After the digital failure I mentioned in my last post, I felt like there was a blatant gap in my skill set. It seems like everybody who is anybody can paint digitally these days. Back in school when I had my first digital painting class, I thought my work was on par with my fellow students. However, I ended up focusing more on traditional media and my peers who kept up with digital painting are now killing it, while my skills are sadly wanting.
So, I decided to practice (they say that is how you get better at things). I dug up an old piece of reference and just started making an image. To start with, it felt as digital painting always does for me—like I’m fighting the pixels. They just don’t do what paint does and I spend time trying to wrangle my tools rather than focusing on making a good image.
Then with time, I started to work out a process by which I could reasonably control what was happening on the screen. By the time I finished this piece I felt I was doing alright at this digital painting business. Of course, that is when I saw the latest digital piece Miranda Meeks, one of my old classmates from BYU, had made…. and I decided to go buy a big panel to do some oil painting 🙂
Here is my digital exercise:
Below is an animation of some of the stages of progress. I decided before finishing it off (above) that she was leaning too far forward, so I tilted her back and then did the background.
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.
When that was approved I shot and composited reference photos.
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.
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.)