Wednesday, July 22, 2009


These are from December 2003. For some reason I got it in my head to fool around with gouache on some old illustration board I had. Unlike my day job, I used reference for all of these images. I found I really liked having reference to copy - not to have to invent everything. But I've really never done it much as I storyboard - the right reference is never there if you do live action boards.
I don't look down on illustrators who use copy, as I did when I was younger. Over the years I have discovered how many of my art heroes almost always had something in front of them when they made all those great pictures; either a model, a landscape, or a photo. And even if someone can copy a photo, where is the design? The idea?
Degas and Mucha used photos a lot. Even Monet used photos at different times. Rockwell talks about secretly using photos rather that models, in his autobiography.

When I started working professionally, I was trying to emulate Jack Kirby, because of his dynamism (and legendary speed), but found that I needed more realism to work as a storyboard artist in live action. I started to study all the realistic strip artists (Alex Raymond, J.C. Murphey, Stan Drake, Paul Gillon, etc.), and the print illustrators of the same era: Austin Briggs, Noel Sickles, Robert Fawcett, etc. Basically, I gravitated toward artists who seemed to be able to draw the stuff that I couldn't.
Once I realized that they used reference for a good part of their work, I understood the difference between work for print, and the job of a sketch artist. I started drawing more from life, and occasionally from photos- just trying to get more information, more realism, into my bag of tricks. Of course discovering Alex Toth was what really bridged the gap between realism and cartooning.
But I digress; here is more fun bad painting!...

I think this is a copy of another illustrator's work - some kid's book about prehistoric life - unfortunately I don't have it now to give credit. Just a doodle, as I try to figure out the jumble of decisions about value, color, planes, etc. This stuff is a treacherous road if you are trying to learn it on your own...

This is a copy from a photo - probably from an old National Geographic magazine. I remember that I was looking at Leif Peng's great collection of U.S. print illustrators from the past, and specifically was fascinated by the gouache painters during the 50's & 60's. No blending - you have to start with a middle tone and work darker and lighter - at least that's my best guess!

This was copied from a newspaper photo - the technique is getting into the neighborhood of black velvet painting! It was fun, but I didn't have the chops to attempt the face or background.

I still really like like this one- I guess because it has the feel at first of photo-realism combined with that delicious tight-but-loose gouache technique I had been trying to copy. I copied it from a newspaper or magazine. On the head especially, the proportions, planes, tones, highlights, etc, are hopelessly botched, but it makes me want to paint more! There is nothing like real paint. What I really wish I could do is paint beautiful dames in gouache, like Robert McGinnis, but I'm not so good at drawing pretty girls yet - gotta work on that...