Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Best of Both Worlds

-By Julian Totino Tedesco

Hey everybody! I'm super excited to become a small part of the MC family. As many of you, I've been visiting the site on daily basis since its beginning, so i'm very happy and proud of being able to contribute.

This Meme sums up pretty well how I feel here at MC, among such amazing artists.

In my first post, I'd like to share a method that has proven to be very effective for me to achieve a more organic and traditional feel in my digital paintings.

The truth is that, when it comes to traditional mediums, I'm not as skilled as I'd like to be. Given time - a lot of time - I might be able to come up with something decent (or barely decent). But even having time on my hands, I'm never able to control the final outcome.

Don't get me wrong, I strongly believe that vertigo and uncertainty, in moderate amounts, are wonderful things, but having absolutely no control over what you're doing is no good when you're a pro working under a deadline.

Mixing traditional mediums with digital tools can be an efficient way to get the control and speed that comes with digital tools, and the texture and organic feel of traditional mediums. This is a method you can use, even if you aren't a skilled traditional painter.

Pencils for the cover of "Web Warriors" #4. Marvel Comics 2016.

I usually start with a traditional pencil drawing. The size and type of paper tend to vary according to my needs, but I usually work with a 11"x17" Bristol board.

Once I have the pencil ready and scanned, I print it out on a 9"x12", 300 gm aquarelle paper. I've printed it on a smaller size here because I wanted to work fast, and I wasn't looking for definition or detail at this stage.

Before I start painting (I'll use acrylics), I apply a layer of acrylic gloss medium & varnish covering the whole sheet. The varnish creates a sort of thin plastic coat, impeding the paint from penetrating the paper completely, letting the paint flow freely and reacting in unexpected ways, which is part of the organic feel we're looking at this point.

It doesn't matter how bad you're with acrylics, this is a stage you can still handle. And it doesn't matter how tight your deadline is, this is a step that can be done very fast.

I've used a very old brush with hard bristle to apply the varnish (a cheap, dirty, old brush), so it can leave a texture that I can shape at will, but you can use all sort of different tools like a sponge, a crumpled piece of paper, etc, and get different textures.

For the painting, I'm using Acrylics. You don't have to be picky with the brand here because it won't be a final piece, and the coloring will be handled in Photoshop.

I'll just loosely set the lighter and darker tones using just a few different tubes of paint. The whole point of this proccess is creating a sort of underlayer to work on top later in Photoshop. This is the stage where you bring the texture, the brush strokes, the chaos! Go wild, and don't worry much about details, you'll take care of that at the digital stage.

Now that you have your painting done, we are ready to jump into the digital stage.

With tools like Hue/Saturation and Selective Colors, you can add adjustments layers and start building your color scheme. The painting will change dramatically, but the texture and brush strokes will remain.

Once you're happy with your color scheme , you can start with the actual digital brush work: Adding accents of shadows, glazings , working on details, etc. Try to keep your layers semi transparent at first, so you won't cover the textures, but feel confident to add some opaque accents here and there for the end, where it corresponds.

"Web Warriors" #4. Marvel Comics 2016.

It's not about fooling anybody into thinking this is a traditional painting. It's about bringing some organic elements to your digital work.

There's a lot of great brushes out there, to get "painterly" results, but sometimes it's easier to just paint something very basic and work from there.

Cover for "Thunderbolts" #2. Marvel Comics 2012.

You can see the three steps in the image above: The pencil stage, to the left, the acrylic underlayer, in the middle, and the digital stage, to the right. Notice how the acrylic layer is very basic and raw and, still, was enough to give the digital work a nice organic feel.

Cover for "Agents of SHIELD" #7. Marvel Comics 2014.
Digital and final step.

Corel Painter offers a great tool called Blender. As indicated by the name, it allows you to blend the painting and mix the colors in a very efficient way. Like and advance version of the Smudge Tool in Photoshop. I use it very often, but have in mind that you need to have your layers flattened for a better result.

In this detail you can see the result of mixing your edges with the Blender tool.

Just a fast and loose layer of painting should work to get you some nice texture, but you can go as far as you want/can with your painting, before jumping into the digital stage.

Cover for "Black Knight" #4. Marvel Comics 2015.

Last tip: You can emphasize the texture by using one of the Sharpen filters in Photoshop, during the process, or once the image is finished. I use it a lot. Have in mind that the printed work will probably look less sharp than what you see in the screen, so don't be afraid to push it a bit. By using a mask, you can apply the Sharpen filter to specific areas, instead of the whole image.

Have fun!

Monday, July 24, 2017

New Members!

In an effort to keep things fresh, informative, and as relevant as possible, we are always adding new members to our Muddy Colors roster. We are extremely proud to say that in the next few days and weeks, you will be seeing the first posts of several new contributors.

We are just as excited as you are to see what they will be bringing to the blog. So please join us in welcoming these amazing artists to our Muddy Colors Family...

Charles Vess

Charles graduated with a BFA from Virginia Commonwealth University, and worked in commercial animation for Candy Apple Productions in Richmond, VA before moving to New York City in 1976. It was there that he became a freelance illustrator, working for many publications, including Heavy Metal, Klutz Press, Epic Comics and National Lampoon.

Charles' art has been featured in several gallery and museum exhibitions across the nation including two exhibitions in New York City: "Modern Fairy Tales" with Michael Kaluta at the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, and Spectrum: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art" at the Museum of American Illustration at the Society of Illustrators. In Europe he has shown in Paris, Spain, Portugal, Italy and the UK.

Charles' awards include the Ink Pot, three World Fantasies, the Mythopoeic, two Spectrum Annuals - a Gold and a Silver, two Chesleys, Locus (Best Artist), and two Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards.

Julian Totino Tedesco

Julian was born in 1982, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he currently lives.

Julian got his start doing concept art for commercials and painted backgrounds for animated movies. But in 2009, Julian began doing comic covers for Boom! Studios, and has never looked back. For the past several years, he has been doing covers for companies like Marvel, DC, DarkHorse, BOOM! Studios and Valiant Comics, making one of the most recognized talents in the field.

Heather Theurer

Heather’s paintings are the product of decades of observation of people, environments, animals and textiles. Although she was not able to obtain a formal education in art, all her studies of the natural world in addition to the works of great artists including the renaissance masters, the pre-raphaelites of the late 19th century and modern masters have influenced her work in a way she couldn’t imagine getting in a classroom.

Themes in her work include religious symbolism, fantasy realism, equine and wildlife, and bold reworking of Disney characters. Her process in painting is constantly morphing as she applies new techniques, but most often consist of a multitude layers of paint and glazes (as many as 20 or so in some cases) to reach the desired depth and detail that dominates her work.

Shared and collected around the world, Heather Theurer’s paintings are constructed in the midst of a bustling family with five children in Las Vegas, Nevada. Regardless of the challenges, her art has gone on to get the attention of USA Today and the LA Times, garnered contracts with Disney Fine Art and Fantasy Con, and received recognition and awards from respected organizations such as Art Renewal Center, Artist’s Magazine and Spectrum, among others.

Jeff Miracola

Jeff began his career in 1993 as a freelance illustrator for many role-playing/collectible card game companies such as Wizards of the Coast, Upper Deck, Blizzard and White Wolf. His work has been exhibited in numerous galleries, and his art and tutorials featured in publications such as: Advanced Photoshop, Expose, and ImagineFX magazines.

Jeff is a Silver Medal Winner in Spectrum: the Best in Fantastic Art and was the 2011 Guest of Honor at GenCon, the longest running gaming convention in the world.

Jeff is very passionate about sharing his knowledge of art techniques through his popular YouTube channel, which currently boasts more than 31,000 subscribers and 1.5 million views. His feature-length art instruction DVD series for Fantasy Art Workshop received rave reviews from ImagineFX Magazine, Video Librarian, and more.

When Jeff isn’t creating art for himself or clients, he loves to travel and work out with his wife, with whom he has three children.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Artist of the Month: Frederic Church

-By William O’Connor

Almost ten years ago I moved with my family to live on the Hudson River about 20 miles north of Manhattan. As an artist I was immediately struck by the beauty of the river and came to realize the extensive artistic heritage of the Hudson. This week I was finally able to realize an item on my art wish list and took a trip up the river to visit the historic Olana Estate, the home of 19th century American Master of the Hudson River School Frederic Church (1826-1900).

Many times in the past in this series I have talked about the tumultuous events of the 19th century, Romanticism, The Industrial Revolution and the Victorian era. The social, political and subsequently artistic changes were radical. Most of the posts I have written however have looked at this change from the European perspective. By looking at Church we can see the same changes reflected by the American artist. Church’s career encapsulates the most revolutionary generation in American history, stretching from a pre-Civil War agrarian society, to a trans continental superpower in less than 40 years.

Church was born into a traditional monied family in rural Connecticut before steam locomotives began to transform New England. As a young man Church became the pupil of Thomas Cole, a British landscape painter who founded the Hudson River School. Cole’s Romantic style (like Friedrich, Martin  or Turner -click on link to see those Artist of the Month’s) exalted and celebrated in the power of nature over man. The landscape painting became the source by which an artist could pay homage to the beauty of God’s creation. Under Cole’s tutelage Church adopted this Romantic style.

In 1861 America underwent a violent transformation. The industrial revolution pushed the traditionally agrarian nation to a breaking point as to what kind of country it would be in the future. An expanding, modern world power, or a traditional farming society. The American Civil War separates America’s 19th century experience from that of its European counterparts by catapulting the nation into industrial superpower status practically overnight. Less than four years after the end of the war the transcontinental railroad is completed; before the end of the century the United States will double in population (30 million to 60 million) and would add a dozen new stars to its flag. Expansion and growth socially, technologically, societally and of course artistically were transforming the nation at an unimaginable speed.

Church was as transformed by the war as the country. Before the war he had traveled extensively to Europe and South America to study the majestic landscapes, most famously for his painting “The Heart of the Andes” 1859. At ten feet wide it was a work so meticulously detailed that it served as a botanical guide, and so luminous it was presented to the public like a modern day blockbuster film, with audiences queuing to get a look at the famous painting with opera glasses at a railing, as if gazing out a picture window.  The sale of paintings like Heart of the Andes and others made Church famous and rich.

Only a few years after the war Church began the Olana estate on the Hudson in the very region where he had studied with Thomas Cole. Church, the Hudson River School and the American Frontier had become a powerful brand. The American vista had become something to claim as America's Manifest Destiny. Whereas in Europe artists were depicting their imperial legacy with Victorian paintings of  Roman bath houses and picturesque landscapes of ruins and cathedrals, in America the landscape was its legacy, its panoramic natural splendor was its cathedral bequeathed to a fledgling empire by God. American Nationalism was tied to its landscape with Church and other contemporary artists like Albert Beirstadt painting a bright future written across the sky (literally and figuratively). In his later years Church's artistic output diminished and the Hudson Valley School went out of style sending Church into semi retirement. After his death large landscape paintings fell out of fashion for most of the twentieth century. Today a renaissance of academic 19th century art has renewed interest in The Hudson River School and Frederick Church leaving an artistic legacy uniquely American.

For those artists, and art aficionados, living or visiting the American East Coast and New York City, I highly recommend the artist’s trail along the Hudson River, from the Brooklyn Museum, to the Hudson River Museum  in Yonkers, up to Storm King Art Center  in New Windsor, NY, The Dia Museum  in Beacon and up to Olana Mansion in Hudson NY.

Get out there and explore!



Below is a selection of Church paintings as well as a link to the photos of my trip to Olana State Historic Mansion

"The Heart of the Andes" 1859

"Aurora Borealis" 1865

"Niagra Falls, from the American Side" 1867

"Olana" 1870