11 January 2015

New Art - Companions

My first new art piece of 2015!  This painting was actually several years in the making, initially requested in 2010 or '11 (I honestly can't remember now), practice sketches done within the next year or two, pencil lines completed in 2013 or '14, and now the final steps of painting and inking are complete.  This blog entry will focus on those last steps which were undertaken in 2015.

The backstory to this painting is pretty simple: for his birthday, my beau asked me to paint him and myself as Doctor Who companions.  At that time, I was already getting into 10th Doctor (David Tennant) Doctor Who on my own because my local PBS station was playing episodes every week. My beau furthered my interest by introducing me to the 9th Doctor (Christopher Eccleston).  I've since watched every Eccleston episode and more than half of the Tennant episodes, but my beau remains the more fervent Doctor Who fan of the two of us (he's seen almost everything, I think, even the original episodes!).  Because of that, I felt pressure from myself to make this painting as good as possible.  Coupled with other time-consuming responsibilities, that pressure caused a lot of delay.  Whenever someone asks me for gift art, I have a harder time creating because I don't want to 'mess it up' (even when I'm reassured that they'll love whatever I come up with).  Sometimes this means I never finish the piece at all.  Lucky for this request, for the past few months I've been feeling really confident when I create--truly embracing any 'mistakes'--even when the result is meant to be a gift.  This is the biggest reason I was finally able to complete this piece.
Artist and Her Beau, in Watercolor
I've been really enjoying making "splotchy" watercolor, recently.

I feel like I have a photo somewhere of the graphite linework for this piece but it's too much trouble to dig through 2+ years of photos to find it now, ha ha.  I still have the original drawing, which I traced onto the paper pictured above, but I neglected to photograph it before starting in with paint.  All this means is that none of the work prior to what I did in 2015 will be pictured here.  In the photo above, I'd completed the first application of watercolor paint (starting with watercolor marker as a base in dark areas).  I focused simply on getting the main colors down on the figures, including only basic, rough shading.
Tracing a TARDIS onto the Painting
Google image search + Photoshop and my printer = TARDIS!

This next step, though simple, was actually a breakthrough for me.  One of the biggest challenges I faced while composing this piece was how to make it look like Doctor Who.  My first idea was to draw us inside the TARDIS and/or with the Doctor himself.  I quickly gave up on the Doctor (how to choose which iteration?! I hate choosing favorites, though I do have them...) and when trying to draw the inside of the TARDIS, I kept getting frustrated because the place is so complex.  I found it difficult to find an angle that matched our poses and looked recognizable without crowding the composition.  Not to mention that the inside of the TARDIS changes almost as often as the Doctor himself.  It wasn't until this year that I had the amazingly simple idea of tracing a police box in the background.  Such a relief to finally solve that puzzle!  Not to mention feeling a bit foolish for not thinking of it earlier.
Background Started
I'm in love with using sponges in my watercolor works.

The next steps I took involved more watercolor.  I used watercolor markers to paint the TARDIS.  By drawing with the markers first, then spreading the pigment around with brush and water, I was able to give the box some texture.  While going over the blue watercolor marker, I also pulled some of the color onto the figures of my beau and me in order to tie the fore- and backgrounds together.  I even painted the white parts of the TARDIS a little bit, just to make sure everything looked worked. 

The background was simple but took a long time to complete due to drying times (above, you may notice the page was still very wet when the photo was taken).  I started by wetting the entire background and dropping paint onto it.  I then swirled the page gently, to spread the color organically, and let it dry completely.  I repeated this process a couple more times, sometimes guiding the paint into small areas with a brush, and finished by daubing even more paint all over the background with a sponge.  All of this was to create something reminiscent of the purple-blue-black spacey backgrounds so often a part of Doctor Who imagery.
Stencils Added to the Painting
Stencils are awesome!

At this point, I began to add things that never would have happened if this piece hadn't been put off for so long.  The first is the use of stencils to create texture.  I simply took one of my organic-patterned stencils and painted over it, just to add visual interest to the background.  This is something I only started doing in 2014 and wasn't part of my technique back when this piece was first requested. 

Next, something that wouldn't have happened if I had completed this painting even a month earlier: the addition of Gallifreyan-like text.  To do it, I entered a Google image search to see what Gallifreyan is supposed to look like (rather than just making it up and hoping it was recognizable) and used an image result I liked as inspiration.  I just used one of my watercolor markers and a couple circle templates (the one pictured above is actually meant for quilting but it works awesomely for my purposes).  As I worked creating my own Gallifreyan message, I actually began feeling like, if I really studied, I could someday understand the language, ha ha.  By drawing it myself, rather than simply looking at those crazy-complicated scripts, certain patterns and rules began to appear.  That being said, I didn't try to write anything in particular here, ha ha.  If anything, I hope it reads "happy birthday" and not something rude, ha ha ha.

The reason I thought to add the text in the first place is my beau mentioned a couple weeks ago that a pageful of circles I had drawn for an art exercise looked "like Gallifreyan".  A few days later, I realized it could be a great way to add more Doctor Who to the entire piece.
Black Ink Being Added
Gel ink on the TARDIS, black ink to bring out the lineart.
White Ink Added
Finishing with white ink to add dimension.

The next step I took creating this piece is usually my last: inking.  I went over the TARDIS lines with glittery gel pen and inked its black parts with a dip pen.  I continued with the black ink on the foreground, going over almost all of the graphite lineart (I left some of it uninked; certain areas look better with only the subtle graphite lines) and adding hatching to enhance shadows or wrinkles.  I did the same thing with white ink after that, adding highlights to areas that were meant to shine (hair, eyes, shoes).

This was another step that took a long while due to drying times.  I would ink a small area, then wait for it to fully dry before continuing onto the next area.  The process was tedious but it helped prevent any smudges (though it didn't help drips!  Luckily, the single, substantial drip I faced was dealt with so well--if I do say so myself--that it's impossible to tell where it happened or how bad it was).
Close-Up of the Painting and Silver Acrylic Paint
Metallic paint, mm-hmm, who doesn't love metallic paint~?

As I said above, inking is usually my last step in a piece like this, but I was inspired by the paint I had received in the most recent Pigment+Palette box: metallic silver acrylic.  I wasn't able to use it in the way I originally intended (spattering over the page with a brush; it just didn't wanna! It foamed in the brush instead of flicking down onto the page, even when watered down or used on a toothbrush) so I went back to my sponge and stencils instead.  My vision of the completed piece was forced to change with the circumstances but I was still satisfied with the result.
Completed Painting
This birthday request has finally been fulfilled!

After the acrylic dried (goodness, I really love the way metallic media changes with the light; it's something digital art just can't replicate) it was finally time for the finishing touches.  I used several different ink pens to clean up little details throughout the piece.  More than anything, I went over the silver paint in certain areas to make it look like the lineart was showing through.  I had actually banked on the acrylic being translucent, so the final detailing ended up as an unexpectedly large task, though it was, of course, worth the effort.
Happy Birthday, Sean~!
Happy birthday!  Time for adventure!

I don't know if I'll ever get better at completing request art in a timely manner--that voice in my head which pressures me to make it perfect is the same voice which helps me improve my skills in general--but for now it feels great to have finished this one.  I'm proud and pleased to report that my beau already has the piece framed and mounted on a wall at home~