Working on an episode without a Director. Finally a painting breakthrough! Tips on face rhythms, planes and tones.
THE SIMPSONS NEWS
Working on a new episode this week. It’s a really good one. Too bad I can’t talk about it since it wasn’t mentioned in The Simpsons Comic Con Panel this year.
This week started off slow because the director of the show was out sick Monday and Tuesday. I got as much done as I could but at some point, I needed the director to look at my roughs in order to get them approved. Luckily he showed up on Wednesday and I got him to approve my roughs. Still, it did put me a bit behind.
ART (Part 1)
I showed my friend and “art Sifu” Paul, my preliminary paintings last week. The ones I posted on last weeks post. He didn’t have anything good to say about my work. He didn’t say anything BAD about it. He just didn’t say anything positive. Instead, he asked me what kind of paper I was using. When I told him it was smooth pastel paper, he asked me why I was painting on it. He then told me that smooth paper is lousy for Gouache painting.
Well I didn’t KNOW that. I was using it because it was tinted. After a long talk about the merits of using rough paper for Gouache he changed the subject to my painting. He basically told me to STOP painting the same thing over and over and try painting something else. That way I could tackle the book cover I’m working on with fresh eyes. Also, I might learn something painting something else that I wouldn’t if I kept painting the same thing over and over.
He told me that I have to work on my planes in my painting. This, to me, is very tricky because I sometime know what that means and sometimes I don’t. He suggested that I should try copying an Andrew Loomis drawing and paint it because he’s so clear about putting in planes in his drawings. He also showed me the work of concept painter Nathan Fowkes by showing me his blog (more about this in Part 2). I went back to the drawing board, determined to work on better paper and clearing up the planes in my paintings.
I had some rough two ply Bristol boards I had bought years ago that I didn’t have a use for and suddenly I did. So I brought them in to work and at lunch I began to paint. I painted an Andrew Loomis drawing like Paul had suggested I should. I put down a wash of gray paint, mixed my paints, and began paint with them. The painting on the right below is the result:
Pretty awful right? I didn’t really know what I did wrong. The one thing I thought didn’t help was that the drawing I was using didn’t have enough detail for me to understand what was happening in the light areas. So I thought I’d use a photo for my next attempt. I did and the result was the awful painting above on the left.
Okay, at that point I was a living ball of frustration. What was I doing wrong? I KNOW the THEORIES behind tones, planes, rhythm, construction, light and shadow. Why couldn’t I apply this to painting? Why couldn’t I paint?
Paul walked into my office just as I sat there looking defeated at the painting above. He kinda looked at my work horrified. He didn’t say anything negative, he just didn’t say anything. So in order to break up the awkward silence, I vented.
He then said this,
“You know, if you mix white Gouache with black Gouache, you get a cool grey.”
WHAT!? I didn’t KNOW that. Usually cool colors are best in shadows not in light. One of the MANY problems with my painting was that I was putting cool colors in the light areas as well as the dark. BAD. It wasn’t until he told me that I saw it. So I turned to him,
“So if I wanted to get a neutral gray, I would need to simply water down the black and NOT mix in any white?”
“But I put down a gray wash already, how do I get white?”
“Don’t put down a gray wash.” Then he pointed out, “It looks like you’re trying to do a wash AND an opaque styles at the same time. You should pick only one to do. It will be easier for you. On top of that, you picked a pretty girl to paint. Portrait painting is difficult enough as it is, and you’ve picked the most difficult subject to paint on TOP of that difficulty. It’s more difficult to see the planes of the face on a pretty girl. Learn what they look like on a subject you can see them in, then once you’ve GOT IT try painting a pretty girl.”
I had thought that, since the book cover I was going to paint, had a woman in it, I’d try painting a woman. Guess I thought wrong. I knew Paul was right.
Finally, he turned and looked at me,
“You want me to give you a painting demo?”
“Okay,” so he sat down, found a picture to use that was in the office, took the paper I’d been using, my brush, my paint and began to work. “The first critical part of a painting is getting the drawing down right (if you’re doing a drawing in the first place).” He then began to draw, using the same theory of drawing that we’d both been taught in our figure drawing classes. Specifically, our Reilly Method classes (that method is especially good for painting). He made it a point that he was using the pencil to draw the planes of the face. Specifically designing the darkest dark parts of the face. He DID put in a few planes from the dark gray parts of the face, but only in order to define the planes and rhythms that where necessary to clarify the drawing (for more on tone, planes, and rhythms of the face, see Part 2 below). Once he’d had done his careful drawing, he began to paint it.
The first thing he did, was paint the darkest areas of the face. This, to me, seemed very familiar. It looked to me as if he was inking. I do that all the time, so watching him do this, made sense to me. He made sure I noticed that he painted the blacks in, using the planes he had mapped out. Once this was done, the drawing almost looked done. It was very well defined and it was only black and white. He then began applying the paint in the dark gray areas of the drawing and ONLY in the dark gray areas. Again, he followed the planes of the face as well as the rhythms of the face. Then he began to adjust the edges, making some edges softer, firmer or leaving them hard. Finally he began to add the light gray areas. He adjusted more edges and balanced out the lights and darks a bit but he was pretty much done after about thirty minutes:
It was enlightening and annoying. He had shown me how to do a wash but I didn’t WANT to paint with a wash technique. I wanted to learn to paint opaque. He told me that it was much more involved to paint opaque. That I should try a wash technique. Well, I thought it had looked intuitive and easier than how I’d been trying to paint so I agreed to try it.
The next time I sat down to paint, I picked a photo with some good contrast and a subject with plenty of character, so I could see the rhythms and the planes of the face. I did the process exactly as I’d seen Paul do it, and this was the result:
FINALLY a painting that looks okay! And it turned out to be very intuitive to boot. A lot more like what I usually do in a figure drawing class. I’m going to continue practicing the wash technique for the rest of the week and then I’m going to see about finishing up my wife’s book cover.
ART (Part 2)
In what I wrote above, I summed up what happened in a nut shell. There is a lot of things I glossed over. Some of the things I haven’t written about have to do with a LOT of things I was taught in figure drawing classes over the years. While other things I did was look at some work by other artists, like Andrew Loomis (whom I did mention). So just to clarify, I’ll quickly go over somethings that might not have been clear about some drawing techniques Paul and I use. I’ll also point out some great art I was looking at.
First, a quick explanation about what I mean when I write about the “rhythms of the face”. According to the Reilly Method of drawing and painting, the face has rhythm lines that look like this:
This is basically an abstraction of bone, muscle, and planes intended to help artists harmonize and unify drawings or paintings of faces. If you look at Paul and my paintings above, you can see us following the rhythms in the chart.
One of the things I studied were the drawings and paintings of Nathan Fowkes. Below are the specific drawings in his blog that I took a look at and studied in order to wrap my head around how I should use values and facial rhythms. Pay attention to the fact that Fowkes also does the drawings just like Paul painted his painting, starting with the darkest part of the drawing, then working out the dark gray areas, and finally the light gray areas, finishing the drawing by refining his edges. Also notice how he uses the head rhythm abstraction to define his planes:
In case you’re wondering, I’ve written about the use of edges and tone before but for those of you who missed that post CLICK HERE to read about that subject. But in case you don’t want to, here’s the best part of the post:
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