Ben Zehner - Composition 1.1

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    Ben Zehner - Composition 1.1

    I chose this painting because I like the balanced zigzag rhythm of the sky and mountains in the background and the beautifully posed figures in the foreground. In doing this painting I noticed how Frazetta uses economy in areas such as the lower right leg of the warrior. I find that my eye feels comfortable traversing the zigzags and exploring the whole painting and then returning to the figures.


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    watch your values...you are missing the light lights in this piece, as well as the crisp edges. nice start though. keep up the good work.

    jm

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    I really liked this portrait of Rembrandt because of the range of values used. I figured it would help me with values and also with shapes. If you get a shape wrong on a face it is so noticeable. Great use of emphasis on the face with the high values and detailing around the eyes. The details then fade rapidly as you go outward from the face into the darkness. I like how Rembrandt used the design principle of economy when depicting the hat and hair - they just blend into the background.

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    Name:  3.jpg
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    I really liked how Bierstadt used diagonals in this painting and how they all point to the fisherman in the middle of the composition. The fishermen are small but the eye is easily led to them by looking at the slopes of the mountains and angles of the rock formations. I especially liked the variety used in the form of the trees...how the one tree on the right side of the river is strategically bent to give more visual interest and character to the scene. It took 6 hours broken into 3 sessions to complete but I learned much. I experimented with the chalk brush tool in adobe photoshop cc and worked with tilting the angle of the brush to aid in getting proper flow and movement in the strokes. The process was super tedious but maybe I will figure out a faster workflow in the future. Can anyone point me to a useful tutorial on working with brushes? I am a noob.

    Thanks and I really appreciate this forum!

    - - - Updated - - -

    Last edited by Ben Zehner; March 7th, 2014 at 09:54 AM.
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    beautiful job. this is very very close and for the quick studies, right where you need to be. my only feedback really is that the trees could use a little more appropriate brush size to knock in the smaller shape feel that is going on. great job. really.

    j

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    Thanks for the encouragement and advice Jason! I think I need to work at higer resolutions to get those details a little better. Things became pixelated pretty quick as I zoomed in to detail. I realized you can always scale down an image once complete....so working at 5k rez is a good idea when doing these studies.
    more to come if my two younglings can go to bed earlier! lol!

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    Name:  4.jpg
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    Work in progress (instead of using a grid I did a gesture study and drew the forms first):
    Name:  4 process 01.jpg
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    Ok this took a bit longer than the 1 hour time limit. My goal is to hit the 1 hour time limit with something recognizable by study #15! I chose Chrome Robot by Boris Vallejo for many reasons. 1) it is a great study in anatomy 2) the value range is super challenging – if there is any error in value then the chrome reflection just will not read.

    As far as design principles used, Boris has a mastery of emphasis by using the high contrast of values near the face & spark between the hands (the darkest darks can be found here as well as the lightest lights – in addition they are adjacent without gradiation). The eye is immediately led there by this extreme contrast and is also helped by the inward sloping of the clouds toward the hands and face. As you move down the body the highlights become less and details are toned down illustrating economy in design.

    Economy is also used in the background as it just blends into nothingness at the bottom- putting any details in the background would only take away from the main idea in this painting (the Chrome Robot).

    Overall I really enjoyed this study and learned much about controlling line and sensing shapes. I hate using grids because I feel it makes things way to easy and then what is the point….you are not really training your brain to see the shapes and forms with a grid.

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    Hey Ben,

    Some really great studies going on here! The Bierstadt was a very cchallenging one and you did a really good job.

    Maybe just use large brushes and try to get the shapes correct if you are trying to do something within 1 hr? Remember these pieces took days/weeks/months to paint by the masters so don't feel disheartened if youc annot achieve it in 1 hr I was going hours trying to paint as accurately as possible. I'll do that too still, but I'm going for a more blocking in approach so i can learn from the piece as well as get my painting better.

    I also noticed in the last screenshot how you arrange your workplace. Would it not be more convenient to have the reference and the study on the same canvas? What I do is I open the reference up in a document, double click on the ref layer to create its own layer, then resize canvas and set it to 200% from the left. This creates the exact same size on the right for your study to go. Then I Create a grayscale from left to right and resize the canvas again from the bottom for about 105% of the canvas size. This creates space above the pictures. Then transform the gradient layer to fit the top space.

    Make sure to fill in the background with a middle tone. I never begin with just white. I find it better to start with a middle tone so I can bring out the darks and lights from there.

    An example of what I mean can seen in my latest updates, which I see you already seen

    Good job and keep it up

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    Rist! thanks for the suggestions I will have to try that as my workspace is super crowded with my current work flow. A lot of my references are of such low resolution because I get them of the internet. when I put them side by side on the same canvas I have to work at super low resolution. With Chrome Robot I painted my study at 4k resolution and scaled it down when posting to this thread. How do you deal with the resolution issues? Maybe there is a better way that I am just not seeing (I am very new to digital). Thanks again Rist for taking time to help!

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    excellent work on your values and great start to this. I would like to see your process in steps if you wouldn't mind sharing. I am going to hold off on more feedback til I see a little more as this one is very close and you seem to be on the right track. keep up the good work.

    jm

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ben Zehner View Post
    Rist! thanks for the suggestions I will have to try that as my workspace is super crowded with my current work flow. A lot of my references are of such low resolution because I get them of the internet. when I put them side by side on the same canvas I have to work at super low resolution. With Chrome Robot I painted my study at 4k resolution and scaled it down when posting to this thread. How do you deal with the resolution issues? Maybe there is a better way that I am just not seeing (I am very new to digital). Thanks again Rist for taking time to help!
    When searching for images set the filter to LARGE in google. This will find the largest res images. Also unless its below 1000px I wouldn't worry too much about the res of your ref at this stage as we are limited to how long we were on them (meaning we cant get each brush stroke in there anyway).

    If you use the key command CTRL+ALT+I it will allow you to resize the whole image. Do this before folloing the other steps. You can then resize it to however size you like. I always resize to around 3k-4k for this. it will 'blur' your ref a little. But the reason why this is not a scary as it sounds is because we are having to paint at playing card size anyway and also if you look for LARGE images on google, chances are your ref will be this size anyways.

    There are ways to clean it up if you are really picky. You could set the resize type to Bycubic Smoother and also resize in increments to reduce the artifacting.

    If this is still a little daunting I may think of creating a simple guide on it, which should explain it better.

    And no problem.

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    Rist, I had no idea google had that option! and rezzing up in increments is something i never thought of. thanks! where on the web do you go to get compositions to study. I spend a lot of time hunting for cool images to copy but wonder if the choices I am making are optimal for these lessons. thanks again for the reply.

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    see post below

    Last edited by Ben Zehner; March 18th, 2014 at 10:13 AM. Reason: replying as quote
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jason Manley View Post
    excellent work on your values and great start to this. I would like to see your process in steps if you wouldn't mind sharing. I am going to hold off on more feedback til I see a little more as this one is very close and you seem to be on the right track. keep up the good work.

    jm
    Thanks Jason! For the study above, I first did the background on one layer (using a grid). I then created a new layer and spent 1 hour laying out the line art not using a grid but by feeling the gesture and applying methods learned reading Andrew Loomis books. Once the figure was correct (using the lasso tool quite often) I spent 9 hours zooming in and shading so this is why it probably looks super close. I really wanted to get the values spot on instead of rushing through. I am hoping speed will come later. I want to really understand value at this point and get a good command of it. I will lay out my process in more detail for future studies. I did not save the steps for chrome robot as I usually just overwrite the file as I progress through the painting. Any pointers on workflow or compositions to study would be welcomed!

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    try to stick to images older than 76 years old, as those you can do anything you want with them...is all public domain. secondly, that time period prior is of the best painters in the world. tiepolo, bouguereau, bonnat, lefebvre, lyendecker, gerome, degas, bierstadt, church, friedrich, ingres, delaroche...though contemporaries like wyeth and frazetta are also worthy studies...dean cornwell too.


    j

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jason Manley View Post
    try to stick to images older than 76 years old, as those you can do anything you want with them...is all public domain. secondly, that time period prior is of the best painters in the world. tiepolo, bouguereau, bonnat, lefebvre, lyendecker, gerome, degas, bierstadt, church, friedrich, ingres, delaroche...though contemporaries like wyeth and frazetta are also worthy studies...dean cornwell too.


    j
    Yes, probably better to avoid any IP issues! Thanks for the list of artists. I have been looking over their work and it is beautiful stuff. Thanks!

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    Name:  Study 5.jpg
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    Name:  study 5 process.jpg
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    I chose this painting because I love the sense of balance and Rhythm. I see rhythm in the placement of the limbs. There is a pleasing criss cross flow from top to bottom due to the folded leg. There is also a nice balance in values from the dark dress the girl is wearing to her dark hair. I also noticed how the plant in the right corner of the painting has been skillfully placed to balance out the darks where the wall the girl is leaning against ends on the right side. If you remove this plant balance is lost!I also like the subtle use of variety with the placement of
    the fingers on the girls right hand especially the ring finger.I did this study without using any layers and just focusing
    on speed and blocking in...trying to get to the 1 hour mark. This Study took about 5 hours.

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    Your process is a patient one as you are rendering details before getting all of your values mapped in and the painting roughed in a general to specific way. Try to avoid tiny brushes for the first hour at least. Try using bigger brushes with marks carefully placed to knock in a shape with just one or two or three marks...look and see the shape, choose the brush, choose the value, look again, double check, put the mark..check again. if you start with the bigger brushes and work smaller as you go I think you will find you get a lot further a lot faster.

    keep it up.


    j

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    Hi Jason

    Thank you for the feedback. I will try larger brushes first, and then dial in on the details once everything is blocked in. I find I get lost and spend a lot of time zooming in and working on hands and faces getting the details right. Also I find that I am spending lots of time trying to get the blends and subtle gradations of value correct. I just think I need to keep doing more studies until this process if faster for me. Any suggestions on blending using Adobe photoshop cc? Currently, I blend at about 40% opacity.

    Thanks Again! 

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    Name:  Study 6.jpg
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    Name:  study 6 step 1.jpg
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    Biblis by William Adolphe Bouguereau – I chose to do this study because I love the horizontal composition – all the horizontal lines add to the serene relaxed feeling of this painting. Economy is used in the background to focus the eye on the woman. I see rhythm used in the placement of the limbs of the figure and the tall grass behind the figure. I really like how the grass runs perpendicular to the figure which bridges the background to the foreground. Emphasis is placed on the figure with the high contrast values – she really pops off the page!
    I also see rhythm in the placement of the highlights in the water – beautiful horizontal lines that add to the overall horizontal composition.

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    Good stuff! Nice work on the last one. I definitely agree that focusing on the bigger shapes will help you out a lot, and it looks like you did that a little more with this one.
    You still need to watch your values - I notice that on both of the Bouguereaus you didn't pump up the brightest brights enough, for instance on the little girl's shoulder.

    Keep up the good work!

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    nice work. your values on your figure are a little bit high key...shadows could be darker. also if you look at the bouguereau there is almost a glow around the figure as she is so radiant...check your values that surround the figure to see what i mean. keep up the great work too.

    jm

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    Name:  Study 7 sunrise on the matterhorn-reduced.jpg
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    A beautiful mountain scene by Bierstadt. I love the sense of atmosphere and depth in this painting. The composition is balanced with perpendicular diagonal lines that zigzag from the top to the bottom (see below). I went for speed and for the first time did not zoom in for details!! which is huge for me. this took 1 hour 45 minutes! usually takes me more than 5 hours! something about going faster gives the painting more life. Seems if you overwork the details the painting gets stale and static.

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    great job on the shapes. the light seems to be striking the mountain a little stronger up top and a little less strong on the small one in the middle right. overall the values look great and this one is a very solid study. keep up the good work.


    jm

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    Hey, great stuff here! Some of em' might benefit from a bit of softness here and there on surfaces, but your brushwork is cool to see. Hadn't noticed your Biblis before I did mine and it's nice to see how you did yours. Your brushwork is so peaceful, I get a feeling that mine is unnecessarily rushing all over, definitely something to think about. Thanks

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    yep looking forward to the update.

    jm

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    Name:  Study 8 John William Waterhouse - Destiny01a.jpg
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    I love the complexity of this composition and figured it would be very challenging to do in 1 hour. I was drawn to the dichotomy of the vast openness of the ocean in juxtaposition to the intimate interior space the woman occupies - all captured with the simple reflection of a mirror. There is repetition and variety in the circular shapes found i.e. the globe, the mirror, and the arches and more subtle is the inward curve of the book stand. John could just have easily made the stand square with out a curve. In addition there are nice horizontal lines/planes that cut through the composition in a balanced manner such as the horizon line of the ocean and the wall the corinthian columns stand upon. I was focused more on speed and capturing the overall composition rather than trying to get a super polished time wasting replica. I spent 2 hours on this study.

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    really nice job on your values. I pointed the following out to another earlier and it relates to you so I share. When you are first getting started it is very important to really focus in on the mapping out of your shapes as accurately as you can possibly get them. If you put a shape in the wrong place and commit you end up having the other shapes off and require fixing, which increases painting time. By taking just a few extra minutes early on to measure out your shapes, to compare your shapes, and be sure they are placed and drawn accurately will make the rest of the painting process, working out your values and edges, much much easier.

    You should flip the images horizontally and vertically so that you see the shapes with fresh eyes. This should be part of the process and if you are already doing that, keep doing it more. The professional artists will often flip images or use a mirror to see with fresh eyes as many as three or four times a minute as they are working when things really get flowing. You can also back away...actually get up and back away...and doing this works for shapes as well as checking values and edges.

    Keep up the good work.


    jm

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    Thanks Jason! I did notice that I spent a lot of time reshaping and modifying. When you say measure do you mean use a ruler? is there a formal method of doing measurements you speak of or is it all based on personal style? I am just wondering if I were to go to art school if they would tell me "you do measurements this way" Right now I basically use a grid system to map out values. any pointers would be super awesome! thanks again for the feedback and this forum!

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    how it is done with traditional work can be seen on cast-drawing.com which is using plumb lines. you can measure using your pen or a ruler or the ruler in photoshop if need be. I prefer that you learn to eyeball it but a lot of the top realist painters will almost all find a way to measure more accurately than just eyeballing stuff.

    you do what works best for you. there is no right answer or wrong one.

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