Clinch River Sturgeon

Our local PBS station, WCTE, hosts the Great TV Auction ever year, with proceeds benefiting the station. Along with many of the other talented Art Prowl artists, I donated a piece that will be auctioned off on the evening of Sunday, June 9th. Anyone in the area should tune in for a great opportunity to get some cool art and support your local public television.

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My piece is titled “Clinch River Sturgeon,” and depicts a vibrant green lake sturgeon. Much like my Cryptid Americana series, it is acrylic paint on a stained pine plank, with india ink penwork for all of the details. Below is a step-by-step photo progress gallery.

And as an exclusive tip to my blog readers, I’ll clue you in to the fact that the fins and underbelly of this particular fish have a phosphorescent tendency, all thanks to a little experimenting with glow-in-the-dark paint:]

 

Omnicon Aftermath: “A Hero’s Journey”

My entry for the Omnicon Art Contest this year was a large story mural entitled “A Hero’s Journey.” For some time I’ve been aware of Joseph Campbell and his Monomyth theory, but have never done any real research into it. I recently found time to watch his “Power of Myth” interviews, which I found fascinating. And so my piece is an incredibly boiled down version of his Hero’s Journey. It is composed of seven story panels, laid out vertically to be read from bottom to top, each depicting a step in the journey. The seven stages I chose/combined are The Call to Adventure, Meeting with the Mentor, Crossing the Threshold, Trials and Tests, Descent into Darkness, The Final Confrontation, and Salvation.
I wanted to use very stylized and minimalist characters and layout, to show the generic and all-encompassing nature of the story, though I was certainly influenced by outside forces. When I decided to color-code the three main characters, that of the Hero, the Villain, and the Princess, I went with a green/red/blue pattern as a tribute to the Legend of Zelda series (which is also very obviously influenced by the Monomyth). To further iconicize them, I attached a basic shape to each of the big three, respectively a triangle, square, and circle. I used these shapes as central features, as well as a guiding force in the physical design and layout for each character’s form. In retrospect, it may have been a mistake to make the Hero both green and a triangle, since I was regaled all weekend with “That’s a cool Zelda piece!” and “Neat, but you got the Link and Ganon wrong.” Oh well:]
Another symbolic choice was using the same brown color for both the scenery and the Mentor figure, to imply that he was of the earth, and something of a primal force (I wanted a solid Old Ben Kenobi vibe about him). Furthermore, once he bestows the Mystic Power on the Hero, it creates an immediate change in him, which we see stays with him even once he has let go of it, and is also passed on to his love.
 
As far as art technique goes, I started with a six foot long and one foot wide pine plank, which I sanded thoroughly and stained liberally. I used a gloss polyurethane coat to make sure my ink would not bleed, which, unfortunately, also made it quite difficult to photograph. My apologies.
 
Once the stain had dried, I went in and measured out my panels and borders, and then penciled in each of my scenes.  A lot of my technique here has been refined on the smaller drawings I do on wooden plaques. If I’m careful and keep my pencil lines fairly light, they’ll usually erase right off.
 
After everything was penciled, I mixed up copious amounts of each ink (terrified that I would not mix enough, and have to try a color match at the very end) and went in to ink each figure. I used a dip pen with a basic drawing nib, first outlining each shape and then going through to fill it. For some reason a brush does not get good coverage on top of the stain, instead making little beads everywhere, so I actually had to go through and scribble each solid shape full.
 
This took For-ev-er.
 
Once all of the figures were filled in, I then went back and added the horizon and foundation lines. And when these had dried, I tediously painted in the borders with gold acrylic paint. Once that was all finished, I was fortunate enough to retain assistance from The Gentleman Philip Fox, who went back and quite carefully erased all my pencil lines and smudges.
 
Then, it was finished! All told, I believe this took a little over a week to complete, and that was with some Very sleepless nights.
Whenever I work on a major piece like this, especially one in which I’ve invested so much thought, it is important for me to surround myself in inspiration the entire time. Normally I do this through thematically and emotionally appropriate music, but for this I ransacked my DVD collection for some of my favorite epic hero stories. Imbued within the ink are equal parts A New Hope, Never-Ending Story, The Rocketeer, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Mask of Zorro, Hellboy, Conan the Barbarian, and more I can’t currently remember. As I worked, I noticed just how many this basic outline could fit over. Certainly Star Wars, as Lucas is a long-time supporter of Campbell’s. But also most of the others, perhaps with some slight rearranging of the steps’ order. And videogames equally well, when you think on it. The Super Mario series is basically a starter course in Monomyth.
All said and done, this was certainly a labor of love, and I am quite happy with my results.

Vampires on Parade

I’ve been lucky enough these last few years to get occasional illustration work from my pal Chuck  at The Oracle. One of my favorite things about working with him is his vague parameters and willingness to print pretty much anything I send him. Case in point: my assignment for the October 28th issue was “Something to go with a How-To article on making fake blood.” Included was the recipe, which involved insane amounts of corn syrup and cocoa powder. And so, I decided to add “Soon-to-be-Diabetic Hipster” to the rolecall of notable vampires.

Done with dip pen and ink, then cleaned up and framed in Photoshop. This is the first time I’ve played with that particular hatching pattern (unabashedly influenced by this awesome Mike Holmes drawing) and I am A Fan. Here are a few process shots and close-ups:

And just to add a little extra meat to this post, here are some of my Oracle comics from the past. Enjoy!

“Brain Pump” Creation

The image I’m using for my welcome mat and banners (tentatively entitled “Brain Pump”?) was something that came to me whilst doodling. I was dissecting a few of my sketches, and realized how strongly influenced they were by several of my favorite artists and cartoons from youth. I’ve met many artists who seem to bristle at the idea of their work being “derivative,” but I find that rather ridiculous. Certainly, you shouldn’t be flat-out copying someone elses art or style, but to pretend that your drawing of wacky aliens isn’t in some way influenced by your love of Star Wars or Star Trek or what-have-you, well…that’s silly. Even as artists, we are all the sum of our parts.
Anyhow, these were the thoughts in my head as I worked on this illustration. I had a good time filling my Brain Tank with representatives of my influences, though I’m sure I missed quite a few. Here a few process shots of my montages:
 
I’ll do a more in-depth post on my techniques at a later point, but as you can see, I am a member of the Red Pencil Under Inks school of art. As far as the inking itself goes, for something with this size and level of detail, you just can’t beat dipping a nice nib pen into some Dr Ph. Martin’s india ink. Here are the final inks, before they hit the scanner:
I will be the first to admit, my digital art skills are fairly rudimentary. I work mostly in Photoshop, which I’ve begun to realize might not be the best program for my style, and I’m almost entirely self-taught in it. But it seems to get me by, as long as I’m willing to stay at the desk for a long time.  This piece was a bit more ambitious than some. I typically just use PS to clean up pencils and slap a nice border on pics. This time, not only did I add some color, I also separated out part of the inks, so that I could do the Inkflow in a stark black, and a lighter charcoal for the rest of the pic. I really wanted to make the Inkflow in the picture stand out, though I have mixed feelings on the result.
I welcome your thoughts on this!