As part of the show I am having this November at the Los Angeles gallery Iam8bit, they asked if I could document the process of making a representative painting. On my own, I’ve attempted to do this but have usually forgotten to actually photograph the work as I got into the painting process. Having an “assignment” to document the process kept the need to photograph each step more present and I managed to capture much of the process. I’ll present the photos and offer a little insight into the how and what is going on.
Once upon a time, I drew the action figures by hand and eye. That took a long time. I now set up the toy on a shelf, adjust the lighting and take a quality photograph and then transfer the line drawing to the canvas. My aim is to create a piece that relies on design and color to carry the impact and spending hours nitpicking over the drawing and proportion takes time and energy away from the good stuff. Shortcuts that make your process work more efficiently without sacrificing something essential are worth taking. Work smarter, not harder…
Once the line drawing is transferred and ready, I layer a color or two to ground the canvas and set the color in a direction that seems appropriate. I am trained as a watercolorist so although I am making these pieces in acrylic, I layer them with a mind to watercolor and its subtle color vibrations. Thinking ahead, the Obi Wan Kenobi action figure is colored a deep burnt orange and I am anticipating a blue background at the finish. By layering orange and burnt sienna at the beginning I am giving myself the opportunity to layer a blue over those warmer colors later on in the process and I’ll get a little color tension and sparkle from the two opposite colors playing off each other.
I keep deepening the orange tones and add the shadow to start to inform the space of the canvas (also as the colors layer, the line drawing gets harder to see and I need to bring color to the figure lest it disappear under the orange.)
Next step is to flesh out Obi Wan with some basic local color. In addition I start to define some of the shadows on the figures form in anticipation of the next step…
BLUE! I’ve masked off the action figure with masking film and layered a number of different blues to create the tension and sparkle to offset the stoic figure. I lost the shadow as I didn’t mask it off and I put it back in place with a bluer tone which seems to make more color sense with the blues of the background. Its amazing how much more vibrant an orange the figure seems when its surrounded by blues.
Next step is to flesh out Obi Wan with more defined colors and values to give a sense of the light, shadow and form of the action figure. I’ve also softened the cast shadow with some reds to give it a more purple tone. I want the figure to stand out and the shadow to complement that “pop.”
I’ve masked the figure (and shadow this time) again and am reevaluating the blue layer. I didn’t like the way it was progressing as it didn’t seem bold enough as a surface. At this point I’ve invested a lot of time and effort into the layering of the blue and orange background so changing it drastically hurts… but, if it isn’t working it needs to change until it is working. The job of the blue is to support the figure and not distract from it and the sparkle of orange and blue that I theorized would work so well is becoming a distraction so it needs to change.
Peeling off the mask and the simpler two tones of blue with only a minimum of the orange shining through works much more effectively. A few finishing touches on the figure such as adding highlights and deepening the shadows give Obi Wan a more physical presence on the canvas. My initial impulse to offset the deep oranges of the figure with a blue background seems to be a solid choice and I am happy with the results.