28 April 2017

Kelsey with Accordion

60" x 40", oil on panel, 2017

This is my portrait of Toronto-based musician, Kelsey McNulty, that I've submitted for the 2017 Kingston Prize for portraiture. She did a short residency at Small Pond last year and we did a little photoshoot around the grounds. When I saw the results, I asked if I could paint a couple and submit one of them for the KP exhibition.

The other painting (Kelsey Shade) I did was equally large, but was a tight close-up of her face and, while it also turned out well, I chose to submit this one because the musical element made for a better formal portrait.

Here are my previous submissions* for that exhibition:
George Emlaw (2011)
Self Portrait (Shoulders) (2013)
George Meanwell (Concertina) (2015)

*The Kingston Prize happens only every other year.

The big picture(s).

Both portraits in their pencil stage (on the left is Kelsey Shade) in my "winter studio" upstairs at Small Pond. It was like doing a residency in my own home, with me napping sporadically between painting sessions and coming downstairs only when absolutely necessary.

Get up, stand up.

Here's another sizing shot with me standing to do the upper half of the painting. This wasn't a problem, but I like to sit and work at eye level, since I tend to paint in stretches of one-to-two hours at a time with short breaks in between.

My modelling gear is set up on that table behind me, but the paintings took precedence (as I worked like crazy to make the April 28 deadline) and I didn't get much building done.

Note the new 5-bulb "medusa" lamp behind me; two cool LEDs and three warm LEDs make for nice bright and colour-balanced light.

On the wall are a couple of paintings which were among my very first attempts at oils in the early 2000s: Two Doorways (left), and Stairway (right). On the floor to the right are two large commissions I was working on concurrently with the two larger portraits.

Blocking in shadows.

My usual first step, done with olive green.

Blocking in mid-tones.

Getting a feel for the planes of the face.

Highlights, etc.

Looking really weird and rough at this point. It's hard to accurately judge the colours because they're adjacent to that intense orange ground.

Further rendering.

It's really starting to look like a chalk drawing on coloured paper.
It also looks a little heavy-handed, but my instincts told me the colours and modelling are actually okay.

Hair mid-tones.

Inadvertent chalk drawing resemblance complete!
Also, blocking in the hair softened the harshness of the facial colours and reassured me that I was pretty much on the right track; I just needed to knock back some of that adjacent orange.

Reiterated shadows in hair.

Because these portraits are larger than life (the other one much more so!) I could get in and play around with little brush strokes all over the place, not worrying too much about wrecking any precise marks (except for key areas in the face). Still –even in the bigger portrait– I wasn't about to render every strand of hair...that way lies madness.

More facial modelling and hair highlights.

Things are starting to come along nicely and I like the orange showing through here and there, giving some warmth and holding things together.

Background blocking.

The background of the reference photo was just a wall of trees and green leaves so I decided to break it up, bring in some sky, and do a simplified abstract treatment to contrast the yet-to-be-painted but highly-detailed accordion.

Sky complete.

I edged the treeline with olive green oil, but, the way I work (i.e. almost never any thinners), this was taking longer than necessary (and the deadline was relentlessly approaching)...


...so I decided to use some thinned-out black acrylic to block in the rest of the background. That way, it would be dry sooner and allow some good, dark ground for my foliage.

A few more adjustments.

One last look at the face as I leave it alone to cure while I work on the rest of the painting in sections, after which I'd come back to it later with a few more final adjustments.

Background and shirt.

The trees are blocked in with a few highlights added and the shirt (minus the cuff) is now complete.

Early accordion.

We didn't plan Kelsey's wardrobe for the shoot, but that black and orange striped shirt really works for this portrait: the black horizontal stripes echo the horizontal lines of the accordion and the orange stripes tie in to her hair and skin colour. The alternating lines make a nice transitional element from warm organic to cool mechanical.

On second thought, yeah, I totally planned it.

Face and hair refinements.

Final adjustments to the face and hair include super white highlights and further reiteration of dark shadows. And a few sculptural adjustments here and there.

Accordion refinements.

This. Was. A. Beast.
I'm thinking of doing a whole series of musical instruments to make up for whatever shortcomings there are here...

I wasn't intimidated by the complexity of this instrument until I actually started working on it. But I wasn't worried about anything other than time. With only a few days left, could I adequately render this thing to look anywhere near satisfying? Well, "satisfied" will have to do...Am I happy with the accordion? About 85%. Happy enough to put down the brushes and hit the "submit" button.

27 March 2017

Ralph Vint

Ralph Vint
24" x 24", oil on panel, 2017

What appealed to me most about doing this portrait commission was the candid and casual non-posed look of the subject in the reference photo provided. I really like how he looks as though he'd been looking away and his wife, sitting beside him, snapped a quick photo just as he turned his head to face her.

Pencil phase.

The vintage photo had enough contextual details to indicate Ralph was sitting behind the wheel of a car and I wanted to make sure this was clear by not cropping anything out that might take him out of that setting (specifically, the steering wheel and the hint of windshield in the top right).

Blocking in shadows.

The usual: olive green shadow blocking to get my thoughts organized and get things going.

Blocking in the skin tones.

Refining the skin tones.

Early highlights.

Further refinement.

Nearly done.

I like that car in the background; it helps set this painting some time in the late '70s or early '80s, but it's asking for a little bit too much attention, so it'll get pushed back a bit with some transparent white.

03 March 2017

Andy's Dressing Illustration Elements

Dill Weed
15" x 11", watercolour, 2016, private collection

Beehive (Skep)
15" x 11", watercolour, 2016, private collection

These label illustrations were done last year for a local Prince Edward County business getting underway called PEC Foods that specializes in an all-purpose dressing that is suitable for many kinds of foods besides salads. This is a sort of sneak peek since these elements will only be part of the label in a combined illustration which also features a watercolour portrait I did of Andy.

Andy's first dressing style is honey dill (that much should be obvious) and I can honestly say that it's quite tasty.

04 February 2017

Romulan Bird of Prey ATROPOS (1/650 scale model), Part 2

Actual simulation.

I Photoshopped the primered ship onto my original cover image, so it's a false/not-false representation of the current status of the Atropos.

Supposedly accurate paper templates.

In Part 1 I mentioned watching a video of a cobbler making a template for a shoe using crumpled paper, and I tried that technique to make a template for my hull panels. I made several templates, each time adding or subtracting small bits of paper to make them as accurate as possible. The forward raised area in the middle and the rear engine assembly are slightly off-centre, so each template had to be custom-built, meaning I couldn't just make one and use the mirror image (i.e. flip it over) to make the other. I'll be way more careful centering parts next time I'm kitbashing.

Result of template exercise.

I traced my paper templates onto some sheet styrene and cut out four pieces, two for each side, to achieve the level of thickness I wanted for the top (to sit just below the kit's middle horseshoe section). I roughed up the surface of the ship and the undersides of all four panels with sandpaper for better adhesion, then used glue (CA glue on the flat parts and Tamiya Extra Thin around the edges) and clamps to put everything together (the ship's surface slopes very gently from the middle section to the outside edges, so clamping is needed rather than weights).

The top layer is supposed to curve back from the bottom on the leading edge like that...


More symmetry problems.

...I misjudged my curve and ended up with more symmetry problems (the right curves back too much; the left is okay). I added a very thin slice of sheet styrene to the right to bring it back up "to code," but if I had Romulan contractors, I'd be in big trouble.

Putty party.

I used Tamiya White putty to fill in the gaps between the raised hull parts and my new panels. Lots of filling and sanding and filling and sanding at this stage...

Bracing for elevation.

That long dragster "keel" I added to the bottom of the ship is pretty deep, so my bottom panels would have to be "thicker" than the top ones (not to blend in with the keel, but come just under its edge). Instead of adding four or five layers of sheet styrene to build that thickness, my plan was to add a few pieces of rod styrene (left over from building the trailer for the Puppet Wagon) to give me a high point to attach to and the outer edges of the panels would attach to the ship, sloping downwards from the keel.


This thin sheet styrene is very flexible, so it was pretty easy to make the panels slope from the keel to the outer edges of the hull.

Starboard side and putty.

Filling the rear gaps.

Of course, my sloping method means there's a hollow area between the panels and the original hull, so this resulted in triangular gaps at the rear. I cut some small strips to fit and glued them in place. They needed some trimming and puttying, and it worked out, eventually. All this body work is giving me good practice for my Jetta builds down the road...

First coat of primer.

...but all the puttying and sanding was starting to wear me down a bit and I had to know just how much more work was needed to finalize the top and bottom hulls. The best way to do that is to shoot some primer on the model and the uniform colour will reveal any shortcomings –and there are lots, but I now know what to fix and work on.

I'm happy that things are definitely coming along with the hulls 'cause I need a break. My next step is going to be figuring out exactly how my lighting rig fits into the ship...

27 January 2017

Romulan Bird of Prey ATROPOS (1/650 scale model), Part 1

Below is the Round 2 reissue of the AMT Romulan Bird of Prey kit from the 1960s...and while it's nice that they re-used (most of) the original box art, they also re-used the original mold...and it's not very accurate to the studio model. The only new additions to the model itself are optional clear domes for the ends of the nacelles (for ease of lighting) and a "plasma weapon" piece that goes on the very front of the ship.

Original 1960s box art.

Right before Christmas 2016 I received this kit in a Secret Santa situation and I thought maybe this would become a donor kit for other builds or maybe get somehow kit bashed with my defiantly-unbuilt Defiant? But, after some thought, I decided I now wanted to build a Romulan ship. Building it box stock was out of the question from the get-go, and after looking at a few videos of folks building this kit, and doing a good job of it (even some folks accurizing it to better match the studio model), I decided to apply my new sense of modelling individuality to this and customize it.

I'd built a few Star Trek models back in the 1990s, but this will be my first enemy ship; her name will be the Atropos, named after the Greek goddess of fate and destiny, and this will be a Ravenna Class Bird of Prey.

Long sides with more cool artwork.

I did some more searching and found a design by someone going by the name Atolm who came up with an interesting and visually appealing speculative refit of the Bird of Prey that took it into the Star Trek Movie era.

Short sides are basically the same as the top.

I want to keep as much of the actual kit as possible, so I won't be redesigning the warp nacelles or changing the shape of the main hull to match Atolm's design too closely, rather, I'll add elements to update this ship as a sort of stepping stone between the TOS version and his speculative TMP design aesthetic (we don't see a Romulan ship onscreen until TNG).

Facing forward.

I wanted to keep the smooth aesthetic typical of Star Trek, so no chunky, asymmetrical greeblies characteristic of the Star Wars look (which I like very much, but it wouldn't be appropriate for Trek). Starting with some donor kit parts, I added the cockpit of a Messerschmitt as beefy engines and the long, pointed bit at the front comes from a dragster (its longer counterpart, seen peeking out a bit, with Bondo filling the void, is on the bottom hull). Between the points at the very front I'll be adding a piece from my massive Russian tank donor kit to act as an "updated" plasma weapon. That circular "bridge" module comes from that same tank kit.

The pencil lines indicate where I'll be scratch building the relief "wing" aspect of Atolm's design, onto which I'll be adding a stylized "feather" pattern.

New thrusters.

I chopped up a couple of canopies from my two Messerschmitt donor kits as bottom ends for my thrusters. I like the angular look; it seems appropriately Romulan, somehow. The inset pieces are bits of ribbed sheet styrene. I've ground down the inside of the kit at those specific points so that my LED lighting will glow through.

Dragging on the bottom.

That long piece and that engine part are from of my dragster donor kit. The pencil lines (as on the top of the ship) is the temporary layout of the scratch-built additions to make the body thicker and give the impression of wings in a physical relief fashion (like the Klingon Bird of Prey introduced in 1984's The Search for Spock). I think this is better than the design of the "painted" bird (the decal is accurate, but I've never liked that design at all). My "feathers" will be many stylized pieces of very thin sheet styrene, hewing pretty close to Atolm's design.

Prêt à allumer.

I got these pre-wired LEDs from Model Train Software because I don't want to mess around with the math of electronics. Some people find it easy, but I just wanna build. I know soldering the ends together would make a more secure connection, but I don't want to mess around with that, either; I'll be twisting the wires together and fixing them with electrical tape.

Eight LEDs might seem like overkill, but I'll be putting one each at the front end of the two nacelles, one each behind the rear thrusters, and the remaining four will ambiently light up the windows I'll be drilling into main hull. I chose "warm white" LEDs for this as I didn't want to overpower the ship with out-of-scale intense brightness.

Kit base.

Unfortunately, the little white switch is closer to the bare ends of the wire than it is to the 9-volt battery connector, so I won't be able to use the base that came with the kit. I was planning to install the switch and battery under the dome and thread the wires up through a hollow brass rod (the kit came with a solid metal rod), into the ship, and connect them to the lights. I'll have to come up with an alternate base, but the wiring plan will remain the same.

Weak light blocking.

Four LEDs will be going in the main body of the ship to illuminate the windows I'll drill into it later on, so massive light blocking will be needed. I painted on some black acrylic that I use to edge my paintings, but it's quite thin, so I'll need some spray paint to help out. After that, I'll either paint the ship's interior white or silver to spread the light around.

That unpainted rectangular area on the left is where I added a dragster engine part in the existing gap of the dragster body (seen above). There were four circular features on the part which I drilled holes into and the remainder is intended to create a "glow" around that part (as seen from the outside, of course).


I went back and forth a lot regarding windows on the side of the ship and adding thin strips of styrene that would taper off from the front weapon. I finally decided to go ahead and drill some window holes with my pin vise. Good idea (I guess), bad execution. I just wasn't in the zone.

I wanted to keep the windows circular like on the studio model, but my sloppy hole-drilling, based on pretty good measurements made me join a few windows to others (making them rounded rectangles) to try to mitigate the sloppiness. That didn't turn out so well, either, so I scrapped the idea entirely and I'll be adding the styrene strips as originally planned. I used Taniya white putty to cover up my shame. Now the only windows will be at various points on the top of the ship.

Cobbled together.

I recently watched this video and noticed the cobbler used crumpled up paper to wrap around his foot form so he could get an accurate measurement from which to cut the boot material. After pondering various ways to get a good fit for my sheet styrene additions to the main hull, from complex Photoshop simulations (photographing the model, overlaying the new design elements, then printing that out as a template) to wholesale improvisation (which would be a bad idea, considering I thoroughly messed up the windows), I decided this might be the way to go.

This was only a very quick test to have the experience, and it looks like the right way to go –I just need to be a bit more precise in my tracing.