Inspiration: Piranesi

Jun. 24th, 2017 06:00 am
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Posted by Muddy Colors

-By William O'Connor

At the end of the 18th century a revolution was in the air. Not only were the people of France and America beginning to strain against their tyrannical monarchs, this revolution had grown and evolved to consume the sciences, philosophy, religion and of course, the arts. New ideas of astronomy, biology and physics transformed the way that artists perceived the world around them. Discoveries in archeology unearthed long lost ruins and artifacts from the ancient world and with them, new and previously unimagined concepts that would lay the foundation of the Romantic Movement in art.

One of the most imaginative artists from this period is Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778)

Born, trained and working in Italy all his life Piranesi was surrounded and influenced by the unearthly ruins of ancient Rome as they were beginning to be studied academically for the first time.  As is evidenced by his etchings and engravings is the  lack of conservation that had been given to the Ruins.  For a thousand years Rome had been scavenged for stones, and large spaces like the Forum and the Colosseum had been used as sheep pastures.  Piranesi creates intricate landscapes documenting these monuments like a scientist, but also adds a sense of dramatic scale and regal power that seems to live in the ruins despite their neglect.

Late into his career Piranesi began his “Prison” series.  A fantastical journey into completely imagined fantasy dungeon-scapes.  These underworld environments of smoke and winding stairs, gates, and bridges, ropes and wheels always, for me, evoke a wonderful sense of drama and atmosphere.  The tiny figures could be monks or dwarves or orcs moving though the Mines of Moria or any epic Dungeon Crawl.  In the decades and centuries to come Piranesi’s magical labyrinths would inspire artists as diverse as Coleridge’s 1797 poem “Kubla Khan”, M.C. Escher, the Surrealists, and just about every fantasy game designer and artist.

Below is a wonderful lecture about Piranesi's work, particularly his Prison etchings, and both their cultural and artistic significance.

Next time you are designing a dungeon for an adventure, or writing a story, or concepting environments, look to the grandfather of fantasy concept world-building, Piranesi.


Limited Time: 2 for 1!

Jun. 24th, 2017 01:40 am
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Posted by Muddy Colors

In case you haven't seen it yet, anyone who signs up (or upgrades) to Muddy Colors $10 video option before the end of the day today, will also receive a copy of Greg Ruth's 'A Portrait in Pencil', in addition to this month's video, totally free.

Hurry up, this offer expires in a matter of hours! You can sign up here:

Deciphering Flesh Tones

Jun. 23rd, 2017 06:00 am
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Posted by Muddy Colors

-By Howard Lyon

Color is a fascinating and challenging part of painting.  It can be defined as hue, saturation and value. Today, I am going to focus a little more on saturation. Saturation being how intense or gray a color is.

Before I get going though, I think I need to add a disclaimer to this post. Painting from life is the best way to understand color. Also, photographs of paintings are by no means the same or close to observing a painting in person and only capture a small range of color and value discernible to the eye.

With that out of the way, I do think there are some important things we can learn about color using the computer and photography. Also, photographing paintings for later study can help to reinforce or add to observations made in person. I mention this along with the disclaimer because I am going to use a photograph of a Bouguereau painting to make some observations today.

I have long been fascinated by William Bouguereau’s paintings. There are other artists whose work I admire more for their artistry and subject, but I am hard pressed to think of another artist who achieved such a high level of technical skill. He could draw with great accuracy and had a wonderful eye for value and beauty, but for me it was ability to paint skin with very subtle shifts in hue and saturation that draws me in.

When Bouguereau was at his best, the flesh in his paintings looks like there is blood flowing just under the skin, vibrant and alive. You also see so much color. There is no ‘flesh color’ but many slight changes in hue and saturation that work together to create the impression of flesh.

In an effort to understand color a little better, I came up with a way of examining a photo of one of his paintings. I did this a few years ago and posted it on my site, but I did a little variant this time and I think it is more useful. Again, it is full of limitations, but maybe it will further cement knowledge you have or generate some new thoughts.

What the heck is going on here!? Let me explain. I am sampling colors from the face and hair. Each number and circle on the right show where I sampled a color. On the left, in column ‘C’ I filled the square with the sampled color and corresponding number. Column ‘B’ shows each of the colors, but with all of their values more or less equalized to a middle value. Column ‘A’ shows the colors with their saturation levels maxed out.

For me, column ‘A’ is the most revealing. When the colors are all shown at full saturation, the narrow range of hues used is much more obvious. Look at row 8. That color is from the white of her eye! It is really a very gray yellow, but it isn’t as clear until the color was pumped up to full saturation. It is also neat to see the progression from swatches 5 – 19, from the top of the forehead to the chin and up the neck and see the small shifts from orange to red and back to orange.

In the image above, I have arranged the same colors descending from red to yellow to show the spectrum of colors used in a clearer way. I kept the original numbers paired to the swatches. Again, we have the sampled color in column ‘C’, the colors almost equalized (there is a little variation) to a middle value in column ‘B’ and the full saturation in column ‘A’. Now, column ‘B’ stands out to me. Look at the top three rows, where the reds are nearly the exact same hue, but vary in saturation. They appear more blue or purple, warmer and cooler mostly due to their different saturation levels (they aren’t the exact same hue, but quite close). Look down the rest of column ‘B’. See how the colors vibrate and pulse in and out based on their saturation? More so than the fully saturated column ‘A’. The variety you can get by changing the saturation just a little is very exciting to me.

Color starts to do some interesting things as you drop out the saturation. You can achieve a sense of blue, green and purple by dropping the saturation of red, orange and yellow. It is as if grey starts to take on the properties of a compliment when placed next to a color of similar value. The gray gives your more saturated colors life that they don’t posses on their own. By working the saturation, you can create the appearance of blue veins under the skin, the purple flesh some complexions have around the eyes and cheeks and the cooler tones around the mouth and jaw.

If you are curious about giving this a try, next time you are painting flesh work in a neutral gray of similar value to the color you are working with and see what happens. See if you can create the appearance of color beyond those you squeezed out of the tube. That isn’t to say you should or shouldn’t use a full range of colors to paint flesh, but it is a worthwhile approach and exercise to try it if you haven’t.

Of course this won’t make you paint like Bouguereau, but hopefully it will either remind you or help you see how wonderful gray can be in adding life to your work.

*The photographs in this post are from the Art Renewal site and the Truth in the Bright Light of Day blog.

Live Demo This Sunday!

Jun. 22nd, 2017 12:00 am
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Posted by Dan

Please join us this Sunday for this month's Live Event. In this installment, Dan dos Santos will introduce us to a variety of Mixed Media techniques.

Learn how you can combine a variety of media, including pencil, gouache, acrylic, markers, airbrush, colored pencils, and oil paints... all in a single image to create stunning results.

This Event will be streamed live via YouTube for all donors of $5 or more. Donors of $10 or more will receive a downloadable copy of the video afterwards.

Event takes place this Sunday, June 25th, from 3-6pm EST

All Patrons, including new Patrons, should check the main Patreon Page 15 minutes prior to start time to receive their link to the event.

Get more info, or sign-up, here:

AD A/B Testing

Jun. 22nd, 2017 02:00 am
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Posted by Lauren Panepinto

By Lauren Panepinto
So I was up at Illustration Master Class this weekend and as I was portfolio-reviewing, I noticed a trend gaining popularity with artists, and I was happy, because it's something we talk about over at Drawn + Drafted's art business bootcamps a lot. Having a leave-behind that has a choice involved. Usually a choice of business cards that have different pieces of your art on the back.

Alix Branwyn
The snake is the most popular (also the one I chose) - the visual hierarchy is more more clear in that one, and it really pops at the smaller size
It seems like such a little thing to do (and the advent of Moo cards offering up to 50 different backs to business cards or postcards made it very easy to pull off), but making someone stop and choose really has a big effect.

Bruce Brenneise
The purple/spaceship card is the favorite, and I'd suspect that's all about how it has a lot of color, but doesn't get hard to read at the small size, where #1 is a little confusing to parse what's going on, and 2 & 4 are more monochrome

Irene Gallo of Tor Books and agrees, when we were talking about it on facebook, she said "being able to pick my favorite after a review makes huge difference in how well I remember people. It's kinda weird how much a difference...I'm suddenly emotionally involved, I've made a _choice_. (Also, artists don't always know what their best work is)"

Martin Gee
Surprisingly to no one, the Boba Fett, BB8, and C3PO/R2D2 ones are most popular, but Martin uses the whole set (with the belly band shows) as a set to give away to Art Directors and bigger clients. The Boba & Boba one just kills it for fan fave character + adorable clever concept.

So there's not one, but 2 bonuses for making cards with multiple backs: first, making someone stop and choose between options does a great deal to cement your work in their memory.

Nicole Grosjean
The unicorns are the winners, the full illustration over the watch (though those watches are awesome!)
Unicorns are easily a fan favorite, but the illustration reads easily at a small size and the unicorn has a pleasing silhouette, where some of the other cards are a little busier.

And second — you have a very concrete way to focus test your portfolio pieces. It's going to quickly become obvious that one image will run out the fastest. Many of the artists I talked to also seemed surprised at which image was the winner. Pay attention, because other artists and art directors may have one favorite, and non-industry fans a different favorite.

Nicholas Elias
Showing off the cool multi-design display case that you can order with your Moo cards. I'm pretty sure I took the top card (Ares) - his silhouette really pops here with the lighter background.

It's also a great way to see how your work is shrinking down. Remember it's especially important for those folks who are interested in doing book covers - your illustrations HAVE to look great in thumbnail. And they have to grab someone's eye as they scan across a shelf. Seeing which of your pieces catch people's eyes is invaluable info. Reverse engineer what you did, and apply that to all your other compositions as well.

Julia Lynn Powell
The portrait card on the right is the most popular, and you can really tell in this picture how well it pops off that card. That one was my choice too, and the piece is gorgeous in person, so this was a great reminder.

Really what this let's you do is called A/B Testing...on ADs! So I'm calling it A/D Testing from now on.

You're welcome.

Clark Huggins
Clark says he runs out of the Blue Faced guy (the ad for Reckless Deck) and Captain America the most,
but I love that Aquaman - such a great book cover composition.
 Thanks to all the artists who posted pics of their card choices! I'm putting notes under each image about which have been most popular, when noted.

Naomi VanDoren
Naomi says she runs out of the two fox dragon ones (top right 2), but i think I picked the bottom right - more book cover like for me to remember.

Angela Rizza

Anne-Katrin Hermanns
Anne-Katrin splits her art between scientific illustration and fantasy work, so it's helpful that she can keep cards with both options at the same time, without having to cram multiple images on a small card.

Brandy Heinrich
She says the Koi is the fave

Candice Broersma
The top left 2 are the most popular, although I'd have a hard time picking here. So much good book cover feels.

Christine Rhee
The bear & the goldfish & face pieces are most popular. I definitely would pick the bear, but I was lucky enough to get a whole set...again, a good strategy for wish list clients

Dawn Carlos
Nice strategy - she uses the top card (a cheaper non-Moo print) to pass out at cons with her booth location written or stickered on, then at her booth people can choose between the Moo cards below.

Dominick Saponaro
The left two are the most favorite
(I picked the blue frog - and I later hired Dom to do covers that related directly to that piece)

Elizabeth Leggett

Gwenevere Singley
The middle two go first. My choice was the 2nd from the left. Great conceptual illustration.

Jennifer Geldard

Jon Hunt
This is a 2-sided postcard

Kate Santee
Roller derby wins!

Laura Garabedian
The bottom three are the more popular, the tree in the bottom middle a slight winner. I think I picked that one too, cool concept.

Lily McDonnell
Unsurprisingly the Joker is the fave

Linda Adair
The angels (left 2) are the more popular ones. I love the Halo effect on that one.

Louisa Gallie
The tree is the fave, the girl with the knife the runner-up

Marcelo Gallegos
The two faces on the patterns go first, and I agree with the feeling that they must go bc they are so easy to read at the smaller scale and the orb just pops.

Marisa Erven
Bottom left is the fave - which I agree with, definitely draws you in, over the other two

Matthew Warlick
He's actually run into a problem - this is a double-sided card but people generally take two thinking it's two different cards. 

Preston P. Jackson
the center 2 cards ar ethe most popular, depending on whether Preston is at a fantasy event or general art event. Im pretty sure I picked the fantasy one in the middle.

Randy Vargas
These are new so no crowd testing yet, but my would be the top right bc it's book covery, and the dragons would probably be fan faves

Sam Lamont
Cthulhu beats skeletons
Robbie Trevino
The big yellow hand is the fave (and was my pick)
Tanya Finder

10 Things...What You Cannot Know

Jun. 21st, 2017 08:00 am
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Posted by Gregory Manchess

--Greg Manchess

I just returned from teaching our tenth year at the Illustration Master Class in Amherst, Massachusetts. Rebecca Levielle’s initial idea of teaching with friends has turned into an amazing week of learning in our art community.

This year I was reminded of how the process of growing as an artist is shared by every artist. Each evolves and must pass through different levels of understanding on the way to mastery.

But none of us reach new plateaus on a schedule, or in quite the same way as those master painters before us. Some students understand certain aspects before their peers and then run into a different level later that slows them down. Back and forth and up and down, our progress is never a perfect diagonal line upward. No normal brain gets to escape this. It is frustrating.

And entirely practical. Our species creates imagery and finds a way to express thoughts outside of our body. We’ve learned to do this over time, and we continue our never-ending need for visual stimulation.

Thinking of those IMC students and answering questions about my work all week, I compiled the list below to point out facets we all have in common for the process of artistic skills. 

Your mileage may vary.

You cannot know what you don’t know.
Relax into the work and apply unbending patience. You cannot see or understand the levels one can attain until you have gained enough information to visualize those levels.

That’s why we get fascinated by someone who seems to ‘see’ where they need to improve, sets a goal to get it, and then does. We think they have something special. Perhaps what they have is something easily attained. If only we can quiet the pressure we feel to do so.

The take-away: Accept that you need more information.

You cannot see what you don’t see.
You’re standing on a hill. You look outward over many hills and valleys and spot your goal. Then you set out downhill to reach the next hilltop. While in the valley, you cannot see your goal. Not even the hilltop in front of you. But you still climb.

Likewise for painting an idea. You set the goal, and you begin. The effort of building an image is like that downhill trek. You can bottom-out in the valley, lost in the weeds, but as you continue to climb up things get clearer until you reach the top and head out again. While you are in that valley, you cannot see the goal, but the valley is necessary.

Skills improve with time and effort. Not in a straight line, but in a generally upward diagonal, much like the stock market. An artist must trust that the stage they are in at the moment will improve over the long run. You cannot see nor implement the kind of ability you want in the present as you will in the near future —if enough effort and focus is applied.

Take-away: Make the trek anyway.

Mental tolerance.
An artist has to tolerate the fog of an unrealized idea. The effort needed to find clarification can be simple or nearly debilitating. But what kind of growth is built from already knowing where you need to go? What kind of character is built from a lack of effort? Why is anyone interested in the gift of automatic knowledge?

Unfortunately, we do find fascination with people who seem to not have to work to attain something. The reason is curiosity. We want to know why no effort was needed because we intrinsically know that work is necessary.

Take-away: Stay with your idea, even through the changes.

Focused observation skills.
We think we see what we are looking at, but often we miss subtle shapes that inform our minds about how to define an edge or capture a shape. Many students at IMC missed the subtle sculptural edges of a simple forearm. Edges they might’ve used to make a better drawing of the arm, or any other part. The smallest indention will give clues to musculature, character, and shape.

Take-away: Sweat the small stuff.

Listen without judgement.
Teachers who say they weed out the ones who will make it by being harsh and dismissive are merely amplifying their own ego. It is important to be firm with a student, but not to the point of dream-killing.

Finding someone with a growth mindset, who can point out your successes and failures without dragging you through the mud, is critical to your improvement. When you find them, listen with the mind of an athlete. Take nothing as personally as it may feel, but look for the clues for further real improvement. Listen without comment. Listen without explaining what you meant to do.

One can only absorb so much information before the extra gets dumped and you have to reacquire. But remember that repeated long-term effort is more important than short bursts of learning.

Take-away: Absorb from all quarters.

Drawing is your super-skill.
Learning to achieve a line with character is the ultimate knowledge necessary to create compelling drawings. Making many, many lines is what it takes to discover and repeat good line sense.

Is that too hard to figure out? A pitcher throws baseballs into a glove thousands of times to achieve speed and accuracy, but somehow we think the moment one attempts drawing, it must be instantly good, or they can’t create.


Take-away: Draw first; think next.

Learn strong composition.
Putting elements on a page seems simple enough, but it is the rearrangement of elements that creates impact. It may feel comfortable at first to place things in the center of the rectangle because our minds love to clean-up and organize random visual forms, but it takes repeated effort to learn how to balance and counterbalance elements across a two-dimensional plane to gain depth. Resist the temptation to keep things organized, and learn how to overlap elements for visual interest.

Take-away: Learn what makes compelling pictures and drop the need to be an “artist.”

Learn to handle pigment.
At the IMC, I watched students try to put down paint like a pro. They really did want to not only try hard, but to achieve. The problem was that many were judging their strokes too soon.

Simply because you laid a paint stroke on a surface doesn’t mean you know how to handle paint. But laying many strokes down builds a catalog of effort and each new effort after is weighed against the first. All this is recorded in your brain and once it feels the need for repetition, the brain builds memories needed to re-achieve.

Paint strokes are like calligraphy. We believe we need to know how to hold and manipulate a pen to get a result, so why not the same for a brush on canvas. Take-away: Traditional training is critical.

Watch others progress.
Students and peers around you are achieving at different rates. Causing yourself grief over not having what they have is a waste. You may be ahead in other ways.

Learn from them. Watch and pay attention to how they may be progressing. This is one way that we help each other.

Take-away: We don’t grow in a vacuum.

Get close to success.
As above, when we watch others achieve skills we want to own, we mirror their success. As a species we are very good at mimicry. And it is, after all, how we actually learn. Place yourself around others who are better than you whenever you possibly can. Strive to get connected to people who have a growth mindset. This is an infection you do want.

Take-away: Use information that is readily available.

Embrace fear.
Damn near any new endeavor causes some sort of anxiety about getting better. We want to achieve things quickly. We strive to be good at something fast. We have an intense desire to avoid work. Yet, work is where the learning is. The work is the point, not necessarily the final painting.

Learning to paint involves fear. Fear is going to be there no matter what you have in mind. Embrace it. Work with it. Use it. Fear is what the brain needs to improve.

Take-away: The way around is through.

All photos by Irene Gallo

Thrain II

Jun. 20th, 2017 07:00 am
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Posted by Justin

By Justin Gerard

I'm back this week with some new Lord of the Rings imagery! This time, from the Appendices. The image is of Thrain II at the East Gate of Moria, after defeating the orcs at the Battle of Azaznulbizar. This scene is of a victory, but one of the most costly ones for the dwarves of Middle Earth. 

Today I'll be briefly covering a classical oil technique that I use to help me when working in color. 

To begin, I start in the usual way, working from tiny thumbnails up into tight drawings. Thumbnailing is a proven, reliable way to keep me from lighting myself on fire in the later stages of the painting. It works 75% of the time, every time.  


Once I arrive at a satisfactory drawing I bring it into Photoshop and lay in a toned underpainting. 

Digital Comp

For this image, I knew that I was going to want a more saturated evening light. Usually, I prefer to work from a desaturated underpainting to a higher saturated final image. For this image, I decided to flip things and begin from a place of higher saturation, and then use grays and muted complimentary colors to push the saturation back and arrive at the color I am looking for. This is called "killing chroma," and is something I learned from the dutch-flemish painters, who use the technique to give life-like color to the faces of their portrait subjects. 

The trick is to find the color that works as the perfect compliment to your background fill color. In this case, a payne's grey mixed with white offers an excellent counter to the warm umber tones. 

While it's always best to have solid photo-reference and a good color study to help you choose your colors, I do find this technique very useful for keeping a unified palette when working from imagination/memory. Since I have started from a place of such high-saturation many of the color decisions are already made for me. It then becomes a matter of how much I want to push and pull the blues and greens to offset the warm tones of the image. 

For shadows and colors I use semi-transparent Normal layers. For highlights and details I use Screen layers. For a more in-depth look at how I work with Photoshop Layers, check out my previous post here. And to see the brushes I use for my work, you can check them out here

Khenra Scrapper

Jun. 19th, 2017 05:15 am
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Posted by Ejsing

-By Jesper Ejsing

Pencil sketch with values and a bit of color to explain the light. 
This illustration is a for Magic the Gathering of the set called Hour of Devastation. It is a Jackal warrior wielding small knives in an aggressive pose. A simple art description. Therefore I decided to make a simple portrait solution. The sketch I submitted asked only for one small change namely the collar that would look too much like a feature from another character in the same set. But I really liked the ribbons that was attached to the collar so I kept those just hanging from somewhere on his back.  I like the ribbons because they add life and movement to an else static pose. When I transferred it to the board for painting i felt it looked empty, so I decided to add even more movement in this case - yet again - by adding a flock of birds. Those egrets are also a very clear reference to Egypt, the main inspiration for this magic set, so it would help the scene I thought. Also I like how they are taking off as if they are fleeing from something: The Hour of Devastation.

greytones on watercolor board
 When I look at the sketch now I am annoyed that I did not keep the lower leg in silhouette as in the sketch. For some reason ,that I cannot explain now, I added cloth there and covered up that little negative space. It is not helping at all. In the sketch the leg looks like he is stepping up on a rock and that the other legs disappears down and is stretched out under him. In the final, most of that is lost and the weight and movement is not as good. I am pretty sure my idea was that the battle mist and smoke and fog would hide it all and that I wanted to focus in on his torso and face, but it did not all turn out that way.

Color comp

Anyways; after I get an approval I take the sketch to a watercolor board and ink it all in waterproof ink and then adds grey tone value in black acrylic. This way my first washes are only acting as tonal to the drawing underneath and I can work more loose and random. I use lots of water to block in the local colors and to create happy mistakes and texture that I can use further in the painting process.  I take a photocopy and do a color rough. This was kind of an easy choice. I knew I had a black skinned figure so I might as well put him against he light to have a clear silhouette. He was going to be a black silhouette anyway. It meant that my background would be lighter than the figure. It is all a very warm picture; lots of yellow and red. If everything is too warm you have nothing pulling the other direction, so I added some grey for a neutral color and a bluish to the top of his head as a reflection of sky color high above him.

Drawing Feet

Jun. 17th, 2017 06:00 am
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Posted by Ron Lemen

-By Ron Lemen

I simplified this dialog to the drawings.  This started off as a rant against the HUGE problem with every one of my anatomy students these days, the problem with drawing feet.

Somewhere out there is some misinformation, or alternative truths that seem to be popular to the newbie art student, but need to go missing forever please.  I have created some pages of useful information that need to be put out there into the system.  But first, let's start off with some wonderful drawings from the Russian Academy.  Who can resist the amazing studies from that school.  So much character, so much charm.

Anyway, my diagrams are nothing in comparison to these beautiful drawings.  But diagrams are not meant to be beautiful drawings.  They are meant to help you learn and clarity is important.  So I do apologize if the drawings are not totally clear.  And if they are not, please help me by mentioning that in the comments.

These are more excerpts from my soon to be figure drawing book, but since that is taking as long as it is to complete I am putting these notes out there now.  I also realize I have a lot of them so I am only going to post so many.  If there is something that feels like it is lacking, the book will have taken care of that.

Here is what I am seeing quite a bit of lately, both the drawings and the bone structure.  I have no idea where this is coming from, but the land of drunk socks and bigfoot must be steered clear of during your training.  Go back to it if you must stylize your feet, but, these are not good quality representations of real feet.

There is also a trend of missing heels.  Someone has gone around and removed the heel from the foot design and replaced it with a "Weeble Wobble" style foot design.  I guess the world isn't already dangerous enough as it is, let alone giving us unstable feet.

There is also this interesting trend of giving everyone bow legged qualities.  Shin bones are straight with curved accents.  They are not curved.  Sorry.

A descent starting point for the foot is the door wedge.  It helps check the perspective of the leg and assures that the feet are grounded to whatever surface they might be attached to.  This wedge is the ideal shape for the 3 points of the foot, ankles, toes, and heel.

The foot is a shock absorber for the body, it makes sense that the ankles, and the leg are positioned over the arch of the foot to take that impact, from walking to running and jumping.  Thank the feet for that arch, that we need to put the leg over and not behind.

The ankle bones are the tibia and the fibula together, and combined they form a wrench like structure that holds the foot bones in place as the pivot point for the foot rotation.  The bones are side by side medially and laterally, not in front and behind.  And each leg mirrors each other, they are not the same orientation to each other.

Here in profile view the door wedge is broken down into two shapes to help support the design of the foot when the toes are bent.  The toe wedge is removed from the front of the bigger foot wedge and is rotated to its new orientation.  This now becomes the new position for the toe details.

Here are the simple door wedges converted to planar structures to help design in the change of surface from one bone set to the next, over muscles and the orientation of the toes and their segments.

And while talking toes, here are the planar stair steps both in primitive form as well as fleshed out a bit more with the big toe and the second toe.  In addition, because our toes are smooshed together in shoes a lot, and because our feet our well designed, the toes fit together nicely, but are over exploited into ugly distortions of the design because our shoes mold our feet to the constraints of their size and build.  But, our toes are all uniquely shaped to fit together and the diagram on the left shows how they fit together.

And here are the folds in the bottom of the foot common with all of us but not the same length and exact orientation between any of us.  Note that the big toe actually has 3 fat pads in it within its wedge like shape.

Add character to the body of the foot.  There is a lot going on in that space, but the foot won't often times show it, especially in photo reference.  I used hatch lines here to explain direction of some of the sub planes (anatomically rooted).  These would be represented in half tones being that these feet were directly lit.

These last few pages are for those of you who do not know anything about perspective and are surprised when you find out that the body is loaded with it...because all forms are in perspective.  I do not understand how students think that they can avoid perspective by just figure drawing.  LOL...I mean that with kindness.

I know they are not pretty, but I hope they help.  Now, please share these with all beginning students you know and hope to make careers with their art skills and to those who think they understand feet but we have had a hard time explaining to them that maybe they should practice them more often.  Or do what I do and hide everyone in mist so you can avoid feet, lower legs, upper legs, pelvises, and more thanks to that wonderful fog stuff.  Any time you have a hard time with something and you to meet that deadline, just fog it up a little.  Gonna duck into that fog now and get back to the work load. Comments, please leave em, until next time, creative success to you and happy arting.  


Jun. 16th, 2017 06:00 am
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Posted by Greg Ruth

-By Greg Ruth

"It's like Bernie Fuchs and Bill Sienkiewicz had a a baby!" is the first thing I thought when I first discovered the massive ppol of art over the last sixty odd years of Brian Sanders' long career. There's a defined fluidity here I will always chase and never catch and his ability to craft the real without ever undermining the abstract is unparalleled. Like Fuchs, Sanders has an incredible gift for maximizing the narrative of the images he draws with his composition ninja skills- We could all of us working in this field learn a lot from his ability to design a page. If you are new to Sanders as I still am, here's a few favorite pics below to see what I mean. Aside from doing a stint of illos for Kubrick and 2001 A Space Odyssey and more recently, work for Mad Men, much of his stuff can be found sprinkled throughout women's grocery store magazines throughout the sixties and seventies. But barring a time machine to a Nixon-era Kroger, the interwebs are fairly resplendent with some of his work. Happily there is a show going up at the Lever Gallery May 12-July 31in London. If you are in the motherland, please stop by and take a look- I'd kill to see these in person myself. (Well, maim without permanent effect, maybe. I mean let's be civilized about it).

You can see more at his website right HERE

Making Your Own Wet Painting Carrier

Jun. 15th, 2017 02:30 am
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Posted by Dan

-By Dan dos Santos

Over the years, I've had to carry a LOT of wet paintings around.

Lots of times I do demos at workshops, and I have to get the painting back home. Or a book cover job is due, and I have to deliver a wet painting to a client. Either way, I need a way of transporting that wet image safely.

In my experience, you're usually better off with a painting holder tailor-made for the specific painting you want to carry.

I feel the wet painting holders that hold ANY size painting, usually aren't worth bothering with. They are heavy, expensive, and not always stable. You also can't leave them behind at an Art Directors office without worrying about it's return.

For me, a transport box has to be 4 things, (in order of importance):
1. Strong
2. Lightweight
3. Inexpensive
4. Good Looking

If I am shipping a really nice original to a collector, I usually don't use this method. This is more for the commercial work, and in-progress stuff. Stuff that is being carried around. This box will NOT survive actual MAILING.

So, here is what I think is the FASTEST, CHEAPEST way to make a carrier...

Buy several lengths of square hardwood dowels at the Home Depot. For this box, I used several feet of  the 1" square dowels. These cost $1 a foot.

Using a table saw, lower the blade until it's just a 1/4 inch or so above the table's surface. Set the cut guide to 1/2 inch or so, and carefully run the length of wood through. Repeat this for all lengths.

The result is narrow groove on one side of the dowel.

This groove happens to be the perfect width for the illustration board I paint on. If you paint on a thick surface (Like wood panels or canvas), just nudge the saw guide a bit, and run the wood through multiple times for a slightly wider groove each time.

You can also run two separate grooves if you want to hold multiple pieces!

Now, running wood through a table saw literally takes just a few minutes if you know what you're doing. But mitering and screwing together accurate corners takes a deceptive amount of time and skill. So for something like this... I don't bother!

Cut 3 pieces of your dowel to the desired lengths (This will take some math). Then cut a sheet of foamcore to the size you want the box. Layout your 'rails' out on a table, and place the sheet of foam core on top.

With a good staple gun, just staple the foamcore down. There is no need to screw the wood together, the foamcore will hold it snug. Flip it over and do the same thing.

For a lid, you can just tape a strip of foamcore across the top. Or, you can get all sorts of fancy with it like me ('Fancy' means 2 strips of foamcore and black tape).

Voila! Just slide your wet painting in, and nothing will harm it's surface! It's cheap, it's strong, and can stand up to fairly rigorous handling, including the TSA!

If you already have the materials and equipment, you can put this together in 20 minutes. Because I tend to work on either 15x20, or 20x30 boards all the time, I can actually reuse the same box quite a bit.

If you need something stronger, just substitute the foamcore and staples for plywood and screws.

Or, if you don't have a table saw, you can actual make the entire box out of strips of foamcore and spray glue.

John Howe - Drawings

Jun. 14th, 2017 12:00 am
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Posted by Donato

- by Donato Giancola

The concept artist and illustrator John Howe recently opened an exhibition of his latest, personal works in Paris at the Arludik Gallery, May 11 - July 8, 2017

These new show includes dozens of pencil drawings and a handful of watercolors executed in Howe's luminous technique.  His drawings seem carved from mists and ethereal wisps, so delicate is his touch and control of value to describe form and mood.  Pasted below are a few selections from the show, while the rest may been seen on the Arludik website.

For some of you who may not be familiar with Howe's work, check out his extensive website portfolio and intense writings in his blog/news on the nature of art and creativity.  You will not be disappointed!


Llora’s Quest III    John Howe   65x40cm
The Isle     John Howe   65x40cm

John Howe

Wanderer     John Howe   65x40cm

IMC- Day 1

Jun. 13th, 2017 06:00 am
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Posted by Scott M. Fischer

- by Scott Fischer

Some behind the scenes action from day one of IMC 2017.

IMC is quite possibly the most intense and awesome week of the year for many involved. I've had the privilege of being a core faculty member of the IMC for the past 10 years along with Boris Vallejo, Julie Bell, Donato Giancola, Dan Dos Santos, Greg Manchess, Irene Gallo and our founder. Our beating heart. Our true north, Rebecca Leveille Guay.

Special artist instructors this year are the kick-ass Andrew Hem, that art-wizard named John Jude Palencar, and the fabulous Cynthia Sheppard, who brings a full-circle moment for all of us. For once upon a time, before she was the Spectrum Gold medalist. Before she became an Art Director for Magic the Gathering- she was an attendee here at IMC. (Though honestly she was well on her way before she walked through our doors.)

It is an honor return to the beautiful campus of Amherst college annually, to help guide such a talented and driven group of artists. (I only wish there had been something like this when I was a student!)

The question is, how much info can you cram in your brain before it starts leaking out of your ears?

Day one starts off with a bang, a slide-show avalanche of art, showcasing every faculty member.  I am constantly inspired by my peers- but before we could catch our breath, we rolled right into a lecture on composition by the multi-figure master, Donato Giancola. A composition means nothing without emotional intent, which Rebecca covers by elegantly discussing the difference between "Predictable and Unpredictable Choices". This year Dan Dos Santos brought it home with a fabulous lecture on using value to tie your composition and emotional intent together. (Other years you may have heard Greg Manchess talk about composition and setting the stage, or myself talking about finding flow in your paintings.)

Next up is lunch at the Amherst College cafeteria. (My college never served Talapia and Chicken Masala!) If you are here, I don't know if your belly or your brain is digesting more, but there is no time to think about it, because it is time for action.

Day one feels like the longest day at IMC. It is sketch crit day. What follows is a sampling of what goes down.

Cynthia Sheppard, dos Santos and myself are one sketch crit-group. But you will find a similar frenzy of ideas and suggestions in any of the 5 groups.  First we look at some samples of your finished work to see where you are coming from, like this wonderful sampling by Mariah Tekulve.

If you brought traditional sketches they go up on the chalkboard and we start drawing on top of them and on the chalkboard itself. Here on Alice Herring's work. Sometimes the three of us drawing at the same time. Correcting composition, intent and value structure. (Sounds familiar.)

If you are pure digital, your work goes in photoshop on my Cintiq and is projected on the wall for everyone to see. There is almost a tug-of-war that happens with that poor stylus as Cynthia, dos Santos, and I are all itching to get the thoughts out of our head and into yours. "Who is the star of your painting?" "What is this pose telling us about the character?" "Every element should be considered and should be aiding your intent." "Look for the hidden rivers of energy in your piece." Cynthia suggested a great head flip in this zombie piece by Joel Hustak. And one of the most important, and hardest to answer, "What is it you want to do with your art."

The hope is, when we are finished critiquing your sketch, you are seeing your piece in a new light, and are ready for MORE drawing, drawing, drawing.

Here is a great before and after crit by dos Santos on Shonn Everette.

And after 5 hours of crits, it is time to fill your belly again, caffeinate, and come back for MORE lectures on shooting photo ref by dos Santos (to help inform your new sketches).

...and then how to mix and paint flesh by Donato Giancola. (Hint it is more involved than a tube of this!)

Finally everyone returns to their own easels and desks and they continue to, you know, DRAW, DRAW, DRAW!

And just think, 6 days to go!!!

Wonder Woman!

Jun. 12th, 2017 05:30 am
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Posted by Arnie Fenner

- by Arnie Fenner

 Above: Gal Godot attacks the German trenches in the new Wonder Woman film.

Do any readers remember my "Warriors" post from 2016? Well...

After decades of gestation, missteps, speculation, and development hell; after running through a laundry list of directors, writers, and actors (including Sandra Bullock, Mariah Carey, and Catherine Zeta-Jones); after months of skepticism, worry, and anxiety, Warner Brothers released Wonder Woman to theaters June 2—and, to the relief of many, it not only delivers on its promise, but is a box-office hit to boot.

Wonder Woman aka Princess Diana aka Diana Prince is played by Gal Godot (who stood out with her take on the character in 2016's Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice—which is a little better than it's been given credit for) and is directed by Patty Jenkins. The new film helps dispel at least some of the long-held myths about who-will-go-see-what-kind-of-movie-starring-whom and is powerfully resonating with audiences for a number of different reasons, even as special screenings brought out the whiners and cranks.

Created in 1941 by William Moulton Marston (psychologist and inventor of a component of the modern polygraph), Wonder Woman's story as both a comics character and feminist symbol is lengthy and complicated. There's the whole bondage-and-submission sexual subtext in the early comics (which reflected Marston's relationship with his wife Elizabeth and live-in companion, Olive Byrne) that makes it even more-so. I'm not going to even try to describe or recount either, but will direct people to Jill Lepore's book The Secret History of Wonder Woman and to the Smithsonian's video essay for details and insights. 

Likewise, I'm out of my league in trying to intelligently describe why a WW movie being done right after so many years—and the feelings girls and women have for it—is important and I'm hoping that Lauren writes something for Muddy Colors sharing her thoughts about it in the near future. So all I'm doing today is posting some of the Wonder Woman art that has appeared through the years, with maybe a little history or background tossed in for good measure.

Above: Harry George "H.G." Peter was the original artist for Wonder Woman; though
he developed the character's look he was never given a creator credit. Peter was the primary
artist for Wonder Woman from its inception until his death in 1958; he was assisted by
colorist Helen Schepens and lettering artists Jim and Margaret Wroten.

Above: In the early days of comics Wonder Woman quickly became the most popular and readily identifiable female superhero—which, of course, made her ripe for parody, often with prurient aspects. On top Will Elder and Harvey Kurtzman produced "Woman Wonder!" for Mad #10 in 1954; below the same team dressed Little Annie Fanny up as "Wondrous Woman" for the story "High Camp" that ran in Playboy in January 1967.

Above left: DC Comics stalwart Murphy Anderson drew the cover for the premiere 
issue of Ms Magazine in 1972. Ms co-founder Gloria Steinem felt that Wonder Woman had
become a "depowered boyfriend-obsessed damsel in distress" in the comics of the time
(perhaps as exemplified in the Jones cover below) and she wanted to feature the original
superhero version—which at the time took quite a bit of talking to convince DC's editors
to allow the change-back.  Above right: Wonder Woman reappeared on the cover for
Ms' 40th anniversary in 2012, this time by Mike and Laura Allred.

Above left: Diana Prince went through various changes, both in character and in costume,
to keep her "relevant" in the 1960s and '70s, but they didn't really work (and often Marston's
bondage obsession resurfaced). There were—and are—all sorts of odd (if not downright weird) versions of Wonder Woman throughout her history, some of which are recounted here. Jeffrey Jones drew this cover for issue #199 in 1972 during Diana's non-super "mod" period. Above right: DC began to actively reassert and heighten WW's super powers about 25 years ago. Joe DeVito's memorable painting was used for a WW novel and turned into poster in 1993.

Above: The vast majority of Wonder Woman artists through the years have been men;
underground comix legend Trina Robbins was the first woman to draw the series in 1986.

Above left: Alex Ross' version of WW created a whole new legion of fans in the books Kingdom Come and Wonder Woman: Spirit of TruthAbove right: Darwyn Cooke increased Wonder Woman's badassery in New Frontier to such a degree that the Viet Cong and even Superman were intimidated.

Above left: Adam Hughes brought the modern WW face-to-face with the H.G. Peter's original in one of my favorite covers. Above right: Frank Cho was doing some great variant covers for the new series but left after discovering that even though he pleased the art director, editor, and publisher, he was having to make inexplicable changes that it turned out were dictated by the writer. (I've never—let me emphasize never—known any writer who was a better art director than the art director. Not. One.)

Above left: Wonder Woman sings opera with Elmer Fudd in this charmer by Terry and Rachel Dodson.  Above right: Brian Bolland created an epic 37-issue run of covers beginning in 1992. This piece was so popular that it was turned into a poster as well as a sculpture by Tim Bruckner.

Above: There are, of course, many other artists who have done wonderful pieces, from George Perez to Bill Sienkiewicz to Bruce Timm to Loish, but I think I'll close with this one by MC's Dan dos Santos. If anyone wants to chime in with a favorite I've missed, please do. 


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