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Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Hobbit: Wolf Rider Watercolor Step #3

The final image.
This goblin looks a little too happy to be doing whatever it is he is doing.  I imagine he has either spotted our heroes or that he smells barbecue on the wind.  
Now that I'm finished with it (and it's 3 am here on the East coast) I notice that the wolf seems more dispirited than threatening.  Like he'd just as soon sit this next one out.  I think I will have to get more threatening wolf reference for the next scene. None of your half-hearted, would-be-cocker-spaniel wolves for the Battle of Five Armies.  I need canines of real caliber.  Dogs named "Cerberus" and "Chimera" and "Death-Metal-Jaw-Foot" and the like.  Not "Cupcake" or "Patch"  or "Useless, Whey-Faced Mule" like our sulking friend here.
Anyway, so this is a more polished watercolor to compare against the oil painting from last week and the earlier Hobbit pieces. The only digital aspects are pulling up the colors and levels in Photoshop. (Ok and some details in the face. I couldn't help myself.) I had to use my machine at the office for this since my home pc is still in Permanent Sleep Mode.     

Overall I am pleased with the results in this piece even though I am not really sure how I got here. I would really value your feedback. Is there any noticeable improvement on the previous Hobbit pieces?  How does it compare with the Reluctant Dragon oil painting? Should I hang it up altogether and do the Battle of Five Armies as interpretive dance? Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Hobbit: Wolf Rider Watercolor Step #2

The second sitting and I am losing my mind.  I have no idea how I got here.  The paint dried this way while I wasn't looking.  There are about 10,000 happy accidents here and only about 3 or 4 bits that I actually meant to do.  I'm not sure if that is good or bad really, but we'll take it one more day and see what we get.  

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Hobbit: Wolf-Rider Watercolor Step #1

This is the second study in preparation for the Battle of Five Armies. (I know you are thinking that I am just stalling at this point and that I should be getting on with it about now.  Maybe so, but I really want to get this one right!)

My plan for this Wolf Rider piece is to take the watercolor stage further, past my usual stopping point of colored underpainting that has been the base for the previous Hobbit pieces.  This is the first sitting and what you see here is about my usual stopping point for a transition to digital. Achieving the real deep darks in watercolor without losing control of the piece has always been something of a challenge for me.  
In the next few posts I will be posting my progress with this.  

Side Note:
On the digital front, my pc is still a smoking ruin, and I am still saving my pennies for a glorious 8x core Mac Pro.  (Example Below

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Reluctant Dragon: Final Painting

The painting was done at 12x18 on gessoed massonite. Although I am pleased with the results overall, I am still a bit nervous about wether to attempt the Battle of Five Armies like this. I have a feeling that with the level of detail it will demand, it might actually take me more than a month and a half to finish. Also, I will need to render the piece at around 42" wide. Another problem is how to scan in a painting (on massonite) at that size. Does anyone out there know of any scanners that can handle something that size? I'd hate to have to try to piece that together using our 12 x 18 scanner here at the studio...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Reluctant Dragon: Digital Sketch

This is an image from better days, when my pc was still working.... 
I really enjoy piecing my compositions together digitally. This is one of the most useful aspects of photoshop for me. I love being able to arrange and re-arrange the compositions so easily. It makes it easier to try out compositional ideas. I can try out a crazy idea, and if it flops then I can try it another way without losing hours and hours of redrawing everything.  The ease with which you can move elements around and mirror things is really helpful for me.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Reluctant Dragon: Thumbnail

This week I take yet another brief step away from the Hobbit illustrations to do some experimenting. This time it will be in oil.

This thumbnail is one I did for the Reluctant Dragon.  This is a fairy tale that I have wanted illustrate for a long time, and this first adventure in oils seems like the perfect opportunity for it. 
And so I am pulling out both the oil paints as well as every scrap of literature I can find on Rembrandt. Of the great Masters, he is the one I am always drawn to the most. There is a gem-like quality to his paintings that destroy me. His work is terrifically inspiring.  

Friday, January 16, 2009

Disaster Strikes!

Just when everything was going so well, the Goblins got my pc.

"They have taken the bridge, and the second hall. We can not get out. The end comes. Drums, drums in the deep. They are coming..."

This morning my pc crashed. 
Every possible spell and incantation I could think of only resulted in another variation of the Blue Screen of Death. Evidently, the primary hard drive is bacon.  Crispy, smoking bacon.  I am fortunate to have had all my data on a second hard drive, but as for the machine itself, it is dead. 

This puts something of a damper on the digital half of the watercolor/digital method that I have been employing in these Hobbit pieces. This is what you get for taking a ring of power from Bill Gates the Deceiver. There is only one Lord of the Rings, and he does not share power....

So, while I save my pennies for a shining new Mac Pro, (the new 8x cores look wicked hot) there are a number of other possible solutions that present themselves for how to go about tackling the Battle of Five Armies. (The show must go on) For some time now I have been wanting to get back into oils and I am very tempted to attempt this piece with them. The drawback would of course be that it would probably take me a month and a half to finish it properly with the drying properties of oils. The other option would be to try take the watercolor step itself farther towards finished than I have done in the other pieces. Most of these other pieces have been finished to something like a very light underpainting in watercolor, which allows me a number of really interesting possibilities digitally. There are a few effects in photoshop that look really great over watercolor underpaintings. Digital painting also offers a lot of really compelling lighting effects that I can't find suitable traditional alternatives to (and by suitable, I mean that don't take a month and a half with drying) I also really enjoy the vibrancy of color that is easily achievable in digital painting. However, it looks as though I may have to do without my digital tools in this endeavor. So, before beginning the Battle of Five Armies, I am going to be doing a few odd experiments in oils. We'll have to see how it works out. Let me know what you think as I post these up.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Hobbit featured on Tor.com

Recently, I did an interview with the wonderful Irene Gallo of Tor Books on the Hobbit illustrations. Many of you will already know Irene from her work in the fantastic arts community and from her blog, which is a great source for what is afoot in the illustration and sci-fi art world. Others of you may remember her from an earlier Quickhidehere post on Comicon 08. This new interview on the Hobbit illustrations is now up on Tor.com. In it you will find a lot more about the process and thinking behind the illustrations as well as my take on how to roundhouse kick your way through an economic recession. Check it out.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Smaug: Final Digital Steps

justin gerard illustration the hobbit bilbo smaug

Next Up: The Battle of Five Armies!

Monday, January 05, 2009

Smaug: Digital Process

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Smaug: A Dragon for a New Year

"There he lay, a vast red-gold dragon, fast asleep; a thrumming came from his jaws and nostrils, and wisps of smoke, but his fires were low in slumber. Beneath him, under all his limbs and his huge coiled tail, and about him on all sides stretching away across unseen floors, lay countless piles of precious things, gold wrought and unwrought, gems and jewels, and silver red-stained in the ruddy light."