Earlier this year I started a new series of portraits of Canadians, The first one I did was of CBC’s Rex Murphy followed by a portrait of Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin. I met the mayor today and presented the painting to him. I was thrilled when he said it was “more than amazing”.
I plan on doing fifty of these and have two more in progress right now. They are three by five inches, acrylic on canvas.
A few months back as I was working on a series of digital paintings on my iPod I decided to try something like a figure drawing. Up to this point I’d only done portraits – mainly because of the small screen size – and I suppose I’m more drawn to portraits, anyway.
A friend of mine told me about the work of Andrew Loomis and I picked up a copy of his book, Figure Drawing: For All it’s Worth. I decided to do a study of one of his drawings, only paint it in a style reminiscent of Gil Elvgren.
It was fun to do, but painting this small is a real challenge – getting the face right was the hardest part. Anyway, here it is:
Last year I worked on Pixar’s Brave for the Leapfrog Explorer. It was a big project and my main task for this was painting backgrounds. One challenge for work like this is the way the ground plane is tilted up at such a strong angle. The reason this is done is that many objects need to be placed in the scene for the player to find. Another challenge for these backgrounds is that only a small part of them is seen at any one time which creates challenges for composition – also the perspective would naturally shift in a scene that a character walks across them, but as these are flat backgrounds you have to create a strange type perspective that doesn’t really make sence.
In June I went to the Pixar campus in Emeryville, California. It is such an amazing place. As Brave was just being released they had the place decorated to celebrate. They had enormous tapestries in the lobby and even the security was dressed in Scottish regalia. The receptionist was also dressed up and when asked by another visitor if that was how she usually dressed she came back with, “Yeah, this is just how I like to dress when I’m pumping gas on the way to work.”
I was excited to see they had even made a full size the stone circle from the movie. Here’s a picture of me awkwardly posing next to it:
The third series I’ve been working on is portraits of my family. My son was interested in the portraits that have become the Held series and asked if I would paint his portrait, too. I had him sit for me a few times. I don’t think I’ve completed a piece that I’ve had as much emotional investment in before.
He wore that red shirt specially for this portrait – it’s actually a Smurfs shirt. I didn’t put that in, though, as I thought it would be distracting. I have three other portraits in progress for this series (including one of my cat) which I will be posting soon.
This is the first image of a second series of paintings made on an iPod touch. Part of the reason I’ve been doing portraits like this is I like the feeling of intimacy these pictures have, held on a small screen. It reminds me of the miniature paintings travelers would carry with them before the invention of photography. Portraits like that were often used as a form of introduction, or to have an image of a loved one with you when you couldn’t be together.
After doing a number of portraits of people like this I felt compelled to do something a little different. So here we have the first of a set of animals, in this case a chimpanzee. The challenge with this painting was to imbue it with a sense of presence, but not a human one.
This is a series I am currently working on called Held. The work came about after a few things happening around the same time. One was that I had an iPod and was wondering what I might do with it creatively, another was I found out about an app called Brushes from a colleague. The third was that I had been looking at a series of paintings made by Théodore Géricault, his “portraits of the insane”.
In 1821, Géricault painted a series of ten (only five remain today) portraits of psychiatric patients. What I find compelling about these images is that the circumstances around their creation were very unique for the time. These people he painted hadn’t commissioned his services and certainly wouldn’t own the work when it was complete. I think it is for these reasons that Géricault was free to paint these people as he really saw them. There is no attempt to flatter and there are no favors to be gained by connecting with these people. The result is something so honest and psychologically complex.
I considered doing studies of them (I still might), but what I wanted to do more was something new. So here we have this series:
Last spring I worked on a project called Crayola Art Adventure. The project was made for the Leapster and featured a number of Crayola products via a series of art lessons. I developed the art lessons, story-boarded and made character designs for the project. Below is a sketch of the character I designed. His name is Roy G. Biv.
It’s funny, I am left handed but that has never come up in my work before, but over the years I have developed a habit of drawing things from right to left so I don’t smudge my drawings. After I had animated a few of the drawing lessons for this project and they had kid tested them, they noticed that the lessons seemed left handed. I hadn’t done this intentionally, it’s just become part of the way I work. Then again it even came out in the drawings I did of Roy. As you can see, he is gesturing with his right hand – because I was using my own right hand as drawing reference (I, however, have five fingers not four).
They didn’t ask me to re-do the lessons, but for the remaining ones I animated them as though I was right handed. I have to admit, it kind of looked wrong to me. 😉
Here is the coloured version of the above sketch:
Note that he has five fingers now.
The backgrounds I did for these story panels were inspired by the old UPA cartoons. I love that style.
I’ll show you one last bit of that project. Below is a sketch of a contraption I did. Roy G. Biv is kind of a mad scientist type character and this machine he built is meant for producing colours. See if you can find the logic in it. It almost makes sense if you don’t think too much. Either way it was fun to draw.