zondag 3 december 2017

Mjolnir Coil (2016)

Hi Everyone,

Every once in a while i would like to talk about the process of my more succesful pieces, made around 1.5-2 years ago. Besides the fact that i hope to help and inspire those who are reading, its a great way to delve into the realm of Nostalgia.

The piece itself was made within a series, of historical characters interacting with supernatural beings.

The painting depicts Nikola Tesla, having Captured the Norse God Thor and using his anger and hammer to fuell the Tesla Coil. These series were a great vessel to increase my inspiration for further painting i would make.

Mjolnir Coil
 
''As a human race we are weak. Countless Philosophers, conquerors and inventors did not change that fact of the matter. But look at us now. Together, we can make so called ''gods'' kneel, and serve as the footstone of our civilisation.'',

-Nikola Tesla's Pitch of the Mjolnir coil to Thomas Edison


 Idea Sketches
 
Here are a few sketches of ideas i had in mind, trying different POVS. I decided to go with the second POV however i changed a few things:

1. The manner Thow was chained to the coil, looks too much like a crucific. I did not realise the resemblence up until i made the sketches, and i decided not to go with this subject matter. Mostly because of the fact that the theme of a christ like figure being chained is overused/cliché and could be perceived as offensive. Furthermore it didnt add any interesting design or narrative to the story i wanted to tell, to i did some research about Tesla, and decided to use a full Tesla Coil where Thor is chained up to.

2. Thors Hammer, Mjolnir as shown in the Mythology (and the Marvel Cinematic universe) can only be wielded by Thor himself, so it wouldnt make too much sense for a skinny guy like Tesla to wield it. Even though Thor is held in submission. From this point i decided to make Mjolnir the main part of the Tesla coil, and let the viewer decide how it got to be a part of that contraption.

In this image i wanted to emphasise that Tesla is in a large ball room kind of area with thor. the setting, while wanting to show alot of energy, seemed a bit stiff and could have alot more power. Thor wasn't struggling, and the setting seemed a tad dull and boring.

So this section is a significant improvement. It shows alot of dynamics, where the lines of the ballroom, add depth, as well as pointing towards the Coil. There were still a few problems. There were a few perspective issies as well as Thor still needing a bit of Work. The tension of being bound was still missing!

Design wise i went slightly different with Thor. I really, really, didnt want go for a Marvel/winged helmet kind of look so i just took my liberties with the fact that he is the god of fertility too besides being the god of Thunder.





 Photos by Jimmy Nelson's ''before they Pass Away''. A must include if you are a character designer.


As you can see here, these are obviously not norse characters, but African. However, i thought it would be cool to combine the two elements. Part A of how we know Thor, and part B of something completely new. Adding two unrelated subjects together is a major way of creating cool and unique characters.




At this stage things are starting to come together. Thors hands tell alot about the Tension he is enduring, and them wearing metal gauntlets also give a nice contrast to the organic and shamanistic objects he is wearing.

Regarding Tesla and his consorts i wanted to go for a steampunk look, to make them look mighty enough to be able to challenge an entity like Thor.



At the finished piece, i played alot with the lightning from Mjolnir to show depth, action and movement. Thors red hair and yellow flowercoat prove an interesting focalpoint against the general blueish hue of the image. The lightning also connects the two main characters of the image. Thor and Tesla.

It was a challenge for me to utilize these aspects back then since i was mostly proficient with more static characters, so this piece proved a milestone for me using various elements to enhance the dynamics in future paintings.

I hope you enjoyed this blogpost, please let me know if you found any use in it and if you have any comments.

All the best,

JCH



maandag 11 september 2017

Promise of Power: My First Expo

Hi Everyone,

In this blogpost i would like to talk a bit about my experience on my first expo, especially the opening, and i hope it encourages you to set up your own!




How it all started

I went to an exposition of friends, around a year before i decided to do mine. They were present at a local art collective and they invited friends and family. Food was present, music even and a general good vibe. I wanted to try something similar.
So i am a regular customer at my local American Book Center and i noticed that they organize various expositions upstairs. One day i just asked the store clerk if i could enter, and after showing my work he was excited and then the preparations were being made.


First steps

At first i decided to just use prints and frame them, invite a couple of friends/family and generally have a good time. The news came to my dads ears, and as a man who was a succesful artist back in the day, with expositions around the world of his photography, he implied i should take this more seriously. I should ditch the prints for this purpose, and he would help me get some proper prints. 

The more we worked on this, the more serious the entire idea became! I decided to invite alot of people. Print flyers, ask friends, friends of friends, old friends, and future friends. Family and in-laws.


Ordering prints


I went to the local print stores and noticed a few options that caught my attention:

(I do not own any of the 3 images shown as example below)

Option on wood:  Artwork would be printed on wood. Either with or without white colors (so that the wood would replace everything that is white) I did not choose this option because my work contains too many value ranges on different places. It would be a mess. This option, however, would work on media with strong contrast and a limited valuerange.


Museum glass: This is the most aesthetic pleasing of all options. It is something, as the name says, that could hang in a museum. The colors come out nicely and the print has a nice coating of glass for an extra professional feel. I considered this option but it was a tad too expensive. I do not have an audience that generally collects more expensive artwork/originals, mostly prints, so i should find a nuance for now.


Forex print: This is the option i decided to take. Its a high quality form of cardboard which is very light. the colors come out extremely nicely even though the print is extremely matte. However, since the material was so light/fragile it couldnt be fastened with a hanging device. This proved to be a pain later on, since i had to fasten it myself!



Opening

 


90% of the effort was aimed towards the opening. The most people would be there at once, after that the expo would be present for a month where only a trickle of people would be there at the same time.
I invited everyone i have and had contact with, the latter aiming to reconnect and hopefully rekindle old friendships. In many cases it happened succesfully! I am working with old friends now to expand my business and i had great talks too with people i didn't see for a while! People who were important in my life connected with each other as well which was great to see.



To backup the costs of the event i had a booth selling prints, as well as showcasing work not hanging at the expo itself.



The most important part of this expo was not to sell prints necessarily, but mostly for the reasons mentioned above. its a great experience, and it adds alot to a professional atmosphere around your work in general.



I recommend every artist take a stab at this. Invite your family, friends, old and new, fellow artist and print alot of flyers! Spread the world and who knows who will come to check out your work. It's a great reason for you and enthousiasts to look at your work in a different light.




Hope this was interesting and even inspired you to take a similar initiative as i did! To this day i even hear at conventions that people saw my artwork IRL at this exact expo and i connect with them immediately. If you have any questions regarding setting up your own expo, make sure to message me!

All the best,

JCH




zondag 6 augustus 2017

The Resurrection of the Ouwlaw King (2016)

Hi everyone,




Here is another Walkthrough from one of my recent more succesful paintings (1 yr). It depicts William Wallace, After being slain by the english. His king makes a pact with the Gwyllions of Wales to resurrect him, by stitching him while he is nailed to trees. Just playing around with history and myth around the same area and time.




Resurrection of the Outlaw King


''The Guardian of Scotland is Dead; Betrayed by our enemies, branded traitor and mercilessly executed.''

Hope is lost among the Clansmen, but I, Robert the Bruce, Heir to the Scottish throne did not. The Gwyllions of Wales want to play.They have recovered William's dismembered bodyparts and restitched them together for our cause. They even clothed him in old scottish manner and donned his warpaints.

With their unholy blessing our hero will lead us to victory once again, but at what cost? When we win this war, what will these hags do once they have access to the Throne of England? '' 

 Idea sketches

 In this painting i wanted to depict the battle fought when WW is already been resurrected, as some kind of frankensteins monster, next to Robert the Bruce, the future Scottisch King. I liked the motion but i didnt use it because it wouldnt emphasise the entire selling point, which is that WW is resurrected by a mystical power.
 
 
In this painting i wanted an stoic scene where WW and Robert are ready for battle. As with option 1 it just didnt emphasise the selling point, and just wasnt that spectacular in general. The background seems a bit weird as well (doesnt fit the mood and narrative)

This is the sketch i eventually chose to pursue. It has an interesting angle, it tells the story in a clear way, and it has the best mood of the 3 sketches. I also chose to retain humanoid proportions for WW because i didnt want the character to look too comical.

Here is the chosen sketch after some work. It looks pretty decent so far, but the more i worked on it, the more i got overwhelmed by the piece. It was all to blame to not using the proper reference or only using it halfway.


 
I used my girlfriend as reference. As you can see this doesnt look like anything i am painting. She doesnt wear the clothes of WW. she doesnt have the body type of WW and her arms arent leaning on anything. This reference is 99% useless besides the pose perhaps.


Here is when things are starting to get hard. I started to lose control of the values when moving to color (Thats why you should check your values at ALL TIMES through a Hue/Saturation layer). The piece lost its mood from the sketch and i did not use proper reference for the kilt/body. I just grabbed something from the internet and tried to integrate it on the pose of someone lying down, which i can guarantee you NEVER looks 100% natural, as you can see above.
Here is a comparison of the greyscale version from before and after i added color (so you can see how it went wrong)

Left piece has a pretty intense mood, accompanied with a wide value range, while the right piece (where i started to add color) started to look messier in general, while losing the sinister vibe the first sketch had.


This is where things started to become frustrating. I started to render only realising after a while i am not anywhere near a realist level. The mood is still missing (its a tad better due to the darker background) the folds are slightly better but not perfect (as i will show you later) and the anatomy is so, so. Alot of guessing again from reference that isnt in the same pose whatsoever, and no time is spent emphasizing the muscles.


   
Here is a reference piece use for the piece above. I shot a photo of a male friend to better suit the subject. Its slightly better than the first reference but again, not there at all. The cloth is just strewn on his body, not wrapped around like a kilt, nor does it have the same pattern as a kilt. The upper body of my pal should have been exposed to show muscles to help me paint them.





At this stage things are starting to look brighter. I used proper reference on the clothing and it shows. The background is painted decently but the mood has been lost again after a 
while of painting. Always make sure to check earlier stages of your painting to find parts you lost but could use again!



At this stage i started to take things way more seriously. I asked another friend to tie a sheet around his middle and a another sheet around his torso/hips (fastened with a belt) to make it as realistic as possible. Too bad i didnt take the time to find a checker sheet to emphasise the kilt itself, but the largest part has already been done. However, i still needed to find reference online for prominent muscles (no offense to my buddy ofcourse!) but at least right now i knew where to place them. 


At this stage things are starting to look more finished. Rendering to its fullest, as well as finding proper reference for the little Gwyllions for which i used my girlfriend. She wasn't comfortable with doing nude shoots so we shot the photos with stretched clothing. The lady sitting bottom right was hard for me to do with clothes, i couldnt see certain muscles bending with the movement properly, so she agreed to take one photo without clothes.(which i am not going to share for obvious reasons :-p)


At this point the piece if finished. I emphasised the focal point to be the center of the image, where all the seweing is taking place. The golden beltbuckle serving as a bounce light source to light the gnomes and part of WW's face. When characters are lit from below it always give you a more dramatic and foreboding vibe, so i took full advantage of that. I darkened the surrounding area of the image to get the sinister feel back, but i had to watch out to not get TOO dark. The most important part is just to have the gradiation going of the values (from dark to light).

This piece took alot out of me; It was hard, challenging, but i learned alot when it comes to preparation and proper reference usage. Taking things to the next level so to speak.

I will try to make these blogpost a 1/2 week thing. I really like to share knowledge and hear positive things from people. Sharing is caring after all!

Please let me know what you think of this post,

Have a great one!

JCH

dinsdag 27 juni 2017

The Khan and the Horselord (2016)

Hi everyone,

Now that ive shared the process of learning the craft through a mentorship i would like to explain how i made various of my portfolio pieces. Today we will talk about my piece the Khan and the Horselord, An interpretation of the tale where the devil promises Jesus the world but he declines, but in this storyline the devil goes to Genghis Khan and promises him the same. The latter accepts thus he becomes the greatest conqueror in history.





''Who am i you ask'' The hooded stranger grinned. ''I am a wanderer, searching lands beyond hidden borders for the most capable souls who have the capability and will to wield great power. Only two worthy men i visited, one in Nazareth, and the other one is you, Temujin, conqueror of Mongolia.''

The Devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.''All this I will give you'' he said,''if you will bow down and worship me'' Feeling presence greater than Temujin knew he was capable to either fight or achieve on his own, he knelt befor the fallen angel, and looked upwards.

The Devils grin broadened. ''Arise, chosen one. Arise as Genghis Khan, and make the world tremble!'' 


Thats a story i have written to backup the piece!  Now we have got that part out, i will explain how i started.

Thumbnailing

A process which i use when i would like to view various compositions from a distance without delving too deep into details yet. It helps me to read the image in an instant. if it doesnt work, here, it will never work, so it is important to be critical with yourself when using this method. You can easily pass the 20+ sketches in this method.

As you can see i tried various poses, closeups, interactions and lighting. Some of them work, most of them dont. Its important  to get as much as possible out of your system, since there might be a better option lurking. You dont know if you dont try! 
The way i did this process in quick way is making the thumbnails in a selected layer (so you wont paint outside the box)  and just copy them, and altering them every time.


At this point i found myself an interesting comp, where the story in my opinion is told the best. I wanted the focal point to be at Satans hand, where the interaction between the two characters is 
 taking place.I started to look for a fitting color scheme.
I played around with various color schemes until i found one that emphasised the atmosphere of my story the best. I went with a lowly satured mix of red, blue and green, to create an eerie and foreboding atmosphere.



Reference gathering

 Now its time to understand what i will be painting. I bought colored lightbulbs and used them to light myself, posed. My apologies for the low webcam resolution. The program i used to take snaps at the time was a free version. As i used the colored light, i noticed interesting things starting to happen with the colors. The unlit areas starting to turn more red, as red is the opposite color of green, which is the light source. 

From here i needed to find reference and inspiration for the aesthetics of both characters. Unfortunately i do not have these references anymore. I was stupid enough to throw them away after i was done with them, but i have learned to do better now.

. 
 






Lets begin! 


 
This is literally the untouched thumbnail i decided to use for the project. Everything is there exactly as how i want it to be,

 

Back when i made this piece, i didn't take the time to prepare fully with reference and inspiration gathering, so you will see alot of trial and error in the subject matter. Again, i learned to do different. At this stage i tried to set a the conceptualization. Satan Took inspiration from Siberian shamanism (the mask) and Genghis Khan took inspiration from traditional Mongol clothing. No offense to mongolian fashion (i like it alot) but it looked more comical on someone as brutal as Genghis so i decided to change it for armor.


 I was lucky here, since i pretty much immediately nailed the armor the way i wanted it to be. Note: This is not mongolian armor. I took inspiration from Medieval Chinese plate armor to make Genghis look more royal, as if he scavenged the armor from a Chinese general or so.

I worked alot on Genghis' face. I used my face a little too much as a reference and he started to look more like an arabian knight, due to my prominent nose. I had to search for correct mongolian features and flatten the face. Also, i rotated Khan a bit, to make it look as if he is leaning on his sword more; kneeling. When i finished the Khan for the most part, i got overwhelmed by the image. I lost control and i started to play around without a sense of direction on the Satan part. The image flattened, the focalpoints and readability got lost. This was a perfect moment to take a step back.

 
On this stage i started to climb back a bit. I got back to a similar style of the initial horse mask for satan and a background/foreground started to form as well. I defined the silhouette of Satan as well. However, a focal point was still missing!

  
At this point the image is nearing its final form. I made the focal point the hand, bu using the lightest light, and the darkest dark together on the same spot. as well as the harshest contrast. I wanted the image to be about the interaction between the two characters, and the degrading left hand gesture of satan is a key element in that. 

I didn't like the left placeholder face of Satan. It looked to dorky and even a bit comical. An entity as satan could at least be more terryfying! so i looked at various siberian ritual masks. i tried something with it, and i felt it aleniated the image of Satan a bit.


I changed the face of satan to something resembling an asian demon. Since only the lower part of the face was visible, the mouth had to be prominent.  At this point the image is 99% done!The focal point/hand wasnt as detailed yet. you always want to reward the viewer by making the focal point as interesting as possible. I decided to add more flavor to the piece by adding voodoo nails onto Satans hand, as well as some extra textures.

Now the piece is finished. I hoped this blog will help you on your journey as an artist, or if you are just an enthousiast of an artistic process in general. Please share your thoughtprocesses below in the comments, and i will see you next time!

All the best,

JCH

www.joelchaimholtzman.com