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December 2008

December 2008 -- Wings



  • EMG News:
    News for December
  • Behind the Art:
    Griffin In Flight
  • Artist Spotlight:
    Chesley Bonestell
  • Myths and Symbols:
    Wings of Wonder
  • Wombat Droppings:
    Size Matters


  • Fair Use


  • Poem: Winged


  • Tomb of the King: Pandoryn, Part 1
  • Falheria: Wings

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  • Griffin In Flight
    Behind the Art
    by Melissa Acker

    Since our theme of the month is 'wings', I thought I'd take a quick walkthrough one of my griffin paintings. Feathers can be very tricky to illustrate properly, so let's see where this takes us.

    First of course we need a drawing or sketch. Or something. So I whipped this up. It's rough, but it gives us a basic pose and proportions to work with.

    I decided that I wanted this to be a multimedia piece, because they tend to be the fastest for me to kick out, and I can work on other things at the same time. The final decision is watercolor and colored pencil, on 140lb cold-press watercolor paper. I freehand the sketch onto the watercolor paper and refined the drawing. I cropped the composition to make it more appealing.

    The first layers are just to lay down the local colors, and I didn't pay much attention to values or shadows for the most part. I let the various areas dry before painting adjacent ones to minimize bleeding. The background was done wet-in-wet, adding more colors as previous ones dried out (but before they became completely dry). The swirls were done by making them through areas that were a mix of wet and dry; when I dropped color into the wet areas of the swirls, it pushed its way out.

    This is the layer that I started deepening the values. Mixes of siennas and prussian blue were used to deepen the shadows on the body, and a violet was added for the inner wing area. I tried to keep the feather texture loose and suggestive. The head and neck were done in two steps, with the second done as the first was barely damp to keep the transitions soft. The inner wing area was done in a similar manner. Instead of trying to paint in every feather, I painted the shadows on the feathers, and I did a lot of negative painting (that is, painting around the object to define its edges). I also darkened the lines on the longer feathers.

    Last of the paint layers, I tweaked various areas to darken the values and add more texture to the feathered areas. Very pale washes were used to add shadows on the wings and start to build the form somewhat.

    Time to start in with the colored pencil! Since this piece is so small, and the paper has a bit of a tooth to it, I had to use a really sharp pencil to keep the texture to a minimum. I used dark brown, blue and maroon pencils to add details, darken feathers and draw attention to the left side of the painting. You might notice I barely touched on the hind legs or torso at all, and that helps push it back into the composition and out of notice.

    The differences between these two steps are minor, but they are important. This is the layer that I burnished some colors, and added some highlights. Using a dark brown and a dark blue pencil, I pushed really hard into the dark shadows on the neck feathers to really push them back. A similar technique was used on the leading edge of the wings as well. I then used a white and a cream-colored pencil to add highlights to the feathers, and some details on the beak as well.

    So another month, and another walk-through ends. Hopefully you've learned something or saw something you'd like to try yourself, and I'll be back next month.

    Melissa Acker

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