I love phrases of wisdom from children’s media, like Dori’s suggestion to ‘just keep swimming’ from the film Finding Nemo. It is wise advice, even if the source is a bit suspect. The title for this post is also a bit suspect, referenced from a children’s program which you may not have seen unless you were raised two decades ago, or were a parent then (like I was!), that of Teletubbies.
The operational phrase, Again, Again! was used when the Teletubbies would view something they found enjoyable, entertaining, and educational on one of their cohorts ‘tummies’ – they had broadcast wireless streaming on a TV screen on each of their bellies. What drugs were used for developing that concept pitch, I don’t think I want to know! But basically they would absorb the content, get excited about it, and then want to binge watch again. Um, sounds similar to how half of the world consumes NetFlix?!
The advice Again, Again! is what I hand out to my fellow artists, pros and developing students alike, but it tends to come out more as ‘Practice, Practice’ and ‘Be Prolific’ and ‘Paint what you are Passionate About’. For me, Again, Again! wraps it all up perfectly.
Many artists assume that technical feats are the result of some well spring of knowledge, an insight into special brushes, paints, software, or techniques which allow you to obtain mastery over a particular theme or process. While it is true that all of these insights can certainly help any artist along and remove many hurdles in the road to mastery, the most effective way to conquer a difficult skill is to undertake its execution, and then do it again. And again.
Today I am laying out for you my road to mastering metallic effects. This did not happen over a brilliant week at an artist lead seminar, nor picking up the right paints and brushes, nor watching a video of another artist who had mastery replicate the process so I could watch it in slow motion. Rather this is a development spread over a near full decade. That’s right, 10 years.
I can now paint metallic effects in my sleep, but for years, it was more like wading through a swampish nightmare of frustration and experimentation.
My point? Ease up on yourself if you are tackling similar issues in your own work (painting, drawing, writing, sculpting) or attempting something difficult and it doesn’t come out the way you wanted it to. Apply yourself as best you can, embrace the challenges placed forth, and find an opportunity to hit the repeat button. Only then will you really learn and obtain mastery within your art.
My desire to render metal was first inspired by Iron Man, and specifically John Romita Jr and Bob Layton’s work on him in the 1980’s comics.
These were also my first ‘paintings’, using inked outlines and watercolor dyes for coloring. I also sketched, A LOT!
By the time I left high school, I was trying some crazy complex scenes. This image below is my masterpiece from those years, still in pen and ink. You can spot Iron Man in the background sky, just above Peter Parker snapping a photo on a building rooftop, and the Silver Surfer coming down from space.
My art took a bit of a back seat as I began college majoring in Electrical Engineering, but I enrolled in an art class in painting my third year (and after dropping out of engineering). This painting below was begun in 1987, three years into ‘making metal’, and finally using oil and acrylic paint techniques. Notice the knight is in ‘red’ – Iron Man!
Photography and referencing was instilled at my second school, Syracuse University. Also I learned to look at, and being technically inspired by, other artists – Michael Whelan, Kieth Parkinson, Jeff Easley, Larry Elmore, Darrell Sweet, and many others.
These next two paintings were created as samples after meeting the artist representative Sal Barracca and his desire to see professional quality book cover samples before he would land me work. Sal specialized in book cover illustration and we had a great 9 year run together. I wouldn’t be the artist I am today without him taking a chance on a young, unproven talent.
Finally, the leap is made into creating something like what I could ‘see’ in my head regarding a metal-man. Below is my first cover commission for Penguin Books for the novel Shadows Fall by Simon Green, 1993. 9 years into rendering metal, and it now comes together.
Again, Again! Again, Again!
And lastly, another take on Iron Man executed during the first Illustration Master Class (IMC) in Amherst, MA, back in 2008 to show other artists how to paint metal, and to do the character justice!