Tuesday 25 March 2014

Photo studies & Daily Spitpaints, March 2014

Reference: Nastya Kusakina photographed by Jurij Treskow

Reference: Rufo, Arbore Tribe, Lower Omo Valley, Ethiopia - by Joey L.

One thing I figured out while painting these portraits was rendering smooth face planes with the airbrush. I’d tried it in the past but the result would usually end up blotchy and plastic, partly due to poor control. This time I kept airbrushing in a new layer set in dissolve mode. When I was done, I would convert the layer to a smart object, rasterize it, turn it back into normal mode (it would keep the ultra-sharp speckles from dissolve mode), then blur (Gaussian, between 1.0 and 1.4 radius) and lighly erase where needed for a softer effect.

Reference: Drakolimni, Mount Tymfi, Epirus, Greece. I took some liberties with the look of the resident 'dragons'. :}

I also joined the Daily Spitpaint group on Facebook, and have painted a couple prompts. The 30' limit is a hit or miss, and I'm not always sure it's a good thing to rush things. While working fast and under pressure keeps me on my toes, I may take shortcuts to make something presentable instead of learning from it as I would if I were to take my time. Or perhaps I'm just out of practice; I should keep doing these.

Sunday 9 March 2014


I had started this painting in December 2010, tortured it until mid March 2011, dropped it, tried a scant few things again in 2012, and finally picked it up again and finished it last month.

It took me such a long time for a number of reasons. One, I had in mind a specific way her face had to look, and it was difficult to get her expression and features right. I like keeping all my characters' expressions somewhat ambiguous, but this is easier achieved in looser works, where forms are not very clear to begin with.

Two, I had no idea what pretty much the rest of the image was going to be like, except for the snowy backdrop, her white fur cloak, and the gem-like bloodied object in her hand. In earlier versions she kept it close to her heart, but I didn't like how it made her look vulnerable. I wasn't sure what she should wear, either. I tried out a variety of outfits, from a white robe to plate armour(?), then a couple more armours of indefinite materials. I grew more and more frustrated as each attempt to add definition veered the image into stock fantasy territory - which is perfectly fine by itself, but not where I felt she belonged. In the end I sort of made up my mind and went for this oddly textured garment.

But what kept me back most of all was that I was getting more and more invested in the character herself. With a commission I can easily say "that's done", even if there are a number of things that bug me about it. I felt I had to do justice to this unnamed woman (Cania is the name of the place, not hers), and didn't mind wait until my skills were a bit more up to the task.

A few of a total of 32 different saves for this image:

 And details of her face and hand: