Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Single figure portraits

-Jesper Ejsing

Doing a single figure portrait is a favourite discipline of mine. I try to minimize the background to almost only a texture surface at the bottom or even only a cast shadow to show that the figure is not hovering in midair. I put all in the figure. What I like about this kind of illustration is the clean and simple expression. I do not have to tell a story or place him or her in an environment. I do not have to consider all these things as: environmental light, bouncing light, readability compared to the background and all that stuff, that usually fills my head to the brim of disaster. I can relax and focus only on designing the figure and capturing his or her sentiment. ( I am getting a little overexcited here, since almost all of my single figures have one of the same two expressions: either sexy or tight-lip-angry and determined. I should try to jazz it up by combining the two?. Never mind. Tried it in the mirror; doesn’t work ) I always sketch these figures very large and rough at first trying to capture a twist or a movement to the body. It is kind of the same way as you would do nude model drawings on time. You have to get it down on paper very fast in 2 or 3 minutes.

Packlord Paragon, interior illustration for DND Primal Power

The female figure I captured in first try. After noting that date down on a calendar I proceeded with a little tonal value and then sketched the figure in full detail. The art description is mostly about race, equipment, weapons and character class. There is just so many ways to make a figure “just standing there” look boring and uninteresting. I would like the body to have small twist and turns and bends in the torso and wrist and so on, to make the pose believable and interesting. This means I have to stand in the pose myself. I get up and grab a staff and a knife and try to pose myself in front of a mirror. I really recommend doing this to every pose, to get a feel for what feels right. I just think the way she has the weapons actually slightly behind her body is carefree and shows that she can handle you even with the weapons not ready. They are out to the side saying: “come on. I´ll let you get one strike at me for free”. I used a H&M catalogue for facial references and almost completely stole the tiger pose from the internet. The colours I kept very close to red and orange. The only cool contrast is a small sky reflection on the back of the tiger, to not make the light look too flat. I added some small cuts and fresh scratches to her skin. And the usual mud on the boots. Even elves get dirty and have twigs rip their skin and clothes when running tree-hugging through the forest.

Vorthian, Interior illustration for DND Shadowfell

This guy is a Demon prince. The description of him sounded very complicated yet very free. He had no eyes, a halo, missing the left hand, having wings, and carrying a giant spear. The rest; armour clothes and, well the rest, was up to me. I have no idea why I chose the walking stance for him. But I went for a twisted torso with us looking more into his neck area and torso than right upon it. The hunched pose seems right for tough guys or fighting stances. They protect the neck by hunching and make the critical part of the body difficult to hit. I used a skull from my studio to get the structure in his face right. The wings I folded and bent so that they were more hanging or draping behind him like a cape billowing in the wind. The could have been stretched out basking or moving but I just liked them as a graphic element more than them being included in his weapon arsenal. I think they would draw attention away from the main part if they had been stretched out. Basically all my choices are moving around drawing too much or too little attention. The background I had to fill out, behind most of the figure, since I needed something to establish a contrast to the bluish white halo. You cannot paint light without framing it in something dark. Also this allowed me to exploit my favourite trick: rim-lighting. I did try to tone it down here. Kept it only on the face and the arm with the spear. “Oh well the hip also, for Christ sake, but that was only as a last resort to keep it clear of the wing behind the hip. Let it go!” There are two things that I really like in this illustration: One is the arm stump. I have never seen one and I didn’t dare Google picture-search that particular word. I just imagined the area around the bone would make the flesh bulk and grow uneven together. The little red dot and pinkish tone in the final makes the old wound look irritated. The other thing I really like, and it might sound stupid, is his left boot. The lowest part of the leg and greaves are captured and rendered with as few strokes as I possibly could. I always try to go less and simple instead of dotting and rendering layer upon layer. It almost always doesn´t succeed and I end up with much more nitty-picking than needed, but in this boot it came out simple and elegant.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Taking my own advice

-Dan dos Santos

So after imploring countless people to register their artwork with the U.S. Copyright Office, I am proud to say that I finally got around to doing it myself! My Certificate of Registration just arrived in the mail the other day, and I'm psyched!

I honestly don't know why it took me so long, the process is incredibly easy. Basically, all you need is $30 and half an hour... and you can register everything you've ever painted.

Typically, registering a work with the copyright office costs about $30 per piece. But the really nice thing is, the piece being registered can be a collection of work. Meaning all the material contained therein is then registered as well.

Further more, if the work in question has never been printed (ie. a PDF), you can register it completely electronically. If you have printed it, you need to mail a hard copy to the Library of Congress for their records. That's a bit more work, and expense. So for the sake of ease, I recommend creating a new, electronic version of said book, just for registration purposes.

So here is what you do:

1. Make a PDF called 'The Art of Whatever".
2. Toss every piece you still own the rights to in it.
3. Go HERE
4. Create an account and fill out all the info regarding your work.
5. Send $30 electronically.
6. Wait 2 weeks, and your Certificate of Registration magically arrives in the mail!

Seriously. It's that easy. You've probably wasted more time on Facebook today than doing this actually takes. So come on, people! I want to see comments from everyone who did something really productive today!

Monday, February 27, 2012


by Arnie Fenner

All the chatter for some time now has been regarding the evolution in publishing from print to digital. E-books this, tablets that: get content on your computer, on your smart phone, on your Kindle/Nook/IPad. Print is dead, yadayadayada. Me? Though I've got all the gadgets and use them daily I still prefer to pick up a good ol' fashioned newspaper or book or magazine when I want to read, either for enjoyment or to learn something.

The New York Times recently ran an article discussing a study claiming that an inordinately high percentage of people who used only the computer for their information or entertainment--rarely (if ever) picking up traditional books or magazines--experienced significantly lower levels of reading comprehension and shorter memories of what they'd read on-line. Now how true that might be is anyone's guess: there's the old caveat coined either by Mark Twain or Benjamin Disraeli, depending on who you want to believe, of, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." Then again...a favorite server at the neighborhood restaurant Cathy and I frequent is going to school to be a nurse and during a recent chat she was complaining that the hardest part was having to use a regular book to study: "There's no 'search' option to find things for you! You have to read everything!"

What does all this have to do with Illustration magazine? Oh, not much, I suppose. Other than it gives me an opportunity to say that I love it, much prefer to hold a printed copy in my hands and savor each cleanly-designed page at my leisure rather than peruse it on-line (which is also an option publisher Dan Zimmer makes available for free), and believe everyone with even the slightest interest in art will find it invaluable and worthy of support. Whether you take out a subscription or buy it at your favorite bookstore, you'll be glad you did.

At the top: The most recent issue (#36) features heavily illustrated articles about John Berkey and Rose O'Neill.

Issue #35 features Joseph Szokli, Walt Reed, and Harry Clarke.

Issue #33 featured Jack Gaughan, Charles Copeland, and Edward Shenton.

Issue #32 featured Herbert Morton Stoops and Ed Balcourt.

Issue #26 featured Graves Gladney, Nan Pollard, and The American Academy of Art.

Issue #19 featured Louis Glanzman, Ed Emshwiller, and the Patterson & Hall Studio.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Authenticity and fairytales

by Petar Meseldzija

For a number of years I have been dreaming of illustrating the Serbian fairytales.  While flipping  through the books on fairytales illustrated by Ivan Bilibin, Arthur Rackham or John Bauer, I would often wonder how to tackle such a challenge. A few years ago I did illustrate one Serbian fairytale for a Norwegian publisher, as a part of the collection of fairytales from all around the world. In fact I was offered to illustrate two fairytales, but due to my busy schedule at that time, I declined the second one and did only the pictures for the shorter tale. I was so eager to do this job that, instead of painting a one page and a half page illustration, which I was commissioned and paid to do, I did a double page and a one page illustration. Unfortunately, the book was never published.

As it is the case with the most of our dreams, if we dream them long enough, they will eventually come through, in one or another form. Last summer a respectable publisher from Serbia with an appropriate name Čarobna knjiga, which means Magic Book, asked me to participate in a major book project on Serbian fairytales.  There are in total 11 illustrators involved in this project, the book will have 224 pages and will be published in Serbia in September this year. No doubt, a major and rather prestigious book, that is intended to set a new standard for that kind of illustrated books, as far as the Serbian market is concerned.

Due to my agreement with the publisher, I am not able to show you the finished paintings (in fact I am still very busy creating them), but I can show you some of the preliminary sketches and studies. 

One of the illustrations from the Norwegian project.
You probably noticed that I did different sketches of the same character, which means that I take this task very seriously and that I am not easily satisfied with the first design. One might say that I search for something that I am apparently not able to struck instantly. The thing I am mostly concerned about at this stage of my work on this particular project is the authenticity and the national character of my designs and paintings.

When it comes to illustrating the national themes, one inevitably has to deal with the historical and ethnological authenticity. The specifics of a certain culture like traditional clothing, architecture, various artifacts, human physiognomy, landscapes, and all other things that have to express the national  aspect of the story in question, suddenly become an important issue. But while it is quite obvious that one has to be as authentic and as accurate as possible in terms of the costumes and props when depicting a specific historic moment , it is something quite different when you deal with fairytales, myths or legends. Although all these stories are mostly a product of fiction, never the less they are firmly rooted in a certain cultural frame. The question I have been asking myself since I have started the work on this book, is how authentic and historically accurate one has to be when dealing with a folk tale, a fairytale. It is clear that a certain doses of authenticity is required, because for instance, a knight from an English legend has to look as a proper English knight, otherwise it has not much sense to call it an English story.  At the same time too much history in the fairytale pictures might kill the magic.

How did a Serbian medieval knight, or prince, looked like? How does his castle looked like, what kind of dress did he wear and what kind of designs decorated his clothes? These are quite normal questions, but the answers are not easy to find. After the mighty Ottoman Turks invaded and gradually conquered medieval  Serbia and almost all of the Balkans at the beginning of 15th century, the radical and thorough change took place. In the subsequent 5 centuries of the Turkish rule much of the medieval  Serbian culture was lost, destroyed and reshaped on the basis of the conqueror ‘s culture. Apart from some indications in the old manuscripts, the more or less canonized depictions on the frescos in the medieval churches , and the poetic and romantic writings in the old epic poetry, there are virtually no solid indications of what a Serbian prince and his world looked like. Generally speaking the Serbian medieval culture was primarily influenced by the Byzantine culture. But, there are indications that the Serbian rulers have imported clothes and armor from Italy and Hungary. Some Serbian kings had married west European princesses, as well as the princesses from the surrounding kingdoms, who inevitably brought some of the fashion from their native cultures, influencing  to a certain degree the Serbian court.  Besides, it is known that the Emperor Dušan’s  personal guard consisted of the German mercenaries, who were dressed as the western soldiers and knights from that period (see the paintings of Emperor Dušan by Paja Jovanović).  So, when a fairytale starts with: “Long time ago there lived a king who had three sons…”, you know that you have to place the story in the pre-Turkish times and that you have to deal with the insufficiency of the reference material. 

A warrior, fresco from the 13th century church
But (fortunately there is a “but” here) we are dealing with a fairytale, which in my opinion does not have to be exactly historically accurate in terms of clothing and props (it even sounds a bit silly – a historically accurate fairytale, right?). However  it is necessary to show a sufficient amount of basic elements that would suggest the national character, and to depict the rest as suggestive and imaginative as possible.
As long as we are suggesting or showing the right direction, and as long as we infuse our designs with enough imaginative and evocative material for the reader’s mind to be captured and inspired by, we are on the good road. It is all about pointing the “finger” towards the right symbols and archetypes. Our preconditioned and programed mind would do the rest.

Perhaps a good example of this can be found in the sources of inspiration that I have used while designing my King Marko, the main character from the Legend of Steel Bashaw. Because of the nature of this old tale, it  is obvious that this king comes from the obscured pre-Turkish times and therefore has to reflect something that the imagination of the public will unquestionably relate to the Serbian medieval  noble knight, although as I just said, nobody knows how these knights exactly looked like.

The sources of inspiration I used while designing King Marko were:

-          Blue trousers are inspired by the paintings of Paja Jovanović.

-          The design of his breastplate  was inspired  by the old coins that were found at the archeological location of the Russian city of Novgorod.  

-          King Marko wears a traditional Serbian shoes, that probably did not exist in the middle ages, and if they did exist, a king would surely NOT wear them.

-          He wears a yellow tunic under his armor that comes from the famous Rembrandt’s painting “The Night watch”

-          The general design of his armor is inspired by the relative complexity of the armor of the  Byzantine warriors/knights.

-          Marko’s exaggeratedly long mustache indicate a feature on the man’s face that was so common in the Balkans in the past. My grandfather, for instance, who was born at the end of the 19th century, for the most of his adult life had a long mustache.  As an old man (he died when he was 96) he looked like an iconic bard from the Serbian epics.

That’s it. Until now, I haven’t heard anybody complaining about King Marko not being authentic enough.

So, my conclusion is that as long as the sum of the details and symbols in our designs and compositions points out towards the right direction and brings the desirable associations and emotions to the surface of the reader’s/spectator’s mind, without damaging the magic, and maintaining and supporting the required illusion (the suspension of disbelief), we are achieving our goal as illustrators of this kind of stories. After all, as illustrators, fantasy illustrators in particular, we are a kind of dream makers. At its best, we help create dreams that make up the foundations of reality.

Dream well.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Studio Safety Pt. 2 - The Facts About Turpentine

-Dan dos Santos
Now that we know how to avoid the dangers of Solvents, let's discuss WHY we need to. First, some facts, as well as common misconceptions, about the hazards of turpentine.

-Turpentine is made from tree sap.
Turpentine is made from the distilled resin of Pine trees. It is actually all-natural, wether or not it says so on the label.

-Turpentine is cancerous.
Turpentine is TOXIC, and -can- kill you. Even short term exposure can have really bad effects, such as asphyxiation. However, long term exposure has not been proven to cause CANCER.

-Turpentine has health benefits.
Turpentine has long been used as a home remedy for respiratory problems. Still today, Vicks Vaporub contains turpentine.

-Low-odor turpentine is safer that regular turpentine.
Just because you can't smell it, doesn't make it less dangerous. In fact, toxic exposure is -more- likely with low-odor turpentine, because you may be unaware of it's presence. However, Odorless Mineral Spirits (which is a turpentine substitute derived from petroleum), is much less dangerous.

-I need to use turpentine if I want to thin my paint.
Oils paint can be thinned with additional oil.


Well... That's the good. So now you may be asking yourself, "If turpentine is all-natural, what's the big deal?" The problem is, even all-natural things can kill you... like bears, and mushrooms, and turpentine.

According to OSHA, The effects of turpentine on humans are as follows:
Turpentine is a skin, eye, mucous membrane, and upper respiratory tract irritant in humans. It may also cause skin sensitization and central nervous system, gastrointestinal, and urinary tract effects.

The lowest estimated oral dose reported to be lethal in humans is 441 mg/kg. Exposure to a 75-ppm concentration for 3 to 5 minutes irritates the nose and throat, and exposure to a 175-ppm concentration irritates the eyes and may be considered intolerable by human volunteers.

Ingestion of turpentine causes a burning pain in the mouth and throat, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, excitement, ataxia, confusion, stupor, seizures, fever, and tachycardia and may cause death due to respiratory failure.

Toxic glomerulonephritis and bladder irritation, with hematuria, albuminuria, oliguria, and dysuria, have been associated with overexposure to the vapor of turpentine in the past; however, the more purified form of turpentine now in use appears to have decreased the incidence of or to have eliminated turpentine-induced nephritis.

Splashes of the liquid in the eye produce severe pain and blepharospasm; conjunctival redness and temporary corneal erosion may also occur, but these effects are reversible. Chronic skin exposure to turpentine may produce a hypersensitivity reaction, with bullous dermatitis and/or eczema.

A case-control study of workers in particle-board, plywood, sawmill, and formaldehyde glue factories demonstrated a statistically significant association between chronic exposure (longer than 5 years) to terpenes (the principal component of turpentine) and the development of respiratory tract cancers.

So even though turpentine is pretty darn bad for you, the good news is that you can usually tell that it's doing something bad. If you can identify the problem, it's a lot easier to rectify it.

Now, some people have incredible tolerances for harmful things (me, not so much). It's quite possible that you could work in a studio FILLED with turpentine fumes for a lifetime and never have a problem. It's also quite possible that your Grandmother smoked 20 cigarettes a day for 90 years and lived to be 105. However, many (if not most) people will develop breathing problems, skin rashes and migraines when exposed to turpentine in levels that are quickly achieved when painting with oils in an enclosed room.

So what do you do about it? Well, like Justin said in part 1, you try to minimize the amount of vapor in the air. You can do this two ways:
1. Increase the amount of air.
2. Decrease the amount of vapors.

Personally, my primary approach consists of #2.

I never, ever, ever, paint with an open jar of turpentine in my studio. Not even to clean my brushes. I do however, use a small jar of medium, consisting of equal parts odorless mineral spirits and linseed oil.

(Odorless mineral spirits [also known as OMS] is an alternative solvent, which evaporates slower than turpentine, and is FAR less toxic. However, it is also not as potent a solvent, and therefore cannot be used to dissolve certain resins, like Damar.)

Why the mixture? Oils can be diluted with the addition of other oils, but they can not be dissolved. This is important when dealing with fat and lean layers of paint. Basically, a lean layer has more solvent. A fat layer has more oil. By mixing the two together, I achieve neutrality... a good thing for a painting medium to be.

But the mixture serves an additional benefit. The addition of oil slows the evaporation rate of the mineral spirits. By slowing the evaporation rate, you considerably reduce the amount of harmful vapor in the air. In fact, there are certain mineral spirits, like Gamsol, which are designed to evaporate 4 times slower than regular turpentine.

To clean my brushes, I simple dip them in the medium (without touching the bottom of the jar), and then squeeze out the excess paint with a rag. Anything that doesn't come off from that, is then washed away with plain soap and water.

Here's another way you can reduce the amount of vapor in your studio... Choose the right medium jar.

A large, wide mouthed jar provides a greater surface area by which the turpentine/oms can contact the air. Think of it like leaving the door wide open on a cold day... with zombies outside. By using a smaller, narrow mouthed jar, you greatly reduce the surface area of exposed solvent. Cutting your jar's mouth size in half will literally cut the vapors in half! In the same respect, if you plan on taking a break from your easel for even 5 minutes, cover your medium jar!

The absolute worst thing you could be using to hold turpentine while you work!!!
For me, just by reducing the amount of turpentine vapors in these 2 simple ways, I found that I can work comfortably without any noticeable adverse affects. Large double-doors bring in fresh air when I need it, and that's it.

(Edit: There is now a lot of useful info in the comments section. I guess an additional post is in order!)

Up next... the real killer.

John Carter

It's great to get a chance to work on stuff that meant much to me when I was a kid.
Dejah Thoris.... How I wanted to be John Carter...and for that matter,  Tarzan, Thor, Hulk, Scalphunter, and probably Earl Cambell....

More soon on this...

-Justin Sweet

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Frank Duveneck Study

-Gregory Manchess

This is the first painting I remember that froze me in place. It’s the piece that caused me to paint the way I do. One of Frank Duveneck’s many fabulous studies, a preparation for some of the more rendered pieces made during his career. He was a virtuoso with the brush, only thirty-one when he painted it.

This face dwells in my head whenever I hold the brush, whenever I lay down the paint, guiding my efforts by reminding me to stay loose and keep details to the essential elements and values.

I’m taken by the deep shadows, and how he’s worked back up from there to the lights, the value range remaining quite close. Duveneck mixed his colors quickly and confidently, most likely not creating piles of pigment ahead of time, but rather mixing on the fly.

The drawing is incorporated by shape and value, giving the face the structure it needs by defining the planes. Notice the ear; even the underpainting stands in for shapes, by contrasting the middle values.

The forearm stays alive by rendering the subtle values across the muscle, leading up to the bicep where the lighter paint captures the light, and subtle flesh folds. The rougher flesh of the fingers gets chiseled strokes, the thin planes of skin grabbing light between the index and middle finger.

The laced fingers here establish a phenomenal range of color value that runs from the nearly imperceptible shadow side, to the few bold strokes of flesh near the knuckles. The wrist is a superb example of brighter colors against muddy colors--ahem--allowing the wrist to just barely make it into the light.

For those students studying how to paint volume, look no further than these hands for learning to cut strokes across the form, not along it.

The older man’s head study is gorgeous. Minimalism at it’s very core. Unfinished and yet providing everything we need to know. It is modern art at this point, exposing the essence of painting that others, in later years, would strive to exemplify in wild passages of sensation. What some would wail about for attention, Duveneck captured honestly, in reality.

When you look close enough, this painting embodies decades of advanced levels of abstract art.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Studio Safety Pt. 1 - Ventilation

-By Justin Gerard

In this article we are going to cover proper studio ventilation for the artist, with a focus on dealing with solvents. We will cover the various options for setting up a studio, and a few options you can use if no ventilation is possible. 

Almost all illustrators working in oil use solvents.  They are used for a wide variety of tasks: mixing, thinning, dissolving and cleaning paint as well as for making mediums, varnishes and so on.  If you work in oil, you will likely be using them at some point.  

Painters have been getting debilitating illnesses from solvents ever since they came into widespread use in the 1700's. 

What are the hazards of inhaling solvent fumes?

Initially, exposure to high concentrations of fumes result in forms of temporary narcosis, (dizziness, fatigue, loss of coordination, nausea).

But it is the slow, unnoticeable build-up of harmful chemicals within the body over time that is the true danger of solvents.

Long term exposure can lead to more aggravating conditions that are sometimes irreversible and sometimes fatal: Contact dermatitis, respiratory system damage, kidney and bladder disease, as well as chronic brain and nervous system damage. (Yes, I said, permanent brain damage. And yes, I have worked a great deal with solvents in the past.  This may confirm some of our reader's suspicions about me.) 

Many famous artists in the past have fallen victim to illnesses acquired from the use and over-use of solvents. Their lives irreversibly damaged from it. There is no reason that with the knowledge and tools available to us now that we shouldn't be able to take sufficient steps to safeguard ourselves and our loved ones from any such fate.  

The first step is always to know the dangers of the materials you are working with and limit how much of them you are allowing into the air. 
If you are pumping too much of a chemical into the air then you will encounter problems no matter how good your ventilation is.  According to environmental hygienists, studio air should be replaced 10 times every hour. (Though some experts say that anywhere from 6 to 10 is permissible with 10 being the gold standard.) 

The Studio Environment

The Basics:
Choose a studio space that has windows that you can open, and if possible, that has more than one window. In general, the larger and more open the room the better.  This will help prevent extreme concentrations from developing in the air. Even with good ventilation, a closet may kill you.  

If you ever begin to feel light-headed or nauseous, leave the room, go outside and get fresh air.  Your studio is not properly ventilated and you need to reconsider either your materials, your method of using your materials or your ventilation system. 

Always consider other people who work in or around your studio space, and wether your setup is going to adversely affect them.  

There are 2 types of Ventilation: Dilution Ventilation and Local Exhaust Ventilation.

Dilution Ventilation does not eliminate the harmful elements and vapors from the air. Instead it attempts to lower their concentration by bringing in clean air to dilute the contaminated air.  

Local Exhaust Ventilation attempts to trap the fumes and airborne elements at their source, before they can enter the air, and then vent them outside and away from the studio. 

With that, I will discuss some options for studio ventilation that employ one of these 2 methods of cleaning the air.  

OPTION 1: An open door or window.
(Dilution Ventilation)

While this is a good start, it is not adequate to effectively dilute harmful elements from the average studio space. A single open window or door does not provide sufficient pressure to move or circulate air, so while there is new clean air coming in, or some of the contaminated air may be going out, there is not enough air replacement to prevent exposure.
You need to find a way of getting fresh air into a room, and the exposed air out. Which brings us to:

OPTION 2: Open a second window and place a box fan in it.
(Local Exhaust Ventilation)

Opening more than one window provides a route for air to flow through a room.  But this alone may not move the air fast enough in the studio to prevent a harmful concentration of chemicals from lingering long enough to hurt you or contribute to a long-term build-up that will be harmful down the road.  

In one of your open windows, place a box fan facing out. This will act to pull air through the studio from the other open window and out again through the window with the box fan.  This will refresh the air more effectively than just a single open window.  

See below:

A few rules to follow when using this:

-Never vent into another room in the house. Always vent the contaminated air OUTSIDE.
-Always have sufficient (equal) clean air to replace the contaminated air you are removing. (If you have a fan in a window, always have another window of equal size open.)
-Do not recirculate any of the exhausted air back into the studio. (The windows shouldn't be directly beside each other.)
-If you are using materials that are highly flammable, make sure your fans have spark-proof motors and fan blades.

OPTION 3: Simple Continuous Ventilation system.
(Local Exhaust Ventilation)

While option 2 has been an effective solution for my own studio, it may not be practical for everyone.  Some people live in climates that do not allow for this, or do not have access to 2 windows.  

For a studio whose location precludes Option 2, a simple ventilation system may be a suitable alternative.  And installing one may not be as terribly expensive or as time consuming as you might expect. Depending on the amount of air that needs moved, it may only require some 6" HVAC ductwork and a 6" duct fan from the local hardware store. 

Bquin from the forums shows his setup here. The fan captures the harmful vapors at their source, and forces them out and away from the studio.  

OPTION 4: Local Exhaust Ventilation

The hood.  This is in essence, an industrial-sized version of the ventilation system seen above.  You probably remember seeing one of these back at your school science lab.  Local exhaust ventilation captures harmful elements at the source by the use of an overhead hood.  It then transfers them directly outside through a duct system.

This is the ideal and most comprehensive solution… if you have piles and piles of cash lying around. They can be very expensive and difficult to install in the average studio space. But they are very effective at removing harmful elements from the air.  

Here again, it is necessary to have a secondary source for replacing the air that is being vented outside. With some of these it may only require an open window.  For others it may require an air or heat transfer system.  

OPTION 5: Air filter and Purifiers
(Dilution Ventilation)

Air purifiers take the exposed air in a studio and pass it through a filter, which captures much of the harmful material, and then releases the cleaned air back into the studio. While purifiers can help significantly reduce the amount of harmful materials in the air, they cannot completely eliminate the hazardous elements. Most of the models made for homes are excellent at servicing small jobs, but lack the power to handle larger projects. 

My Austin Healthmate Jr. can exchange the air in my studio space almost 5 times per hour, just shy of the minimum recommended 6, and half the hoped-for 10. 
-If you purchase an air filter, charcoal and active carbon are the best. A good activated-carbon HEPA air filter, such as the Austin Healthmate, costs about $600 with replacement filters priced at about $200.

OPTION 6: A Respirator Mask
(Wait, wear a gas mask?  …Sure, I'll get right on that.)
A respirator mask is the absolute last line of defense, used only when all else has failed.  If you cannot otherwise properly ventilate your studio, or you are deathly allergic to even a trace of the chemicals you are working with, then this would be something to consider.  But if it looks like the job will require a mask, you really need to ask yourself if it is worth it.  

There are artists who do work with masks and if you find that you have no other choice, then there are good ones available. Make sure the mask you purchase is OSHA or NIOSH approved and that it has an organic vapor filter cartridge.  (Simple cotton filters will not suffice.)

Always consider the health of the other people in or near your work environment who are not wearing respirator masks.

OPTION 7: Place a tiny little fan beside you that gently blows the air away from your face.

This option does not work at all. It merely stirs the air up, but does nothing to either dilute or replace the air in the room.  The concentration remains. However, many people still seem to use it and believe that it works. They may tell you that it is a genius idea that Leonardo Da Vinci invented and that it makes you totally safe from everything. Do not heed their words. In that way lies destruction. 

If you are going to use solvents, you need to consider studio ventilation.  For your immediate comfort, your long term health, and the health and comfort of those who live and share a space with you.  

This ventilation described above is for dealing with vapors only. It is not sufficient if you are dealing with particulates (as with airbrushing or grinding paints). Be sure to research everything about all of the tools and paints you intend to use before setting up your own studio ventilation system. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Phil Hale Interview

-By John Jude Palencar

There is a Phil Hale interview over at Sidebar Nation. Phil is one of my favorite illustrators and now an emerging force in the fine arts. Sidebar was started by two crazy art dudes, Swain and Dwight... think of Garth and Wayne from Wayne’s World but with art.

Phil Hale Interview link  (Downloadable MP3 link on this page)

Addendum page with Phil's work

Friday, February 17, 2012


If you're in Boston this weekend, take the opportunity to see Dan Dos Santos in his role as Artist Guest of Honor at Boskone. I have it on pretty good authority that our Fellow Muddy Gregory Manchess and the effervescent Irene Gallo will be present as well...

A Question on Transitions

by Eric Fortune
Hey Eric,

I had a quick question I was hoping you could help me with. You say that you use thin layers of acrylic washes, are you using regular acrylics, liquid acrylics or something else? I've been using regular Golden acrylics for washes but when I thin down the paint too much the pigment doesn't go down too smooth. Also, with whatever you're using, are you able to pull any of the color back up should you need to? I like using acrylic washes b/c of the muted tones I can get but have had to switch to watercolors b/c of the less than smooth washes and ability to pull color back up but am now getting colors that are way too bright.

Anyway, thanks for the help, hope I'm not taking up too much of your time.

I shot another video to try and answer this question. I put emphasis on experimenting and practicing. The more we practice the more we learn and refine our work, technically and conceptually. Another important factor to acknowledge is that these things can take a lot of time and patience. But if it's worth doing, it's worth doing right. If you're not happy with how you're paintings are turning out perhaps you're not quite finished yet.

In this particular case it seems the person may be going back and forth between watercolors and acrylics. I have nothing against mixed mediums. So perhaps a combination of the two will suit you best. As for color, I usually keep a test strip of watercolor paper that I brush colors on to in order to see if the colors actually look the way I want them to. Test out your colors on a sample sheet of paper first. If it's too intense make appropriate adjustments. With my technique I would either tone it down with other colors and/or thin it out with more water. Hope this helps.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Studio Time

by Donato

After those amazing posts these past fews days from my fellow Muddy Buddies, I am not even going to attempt to stand in their shadows with a lame attempt at advice.  Rather, here are a few shots of what's keeping me in my dirty painter's pants these weeks, and reiterate what I always say...back to work!

The Shipwreck (seen above) is on the drafting table now, and will likely be there for quite a few weeks more... overall size is 40" x 72", Oil on canvas.  The astronaut in progress is for a showing at the Richard J. Demato Gallery in Sag Harbor, NY later this year.

Promethean Seed, 36" x 48", Oil on Panel (in progress)

Lastly, some more Middle-earth drawings (which I always love to tackle!). Ents Roused and Zirak-zigil with Gandalf and the Balrog were for my Limited Edition Book.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

MicroVisions 7 Contributors Announced

-Irene Gallo

MicroVisions 7 has begun and it’s a stellar line up.

For those new to the event, each year Greg Manchess, Dan Dos Santos, and I ask a dozen artists to create a 5x7 painting of their choosing. These miniatures are exhibited at the Society of Illustrators and then placed on auction, with all proceeds going to the Society’s Student Scholarship Fund. This year’s contributors are:
Scott Bakal
Julie Bell
Scott Brundage
Brian Despain
Nathan Fowkes
Rebecca Guay
Scott Gustafson
John Picacio
Dan Dos Santos
Peter de Seve
Chris Rahn
Terryl Whitlatch
The exhibit will run in May, with the auction taking place late in the month. We will post details as the event draws near.

The Society scholarships are among the illustration industry’s toughest awards. This year, over 8,000 entries were examined by 25 judges. Just over 200 students will be accepted into the exhibit, about half of them will earn cash awards. Not only do these awards help subsidize students financially, they also go a long way to boost the confidence of young artists (and their nervous parents) by proving their voices stand out amongst thousands of others. It’s never long before you start seeing the winners on their way to becoming the field’s biggest names. John Jude Palencar, James Jean, Tomer Hanuka, Dan Dos Santos, and many others have become noted illustrators since the Scholarship’s inception in 1981.

Once again, I would like to thank the artists involved for heir generosity. The illustration community is incredibly supportive. Not every profession would donate time and energy to support their future competition.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Collaborative Painting

-Dan dos Santos

Here is the latest installment of the 'Alien' series I do for Daw books, titled 'Alien Diplomacy'. This one was a lot of fun to work on. Not so much because of the subject matter, but because of the company.

The deadline on this piece was really tight, and I honestly thought I would have to turn the job down. That's not something that I, or the client, wanted to do. I had already painted the first 4 covers in the series, and it would be a shame to just hand that off to someone else. So I did what any person does when they're in a jam... I asked for help.

Knowing there was no way to get the job done in the allotted time on my own, I asked fellow illustrator, and good friend, Dave Palumbo to help me out on this piece. Dave and I have really similar working methods (right down to the substrate we both use), so I knew he would be a good partner on this piece. I also know that he has similar tastes to myself, and was experienced collaborating with other artists.

Dave traveled from Pennsylvania to my home in Connecticut, and over the course of 4 days, we managed to turn out a rather complicated piece from start to finish.

I've done collaborations before, and not always with great results. I think this collaboration was particularly successful due to a few factors:
1. As I mentioned, Dave and I have very similar working methods.
2. The 'look' of the series had already been established, so we had a clear goal in mind as to what the final result should look like.
3. Rather than both paint a little bit of everything (and likely un-do a lot of each other's work), we decided to divvy up the various elements of the painting. I would paint one specific element, Dave another.

The collaboration actually started before Dave got to my house. Days prior, we bounced sketches back and forth via email, refining one another's ideas, and getting the Editor's approval before Dave drove up.


Once here, Dave and I immediately went reference hunting. We took a trip around town, and even stopped at Wal-Mart, photographing all sort of junk that would help us compose the robotic elements of the painting. Industrial backhoes, Transformers toys, and even vacuum cleaners all made their way into the painting.

We hired one of my favorite models that same day for a late night shoot, and later that night settled on a pose.

Dave helps with the drapery as the model poses.

We spent the entire next day compiling the reference, making sure we were both happy with the composition. Dave then began the process of transferring the image to the board, and did a rough acrylic lay-in.

Once the lay-in was completed, Dave took a well-deserved break, and I began the process of painting the background elements... working well through the night. When Dave woke up the next morning, he began painting the mid-ground. We alternated like this, back and forth, Dave working during the day, and me at night, so that we could clock a good 16 hours worth of work on the painting each day.

Just 4 days after his arrival, we had a pretty impressive, albeit completely wet, painting to show for it.

First thing the next day, we took a drive to a local photographer that I often use to scan my paintings. With a 10 foot flatbed-scanner at our disposal, we were able to get a wonderful hi-rez scan of the image, regardless of it being wet.

A few hours later, scan in hand, I imported the image into Photoshop, and began making adjustments. I digitally added the male figure into background, as well and the furry critters up front. Both were elements that were really important to the story, so they had to be there. However, Dave and I discussed these elements early on, and both felt that the original painting would be much stronger without them. So we knew that we were going to add them digitally before we even started.

The final cover with additional characters.
There are a couple of serious considerations when collaborating with someone on a professional job. Most notably, who will retain the copyrights, and the original art? I was tempted to hire Dave to help me as a work-for-hire arrangement, as this would keep things really simple. Dave would be well compensated, and the painting, for all legal purposes would be mine. I decided not to do this for two reasons.

Firstly, this would mess up my taxes. It would mean me claiming incoming I didn't actually receive, or possibly having to list Dave as an employee. That is territory I didn't want to tread.

The other reason, and the more important of the two, was that I thought it would be insulting. Dave is really talented, and I didn't want him to be a ghost on this project. I wanted his input, and fully expected that his sensibilities would show through in the final work. As such, it was only fair that he receive credit too. In the end, Dave and I each own half the copyright, both received cover credit, and each invoiced the client separately. I currently have the original art, but it technically belongs to both us. Should we decide to sell it, we would both split the income.