Oils and acrylics

Alex Stone recre­ates a char­ac­ter.

ImagineFX: Sci-fi & Fantasy Art magazine - - Contents - Alex is a fan­tasy artist from Brook­lyn, NY. His in­ter­est in the genre was sparked at an early age from an ex­po­sure to Magic: The Gath­er­ing and TV shows such as Her­cules: The Leg­endary Jour­neys, Xena: War­rior Princess and Buffy the Vam­pire Slayer. www.alex

For this work­shop, I’ll be paint­ing a char­ac­ter known as The Bony King of Nowhere. It’s loosely based on an an­i­mated short from a clas­sic Bri­tish chil­dren’s show called Bag­puss, wherein the Bony King finds his throne to be too cold, and sends his sub­jects to find him some­thing warm to sit on. This is my favourite kind of as­sign­ment, be­cause it gives me some­thing to loosely grab on to, but run with in whichever di­rec­tion I choose and turn into some­thing that’s my own.

Early on, I get a creepy vibe from the ti­tle it­self and choose to move away from the cute­ness of the orig­i­nal short an­i­ma­tion. I de­cide that I want the king to have a skele­tal and un­set­tling ap­pear­ance. He’s not the happy, kind king de­picted in the orig­i­nal story. He gazes into an orb, per­haps ob­serv­ing the sub­jects that he’s sent on this quest. I don’t ex­plic­itly de­scribe this nar­ra­tive in the im­age, in­stead pre­fer­ring to leave it to the viewer to in­ter­pret as they please. I imag­ine Nowhere to be a cold and empty place. The king’s hall is dark, lit only by a nar­row shaft of cool blue light. Its vast size is only hinted at by the enor­mous pil­lar in the back­ground.

I en­joy the chal­lenge of work­ing in a limited colour pal­ette, as well as the mood that it can cap­ture. By fo­cus­ing my pal­ette on strong blues, I hope to con­vey the cold­ness of the space as well as an oth­er­worldly, mag­i­cal qual­ity. A spot­light will draw the eye to the char­ac­ter him­self, and build up a dra­matic ef­fect in an oth­er­wise quiet, un­event­ful mo­ment.

1 Start with thumb­nails

I start by quickly sketch­ing out ideas on a sheet of scrap pa­per. They’re very small, only about 1.5 inches on the long side. At this stage I want to find a gen­eral com­po­si­tion or ges­ture that I like.

2 Dig­i­tal ex­plo­rations

Once I have a few thumb­nails that work, I scan them and build them up in Pho­to­shop. I’m fo­cus­ing on my value struc­ture first, and se­condly, colour. This stage should start to give me an idea of how the fi­nal paint­ing will look.

3 Cre­ate a de­tailed drawing

Mov­ing ahead with my se­lected rough sketch, I do a de­tailed drawing on Bris­tol pa­per. Now is the time to start us­ing any ref­er­ence pho­tos that I may have.

4 Paint­ing a colour study

I trace my drawing on to a small piece of wa­ter­colour pa­per and do a fast, loose ver­sion of the fin­ish in acrylic paint. I do this to help de­ter­mine ex­actly what colours I need to mix for the fi­nal paint­ing. In this case I do just one, but I’ll re­peat as nec­es­sary un­til I know ex­actly what I want.

5 Pre­par­ing the sur­face

I take a lightly sanded piece of ma­sonite panel and ap­ply an acrylic gesso. While the gesso is wet, I smooth it out with a foam paint roller. I do this two or three times, en­sur­ing that the gesso gets the chance to dry be­tween ap­pli­ca­tions, and lightly sand­ing be­tween each coat.

6 Trans­fer the drawing

Us­ing a blown-up print of my drawing and a sheet of graphite trans­fer pa­per, I trace the drawing on to my board. Af­ter­wards, I go over the lines with a pen­cil just to darken them enough to see once I put down my un­der­tone.

7 Put down an un­der­tone

Us­ing a wa­tered-down mix of burnt um­ber and ul­tra­ma­rine blue acrylic paint, I put a wash over the en­tire board. This seals in the drawing so that it won’t smudge, and also gives me a mid­dle tone to paint on top of.

8 Do an un­der­paint­ing

From this stage on­wards, I switch to oil paints. I block in the shad­ows and try to get back some of the qual­ity of my drawing. I’m us­ing a mix of burnt um­ber and ivory black, thinned with Gam­sol.

9 Mix colours on a pal­ette

Us­ing my colour study as a point of ref­er­ence, I mix all of the colours that I’ll be paint­ing with for the first ses­sion. I re­peat this step for later ses­sions as nec­es­sary.

10 Start on the fig­ure

I start paint­ing the fig­ure since, be­ing the fo­cal point, it’ll use the widest range of val­ues. This helps me ad­just my eye for the rest of the paint­ing. I block in lights and darks, tak­ing care to not over­work any­thing. I’m try­ing to let each brush stroke do as much work as pos­si­ble.

11 Fin­ish the first pass

I move on to the rest of the paint­ing, ap­proach­ing it in the same way as the fig­ure. I’m tak­ing care to keep my value range nar­rower in ar­eas that are not as im­por­tant.

12 On to the sec­ond pass

I go back into ev­ery­thing to build up more light and shadow. I’m also fo­cus­ing on us­ing my strokes to de­scribe the tex­ture of the throne, and the re­flec­tion in the floor.

13 Glaz­ing and de­tails

I push the ar­eas that I want out of fo­cus back with a dark glaze. I also work on fine de­tails such as high­lights and edges, and cor­rect any­thing that doesn’t look quite right. The paint­ing is about 99 per cent fin­ished.

14 Stop right there

I turn the paint­ing around and leave the stu­dio. I’ll do any­thing to not think about it. Play video games, watch a movie, take a walk, or just go to sleep. If I can af­ford to, I’ll leave it un­til the next day.

15 Last look and fi­nal tweaks

I come back with fresh eyes and put in any last­minute de­tails I may have missed. Then I sign it, and once the paint­ing is dry to touch, I ap­ply a thin coat of Liquin. This brings out the vi­brancy of the colours and deep­ens the darks that tend to get lost when the paint dries. This is not a re­place­ment for a fi­nal var­nish, which will be added later.

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