Sunday, June 10, 2012

Tiny the Birthday Dog is officially completed!  I finished the paintings on May 29 when you will see this video link.  I had just finished the last stroke and decided to sit down on the front porch and talk about (debrief) the process of making the book.  I had nothing planned in my mind but I felt debriefing at that point would be a good thing.

After this debrief, the following week, I had the scans made and then took all the digital files and cleaned up everything on the pictures and made finishing touches digitally.  I sent them to my editor and designer and got a good review from them.  The project had closure at that point for me and I could breath a big sigh of relief!

A final note: Within the next day or two, the publishers contacted me and offered me another Tiny book!  I said "yes" and this will make book #8 of the Tiny series.
I thank God for all He has allowed me to do and His help that He gave me step by step to complete this project!  Hope this has helped you.

Please, enjoy the debrief :

Sunday, May 27, 2012

One down and two to go!

The first of the three final paintings for Tiny the Birthday is completed!  One down and two to go!  Here is the finished is the last page of the book when the surprise party is sprung on Tiny by his good friends.
I have been painting these last three at the same time.  When I got them as far as I could, then I took on this painting to finish it.  The other two paintings I will do the same way now...only they are bigger paintings.  I'm shooting for finishing them by June 1 which is the end of this week.  Here is the above painting when it was in progress...

And finally, here are the three together in progress to let you see how much is left to do with the other three.  I enjoyed my first reward for this first painting!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Technology help: choosing painting colors

This is the original beginning sketch I submitted to the editors for this spread.  It was approved and I made a tightened drawing of the same thing so that I could use it to transfer down onto my painting board.  The tightened drawing looked like this...

Notice that going through the middle of Tiny is the wall and door that is behind him (you won't see those things when the painting is done)...why would I leave those on the drawing?
I want to save time and I want to be accurate with my paintings.  Three of the spreads of Tiny and the boy use the same background...the kitchen and kitchen back door.  I will use technology to bring parts of the paintings together as three finished pieces...all with that same view of the kitchen and kitchen door.  So I need to paint the part of the kitchen that you will see as a painting by itself.
Remember, I've already painted Tiny and Elliot in this scene by themself on another board...

My task today, is to use technology to help me find the right colors to go in this kitchen scene...I'm not sur what they should be at this point.  I want the overall look of the kitchen to be bright and cheery and a little fun to go with the playfulness of the story.  I could jump right into actually painting and try to make it all work, but why not help myself gain confidence by using photoshop to help me find the right colors and values that I need.  That way I'll be able to see exactly what to actually paint before I ever dip my brush into the paints.  Photoshop can break things into pieces of clear plastic with color on can lay these layers on top of each other any way you like and then tell the computer to squish them all together to make a picture.  It's very fun and very useful!  My top layer will be the picture above that I already painted.  Then the middle layer will be the tight sketch (and I'll make it transparent so you still see the lines but clear in between the lines.  And finally the bottom layer will be the actual layer that I'll play with color.  Below I drew a diagram showing you how I use photoshop to do this:

So, using this method, I bring my finished painting of Tiny and Elliot into photoshop as a top layer and lay it on top of the layer below it...the tight sketch.  I haven't moved Tiny and E. into their correct position yet.  They are opaque and whatever they lay on top of, you won't see that anymore...

Now I will move them into their correct place.

Great!  Now you can see the parts of the room I need to find colors of.  I'll start with what I already know...the bright red kitchen back door.  Remember I already painted it when I did the back yard scenes?  That door color cannot must remain like that color from now on.  I purposefully did that because my editor said to be sure I identified that as the door to the back yard in some way.  Thus, the bright red color.  In photoshop, I make a bottom layer for the color and add red over the top part of the door...

I like it!  So, I do the bottom half.

By putting on the bright red door, it will make the choices of the other colors more accurate.  I decide to echo the red door color down on the checkerboard floor but with less intensity.
And I feel yellow would be a good cheery contrast, so I add it on next...

That feels good to me.  Now I want to try a wall color and am leaning toward a light blue robin egg color.  So, I add it onto the bottom layer...
I like that too...but I want to see what adding the outside color would do next to all that blue....
I want to play with that blue and see what a light green would look photoshop let's me see what that change would do to all the colors I've chosen so far...
Pretty good, since I've got the "complimentary" color thing going on with the red door and green wall, but, I'm leaning toward the blue instead.  So I go back to it and I decide to add a wall decoration shelf to break up all that wall space with some interesting kitchen shapes and colors.
I'm almost done with finding my colors and I notice that Tiny's big front paw is going into the door frame and it needs trimming to look like it is going outside the door frame.  Just for fun, I trim it.

What did I learn in using technology in this way?  It can help take away the "risk" involved in just trying color.  It's like deciding on a definite game plan for when I actually paint this kitchen scene by itself.  And when I am ready to work with the other two kitchen scenes, I'll take the other Tiny and Elliot paintings and sandwich them into this scene and it will look different....but the same.  My art experiences have shown me that wherever I can, I should try to take the strengths of traditional work and the strength of technology and put them together.  I've not let technology take over here....I've let it be a "specialized player" in my painting game for these spreads.  It has served me well.  Now, I got to get busy painting what the computer has shown me is the way I want to go!  I'll be showing you how these three spreads worked out in later posts.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Get-er-done (and save time!)

Some paintings seem to go on "forever"!  I come back to the painting over and over thinking that I will finish this time; but alas, I'm washing out my brushes saying to myself, "the next time I'm finishing!"

In the big picture of making a painting, there are phases.  Some phases go extremely fast and I get very excited that I make that much progress in such a short of these would be in the overall paint coverage of the big areas in a painting at the beginning.  When you are done with this phase, you have large general color areas that completely cover the whole painting...and you don't see the beginning white of the canvas anymore.
But other phases of the painting go on and on.  Generally, this happens for me the smaller objects get and the more detail I have to paint.  I have put away my huge paint brushes and I'm now moving to brushes that are much smaller and have fewer hairs.  When I'm pulling out my "three haired brush", I know I'm in the last phase.

Today, I want to show you a way that I get the "detail" phase to end much faster. When details are overwhelming, I feel like the person who is lost in the woods and is only going in circles instead of actually making progress.  Yep, basically, I'm lost!

Make a list!
Then work your list playing the "cross it off" game.

That's it.

I'm actually doing three paintings at once right now.  All three spreads have the same background room in them...the kitchen.  But how Tiny and Elliot are placed in each of these is different.  So, to save time and preserve accuracy, I decided to make the background of the room as one painting... and paint Tiny and Elliot in their different poses on the other two boards.  Then using technology, I'll sandwich parts of the paintings together to make three complete digital files of the completed painting spreads.

I got the Tiny and Elliot poses almost done, yet there were alot of details I still needed to do.
So, I got a piece of paper, taped it to my board and made a list of things I needed to do to each of them.
(click to enlarge)

I went down my list and completed them...crossing them off one by one.  It became like a game.  I was encouraged because I saw progress happen fast this way and I was moving forward in a plan that had a finish line.  First I did Tiny's details...

...then I did Elliot's.  His details were smaller and more tedious.

I was absolutely amazed at how much my speed picked up (as well as my spirits!).
And....I finished in record time!  Sweet!

A list is a wonderful thing when I feel overwhelmed with details!  It gives me visual progress and it keeps me focused on the pathway to the finish line.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Fixing the blunder

On these paintings, I started off with a bright orange underpainting.  Here it is under can still see I haven't painted over the orange in some places on both paintings.  Both of the paintings below need to show the red kitchen door from the back yard view.  Therefore, I painted the two of them at the same time so that the colors would be the same....and it's faster that way too!  Time and speed efficiency...I love it!

But, sometimes I don't see that a painting isn't working like I thought it would...until....after I've painted it!  When I got through painting these, I asked my wife what she thought of them.  She didn't say anything for what seemed like a looooong time.  Living with another artist for 25 years, I knew something wasn't working for her and I wasn't seeing it.  I pushed her to tell me her honest opinion and when she did,  I saw that the house was not working like I thought.   I was not through with this painting after all!  Here it is...

Since the painting is done with acrylic and acrylic dries very fast, I knew I could paint over the parts that needed to be changed.  The part that I needed to change is to the left of the door.  So I take the tracing drawing first and laid it over the top of the painting and started redrawing the new design on that side.  Then I transferred it onto the top of the painting and started painting over the top...the first strokes are always the hardest because I had already spent a good amount of time and energy on what I now was covering up....

After the initial strokes were made, I just let myself fly into it deeper and deeper, faster and confidence growing.  I knew I could make it come out right...I just needed to continue.  I've had to do this with other paintings.  Acrylic paint is great for redoing a painting by covering over the top with new colors.

Once I got my big shapes blocked in with the house, then I needed to put something on the ground in front of it...I get to be a "landscaper" with a paintbrush.  How cool is that to see things grow right in front of your eyes?!

You can see the tops of the flowers and the lower parts of the plants are still just white outlines needing to be painted....those flower heads look pretty weird, huh?  They are just floating up in the air!
I listened to an audio book while I finished the painting and it made the time go by faster.  Here is the finished's my version of "Extreme Home Makeover" (with a paint brush)!

I'm happy with it now.  You can go back up and compare it with the picture that I started with.  I think my wife's comments helped me take this painting to the place where it needed to best communicate this spread.  (Tiny said he likes it a lot better too....he always sits beside me when I work on a book about him!)
Good boy, Tiny!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Beginning to paint

It's time to PAINT!
I've decided to go ahead and paint two paintings before I finish all my tracing drawings.  This strategy is to try and gain some confidence that I am making good progress on my time deadline.  If at all possible, I am shooting to complete all the paintings a couple of months before the deadline (July).
I've already made the tracing for this painting...and I've already cut the painting board for it and labeled what pages these are.
It's time to trace (or transfere) the drawing onto the painting board.
I line up the crop marks (where the page is going to be cut by the printer when it is bound) on the painting board with the crop marks on the drawing and tape it down.

To transfere the drawing onto the painting board, I put a piece of graphic paper under the drawing and begin tracing over the top of the drawing.

The way that I paint is to use an "underpainting" color.  Usually it is a darker color than what you will see on top (the finished look).  So at this point I only need to trace "around" each of the big detail inside them yet.  Looks like this...

Here is my work area...the painting table is an adjustable table that adjusts to any angle and goes up and down.  I paint in an almost straight up and down position because I've had neck surgery and looking down to paint or draw becomes painful quickly.  Notice too that my chair is not something you would find in an art supply store.  It is a 1920's dental chair!  This gives me the rigid back support I need (neck surgery remember?).  Handy little chair...on the right side you will see that the arm has a painter's palette mounted to it to place my paints on....and under it is the ole "spit basin" that now is my water holder.  The colorful patch on the table is a "wipe place" for my palette knife that I use to mix my colors.
My liquitex paintes are to the side in an old coke bottle holder and other things I need periodically are close by.  An efficient creative area is vital to quality production...each person should make their own area the way they find works best for them.  This is mine after 26 years of doing art...

I've now painted inside the traced down shapes...the boy has dark brown and the thought bubble has cool blue underpainting.

Now I can paint the different details within my big color shapes.  To know what to paint, I bring my drawing back over and put it on top of the shapes...lined up exactly the same as the first time.  This time I slip a piece of "white" transfere paper under the drawing and trace down the details.

And here is what it looks like for me to begin painting on top of the darker shapes.  I call it, "painting out of the darkness" ...or "painting into the light".  From this point, I will just get lighter and lighter by degrees.  Little places here and there of these underpainting colors will show through.  I get to control where that happens.  The underpaintings help to unify the whole picture and tend to give my cartoony pictures a little more realness...3D like.

So, I begin painting in the different colors of each area.  I think I'll start with the boy's hat and the flesh tone inside his glasses which will be slightly darker than the flesh tone on the rest of his face and arms.

Now I'll continue on painting the boys flesh tone on his face and do his shirt and paints.  Notice that it is pretty splotchy looking.  I don't panic about that because I am painting each part by degrees...a build up of layers....dark to medium to lightest values in each area.  You'll see...

I mix my colors on styrofoam plates that I get at wal mart.  It affords me with a disposible clean surface that is white and shows up the colors I am mixing accurately.  When I use up one whole side of the plate, I flip it over (after the paint drys...acrylic dries fast into hard plastic) and use the other side.  Sometimes I will only use one plate per painting and then throw it away.  For me this works well.  Other times I've used wax paper (for the kitchen needs) taped down to mix my colors.  I don't use that much water when I mix my colors, so I don't have to worry about colors sliding off the plate.

Time to work on the other shape..the boy's thought bubble.  I've decided to first find the value of color that will go around the objects that will be in this shape and paint it in.

Finding that color first will help me more accurately know what colors to paint the objects that are in it.  Then I leave the bubble again and head back over to the boy to build up the layer I've begun and get rid of more of the blochiness (sp?!).

Here is how the boy looks when I've gotten the shapes and values solid in order to put the fine details on top...

I go back to the thought bubble and detail in the objects there the same as I did boy.  Here's the finished...

CELEBRATE!!!  Whenever I finish a painting, because I know there are 18 to be done, getting one completely done is an awesome feeling!  I picture myself in my imagination on a journey and I have just finished the first leg of it.  Time to go get an ice cream cone with my wife!  (We all celebrate!)

I went ahead and took the next drawing and took it through the same process as is the beginning drawing...of the boy popping his balloon and Tiny barking in response.

and here is the finished painting!

Man....time for another ice cream cone!  Having these two done is a definite boost to my confidence and I am on schedule.  But this next week I will attempt to get 2 paintings done in the same week...this will mean I will need to put my nose to the grind stone and stay at it consistently.