Monday, March 26, 2012

Caspar: Wolves At The Gate

Next item on the list: Caspar Torch, Scarlett's fellow bounty hunter. For this piece, I went through the same process as with Patch, starting with this photo of Kendall Schmidt (you might recognize this one as Zac in the AK Teen series, described here: and elaborated on here: ).

To make him look less like he's in a boy band and more like a killer, I gave him a solid green shirt and added the assault rifle strapped across his back. And, to increase the modernosity of it all, I even threw on some headphones. My original point with Caspar was to make him what you might deem the "modern prince," but in the end I chose to go with the cold-yet-meltable-hearted killer - he's got a soft spot for Scarlett and she has no idea. I also darkened the hair and lightened the skin, brightened the eyes to match the shirt. Didn't quite capture the expression - that was pretty difficult.

So this is what I came up with, ominous werewolf in the background and all. At first the assault rifle didn't really show up against the black, so I guess adding the wolf was a good idea to change the color. I can't seem to fix the right eye (well, viewers left). No matter what I do it just keeps looking droopy...

Whatever. I got my point across!

Patch: Wolves At The Gate

For those of you not quite up on the theme for Wolves At The Gate (aside from wolves, of course) I am writing a new novel with the same title. This series is all about painting the characters. The novel combines a bunch of children's stories like Snow White, Alice in Wonderland, Sleeping Beauty, Hansel and Gretel, and the Wizard of Oz. Scarlett, not yet painted, is the main character - and a bounty hunter... it just goes on from there! For more info and updates on the book, check out my Author Blog

Well, if you're following me on Twitter, you've probably already seen these next few posts, and if you're not, then you should be! @samsteele24

We'll start with my rendering of Patch, featuring Charlie McDermott as my model. The wolf and moon were done in the black and white gel transfers I talked about earlier. I started with a drawing of Charlie from the photo on the right and used the one on the left to draw in the fur and teeth (which I kept light to avoid looking too much like a drawing). I lightened the hair and added the tail to encourage the "cowardly lion" look (Patch, Draven, and Cyborg - not yet painted - are the three men Scarlett meets when she falls through the rabbit hole. They are my Wizard of Oz implements).

I then cut out the final painting (after baking it to decrease drying time) and glued it onto a piece of foam core that I had already transferred the wolf/moon to, painted, and allowed to dry. I added some stars to the black background as a finishing touch, stapled it to the back of my homemade wooden frame, and voila! A new piece.

Patch, the equivalent of the cowardly lion, is a shifter (hence the top half of his face looking human). When frightened, he shifts into his lion form. Sophia saw him as a threat, thus banishing him through the Rabbit Hole. Since he does not have a pendant, he is seen as untrustworthy in all sects of the Rabbit Hole, and Draven and Cyborg advise Scarlett to kill him. But Scarlett doesn't have a pendant, either, so she takes pity on Patch and he soon proves to be a great asset.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Frame Me!

I promised I'd talk about frames, so here it is! Any artist (or average Joe trying to frame a picture) knows that frames are crazily overpriced. The nice frames are probably going to cost you a minimum of $20, which isn't a lot if you're just buying one or two for your favorite photo, but when you're doing an art show without any cash and you've got to frame eight pieces, this can get way out of hand. I could've bought eight $10 metal frames, but I'd still be spending $80 plus tax and the frames are plain and boring. So I decided to make my own.

Before I begin, I'd like to point out I wasn't going for perfection here. I was going for cheap. But the frames actually turned out pretty damn good - and, including the tools I had to buy, I only spent $65 (including tax and two sodas!). Here's how I did it.

My brother and I started off at Home Depot looking for wood. My original thought was to use door trim, but they didn't have any I really liked, and it was kind of expensive. Luckily, however, we found 8 foot pieces of pine for 75 cents each! They're about 1.5 inches wide by 1 inch deep. It is cheap wood, which means cheap quality (some of them had a pretty decent bend, some were beveled, some not) but hey, it was worth it. We also bought wood glue, wood filler, black house paint, and screws to assemble them. We also bought two sodas here because they carry the Coke in the glass bottles, which is from Mexico and made with beet sugar instead of corn syrup (big taste difference!). Total spent: about $40.

Next stop: Harbor Freight. To attach the pictures to the frame, we bought a $10 staple gun. For assembling the frames, a $15 corner clamp (it would've been easier to have four corner clamps and do it all at once, but hey, I'm a cheap ass).

Last stop: our garage. Luckily my brother works on cars/trucks all the time, so he already owned a skill saw and a drill. If you're not so lucky, I suggest asking around until you find one you can borrow. Not worth buying unless you plan to make a ton of frames in the future or plan on doing a lot of home improvement work yourself. My brother cut the 45 degree corners for me and we glued them together in the corner clamp. Once tightened in the clamp, we found that putting one screw in the side and three staples on the back worked great, and it didn't split the wood like two screws did. Once the glue was dry (we left them overnight) I used wood filler to fill in and smooth out some of the gaps (my brother doesn't have a perfection skill saw, and the blade was a little dull, and it was cheap wood, so not all the corners matched up perfectly). That cured for about an hour and I took some rough sand paper to smooth out the rough edges.

And voila! You've got a frame. I left one frame plain, for the Draven piece, but painted the rest black with the house paint. Two frames I left matte, the rest I painted over with acrylic gloss varnish I already had. Overall, it turned out pretty great, much higher than my expectations, and it was very cheap. We had leftover wood, screws, glue, paint, staples, and filler, all of which can be used by my brother on his Blazer (in fact, he'd been needing some more screws and wanting a stapler, and a corner clamp is always useful). So really, each frame probably cost me less than $5 in materials - half of what I was going to spend. Try it out, it's great!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Wolves At The Gate Part 3

Okay, here's my third piece for Wolves At The Gate. While the first two are of Sophia, this one is of Draven, the equivalent of The Wizard of Oz's Scarecrow. I started with this painting of Dylan O'Brien, since he seemed like a good candidate. I painted it on a sheet of canvas and cut it out (well, in all honesty, I tried to paint wings and they came out so awful I did it this way instead. A few people actually mistook the wings for a mountain, no joke).

Next, I painted the northern lights on a piece of foam core (I do not recommend this, it is extremely difficult). But here's the cool part: to make wings, since I obviously can't paint them, I bought a pair of black toddler's angel wings from Amazon and cut them in half (perfect size!).

And, using the craft glue you saw earlier in my blog, I put everything together, using my psychology textbooks to weight it down (the wings weren't flat to begin with, so the glue needed some help making contact). Excuse my David G Meyers obsession.

I let it dry for a few hours, added some stars, and stapled it to a wooden frame my brother made for me (more on frames later). I gotta say, it turned out pretty damned awesome. It was hard to get a picture without the glare, but if you look closely you can see the howling wolf in the bottom left corner - keeping in tune with the wolf theme. I purposely made the wings come out of the frame, adding to the 3D effect. They were so worth it! I was going to paint the frame, as I am the other frames for the rest of the series, but since this is the only one with actual trees and a real outdoor scene, the natural look seemed to fit. It also helps highlight the bits of white and his skin since the rest of the painting is so dark. Had I painted it black, I don't think the wings would pop so much.

Ten points if you can find the mockingjay.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Gel Transfer - Triumph!

So I finished my two gel transfer projects today - and man, was it awesome! I'm amazed at how gel transfer works. It was a little time consuming to scrub off all the paper, in fact I got so lazy on the second one that I left a lot of paper on it, but it was worth it. By using the black and white images, it was just like having a drawing to go off of - except it didn't smear like a drawing. I was a little worried that getting the foam core wet would warp it, but low and behold, not at all! It was easy to paint over, too, a nice smooth surface (well, not on the second one, which had little bits of rolled up wet/dried paper stuck to it...).  I hope it dries quickly... didn't think about that.

After painting the transfers and the rest of the foam core, I used craft glue to glue on the already painted (on canvas) people. So it looks like there are wolves in the background of each painting, but it has depth and uniqueness because the background is smooth on foam core and the people are textured on sheets of canvas. Looks pretty cool - after the glue dries overnight, the people need some painting touch ups, some stars in the background, and I'll post some pictures!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Gel Transfer Maiden Voyage

So I'm starting my maiden voyage with gel transfers - never done one before, but I've seen them done and the technique is totally awesome. You start with a printed image - in my case, these two wolf pictures I found on Google:

Next, take some heavy gel medium (I couldn't find the exact stuff I was looking for, so hopefully this will work). The matte stuff will be easier to paint on as the glossiness won't show through; however if, unlike myself, you plan not to paint it, the gloss might be a better choice as it will stand out. (The craft glue is for another piece)

I used a sponge brush, but you could use whatever - just remember your strokes will SHOW UP, so try to make it as smooth of an application as possible (which is why I suggest using a sponge brush). Using the sponge brush or whatever you chose, cover the ink side of a printed photo with gel medium. When you print the photo, make SURE you print it in the OPPOSITE DIRECTION of how you want to image to appear - for example, the howling wolf is facing the left, but I need him facing the right. You need to reverse each photo because you will be flipping it over - thus printing it in reverse. Make sense? After covering the image with an even layer of gel medium, place it on your surface (I'm using foam board, but it works on canvas, wood, pretty much anything). Remember to think about this carefully because once the gel touches the surface, you're pretty much stuck with putting the image there. I lay the paper down before putting the gel on it and tracing the paper so I know exactly where to place it. Using something like a credit card or the handle of a pair of scissors, press down the paper and squeeze out any air bubbles. Let it dry for 24 hours. After it's dry, gently put water on it and scrub off the paper (the gel becomes almost like a thin plastic and will stay on your surface). I'll let you know tomorrow how it worked for me!

Wolves At The Gate: Part Two

Okie dokie, here's my second painting for the show! Let me know whatcha think!