A Double Calamity - Drawing Process

I was so pleased to be asked to comeback to Steampunk World's Fair this year. We went last year and had a fantastic time. I've been to my fair share of shows and this event is not only very well run, but a lot of fun!

Not only will I be attending, but I was asked to contribute a poster design for promotion of the Fair. This event really tries hard to appeal to a wide variety of steampunk enthusiasts, and steampunky sub-genres. So one of their endeavors this year is to share different posters, from different artists, in an effort to showcase this event's great attitude of fun and inclusion.

They gave me an eye-opening and rather lengthy list of steampunk labels and genres to choose from for the theme of my poster contribution. I chose Weird West. Then promptly panicked. But no worries! I called world renowned expert on all things Weird-West-Steampunk, Natania Barron for help. Natania steered me in the right direction and I settled upon a sassy saloon outlaw babe and her rogue cephalopod companion.

When people ask me about my artistic process I always get a little flustered. I don't tend to work in exactly the same way every time. Sometimes I dive right in, start sketching, and never look up till I have an oil painting. Other times I start with an idea, then a thumbnail sketch, then "chicken scratches" sketches, then I look for reference and/or pose a model as needed, etc etc etc. And there are a million combinations in between those extremes. But the one common factor you'll find with me is that invariably, at some point, I've used the computer to assist me in the process.

With "A Double Calamity" I used the computer quite a bit. This is the story of the process for this piece. Totally click this to see it larger! Don't strain your eyes!
Being a computer geek and graphic designer as well as a fine artist, I love computer tools that I can use for art. I particularly like the possibilities that exist for using computer software to pose models for drawing. Poser is a program I've used in the past with limited success. For the record I only ever use Poser for general reference. (I won't get into the merits of Poser art here. That's not a debate I'm interested in and I'm always delighted when I see people creating, no matter the method or medium)

For the fine artist Poser is frustratingly limited. The lighting tends to be harsh and unrealistic & the anatomy woefully flawed. But if you are relatively experienced you can use Poser effectively for very general reference when you are fresh out of live bodies to manipulate. In this scenario I'd just heard about the release of Poser 8 - which I hadn't tried yet, so I figured it was a great opportunity to give it a whirl!

I downloaded the program demo, loaded a standard model - posed her in a rough approximation of what I wanted, tweaked the lighting, and tried to render the image. No go - the demo version wouldn't let me render. No problem, I know how to "print screen". <evil grin>

Dragging my model into Photoshop I covered her with a low opacity layer of white and roughed in what I wanted. A word of warning. Don't think you can use a Poser model as an anatomical crutch. There is no tracing with these things folks. The anatomy is wonky, the joints are scary looking and the shadows are round and cold. Poser reference is great as a placeholder for layout and design and for general anatomical reference. In fact I find it most helpful when I need reference for perspective and foreshortening.

On the top layer I literally started from scratch with a stick figure, fleshing in the muscles, and features of my characters. I painted in sepia and white tones, to achieve a rough of what I wanted. I added character to the cephalopod and polled Twitter and Facebook for opinions. This piece was designed largely by feedback!

When I had my digital rough where I wanted it I printed it out. I placed the print out on my light box, and set to work transferring the image to drawing paper. In the case of this piece, I actually did this twice! The first drawing paper had no texture and was white. I decided about 1/8 of the way into the drawing that I didn't like the paper. So I started over with a piece of taupe pastel paper. The texture was a great help with achieving the look I wanted.

Towards the very end I ran into a few other problems. Feedback on Facebook cued me in that the cephalopod's cowboy hat was not reading as a cowboy hat. I had reference from the internet for this piece, and frankly I had drawn the hat accurately. BUT, this is a great example of how accuracy doesn't always read as accurate. I clearly needed to exaggerate the hat some more if I wanted it to read as a western style hat. Hopefully it's better now. *crosses fingers*. At the very last minute I decided I needed a few more details. I added handcuffs and a key, and a gun holster to the cephalopod. I also added a damask pattern to the babe's apron.

After the drawing was complete I moved onto creating a compelling print for this piece. Over the years I've learned a lot about what makes a nice print. I've found that images with plain white backgrounds do not sell as well as images with even the simplest of color washes or a parchment background. With this piece I had known from the very beginning that I would be digitally altering it by placing it on a piece of vintage paper.

The paper was scanned from my own vast collection of "interesting bits of paper".* In Photoshop I masked out the image from it's background and placed it on the vintage paper. I used a variety of layer options to marry the bits together and voila! A Double Calamity is done!

*you might be wondering why I didn't just draw this piece directly on the vintage paper. Vintage paper has acid. This can be counteracted with archival paper preserving sprays etc (which I often employ the use of in my work), BUT it's time consuming & weakens the paper. Also most of my vintage paper is smaller in size and this original piece is 8.5 x 11.

Prints are available HERE!

The original is available HERE!

Thanks so much everyone! I hope you enjoyed my long winded process explanation!

Steampunk World's Fair & Professor Elemental

This weekend, May 14-16 I'll be at the Steampunk World's Fair in Piscataway New Jersey.

I'll have a table with some prints and goodies and I'll be painting live (digitally on my Wacom Cintiq). I'm also participating in two talks/lectures/whathaveyou. One on Steampunk Art - and another on Steampunk in Virtual Worlds.

I'm absolutely delighted to be a guest at this event. I can't thank the organizers enough for inviting me. I'm so excited to meet so many wonderful artists, performers and steampunk enthusiasts in person!

I'm especially excited to meet my most recent Steampunk friend - Professor Elemental.

If you are into Steampunk and you don't know who he is -  well you need to! He is the artist behind the instant classic and unofficial Steampunk Anthem - "A Cup of Brown Joy". CLICK HERE to watch the video.

When the good Professor asked me to create the cover of his new album "The Indifference Engine" - I of course leapt at the opportunity. And I'm so glad I did!

The album is awesome - and the cover - which I'm now finally able to share with you - is one of my favorite steampunk paintings to date. It was great fun to paint! 

click to view image larger

click to view image larger

If you are familiar with the brilliant creations of  Brute Force Studios - then you might recognize the inspiration and reference for the goggles and gun in this photo! (Special thanks to Mark - the maker of those special pieces  - for posing for the "body and accessories" reference for the painting.)

So if you are planning on attending Steampunk World's Fair - the rumor is you can get a special advanced copy of the album (did I mention its awesome?) at the Fair. I'll also have signed prints of this image available at my table. 

Hope to see you there!