Sunday, June 29, 2014

Gettin' Physical in the Digital World

Well, a month has gone by.  Not a whole lot to report but a few things have happened.

A month ago I got a whole bunch of Cel-Vinyl paint from Cartoon Color... great people, by the way; I spoke to the lady who packed my order and she couldn't have been nicer...

Anyway, I bought all this vinyl paint because I had read on Drake Brodhal's tumblr that it handles like gouache... a paint I am very interested in.

"Working with cel-vinyl acrylic (aka Cartoon Color) is more similar to working with gouache than regular acrylic paint.  It’s what BG painters used on HB, WB, Nick and CN cartoons and is the choice medium for many of my favorite contemporary artists.
Cel-vinyl is very opaque, self-leveling and dries to a matte finish. When working in my chosen style, all those traits are preferable over those of regular acrylic paint. Standard acrylic paint has a variety of opacities and sheen even across colors in the same set and is much thicker which can build up (in my case, unwanted) texture. Both dry permanent, but cel-vinyl can paint on various surfaces (plastic, wood, glass, etc) with similar durability to standard acrylic paint. The main disadvantage to cel-vinyl acrylic is that it appears slightly duller and generally can’t achieve the same deepness in its darks or vibrance in its pure hues as regular acrylic. The difference is fairly slight and can be counteracted by mixing in other acrylics.
 To quote a far wiser and more talented artist, “It’s the best stuff on Earth!”
So there you have it, straight from the "horses mouth," so to speak.  An experienced backgrounder endorses Cel-Vinyl as the preferred medium of HB artists.  I just had to have it.  So I bought a box full and tried it.

And hated it.

Basically, due to my inexperience and my complete misunderstanding of the medium, I was disappointed it didn't handle more like watercolor.  Well, it's absolutely nothing like water color.  For starters, it gets sticky and gums up the brush.  It dries damn near instantaneously.  I tried mixing colors on my plastic pallet plate and later I couldn't wash the dried paint off.  And mixing colors, for that matter, is a crap shoot because certain pigments overpower others and what you often wind up with is mud.

On and on.  But those are amateur complaints.  Now I've used it more and I'm learning to love it.  There is, though, a long learning curve.

Anyway, my first few "painted elements composited in Photoshop" projects would up in the trash.  I just couldn't get the Cel Vinyl to work for me.

In desperation I purchased $160 worth of quality gouache paint.  This is starting to get expensive now.   As I say, I was desperate.

My first "painted elements" project using gouache came out pretty well.  I used a scene from the Golden Book "Ben and Me" featuring paintings by Campbell Grant.  I love the simplicity of his designs and I especially enjoy his use of color.

My method is pretty simple.  For these projects I'm simply tracing the elements.  I transfer the tracing to a sheet of good art paper and I paint it.  When all my elements are painted I scan them into Photoshop and arrange them... or as I say, "composite" them.  I'll add a few final digital touches and the result is a series of paintings arranged into one picture.  Pretty ingenious, if you ask me, because that's how you create digital art: you paint different elements on different layers and arrange those elements.

How wonderful, I figure, to use physical pictures instead of digital images.

Here was my layout with all the traced elements combined.  I did this in Sketchbook Pro:
Ben's looking mite ghostly, wouldn't you agree?

Now to trot out the paint and start on Ben.  The time around I really hashed it.  I ruined the coat... I just had no understanding of how to mix color.  And then I tried to re-paint that coat with my Cel-Vinyl... well, you can see where this is going.  Ben was ruined.  Wad up that paper and put it in the trash.

But, wait a minute.  I retraced the coat to a different sheet of paper and tried again.  Here's my gouache rendering of Ben with the new coat superimposed on the original "ruined" painting.  Not half bad... not good, but not half bad.
The reason I actually chose this picture as my project was because of that beautiful wood floor.  I really got a lesson in how to use a liner brush in painting this one:
Then I painted the wall to Ben's right:
This scan demonstrates how gouache is very much akin to watercolor.  Just as temperamental... but we love it, now don't we!
I won't belabor this post with the pictures of the back wall or the lantern.  Both were painted primarily with Cel-Vinyl... see?  I'm starting to get the hang of it.  Here's all the elements "composited":
I even added a parchment-colored vignette style "frame" to the composition.  This picture is pretty similar to the original.
 Now... we take a turn.

I opened the file in Photoshop and thought, hmmmmmmmmmmmm.  I shouldn't do it... but I'm a-gonna do it!

Using the lighting effects filter, I put a spot right behind that lantern and another pin light so we don't lose Ben in the dark... and created something I couldn't possibly do with just paint:
So what do you guys think?  Too much?

Next project should be a Yogi Bear based on a Hawley Pratt/Norm McGary painting.  Stay tuned.