At the Drawing Board: Making Silhouette #3

Posted: July 3, 2012 by Mat Festa in Misc, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Mat Festa

matfesta@tiamatsgarden.com

Follow my work on Facebook [July only: LIKE my Facebook page and get Miséréri Nobis, my first graphic novel (238 pages) for free], Twitter, and Tiamat’s Garden.

Greetings ladies and gentlemen, my dears and darlings. Today for thy enjoyment, enlightenment, edification, and lots of other fancy words that begin with an ‘e’ I offer you a step by step breakdown of what went into the creation of one of my recent artworks, ‘Silhouette #3.’

0. This preliminary step, silly as it may sound, is of vital importance. This is a problem faced by amateurs just starting out and the most seasoned of veteran artists alike. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a blank page. [Blank canvas, paper, etc. For this project i used bristol board.] It does not bite. Do not be afraid of it. WHEN you make mistakes – it is not a question of “if” – you can fix them, paint/draw over them, work them into the piece, or just throw it out and start over. Canvases can be re-stretched. More paper can be bought. [Paper is cheap. Even fancy paper can be cheap.] It happens. Relax and go with it.

1. The reason behind the first step here won’t be immediately apparent. This is an acrylic wash that I sponged on with a rag. Instead of using water to make washes like this I tend to use a high concentration (90%) rubbing alcohol. It has a slightly thinner viscosity – better for leaving a textured pattern – and evaporates much quicker, which dramatically lessens the amount of paper/board buckling.

2. Once the wash was sponged on and dry I began laying down the water colors. Making a painting from water colors alone is very difficult and takes a lot of practice. It is still a medium I am no where near skilled enough to work with. However I love using them to lay down colors, patterns, textures as a component part of a more complex and layered work. With some pieces I do in this manner I’ll just throw the paint down abstractly and let it fall as it may, but going into this one I had the finished composition in mind from the outset so I put the paint down in a specific manner – albeit still loosely. The figure, a solid black silhouette, was going to be centered so I had the yellows, the brightest point, start there and move toward the reds, the darkest, at the edges. This keeps her pronounced and the largest point of focus in the piece.

3. At this point I began the penciling of the figure herself. As you can tell from this my pencils are little more than vague sketches. This is the main reason I didn’t include my preliminary concept sketches in here. Some graphic artists and illustrators will plan everything out in their pencil work before beginning to ink. As for myself once I have the image that I want in mind the pencils serve mainly to orient it all on the page.

4. Inking. As far as graphic design and illustration work goes inking is by far my favorite part and the medium I am most comfortable with. This is also the reason why my pencils are, for the most part, rough and simplistic. All the fine details and nuances of the piece are worked out during the inking itself. The ripples of fabric in her skirt were done with a brush, then the outline of the silhouette with a fine tip pen, and lastly all filled in. As I said prefer to plan everything out in the penciling stage – this allows you to erase, experiment – but personally I find more freedom and have more fun doing it this way. Now, go read that last sentence again. Yes, I said I have more FUN doing it this way. Fun is of the most vital importance. If you don’t have a passion for what you’re doing and enjoy the doing of it then why are you?

5. Leaving her just as the inked silhouette felt unfinished. She seemed to be ambiguously floating on the page, so to frame the image I added this henna styled pattern around the boarders. This was made with pen and colored ink. You can buy colored inks but this was one that I made myself using a solution of acrylics, ink, and water. [Water used here instead of alcohol because of the way it is being applied. Using a dip pen it needs to have a much higher ratio of pigment to solvent in order to be opaque. If alcohol were used it would be thick, sticky, and wouldn’t flow from the pen. These are things you only learn from trial and error. This isn’t about using the “best” materials, it’s using what you’re most comfortable with to achieve the look you want. Play around. See what works for you.] None of this was penciled out at all but was done freehand as the inking largely was. It takes a lot of practice to be comfortable doing it this way. A large mistake here or with the inking could mean having to start over from the beginning, and believe me there are plenty of mistakes in there. Hopefully they are small enough to not be noticed when looking at the work as a whole.

6. This last step doesn’t have an image to accompany it because by its nature there isn’t one. Namely, digital compositing. This is NOT a part of the making of the piece itself but is an essential one for allowing people to see it. The nature of the ‘industry’ being what it is today the overwhelming majority of the people who see a work like this do so via digital means. Even prints, should any be made, would be created from the digital files. What this means is photographing or what is much more often the case, as it is here, scanning the art. This can drastically change the look of a piece. For starters a scanner is an intense and close light source. This will not only change the color of water colors but makes them translucent. This is where the initial acrylic wash comes in. I wanted the background to have a crackling fiery look to it and the wash beneath the water colors adds this extra texture. You can see it looking at the piece itself and in the scanned image. Photographing the work, while it could provide a high enough quality image for reproduction, wouldn’t be able to pick this up and would leave the background muted. Also under the intense light of the scanner the ink becomes highly reflective. This can leave huge white and grey blotches all over it. To counter this these scanner artifacts are digitally painted over with solid black. The largest advantage photographing art has vs scanning is being able to capture the whole piece at once. Due to the size of the scanner bed this work needed to be scanned in four sections and then pieced back together. This is a lot of tedious work and is difficult even at the best of times to hide the seams. This doesn’t make the work itself a digital piece – the art itself was finished with the ‘henna’ inking – this is making the digital facsimile as close to the physical work as possible so that you can see it how it truly is. Being conscious of reproduction is a concern that in all honesty I’ve only recently become aware of.

7. Ta-da! YOU ARTED!

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