Tome of the Guildpact

Typically, an Art Director will ask you to paint things in line with work you’ve shown. Magic: the Gathering however assigns hundreds of illustrations a year, with visuals that define entire worlds. And that means there will be some things that need illustrating, which might be hard to find in artists’ portfolios. Like old books. It’s also possible you are THE Old Book Artist, with a portfolio of paintings of old, tattered tomes. You’ve been sending it out to art directors the world over but they never had an assignment for you, and if they did it might’ve been years after getting your samples so they forgot to call you.

Sorry ‘bout that.

Tome of the Guildpact 9x12” oil over acrylic on illustration board Sold

Tome of the Guildpact
9x12” oil over acrylic on illustration board
Sold

But, as an artist working in the genre of fantastic art, you have to be ready to paint anything. Key to this piece was a really old heirloom book my wife owns, from Ecuador. Its spine is tattered and torn as seen in this painting, and I would not have been able to make that up without seeing it.

There was the desire on the part of Art Director Cynthia Sheppard that the book not be your standard brown leather, which was fine: this eschewing of standard visuals is typical of Magic.

Tome of the Guildpact, preliminary study 6x8” acrylic and pencil on toned paper sold

Tome of the Guildpact, preliminary study
6x8” acrylic and pencil on toned paper
sold

In preparation for the painting, I worked up a more detailed than usual study in acrylic and pencil. Typically I might only render out the main figure(s) or some environmental detail I want to get right before moving to paint. As you can see in comparison to the final, I didn’t bother with the marbling on the counter/table surface at this stage, but otherwise the piece is all there. Were I a digital artist, this would have been sufficient to start and then digitally color.

Me, working on the final painting, possibly at a point where I was not impressed, based on my expression.

Me, working on the final painting, possibly at a point where I was not impressed, based on my expression.

The final is a bit smaller than usual, but scaled large enough to let achieve the details I want, without being larger-than-life, which is always tricky to paint and can be awkward to look at in person. I took it with me to my annual painting retreat in Pennsylvania last winter and painted the bulk of it there, alongside other Magic artists such as Dave and Anthony Palumbo, Winona Nelson, and Allen Wiliams (pictured behind me). I began it in acrylic and quite a lot of what shows in the final is acrylic. When I returned home, I switched to oils and rendered out the hand and other details, softening areas and doing more of what is difficult to achieve in acrylic.

Thankfully, this one was printed on a decently playable card, and as such is attracted more attention than usual resulting in the painting and sketch making their way into collections in record time.

Last Art of 2018: Thistle

2018 was busy, of the sort where you wonder in prior years if things can get more busy, and then they do. But this was largely a good thing. I somehow managed to spend more time out of the studio, attending and selling at events, even going on vacation for my 20th wedding anniversary, and yet I upped my painting output. And looking back, I’m a little astounded that I managed it.

When you buy canvas on large rolls, one edge often is unfinished, this is a piece that came off that side of the roll.

When you buy canvas on large rolls, one edge often is unfinished, this is a piece that came off that side of the roll.

Uncharacteristically, I came back in at the end to work out more of the background gradation.

Uncharacteristically, I came back in at the end to work out more of the background gradation.

After a particularly hectic November and December, during which I ran late (with permission) on a client commission (something I rarely have to do), I had one last painting to do. I had hoped to take a solid week off at the end of the year, but it was not really to be.

Aforementioned wife hoped I could squeeze in a commission for her by way of Christmas present. Since I am horrible at gift-giving, this was in a sense a welcome request. So I ate into my vacation to do a still life of thistles, which she particularly wanted. But since she is my wife, who I love and all that, it was worth doing.

And so, due to aforementioned hectic autumn, my Christmas gift was a couple of days late. Wife was completely understanding, part of why she’s great. It also rounded out my year as the last thing finished on the easel.

I’m itching to get going on 2019, as it’ll be busy in the kind of way where I wondered in 2018 if things can get more busy, and then they are about to. I hope your year was good, and I also hope 2019 surpasses it. Life is good.

Thistle 10.25” x 6.25” oil on canvas Not for sale

Thistle
10.25” x 6.25” oil on canvas
Not for sale

A Week of Still Life

King Oyster Mushrooms 6x8” oil on panel Sold    Process video here

King Oyster Mushrooms
6x8” oil on panel
Sold
Process video here

Recently, I had a week scheduled in which I was going to focus on Still Life paintings. Usually, I have done these one at a time, between other projects. But this had resulted in my not doing very many, because there are always a lot of things that need doing between projects, things that fall behind when I am in the midst of larger works.

So, knowing I had carved out some time, I decided I would paint one per day. This also meant that, having planned the time, I had the forethought to go do some shopping for specific things to paint, versus painting objects at hand when opportunity arises.

So my wife and I went to get some items, and since it is fall, there were a few good autumn things to paint. I let her pick a few things out, in part because I imagined she’d want to hang one or two of the final pieces until they sell.

Raspberries 6x8” oil on panel Original art available    Process video here

Raspberries
6x8” oil on panel
Original art available
Process video here

Next, I decided I would try something else new: live streaming. I have on occasion posted time-lapse videos on Instagram, and they have a live stream option that I thought I would try. There were some issues though: my iOS devices are so old that the Live option was not an option on my versions of the app! As well, I learned that IG’s live streams are I think limited to one hour. These still lives usually take a good bit longer than that. Lastly, I don’t have a great setup for suspending my device for streaming.

Flint Corn 6x8” oil on panel Original art available    Process video here

Flint Corn
6x8” oil on panel
Original art available
Process video here

So I went to Facebook Live. They allow 4 hours, and in 2-3 instances, I made it under the line by a couple of minutes! It was pretty enjoyable working live, and a number of folks made their way in, some popping in for a peek, others hanging out for most of the stream, one or two hanging out about the entire week of full streams. After the first day I decided to begin interacting with comments and questions verbally on-stream. That made it even more enjoyable for everyone I think.

Still life paintings are probably the most fun of the work I do to watch, in that they tend to get completed in one sitting, and they are very spontaneous: no pre-drawing in pencil or anything, just paint on board. Due to their low-commitment nature, I tend to try things I wouldn’t try in other venues: texture, materials, application, etc., are all fair game for experimentation in these. It could also result in failure, but if it does at least it doesn’t crater two weeks of effort.

Gourd 6x8” oil on panel over acrylic Original art available    Process video here

Gourd
6x8” oil on panel over acrylic
Original art available
Process video here

Over the last few years of doing these still life paintings, I think I have both introduced and grown a little facility with palette knife application. I think it is easy to overdue knife applications, and for years I didn’t see a way to use them well, but I think I’m getting more comfortable with them as a tool.

I also used a brayer in one of the pieces. This is newer, but I’ve used it in some Hearts for Hardware pieces.

I also used a rubber-tipped paint wedge to pull paint off the surface. I bought it on a whim a few years ago but haven’t found many good uses for it yet.

Blood Orange 6x8” oil on panel Currently NFS    Process video here

Blood Orange
6x8” oil on panel
Currently NFS
Process video here

In the Gourd piece I also started with some opaque acrylic base tones, which I used the paint wedge to reclaim and use in the final art a bit. The Gourd piece had 3 total of the above techniques.

In the end I was pretty pleased with all of them, and the Blood Orange piece at the end in particular was the winner. I’ll be saving that one for submission to some annual shows (and my wife gets to hang it in the meantime). The others are available for purchase.

I’d like to do the live stream thing again sometime, maybe on a multi-day piece like a landscape. Perhaps streaming on YouTube would be better than Facebook? Not sure. But I appreciated all who stopped in. The videos are archived and public, so anyone can view them even without an account.

Avatar of Hope

“Avatar of Hope” 6x8” oils Sold

“Avatar of Hope”
6x8” oils
Sold

Certain years seem particularly bountiful for children in one’s life. Some years, no one you really know well is having kids, the next you get 2-3 and a handful of pregnancies besides. This year is one of bounty around me.

I’ve always thought, and this is by no means an original feeling, that having a child is about the single most hopeful thing someone can do. It is trusting in the future—not the far future, just the future some decades beyond your own life. The moment the child enters the world, you are concerned with its safety and well-being, and just placing it in the world is a bet that this world will be safe for them in the future. Thus, those who have children during particularly hard times are in essence believing that those hard times won’t be forever. I think that is wonderful, especially if the having of the child begins to move the parent towards improving that world in the ways they are able, to help make their optimism real.

So here’s to the parents in my life, particularly the new parents. Make the world good.

In progress.

In progress.