch South of Moab Utah