Archive for the ‘Visual Storytelling’ Category

A ‘Cow-bus’ in Gex, France: a Digital Painting

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

Jasmine (our African Grey parrot) and I used to go for long walks in the Gex countryside.  We saw all sorts of things and took loads of photos, which have since become a source of reference shots for paintings for the Gex book.  Well, I took the photos and did the walking, and Jazzy sat and climbed around in her backpack cage on my back, eating and looking around.

During one of our jaunts we came across some cows being transported to the fields for grazing.  During the winter the cows around Gex are kept in or near the barn, and during the late spring and summer they’re brought out to the pastures. ‘Cow-Bus’, (13″ x 10″) seems a good name for this painting.

Cow Bus Digital Painting by Nat Wildish

It was fun painting this.  Jazzy and I had a great time out that day.  It was so pretty everywhere, spring was vibrant with bright new flowers, butterflies, bees, insects buzzing everywhere, fresh air, and sunshine.

Jazzy was chatting away as usual, making impressive hawk sounds and generally commenting on things.  She liked to chat, sometimes she chatted in a continuous flow of non-stop, almost unintelligible words.  One time we were sitting at a bench and she was doing this. Someone got out of a parked car and crossed the street to ask if I had a radio on, and then discovered Jasmine.  Of course, Jazzy was delighted because then she was admired and soon someone else came and she had a crowd talking to her.  From then on, whenever she chatted like that (which was much of the time) we called her chatter: ‘radio Jasmine’.

Here you can see a more close-up view of the tractor window.  There’s quite a bit of detail in this painting.Cow Bus Digital Painting crop to tractor window by Nat Wildish

I’ve decided that I like detail, and perhaps more of a graphic-type look, rather than an overt so-called ‘painterly’ look, which often seems to translate to a more sophisticated look. I’ve had quite some difficulty trying to understand what style paintings I want to create, because I admire many different styles.  But I think I do best with a simpler expression, and it has been such a good feeling, almost a relief, to discover this.

This painting was painted using Corel Painter 11.

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Story Snippet: “Lost Future”

Monday, May 31st, 2010

Writing Illustration by Nat WildishThe thick braided muscles on his forearm tensed as he lifted the axe above his head.  There was a sharp crack as the wood split clean down the middle.  He leaned down to hoist the next log onto the thick tree stump.  Again he raised the axe.  Someone could have marked time by the rhythmic motions of his body and the distinct sounds of the woodcutting.

Tom had wielded an axe since his grandfather taught him when he was eight years old.  Now, at twenty-eight, he could keep a steady, constant pace for two hours.  After a ten minute rest he’d resume his work with the same vigor he’d had at the beginning of the day.man chopping wood illustration by Nat Wildish

The August noonday sun was fierce, hardly casting a shadow.  Tom paused to wipe his brow across the short sleeve of his white cotton t-shirt.  A few yards to his left, tiny waves lapped against the rocks.  He was so used to the gurgling and sloshing of the river that silence in this place would have startled him.  A strong pine scent wafted from the short, knotted trees in the woods that hugged the contour of the shoreline.  Tom knew this land better than he did the inside of his house.  He spent most of his time outdoors.

He resumed the flow of the work, his mind clear.  Just as the axe reached its peak, held in momentary suspension before descent, there was a loud crack and the blade shivered as something metallic ricocheted from it.  “What the,” Tom swung the axe one-handed down to his side and swiveled round to cover his back, bringing the axe up to his chest, now holding its broad wooden handle with both hands, ready to swing in defense.

Another bullet whizzed past his right ear.  A man stepped out from behind a tree at the edge of the wood.  “Hi Tom,” he held a rifle, casually and confidently, aimed at Tom’s head.  He was thickset, bronze-red hair hanging loose around his shoulders.

Tom lowered the axe, gripping it with his right hand, “Hi Marty.”

“Told you I’d come find you when you came back.”

“I’ve been waiting.  Where you been?  I’ve been here for over a year.”

Marty held the gun steady, “I ought to  shoot you and be done with it.”

“How many times do I have to tell you it was an accident?”

“That might be, but you were drunk.”

“And you’re telling me you weren’t?”

“I wasn’t in the raft.  At least I had the common sense to know I couldn’t manoeuvre those rapids.”

“You mean you had to throw up and that’s why you got out and jumped on land while we were still moving down river.”

“You didn’t lose your sister and your fiance.”

“You don’t think I’ve been tortured these last five years?  Sally was my girl, you know I was gonna ask her to marry me.  And I’d known Emily since before I quit wearing diapers,” Tom slammed the axe blade into the wood stump and stood up straight to face Marty square on.  “Go ahead, do it,” he crossed his arms, “I’m waiting.”axe in wood illustration by Nat Wildish

Marty stood there, frozen, lips pressed thin.  His bright blue eyes were hardly visible his face was so distorted with bitterness.  The two men stood, one longing to pull the trigger, the other calmly awaiting his fate.

Marty threw the gun down.  It fired, exploding randomly into the air, echoing off the trees and rocky terrain.  “Damn you, I wish I could,” he turned and strode back into the woods.  He vanished, the gun on the ground the only evidence he had ever been there.  Tom noticed the sound of the river, wiped the sweat from his face again and picked up his axe to continue his rhythmical chopping.

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“Gex Door” Egg Tempera Painting

Monday, March 29th, 2010

There are beautiful little alcoves and doorways all round Gex, a hillside town in the Pays de Gex, Ain, France.  Walking around the streets higher up in Gex I caught sight of this doorway.  It struck me as a simple entrance, without pretense, and yet it has a nobility about it that makes you wonder if it’s the way in to some great hall or building of historical importance.  I don’t know whose home it is, or if the building has specific history to it, although being part of the old town of Gex is significant enough.

Gex Doorway Egg Tempera Painting by Nat Wildish

The painting is 12″ x 16″  (30 x 41 cm) and is done with egg tempera.  This painting will also be a part of the ‘Gex Book’.  I love the town of Gex and creating this book is my way of paying a small homage to that special place.  I think the best thing in life is to share beauty, and so I hope you enjoy it too.

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Rue du Commerce, Gex, France: A Watercolor Painting

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

Here’s the latest watercolor painting for the Gex book:Rue du Commerce Gex France Watercolor Painting by Nat Wildish

As you look at this painting, imagine turning round to your left and a few paces back down this same street, then you would see the view of the Gex Town fountain, which is in a small square to the left of this street.  You can see the painting of the Gex Town Fountain in the previous DweezelJazz blog post.

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Digital Painting of Gex Town Fountain, France, Using Corel Painter 11

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

Yesterday I finished another painting for the Gex book. Walking uphill on one of the main streets in Gex, there are wall-to-wall two to three story buildings hugging the sidewalk on either side of the street.  So it’s quite unexpected when, on the left, a small square opens up, and it’s possible to see the Jura mountains in the distance and in the square there’s a fountain with running water.Gex Town Fountain digital painting by Nat Wildish

I finally succumbed and tried Corel Painter 11, and this scene is painted with Corel Painter watercolor brushes.  It is really a very nice way to paint digitally.  I don’t find it easier than painting with normal paint brushes and pots of paint.  In fact for the style I’ve used in painting the Gex fountain, I find it’s much more time-consuming to paint digitally than with watercolor on paper.

This is the photo used as reference:

Gex Town Fountain

Gex Town Fountain

The ability to experiment without worrying about the cost of materials or if the painting will be ruined, allows much more room to let it flow and try different things. I tend to spend more time going after colors and light that I want to see in the painting.

It’s very nice not to have washing or clearing up afterward. This makes it much easier to start painting even if there is only a short interval of time available for painting.  I’m much more inclined to turn on the computer during those times than I am to dig out all the paints and brushes for a painting session.

When painting digitally, I paint pretty much how I would on paper, building up from washes to more detail.  I saved backups when I finished an area, so it doesn’t demonstrate much gradual buildup within any given area, but below is a sequence showing the progression in terms of which sections I tackled in what order (click on image to enlarge).Gex Town Fountain digital painting by Nat Wildish Progress Sheet

I highly recommend Corel Painter 11 for anyone wanting to paint digitally.  It’s potential seems limitless, and it’s very interesting to experiment to see what can be done with it.

Do you like digital artwork, or do you prefer traditionally created artwork? Which do you prefer to see? Which do you prefer to create? Why?  I’d love to know your thoughts.

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Pen and Ink Sketches

Friday, November 13th, 2009

I’m trying my hand at pen and ink sketches. I have tended to avoid drawing people, so that’s mainly what I’m concentrating on just now. It’s turning out to be a great deal of fun, not to mention challenging.Ink Sketch of Fellow by Nat Wildish

I choose scenes from dvds for movies we’ve watched recently, so that I don’t spoil a movie for the next viewing of one that we haven’t seen in a while.  (I love movies).  Ink Sketches by Nat Wildish

Sketching from dvds also provides a perfect opportunity to study the composition and layout of scenes and shots. How does the camera focus on the person in the scene? What is shown in addition? Where are the people placed and where are they relative to one another? There are so many tips to learn from directly just by doing this, which is great for honing skills to create works of art that excel in visual storytelling.

Here’s a closer look at the top sketches… (As usual, you can click on the images for larger view.)Ink Sketches by Nat Wildish

In the past, I have often thought I should sketch, and on a couple of occasions I made feeble starts at it and gave up. This time I’m going all out – and the experience is so much fun that I can surely recommend doing it.  Even my previous short forays into sketching just for the sake of sketching have contributed to helping me get going this time. Every little bit helps….

Ink Sketches by Nat Wildish

If you were hesitating about whether ‘to sketch or not to sketch’, give it a try!

Just let go, don’t worry about bumbling it (you can always hide those – I do) and go for it. I’d love to hear from you if you sketch, or if you have any thoughts or suggestions on sketching.

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Gex Town Hall Watercolor Painting and More for the ‘Gex Book’

Friday, October 30th, 2009

Here are a couple more watercolor paintings for the Gex book.  The first one shows the side of a house with roses growing along the wall beside a window.Roses Gex Farmstead Watercolor Painting by Nat Wildish

I really liked the wild, free, rugged beauty the place has.  It’s part of an old farmstead in the countryside on the outskirts of Gex.  In a previous post, Walking In The Pays de Gex, France, you can see photos taken in the same area, and there’s also a photo taken on this same farm of a tractor with ducks and geese all round it.

The painting below is of the Marie, or Town Hall, of Gex. Front View of Gex Mairie Watercolor Painting by Nat Wildish

I love the variety of colors used to paint buildings in this part of France.  The buildings are often painted in pale pastels, and occasionally, as in the case of the Town Hall, they’re a bit more vibrantly attired.

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Working With Photographs As Reference For Paintings

Friday, October 16th, 2009

There are many stages involved in creating a painting of a scene.  I’m an indoors type of painter so I like to use the convenience of a camera to record the details of a subject for future reference.  Using photographs for reference is really great, if a few things are kept in mind and a couple of  pitfalls avoided.  The main elements that I have found to be of vital importance are:

  • composition
  • color
  • perspective
  • free nature of the art

Attention to Composition

The first thing to do is to capture the subject or place that you’re interested in with the camera.  This can be a bit tricky. The number of photos I’ve taken only to find, when I get home, that they just don’t have what I’m looking for to inspire me to a painting. I’ve written a few posts about what I look for and strive for when taking photographs.

Cropping a photograph can make a tremendous difference to the feel of the subject.  Understanding composition and using it to show off your subject in the most flattering way can change a prospective painting from dull and commonplace to really eye-catching.

I really liked this photo of trees in a park in England.

"Stourhead Majestic Trees" Reference Photo

"Stourhead Majestic Trees" Reference Photo

Cropping it to an oval brings focus and a kind of movement to the trunks as the eye is drawn into the painting.

"Stourhead Majestic Trees" Egg Tempera Painting

You can see more about the park that inspired this painting in a previous post:  Egg Tempera Painting of “Stourhead Majestic Trees”.

It’s also fun to put together a composition from a variety of reference photos, as was done with the “Knight and Monument” watercolor painting shown below.

Knight and Monument Watercolor Painting

The monument is a war memorial from a photo I took in London from a double-deck bus; the trees are from the French Jura mountains; the greenery in the foreground was taken from a flowerbed in Geneva; and the Knight and his horse are taken from a variety of shots of people on horses from a movie – the man on the horse is different from the one on that horse in the movie. Creating this painting was a lot of fun.

Another facet of  composition to be aware of is to exclude any details that are present in the photo that aren’t essential to the meaning of the piece, or may even be distracting from it. In this reference shot of a road in the town of Gex, France, the removal of the trash cans and cars, along with all the markings in the road, helped to focus on the real essence of the scene.

Reference Photo for View of Gex Town Hall from houses and church

Reference Photo for View of Gex Town Hall from houses and church

Below you can see the watercolor painting, “Gex Church View”, that resulted from using this photo as a reference.  The lamp that you can see at the top of the photo wasn’t included because it distracts from the main focus of the scene and draws the eye up, when it’s important for the art to draw the eye into the painting.  View of Gex Town Hall from houses and church Watercolor Painting by Nat Wildish

The painting is for the Gex Book.  The back of the Gex Church is to the left, and there are houses to the right. Looking down the street you can see the dark grey turret of the Town Hall; it has the same distinctive clocks on all four sides. Beyond is the Geneva valley.  In the distance, Le Saleve is visible to the right.

The Importance of Color

Color is one of the things that is probably the most influential of all factors in a painting.  At least, I’ve discovered that this is true in my perception of artwork.  If the colors are appealing to me, I am often immediately drawn to a painting, and then I look closely at the subject of it.

Even though I’m strongly driven by color, it has taken me quite some time to begin understanding how to use color to the most benefit. A short, but very clear article, that I’ve found very helpful is at Indezine.com: “What Is Color Theory”.  I have also found the image of the color wheel shown on the book called  “The Color Star” by Johannes Itten to be useful.

I haven’t read Itten’s book however, since one of the customer comments on Amazon.com mentioned that his books are extremely good, but that they are rather heavy in theory and somewhat complicated. Perceptions of complication are somewhat subjective, and whether it’s the case or not for this book I don’t know, but I decided to wait and see if I could achieve what I wanted with paintings before committing myself to further study!

The thing about cameras and computer screens, and printers for that matter, is that most of them all portray the same colors a bit differently.  Some cameras are set to give a very bright, colorful rich image, while others tone down a lot of colors and almost give a blue tint to everything. My larger camera does the latter.

So it’s important to remember the colors and lighting of a place or subject that you saw as best as you can. Some artists do quick sketches and watercolors on site so that they can better remember the essence of the light and atmosphere of the place.  Then they combine this with the use of photographs to provide more details.  James Gurney has good articles on this and many other subjects at his blog Gurney Journey; one in particular on this subject is Using Photo Reference.

The reference photo shown below is somewhat limited in its color appeal. And there’s a tourist in the way! (No, I didn’t take this photo, but I was there.)

Reference Photo for View of Le Saleve and French Alps from Gex

Reference Photo for View of Le Saleve and French Alps from Gex

I decided to portray what I know of the atmosphere and feel of the place in the following way with the painting, “Gex View Across The Valley”:View of Le Saleve and French Alps from Gex Watercolor Painting by Nat Wildish

This painting too is one I’ve just completed for the Gex Book. There are spectacular views from the town of Gex, which is located in the foothills of the French Jura Mountains. In this painting you can see to the south of Gex, across the valley towards the city of Geneva in Switzerland.  Le Saleve is the first set of hills on the other side of the valley.  Le Saleve is in France and not Switzerland, the Swiss border ends pretty much at the foot of Le Saleve. The mountains beyond it belong to the Mont Blanc Massif.

Draft page layout Gex Book by Nat Wildish

Draft page layout Gex Book

Here you can see how it looks in the page layout for the book.  In a previous post I mentioned that the other sketch that wasn’t yet completed on this page (which happens to be this painting, and is now completed) would be of a view down the valley towards Bellegarde – well, turns out it wasn’t – this one also faces towards Le Saleve! But there is a view looking down towards Bellegarde in at least one painting still to be done for the book, and it will be painted and shown here on DweezelJazz Art blog eventually.

Look out for Proper Perspective

Many camera lenses distort.  Even with anti-distortion on, the distortion of lines, especially towards the edges of the image, can still be very pronounced. I was so surprised when I started looking more closely at just how much distortion can go unnoticed by the casual glance at a photo. It’s almost as if the eye makes up for it.  But in a painting, I think it’s a different story. If the perspective is odd, then it most likely will get noticed, especially if it’s unintentional!

Making the Art Unencumbered and Expressive

It’s super easy to get lost in all the detail that a photograph provides.  It can become an all-consuming goal to try to portray the scene or subject in all it’s complexity, with the utmost accuracy.  Unless this is done with extreme care, this can quickly kill the feeling, life, and atmosphere of a piece. It’s very good to consciously decide in advance how much detail is wanted, and how it will advance the aim of what the painting will convey.  Always staying aware of atmosphere, feeling, and even the emotions of the piece will help to maintain the focus of the goal for each painting.  It will also help to consider these things when choosing the predominant colors for a painting.

More important than detail or accuracy is the conveyance of meaning, atmosphere, life, and what the artist finds uniquely interesting in a scene or object, rather than to present all its details in accurate duplication.  Individual expression and viewpoint is what makes creating and observing art so endlessly fascinating.

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The Next Set of Watercolor Paintings for the Gex Book

Monday, October 12th, 2009

Last week I did six more watercolors for the Gex book, completing the paintings for two more pages and starting a couple more pages.

There are many walking paths  in the mountains and foothills just behind Gex and every once in a while there are signposts showing directions and, sometimes, distances or walking times.  Here’s one such sign (click on photos to see larger image):

Gex Country Walkway Signpost

Gex Country Walkway Signpost

A river runs through the lowest part of the town (as rivers often do) and right next to the river there’s a fountain. This is sometimes used by a nearby car repair shop to check where the holes are in punctured tires.  The river runs just below, to the right of the railing; the house on the right is on the other side of the bank.

Fountain Near River In Gex

Fountain Near River In Gex

Close to the fountain on the other side of the river, and on slightly higher ground, there are very old parts of the town that lead upwards behind the old town wall.  The next painting shows the view looking up one of the narrow staircases from the street.

Narrow staircase leading up to house in Gex

Narrow staircase leading up to house in Gex

These last two paintings make up a page in the book.  The page is shown below; it’s a rough draft of the image layout just to give an idea of what it’ll look like.

Rough Image Layout Draft of Page in Gex Book

Rough Image Layout Draft of Page in Gex Book

I’m painting whatever scene appeals to me at the time of choosing, so the pages aren’t being completed in book page order.  Higher up the town the streets are steep, and some are fairly narrow and are pedestrian walkways only.

View from Gex in direction of Le Saleve

View from Gex in direction of Le Saleve

Looking over the wall of one such walkway the view is expansive, looking out towards Le Saleve, which is also in France, but is on the other side of Geneva, Switzerland.  If you’d like to see more about Le Saleve you can see previous posts: A Car Trip Up Le Saleve, Part I and Part II.

This painting fits on the page of the Gex book shown below.  This week I’ll paint the other scene that you can see as a sketch on the right hand side of the page, showing a view from the town looking south down the valley towards Bellegarde.

Draft Image Layout for a page in the Gex book

Draft Image Layout for a page in the Gex book

I chose a couple of bright, colorful little paintings for the sheer fun of it.  There’s a very nice cafe on the main street in Gex.  Every weekend there’s a market on this street, so this cafe is very popular with the market stall keepers and customers alike.  There will be a couple of paintings, for the book, of both the inside and outside of this cafe coming up in the future. Their cups and saucers have always been a great source of fun.

Gex cafe, PMU, coffee cup

Gex PMU cafe coffee cup

And there are often very interesting sugar cubes, bright and cheerful.

Sugar cube bowl at the Gex cafe, PMU

Sugar cube bowl at the Gex PMU cafe

These two paintings are arranged on a page to the left of the page that will show the inside of the cafe.

Draft Layout of Images on a page in Gex book

Draft Layout of Images on a page in Gex book

Stay tuned to DweezelJazz Art blog to see the painting of the inside of the cafe, and others, as the Gex book is being completed!

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Fancy Napkins

Monday, October 5th, 2009

A couple of weeks ago we were in town and we went to the Place du Bourg de Four (in Geneva, Switzerland) for a coffee.

Place du Bourg de Four in the Old Town Geneva, Switzerland

Place du Bourg de Four in the Old Town Geneva, Switzerland

As we were leaving we noticed an ice cream bar and decided, on the spur of the moment, to get one.

Place du Bourg de Four, Ice Cream Bar on the left row of cafes and shops.

Place du Bourg de Four. The ice cream bar is on the left in a row of cafes and shops.

They had these very cute napkins:Fancy-Napkin-01

I brought a few different designs home for fun; it turns out there are a total of eight different designs in this series.Fancy-Napkin-02

On the back of the napkins is a link for the design company Camal.Fancy-Napkin-03

This week I’m back to painting in watercolor – the next batch of drawings are ready.  You can see the last set of paintings for the Gex book in the post, “Watercolor Paintings of Scenes in the Pays de Gex, France“.

Drawings for book about Pays de Gex, France, ready for painting in watercolor

Drawings for book about Pays de Gex, France, ready for painting in watercolor

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