Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Illustration Master Class-- Day Three

Report on the Third Day of the Illustration Master Class... We had our Guest Instructor, Michael Whelan come in the day before, but today, after lunch, would be his lecture/presentation. I'd been a fan of his work way back when he did that great image of Elric, and he certainly influenced my early work...

He's at the back, ready to comment on his images...

So, on the previous day I was checking my photo ref and working on refining my sketch, and by Wednesday, I had it as refined as it was going to be. On Monday, I'd shot refs (using L. A. William's fabulous equipment and with the excellent Zelda as a volunteer model). On Tuesday, I'd had Charles Vess look it over (he drew an alternate composition on tracing paper and told me about how most people were getting the legend of the Lady of the Lake wrong--that she was an earth goddess and had gifted Arthur with the sword in order to do good, but he used it for more typical things, like battle; I told him I was thinking of the Lady as a Celtic Water goddess--the sort they may have been sacrificing precious objects to when throwing items into certain bodies of water... which, I thought, wasn't too dissimilar an idea). Donato Giancola had come by and suggested that I not move the composition about so much so late in the day and said that perhaps I should have the lake/water more prominent--as in coming down from the background, in a rivulet sort of thing, so her feet and the sword and the roots at the bottom of the picture could be in water. I looked at Charles and he said he loved hearing alternate suggestions. And since I really didn't want to change everything (after having shot refs and all), I went with Donato's suggestions.

Unfortunately, the copy shop still had their printer out of order. Ruth Thompson's printer was working, but it only took up to 19" and I wanted as large an image as possible on the 18"x 24" masonite board... which would mean doing a bit of tiling (printing on two pieces of paper and cutting them irregularly so that the two pieces would jig-saw together along less noticeable lines... but that sounded like a pain to me. Drew Baker had his 22" printer but the ink ran during the mounting process... but they thought there might be a work-around if we spray-fixed the ink. I thought it would only take the morning to get that all done, but it took a while to get my file sized, then to make an appointment with Sarah who was running Drew's printer... then to borrow some spray fix from some nice guy... anyway, I didn't get a print on my Strathmore 500 series single ply Bristol until late in the afternoon. Diana Stein helped me with Donato's mounting method...

Donato demonstrating his drawing transfer method with a student's work--

Wet Mount Method
1. Wet down print or sketch (whatever you're mounting)--both sides, with paintbrush or soaking in water.
2. Apply Matte Medium with brush to board (masonite or whatever) and back of paper. Cover corners and edges well. Make sure excess water is gone first.
3. Use roller/breyer lightly to get out air bubbles and excess medium (do not squeeze it all out or it won't stick properly). [my suggestion, since I've done this before: roll from center outward to get ride of air bubbles)
4. Brush medium on top (unless wanting to use watercolors as an underpainting/painting)
5. Sand down when dry and add and sand 2 more coats (150 to 200 grit)

Note: Tom Canty used to transfer his drawings by reproducing his detailed sketches photographically in a sepia tone and mounting them on Strathmore board... I'm not sure if he wet mounted them or not, though. I learned a similar wet mounting method from my teachers at Art Center and used it with drawings reproduced by a sepia tone blueprint printer (they could make oversized copies way back in the days when they didn't have printers/copiers available).

I think only a few others were still in the sketch stage... so I was pretty behind! Ah well. But I was fairly sure I could catch up, since I'm not a very careful painter! Heheh.

So, after lunch, Michael Whelan was speaking-- Diana Stein was fan-girling a bit (and rightly so, I thought!), but I have also been a huge fan. He was THE book cover artist for F/SF for most of the years I've noticed such things. I've got prints of his, and several framed book cover comps and a sketch by him, collected over the years when he was at his prime.

He does very finished comps, here are some examples--

Here's a sketch/comp--

The finished piece--

He said the ADs were the ones who kept picking his centered more iconic compositions. He'd generally supply a number of skeches/comps for them to choose from. Used whatever medium he felt like, but works mostly in acrylics. Also likes Gessoboard by Ampersand.

He sometimes uses airbrush, mostly for flat areas, no details. Often uses free-hand, hand-made frisks made from mat board or other material, so that the edges aren't hard. Here are some of those--

Some other tools he sometimes uses--

He also recommends THE ARTISTS WAY by Cameron--

After the presentation and Q&A, Michael set up in Studio B and worked on/demo-ed a monochrome horror piece--

He also brought lots of prints of his work which he gave away (graciously signing them for us). I grabbed three--one of which was a poster of the Elric I always liked. Diana had me go up there to take a photo of her with him. I thought it came out nicely! (Heheh, she was later miffed at me when Michael was heading towards our table to sit, but then I pointed him towards Rebecca Guay, who was waving him towards where she was sitting. No way I'd feel comfortable sitting across from Mr. Whelan, but Diana would have loved having him by her. Ah, well! He WAS still at the same table, just farther down... )


The evening was lovely--students and instructors were throwing frisbees on the green in front of the commissary and studio Halls.

The 7pm lecture/presentation was made by Donato Giancola. He's one of those artists I totally noticed right away--almost from his first covers--or so I thought! But Donato started with his beginning work (a fun retrospective way back to his childhood) that showed me he actually had a few covers on some secondary lines that I hadn't seen. He seemed to me to have a meteorically quick rise, coming out of art school right into book covers, but again, I was wrong... the guy still put in his time and has got to be one of the most motivated and hard-working artists around... Thoroughly impressive! His love of doing art and wanting to inspire it in others was palpable.

A private commission detail... scene from a battle (Agincourt?)--

The full triptych, he worked an image of the buyer in, just like artists used to do in the middle ages--

Very early influences (childhood): Star Wars, Tolkien and D&D, Romita's Iron Man comics.

He mentioned that with the advent of all the digital programs, it was no longer so necessary for an artist to leave room for type on book cover art. Diana had left 1/3 of the image open at the top in her sketch for the Princess of Mars assignment, but was told she shouldn't worry about that, which surprised her. Apparently the currently thinking is just to create a good painting, as Donato said in his lecture. And for the purposes of our class, it was better to make a good portfolio piece, anyway, since it wasn't a true book cover assignment. I have to say, this is a huge relief, since the 1/3 business always made for crappy compositions without the type in there, I thought!

And then it was Studio Time from 8 to 10... or to 1am or later/earlier for the students...

Boris, sitting back and thinking about his painting--

Julie, working on the figures (they are both just ace at rendering fleshtones!)--

Greg Manchess, adding a bit more to his painting Wizard of Oz--

Student, Ruth Thompson, had her under-painting finished--

Other students with their drawings/paintings on board (more Lady of the Lake pieces)--

Students, Painting away--

One of the Barbarian vs Polar bear pieces--

I was furiously lathering matte medium on my board... I didn't even bother with the sanding phase (not worried about the texture so much). I just wanted to get my ground ready to paint ASAP...!


[All photos: copyright (c) 2009 April Lee. All images (c) to their various owners. Any copyright holders please contact me if there are images you don't wish to be posted. Or persons who don't wish to be posted, for that matter. This is not a popular blog as I don't really promote it, but if the General Public does surf in here: Please Do NOT download these images. Thank you.]


CGriffin said...

What a great report! I'm so jealous of everyone who got to attend. It looked truly amazing. Can't wait for the next installment!

April said...

Slowly... getting more stuff posted...! It was an amazing experience. You really should try and go, if they hold another one!