Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Apartment

I dedicate today's post to Brian McDonald. His blog, invisibleink and his book Invisible Ink, have taught me what little I know about storytelling, and more importantly, highlighted my lack of knowledge.  I deeply respect the craft, and I feel it's a very important aspect of our work as illustrators. His book is easy to read, informative and cheap. I recommend it.

One of the movies I discovered thanks to Brian Mcdonald is "The Apartment" by Billy Wilder. In it, Jack Lemmon's character, C.C Baxter, chases a promotion by allowing his bosses to use his apartment for various nocturnal activities. Meanwhile Shirley MacLaine's character Fran, an elevator-lady, is having dead-end affair with the boss, who's married, at the same company. Suffice to say, both characters are faced with problems arising from their situations, and need to deal with them :) The movie is a call to integrity, a comment on the hazards of chasing money and promotions, and the down-sides to being an amiable people-pleaser.

I really should stylize and make the shapes sexier.. Damn.

Wise men once asked "What is best in life?". Well, I would be tempted to say spending time with friends and loved ones, making art, listening to good live-music and eating good food. But coffee, it's certainly up there.


Up-Tempo House!! Yeeeeaaaahhhhh!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


 Practice-practice-practice. Starting to tackle environments too..

 Original Photo

And here's a work-test in three parts I did for a studio. T'was fun and challenging! I'm afraid I can't say anything more about it.

Some Hip-Hop to brighten your day ;P

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Strokes and Stuff

Totally Inspired by Aurelien Predal's Color-keys for monster in Paris.. One of my dreams is to be able to work on feature films some day, and I'd love to do character-designs and color-keys. One day :) Fashion, light and strokes. Photo from the eminent


Occasionally I stumble upon a picture which takes my breath away, literally. Here's one :) Experimenting a bit with a rich underpainting. I kinda dig the contrast between rough and grimy rendering with the more delicate subject. I'm having fun and learning at the same time :D



 Original Photo

And a pretty lady in a bathtub, beckoning some sort of action I feel. Is it Iveta from My inspiration-folder is just full of pictures from tumblr with no creditable names.


I've loved Brazilian Jazz (Bossa Nova) as long as I can remember. The first song I learned on the guitar, when I was eleven, was Girl From Ipanema (classic!). A.C Jobim (aka. Tom Jobim) is one of my favorite composers, here's a less know song by him (as far as I know), but still beautiful.

Ivan Lins is another master, here's a song of his I enjoy very much, performed by sting. Word.

Thursday, July 24, 2014


A blog I love is . They go around the world, taking photos of interesting-looking people and fashion. Figure I'd might as well make a cartoon-study! Trying to translate a photo stylistically is intellectually stimulating and challenging for me. I attempted to be more painterly, more along the lines of what you might see in a color-script for an animated feature.


So I saw all over the webz how a company called Mondo will be releasing an Iron Giant collectible figure. Being one of my all time favorite movies, and considering the fact that I'm weak at hard-surface designs, I had to do a study.

Revisiting an old character and setting which I like. Needed a break from the studies, so I did something purely for fun, Crimson Claw striking a bargain? Still not pleased with my rendering, but it's slowly going in the right direction I feel.

Here you go peeps, Swedish music! ;)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Mo Chuisle

During the two hours I was watching Million Dollar Baby, directed by Clint Eastwood, I was deeply emotionally moved. In fact, I was unable to speak as I was cracking up with tears. Hilary Swank's character, Maggie Fitzgerald, is fantastic, and it's someone I feel I can identify with. Here's an attempt at capturing some of that movie's magic. Obviously stylizing! I feel I wasn't brave enough with playing with, and exaggerating, the shapes. Too timid and feeble-hearted. Maybe I rendered too far as well. Hopefully better next time! I did enjoy the subtle lighting of the scene, not a lot of dramatic overstated stuff happening.  I've got a list of movies I wish to tackle in this fashion; The Thing, Heat, Magnolia, Terminator 2, Leon, Barton Fink, The Pink Panther (2), Straw Dogs and Boogie Nights, just to name a few.

Original frame from the movie.

AAAaaaand a Sorolla-study. Damn I love his brushwork. Needed to try out a new brush to more closely match his style.

I've been a fan of popping for many years. Kite, Bionic (man), Salah and Yoshie are some of the ones I enjoy watching the most. Here's a stellar performance, entertainment at the highest level.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

How I Study

Studying the magnificent Sargent. Original on left, my study on the right.
 A study of Sargent, how I do it. For future reference, and because stuff like this helped me out when I started practicing painting seriously back in 2006. The community was the best, back in the day, and people such as Tom Scholes and Patri Balanovsky helped me out a lot in those early days. I feel a kind of obligation towards the art-community to share, as a sort of pay-back, and furthermore, by writing this I have to face my ignorance and mis-conceptions. It's an ego-destroying-process, once again reminding me of how little I know, how much I have to learn, and motivating me to practice more and better. Also this is challenge, and I love those...

1. Shape Block-In
Step 1, getting the shapes right with a 100% Opaque Brush.
At first, looking at a master-painting I panic. There's so much great stuff going on at the same time, the direction of the strokes, the edge-control, the bouncing light and materials etc. Where to start?! For me, it makes sense to try to decipher the major shapes...

 A shape is a flat area of value or color, not to be confused with a form. Square, circle, rectangle, triangle, those are shapes, whereas a cube, sphere, pyramid and cylinder are forms. I try to reduce the complexity of the shapes, reducing the amount of bumps initially, and then increasing in complexity gradually. Inside the shapes, I draw in some very simple lines (usually pretty straight), indicating major landmarks, making it easier for me to judge the relationships of the shapes. Things like the bottom of the chin, cuts in the clothes etc is what I'm looking for. Easily identifiable landmarks showing where shapes will start and end. I'm eye-gauging some things, but I am also drawing horizontal lines from the original (this requires having the two images side by side), to aid me in the placement. I'm CHEATING 'cause I'm a horrible person. If the intent of the study was to practice drawing, I would deprive myself of that method, but this is mainly about painting.

What I'm NOT DOING is constructing forms, which is a method outlined by artists such as Glenn Vilppu. That stuff is very useful, and it's what I studied to learn how to draw, but this is a more academic approach. Construction of the forms is great for animation, but it's unnecessarily time-consuming and more appropriate for pure-drawing practice. In addition, I'm NOT trying to make a pretty linedrawing.  I think it's important to know what it is you're trying to practice, and focus on that. Know what you're doing, and commit to that fully. "When I am walking I am walking; when I am eating I am eating.".

I'm using a strictly 100% Opaque brush, so I don't have to think about edge-hardness and smooth transitions etc, that comes later. I'm using the brush and eraser in equal amounts, adding and cutting out of the shapes to get the result I want. In addition, you don't have to think only about the positive shape, the negative shape gives very helpful clues in placing everything in the right place. Things such as the edges of the canvas are powerful allies in getting the right placement of shit! If there's a lot of sfumato and lost edges going on you'll simply have to imagine where the shapes start and stop.

This step is VERY IMPORTANT, it lays the foundation for everything else, and requires PATIENCE and being meticulous and careful. This step can take HOURS. It doesn't look very sexy, but you'll just have to accept that and postpone your gratification.

Command of shapes and shape-design is one of the most powerful tools we have as concept-artists. If you don't know about things like Straight vs. Curve, Tapering, Size-Variation, Primary/Secondary/Tertiary- shapes, the psychology of squarish, circular, triangular and asymmetrical shapes, you might want to dedicate some study-time towards that :) I know I certainly have A LOT to learn.

For a bit more on shape and painting, check out Shaddy Safadi's video-tutorials. In my opinion one of the most generous contributions aimed at the betterment of the concept-art community in recent years.

2. Squinting Level Rendering
If I squint my eyes, like Clint Eastwood, the study looks pretty similar to the source (except the head, I'm leaving that for later).

Put down colors in big strokes, focusing on the whole image at the same time. I try to get everything to a 10% of maximum render level. When I quint my eyes, which I do a lot, I want my study to look almost identical to the original. I resist the urge to jump in and render, especially the focal areas. I'm a sucker for pretty faces, so I'm really conscious about maintaining discipline here. At this point you really need to know which your focal-points are going to be. One of my major flaws has been rendering everything at the same level, and that's time-consuming, in-efficient, and looks boring. I suppose some people prefer that look, but I'm not one of them. I usually work on the big areas such as the background first, gradually working on smaller fields of color.

As I'm painting, I've locked the layer transparency, so I won't go outside of the shapes I established in the previous step. Sometimes I'll create a new layer which I lock into the underlying layer as well. If I notice that my silhouette is really off, I'll unlock the transparency and fix the shape.

If you consider each stroke as a shape, it gets easier I think. Again, like in the last step, we're just placing  big shapes in the proper relationship to each other. I try to avoid working with small sized-brushes in this step. To get the right color I am doing a lot of colorpicking. This is probably a big NO-NO, but I'm selectively lazy. And I'm getting results and learning stuff, so fuck it. I feel I understand why the color looks the way it does. I think it's good to have a fairly good idea of color-theory if you want to use the color-picker. I would suggest the following for a solid foundation on the subject: (this is heavy, but the most in-depth I've read)
 (Book) James Gurney's "Color & Light"

Jaime Jones outlined in one of his step-by-step paintings, that he switches brushes to avoid a "samey" look. Well, that looks nice so I stole that. I switch brushes quite a bit, although I have a favorite bristled one which I use for a lot of the skin. I try to avoid the smooth airbrush, cause it looks very photoshop, and it kills a lot of the random textured interesting stuff. Later, when we really want to model the form and sculpt, using the airbrush along with some selections is awesome, but not at this step.

3. Final Painting
Refining the shapes and strokes, zooming in a bit and adding details..

Yah yah, good. Now we can go into more detail! Just relax and paint using various brushes, selections and the smudge-tool. A mistake I made earlier in my career was imposing limitations on the tools I was using. Nowadays I just let photoshop be photoshop, and I'll use whatever method or tool to get the job done. Overlays, screen-layers, liquify, dodge, special-brushes, adjustment-layers, it all goes.

When I want to work on an area with detail, I'll grab a selection from the original image and put it side by side with my painting, if I had 2 computer-screens I would bring up the reference on my second screen, but I do all my work on my 17" macbook pro (which I have in my lap together with my wacom). 
Finally time to tackle the face! My favorite part, but I find it beneficial to leave it for later, after I've rendered the rest. It can take a long time paint, and once the face is rendered, I tend to want to over-render the rest, because I'm comparing it to the face.
At this point it can be nice to show some love to the edges, so everything doesn't maintain that hard-edged opaque feel from step one. I've got the main compositional elements in separate layers, and using layer-masks I can manipulate the outer edges of the shapes without risking ruining too much.

I feel that doing these studies presents wonderful opportunities to try out new tools and brushes. Since the main purpose is to educate oneself, and most certainly these paintings won't go in the portfolio, its a non-serious and low pressure context to go wild and experiment. Since I started these studies I have reformed my brush-set completely, and that's over the course of three months.
My final result of the study. Learning a lot about edges, level of detail and finish.

So what's the point of all this? Well, for me it's about learning how to paint, and understanding from the masters how much detail is enough and how to handle brushstrokes.

Finally, maybe the best song, and music-video ever made. With this, I'm the king of the dance-floor, no joke ;P

MODJO "Chillin'" from addictif on Vimeo.

And here, take this from Question and Freddie Joachim! HipHop + Jazz

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

12 Angry Men

"12 Angry Men" (1957) is definitely one of the best films I have ever seen. No doubt, it's call to reason and emphasis on not letting prejudice and ignorance lay the foundation for our decisions, is equally as important now as it was when it was made. I hope I will be able to display the characteristics, the courage, clarity of mind and compassion, of Henry Fonda's character if I'm ever faced with a similar situation. I want to wholeheartedly recommend it to all of you. This movie feels more fresh than anything coming out of Hollywood today (except for Paul Thomas Anderson). And how skillfully the multi-figure compositions are handled, the readability reminds me of Akira Kurosawa's movies.

The light and feeling in this one captivated me.
 Original photo from (Warning!! NSFW) 

My half-uncle Alex, who's an animator and illustrator (and french), bought me The Iron Giant when I was around 18 (as well as introduced me to Claire Wendling's "Iguana Bay"). I loved it very much, and I still regard it as maybe the best 2D animated Feature-film (alongside Don Bluth's "American Tail"). Directed by Brad Bird, the story-armature "You are who you chose to be" strikes a strong chord with me. Here are studies of some of the hand-references which I assume were used internally by the animators. I never felt comfortable with digital drawing, but now, using a new brush, being more at ease with the imperfections and working in layers, refining the sketch gradually, at least I feel I have tools and a process to handle it. I can't deny it, looking at the original drawings of these hands, I'm just a little bit aroused, so damn good..

This, this is jazz at it's finest. I love this song beyond words. I read it was composed by Miles Davis for Cannonball Adderley.

Fantastic composition. Love this song, listened to it like a dozen times in a row.

Lots of love ya'll, take care ;)

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Cartoon Erotica

This was ridiculously enjoyable... Inspired by great artists such as Shane Glines, Bruce Timm, Bill Presing, Freddy Moore and Chris Sanders. Listening to Robert Greene's Art of Seduction, I felt compelled to paint someone seductive :)
 100% Working-size.
Some steps, if that's helpful. This time, unlike most of my studies, I was not aiming for accuracy in the drawing, but rather having fun with stylization.

I need to practice character interaction and storytelling, and I felt this photo was very compelling...



Friday, July 11, 2014

More Murder Ballads...

Hey there! Some more characters for a personal project. Experimenting with lighting and rendering.

More Darren E Marshall. I love his sculptures!  Remind me to avoid foreshortened guitars...

I regard Milt Kahl as the best animator, and one of the finest draftsmen who's ever lived. I want to be able to be as expressive and skillful at visual storytelling as he was, one day. Stylistically I am more fond of the drawings of Bruce Timm, Claire Wendling, Matt Rhodes and Ben Caldwell though.

And please allow me to impose upon you this gem...

Have a nice weekend, thanks for looking! :D

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Anton Ego and Stuff

Loved Ratatouille. The story-armature "anyone can cook" resonates profoundly with me. I feel Anton Ego is a very well designed character, and I find the level of finish in this concept very appealing. Look at those shapes! Looks kinda like a coffin, no? Almost not entirely unlike a more subtle shape-design of the Mafia-goons in Sylvain Chomet's Triplets from Belleville. I laughed hard at the top-down view of his room, and the type-writer.. (Working at Pixar is my dream-job, so I might as well learn from their stuff, right?)

In my humble opinion, Blizzard has consistently been delivering some of the greatest gaming experiences. The story in Starcraft (1) might be the best ever btw. And their cinematics, OMG. Did a study of the fantastic intro-cinematic for Starcraft 2 Heart of the swarm. The quality of it is simply mind-boggling.

Pretty lady, good light.

Courtesty of the lovely Gina B. Thanks for the inspiration!

Finally, a great lil' Jazz-tune. Miles Davis ftw. *Breathes deeply