Tag Archives: color

Color and costume for Stinker

Stinker and the Onion Princess is an updated Grimm’s story set in Texas—but with a fairy tale quality.  I didn’t want the characters to look too real, but they should be sort of modern-day.  To get the kind of vibe I was looking for, I turned to Roy Rogers.  Roy, Gene Autry and a host of singing cowboys wore some outlandish cowboy costumes in their movies.  I found some books in the library about them, and faithfully rendered them in paint.  This helps me to get a sense of color for my project.

I also looked at books about Western roadside attractions, cowboy kitsch, and Mexican festival costumes.  I painted the examples I liked.  Here they are:

Finishing an older post

Here are the last of the work-in-progress shots from a painting featured in What do I paint first? and What do I paint second?

Happy Thanksgiving!

My friend Vince Dorse, the über-talented artist who colorized Two Bad Pilgrims, spills the secrets of his technique here.

Here’s hoping you enjoy a blessed Thanksgiving with family and friends.

What do I paint second?

Michael asks:

Thanks so much for posting your technique, I am currently working on my first painting and have been doing exactly what you’ve done here. i think i did do something wrong though, a friend of mine said to do a light wash over the entire piece ,but I think it just confused me. Anyhow , why do you not put more detail in the underpainting, are you modeling further with your glazes?

I’m not sure what the light wash is for, either.  I’m assuming you’re using acrylic paints, which dry to a hard finish and so allow you to paint a wash on top of them.  I use gouache, and a wash would scrub off whatever was painted underneath.  So, I start my paintings with washes and build up to opaque brushstrokes. A wash is paint made transparent by adding water.  A glaze is paint made transparent by adding a medium—for acrylic, glazing medium; for oil paint, linseed oil and varnish—or glazing medium.

I do an underpainting to block in and organize big areas of light and dark.  I long ago found out it’s too complicated for me to figure out light and dark and color all at the same time.  There’s no point in me putting lots of detail in the underpainting, because I’m only going to paint the same details on top with opaque paint.  In fact, to discourage myself from getting into details while underpainting, I use an oversized brush.

Here’s a step-by-step example of how I build up from an underpainting.  This is a continuation of a previous post, What do I paint first?

The Mayflower

Another spread from Two Bad Pilgrims.  This is the big splashy first glimpse of the Mayflower.

Here is the thumbnail sketch:

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Everything’s there that needs to be, but I was concerned that the direction of the drawing didn’t show the Billingtons being rowed toward the Mayflower in the background.

In the tight sketch, I turned the foreground boat around so we’re looking at its stern as it rows away from us. I had to scan this in two pieces—sorry.

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When I drew the tight sketch, I worked half-size, so it was fairly easy to freehand the lines of the ship.  When I inked the scene, I worked at 125%, which is pretty big.  I don’t have enough control with a brush to competently ink in those lines at the larger size.  I wound up ruling them with a rapidograph, and used a homemade french curve—I traced the ship’s line onto a piece of watercolor board and cut along the line with a razor blade.  It gave me a nice smooth template to rule the lines with.

Here’s the inked and colorized image:

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Colorization by Vince Dorse.  Click on the picture to embiggen.

Update—Vince has some more on the colorization process over here.

Samoset

The costume color indication for Samoset, for Two Bad Pilgrims.  Not that there’s much costume.  Samoset walked into Plymouth Plantation in the middle of March wearing hardly anything at all.  He was showing the pilgrims he had no concealed weapons.  He was being theatrical and used symbolism to communicate: as ambassador from Chief Massasoit, he wanted to express goodwill to the pilgrims and he mustn’t have trusted his broken English.  The Wampanoags wanted to know whether the pilgrims were peaceful, so Samoset carried two arrows, one with an arrowhead and the other blunt.

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How would you walk into a potential enemy’s camp and ask about their intentions—while not knowing their language?

 

Master of the Mayflower

Here’s my costume color indication for Master Jones for Two Bad Pilgrims.  ‘Master’ was what they called the ship’s captain back in the 1600s. I couldn’t find a contemporary picture of him, like an engraving—so I made him up.  I tried to give him a salty swashbuckling air with the plumed hat, sash and of course, earring.

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Plymouth Plantation

It’s November—time to start thinking about Thanksgiving and pilgrims!  Here’s another scene from Two Bad Pilgrims.  This one shows the pilgrims beginning construction of Plymouth Plantation.  The first thing they built was the common house/fort.  This is my thumbnail sketch, 2 inches tall.

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One of the great things about being an illustrator is that you’re always learning something.  F’rinstance, to draw this scene of 17th century building construction, I had to find out how those buildings were framed; how a block and tackle works; how an ox yoke is harnessed.  I made several trips to the library and spent some time on the internet.

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I show the pilgrims hauling cannon to the upper storey of the fort.  p22newyoke

Art director Jim Hoover and editor Kendra Levin had a team of crack historians fact-checking my sketches.  Turns out the pilgrims didn’t bring any oxen with them on the Mayflower, so I replaced the ox with a group of men when I inked in the drawing.  Too bad; I kind of liked the ox.  The timbers are shaped to form mortise and tenon joints.  That’s an adz lying in the foreground.  p24.lojpg

Color indication—

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—and colorized final art.

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Colorization by Mr Vince Dorse.

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What do I paint first?

Joanie asks:

I work in gouache also and I would like to ask a question if you don’t mind. I have trouble working the background and characters at the same time. I usually end up painting the characters/foreground first and then paint the background around it after the fact. This method has not been working too well for me and I wanted to know what your method is. Do you work the background first and paint your characters on top?  Work them at the same time? Any advice you could give me would be greatly appreciated!

I usually work back to front—that is, I start with whatever is furthest in the background and work my way towards the foreground.  I leave the characters for last.

By working that way I can use bigger brushes and paint the background with greater abandon.  If I’m painting around a character I’ve already finished, I’ll be using teensy-weensy brushstrokes for fear of spoiling the character.  Then the illustration almost always looks too tight and—most important—takes too long to paint.

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Here’s a scene I’m working on.  I’ve begun painting the stone walls, but you can see the burnt sienna underpainting for the girl, carpet and chair.

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There’s a bookcase behind the chair, so I’m throwing in colors for the books’ spines.  Neatness doesn’t count, so I’m using a medium-sized brush.

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I’ve already planned what colors I’ll be using for this project.  I painted little color sketches to keep track of my palette.

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To make the drapery look like velvet, I painted dark green into medium green while it was still wet.

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I’m using a small brush with a sharp point for details.

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The background’s finished.  I’ll add the characters once all the backgrounds for the whole book are finished.  This girl appears throughout the book, so I’ll mix up all the colors I need for her and paint her on top of the finished backgrounds.  This is how I keep my characters looking consistent.

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You can find a continuation of this post here.

The Robin Hood Project

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I like to listen to really old classical music, and have attended the wonderful concerts organized by the Renaissance & Baroque Society of Pittsburgh.  I do illustrations for their season brochures.

A couple of years ago they booked the group Hesperus, who had the clever idea to perform a renaissance/medieval soundtrack to Douglas Fairbanks’ silent movie Robin Hood.  My buddy Ann Mason, who was executive director at the time, asked me to do a poster illustration for this special concert.  How could I resist?

I wanted to show the musicians superimposed on a larger-than-life Douglas Fairbanks, and somehow interacting with him.  I remembered a scene from the movie My Favorite Year, in which Peter O’Toole (essentially playing Errol Flynn) drunkenly walks into a screening of one of his old movies and begins sword-fighting his own projected image.

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To separate the musicians from Fairbanks, I chose to paint them in color and him black & white—that’s a no-brainer.  Also, they will be lighted from below (as they turned out to be during the performance) while Fairbanks would be lighted from the left.  They will cast hard shadows onto the b&w image to keep up the illusion of a projected movie.  The perspective for Fairbanks is different and far more dramatic than for the musicians—we’re looking at him from a bug’s-eye view; the musicians are level with our own horizon.  As usual with my perspective exercises, if you take a ruler to it and try to find a vanishing point you’ll be doomed to disappointment.  The vanishing points are there, somewhere, but I don’t strictly adhere to them.

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I did a burnt sienna underpainting even for the black and white portion.  I think it warms it up a bit.

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