Saturday, September 27, 2014

Character A Day: Huck's Performance

Oh muh dar-lin'
Oh muh dar-lin'
Oh muh dar-lin' Clemintiiiiiiinnnnne................

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Character A Day: A Little Philosophizin'...

To me, the idea of painting an elaborate scene on one flat sheet of paper seems so antiquated... especially for someone like me who isn't the strongest painter in the world.  What if everything is going along swimmingly and suddenly you massively screw one important detail?

What if you try to fix that screw up and the picture just keeps getting worse?  What then, start over?

In the "old days" that's exactly what you would do. Egad.

About 3 and 1/2 years ago I started drawing pictures in seriousness.  Mostly I copied my favorites so I could learn the techniques and to assure myself I could produce something that looked like I knew what I was doing.

I worked digitally, meaning I built the picture up in stages... on layers... until the combination of all those layers formed the finished product.  If I seriously screwed up something on a layer - and I often screwed things up - I could go back and redo only that layer.  The other layers remained intact.  Thus, I was able to isolate the goof to one single element.  No repainting the whole stupid project.  That would have been horrible.

I felt that I was learning so much that some months ago I seriously considered upgrading from my trusty Intuos graphics tablet to a Cintiq.  For the full size model, an investment of between $2,000 - $2,500.  A lot of money to spend on what has essentially been a hobby.

I read the reviews and did my research; the people raving about the Cintiq would say, "It's just like drawing on paper!" or "It's the closest you can come to actually drawing on paper!"

And it occurred to me: you can draw on actual paper for a whole hell of a lot less than $2,000.

So I thought about that, and I did some drawing on paper.  And I noticed that my paper drawings kept a cartooney flavor not so much because I intended them way as because my battle with physical medium showed through.  And that's what cartoons are all about, in a way, a means of depicting things that says: this isn't serious, but it is telling you something.

The cartoonist renders exaggeration; the realist amazes you with his or her pure skill.  Exaggeration can happen whether you mean to or not when your physical medium technique is less than perfect.  To me, exaggeration is funny; realism is not.  No, it is patently unfunny.  That's why I never cared for super heroes... the style was semi-realist... and I much prefer funny drawings.  Cartoons, brother.  Cartoons!

When I was a kid I bored of Batman and Green Latern but give me Sad Sack... or Daffy Duck... I could stare at those drawings forever and ever.

Anyway, the point to all this is I considered: what if I worked a cross-medium, physical + digital?  How would that work?  I paint my elements on paper; I scan then into the machine; I clean them up and set them to layers.  My combined layers form my composition.  I keep the paintings very simple and set light and shadow digitally at the end of the project so all elements are consistent.  How good  would that be?

I'm beginning to believe: pretty dang good!

Here's a digital clean up of Floral Rugg.  No matter how hard I try I can't paint her better than that.  No one will confuse this cartoon with realism.  It is exactly what it should be: an imperfect rendering that is funny because of its imperfections.  Not to mention because it's a bear wearing a hat with a flower growing out of it.

Here's her little brother, Billy Bear:
Light and shadow says: this bear has got substance.  The quality of the painting says: don't take it too goshdarn seriously!

If you put a gun to my head I couldn't paint him better than that.  Now that's funny!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Character A Day: Maw Rugg

Paw Rugg ain't nuthin' without his Maw Rugg... so let's paint her.

Draw, draw, draw, paint, paint, paint:
Do yer thang in Photoshop with the masks and whatnot, and then pull into SketchBook Pro and...

... fix, fix, fix:
Jean Van Der Pyle did the voice for Maw Rugg and she was funny as all get out.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Character a Day: Pa Rugg

Anyone remember Hillbilly Bears?  I sure don't but I recently discovered them and they seem like a lot of fun.  So....

Paint, paint, paint...
...scan, pull into Photoshop, mask, isolate, pull into SketchBook Pro, and...

...Fix, fix, fix:

This time the medium was gouache on a paper with a high cotton content.  Friendliest environment in the world.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Character a Day...

... keeps the !@#$% doctor away.  Or brings him because, frankly, today's exercise was making me a little crazy.

I know I need to get lots of experience in character painting.  So I decided today I would start with a fairly - or so I thought - easy one: Magilla Gorilla.  I found a good picture on the web and traced it and made my worksheet complete with color markings:
Seems simple enough, although I gotta tell you there's something about that left hand I'm not too crazy about.

Anyway, I broke out the Cel-Vinyl in the belief that I can apply big, flat, matte surfaces and tried my hand at painting Magilla.  I used gouache for the line work and some of the details.

I'm gonna be honest with you, I really don't like that left hand.  It looks like Magilla is flashing some sort of gang sign or something.  Also, if you look close you'll see that the Cel-Vinyl doesn't come out near as flat and matte-like as I had hoped.  I don't blame that on the Cel-Vinyl, I blame that on my own basic incompetence with paint and a brush.

I do appreciate the fact, though, that once you have your flat surfaces down you've lost your guide lines.  You can check your worksheet for reference but basically you're working blind.  That means you have to draw in your lines with your brush... and that encourages some pretty bold lines.  Wimpy little lines just don't cut it, so you have to make decisions... and they come hard and fast.

Normally I don't want to make my decisions while I'm wielding the brush; I like to have more control over the process.  Maybe it's better though, that loss of control.  It forces you to draw.  It forces you to really look at your character and decide how he/she is going to look.  Maybe it's the kick in the rear we all need to experiment a bit, to be bold, to try things we're not entirely comfortable with.  Maybe.

I was so unhappy, initially, that I was going to stop.  But that won't work... you have to trudge on.  Even if all you have to show for your day is some crappy painting that doesn't look like anything.  So onward I trudged.

Now begins the laborious process of removing the white paper.  There was so much bric-a-brac left behind by SketchBook Pro's "magic wand" that I wound up importing to Photoshop and creating a mask.
I set the background to blue so it would show through the layer; thus you can see that all the surrounding paper is gone.
Photoshop's mask is the best way to isolate an object.  I really wish SketchBook Pro had such a tool - they try to let on their new and improved selection tool-set acts as a mask - but it doesn't.

Now my image is thoroughly digitized.  I did a few things.
  • First I used Photoshop's level control to maximize the colors and the contrast.
  • I wish I didn't have to but I used a blender brush in SketchBook Pro to smooth out the paint.  Geez, I'm such a poor artist....
  • I decided to fix the fingers a bit on that left hand... and I still don't like it.
  • I fixed up the left eye a little bit.
  • I applied a shading layer and set a gradient over Magilla, dark to light from top to bottom.
  • I added a little vanilla yellow to that exposed banana.  Banana "meat" is not white, it's a very nice vanilla color... IMHO.
  • Finally, I imported to Photoshop and set a drop shadow.  Also, I set the background to white.
Now Magilla is looking pretty swank.  Hell, it even looks like I know what I'm doing.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Nap Time with Yogi and Boo Boo

So the sponging thing intrigued me and I wanted to try more of it.  If you have a caddy of Cel-Vinyl - which I do, in 8 ounce bottles - you can pick the color you have the most of (or conversely, the most unused) and use that for sponging.  You can then digitally adjust the color with your software.

Note: Photoshop will jump on any color... including black... and change the hue like a trooper.  SketchBook Pro, on the other hand, only recognizes color.  You can't change black to something else... but that's fine.  I was sponging with orange paint - a color I don't use often enough - and SBP adjusted it nicely to the blue that you see.

This is a pretty good way to ensure you'll use your colors consistently and you won't have one bottle of mauve-green that stubbornly insists on not going away (mauve-green, now that I think about it, would be some sort of brown... which would probably get used.)

I'm cutting my friskets out of copy paper which I suspect is how a lot of people did it because it works so well... even with the sponge slightly damp it works perfectly.

Here Art Lozzi advised a gentleman to cut his friskets from acetone sheets:
I think the advice that is missing here is, "Use punched acetone cells and an inking board or some system that holds the cell in place."

Because when I try cutting friskets from acetone 2 things happen: (1) I find the stuff hard to cut, although Mr. Lozzi does address that here: "Score the shape you want without cutting through, then push the shape.  It will fall out."  And (2) it's hard to hold the cell exactly in place while sponging and I always wind up with a mess.  I don't have that problem with copy paper.  And, incidentally, copy paper is a lot cheaper then acetone cells and you can always replenish your supply at your closest WalMart.

I'm sure with a little practice I'd get a lot better at cutting friskets from acetone but, still, the punched cells held in place by a post system would eliminate placement problems.

Anyway, using my klunky system I came up with a Yogi and Boo Boo composition:
I'm especially happy with the wood textures where I used the "whole sponge" approach.

The figures of Yogi and Boo Boo are illustrative of why Cel-Vinyl is the preferred medium for covering large, flat areas.

Cel-Vinyl, when you get good at applying it (I'm still no good at applying it), lays flat.  With some careful repainting you can pretty much eliminate brush marks.  This of course was its original use: to paint cells evenly and consistently. 

That said, I'm having a few issues with my bottle of brown Cel-Vinyl where it wants to separate from the binder and lay unevenly.  I addressed that with some repainting... and adding a little white helps a lot... but it shouldn't be happening.  Still, after scanning in Yogi I found a lot of anomalies and I had to use a digital "blender" to smooth out the paint.

I really shouldn't have to do that.  Boo Boo, on the other hand, because he was a combination of brown and yellow (the binder in the yellow helped solidify the brown paint) laid out flat and even and no touch up was required.  So I guess it's a little hit and miss.

Details were painted in gouache which is a medium that allows for correction of mistakes.  Trust me, I make mistakes.

I see that my challenge now is to paint figures as flat and evenly as I can against abbreviated, highly sponged backgrounds.  That's the look I'm aiming for and I'm hot on the trail.

Stay tuned.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Sponge Test

The backgrounders at Hanna Barbera understood one thing very well: you draw with shapes.  They don't have to be fancy, they don't even have to be accurate.  They do, though, have to be assertive.  Declarative shapes.  Shapes that say: this is something!

So a-learning I must go, meaning I looked for the simplest most Art Lozzi (or Art Lozzi-like) background I could find... and I think I found it here:
First of all, Yogi and Cindy Bear are sitting on a blue log.  A blue log!  What's with the blue log?  Because here's the point: it doesn't matter what color it is, it doesn't matter that logs are normally brown (or grayish brown)... what matters is that this simple shape leaves no doubt in your mind.  It's a log!!

That's the lesson... and the genius... of early 60's era HB.  Simple, declarative shapes that backgrounders could paint all day but leaving no doubt in your mind, no confusion, as to what they were trying to convey.  It's might be a blue log but what we see is "log."  Period.

Second, notice that most the background detail isn't painted but sponged.  Now, that's a tricky one for me and it took me awhile to understand how to do it (I never claimed to be the smartest guy on the planet).

Again, because the shapes are simple and declarative, the sponging technique suits them well.  It adds texture; it makes things interesting.  So I tried it - but removing Yogi and Cindy Bear; and I didn't bother with the foreground flowers - and by relocating that log I came up with this:
Not exact but pretty similar to the original.  Doesn't that just scream Hanna Barbera?

For this exercise I didn't knock myself out trying to duplicate the color of the background objects.  Instead I sponged them with black Cel-Vinyl and then re-adjusted the color in Photoshop.  I would have done that in SketchBook Pro but the hue adjuster in that program is pretty wimpy in comparison to Photoshop's.

The sky was painted in gouache but I wonder if that was worth the effort (not to mention the paint and the paper?)  I could have easily simply filled a layer with that background color.

There's something strangely satisfying about putting shapes to paper and watching them become a composition.  I intend to do some more of that.

Mmm.  Good.  Stay tuned.