PaintBlog: Project Telephone Girl, Part 6

Before I did any more work with the figure, I needed to get the background squared away, otherwise (as noted in our last chapter) we could face trouble in the detailing.

I decided I wanted to keep the shelves in the background, though really only in position; I’ll redo them as I like.  The original photograph just seemed too claustrophobic.  Anyway.  First, masking tape:


Then paint over the masking tape:


Here’s an illustration of why “Background First – Figure Last” is a good policy.  I can paint up to a certain point with a large brush.


Then I have to carefully move in with smaller brushes so I can get up to the side of her face.


I didn’t like the solid black (raw umber) so I thought I’d try marbling with some red and white veins.


Finally, the tape is removed:


What we have above are shelf fronts, without any dimension to them.  So lets add some more surfaces for them.  More tape, just along the bottom edge the top shelf, and the top edge of the bottom shelf.


And the tape is removed.  It’s hard to see below because the paint is reflecting a lot of light, but the middle shelf looks kind of silly without any other surfaces.


Now let’s add some shadows beneath the shelves, and just for fun, let’s paint in the counter top as well:


More marbling, the middle shelf has been given a bit of dimensionality, and her arm is now reflected in the countertop.  I took the picture below at a more severe angle to try and minimize the glare from the paint:


The above was one evening’s work.  Fortunately, raw umber dries pretty rapidly so I could start again the next night. 

Now let’s try and give some more depth to the background.  I want to give the impression that the wall behind her is actually the wall to her side, continuing back.  So we’ll start with some tape:


Painting over the tape to give the red a more even look.  I’ve also covered up the outlining around her head.


Well, the one side looks okay, so let’s see if we can make that continue.  What I’m really after is the appearance of a series of open-back shelves going back from her, like those in a library.


And here’s what we’re left with after two evening’s work.


Red and white take a fairly long time to dry, so we’ll leave this as is for a couple of days.  At that point we’ll let you know what transpires.  Many thanks for your patronage.

Postcard from Nowhere

 I didn’t really feel like working on Telephone Girl.  ANd I didn’t feel like working on ESJ or Paint Blog II (which will be two years old in a few weeks).

Instead, I pulled out an old landscape sketch which I posted here before, and worked on it.  And here it is.


It’s just a landscape, but I kind of like it.  I also worked a bit on the image below, which you might remember from some weeks back.  The differences introduced are pretty tiny, mostly trying to get the bracken stuff to look three-dimensional through various kind of shading and highlighting.

I was watching Serenity and drinking beer while doing all this, so all those rumors you’ve heard are either true or not true, depending on which rumors you heard.

Hope you’re all having a great weekend. 

PaintBlog: Project Telephone Girl, Parts 4 and 5

Since I got to have all that fun with blog moving stuff and whatever and what-not, I’m going to combine the last two sessions into one fun-filled post. Well, okay, it’s not filled with fun. It’s filled with delicious candy.

Session Four concentrated on the arms. With a surprise, twist ending. First, the right arm. Blocked in and slightly shaded.


We add some more shading to that, and start differentiating the fingers:


At this point, I thought it would be a bit dull to post pictures of arms. While I’m frequently a bit dull, I figured, hey, let’s look at this work in a greater context.


With another view, slightly further back to give it even more context:


Below, we start on the left arm, and then we add a line about where the counter top ought to be. It was here that I subconsciously realized a big mistake I’d made. More on that after a couple more pictures. 


And below, even more shading. Her arm is bleeding in to where her dress will be, but that’s okay, it’s easy to paint over things.


Easy to paint over things…that’s when it struck me. If I was going to do any background stuff (which I will) I would either have to paint over the edges of what I’ve got of her, then re-do her, or squooch right up close with tiny brushes. Normally what I do is fill in most of the background before adding foreground objects; as noted, it’s easy to place something on top of something that already exists.

It’s much harder to put something behind something that already exists.

I’m not sure what happened next. Perhaps it was panic or depression, but I decided I should work on the face. Why? I don’t know. But I ruined it. As you can see:


Fortunately, our story does not end here.

________________________Continued_______________________ Continue reading

Villains! Dissemble no more!

Steven Den Beste has been thinking about what makes a villain interesting in anime.   (No permalink, but look for the post dated 20060918.1940.)  Over at Twenty-Sided, Shamus Young has added some additional perspective as well.  Very good, thought-provoking stuff at both places (which is generally a given).

I’ve been thinking along similar lines, lately, having to do with the number of (main) characters in a story, and how that number shapes the narrative.  Not in a numerological way (something I don’t really understand anyway) but how a particular perspective is shaped by the story elements chosen to tell it.  (I hope to write this up into something “shortly.”)

Obviously, if a villain is more than a vague threat, he has to be factored into that formula as well. And that breaks the underlying story into two parts, the force working toward the narrative goal, and the force working against it.

Villains are simultaneously very easy and very difficult to create.  It’s very easy to have someone swirl a cape imperiously and say, “Fools!  You have fallen into my trap!  Nya ha ha ha ha!”  What’s difficult is keeping the reader from thinking, Oh, come on and rolling the eyes in contemptuous disbelief.   A villain has to be believable to be effective (in the context of the story of course).   A reader has to be able to say, “Well, that was a bit extreme, but I can understand this guy’s perspective.  If I were in his shoes, I’d probably do the same thing.”

That I think is key:  the reader (or viewer) has to be able to embody the villain’s perspective (not necessarily sympathize or empathize) and see it as a coherent world-view.  And that has to be accomplished with as few caveats as possible. 

Doctor Doom is a good example of what I mean by caveats, if we contrast his comic book personna with the one seen in the recent Fantastic Four movie.  In the comics, Doom is a commanding figure who has been humbled and disfigured because of Reed Richards (almost inadvertantly it must be admitted).  One can see his perspective:  because of the accident, Doom has to hide behind a mask in his remote ancestral home of Latveria, far from the eyes of civilized men.  As I recall, he had to work hard for the opportunity to come to America; now he’s back to where he started.  You can see how that would cheese a person off.  All that work, for nothing; gosh darn you, Reed Richards!

In the movie, though, Doom is quite a different person.  He’s a rather effete guy who seems to have never struggled a day in his life.  His biggest issue–even bigger than losing his corporation–is that he’s getting a couple of scars on his face.

In contrast to the comic character, this guy has no presence at all.  One can embody his viewpoint only if one thinks, Yeah, if I was a kind of swishy guy whose face was everything to him, I’d be soooo miffed right about now.  I’d consider that a big caveat.  The guy isn’t commanding; I at least can’t watch him on screen and think so.  He might have lackeys, but they follow him because he pays them, not because they fear defying him.

Doom is a central part of any story he appears in.  He can’t help but be; he’s a hands-on guy.  It’s interesting to contrast him with Sauron, the bad guy from the Lord of the Rings.  I read the books some years back, and I don’t think Sauron made a single appearance in the entire trilogy.   (Yeah, one of the Hobbits spoke to him through one of those glass things but I don’t think that counts.  That was like a wrong number.)  He certainly managed to drive things without showing up, though. 

This absence freed Tolkein from having to create a perspective for Sauron; he could be a vague, threatening force (like an active volcano) without having to articulate any kind of viewpoint.   Quite a trick, that.

Villains are hard to do well.  I suspect that’s part of their villainy.  Nya ha ha ha, after all.

(Please pardon the misspellings herein.  I’m still trying to get used to the tools available at WordPress.  Also, I’m evil!)

Over Here from Over There

Well, that was an adventure, if your definition of “adventure” encompasses wondering where the Hell everything went, and how it can be retrieved.

On Friday, some folks on the Yahoo Oil Painter’s Group started posting some messages about work in progress on Telephone Girl.   I was going to point them to my blog, and being a lazy sod of the highest order, I just thought I’d go to the blog, grab the address, and paste it into a reply.

And when I got to the blog, it was gone.   There was a blue screen saying that there was a “blog*spot” problem, that Blogger was aware of the issue, and they were working to get it resolved. 

Normally, I wouldn’t care but since I actually had something I wanted to say, I was a bit put off.  But patience being a virtue (one I rarely make use of, however) I thought I would wait around a bit and see what transpired and see if any of it was in my favor.

A couple of hours later, the blue screen still presented itself.  I noticed it on a couple of others, like Azathoth’s, but those cleared up after a while.  (CAGIVO didn’t seem to be affected so I don’t think there were problems with my account.)

By this time, I was getting irked.  For the most part, the blog is fairly disposable though fun, but as mentioned, I was actually saying interesting things (for a change) and didn’t want to lose them.  So I took the next step.

I had noted in passing that whenever I went to upload some files to my main site, that Yahoo had a module called “Blog Control Panel” wherein they promised that I could create a blog or manage an existing one.  Since it was free, I thought, why not.

One of the modules I could use was WordPress, which was what Filthy Rotten Angel had recently employed.   I was also impressed by the layout and features of Shamus Young’s blog, Twenty-Sided, and the fact that you could tag entries with a category for easy searching.  So WordPress it was, now managing a blog that lives on my main website anyway.

The nice thing about WordPress is that it seems infinitely customizable; the reverse to that is that it’s also a bit daunting to navigate.  I still need to rebuilt my links list (and figure out exactly where they go; I need to build a BLOG button for the main page.

But here I am, and here I’ll stay.  Until this one crashes.   I still have my Blogger account (I’m not sure there’s a way to delete those) so any comments I leave on your sites will probably reflect that. 

But no one lives there anymore.  I mean, for real this time.

Hello world!

Hello world, indeed.  Will this be my new home, or just a temporary stop? 

We shall see.  Frustration sometimes leads to rash decisions.  But that decision is usually better than the source of the frustration.

Hello, world.

UPDATE:  Now I’m here.

PaintBlog: Project Telephone Girl, Part Three

Another entry, the next day? What do I think this is, 2004 or something?

Anyway, yesterday’s work left me somewhat unsatisfied. I’m not exactly sure why, it just seems as if this image isn’t my image. Granted, my images tend to look like autopsy photos, but that’s beside the point.

So I was really feeling as if I should knock more of this painting out, to try at least to see why the project was grating on me. It may be that it was feeling like an assignment, rather than a painting; I felt I should be trying to take more ownership. To that end, I decided to work on the face. This was a sure-fire way of forcing the issue. How is that? I hear asked.

Simple. The human face is the acid-test of any human-centric work, at least as far as I’m concerned. It’s the single thing which will either allow the work to go forward, or allow it to go forward into the closet while I work on something else and, with luck, forget about the first canvas. The reason for this is that a face is a recognizable landmark (er…) for everyone; we all know what a face looks like, we look at one in the mirror every morning. So success or failure is easy for anyone to assess.

And there’s a stage in painting a face where success or failure is right on the cusp. For example:


I look at the image above and here is what I think: Damn. Not only does that not look like Telephone Girl, it doesn’t even look human. Who told you that you could paint? It certainly wasn’t me. You should give up now, or end up looking like a fool. You have no talent or ability for this; I hear they’re hiring at Burger World.

It’s at this point where one either sees the potential, or sees that there is no future. The decision to be made is to give up, or to grit one’s teeth and move forward. Since I’d have to clean the brush anyway, I decided I might as well try some more. I thought perhaps adding another color might help, otherwise it’s just sketching and we’re really not moving into the structure.


Dude, I am sooo wasted right now. Believe it or not, I count this as an improvement (thought not much of one). At least depth is starting to appear. The paint has been made smooth across the surface (you have no idea how much trouble little bumps can be when they dry). Time to flesh out the rest of the face, to try and build the structure if nothing else. Still on the cusp.


Above: David Bowie is The Terminator…only on Pay-Per-View.


I think the above is a bit of a step back, though she looks less bored or pissed off. Still, we can’t leave it looking like this. The mouth is very weak, here, much weaker than before–though more filled in. Maybe not filled in enough is the problem. What next? Let’s fill some more in. How about trying to build more structure and shadow? At least, let’s blot out the red on the facial area.


All your base are belong to us.

I think this is starting to show some good modeling of the flesh. As a bonus, I like the fact that it looks like gold–like a gold mask, in fact. Not sure how that came about (I was mostly using white, sienna and umber), but all art (or at least all my art) is a collaboration between me, the idea, and the materials. So the gold was the paint’s contribution.

Let’s pull back and see where we are in a greater context:


I’m starting to feel more like this is my project. I still don’t have any real ideas other than (at the moment) building it up, but I can feel other ideas stirring.

More modeling, particularly on the neck:


Finally, for tonight, let’s see if we can complete the area surrounding the neck.

It still looks like a mask–which I like–but I think it’s definitely shaping into something. What, I don’t yet know. But I’m feeling better about the project as a whole. That may change if I do any work tomorrow; I may ruin the whole thing. But at least the ability to ruin something implies that there’s something there to ruin. That’s progress of a sort.

That’s it for today’s episode. As an aside, I’m glad these are proving valuable to folks out there; it’s definitely a spur to creativity to know that I’m not just playing air keyboard. (This time.)

PaintBlog: Project Telephone Girl, Part Two

Well, there are some good reasons for the fact that I haven’t posted here in a while. After weighing the fact that it’s fun to give excuses over but they’re not really interesting, I’ve decided to leave those reasons for future historians, if any.

Last time out, you might recall I asked the musical question, “Why not red?” The answer is, because red takes forever to dry. So after waiting a couple of forevers or so, I began work on part two of Telephone Girl.

And I stared at the canvas for a while. Finally, I decided to tape in the shelving and the barely discernable corner. So, tape was duly applied where I thought it best to go:


White was then applied over one edge of the tape. Why white? Well, it dries quicker than red, and besides, putting more red on would rather defeat the purpose. So: some white paint.


I then tried to blend it a bit better, with variable results. More than likely, none of it will survive the onslaught of other colors anyway.


Finally, the tape was removed:


And because I began feeling this project was going to take forever, which is a pretty long time considering I’ve already spent a couple of those, I added a rough outline of her there in the center. It’s not aligned precisely where she was in the original image, but if I wanted a duplicate of the original I’d get a copy machine. Anyway:


More as it happens. Thanks for stopping by!

PaintBlog: Project Telephone Girl, Part One

Well, since I’m going to be up a while to see if I’m going to get more flooding, might as well post some images.

This is the Telephone Girl Project, a collective effort by the Yahoo Oil-Painters’ group. We’re all supposed to do our interpretation of the image below.

Telephone Girl

Let me say at the outset that portraits are not my strong suit, not by a long margin. So it’ll be an interesting exercise. She’s called the Telephone Girl because that was the name of the store where she worked. Apparently, since the photo was taken she’s moved on and the store is no more.

Aside from the fact that it’s a portrait, another potential problem I see is that she is close to being face-front in the image. If youv’e ever done a portrait, you know there is nothing harder than a full-front picture. All the shadows and tones that give the features depth are all gone, so that, for example, a nose is just another area on the face, rather than the creator of shadows and highlights. She may be at enough of an angle where this won’t be too problematic.

Anyway, onward. Here’s what I started with:


Wow, you must be thinking, you’re almost done! Yeah. Just got to add the details.

One of my occasional painting habits is that I like covering the entire canvas with an undercoating in one particular color. It takes away the hold that the blank canvas can have over me. So I’ve given this black and white project an undercolor:


Why red?

Well…why not red?

More to follow as it happens. And hey, it seems to have stopped raining…for the moment.