Thursday, June 30, 2011

Another Weird Drawing

Yep... some more weird drawings. In this case, I was thinking about some basic abstract shapes for my next painting and came across a picture of a neuron. Coupled that with some eyes and change out the body a bit, and we have this little boy.

The idea was some sort of storm creature that floated around the clouds and absorbed energy from the electricity. Since he has a large mouth, a more efficient way to hunt is to have his eye(s) on tentacles in his mouth. He darts straight for the prey, captures it in the mouth (like a whale) and then it passes under the eye and into the gullet. The stick-like appendages around the mouth are used to collect energy so that he can survive, if there is not enough food to eat. The "hands" contain soft filia to help filter out small particulate bugs in the air. Naturally, the "tail" helps him maneuver around the wind currents.

Latest Painting: Focal Point

"Focal Point" is an original 14" x 18" oil painting created on a 1" stretched, high-quality canvas. The painting is presented as unframed (Sides are painted).

When working on a landscape painting, there is always some area of interest that I want to paint. This is the main focal point. The areas outside of that focal area are the supporting actors in the scene. For each person, that focus point is different and is based on their particular tastes or desires. In this case, for some reason, I really liked the trees farther out in the distance.

All Artwork is copyrighted to Doug Hoppes Studio and is not to be copied or reproduced in any form without the permission of the artist. Sale of this item does not transfer its copyright.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Starting work on newest painting

Now that I'm recharged from the IMC, started work on my latest painting. The story concept that I'm going with is that when we look at a landscape scene, there is always something that interests us. For each person, it's different. In this case, from the photo reference, I really liked the landscape in the distance.

So, the first step was to create the thumbnail for the image. As learned from IMC, I need to create multiple thumbnails and not just go with the first one that I like. Also, for the abstract shapes, I searched various images on the internet until I came across an image that seem to match what I wanted.

The thumbnail shows the basic shapes that were used to give the painting some dimensionality. It also borders the focal area to create additional interest to view that area. Now that the thumbnail is the way that I wanted it, other techniques to focus the eye on the focal area will be to use color. For the area around the focal point, a simple grey-scale painting will be done. At this point, I think that the bands will be red, but not sure.

Things to remember are to: 1) apply different strokes in different directions to create interest. 2) Don't rely on symbols for the water or trees. Mass them the way that they are, 3) Remember to establish a foreground, middle ground, and background. In this case, the water in front is the foreground, the trees and area of focus are the middle ground, and the water/trees in the area of focus are the background. Need to establish the values appropriately.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Weirder and Weirder

So, last night I was playing around with drawing more eyes and came up with this boy. It started out as a simple snake with an eye for a head. Then, I figured that that was pretty boring, so, started adding more eyes.

Next thing you know, I ended up with a mouth, a fuller body and a bunch of eye stalks.

Now, it looks kind of like a mad carrot with a snake body and a bunch of different eye stalks. After that, I realized that it was time for me to go to bed.

Why Do It?

You know... after the IMC, I started thinking a lot about my artwork, the illustration field, selling of my products, studying, etc. Then, I start thinking about all of the things in my life: my wife and doggers, my friends, my work, my activities and hobbies. I realized that, when I'm starting something, I'm a pretty focused individual. I work really really hard to be good at it.

When I started rock-climbing, I trained, read books, took lessons such that I could start climbing 5.10b's. When I started programming, I read everything that there was about programming, programmed in my spare time, took workshops, and eventually became a really good programmer. Same with hiking. It wasn't enough to just hike here and there, my friend and I had to hike at different parts of the world (Kilimanjaro, Machu Pichu, Iceland, etc). In every case, to make sure that I did well, I trained. It's not always fun. Most of the time, it's a lot of hard work. However, there's something in me that requires me to excel at it. Not to be the best, but to be pretty good.

This comes with a price. It means that I focus on it to the exclusion of other things. When I was training for Kilimanjaro, I hiked a lot with my friends, but, on my own time, I worked out, I only read hiking/training books, I only ate properly, etc.

Same is true with my artwork. For the last 3 years, I've only read art books, I spent a lot of time drawing and painting, taking lessons, working on the business model to sell my work, etc. My artwork sells at art/craft fairs. Generally enough to pay my booth fees, supply costs, etc. So, the "hobby" is paying for itself. Plus, I usually have money left over to buy my wife jewelry and gifts and the occasional toy for myself (i.e. an iPad and a laptop).

However, for the last 6 months, I've not been having fun. Why? I don't need the money to eat. I don't need the money for retirement. I have a very good job, that I love, with great co-workers and an extremely good salary. I don't need to have people tell me how great I am to feed my ego. I also don't have that obsessive drive that people have for certain activities (You HAVE to draw every day or every other day or you feel bad, etc.... I enjoy drawing/painting, but it's not a requirement for me to be happy).

So, why do I do it? Because drawing and painting make me happy. Would I still be happy even if I wasn't selling my work? Absolutely. It's the way that I am. I'm a nice, goofy, happy guy. This is due to my nature and who I am. Not what I do. Time to remember that. Time to remember why my friends hang out with me. Time to reconnect with the life that I use to have.

I remember in Greg Manchess' talk at IMC, he mentioned that artwork is not fun. He meant that, I'm assuming, that, if you are working for someone, it's a job. It's not always fun. It's a lot of hard work. Since I don't have this as a job, I CAN have it always to be fun. For me, when I get to periods that it's not fun, it's time to stop. Maybe resume it later. Maybe not. For me, life is about having fun and enhancing the life of my friends/family around me.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Self-confidence and Self-doubt

Well, now that I'm back from my workshop and starting to get back to work on my paintings, I realize that I'm stuck. For the last couple of days, I'm trying to figure out how to do a basic painting. Most of it is related to self-confidence and self-doubt.

Now, as many of my friends know, when it comes to my work, I'm a pretty confident guy. I've been a physicist studying atmospheric effects on laser weapon systems (For Hughes Aircraft), been an engineer designing missile trackers (using Kalman Filtering techniques) and air defense networks, been lead architect/designer building Medicare enrollment systems, Toll Plaza ticketing systems, financial stock systems, and I'm currently writing software for a neuroscience company. I've had a pretty successful career and have been happy with all of my accomplishments. I've worked hard at it and studied a lot.

So, my next phase is to be a successful artist. People like my paintings. I sell a number of them at art fairs and to various other venues. My prints seem to be pretty popular. At this time, I sell enough to pay for all of my shows and my supplies, plus my display systems.

So, given all of that, why am I not confident in my artwork. It was IMC. Seeing all of those amazing artists, I realize that I have a LONG way to go. Seeing the amazing paintings and concepts from people, I view my art as relative simple. I think that it's just not good enough.

We are our own worst critics.

How do I get back to where I was confident again? Simple. After indulging in the emotion of not being good enough and self-pity (I always indulge in the emotion. As Tuesdays with Morrie wrote, give into the emotion, see it for what it is, then release it), I now have a plan of attack. I realized that I LIKE my paintings. They may be simple, but I LIKE them. I'm not one to admire the really complex painting with a lot of things going on. So, given that, what can I do? I can make my abstract shapes a little more complex (eventually adding a 3D aspect to them). I can render the landscape more realistically (do a better job of massing the shapes).

I don't need to follow everything that I did when I was at IMC. I just need to get the pieces that I learned and liked and fold them into my painting style. I LIKE my painting style and my paintings give me a sense of peace when I view them.

Now, back to work.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Eyes again

Yep... more eyes. As I draw more and more eyes, I'm getting used to certain features that are always present in the eye. The curvature of the eye, the various textures within the pupil area, and the various ways that the eye lids look. Now that I think that I have the basic eyes down, I think the next phase is to work on various eye expressions. I started that a little bit with the last image, but I need to explore different ways that the eyes and eyebrows are shaped for different expressions.

Monday, June 20, 2011

IMC Notes

Here's a collection notes and things that I learned while I was there. This is, by no means, the complete list, but it's very useful information:

1) Draw the shape, not the object
2) Great idea to copy the masters. Not just the old masters, but people's whose work that you admire. Check out their brush strokes, how they composed the painting, their value range, etc.
3) Learn to know how to see. Don't use symbols.
4) Think always in terms of foreground, middle-ground, and background.
5) warm shadows -> cool light, cool shadows -> warm light
6) When drawing, the thinner line is facing the light and the heavier line is facing the shadows.
7) The best paintings tell a story. What's the story? Figure out the story and then the emotion and then the painting will fall into place.
8) Artwork is about pushing yourself. Do what you want to do and be passionate about it.
9) Clients do not hire you because you can do everything, they hire you because you can do something no one else can do.
10) Find your motivation. Have to want it. Not give up. It's not fun. Get over it. Get back to work.
11) Be your own toughest critic. There are no perfect first draft. All drawing is re-drawing.
12) Beware of the dark side. Bitterness and Blame. Failure is good. It's what you do with the failure that determines how you do.
13) Identify your limitations and then ignore them. Time is a crucial input to excellence.
14) Delay gratification and reset contentedness. Embrace small accomplishments along the way.
15) Have Heroes. Study other paintings that you admire. See how they did it. The brush strokes/pen marks, the compositions, the lighting, etc.
16) Embrace failure. Train. Stop. Analyze Failure. Improve. Move on.
17) A picture is more articulate with a light on a center point, rather than on all of it.
18) Be Courageous. You must show conviction in yourself, if you want to convince others.
19) Write down the core emotion that you want to have for the painting.
20) They wouldn't call it bottom feeding if there wasn't food down there.
21) If you don't know what emotion you want to convey in your work, you will feel... nothing.
22) You want to reach someone's heart and hold it. Make them feel the emotion.
23) You have to be prepared to open your heart.
24) You want them to fall in love with what you've given them.

More Eyes

Yep... more practicing with eyes. They're not coming out too bad. The nice part of the practice is that I get more familiar with my line marks. Since I draw directly with the pen, rather than ink over pencil marks, I need to make sure that the line is the correct line. Once I get done with a total of 60 eyes (going to try to draw 3 eyes a day for the next 20 days), I can start the painting of them.

One of the important things that I learned from the Illustration Master Class was that you need to practice drawing, in addition to painting. They all affect one another. If you have an hour here or there, you have time to draw. The most successful artists spend a lot of their time working (drawing and painting). If I want to get to that level, I need to step up my game and work harder.

Paul Bachem Study

So, during the Illustration Master Class, we were told that a great way to improve our work is the age-old method of studying the "masters". I've heard that before, but never really thought about trying it.

The caveat, as the instructors said, is that you need to study the paintings of people that you admire. They don't have to be the old masters. You need to study the painting, see how they did their brush strokes, see how they laid out the composition, etc. That's a great idea and there are a lot of modern day painters that I really like.

One of them is Paul Bachem. I love the way that he does landscapes. So, I started working on studying one of his paintings (I forgot the name of it). I like how he mixed non-traditional colors into every part of the scene. There's a lot of energy to the painting.

More studies to come.

The Eyes Have it

For some reason, during the IMC, I started having an interest in Eyes (and candles and burning things). Not sure why.

However, to indulge myself, I decided that I need to start drawing eyes for a while and see where that gets me. Not sure what I'm going to do with them, but some of the images may involve syringes near the eyes, cascading water droplets, teeth around them, etc.

I'll have to see what weird things my imagination dregs up.

IMC: Day 7 (Friday)

Friday was the last day. We're all tired and really don't feel like working on our painting. This was a mixture of a sad and happy day.

I got up early and had every intention of heading into the studio to get more work done. However, after hanging out with people at breakfast and having only an hour left to paint, I decided that it was done enough to look good. I didn't want to mess up the painting in the last hour.

So, went around the studio talking to people and checking out their artwork. The interesting part was that I noticed that the art was not near as finished as I thought they were several nights ago. Most people were about in the same state that I was currently at. The paintings were not finished and there was still a lot of work that needs to be done.

Being tired definitely skews up the results.

So, after the final departing lectures, we had a book-signing where all of the artists and students sign each other's book. Nice part is, since we are all artists, everybody just drew in the other people's books. Once the signing was done, we were done. Everybody was heading out for a big drink-fest party that night in Amherst.

When the day started, I was really planning to go. I decided to go home. The issue is me. I may seem to be out-going, active all of the time, etc. In reality, I'm a pretty quiet person. I spent most of my life alone and I like the quiet. By the end of the week, I really really needed to get away from people. So, hopped into my car and did the 4 hour drive home in the quiet.

It was a lot of fun and I can't wait to go back, next year.

IMC: Day 6 (Thursday)

So, woke up that morning, not feeling great at all. It's been about 6 days and I've been working on around 2 - 4 hours of sleep each night. I remember laying in my bed thinking: That's it. I'll never be an artist. The most that I'll ever be is a dabbler. A dilettante playing at being an artist. Everbody's work is coming along so well and mine looks like a childs. I don't even know why I'm at IMC.

After a while of indulging in that emotion, I let it out of me and then started thinking: People like my paintings. People spend their money on my paintings. Just because I'm not near as good as most of the people here, does not mean that I'm not a good artist. Why am I an artist? Is it due to the money that I could make. Is it the recognition? Is it just a thing to pass the time away? Nope. I'm an artist because I have the need to create. I like creating things and expressing my thoughts visually. I like the way that my paintings look. They may not be professional level, but that doesn't mean that I won't get to that level.

So, with some new hope (and some rest... I got 4 hours of sleep that night), I had breakfast and headed into the studio. I saw my painting and said... "Wow! That's awful!" However, I LIKED the coat that I did the night before. Okay, so there's hope. I got down to work.

As I'm working on the egg and the dragon, I was using too small of a brush. It was starting to look "dotty" again. So, Scott came over and showed me what I was doing wrong. In his style, similar to Greg's, the smaller brush strokes are close to the center of focus and the larger brush strokes are farther away. So, I fixed the egg. Greg came over, made a couple of comments and indicated that it was working out well. The only thing that I really needed to fix was to make my dragon even lighter (to push him farther back into the background... which would make him even larger and scarier).

So, it was a long day of working, but the painting was coming along. By 1:30 a.m., I was tired and have given it my all. However, I was happy with the progress that I made. So, it was time to get 4 - 5 hours of sleep. There was no way that I was going to finish it by Friday morning, so, I got it close to a finishing stage.

IMC: Day 5 (Wednesday)

Okay, at this point, I was feeling pretty good, since my color compositions worked out well and I got some rest (3 - 4 hours). I started my block-in color phase in the morning and thought that it was going okay.

Then, it happened.... this day was just awful. Maybe I was more sensitive because I was tired. I don't know. Maybe it was just the pressure and I'm no longer used to it, I don't know. I do know that I was in a pretty depressed mood that day. So, what happened?

So, Greg Manchess (who's work I absolutely admire) started taking a look at my painting and my current portfolio. First thing that he asked was "How long that I've been doing oil painting". So, I mentioned about 3 years or so. He thought so. He commented that the sky and land had horizontal strokes and trees were mainly vertical strokes. I used dots as flowers, I didn't mass properly (in the trees) and whole litany of things that were wrong about how I paint. Then he mentioned that he and Scott Fischer would stop by later to show me how to use my brushes with oil painting.

From there, I started doubting everything that I knew about painting. By now, my ego is pretty crushed. By that night, I wasn't even sure that I should have even been there. I was looking all around me and everybody was doing great. The paintings were coming along, etc. Mine looked like a child did it and it wasn't even completed.

I was feeling pretty down. Rather than working on my painting, I just sat there, did some sketches that were really really weird and just let my emotions dump out onto the paper.

That night, Scott Fischer came by and gave some instruction about how to use the brush and various strokes. We talked about effective ways to lay down lines using the square-headed brushes. We talked about how to change the shape of the line by changing the stroke, etc. It was incredibly informative.

Greg came by, that night, told me to not look so glum and gave some instruction about how to paint using his style. Now, Greg's style, I absolutely love. He places a stroke down and then places another one. The strokes are generally at different angles, but each one has a different value. Therefore, you are left with a painterly look, but not static. It's gorgeous stuff. So, since I was here to learn and not finish my painting, I decided to just get to work and see what he has to teach.

After some false starts, I started understanding about the stroke and placement of the stroke relative to values. So, I played a little bit with the strokes on my main character's jacket, and after a while, it started looking "eh". Not great. By that time, I had to go home and get some sleep.

IMC: Day 3 (Monday)

Now that I've got my drawing done, I was ready to begin the mounting phase. This is a matter of using acrylic matte medium and then, essentially "gluing" the watercolor paper to the masonite panel. The procedure was pretty simple to do and went on well. It takes about 2 -4 hours to dry. Once the watercolor paper is "glued" down, then, for oils, you add another then layer of matte medium over it, wait for it to dry, sand it down, and then add one more coat (let dry and then sand). Once completed, you have a pretty good mounting and smooth surface to paint on. In addition, you can see your line drawing on the panel.

Now that the mounting was completed, I was able to start my color compositions (around 6:00). Things were going well and I was ahead of schedule. I was pretty happy... things definitely go south from there. So, after working up different color compositions, Ian comes over and checks out my comps at 1:30 a.m. Looks at them... Asks me if I am happy with what I have (I say that they are okay, but missing something). He then turns to me and says: "No.... need to fix this. There is no separation from the foreground, middle ground, and background. It's too flat." So, he gave me an assignment to do for the next day. Explained about how to create a better separation.

By now, it's 2:30 a.m and I just want to get back to my dorm room. A bit dejected, but I'm here to learn, not to impress people. So, time to clean the brushes and get back to bed.

IMC: Day 4 (Tuesday)

Okay, well, things are starting to get a little tougher. Mainly (now that I can easily think about it) due to the fact that I'm getting more tired.

So, after getting some sleep (not much... about 2 hours... spent part of the time thinking about what I'm doing wrong with the color compositions), I had breakfast and headed into the studio to get more work done. Next lecture wasn't until 9:00, so I had about 2 hours to work. I started working on the new color compositions and fully realizing that I was starting to get farther and farther behind.

After getting the two basic color compositions done, I found Ian and asked him what he thought. He just gives me that smile and says "No...Better... but, no". Okay, now I'm still not getting it and realizing that the time is slipping away. The issue, that Ian says, is that I now have a less flattened painting, but I have a foreground/middle-ground and background or a foreground and middle-ground/background painting. So, next assignment: Do the same thing, but use only black, titanium white, yellow ochre and cadmium red.

So, back to the drawing board and more lectures to attend. I finally finished the third piece around 11:30 to midnight. Ian comes over and has this happy smile: "YES!!!!! That's exactly right! See that Foreground (Egg and Man), Middle-ground (Dragon) and background (sky). That's what I wanted you to see!".

So, feeling pretty good, I went to bed earlier that night... but, my mind was still reeling, so, got about 3 hours of sleep. Maybe tomorrow, I can actually start my painting.

IMC: Day 2 (Sunday)

Getting tired. Had about 3 hours of sleep last night. The worst part is that my body is trained to wake up at 4:30 - 5:00, so going to bed around 2 - 3 a.m., doesn't help me get any rest.

So, headed over to the studio after breakfast and started working on my drawing. More lectures that morning and more drawing time. After a while, Greg Manchess and Ian McCaig came over and checked out my work. The dragon's head was still too small and I needed to make it larger.

Once the dragon's proportions were correct and I got the basic drawing done, Greg Manchess didn't like the wings. Using the standard single hook hand didn't do it for him. He suggested that I start positioning my hands at different angles (similar to a bat hand) and then work from there. That did the trick. Worked out much better and also produced a nice composition block for the right side of the painting.

Now that the basic composition shape was correct, I started to begin the process of creating a full-size drawing (18 x 24) on two-ply watercolor paper. This is the initial process for Donato's technique of mounting the paper onto masonite.

So, working until late that night, I finally finished the composed drawing and was able to go home at a reasonable hour (1:45 a.m.)

IMC: Day 1 (Saturday)

It's very very exciting! The first day of IMC (Saturday), I couldn't wait to get into the studio to see what was going on. Breakfast started around 7:00 a.m. and then off to the studio at 8:00. There were three studios available (two for painting/drawing and one for digital work). So, after checking out the various studios, parked my butt upstairs with one of the larger wooden easels. Since I paint standing up, I like to have some room to move back and forth.

So, after that, we had our basic introduction meeting and then off to the critique session. The critique's were broken into groups of 12 students with 4 instructors (in each room). After looking at my drawing, the basic comment was that it needed to be a LOT more exciting. We changed the viewing angle so that you were looking up at the egg (which made the egg a lot larger). Also, the guy needed to be more exciting. Rather than being half-way through the stroke, we re-positioned the main character so that the sword was at a full-back swing and showed a lot of emotion in the face.

An interesting comment was that they asked why there was a man running in the back. What was the basic premise. I finally mentioned that I added him because I thought that we had to have, at least, two people. Didn't need to. So, the running man added nothing to the story, so he was removed.

Now, that I had the basic idea going, during the afternoon, it was time to start restructuring the drawing using the new ideas. First thing that I had to do was to change the perspective of the guy and the egg. Make it closer and look up from the middle of the egg.

Then, the next step was to change the position of the sword to make it more dynamic. This entailed taking more reference photos with the sword behind the head and the person starting the swing at the beginning of the arc, rather than the middle

Once the angle was changed and the person was positioned correctly, the next step was to add the dragon. So that the dragon was looming over the guy, I needed to redraw a totally different dragon and then fill up the negative space with some wings or something else.

After I had my basic drawing done, Ian came over and readjusted it to make it more dynamic. The dragon had to be bigger and more menacing. The sword had to come back farther. The coat had to swing more.

In comparison to my drawing, this is the equivalent of me coming into a room and saying "Hi... I'm Dougie" versus "Yo!!!! Dougie's in the HOUSE!!!"

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Illustration Fixed

So, after showing several people my latest submittal for the Illustration Master Class, they all commented on the same thing: The woman who had her arm reaching out confused them. Honestly, this was an afterthought addition, so I'm not surprised that people didn't like it. After reviewing it for a while, I decided that I didn't really care for it, either. It lacked the impact that I wanted and made some of the depth cues confusing.

So, I decided to change it up. The right side of the drawing was definitely missing something and thought that a person running to the guy destroying the egg would be more interesting. It balances out the drawing much better and doesn't detract from the center image. I also added the cloudy mist that the dragon appears from.

I'm happier with this final composition, so that I can now focus on the color scheme.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Tree Study

Well, I've not been happy with my trees lately. There are a number of issues that I have with them. First of all, the colors that I use for my greens are a bit too saturated. Not terribly so, but a bit more than I like. The second issue is that the massing of the trees are not quite right. Most of my trees looks like balls or cylinders. This means that I'm not actually looking at a tree, but using a tree representation in my paintings. Okay, how do I fix that. Simple... more plein air work and studies.

So, this morning, rather than going out somewhere to do a full plein air study, I just went out my back deck. The tree on the right is the tree in my backyard. There's no reason to go anywhere when you have study material all around you.

First thing I did was to mix various colors of green to match the color that I saw. I mixed various versions of Cadmium Yellow (light, hue, and deep) with various versions of Blue (Ultramarine Deep, Ultramarine Light, Cerulean) and my favorite dark green (payne's grey with Cadmium deep). Using a palette knife, I mixed the colors and held them up to the tree to see what matched. Some of them, I had to add some greys to tone down the saturation a bit.

Once I got the colors right, I then started squinting and separating the dark and light areas. This gave me my basic structure. From there, it's magic. Adding a bit of light grey here and there for the highlights and a bit of the dark green to the mid-green to darken some areas.

Overall, I'm pleased with my results. However, still need a lot more practice with it.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Latest Painting: Rainbow Bridge

"Rainbow Bridge" is an original 16" x 22" oil painting created on a 1" stretched, high-quality canvas. The painting is presented as unframed (Sides are painted).

This painting is a remembrance for those who have lost dogs. Every dog owner knows about the rainbow bridge. I like to think of it as an area there there's lots of trees, water, sunshine and lots of room to play.

All Artwork is copyrighted to Doug Hoppes Studio and is not to be copied or reproduced in any form without the permission of the artist. Sale of this item does not transfer its copyright.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Finished Assignment

So, for the Illustration Master Class that I will be attending next week, we had to come up with a drawing of our proposed concept. The requirement (for the assignment that I chose) was two or more people and one or more dragons.

So, here's the piece that I came up with. In this case, the woman and the dragon are not happy about the guy destroying the dragon egg. The area around the dragon will have lots of clouds, etc... so that he comes out of the midst.

I'm pretty happy with this. My first attempt at something like this.... drawing an actual scene from my head using various reference photos of me and my wife in different poses. It was a lot of work and a lot of fun to do.

It will be interesting to see how the instructors change it around.