Monthly Archives: August 2015

Mili Fay is going to Rome, Belgrade, Abu Dhabi,…

Living in Toronto, Canada, I find our summers very precious. I often wish our climate was the reverse: eight months of beautiful and four months of questionable, if not absolutely miserable, weather. It is August and temperature has already dipped into low teens, jackets and socks are making a comeback, and the trees look as if they are getting ready for sleep; all the greenery in my neighbourhood is drooping with drowsiness.

Fortunately, my escape is on the horizon, and I have an additional month of warmth to store for our winter. Being a proud sister of a newly minted doctor, in a couple of days I’ll be off on a celebratory trip with Dr. Nina to Rome, Italy, followed by Belgrade, Serbia, and Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. If the trains and time permit we may see some other Italian cities, and we may end up in Dubai as well.some things to pack for a trip

I fully intend to share our adventures with you, so if you are stuck at work you can experience a little of our trip yourselves. I also hope to get enough tips, so that you may be able to face those cities on future travels with confidence one day. Being busy with last minute work, I didn’t have as much time as I wished to prepare for this trip, but hopefully we’ll figure it out on the way.

I will try to post as much as I can here, but this determination depends largely on my discovering a reliable wi-fi connection. (Apparently, our hotel does not have one???)

Since this trip came upon me unexpectedly, FANtasy Character Designs will have to be postponed for a time. I’m carrying a couple of sketchbooks and my watercolours, so (fingers crossed) I may come back with some travel artwork to share instead.

Now I must go and pack!

Cheers!

M

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Join Mili Fay Art Fan Club to get all the important updates, free artwork, stories, and tips.

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Mili Fay--Portrait by Catia Da Costa of CDC Photography

© 2014 CDC PHOTOGRAPHY

Mili Fay, a Toronto-based artist, classical animator, illustrator, writer, and singer, is an award winning graduate of Sheridan College and Art Instruction Schools. In November of 2011 she created Mili Fay Art determined to support the world one artwork at a time.

Her latest published work is Animals In My Hair; a story about a boy who goes for his first haircut only to find endangered animals falling out of his hair.

Currently, Mili is working on her first ever illustrated Fantasy novel, Warriors of Virtue, about a reluctant princess who must prevent a war with the dragon-people, while keeping her mission a secret from her over-protective mother.

Join Mili Fay Art Fan Club to stay in touch with Mili Fay and to be the first to find out of her upcoming books and artworks.

Posted in Travelling, Uncategorized Tagged , , |

How To Paint A Portrait With Acrylic Paint?

"Wise Innocence" | © 2015 MILI FAY ART

“Wise Innocence” | © 2015 MILI FAY ART

It has been a while since I have painted a portrait as a gift. I tend to never post portraits I’m creating for my clients, because I feel it is an unnecessary invasion of their privacy. However, I have no compunction in posting portraits I paint for free as gifts, especially if my process can help other artists learn some of my techniques and tricks.

The portrait I’m currently working on is that of my baby cousin, Uroš—we call him Uki (uu-kee), because he still needs to grow into his name.

The following are the steps I take when painting a portrait.

Step 1: Choosing Photographic Reference

I have so many photos of Uki, and he is such an adorable baby, that I had a difficult time deciding which one to use for painting reference.

Ideally, I would love to sit people down in my studio, model the light until they look perfect, position them, and have them sit while I paint. However, who has time to sit for a portrait these days? Therefore, I usually tend to work from photographs, and when painting children I always work from photographs. I just cannot force kids to sit still for hours to paint them (I cannot sit still for hours!), they should be out playing with friends, running around, and enjoying the freedom of childhood if they can. Having babies sit still is next to impossible. I think the only live portraits of babies I have ever created were quick sketches, and more extensive studies as they slept.

The difficulty in working from photographs is that I have to edit the distortion every camera makes. Also, if I cannot take the photograph myself, I have to sometimes adjust the position of my subject, and even change the light source. Therefore, while I’m looking for the right photograph I’m trying to find one (or more) that tells the story of my subject and has an excellent source of light.

Some photographs are beautiful and charming, but looking at them, I have to ask myself: Would this photograph result in a good portrait?

In one photo Uki’s face is covered in ice cream and he is looking at us with an evil eye as if saying: “Give me my ice cream back, now!”

In another, he is chewing on his bottom lip and looking down, looking as an aristocrat observing his worthless peasants.

In yet another, he is looking to the side, bathed in soft light, as if he as seen THE light.

All of these images are adorable, and they tell a story, but do we want them hanging on a wall forever?

No.

Eventually, Uki’s dad finally sent us a photo that can result in a brilliant portrait:

Uki--Original Photograph

Uki–Original Photograph

The moment I saw the above photograph, I thought: “Rembrandt.”

The lighting in this image is very strong. Uki’s look appears very wise, as if he is questioning everything that we are doing with our lives. If I was going to give this photo a name I would call it Wise Innocence. Looking at this image, I know that I will not have to change too much while painting, which should speed up my process. However, though this image is nearly perfect, I feel it is missing something.

Step 02: A Study

Now that the photograph has been chosen, the next step is to prepare for painting.

Since the image is dark, I’ve edited Levels and have brought up the lights, so that I can see what is going on structurally.

Uki--Brightened With Levels

I have adjusted levels on the original photograph (see above) to reveal more structure.

Thinking of Rembrandt, I want this painting to be warm, almost monochromatic in colour with just a hint of colour where the light is hitting the image. The rest should be various shades of sepia.

Using my Cintiq Companion I’ve created a value scale in reddish-brown, then with opacity and pressure sensitivity of my brush turned on I began to sketch out my composition.

I thought about adding Uki’s hand to the image, but I felt that it would just pull the focus from the face. Rembrandt had this technique where he would paint the background lighter behind the shadow of a face, and darker around the light. I have tried to stay true to that idea. I have removed the unnecessary elements from the photo, keeping only vague shapes of pillows and comforter to lead the eye around the painting. I’ve added an imaginary toy, to give the baby a friend, but more importantly to keep the eye from leaving the composition. I have also bent Uki’s leg for the same reason. I’ve added a tiny smile to his mouth, because I felt he was looking too sad.

Once all the elements of the picture were in place, I have pushed and pulled at shadows to create a balanced painting, without allowing values to take the focus away from the face.

Uki--Tonal Study

This is my portrait’s plan. However, today, I can see that my proportions are slightly off. If you have not read my blog before, I tend to loose my ability to measure when I’m tired, so I have to make sure I’m well-rested when I begin to paint. 🙂

Looking at the result, I feel that I have a solid plan and am ready to begin painting on canvas. The past couple of paintings were very finished, but for this one, I would like to keep the sketchy quality I admire in John Singer Sargent’s work (He is my favourite portrait painter of all time.).

Step 03: Preparing the Canvas

I am not a purist. I am not an artist who likes to buy raw canvas cloth, build a frame, then stretch the canvas myself. I have done this step in high school and have hated every minute of it. It took me a week or two to prepare my canvas, and only two days to paint the abstract expressionist painting (our assignment at the time). I am terrible at building things. Though the resulting painting is one of my favourites, and though it looks great hanging on our dining room wall, glancing at it as I’m writing this post I keep shuddering at the curved angles of my poorly built frame.

Now, when I want to paint on canvas, I go to an art store and I get myself a prepared canvas ready to be painted on.

In the past, I have taken my acrylic paints and have attacked the canvas with the paint immediately. However, I have discovered that it took a lot of paint to keep the light from passing through the canvas. For this reason, with this painting, I’m going to use gesso first.

Gesso is fairly opaque compared to the acrylic paint, and if applied liberally it will block the light, preventing it from passing through the canvas. The painting I’m working on is mostly in the dark value range, therefore any backlit luminosity would just look strange.

Canvas Preparation--Applying Gesso

I have applied gesso mixed with burn sienna. I added some brush strokes to create a bit of texture, but then my painting got attacked by flying ants, so there are certain textures I did not intend. However, that is the beauty of working traditionally: I never know what’s going to happen.

I’m also not going to apply gesso directly out of the jar. Instead, I’m going to mix it with acrylic paint until I reach the mid value of my study sketch. This way, I will only need to paint the darks and lights. My plan is to paint a monochromatic painting in full value, then to add colour as a finishing touch. I have a big tube of burnt sienna available, so I’ll use that with either raw (warm) or titanium (cool) white.

Step 04: Drawing The Image Onto Canvas

As I’ve mentioned before, when I’m tired I have a really hard time visually measuring distances between elements, or my subject’s proportions. Someday, I may invest in an art projector so that I can cast the exact image of my sketch onto canvas, but for now I use the old method of dividing my image into squares (creating a grid), then transferring what’s in the squares onto the equally prepared canvas.

Note: Your grid MUST have the same number of squares on your canvas as they are on the drawing/photograph.

I do not know who was the first person to use this method, but it works wonderfully. The reason it works so well is because the artist can copy the abstract bits inside each square onto a corresponding square, without being distracted by the complexity of the subject. If one of the squares contains too much detail, simply divide it into further squares. You can also use rectangles or triangles, just make sure you transfer them accurately onto your canvas grid.

I have created matching grids to transfer the image as accurately as possible.

I have created matching grids to transfer the image as accurately as possible.

When I was working on the above image, I decided that maybe I should just copy the photograph instead of my sketch. That way I can be sure to draw the portrait as close to the subject as possible.

This has proved to be a grave mistake, and if I was not feeling as sick as I did on the day, I may have saved myself 5 hours of work.

THE MISTAKE

I like to paint portraits standing. When I’m standing I have a greater range of movement, and I can also step away from the canvas to see the entire image as a whole, or step closer to work on some details. We humans have a very narrow range of focus. The closer our subject is, the less of it we can see clearly. The same is true for a canvas or a piece of paper. However, my beautiful wooden easel is too short for my height (I’m 5’ 9”.). At maximum height, the top of the canvas comes slightly below my eye level. If you are planning on purchasing an easel, I highly recommend you get one where the bottom of the canvas at maximum height reaches your eye level at least. Also, make sure that you can easily adjust the height while painting.

I may purchase an easel more suited to my height when I get a studio with a higher ceiling, for now, I make do with what I have.

Sitting down to paint, I cannot see the entire image at a glance. Therefore, while I carefully moved onto the next step in my painting process—painting in the shadows and lights—I did not notice the hideous result, until I stepped far away from the painting five hours later.

Though the pose may work great as a photograph it is not appropriate for permanent viewing. The photographic lens creates too much of a distortion.

Though the pose may work great as a photograph it is not appropriate for permanent viewing. The photographic lens creates too much of a distortion.

Even though the proportions of this image are perfectly accurate as compared to the original photograph, I realised that they would not work for a portrait. The camera angle is too distorted. Though this may look nice in a photograph, something a person may look at for a few minutes (likely less), having an image with such a distortion hanging on a wall for years… Yikes! That is one scary, interfering baby. Not the mood of “Wise Innocence” I was aiming for.

I scrapped those five hours of work, decided to work from dark to light, repainted the canvas, and redrew the image this time using my sketch as a source.

I decided to place a background light source at his head and work from there.

I decided to place a background light source at his head and work from there.

Step 05: Light and Shadow

Once the drawing is ready (I use pencil crayons for the under-drawing—Faber-Castell Artist’s Pencil Crayons—not the student option), the next step is to squint your eyes (so you would not be able to see details) and paint in the shadows and lights. If your tonal painting works, any colour you choose will likely work as well. To paint the following image I used Burnt Sienna, Unbleached Titanium White, and Ivory Black.

At this stage I'm grouping and mapping out the light and shadow areas of the painting.

At this stage I’m grouping and mapping out the light and shadow areas of the painting.

I hated what the Ivory Black was doing to my colour, so I replaced it with Prussian Blue. I though I’d try to use black for a change, but Impressionists were right—there is no black in nature. Therefore, if you want to darken or grey the colour—use its complementary colour. The painting will be more vibrant. Burnt Sienna is a Red-Orange with a bit of Blue. Therefore, the complement is Green-Blue, with a bit of Orange—Prussian Blue works. Use black for shading only if you want your colours to look flat and dead.

Compare the previous image with this one. Isn't it amazing how the Prussian Blue brings this painting back to life?

Compare the previous image with this one. Isn’t it amazing how the Prussian Blue brings this painting back to life?

Continue to paint the lights and darks, then step away from the painting again. You should step away from your work every two hours, leave the room, go for a walk and/or grab a snack. Give yourself a break that lasts at least half an hour, then come back and look at your work with fresh eyes.

Yikes! The poor baby has a dislocated shoulder!

Step 06: Modelling

At this stage I'm paying more attention to the structure and rounding our the forms.

At this stage I’m paying more attention to the structure and rounding our the form.

Once you know where your groups of lights and darks are, the next step is to think about construction and form. Pay attention to shadows within the shadows, lights within the light, “turn” the form. As a student, I found that I made lights too light and darks to dark. There is usually gentle gradation of an image, and even highlights are rarely a pure white. Do not worry about details, just paint your best to create an illusion of depth and form.

Keep in mind what you want the viewer to focus on. If you want the viewer to focus on the face, why would you paint a foot in stark detail? Keep the highest contrast where you want your focus to be, and don’t be afraid to make the rest of your painting sketchy, or allow it to blend with your background.

Note: Keep in mind the location of veins and arteries. Where veins are closer to the skin, the skin will be tinged with blue. Where arteries are closer, the skin will be more flushed. On a face tip of the nose, chin, forehead, cheeks, and ears tend to have the most red.

My subject is ready for some details.

My subject is ready for some details.

Step 07: Details

Never finish a section of the painting, but work on the whole image. You should always be pushing and pulling the elements of your composition. If you want something to stand out—sharpen it, give it contrast, add more saturation. If you want something to be pushed back do the opposite.

However, once you have your forms and structure down, it is time to add details: irises, hair, eyebrows, etc.

In this image the pacifier is competing for attention with Uki's eye. Not good.

In this image the pacifier is competing for attention with Uki’s eye. Not good.

Step back.

There is something wrong with this image. I do not want the pacifier to compete with Uki’s eye, therefore I’ve dulled the vibrancy and contrast in that area.

The pacifier has been subdued.

Better.

There is also something seriously wrong with that baby’s body.

Step 08: Redrawing

Sometimes, when I’m painting, especially if I’m too close to the canvas, strange things happen. Shapes that were perfect are mysteriously changed. Looking at the above image, I realised that the chest was too narrow, and that the back was curving inappropriately. The right cheek was also protruding.

I grabbed my pencil crayon, and redrew the messed up bits of my artwork.

If you notice something wrong with your image, do not be afraid to redraw.

If you notice something wrong with your image, do not be afraid to redraw.

Step 09: Final Touches

The next day, with fresh eyes, I came back to the painting. I continued to push and pull. I added some red to the cheeks, nose, and ear. I dulled the highlight on the cheek—the baby is not made of metal. Make sure as you paint to not create too strong highlights or shadows that are too dark.

Eventually, there came a point when I realised I was done. I felt that continuing with the painting I would only make it worse. So, I stopped and stepped back.

After the painting dried, I took my pencil crayons and added a bit of a shadow to the eye, some red to the nose and ears, reshaped the nostril… Minor fixes.

"Wise Innocence" | © 2015 MILI FAY ART

“Wise Innocence” | © 2015 MILI FAY ART

Step 10: Fix It

This time I’m not referring to fixing a mistake, but adding fixative to protect the painting from dust and the pencil crayon bits from rubbing off. For this painting I used Krylon’s Crystal Clear fixative.

"Wise Innocence" | © 2015 MILI FAY ART | After applying fixative under lamplight.

“Wise Innocence” | © 2015 MILI FAY ART | After applying fixative under lamplight.

MY TOOLS AND PALETTE

"Wise Innocence" acrylic paint. Missing from the image: Alizarin Crimson.

I’ve painted “Wise Innocence” using a limited palette of acrylic paints shown here. The following day, I added a touch of red to the nose, cheeks and ear with Alizarin Crimson .

This painting was painted with a limited palette of Prussian Blue, Unbleached Titanium White, and Burnt Sienna. In the light, the hair has some Cadmium Yellow, and there is a bit of Alizarin Crimson applied with dry brush on the nose, cheeks, and ear.

"Wise Innocence"--Mili Fay's Tools

I keep my collection of paint handy even when I paint with a limited palette.

I find that rough brushes are not as great when you need to apply a steady stroke of colour, but they are great for creating texture. I have painted most of the finished background with the soft chisel brush (brush with the blue handle) and the soft round and U-shaped flat short-handle brushes) were used for the details (brushes with brown handles).

I also cannot work without Matte Medium and a Paint Retarder. The Matte Medium keeps the pigments of the paint together and makes the application of paint that much smoother. Brilliant thin layers could not be possible without Matte Medium. I’ve mixed water and retarder in a spray bottle, and I spray my paints on the palette to keep them from drying too quickly.

"Wise Innocence"--Palette

I was painting from my iPad, for this reason the left side of the palette is clean. You can see the scrap paper I used to test my colours, as well as the trust paper towel for cleaning my brushes.

Matte Medium, Paint Retarder, and Fixative

I tend to use the paint retarder to keep the paint out of the tube from drying. I’ve mixed the retarder with water inside a small bottle with a spray pump. I spray a thin mist of the mixture over paint as needed. You can also mix the retarder with paint to slow down its drying time, but I like the acrylic because it dries quickly, so I have not done that to this date.

CLEANING YOUR BRUSHES

While you are using the brushes keep the ones you are not using soaking in water to prevent the acrylic from drying and destroying them. As you paint, you should always have two jars of water—you would clean the brush in one jar, wipe the brush on a clean cloth or paper towel, then once it’s almost clean, clean it with the clean water before choosing another colour. The moment you notice the clean water getting dirty, dump it and fill your jars with fresh water.

At the end of the painting day, wash your brushes with warm water and soap. You can buy special brush cleaning soap in an art store, but I also like using Dove.

***** ACRYLIC PAINTING TIPS *****

Acrylic Dries Darker

Acrylic once it dries always dries darker. Depending on the colour the value can move one to two tones darker on the value scale.

Glazing

You can get incredibly translucent paint by mixing the colour you want with the matte medium. The more matte medium you use, the thinner the paint. Using just water for glazing is not recommended, because the water will not bind the pigment and eventually it will fall off.

Fixing Mistakes

If the paint is still wet, dab with a clean paper towel.

Once the paint is dry, you can probably just paint over your mistake. However, keep in mind that acrylic is translucent. If you are trying to paint light over a dark background, use gesso first, let it dry, then paint with acrylic over your mistake. Gesso can be combined with acrylic paint if it needs to be a particular colour.

Soft Blending

Apply paint with whatever brush you are using, then use an old/destroyed brush and rub to blend the paint. You can also try just using a dry brush technique, but I find the first method works faster. If you do use dry brush technique make sure you are using an old brush, or be ready to destroy the new.

Slow Drying Paint

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, acrylic paint is very forgiving, it also dries really fast. You can just paint over your mistakes. However, if you want to slow down the drying time to achieve some oil-painting effects, use Paint Retarder.

Gloss

If you feel your painting is too matte and you would like to give it an oil-painting shine, use the appropriate fixative once the painting is finished and has dried completely. You can talk to an art store CSR (customer service representative—any person working at the store) and they will be happy to recommend a type of fixative for your needs. Fixative is toxic. When applying try to do it outside or at least within a well-ventilated room. Shake the canister. Then about 12 inches away from the canvas spray quickly so the particles of the fixative fall like a gentle mist. If you are spraying too close to the canvas you may end up with a wet sticky shape.

 

There you have it: How to paint a portrait with acrylic paint?

If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment, or contact me.

If you would like my two cents on another topic, contact me and I may pick your question for a future article.

All the best!

Mili

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Join Mili Fay Art Fan Club to get all the important updates, free artwork, stories, and tips.

 

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Mili Fay--Portrait by Catia Da Costa of CDC Photography

© 2014 CDC PHOTOGRAPHY

Mili Fay, a Toronto-based artist, classical animator, illustrator, writer, and singer, is an award winning graduate of Sheridan College and Art Instruction Schools. In November of 2011 she created Mili Fay Art determined to support the world one artwork at a time.

Her latest published work is Animals In My Hair; a story about a boy who goes for his first haircut only to find endangered animals falling out of his hair.

Currently, Mili is working on her first ever illustrated Fantasy novel, Warriors of Virtue, about a reluctant princess who must prevent a war with the dragon-people, while keeping her mission a secret from her over-protective mother.

Join Mili Fay Art Fan Club to stay in touch with Mili Fay and to be the first to find out of her upcoming books and artworks.

Posted in Portrait Painting, Uncategorized Tagged , , , , , |

Schoolism: Pictorial Composition Week 02

After another great lecture by Nathan Fowkes we received a new assignment: “Create 5 studies in value, use the principle of Unity with Variety as discussed in class to create meaningful relationships in the subject and the composition.”

The first time I’ve heard of “Unity with Variety” was in my 2D Design class in Sheridan College’s Art Fundamentals program. What this means is to create a work using various elements and principles of designs (variety) and make it into a single cohesive image (unity).

I won’t blame you if you are confused. I’m not sure I fully get the concept myself, even after Fowkes’ lecture and my years of art education. The trouble is that “Unity with Variety” is a principle of design, but it can also use both the elements and other principles of designs in its conception. For those of you who have no idea what Elements and Principles of Design are, I’ve written an article about them a while back. You can read it here.

The way I interpret this confusing concepts is: Draw with a plan to tell your story. A child, or a young artist may draw randomly, but an accomplished artist will always create with a plan, even if the plan does not follow reality. The elements of the picture that may seem random are usually positioned in a way to lead the viewer’s eye to the main subject or a story point. Sometimes, they are positioned in a way to lead the viewer’s eye to several story points in a single image. In my opinion, the greatest artists are the ones who can interpret complex subjects with a simple visual plan.

This is what I have come up with for Week 02 of Pictorial Composition:

Schoolism Pictorial Composition Week 02 Assignment

Schoolism Pictorial Composition Week 02 Assignment

All of these images have “Unity with Variety”, but are they the best that they can be?
I personally believe that there is always room for improvement in everything, so if you can see how the compositions can be improved feel free to let me know. I love constructive criticism, even when it is vicious.

Instead of drawing random compositions for this assignment, I’ve decided to create ones I can use for work. I’m writing and illustrating a fantasy novel, therefore my images are mostly limited to the vertical orientation—a challenge in itself. The top three images will be chapter covers, the bottom left is a conceptual piece, while the bottom right will be an ink illustration in the middle of a chapter. Though the assignment states “create five studies in value”, it does not state that they all have to be painted. Therefore, I have used the element of line to create values in the last image, since the final result in this technique offers better representation of the ink illustration to come.

The question I was asking myself as I worked is not whether my assignment will get a high mark (no one is evaluating these assignments), but: Is my image telling the story I want it to tell?

When Alfred Hitchcock was asked how he is able to create with such amazing direction, he replied that he does not show the audience everything, but only what they need to know at a given point in time.

This principle has been a guiding force in my work ever since I’ve read the story in college: What does my audience need to see?

So, let’s get to it!

Image 01

Pictorial Composition Week 02: Image 01

Pictorial Composition Week 02: Image 01

Story: Emerging from a dense forest into a circular field, Cornelian (the wizard), Artemis (the owl), and the three teenagers have reached the base of an enormous apple tree. Cornelian has just opened the secret door in the tree’s trunk. The day has been turbulent, but the sun has fought its way through the clouds and is bathing the tree with brilliant shafts of light.

Mood: Magical. Awe inspiring. Beautiful. Isolated. Secret.

This image will be painted in acrylic. What you see here is just a tonal sketch. Because this part of the story is not scary, I have decided to keep the overall values of the composition light. There is high contrast in the tree, but that is because the tree is the main subject of the image. The background on the other hand has been grouped in mid value. I have kept the composition central with a middling horizon line to give an almost symmetrical balance to the work. There are curved horizontal elements (clouds, forest, horizon, characters) contrasted by the strong vertical image of the tree. There is a repetition of apples, and foliage strokes to give the image rhythm, but nothing dramatic. I have not added other elements to the picture, because I do not want to create any distraction. I have not added a foreground element to give the image depth, because I feel creating an illustration of open space and vastness is more important.

As you can see I had a clear plan, and I believe that the variety of the pictorial elements have come together to create a unified composition: Unity with Variety.

Image 02

Pictorial Composition Week 02: Image 02

Pictorial Composition Week 02: Image 02

Story: Vert Swiftwing in dragon form is hiding and watching our heroes. If his eyes were closed the viewer would see nothing but the foliage. However, there is an actual dragon drawn underneath

the layers of leaves.

Mood: Mysterious. Nonthreatening, but with a potential to become threatening.

Because the mood is mysterious, I have decided to keep the value scale of the overall composition dark and close in value. There are no bright contrasting lights, because that would create a feeling of excitement and even danger. There are also no weird angles for the same reason. The rhythmic repetition of the foliage and flowers follows a circular pattern, working as a bullseye to focus the viewer’s eyes. There is a slash of the angular tree to keep the viewer’s eyes from spinning until they get dizzy. The darkest branches are separated in a widening pattern to create a moving direction–bottom right corner to top left corner. There are many subtle layers of foliage to create a feeling of depth, but also closeness. This moment feels intimate. The bright eyes have the greatest contrast to draw our focus and create an element of surprise.

Image 03

Pictorial Composition Week 02: Image 03

Pictorial Composition Week 02: Image 03

Story: An evil centaur king is threatening our heroine.

Mood: Fear. Imminent danger.

High contrast, angles, focus vs. out of focus,… I wanted the viewer to focus on his evil eyes, so even the fingers are pointing towards his face. The entire composition is uncomfortably close. The slash of light is almost like a slash of a sword. The gentle horizontals of the position contrast with the vertical of the subject, and angles of the hands, ears, mouth… I may wait to finish the lectures on lighting before actually painting this image if the time allows, because I do not know enough about designing with light and how far I can push the design. For example, the source of light in this image should be firelight (torches and maybe hanging oil lamps) on either side, behind, and above the centaur. I highly doubt that that kind of a light source could result in the lighting of my image, but that is where design takes over reality. My question is: Did I take too much liberty with my light design?

Image 04

Pictorial Composition Week 02: Image 04

Pictorial Composition Week 02: Image 04

Story: This image has been playing around in my mind for a while now. If Warriors of Virtue is to be divided into printed books, this image is a scene from Book #2—Cured by a Rose (working title that I may change because it sounds too romantic). At this time, the story is classified.

Mood: Peaceful. Romantic. Private.

There is a wide range of values for this composition. However, though there are very light lights and very dark darks, all of them are grouped in a way that feels balanced and therefore nonthreatening. The rhythm of the stars is echoed in the highlights of the silver dragon’s scales. The sleeping girl contrasts with the dragon’s body. The fire is burning merrily. The strong horizontals create peace, the mountains point to our main subjects, the foreground and the vertical trees frame them protectively, creating a feeling of peace and privacy. The composition is also centralised like the others to give it a further feeling of stability, but the lighting creates a very different mood. The circular light pattern and the shape of the dragon’s tail further create the feeling of unity and privacy.

Image 05

Pictorial Composition Week 02: Image 05

Pictorial Composition Week 02: Image 05

Story: Our heroes are captured by the Chameleon-people who live in fancy tree-houses connected by bridges. The Chameleon-people design influence is Middle Eastern.

Mood: Informative.

Though the main characters are threatened, the threat is not imminent. This image is not about their fear, but the scope of the environment. I have attempted to use the curvilinear perspective to show as much of the environment as possible. I have also created circular pathways to create an illusion of depth in their repetition, though they are of different sizes. The same should occur with the repetition of the trees. I will need to do more research regarding Middle Eastern design and architecture, but I tried to bring in the feel to some of the structures. Chameleon-people are fairly human-like, except that they are shorter and they walk on their toes like raptors. I have also created a value scale that creates a feeling of atmospheric perspective, with the highest contrast in the foreground. Unlike the other compositions in this assignment, this composition is not central and our focus is taken primarily by the characters and the palace.

Assignment for Week 03 is to create 10 value compositions using only value, but I have so much other work that I do not know when I’ll catch up.

Until next time,

Mili

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Join Mili Fay Art Fan Club to get all the important updates, free artwork, stories, and tips.


 

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Mili Fay--Portrait by Catia Da Costa of CDC Photography

© 2014 CDC PHOTOGRAPHY

Mili Fay, a Toronto-based artist, classical animator, illustrator, writer, and singer, is an award winning graduate of Sheridan College and Art Instruction Schools. In November of 2011 she created Mili Fay Art determined to support the world one artwork at a time.

Her latest published work is Animals In My Hair; a story about a boy who goes for his first haircut only to find endangered animals falling out of his hair.

Currently, Mili is working on her first ever illustrated Fantasy novel, Warriors of Virtue, about a reluctant princess who must prevent a war with the dragon-people, while keeping her mission a secret from her over-protective mother.

Join Mili Fay Art Fan Club to stay in touch with Mili Fay and to be the first to find out of her upcoming books and artworks.

Posted in Schoolism, Uncategorized Tagged , , , , , |

Schoolism: Pictorial Composition Week 01 +

For those of you who are thinking of taking Schoolism classes, but are just not sure, I will be sharing my experience.  Hopefully, my journey will help you to decide if the classes are right for you.  I think the idea of Schoolism is great, but are the classes as great as I imagine them to be? Only time will tell. To find all of my Schoolism post, follow the category (tag) Schoolism.

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Schoolism Dashboard

This is what the Schoolism Dashboard with lessons ready for viewing looks like.

I was so excited to begin my Schoolism lessons on July 15th, Pictorial Composition with Nathan Fowkes. I got the video files, and was as eager as when I entered my first class of Sheridan’s Classical Animation. Then, I encountered my first problem; the video did not play on my iPad!!!

Schoolism: Pictorial Composition Lesson 01 Dashboard

Schoolism Pictorial Compostion Lesson 01 Dashboard. The following videos play automatically. This division makes it easier for the stream and for you to access a particular section.

I waited until I got home. Still excited, I ran up to my room, grabbed my Cintiq Companion, and ran back downstairs to my favourite couch spot. (Yes, I am like Sheldon Cooper. I have a couch spot, though I do not guard it as obsessively as he does.) The video played, but it kept freezing from time to time. It was frustrating, but Nathan Fowkes was delivering so I did not care as much.

I enjoyed the lecture and was ready to work on my assignment. It looked easy enough. We were supposed to pick our three favourite compositions then render each one three different ways. The first is supposed to be rendered only in 3 values. The second full value scale, but no details. The third, full colour with no details. Fowkes said it should not take us more than 5 minutes to do the first, and no more than half an hour to do the other two.

… My first two compositions took three days.

I chose Touch of the Wolf by Susan Krinard cover art (Steve Assel, I think is the artist) and Drew Struzan’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone poster art from his “art of” book. Those are my two favourite compositions. I’m not sure what I wish to do for the third.

Touch of the Wolf and Harry Potter Image Sources

Touch of the Wolf and Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone original image sources for Pictorial Composition Lesson 01 Assignment.

Now, I’m wondering if I’m doing something wrong. Why is it taking me so long to complete this assignment? Is it because I have chosen complex subject matter? Am I including too many details? Is it that I do not know how to use my digital tools as well as other students? I did find it rather difficult to match the digital colour to the print colour. The colour that I picked on screen may have looked like the colour on the print, but then as I started painting, I realise it was off.

Maybe it would have worked better if I used gouache, but my paints are 10 years old, and I wanted to practice using my new digital tools.

After completing the two compositions, I decided to check back my lecture video, when I noticed that I have completely missed the commentary videos of Fowkes critiquing other students.

After listening to a few, it appears that for the first image we should not copy the original shapes as close as possible, but that we should simplify as much as possible to the basic shapes. We should also pick the three values that match our image’s values??? However, we are still supposed to showcase the main subject of the image. I do not want to include details, but if I do not include Harry’s glasses and scar, am I showcasing my subject to the best of my ability?

I’m having a really hard time trying to figure how much to include and how much I should leave out, so for the last composition, I’m going to look for something very simple. I’m also going to try to find a digital image, and not the print image, so that I can have the reference on my computer as I’m painting. Then I’m going to time myself to see how much I can do in 5 min, and how much in half an hour.

This assignment should have taken a week to complete, but as usual, life likes to throw disasters my way, so I had to deal with some family issues and could not continue working as I planned. Thank you Nathan Fowkes for making me feel guilty about that. He actually said that even with his incredibly busy life, he is capable of finding time to complete all of these assignments on time.

Well, if it takes him half an hour to complete each, maybe that is true.

What is wrong with me?

Let’s see what I can do with the last composition…

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Initially, for my last composition I thought about recreating my favourite Rococo painting, “The Swing” by Jean-Honoré Fragonard. Even as a child I found this image terribly romantic. There is a pretty girl in a pink dress swinging, while a young man marvels at her beauty. A small reproduction of the painting has been hanging by the door in my home for decades. I looked up the picture on Google…

The Swing by Jean-Honoré Fragonard

The Swing by Jean-Honoré Fragonard. Click Here for the original source file.

I have been misinterpreting the image all of these years! There is nothing romantic about this painting except the colours. The reproduction I own is very dark, so I did not even see the old man pushing the girl on the swing. Apparently, this is the young WOMAN’s husband. (Gross!) The young man is not gazing at her adoringly, he is looking up her skirt and between her thighs! She is not an innocent pretty girl, but a saucy, flirtatious lady looking for her next lover.

I still love the painting, but I do not feel romance when I look at it any longer. 😉

Looking at it, I realised this composition was incredibly busy, and I did promise myself that I would pick something simple. By chance I glanced at the Robert Bateman books on my shelf. After a brief search, I decided on “Bluebird and Blossoms”. It looked simple enough, and I loved the colours and light in this image.

Blue Bird and Blossoms by Robert Bateman.

Bluebird and Blossoms by Robert Bateman. Click Here for the original source file.

Was I ever wrong! There is nothing simple about this image. There are so many branches, curves, flowers, tones… I have been overwhelmed once more. I did time myself, though. In the end I did create the three value study in less than 5 min (I reworked the values later on, but it was still under 5 min), the tonal study in slightly over half an hour, and the colour study in about an hour. I could have kept adding details, and perhaps I did add a few too many, but I’m happy with the last composition.

Here, you can see my complete assignment:

Pictorial Composition Week 01 Assignment

Pictorial Composition Week 01 Assignment. See below for details about each image.

I’m really looking forward to Week 02. We get to create five of our own compositions! Yay!

I have uploaded the Assignment from Week 01 on the Pictorial Composition Event Facebook Page, hoping for some critiques. However, as only the students of the class are present, it is difficult to get someone to rip my work into shreds and teach me what I’m missing. I myself have tried to offer some critique, but if I knew what I was doing, would I be taking this class? Maybe Schoolism can hire past students to monitor the event page and offer us some valuable feedback. Otherwise, we are pretty much on our own, which is OK, I guess. Maybe I’ll try the collective Schoolism Facebook Group. There must be some previous students there who have mastered the subject and are willing to offer me valuable feedback.

I’ll keep you informed. If you have any questions or suggestions, please do not hesitate to write me a comment.

Cheers!

Mili

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PICTORIAL COMPOSITION WEEK 01 ASSIGNMENT DETAILS

While listening to the lecture, somehow I have completely missed that we were supposed to pick three values that matched the values of our sources to create the first composition. Therefore, I picked a dark grey, a mid grey, and a light grey. The challenge here was to decide what to include and what not to include. The easiest method was to squint and pick up on the images lights and darks, but do those values reveal the gist of the subject? I also thought that we were supposed to match the structure of the image as close as possible, and not to simplify the shapes to their bare bones.

COMPOSITION 01: TOUCH OF THE WOLF

Touch of the Wolf Composition 01

Touch of the Wolf Composition 01

Looking at my image now, I would remove all the distracting bits (such as branches covering the moon and the dark cloud that is taking away from the silhouette of the house and hills.  I would leave the plant pointing at the two characters, because I appreciate the circular movement it creates, as if it is cradling the two characters in it’s grasp.

I was a bit more comfortable dealing with the full value image. However, I did not notice that I’ve messed up the proportions of the original image. This always happens when I’m tired. Somehow, I loose the ability to visually measure anything.

 

Touch of the Wolf Composition 02

Touch of the Wolf Composition 02

 

Other than the proportions, I feel I have done a decent job with this composition, but have I spent too much time on it? Should it have been simpler?

The last composition is in colour. I know I have spent way too much time on this one.  The greatest challenge was trying to match the print colours to screen colours.

Touch of the Wolf Composition 03

Touch of the Wolf Composition 03

I believe I have captured the image rather well.  Perhaps I have added a bit too much detail to the curtains and wall, but I did want to keep people focused on the scene. Touch of the Wolf is a story about an English nobleman, Braden Forster, who happens to be a leader of a werewolf clan. The werewolves are dying out, so he has turned into an obsessive matchmaker looking to breed pure-blooded werewolves.  When his American cousin, Cassidy Holt, arrives on his doorstep, he is determined to match her with his brother, but Cassidy seems more interested in him. I really loved this story as a teenager, but I bought the book because of the gorgeous cover. To this date, I have not discovered another cover to match. I only wish the artist, Steve Assel, had more of his work on display.

COMPOSITION 02: HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER’S STONE

Drew Struzan is probably my favourite contemporary artist. I love people. I love drawing people, and no one draws people better than Struzan.  He is also a master of composition; he can tell the story of an entire film with just one image.  One of my favourite images is the poster he created for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. The moment I heard we were supposed to study three compositions, I had my top two picked out.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Composition 01

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone Composition 01

The trouble with this image is that it is very complex. There are many character and many scenes I need to capture. Initially, I had translated shadows on Harry’s face, but then I decided to keep his face simple and to include the details of scar, glasses, and mouth. I could have made his face a bit rounder, and his mouth could have been smiling, but all of the elements of the picture I feel are represented in the image. What do you think?

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Composition 02

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone Composition 02

With the second image, my struggle of what to include what not to include resulted in me including way too much. I must have spent a day on this image, trying to discern all the shadows and lights Sturzan created. Why did he make this part of an image lighter? Why did he keep the other part of the image in a simple silhouette? What’s going on with the light on Hagrid’s face? The goblin’s face is tiny! What parts of the image are sharpest? Where are the blurred bits?… The questions went on and on.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Composition 03

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone Composition 03

For the third image, I tried to include a bit of texture as well, and to put to use some of the digital tools (such as layer blending) that I did not have as a traditional painter. This image took another day.  Can someone translate the essence of this image in 1/2 hour? I did not even try, because I was just way too fascinated with all the details and subtlety and I decided to explore it to my heart’s content.  I also missed the part of the lecture that told us we should not spend more than 1/2 hour on these images. Ooops!

COMPOSITION 03: BLUEBIRD AND BLOSSOMS

As mentioned previously, I did not have a third image in mind, and have stumbled upon this lovely painting by Robert Bateman by accident. At this point, I have caught up to the missing bits of the lecture, so I attempted to follow the guidelines to the best of my ability.

Bluebird and Blossoms Composition 01

Bluebird and Blossoms Composition 01

In previous compositions, I would zoom into the image and work, these images I did not zoom in.  I kept them at approximately 3-inch-wide size as I worked. The image above took 5 minutes.  Or rather it would have if I did not decide to change my values.  At the first pass, the background was middle grey and the bird was dark grey and white. It is not neat and perfect, but I think this is the bare minimum needed to capture the essence of the composition.

Bluebird and Blossoms Composition 02

Bluebird and Blossoms Composition 02

I soon realized that this image is not as simple as I thought.  There are a lot of interlocking branches.  Once again, I did not zoom into my image. I kept my distance, and have turned the texture of the interlocking branches into quick line strokes. I have timed myself, and have managed to create this image in just over 1/2 hour.

Bluebird and Blossoms Composition 03

Bluebird and Blossoms Composition 03

For the third composition I cheated. By this point I was so tired that my measuring capabilities were gone. I created a new layer, quickly traced the bird and blossoms, and then I got back into drawing without digital aids. Now, I notice I have made my background colours a bit too blue, and have added more contrast to the entire image, but I did not want to spend hours fixing it, so I let it go at about an hour.

 

And there you have it; Pictorial Composition Assignment 01.

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Join Mili Fay Art Fan Club to get all the important updates, free artwork, stories, and tips.

 

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Mili Fay--Portrait by Catia Da Costa of CDC Photography

© 2014 CDC PHOTOGRAPHY

Mili Fay, a Toronto-based artist, classical animator, illustrator, writer, and singer, is an award winning graduate of Sheridan College and Art Instruction Schools. In November of 2011 she created Mili Fay Art determined to support the world one artwork at a time.

Her latest published work is Animals In My Hair; a story about a boy who goes for his first haircut only to find endangered animals falling out of his hair.

Currently, Mili is working on her first ever illustrated Fantasy novel, Warriors of Virtue, about a reluctant princess who must prevent a war with the dragon-people, while keeping her mission a secret from her over-protective mother.

Join Mili Fay Art Fan Club to stay in touch with Mili Fay and to be the first to find out of her upcoming books and artworks.

Posted in Schoolism Tagged , , , , |