Saturday, December 3, 2016

Skin Tone : Lesson 1

-Ron Lemen

Welcome back and I hope all of you in the states had a great holiday and for all of you much study time and leveling up your skills between work, rest, and play.

So the first skin tone range to tackle on the Von Luschan scale of skin tones is the range between 32 - 36.  I had intended to paint both of these pictures, one in low sun light and the other in high sunlight, but the day got busy with other things so just the one was completed for the time being.  I intend to complete the other as well and take a shot of the palette before and after.  The range of hues will certainly shift as I change from zone to zone, and from lighting condition to lighting condition.

This image that I did has both warm and cool lighting in it which helps identify the color differences of two different lighting conditions although nothing beats this amazing photo below. If I tried to tackle this reference as a painting it would probably never look correct, or believable.

This is such a great photo that reveals how much light plays a part in how skin is seen and how it changes the color of skin so much that it really is just as much about the temperature of the light (kelvins) as it is about local color.  Doesn't this all sound familiar?

Here is a breakdown of the palette that I am using.  I have written this up before but here it is again just so you know what I am using:

Titanium White
Cadmium Yellow Pale
Cadmium Yellow Orange
Cadmium Red Light
Alizarin Crimson
Red Rose Deep
Ultramarine Blue
Cerulean Blue (Hue)
Viridian Green
Ivory Black (Not in this painting)

DaVinci Paints only for this color theory palette.  There is no other brand that has the rich hues that DaVinci has with the color consistency that they have.  It is also the only brand that still makes a true Cad Yellow/Orange.  I have had Eric Silver at Blue Ridge Oil Paints make a very very close substitute, but it still didn't quite perform the way the DaVinci colors do.  Did I hear a brand PLUG here?

This is the Munsell palette minus a 3 of his colors.  This was a palette developed to help teach color theory in the colleges, and the colors that are involved here are the truest hues you can find that will give you an entire range of chromatic mixtures, as well as all the earth tones necessary to paint any type of painting.  Using white, gray(s), and black as agents to tint, tone, and shade respectively, the colors that can be achieved in the lower chromatic ranges is amazing.

So when I do any oil lectures here in the Muds I will be using this Munsell palette to teach color theory with it.


I look at it like this, brown is another name for gray, and I certainly do not want to paint anyone with gray flesh save for a zombie or two, therefore I will not paint the skin of anyone with brown pigments unless all I am stuck with is mud to paint with.  Besides, sienna, umber, etc. is very easy to mix and if mixed, it can be color biased, much like the difference in the base hue between burnt umber and raw umber.

So before I paint the subject, I mix all the colors I think I will need to build the biggest portion of the painting.  Subtle color changes will come later so I am not as concerned with spending time honing in on the subject to really scrutinize the subtle changes and mix all of them.

These are mixed in what are called strings.  These strings are both value and temperature driven.  If you notice, minus the greens that are used for the background, all of the primary hues are on the lower end of the color wheel.  Take note of this as we move up the Von Luschan scale.

Also note that there is still plenty of paint in my initial piles up top.  Never let the supply run dry.

Here are the two brushes I painted 90% of the painting with.  Actually, 89% was painted with the one on the right, the other one was in my other hand with the paper towel that is always in the other hand as well serving as a maul stick when I needed one, thus the 1% usage.

These are bristle brushes.  I know many illustrators use sables to get those slick thin brush strokes, however, if you learned how to paint academically then you learned to roll through your grades of brushes from the shovels to the mops for each stage of the painting.  These bristles are considered the shovels, and for me they are also extremely fun to use.  

I liken impressionistic painting to sketching and I love to sketch. This demonstration painting is a sketch, it was done very quickly for a painting and by no means is it finished.  But as a sketch, I really like it and it serves the purpose of this demonstration.  It captures the essence of the model and I have played up the lighting a little more than the photo shows here in its JPEG compressed state.  Each compression down it loses more information.  The version I have on screen has so much more sky color in her face and more obvious reflective light color information.

Here are the stages of the painting early on.  My apologies for the lighting, I have very little control over the sun, sometimes I get my way but usually there are greater forces at play that steer that beast across the sky too quickly to keep a constant color range for shooting photos.  So as the painting progresses it slowly yellows as the lights in my studio take over as the dominant light source.

The method I am using here is called tiling.  It is a fast method for applying color, very fast if you have premixed your palette as I did.  The initial block-in was done very fast.  Developing the broken colors and softening the edges took the most time of the entire process.  

The idea with the block-in is to get as much of the canvas covered before judging any color value choices too harshly, UNLESS the choice you made/make is so horrible that it will steer the ship towards the brutal rocky wave swept shores.  Notice, the over abundance of browns, ehem, I mean no browns.

Here are some shots of the finish.  Because this image was so incredibly hard to shoot, I shot it with two different temperatures of light on it to show the range of colors that were involved.  The warmer lighting in the studio favors the warms as does the cool lights with the cooler hues, just as light does when we move from one lighting condition to another.  

These are super reflective and do not really do a quality job of capturing the true values of the hues.

If a colorist style painting, or a color painting that has an optical realism to it, the paint will do what flesh does under the different colored lights of the day, sun included.   The skin will glow with the radiance of the light source and the painting will really never appear flat and dull as a tonal driven image can.  But we will save that dialog for another time.   

Here is the palette after the painting is completed.  Notice there is a little bit of palette blending, but for the most part these colors go on to the surface straight out of their piles and if there is any more blending to be done with them, it is done on the surface and the colors are kept broken up.  So when I say blending, I do not mean "wax on, wax off" blend blend blend away.  I mean "take one swipe through the paint and leave it alone" blending.  If I over flatten a color blend I will get new paint and tear it open again until it feels "fresh".  Too much blending drops the chroma of the color which is usually why a color goes bad in a painting.

When the colors mix together optically, a brownish hue might be perceived, but honestly if you stand in front of this painting there is no hint of brown anywhere on it, and yet the camera cannot separate those colors well enough as the broken colors they are, and as a result the colors have flattened out to some extent and appear brown.  But look back at the palette and the colors I mixed, there is no brown anywhere.

Darker skin acts as a mirror and reflects color back more than we see its true hue on many of the surface planes of the body and the head.  Darker skin absorbs light as much as lighter skin does as the first few images show on this thread, but those reflective properties act like a foil and throw back a lot of reflective light making it sometimes difficult to figure out what the true hue really is, especially when the lights are so intense, as on this beautiful model, Khoudia Diop.

Here she is under intense blue sky conditions and is wearing a gold reflective dress as you can see in her chin and cheeks.  

Here she is again with a ray of sunlight hitting her skin.  Notice the extreme difference in the temperature range of her skin when the sun hits it.  She is also under some kind of canopy that prevents the blue sky from hitting her and the sun as well as her yellow/orange top are major color influences in this immediate space as well as what the camera's optics could focus on.  The colors have a warm bias as a result.

For the next segment I will try and have more paintings completed so that I can get through a broad range of tones.  I would like to try and complete this series in 3 more installments covering the 6 zones on the world map above.  This one covers the deep core of the equatorial region, the next installment will be moving out into the next two zones.  

If you have any questions about the palette I am using in these demonstrations, please feel free and write here on this post or you can send me an email if you have a hard time posting questions on forums.  It is an invaluable color theory tool and a great diverse palette if you choose to continue working with it in your professional career.

Happy holiday season to all, now go get muddy.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Saying Yes

-By Greg Ruth

It's the the thing we all of us like to do the most. Yes is so affirmative and so future thinking and growth feeling. YES is the most huggy word in the English language and of course we love to use it as often as we can. Yes we do. But "YES" also brings along with it its favorite sidekick, "Now What?". When we say yes to a job or yes to a creative partnership, or to an edit or any of the moments in our professional lives, we are sealing some sort of deal. YES is the period of every transaction. Yes, is your signature on a contract, a verbal agreement to take on a job, and every Art Director's favorite answer to their most asked question: "Can you get it to me by the end of the week?". So take YES seriously, because even if you don't, it will. Here's some quick tips.

YES to a new project you love and want to do and pays great is the easiest yes there is. That's an inappropriate Meg Ryan in the coffee shop kind of yes. And when those come, and they do, don't let Yes fog you out of still taking the details of what you've agreed to seriously. It's truly easy when some dream client or some fantastic author or whomever wants you to do a job with/for them. It's easy to get caught in the moment and say YES to everything. It's easy to get in big trouble doing this. I'm not saying don't scream aloud and dance a bit in front of strangers if you want, or need to, I'm just saying let that emotional explosion happen, and then push it out of the way so you can make sure you affirm what you've agreed to in a way that the YES you shout at the end is a joyful one free of regret or a deep sense of having made a wrong turn. There's a reason ecstatic joy isn't a long sustained state of being: joy makes us stupid. So... bad or good, YES or NO, moderation in all things is the key.

When you sign a YES to a contract you are entering into a different level of YESitude. This is the place where you are essentially getting married to the company or whomever it is that's issuing that contract, so make sure you both understand the ramifications of this YES, and your side of the cookie so you don't get surprised. As an a artist making a piece, you own everything about it in all ways. A contract is by its very nature you trading out some or all of those privileges for money or some other form of compensation. This isn't evil, this is what they are buying with their money, and signing that purchase agreement means you agree to those terms. A YES here affixes in stone not only your rate of pay with this particular person or company, it sets it for the next one too. This isn't to mean the next job is going to pay as much or as little depending on any number of things, but this particular scale will be the baseline from which to launch your rates. Remember, you agreeing to all of the terms cited in any contract you sign, so make sure you not only read it yourself, hire a lawyer who knows what they are doing to read it for you. If you can magic an agent or manager to do this and couple that with their inside knowledge of you, then you can have an even better conversation. But remember these two things: 1.) A contract on its outset is about setting forth your obligations and their rights. Period. 2.) Hiring a lawyer or a manager to read everyone one of these over and negotiate for you on your behalf is a lot like hiring an accountant to do your taxes- YES, you can do them yourself, but you'll save a helluva a lot more money if you hire someone who knows how to do them. Contracts have all kinds of arcane weirdly worded clauses and phrases in their to vex the conscious mind of any thinking mammal, know that you will not understand them without help. The sooner you get this sorted out, the better.

YES also should mean more than just what's on the paper of your contract. And this is the most consequential line in this whole article. When you sign up for a job and it starts demanding more than you thought, but still within the parameters of what is expected of you, be prepared to roll with this. You are always going to say YES in a way that commits you more than what you may have expected from any given situation. Be prepared to do more, go further. At the end fo the project the only thing that really matters in the long long run, is that the work is great and you have done your best. THIS is how you get the next job, or the one after that. Think of your career like long link of chain: hack out a job, protest by withholding work from a crap AD, or self sabotage because you "just aren't feeling it anymore", is how you break a link in that chain. And since I assume you know how chains work, that is a bad idea. It may mean eating some crow, and muscling through a bad job with grace. This is harder than you might think, but you do not want to be known as the girl or boy who quits. The value and import of any YES you will ever utter hinges on how you can stay true to that idea even when it's easier not to. Say YES to the face of a hell job and you will be mightier for it. Know that when you say YES to any gig, you are going to be the one who takes it to the end. There is no shame in getting fired from one- it happens to all of us, but there is a lot of shame for a quitter of a job. Don't do it because something better comes along. Don't do it because you hate your editor, or you think the company you work for is horrible. Close out your job, make it about the work above all else, graciously shake hands and walk away. No one ever said you have to work for bad folk, or companies you hate, but word of successfully navigating a hellstorm and coming out clean will only encourage others to want to bring you in for something. Or even if you just had a bum gig but love the company, you land it well and do your best, you could easily find another job coming from them next that won't necessarily be anything but fantastic. We all get bad gigs that go to bad places, and walking away petulantly from them only makes them stronger and more likely to reoccur.

Be a positice YES force in your own life and choices. It's hippy dippy dragon-pooping-on-a-rainbow malarky, I know, but it doesn't mean it's not true. Nobody wants to circle around a black hole, but they love orbiting a sun. A positive progressive outlook on your professional life, even if your work is anything but, can really make a difference. This is the attitude that when you go into a portfolio review you seem bright and happy and enjoy your own work, as opposed to being overly nervous and talking down your pieces, pointing out your missteps and why you should have done better. One of these two kids is going to the circus, and the other is going home to catch up on cleaning the kitchen. It matters how you treat and behave around your peers, how you stay loyal to them and your clients and how you can keep a little more head above the water when things go into the pooper. I have surfed some of the most horrendously ugly human tragedies while on a job and have found that while there is indeed bonding in commiserating, when it comes down to it, it's better to be about solutions rather than problems. It will bond you like war-buddies after too long in the trench. It makes you happier and feel better overall and guess what, even if that doesn't matter to you at its very least ebb, it gets you more work.

Don't say YES to everything! Seriously, this is an especially common thing for those of us just starting out hungry and eager to get our careers going, or those of us mid-thrust suddenly finding ourselves broke and desperate for work. Only you can be your own judge about how much ugly you can take on to pay bills or feed your kids or get a leg up, but it really helps to bounce things off of friends and peers who aren't YES men for you. Truth and good advice isn't always going to be what you want to hear and even if you don't know it yet, you will come to find you're glad you got it. Sometimes a job is deeply tempting and it seems as if passing it up could be a bad idea even though for some reason, real or not, you aren't quite able to get to YES with it. I've passed on some INSANELY spectacular jobs, because there was a scheduling conflict, or the relationship would have clearly been acrimonious, or it just for whatever reason didn't feel right. I agonize and I tear at the walls worried I've made the wrong choice, but you know, just about each and every one has passed by leaving me available for another job that turns out to be better or more fulfilling. It's like the universe is Willy Wonka actually giving you the chocolate factory for not having caved into his mean tirade a moment earlier when he said you lost it. These sweet rewards are made all the sweeter by realizing they would have come anyway, and if you had said YES to the worrisome gig, you'd likely not have time say anything but NO to this one. Which just makes your previous commitment all the worse. SO go with your gut. The longer you do this the sharper your spidey senses get. If it's any consolation I have only in the last year, after working more than 20 years in this business, managed to avoid catastrophic projects by spotting them early where before I only saw them when it was too late.

Find a coping mechanism to make your work, whatever it is, feel positive and YESful. For me the most effective tool has been the combination of trying only to take on the right gigs, (as much as my own need to pay the bills affords of course), and the 52 Weeks Project. This weekly drawing thing I do is about saying YES to art making even when it becomes slogged down in the mire of being simply... work. It takes time away from work and other things and it can be exhausting and not always produce the best images, but the overall effect has been entirely uplifting and positive. If only because I have a safe place go and draw that no one has any say in, and I can be safe there. It's like a schvitz for your art heart. It rejuvenates and makes you better and fresher when it's time to get to work. Say YES to taking a break or a trip someplace or just an afternoon off sometimes. Give yourself a little present each and every day if you can, just like Agent Cooper says you should. That cup of coffee, or hobbit-lovemaking art you can't help but want to draw is where you recharge your batteries and exorcise your demons.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Then and Now

by Donato

In preparing for a visual lecture this past month, it was fun to look back at the themes and tropes I loved to draw as a young artist, and reflect upon where those ideas have taken me to today.  In revisiting content from those earlier years, I find it a wonderful conduit through which I channel my maturing narratives and passions as an artist.  More than nostalgic, the excitement I feel regarding these themes taps into the awareness of my audience and the desire to share new concepts reflecting my current state of mind.

Iron Man   1985    Donato Giancola
Iron Man : Steel   2009   Donato Giancola
Captain America 1984  Donato Giancola
Captain America: Duty  2013  Donato Giancola
Gandalf and the Balrog     1989  Donato Giancola
Zirak-Zigil   'I threw down my enemy'    2014    Donato Giancola
Green Dragon   1981   Donato Giancola
DragonShadow    1998    Donato Giancola
X-Men   1985   Donato Giancola
Inheritors of Earth     1998   Donato Giancola
Sentinel   1985   Donato Giancola
Prometheus A.I.    2016  Donato Giancola