A few months ago, you may remember me mentioning that I was working on a large painting, and really trying to loosen up. Well, I finally finished the painting, and though I didn’t loosen up quite as much as I had hoped, it was still a really fun experience.
The job in question was ‘Kalimpura’, the third installment in Jay Lake’s ‘Green’ series. In this volume, the antagonist packs up everything, including her two children, and ventures back to her home country.
The idea of a single mother, with all of this burden quite literally placed upon her, really struck a cord with me. Given that she is an assassin, I immediately had visions of Lone Wolf and Cub. I knew I had to show her as a Warrior Mother, protecting all that was precious to her.
Here are two alternate sketches that weren’t chosen. One has a little more action. The other, more mystery. Ultimately, the Art Director chose a sketch that I felt was a good balance of both these themes, and accentuated the importance of the ‘journey’.
The themes, and local, of this novel had a notably ‘Orientalist’ feel to them. Thinking along these lines, I wanted to paint something full figure, outdoors, with a strong sense of spacial atmosphere.
The trouble with painting loose, is that it means I have to paint a lot larger than normal, or I just can’t get the necessary amount of detail in the face that my clients expect of me.
Logistically speaking, painting big usually isn’t great for deadlines. It simply takes more time to cover that much surface. Plus, there’s a lot more STUFF to paint. In this case, it took me about a week and a half longer than I normally would spend on an illustration.
I started with an abnormally loose underdrawing, in the hopes that it would force me to loosen up some. And it did… a little. But ultimately my OCD got the better of my intentions, and I ended up rendering everything way more than I should have.
In the end (and I say that reluctantly, as I feel like I can keep working on it forever), I’m fairly happy with the result. I tried a lot of new things that were out of my comfort zone, and discovered a LOT of weaknesses that I now know I need to work on.
Below is the final product, and how it looks with type treatment alongside the others in the series.
Stunning! Absolutely beautiful rendering. Loving the seriousness of her face and the innocence of the little one. The colours are beautifully balanced. Another gem, Dan! <3
I love it! It's hard for me to imagine what weaknesses you might have discovered during the process of this painting. I think I'd like to trade mine for yours.
Superb work! Nice how each cover has its own colour theme. This new one is outstanding in describing the setting very well. Strong oceanic haze, even creeping over the wood slats and just a few barnacles on the rocks and pole. Her character is also very well described, strong and determined, but not looking butch. Very well done!
Thanks so much for showing the 3(4) process images. They explain how to start painting over an underpainting so much better than pages upon pages of really technical blabla. Thank you!!!
Beautiful, Dan !
Amazingly stunning Dan!
That is just lovely.
To me, she doesn't look even a tiny little bit like the earlier 2 girls. 🙁
Incredible work! Thanks for sharing.
Beautiful work Dan, that series of covers works so well.
I really like this image. Compared with the other two the character looks more mature and capable, and more three dimensional. I like the details like the shorter/tied hair as well, as it's common for a mother to cut her hair as it's easier to keep out of the hands of curious babies. A mundane detail (and I have no idea if it was intended) but it makes it look far more realistic to me.
I like your color palette across the three covers, beautiful and well thought out. Nice work.
I'm also happy to discover I'm not the only one using a ruler or whatever is close at hand as a mahl stick.
Beautiful, Dan, but I have a question:
Why are you trying for a looser style? I ask this because I went through the same sort of thing with my own art. I saw the luscious, expressive brush strokes of other artists and I thought *that* art was better than my slick, smooth style. I suppose the ghost of Sargent still haunts us all… I tried in vain to match that style but it doesn't work that way.
Art comes from the soul. We all experience zen moments when painting; moments where we aren't thinking, we're just putting down paint. It's in those moments that we paint as we should be painting….as our spirits direct us to paint.
You, sir, are a smooth painter; a Bouguereau, a Waterhouse. You are not a Sargent or a Duveneck. And *that's fine*. The latter *are not* better than the former for their styles.
Petar and Greg produce great, loose art. Even in their earlier works you can see that where they are now is a logical progression from where they were then. A different path, but no more or less a path than yours and mine.
Dan, your style is astounding and breathtaking and I can only hope to have the control and color sense that you have. Stick with your style and follow that path. I guarantee the destination will be worth the trip.
I appreciate that sentiment, Mike.
I guess it's a case of 'the grass is always greener'. Part of the desire is due to the fact that I used to paint quite loose. And honestly, I had a LOT of fun doing it. I miss that excitement. The improvisation. Everything I do now is so planned, that I feel it stifles my creativity a bit.
Again, great work Dan. Also thanks for sharing the more human side of working on an illustration. Like any doubt or weaknesses you feel you have. So many artists (I think all) face the same situations when they think they could be doing something better or just want to work on certain aspects of their technique they feel needs improving. It's reassuring to know even those we look up to are in a constant state of artistic self improvement.
Dan, I think you can get back to that excitement by ditching the underpainting step. You and I assemble a painting pretty traditionally (sketch>underpainting>light to thick>glaze). This is a tried-and-true method but you're right, it's very planned. I have been doing personal works that I tone the ground and go right into the painting (still thin to thick). The creativity and excitement, frankly, comes from working without the net of an underpainting.
Another way to capture that elusive feeling of excitement is to haul the easel outdoors and do some plein air work. Trying to capture the beauty of a sun-lit tree is an excitement I can't really express.
Of course you know all this, but in your busy schedule maybe a good-natured reminder can help.
And I would love to see anything you do along these lines. As I say, I'm going through something similar.
Dan – I hope you, Jay, and his publisher/art director can find a way to make prints of this beautiful cover available for purchase. I'm active in the breastfeeding support community and it's rare for us to see images in pop culture that reflect our realities (carrying our babies makes more sense, keeping them close even when the potential harm is just an over-zealous baby-pinching shopper at the grocery store.) Either way, lovely work. It was interesting to read about your process and see the sketches that were not selected.
Glad to hear it, Karen. I used my Wife's sling for the reference shoot. We too are big proponents of breastfeeding, and keeping the little ones close.
As for prints, I still own the copyrights to the image, so prints will be on their way shortly.
Really awe inspiring mate, love it.
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A friend just sent me this image, with the words, “I feel like doing this with my own family–grabbing my children and heading off with a blade in hand, ready to take down anything that's going to come after us.” We are middle-aged women, and we both absolutely love this image. Marvelous technique–it's getting rarer to see someone actually using paint!–and fantastic body language. I have no idea what the books are, but this image is so moving. Thank you. Please, keep it up!