Goddess of the Waters

I haven’t had much time to paint since starting up Unicorn Soup. But I did bring an extra tablet to work, and work on digital paintings during downtime. Here’s a recent one.

alligirl-colors

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Soup’s On!

Where have I been? Long story. To make it short– I went on vacation, got sick, then my computer died. Excuses, excuses. But here’s the biggest one: I’ve been working on a new project. A webcomic collaboration with a friend, which we call Unicorn Soup. Check it out! We don’t have much of an archive yet, but it’s steadily growing. It’s updated Thursdays, and is about the realities and fantasies of a couple of fathers who try to balance video game hobbies with families and careers. Working on a regular comic has been fun so far, as I’ve seen steady development in my own ability. Like they say, you want to be good at something, do it every day. I’m actually only doing this once a week, but I think the principle applies. It will just take a bit longer to get good.

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Thank Jebus for Andrew Loomis

“You may question why we do not at once proceed to the finished, smooth, and round form. The answer is that in a drawing or painting, something of the individual procedure and structural quality should remain. When it is too much smoothed down and polished, it becomes entirely factual. The camera can do that.

“In a drawing, however, ‘finish’ is not necessarily art. It is the interpretation and process of individual conception that is art and has value. If you include all the literal facts and actualities, the result will be boring. It is your selection of relevant facts that will create interest.”

–Andrew Loomis, Figure Drawing For All It’s Worth, Chapter III

This book is a gold mine. If you have an interest in drawing, it’s a must have. That is all.

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Electric Kali: Progress. Also, Tim Knight is a Great Guy.

Making progress, slowly but surely. I’ve spent less time with this painting lately because I’m working on a new webcomic project, and Portal 2 came out. Seriously, buy this game. It’s excellent. More on the webcomic later, once the project is a little farther along.

Here’s the final sketch for the painting. You can see that the background and some supporting details are missing or not fully realized. These will come as I paint. Mostly the sketch is to work out the basics. It was important to me that I choose the right guitar and amp combo for this image– it will matter little to most people, but I wanted to avoid just painting a generic “guitar.” I want to render something that a guitar fan will recognize and drool over.

After much hemming and hawing, I finally decided on a 50′s Gibson Les Paul Junior, and a 70′s red Marshall half-stack. The guitar is simple, pared-down to the essentials, but one with a very powerful voice. A true rock guitar. Marshall amps are of course the defacto symbol of rock; big, loud, screaming distortion. The red models they made in the 70′s are gorgeous, and I prefer to paint a big red amp than a boring black one. This guitar and amp combo represents power, aggression and fury quite well, I think.

It’s fairly easy to draw a generic guitar. But to draw a specific model recognizably is particularly difficult, at least for me. I was resigned to using a google image search for reference, but was discussing my choice of equipment with the inestimable Tim Knight, who had something much better in mind. Tim doesn’t have much of a web presence, which is a shame; he’s a cultural asset here in Salem, Oregon. Tim owns and operates Guitar Castle, a vintage guitar store downtown, and co-founded (but is no longer a partner of) Ranch Records, Salem’s best record store. Tim is a great musician; he played and recorded with John Fahey, is a member of the Hundred Dollar Jayhawks, the Nettles, and the Bohemian Enclave, which is his latest project. He helps organize local shows with local talent, and records and advises young up-and-comers. He’s friends with and sold guitars to many great musicians, and has countless great stories to tell.

I love Guitar Castle because there’s always a little bit of history on the racks there. While it is a vintage guitar store, Tim stocks guitars and amps for players, not collectors. For example, I bought a wonderful 1962 Fender Jaguar from him last year. It’s all original, but for one thing: a previous owner had stripped off the sunburst finish and sprayed it with clear nitro. This destroys its value as a collector’s item, but drops it neatly into my price range. A pre-CBS guitar that I can afford and sounds like a dream! (I’ll post more about this guitar some other time.) These kinds of deals make the store unique, and a great place to browse. Tim is also a painter, and his art is on the walls there. He paints scenes and portraits in a “naive” style, and his abstracts (my favorites) are colorful, thoughtful and emotive. (He also has a couple of my paintings hanging in the store. Thanks, Tim!)

When I told Tim the guitar and amp I had decided would be in Electric Kali, he laughed. “You mean like the ones in my basement?” he said. “Why don’t you shoot them for reference?” Tim Knight is a great guy. I came back a week later with my camera.

Tim poses the Les Paul Junior for me in front of Guitar Castle. Here’s Tim with the Les Paul Junior. It’s no longer in the basement, it’s behind the counter, for sale at a bargain price.

Tim's red Marshall.  The racing stripes make it go faster. Tim’s red Marshall. Alas, this one is not for sale.

With the reference shot at just the angles I wanted, the sketch came together much faster than cobbling together images from the web. With the drawing done (more or less), I transferred it to a panel, and painted in the basic values using burnt umber and ultramarine. Now I’m roughing color in over the values, using glazes of varying opaqueness. The drawing is still visible a bit under the color, which will allow me to tighten up the detail once I’ve got the overall composition and color where I like it.

rough color going in

I like to work this way rather than make a color rough, because when I change my mind about a color and paint over it, the previous layers all build up to make a richer finish with more depth than if I just started with the right color first. More images to come as I continue to paint!

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John Lee Hooker: Badass

John Lee Hooker

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Queen of the Beasts

Here’s a painting I made for my wife late last year, for her birthday. Godzilla, you done got knocked the #*@$ out!
The white marks scattered across her head are from paper left atop the painting before the varnish had completely cured. The paper stuck to the varnish enough to rough it’s smooth surface when it was pulled away. It’s easy to repair– just sand them down and re-varnish. It’s what I get for painting it and gifting it last-minute. Acrylic really needs at least a good week after it dries to cure properly.

Queen of the Beasts

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Electric Kali sketch fragment

“Woman, in the picture language of mythology… is the guide to the sublime acme of sensuous adventure. By deficient eyes she is reduced to inferior states; by the evil eye she is spellbound to banality and ugliness. But she is redeemed by the eyes of understanding. The hero who can take her as she is, without undue commotion but with the kindness and assurance she requires, is potentially the king, the incarnate god, of her created world.”
-The Hero with a Thousand Faces, by Joseph Campbell

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Studies – Electric Kali

I’m working on another painting of Kali.  Below are some studies.  Kali’s grimace is a challenging expression to illustrate– it may not really exist in reality.  Each of these faces has an element I want in the painting, but none of them are exactly what I want.  This is often the way of using reference– you have to extract from it the details that you have trouble visualizing, but the final synthesis still has to go on in your head.  Often being too true to your reference (at least in fantastical paintings as I tend to make) just ends up being a painting of someone dressed up as a goddess, rather than the goddess herself.

Kali is a theme I return to often.  I’m not a Hindu, nor are my paintings of this Hindu Goddess particularly honest or true to the religion she comes from.  But the idea– this personification of the destructive element of the female; the recognition that to be alive means someday to die; this cosmic mother that gives life to all, yet beheads and devours her children… well, let’s just say she’s a potent symbol, and has much to offer to a simple painter like myself.  Being raised a westerner, a destructive, powerful and deadly female– who isn’t a villain– is extremely novel, and as such, fascinating.  Each of my paintings of her grasp a different tiny shard of her meaning, letting the rest, the really important parts, slip away.  I suppose that’s why I keep coming back.  Next time I might be able to hold onto more.

Photo reference for these sketches came from "Facial Expressions" by Mark Simon

 

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…and we’re back

Got a sleek new look and a lot of changes under the hood, all thanks to my bro at Other Half Full.  Thanks John!  If you need web design or marketing assistance, he’s the man, drop him a line.

Over the next few weeks I’ll get to know how to use this stuff, and hopefully will ease into a regular posting schedule.  Stay tuned!

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Change on the wind

Just got a notification from Blogger.com that they will be shutting down ftp support for their blogs– which is how I have this site set up. I’ll get started on migrating to some other framework, but be aware that things may be a bit spotty for a while. The last thing I want to do is to actually have to code the site, so I’ll see what other prefab services are out there.

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  • Drawings, Paintings, and Blatherings by James Pezzetti, artist and co-creator of Unicorn Soup