Blog posts are easy when they are made by someone else- so here's Netherworld Arcade's take on my decal and trading card paintings I did for them. Dream job with a great end result!
Blog posts are easy when they are made by someone else- so here's Netherworld Arcade's take on my decal and trading card paintings I did for them. Dream job with a great end result!
Netherworld Prints are now available! These are from an amended full colour ink drawing done of the mural in the Netherworld Arcade. Prints are $30 (+ P&H) and are 620mm x 280mm. just head to the Contact/Prints section of the site or pick them up from over the bar.
Welcome to the final instalment of how to become half-demon (the above guy is basically a self-portrait) by spending three weeks doing little else but painting a million frickin monsters on a giant wall for the Netherworld Arcade guys. What a dream. For a kickoff I'd really recommend checking out the other two posts below, otherwise this won't make much sense.
Right so with the basis of the monsters beginning to be sort-of-but-not-really fully realised, I decided to drop everything and start filling in the background and sky for a couple reasons. Firstly, I wasn't sure how my vision of the colours was going to work with the monsters and it suddenly occurred to me -with deadline looming - if the background colours didn't work well then it would be a pretty massive screw up to reconfigure. Also the characters and monsters I'd added in to fill space overlapped with the background (and foreground) quite a bit and I thought I'd save a bit of time here by loosely applying the purples and blues rather than meticulously painting around them. This is exactly the problem I was trying to avoid as specified in the second article, but I really had no choice. I figured it was better to block in the colours and then fix up the details of the monsters after the matter. I've tried to capture the issue I am talking about in the image below (ie the bits still uncoloured) ...
So If I get all whingy and emotional in the next bit please forgive me, but honestly, doing the sky in particular was a real, real, REAL pain in the butt, though I am happy with how it turned out! So. Spray paint. I usually loathe the stuff unless it's for bluffs of that airbrush effect or bulk filling in big areas - I just am just no good at using it and it utterly lack the skill to control it. THAT SAID, it quickly became evident I was going to need it in the work. The sky I had in mind was a big swirling vortex, but I needed to dark colour behind it first. My idea here was to actually make the best of the cruddy/watery dark purple (see last post for details) and use it as my base coat for the sky, which I did in loose swirly blotches (below). From here I applied two different purples with spray cans to give it that cloudy, whispy look that I thought worked well, but just lacked punch so I then went in with brushes and filled up the sky in very much the same way I had built up the monsters. Again onlookers were a bit perplexed at this point , but I had an ace up my sleeve...but more on that later. Below is an early snap of the sky in progress.
"Hey what's all that blue stuff?!" I might hear you asking. "You skipped a bit, what gives..." Well, you're right. The reason is I was trying to put off talking about the blue stuff, cause it ended up being the most annoying part of the whole picture. I couldn't quite get the tones and colours right and dark blues were just simply the pits in terms of coverage. I ended up going through four cans of ultramarine to bulk up the area for a kick off, but again the spray-paint looked blotchy and gave it a texture I did not want here (note the difference from the sky). Unfortunately there was no easy way out and I pretty much was forced to three and even up to five-tone build the blue foreground areas with smaller brushes in order to bulk it up and give it the "rocky" appearance. Again it was one of those things where an artist battles with their materials, is losing the whole time, is about to stab themselves with any implement available and then things come together right at the and and it's almost surprising when it looks ace. I'm glad with how the blue rocks wound up and it's colour is really bright and yet subdued (an oxymoron I know) in the flesh. Another thing that was crucial, was the lighting. No matter how abstract or absurd an image is, a little bit of realism when it comes to lighting really helps add a believability to the image, especially in the backgrounds. Because I chose to apply different light to each rock formation, I really think it help the end product.
And so, about that Ace...the vortex! I wanted the vortex to have a lightning bolt laden twister thingy coming out of it. It really made the piece. Without it, I think the image would have been a little empty. This is where you need to organise your ideas and pocket ones. Its only experience and instinct that implore you to keep the best ideas vivid in your mind. A lot of trust is needed within yourself to handle these ideas. In truth the vortex was the first idea I had for the whole project and it wasn't really possible to communicate its end result, so just work on being passionate about certain things you know can't be left behind. Above is an early image of the first phase of this going down, before I went and blocked in the outline of the blue rocks with a final pass, which also helped make the image pop. The lightning itself was a process of using a build from deep purple to lemon yellow in a way that gave it a physical presence (sense a pattern here?). It was very much an adlib kind of thing that you need to paint and repaint until it is right. Oce the vortex was completed I went and did a final gap-filling/detail pass on each of the monsters, tightening and bouncing highlights as some looked a bit dull with the rocks and sky in full swing. Below is an example of the pink werewolf after that process (Note even at this point I was still filling in areas of background as I wasn't sure how bright to make it). I only stayed with medium sized brushes as they dealt well with the wall and I figured most people would only be viewing it from at least a metre away. Painstakingly filling in the detail at this point would've been time suicide and probably not worth it.
And so you have it! It was a massive undertaking, but it was a million times worth it and I was stoked to be a part of what I'm sure will become an icon for Brisbane venues in Brisbane. A huge thanks to the guys at Netherworld Arcade, you are mega legends. If you ever have specific questions or queries on how I handled certain areas just leave me a message here, email me or FB message me. I'm more than happy to wax lyrical about the craft :-)
Thanks for reading! Below is me with my buddies...
Welcome to part two! For those that missed the first instalment just see below for the initial stages of setting up this big mama.
Ok so now I came to actually painting the damn thing! Although I was definitely harnessing and utilising some known tried-and-true classic 80s fantasy and computer game type aesthetics, I really wanted to push the painted aspect to give it more of a fleshed out feel and push it a bit further than your average old-school flat colour image. This involved a three tone dark to light painting style, which for a long portion of doing the mural I cursed myself for choosing, but in the end just knew in the pit of my stomach would look a thousand times better...hopefully...
But my first issue to overcome was the materials themselves. Looking back over my sketchbook notes, I stupidly forgot my tape measure the day of the wall viewing and wrote 4.5 x 3.5 m for the overall size as an approximation. How the hell I came up with this is forever a mystery that I'll never understand. In reality it was more like 9 x 4 m and so I had to do some rethinking in order to keep costs as low as possible when it came down to the first day of painting. Normally with smaller paintings I would fill in the sky and the background areas first and then place the characters on top in order to keep the colour continuity as consistent as possible and not get caught in the evil game of repainting details due to background applications creeping over the linework. This always leaves the background and foreground elements looking a bit messy and weird. But, alas, In this case I couldn't swing it and knew I'd have to battle exactly what I usually try to avoid and just described. It just would've been too much paint wasted and include a lot of applications to get the vibrancy of the colours to kick out with the characters.
Enter plan B: Map out the entire drawing in black with an overhead projector (so I could move it around in order to reformat the image to suit the perks of the space) and literally piece it together like a patchwork. This was a more time consuming method, but it saved a certain level of double handling in paint application later on, messiness and, most importantly, material costs. Above and below were scene picks at the beginning of the process. The overhead projection slides were printed out at Officeworks. They are super cheap, have great printers for non-pro type situations and can do single OHT's. Special thanks go to to evergreen Sam Eyles for his lending me the projector. I worked out the colour in pencil over a printer out version of the image which is a much better way than using markers or digital colouring due it in some small way representing the physicality of what you'll be faced with in the painting stages. It doesn't have to look pretty, but working through colour relationships really helps in the painting process as mainly you'll find out what doesn't work and what to avoid doing. Repainting in a giant image like this is quite literally the numero uno thing you want to avoid...
At this point I would really, really stress the point of spending a lot of time to get the underpainting linework and quality of the initial outline done in as much a resolved way as is possible. It helps to drive the vibe of the piece, directionally provides superior pointers when it comes to the colour application and gives the best impression of what is upcoming. I found I struggled with the monsters in the initial stages that were done a little slap dash...they lacked a little depth and looked a bit weaker. For the free hand monsters I used chalk to make the most of quickly organised pencil sketches to fill in the gaps due to it being easy to rub out. Most of the monsters on the far right and the bottom left were done in this way.
In terms of brushes I went through a few types, but by far the synthetic Liquitex acrylic brushes I used for both linework and colour applications were the best and again, cost-effective. They held up amazingly well and have great line application. I especially found the dagger brush to be useful for being able to paint thicker values and more detailed linework without having to swap brushes often. I went through three for the whole drawing, which I deemed as pretty good really. They can be a bit tricky to use and require mostly wrist work (insert joke here) and turning of the brush head rather than a standard pull/push type of application. That's why in this shot I look like a berkish dart thrower as an old mate of mine pointed out...
So with the black linework done it was time to get onto colour. For pretty much the entirety of this I used Holcroft "Professional" acrylics which were from the Impasto Colour range. I usually absolutely abhor Holcroft stuff, especially their brushes and oils - but at a pinch shortly before this project I bought a tub to fill in for a large acrylic canvas painting and its coverage and brightness were extremely surprising. Don't be a label whore or a dumb wanker art tech head. Money usually equals quality and superiority but not always and especially you need to knead out the pros and cons of what is appropriate if you're working on a tight budget. If Frank Frazetta (one greatest of the greatest painting technicians in fantasy art) preferred cheap 'n' nasty Disney kids oil paints due to his belief they were the best vibrance and texture wise then anything is possible. Safe to say across the board the Holcroft paints performed amazingly except for the deep blues and the purples, which annoyingly were the background colours which mean three applications of each and added at least a week to the project. They alone were a bit watery and did not hold well to the wall, most likely due to the fact they didn't have white in them to thicken them up. A good bit of advice post job from The Andy Harwood is to paint white or a lighter colour register down first in order to get them to ping better. I unwittingly did this later on with the rock formations around the monsters to good effect...eventually...after much frustration and cursing.
Above is an image of the patchwork beginning. I mentioned a three-tone tactic for breathing life into the monsters and this involved laying down the darkest tone of each of the colours to give the characters and forms mass. Most of it was going to be painted over, but I paid special attention to the application at this point as much of the muscle and flow of the image comes from this section of the painting. I tend to always follow mass when applying brush strokes as that helps build the forms, even when ultimately the area might be entirely painted over later on. I'm not sure why, but again bowing to impatience at this point always renders the end result not as lively. At this point I was bouncing between each of the areas with the same colour and not concentrating on each individual monster in order to speed up the process. Doing so also helped to make adjustments to the colour choices and give a better balance across the whole image in terms of what monsters were what colour. I have a "if you're not sure don't do anything until you are" method of decision making when it comes to applying colour, so sometimes I'd alter the colour in my hand and move to a different part of the painting simply to help realise the whole picture when I'd hit a "decision wall". I love a good mull. It's my excuse for being lazy.
Above is a good example of the colour build I utilised for the piece. I was actually quite surprised with even how the second colour application really made the monster's forms pop. It's a good time to decide if the paint you're using is any good. If you focus on the green monster (above) you'll see the right section has no two-tone grading at all. Before the second application is made - that is the bit where everyone looking on (and certainly the artist themselves a lot of the time) has "what the fuck is going on here" expression going on. But as soon as the second application came down I knew the believability and dynamism of the monsters was going to end up great and it granted me a little bit of heart to see it take shape so quickly. The blue monster on the right (above) has everything two-tone painted at this point too, except for the eyes which were already three-toned as I wanted to see how the pink values operated for later on. Here you can see the deeper magenta colour (which is painted over the entire areas of the eyes) is bulked up with a pink and then the light purple highlights to achieve the full effect. Little by little I filled in the whole image across the board as shown below...
That's it for part two! See you next time for the resolution of the piece, my battle with sawdust and the fricken FRICKEN sky....
Howdy all and happy new year and all that. Hope you've gotten out alive etc..? Speaking of people that nearly didn't - the guys from Netherworld Arcade almost broke their condemned souls to have the bar ready for the new year and it was an honour to help decorate their walls.
Here's the story of the main monster wall I worked on...
So when the guys asked me to produce two images for two of their walls, I was stoked for the project but usually loathe doing murals, especially for venues as it usually ends up with the artist paying over the hill in material blowouts and a micro-managerial bar owner standing over your shoulder watching you work with a "that's my wall don't fuck it up" expression saying stuff like "I'm not artistic and you're the pro...but...isn't that brown a bit dull?". It's infuriating especially as someone who builds their colours when they paint and works in - well let's say strange order. The initial stages of the process need to be explained clearly beforehand to whoever you're working with (which can be tricky) that way there are less of those types of showdowns. That said, the Netherworld guys were amazing with their trust and support.
Like pretty much everything the project begun with sketches. It's always a difficult choice as to how much you need to resolve your sketches and ideas before they are handed over, as you can either a. Not get across what you are going to do properly b. Waste waaay too much time on images when you could already be onto the painting process or even worse c. Make your client worried you aren't up to the job by the sloppiness/confusing nature of the sketches. There is no right answer here and in this case I knew the guys would be very receptive to conversation about the sketches rather than be vague. That's exactly what occurred and the in the end the concept for the sketches and piece was approved, but not the image particulars.
The idea was to have an undead overlordy type dude (as above) with a horde of undead creatures kind of spilling out in an 80's horror vibe painting. I don't think I really conveyed the image properly and they deemed it a bit too dark and gritty for the venue overall. I actually think this would've worked pretty well, but always remember that you are working for a client, not the other way around when it comes to these things. This is not YOUR thing. So I decided to up the goof level and look at a bunch of vintage AD&D images and old-school fantasy paintings. I reconfigured the image but essentially kept the layout and "bunch of demons" idea, minus the overlord. They were keen on this and then it was onto sketching out characters for the mural (see below).
So you might have noticed I've drawn up these guys almost like concept design pieces for characters. Some I even named. Why bother? Well, I just think that anything to do with the fantasy or sci-fi world really, really benefits from having some type of narrative or story, even if it's just small things or trying to work out their actual mechanics rather than just drawing a random pastiche of nobodies. This is one of the key elements I'll always tell younger or less experienced illustrators: create a story, even if the viewer will never know it. It makes a difference. Somehow. It takes a little bit longer in the beginning, but I find that it actually helps level up and quicken the resolution of the image.
Next was to jam the monsters together with a whole image in mind. I wanted a swirling vortex for the final sky and a simple yet interesting background, but impressions of both of were only inferred at this point (see above).
**START NERD BIT** I use primarily Faber-Castell and - for more minute work - Micron tech pens when inking in sketches or doing less stylistically poignant line-work that doesn't quite get me to crack out the Hunt 102 dip pens. The majority of serious illustrators go for the high 'n' mighty (and more expensive) brands for markers but I actually find Faber-Castell to be superior for a few reasons. Why are they my favourite go to weapons? Well their nibs are tough as shit and consistent, so they don't fall over (I'm looking at you Copic), they are filled with genuine indian ink which is usually better than pigment ink as it dries closer to how it looks freshly drawn and rubs out much better without losing as much of it's weight than alot of other brands I tried. They also possess a great tapered nib of which I can utilise the side edges of to create quite diverse line types, which is strange for a tech pen. The combination of those reasons makes them a rather surprising winner when it comes to markers, especially considering they are relatively cost-effective. For drafting I tend to like F pencils and the kneadable grey Faber-Castell eraser, as not only is it way less stressful for your paper's grain when you are rubbing out, but it's great to just stick it on your desk and hold up/stop objects falling off your table when things get crazy. It took me a while to come to grey erasers, but when you ink with Hunt 102s, they are almost a must. As the paper will tear away much more easily with vinyl rubbers. **END NERD BIT**
Little by little I placed the beasties around in a way that was hopefully not too repetitive and had a good balance of variety in each of the area. Even with something like this, I think keeping classic elements of balance is important. Rule of Thirds etc. I think it's really important also to have a good clear image of the particulars to work with otherwise you'll run into problems which I'll talk about in the next post. Above is the final image I sent the guys and they were pretty pleased! First stage done!
From here I'll look to add a little insight into how I produce my work and what's on the go...
First up here's a sneak peak of the graphic novel the wonderful writer (and incredible digital artist, check out http://www.solventimage.com !!) Johnny English and I have been working on for what seems like an eternity...
This was done with coloured inks and speedball black on watercolour paper (I can't remember the brand, I think it was Caneletto??). I much prefer the reproduction value of coloured inks and they are much brighter and more bouncy with their value. They are a touch trickier to use as you can't reactivate them - patience is what you need here, and courage, when it's all said and done. I got turned onto the style by Charles Vess, who is arguably one of the best ink guys there is.
I used Hunt 102 dip pen nibs on smooth hot press watercolour paper which was...ok...but the nibs pulled up the paper a little too much for it to be a regular setup. I'll run a few posts on my dip pen technique sometime in the future as it really is a tricky thing to get right. I thought for a long time it would never work for me, but now I'm at the point where I don't really like tech pen inking anything and good brushes are hard to come by and go bad with the high levels of chemical treatment with our water supply here in Brisbane, Australia.
I ran into trouble earlier on, using heavy wash inks with bristol and illustration board. Problem was the illustration board wouldn't take the colours very well and they sat terribly and the bristol paper can't deal at all with the wet media so there were numerous attempts to get the right mix. I probably could've made my life easier by splitting the process up, but I really REALLY wanted that all in one version of our cover. It was a stubborn badge of honour type situation...:-/
For the remainder of the colouring for the comic at large, I'm actually going to print the inks (inked more easily on Bristol paper) onto watercolour paper so I can stretch them out and colour it without worry that the paper will warp and that it will sit properly. Plus if anything goes wrong I can just print out another copy.
I'll have some snaps of the ongoing pencils and various other tidbits soon! I'll get better at documenting the process so it'll be easier to see what's going on.
All right nerds, take care, Jon xoxo