drawing media



Another attempt at mixing scratchboard and color.  In this case I started with a fully black scratchboard and incised the image.  I then came back and painted over select areas with washes of watercolor, blotting in some areas to let more of the white show through, and adding extra washes in others to make the colors deeper.  

The picture is based on a magazine photo.  

Toil in the Radish Fields


A little mock up painting I made to try working on hot-press rather than cold-press watercolor paper.  I actually did this painting some time last semester, but never got around to scanning it.  

I've always been told that hot-press paper (which is the smoother kind of watercolor paper) is best for ink and line work, but in playing with this and a few other scraps and some india ink I found that this paper was much more apt to leach and bleed the ink lines than good ol' cold-press.  

The caption is a little hard to read at this dpi (and lacks a certain appriciation for proper spelling), so I've reporduced it below.  It reads:

Elizabeth was told on numerous occasions not to play in the fields at harvest time, but every year the temptation proved too great, so Uncle Mark always told the field hands to keep an eye out for her.  She would be the one that didn't look like a radish.

The line is from a short story I was working on.

Watercolor Scraps

I did a few brief watercolor paintings over the last semester that I never really got around to posting, until now.  Most of these were done on scraps of watercolor paper I had left lying around after cutting up larger sheets.  You'll probably notice the watermarks from the paper in the corner of some of these.  The other holes are from the staples that held the paper while I stretched it.  


This was based on a photo of one of those hairless sphinx cats.  The red lines were made by filling an old-fashioned lining pen with watercolor water.


Based on a much cooler photograph of the same sort of wet and unfocused view of a city street.  Wish I could find the photo.


I love a lot of the birds on here, but there are a few that don't look quite right.  They also happen to be the last few I added.  Sometimes it's hard to stop, even when you know you should.


You can never have too many walruses.  

The Information Window

I really liked some of the ideas I got out of yesterday's sketches, so I wanted to try experimenting on one of them.  Below is one of the sketches I hadn't completely finished before posting yesterday.


Based on the above sketch I decided to add some color.  I redrew things on some BFK and painted an under layer of gouache.  Then I went back over the dried paint with pencil to replicate the original textures.  


The gouache is proving canteniorious when it comes to color matching.  There is a drastic shift between it's color when wet on the palette and when dry on the page, and the shift isn't always in the same direction.  The yellow background for example was originally very pail, but turned rather vibrant as it dried.  

Lightbulbs, Steam-Pipes, Tentacles, and Hats

Some days I sit with my sketchbook and can't come up with a single thing, and other days this happens.  


I can't be sure, but I think the catalyst here was thinking about our toaster, which is currently a little under the weather.


I'm particularly proud of that bird like creature to the gentleman's left.  Sort of half parrot, half traffic cone, half shaggy dog.  


Octo and Parasol


I was planning on finishing an other painting this morning but I ran out of white gouache, so instead I decided to take a crack at some small pieces of scratchboard I had left over from a previous project.

[re]frigerator (now in color)

Starting from last week's sketches I made a few attempts at the refrigerator composition in paint.  


For a first attempt I decided to go with acrylics.  As you can probably tell I didn't get very far.  For whatever reason I find acrylic paint to be endlessly frustrating: it dries too quickly; it looks like flat plastic once it does so; it's uneven if applied too wet; and lower layers disintegrate if you overwork new layers on top.  


For my next try I went with oils.  I had my first real experience with oil painting this last semester and found it to be enjoyable, but I've been reluctant to use it at home because of the fumes.  Here I used a small set of water mixable oils that avoid the need for turpentine, but the paints themselves still have strong fumes.

In any case, this piece turned out much better than the last.  However, because the oils take so long to dry I had to make this composition in a single pass, rather than the layers I worked with in previous oil paintings.  Working in this way is not as enjoyable because I end up fighting with the wet layers of paint.  


My last attempt was made in gouache.  I bought a small set of gouache colors some time last year but never really made much use of them other than to thinly mix with watercolors.  You can see here however that I've kept the paint thick and opaque.  I really like the results.  The colors don't have that rich depth that the oils give you (in fact they're a little chalky looking), but the layers were easy to work, and the the final piece scans really well.   


Some preparatory sketches for a painting I'm planning.  While I've got some time off I want to experiment with a few different painting techniques, so I came up with a very simple composition.  Hopefully I'll be able to play with this same basic layout in a few different ways.

Photo Faces

Sketches from a few photos.  Thanks to B Tal's and his great photo stream for inspiration.

Wall Street Journal Hedcuts

  hedcut self-portrait

I’ve been practicing my portraiture lately, and in the process of trying out a few different styles I started thinking about the iconic portraits of CEO’s and celebrities they use in the Wall Street Journal. The Journal quite famously eschews the use of any photographs in its stories, though this has been changing in recent years.

As an alternative to photography, illustrator Kevin Sprouls approached the editors with the concept of stipple portraits, which resemble both engravings and the stippled halftone portraits that were common in newspapers before photography became the norm. Since then these ‘hedcuts’ as they’re called (note the spelling) have become a trademark of the Journal.

Although originally developed by Sprouls, there are now a number of artists generating these portraits for the Journal (between 4 and 6 depending on which article you read). Though I haven't been able to track them all down, the following artists are well known participants.

  • Kevin Sprouls — the originator of the technique. CNN filmed an interview with Sprouls in 1984 that is available from the National Portrait Gallery, though the quality is pretty low.
  • Noli Novak — a staff artist for the Wall Street Journal, she now oversees other artists learning the technique. NPR’s All Things Considered did an interview with Noli in 2005.
  • Randy Glass — who has a large collection of his Journal work on his web site. I was also surprised to see his pencil and watercolor portraits of the Deep Space 9 cast.

Sprouls’ style has become so iconic that the National Portrait Gallery here in the U.S. now houses a collection of original portraits donated by the Journal, and provides a web gallery discussing the topic with examples and information.

One thing the NPG’s web site notes is that the guidelines developed for this technique allow the Journal to homogenize the work of multiple artists into a uniform look. Indeed I think that many people assume that the process is mechanical. However if you look carefully at the portraits, you can see small differences. Glass for example always surrounds his portraits with a thick outer contour.

The belief that these portraits are simply a Photoshop filter of some sort is underscored by the large number of people posting to related forums looking for advice on how to reproduce it. Though an ersatz copy, one of the best tutorials I’ve seen is this technique (though the author incorrectly conflates this technique with the woodcut style of illustrations on O’Reilly books). You’ll also see people using scan-line filters to give a similar, and fare more pleasing effect. NPR is currently using this technique for the portraits of its bloggers, for example on the Blog of the Nation (see the right sidebar).

If, like me, your more interested in the pen and paper techniques, the Dow Jones Company (The Journal’s parent) provides a PDF which explains the process. Best of all, the resolution is outstanding, so you can get a close look at the stippling.  Above is my first attempt.