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New Work: Sword of Purpose
Posted on 10 Dec 2014
"You must never be deflected by unpleasantness. I want you to remember that. Although it may not be apparent to others, your duty will become as clear to you as if it were a white line painted down the middle of the road. You must follow it, Flavia."
"Even when it leads to murder?" I asked, suddenly bold.
With her brush extended to arm's length, she painted in the shadow of a tree.
"Even when it leads to murder."
We sat for a few moments in silence, Aunt Felicity dabbing away at her canvas with no particularly exciting results, and then she spoke again: "If you remember nothing else, remember this: Inspiration from outside one's self is like the heat in an oven. It makes passable Bath buns. But inspiration from within is like a volcano: It changes the face of the world."
- Alan Bradley, The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag
Look, more art! This piece was inspired by another contest prompt, this time on the theme of gifts. I decided to create a scene of an old woman bestowing upon her past self the magical Sword of Purpose (a gift that might have come in handy for my own past self over the years - THANKS FOR NOTHING, FUTURE SELF.)
I knew I wanted to draw two characters huddled over a box containing a magical sword - but since I found myself a bit short on compositional inspiration, I ditched my usual thumbnailing process for something a little more organic.
I overlaid scans of two recent pencil drawings (Tam Lin and Banshee), scaled and rotated them at random until I had an interesting mishmash of shapes, then inverted the composite image (for no reason other than instantly making it look 75% cooler). From there, it was a game of find-the-pictures-in-the-clouds; essentially choosing which blobs could, with a little bit of tweaking, become faces or bodies, cropping and adjusting accordingly, and copy/pasting in additional snippets of line art as needed. I sketched on a separate layer as I went along to help nail down my ideas, since it was easy to suddenly spot a shape that suggested the perfect gesture or face, and then completely lose sight of it the next moment.
What I ended up with wasn't the prettiest thumbnail I'd ever drawn, but it had the advantage of being an exciting abstract composition, supplied to me more or less at random without a lot of painstaking generation of new content - like a ouija board for art! The process also gave me some new ideas for the piece - like the looming monster suggested by the flowing hair & wolf paw from Tam Lin.
I re-inverted my thumbnail (making it 75% less cool to look at, but much easier to trace) and brought out my trusty lightbox and Col-Erase pencil (to work out the remaining details NOT dictated to me from the spirit world.) From there, the piece followed the usual progression - from tight pencil art to digital color - without incident.
Pencil on Bristol, 11x17"
If the purple-and-gold color scheme looks familiar, it's because it's a throwback to one of last year's SmArt School assignments, wherein art director Lauren Panepinto took my drab color rough and cranked the saturation up to 11! The resulting color scheme was so eye-catching that my freelance clients requested nothing but purple and yellow from me for six months. Understandably, I got pretty burned out on those hues for a while, but I think I'm ready to love them again.
The digital painting process, in living color...
The bright colors are one reason I decided to tackle this piece digitally - my traditional work tends to veer unavoidably towards shades of brown (hmmm, perhaps because I'm painting with brown paint on brown paper?) and I knew I wanted something more vivid for this piece. I might have to take a hard look at the materials and see if I can't recreate this in traditional media, though - it could be a fun (or at least instructive) challenge. Plus, I have one very good reason to add to my stack of traditional paintings, as I am officially...
...in the Weekend Salon at Illuxcon next year (woot!) and of course no pixels will be allowed on premises.
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