Darkstrider - Composition 1.1

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    Darkstrider - Composition 1.1

    For my 1st one I picked The Angel Succoring Hagar by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. Man, I don't even see how anybody can do one of these in an hour - I took 2 before it started to look halfway decent, and I know it still has a ways to go. I kinda killed my time right at the beginning though - 1st by not measuring anything and then by using stupid pastel brushes that I hardly know how to use yet. Probably spent the 1st hour fixing those mistakes. How extensively should we be measuring these? I was in a kind of panic, feeling the pressure of the ticking clock and so I just eyeballed everything. Mistake!

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    I chose Tiepolo because I love the way he did the figures - so expressive and powerful. He used 3 focal areas denoted by strong value contrasts - 1st the woman, then the wounded child, and then the angel. I notice the emphasis, rather oddly, seems to be on their chests more than their faces though - probably as the location of the soul or the heart. Makes sense since it's such a powerfully emotional painting.

    I also noticed I have a tendency to make the positive shapes - especially figures - too big! Need to get that under control.

    Last edited by Darkstrider; February 28th, 2014 at 03:30 AM.
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    Great start buddy! That is one difficult painting to start with, respect for jumping in at the deep end
    Don't worry about making stuff bigger, think it's natural, I do it too. Being aware of it will help you work on scale.

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    Thanks Bri. Yeah, somehow I failed to notice how complex the painting was. When I think composition I tend to think multi-figure. It's the second time I've attempted Tiepolo, and both times I came away with immense respect for his skills. I think toward the end of this I'm gonna try another one to see if I can handle it better.

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    Blonde Natalia, paint can and orange electric cord - Kent Williams

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    Everything went much better today - started by quartering off the image to find the center and doing a line sketch (which was way too big at first). Kept fixing that until it looked right, then it was a pretty easy matter to start painting in the values. Lol, went with a much simpler composition than the Tiepolo this time too!

    It's a Kent Williams painting that I admire for the bold handling and aggressive painterly work, though he was still able to capture the sitter's personality quite well. There's a single strong emphasis on her face, the darkest dark (eye hollows) right under the lightest light of her bangs, and the entire head is painted much more completely and subtlely than everything else. The rest of the comp is kept very economical and simple for contrast.

    Spent another hour and fixed it up much better. Still a few things I can see, but you gotta move on at some point, right?

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    Last edited by Darkstrider; February 28th, 2014 at 06:59 PM.
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    Portrait of Clara Serena Rubens

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    Rubens was so good at getting personality into his portraits! Like his daughter, so clear-eyed and impish. He used a very circular rhythm here surrounding the face - you can see it in the hair, the little wrinkles in her coat, the brushstrokes in the background. All the emphasis is on here face, with a little extra oomph on her left eye (viewers right) because it's catching the light better than the other one. This was 45 minutes - I might go back in for a while and see how much closer I can get it - mine doesn't look like she's smiling yet.

    Ok, 1 hr. 15 mins...

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    Last edited by Darkstrider; February 28th, 2014 at 11:55 PM.
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    Hi there, looking good! Your values are getting close (especially on the blonde lady). You might want to spend a little more time at the beginning drawing out the faces and mapping the locations of the features - that seems to be the weakest point of these. Study the shape and proportions of the head and how to construct it, and that will make the portraits easier.

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    Hey thanks Dahlia!! I know, even though I have started sketching n bodies and carefully checking proportions on them, I still leave the faces and just paint blind on them. I think especially on portraits I should sketch in the forms of the face and the features - could have avoided making the little girl's eyes so cartoonishly big.

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    Hi Darkstrider. In #1 and #3 You are not going as dark as the originals in the darkest darks. Do you see it? I color picked #3 and compared the percentages of the darkest parts between yours and the original in the HSB color work-space. The original falls in the 2-5% range in the darkest parts and yours falls in the 11-15% range. You are pretty accurate in your mid-light range, though.

    Keep at it. I'm looking forward to seeing your progress!

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    Yeah, I definitely see it. I do tend to shy away from black - not sure why that is. I was even kind of somewhat aware it wasn't dark enough as I was doing it. Thanks for pointing it out.

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    Doing really great with general shapes and values (but yeah you can go darker). I think you can start thinking more about edges.

    I'd go back on the Rubens and play with a low (60-70%) opacity brush and blend some of the skin. Also bring in a hard edged brush and see if you can clean up some major areas -- I'd play on top of the one you already have to see what it feels like then see if you can implement that in your next study.

    Also, RE: faces. Don't think of them as faces. They are just lights and darks next to each other like anything else. It's hard for us to stop seeing "eye" "nose", but when you just see "darker gray next to 5% lighter gray" it'll be easier to reproduce it.

    I also like to use my fingers to roughly measure the distances between things in the original and my reproduction, either from each other or from the edge of the canvas.

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    Oh I agree, if I had more time I could do all that stuff. I'm pushing now to get under the hour time limit (still 15 minutes over). I've been playing with these pastel brushes to see what they can do, and they just don't offer the same hard/soft edge options the regular round brushes do, so even as I learn what they're good for, they hamper me in other ways. I think after I get used to them and figure out when in the process I should use them - then hopefully I'll speed up some more. I also need to find the balance of how detailed to get. I think I might be going for too much detail. Adding the eyelids in the Rubens was probably going too far.

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    Jeff Jones - Pricklypear study

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    This one stands at 40 minutes right now, but I think it needs some more love. I wanted to work on some landscape for a while, and I love Jeff Jones' landscapes! Turned out to be difficult because he was influenced by impressionism here and made lots and lots of tiny little marks all over. I also felt like I needed to start by painting each area extra dark and then going over it semi-transparently with a lighter value to get the effect he did.

    A very unusual composition with the massive rounded rectangular form of the cliff dominating most of the image and the dark gorge creating a powerful counterpoint and very dark note. He used a lot of lines and implied lines (continuity) sweeping down over the rounded edge into the gorge and I feel like the trees are symbols of humanity at the edge of a precipice - maybe the natural force of erosion represents the relentless march of time that takes us all and the gorge is the waiting abyss of eternity.

    Suddenly it's very clear I need to adjust the shape of the cliff - how did I not notice it before? I also feel the need to tap in a lot more fiddly little impressionist marks all over.. brb

    Another 20 minutes makes a big difference.. here it as @ 1 hr.

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    I was liking this one so much, and saw it needed some more TLC and it could look really good, that I decided to give it another hour.

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    Last edited by Darkstrider; March 1st, 2014 at 11:22 PM.
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    Rossetti study

    I love the serene tranquility in this piece by Rossetti. What stands out to me composition-wise are the rhythms - in the hair, the bunched wrinkles in her clothes, the shapes of light puncturing through the foliage behind her - all surrounding her pale face with the penetrating yet faraway eyes. And her long slim hands fidgeting with her necklaces also point toward her face as well.

    I'm trying to work out a better approach, but it still took me an hour and a half before it was looking halfway decent. I probably should get better at doing the construction to begin with - could cut out a lot of time right there.

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    Last edited by Darkstrider; March 3rd, 2014 at 03:11 AM.
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    The jeff jones is sooooo close. Great work. The one thing i noticed is the feeling of wind that jones gets...notice the slant of the trees. yours are a little more upright. Feel is super important to paintings like this...it's kind of an abstract thing to think about, but try to feel the wind in jones piece. it's there.

    also, your mapping phase is in need of more time and careful measuring prior to moving into values and edges. If you slow down and double check all of your positive and negative shapes, triple check them too, then you will find that the rest of the painting comes along sooooo much more quickly. If you have to spend twice or three times as much time mapping it out, do so. The rest will go much quicker if you do.


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    Thanks Jason. Lol yeah, I noticed I did completely fail on the drawing for the Rossetti one! Unfortunately I didn't notice until later in the process and had to laboriously fix it. Should have checked more carefully. But today I started doing drawing exercises on the tablet using control+paint techniques, and my drawing is already improving. Also found the pen pressure brushes - wow, so much nicer to draw with!

    I did notice the wind effect toward the end of that painting, and I bent the trees to try to match, but not enough. I really wasn't thinking of it as wind though, that's a really good way to look at it, and adds another very evocative element to a landscape painting. Jones said when he'd paint he was always feeling things, and I think I should try to do the same on these.

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    sweet. I look forward to the next update then.

    keep it up!

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    Jeff Jones again

    Don't know the name of this one offhand sorry, but it's Jeff Jones again. One of my favorite painters. What really strikes me composition-wise is the continuity - implied lines where the drapery seems to disappear but at the same time continues into the swirl of background mist. Spent a lot more time on the drawing on this one and it really helped. Unfortunately I had done several full color studies today as well and forgot these were supposed to be in black and white, so at the last second I threw a saturation layer over it and greyed it out. D'Oh! Might have gone faster working in b&w.

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    Really great improvement. Try hardening up the edges around the body, wings, scythe, and the shadow where the body parts overlap.

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    Thanks, good observation. I did a little of that last night after posting, and then a little more today. Jones really does seem to play around with hard vs soft edges a lot.

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    (Man, he still doesn't look bright enough - I always notice that when I'm posting and looking at the tiny little thumbnail - gotta fix that!)

    *EDIT -- did a quick lvls adjustment on that.

    Last edited by Darkstrider; March 4th, 2014 at 01:30 PM.
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    Hey Darkstrider, great work so far. One thing I've noticed about your last piece: You nailed the darkest values in his right wing, but seem to have missed his hair and a few of the other darkest darks. They should be at about the same level if you compare to the original. If you darken them down, your problem of him not looking bright enough might improve just by the contrast. To my eye, the values in his body and the drapery are pretty well chosen, I think it's the missing darks that keep him from appearing as bright. The scythe, the rock (?) in the background, his left wing, and his hair are where I notice this.

    Great improvement so far between this and your first studies! Keep it up.

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    Nice catch Dyslecix. In fact now that you pointed it out, I'm starting to wonder I have a little trouble along the right edges of shapes because I'm right handed, so I can easily see the leading edge of a drawing implement as I work but the right edge is hidden away behind my hand, so those edges tend to be kind of poorly done. Something to keep in mind anyway.

    Today's 1st - hoping to get in another one yet tonight..

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    Took 40 mins to work out the drawing - showing the process a bit. Then at an hour & 2 hrs:

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    EDIT - decided to work those edges a bit more. 3 hrs:

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    Lautrec used both continuity and variety - lots of little hatching marks (which make his oil paintings look like pastel drawings -something I like a lot) either point at the figure or form implied lines that do, or in some cases surround her while also implying pattern and form in the cloth.

    Last edited by Darkstrider; March 6th, 2014 at 12:17 AM.
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    Nice work my man, the last two are rocking You'll have twenty done in no time, keep it up!

    Have they made the Jeff Jones documentary yet? I remember seeing a few clips on youtube and it looked fascinating, top artist.

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    Oh yeah, the documentary has been released! I got the digital download available here - tried and tested, and it's totally legit. Excellent fast download, comes through in 720p, and the movie itself is fantastic. Still doesn't seem to be a DVD available though.

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    great job. the only thing that's really sticking out to me is the angle of the hand as its affecting the feel of the gesture. for the quick studies this is rocking though. keep up the great work.


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    Tackling Tiepolo again

    D'oh!! The hand!! How could I have missed that!!?? You're right - it really does detract from the gesture.

    Ashess has inspired me to go ahead and post my latest even though it's not done yet - here's an in-progress report at various stages along the way..

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    Tackling another Tiepolo (one of the sons this time - Giovanni Battista, I think my 1st thumbnail was the father Giambatista). I tried copying one of their drawings in the past and was broken down and humbled by the deceptive complexity - it looks pretty simple but it turns out just about every form is drawn at a strange difficult angle with weird subtleties that you don't notice until you try to reproduce them yourself. Lol - I don't know if I've just developed a subconscious mental block making me feel that way or if these Tiepolos really are as damnably difficult as I think they are! But either way, this one is straining my abilities to the utmost once again.

    This time I decided to try a technique for accurate measuring/drawing called the Envelope that I discovered in a book by Anthony Ryder. I used a pair of calipers right against the monitor to measure certain key points that envelope the main character, and those lines incidentally also gave me lots of information on where to place parts of secondary characters too.

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    At this point I think I really screwed up - I started out using a chalk brush!! It can make some really nice textures, but it's the kind of thing I should be using toward the end rather than at the beginning! It took me the better part of half an hour to basically re-do everything after this, using hard and soft round brushes for better control this time. And in fact even now I'm still finding fuzzy chalk brush edges I need to repair. Ok, enough commentary - I'll just let the rest of the images speak for themselves..

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    Ok, a little more commentary - I'm finding I didn't measure or construct the drapery enough at all. I guess I just saw it as a swirling mass of randomness and drew accordingly. And now it's way off all over the place. Its gonna take me a while to fix all the problems with it. Let this be a lesson kids - don't overlook anything in the measuring process!

    Last edited by Darkstrider; March 11th, 2014 at 06:31 PM.
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    Good job so far Mike! Calipers on the monitor screen? Now that's dedication! Have you tried using the square marquee tool for measuring? Assuming you're using photoshop of course.

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    Lol no, but I can see what a great idea that is!! You can triangulate a point exactly rather than needing to take a vertical and horizontal measurement to find a point. I was trying to use techniques that could also be used traditionally, but I think I'll try the square marquee instead for a while. Thanks a million!!

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    aah. thanks for sharing. that envelope method looks awesome!
    and yeah, I'd stay away from the textures and whatnot until you've got all the basic values right at least it looks great though gonna try that Tiepolo guy sometime. odd that I dont remember seeing his work before.

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    nice work. this is right on track. just keep at it. keep an eye on all proportions especially. for example, it looks like you made the female's head just a little large. really focus on being as accurate as you can and keep up the great work.

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    Alright, here it is at 5 hours - I took your advice and smallified the head a bit (looks like not quite enough yet). Just taking a breather and stretching my legs a bit before I go back in - hopefully to finish it this time. I don't know though - I still have 3 hands, 3 of those weird Tiepolo feet, and a head (partial) to do, plus a little more drapery and just tighten up some detailing all over. It might run closer to 7 hours than 6, but we'll see. Man, every time I post one of these I see so many more things that need fixing.

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    Ok, back to it…

    Last edited by Darkstrider; March 13th, 2014 at 09:00 PM.
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