Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Making and Faking

Due to the lack of commissions or big ideas lately, I've been doing a lot of 'technique work,' or in a more pragmatic phrasing, PRACTICE. I'm a firm believer in the idea that learned skills atrophy over time, just as muscles do, if left unchecked. Here are some of the pieces that have come from my continuing efforts to improve my techniques in acrylic and gouache painting.

For a few days in January, all of Chicago was dumped on by a history-making, school-cancelling blizzard, and thusly, Martha and I were going through a little cabin-fever. We set out on day one, after the monumental snow fall, and walked the streets of what seemed to be mostly a ghost town. Nary a business was open, except Starbucks, and we ended up there with the rest of the adventurous idiots that morning. After dipping my stagnant brains in hot caffeine, I came home and painted the snowy picture seen here. I'd been wanting to do a Hoth scene for years, so it was good to get it out and onto paper.

A while later, I went to see True Grit. Due to a general love of the Coen movies, and a penchant for western lore, I went into a complete whirlwind of cowboy culture. I returned to my GOTY pick , Red Dead Redemption (treating it like a full time job, and roping Cary and Joe back into the old west for some online play), listened to a couple of great western books by Cormack McCarthy (The Crossing was my favorite, and is part of his Border Trilogy, which can be read individually, as they are part of a thematic trilogy, not a single story), and filled my ipod with the best contemporary and classic country I could dig up on my hard drive. And there was also a cowboy frog playing the harmonica, which I honestly think might be the best thing my two hands have ever crafted. It's intended to be a concept for a larger painting, in which there would be a whole team of rowdy anthropomorphized animals playing various camp-fire friendly instruments, but that is yet to come.

The next step was a backward one, back into my Nintendo fanboy-art that got its start in 2007. No matter how many times I draw him, there's always room for another Link picture. This one is distinctly more Wind-Waker than my others, but not too close to still be considered original.

And now for something COMPLETELY UNORIGINAL! Back in school, when we wanted to emulate the techniques of a certain artist, we were encouraged to do a copy, and to do it right, really spending the time needed to NAIL it. One of my favorite illustrators of the current age is Amanda Visell. She did this painting, and I've always loved it. I was laid up with a CRAZY fever a month or so ago, and I spent a day of medicated tom-foolery making this copy. It's close, but not a perfect copy. I do feel like I learned what I set out to learn; that being, how she achieves those great dry-brush and solid line textures with acrylic paint. I was lucky enough to meet her last summer at Rotofugi, here in Chicago, but was too nervous to seem cool. She's a pretty amazing illustrator. Click her name and fall in love.