Tuesday, June 13, 2023

HEROES CON 2023 Paintings

For my return to Heroes Con this week, I've painted two 18" x 22.5" pieces in watercolor and color pencil. One of them will be put into the Saturday art auction at the convention. The other will be available at my table the next day with a price set from the winning bid of Saturday's auction.

In this blogpost, I'll go through the steps in making the pieces (or at least as much as I was good about photographing as I painted).

I've done several years of doing two Mouse Guard paintings, and thought it might be fun to switch up the subject matter and do something different. And these Gummi Bears designs I did came to mind. I'd drawn Cubbi (the little greyscale one) years ago thinking I'd eventually do a drawing with the rest of the characters. Then, when I got my iPad, and was learning to draw digitally in ProCreate, I started rounding out the cast. 

Since I never do prints of characters I don't own though, I regretted that I had no way to ever use these (other than show them off in a blogpost as a character re-design exercise. 

So, it made sense that I could combine them into a large painting for Heroes. I have no problem with doing a one-of original of copyrighted characters. I took my iPad versions, updated the pencil drawings on a few of them, and re-arranged them in a new Photoshop file at-scale with the large illustration board I had for the pieces. The tree background was a quick digital paint-in based on a background from the tv show.

I then printed this out over four sheets of paper and taped them all back together as a large single image.

The other piece needed to be something from that same era of Disney Afternoon cartoon shows to make them feel like potential companion pieces. The left Rescue Rangers, Tale Spin, Darkwing Duck, and Ducktales. And of those, it was an easy choice to go with Uncle Scrooge & the Nephews. 

I'd drawn a toned paper piece of Scrooge recently, and I referenced my treatment of him as a 'real' duck to get this pose, and then extrapolated while looking at real ducklings to get Huey, Dewey, and Louie.

For the overall composition of this piece, I looked at a few Carl Barks pieces, and one of them had scrooge with a globe covered in pins of locations he'd traveled (and presumably found treasure). Another had him standing on carpet with dollar signs. So I combined those ideas for my piece to be a wall-map covered in pins and a dollar sign rug.

I added quick flat colors to help me see the forms, but also to get an idea of the value structure for the final painting. This too was printed out at scale over four sheets of copy paper and taped back together.

Using a graphite paper taped to the thick illustration board, and then my printouts taped on top of each of those, I traced over all the linework on the printout with a roller-ball pen. The pressure from the tip of the pen transfers the graphite to the illustration board. It's a tedious process and also a little nerve wracking because you don't know how it's going with everything taped down securely. 

Here is what the transfers looks like when I pulled everything away. I did have to go back and pencil in a few lines I forgot to trace over. The transfer paper was a different brand than I'd used in the past, and the graphite was a little less secure to the board, so it was easy to smudge it––and as it turns out, float thousands of specks of graphite in the first layer of pale watercolor, leaving it murky and grey-er than I'd have preferred. 

The first wash down was a pale yellow/tan over the whole board, followed up by starting to fill in base tones for the backgrounds.

With Watercolor you tend to work from light to dark and big to small. So, getting the character base colors in was the next step. And since you don't want colors to bleed into one another when they are wet, I needed to move around each illustration making sure what I was painting now wasn't adjacent to anything still wet.

More character tones getting built up and clothing going in.

Deepening the tones on Cubbi's clothes and the Nephews while adding color to Scrooge's coat & hat and other Gummis.

Pushing all the tones on Gummi Bears, and making a big decision to mute and darken the entire background on the Ducks (something that required a lot of paint to be pre-mixed to just do huge flat washes so I could bring the characters forward and push the background backwards.

I may have worked a lot on the Gummi piece and forgotten to take a photo, but getting Zummi & Grammi's clothes finally painted in and not blank made a difference. The Ducktales piece was finally getting past that awkward stage, where I could see the end point––there was more work to do, but the value structure was getting closer to final and I knew the composition worked (something I was still worried about at this stage with the Gummis.

I started trying to push the values on the Gummis piece more, tapering off to dark whereever a character overlapped another and was against a light area (like where Tummi's belly goes behind Gruffi & Zummi). For the ducks this step was about Scroge's clothes and adding a shadow on the floor.

The last steps on these paintings are the smallest darkest tones--which means the eyes. And putting that last bit of dark in really helps establish the limits of what are the lightest tones, and what are the darkest. At this stage I also painted in all the pins (as well as shadows under them) on the map on the ducks piece.
I always feel like my watercolors still need some amount of line added though (and I am a line person), so I went over each piece with some brown color pencils to 'ink' in the linework with something a bit softer in tone than ink.

The final Gummi Bears piece

The final Ducktales piece.

The originals of these will be available at Heroes Con this weekend. One piece will be in the Saturday Art Auction, the other will be available at my table on Sunday with a price based on the auction results. I haven't decided which piece goes in the auction yet. Also, since I've been asked, I don't make prints of characters I don't own/have the rights to––so I'm not making prints of these.

Past Heroes Painting Blogposts:

2022: Bilbin & Piper

2018: Kenzie & Saxon

2017: Saxon, Kenzie, & Rand

2016: Mr. Toad

2015: Mouse vs Weasel

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