Here it is! The Pooh Bear commission is officially completed and installed. Though painted on canvas, I think of it as a small, detailed mural. Final installation size was 22″ x 76″, designed to fit a long narrow space above the mirror in a kids’ bathroom. Once layout sketches and color comps were approved, I transferred the layout to canvas using an opaque projector. The client requested, “bright, kid-friendly colors, and classic style”. When they saw the finished piece, their response was, “That’s exactly what I was picturing!” So, mission accomplished!!
I teach a high school painting class, and brought one of the panels to school to demo for my students. I’m always encouraging them to get to know their tools (brushes, paints, paint thinners) in order to manipulate those tools to gain desired effects in their artwork. Know how far the bristles of a brush will extend as you pull a stroke. Develop a sense of water to glazing medium to paint ratio…how much paint you need on your brush and how thick or thin that paint needs to be for the area you’re working. Experiment with techniques such as dry-brush, spatter, knife painting, etc. to create different textures. Of course I demonstrate these techniques in class on a regular basis. But it’s more effective for the kids to see me applying what I teach in a “real-life” commissioned painting. As I look back at some of my favorite painting teachers and professors over the years, the most memorable lessons were demos they did using their own work. Portrait commissions, children’s book illustrations, Time magazine covers, all showed me that what I was learning in the classroom totally applied at the professional level in everyday life.
I’m not stuck…Pooh Bear is! Above are two color comps I finished today for a client. She likes the traditional style; her husband wants something more contemporary. So, we’ll see whether I’m moving in the right direction! Color comps (compositions) in the illustration world are small studies showing how the final painting could look. As illustrators, we may have one image in our head of what to create…while the art director, editor, or client is imagining something rather different. So, preliminary sketches, layouts, and comps enable communication to occur. The process can be time-consuming, but is just as important as the product. In the long run it saves time. And it should prevent you having to redo the entire finished painting/illustration.
These comps are merely a segment of a much larger layout. Perhaps I’ll post a photo of the finished illustration later on.
Coming out of one of the coldest, most frozen and snowy winters I’ve experienced in 23 years of living near Chicago, I am ready for spring. Spring is all about NEW. Everything that has been dead and cold begins to come to life! New sunrises in early morning fog. New puddles to drive through, washing old salt away. New green appearing amongst the brown grass and brown branches. A renewed sense of community as neighbors emerge from the winter’s shut-in and basketball games and bicycle races can be seen down the street. Birds feel the change, releasing their joy in warbling, diving, chasing one another through treetops. New songs filter through the rolled-down windows on an afternoon drive. And with each awakening a new sense of hope bubbles up…you find yourself singing in the shower, humming randomly in grocery isles, walking taller…even skipping!…and breathing deeply the fresh, warm air. Now, admittedly, there will be rainy days, chilly nights, muddy/soggy grass. The full explosion of summer is still a ways off. But it’s started…NEW has begun.
A couple of months ago, I completed the above mural for our church. It’s a combination of three verses that center on that theme of NEW. As part of the design, I wanted to emphasize the I Am, not only because this is the name God tells Moses to say when explaining Who sent him. But I wanted to emphasize that God himself is the one who does the hard work of changing us. The cold winters of this world harden us. Our choices and stubborn disobedience leave us wounded, scarred, calloused. God is the surgeon who “will remove their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19). We are so dead that He basically has to start over! – New Heart (adjusting our thoughts, emotions, and the decisions we make based off of those), New Spirit (renewing our inmost being), New Creation (our nearest friends and relatives might not recognize us when He’s done…if they do, they’ll notice the change).
I work with the 8th-grade mentoring program at church, and there is a quote in our mentoring packet which says, “God loves you just the way you are; but He loves you too much to leave you as you are.” This work of making us NEW isn’t simply a one-shot deal when we give our lives to Christ. It’s a process…the fancy word is sanctification, which could be defined as: being made more holy, or being set apart for a special purpose. Can God use the broken, the dirty, the messed up? Of course! – He wouldn’t have much to work with otherwise. However, He calls us to be holy…to be like Him. Being too dead and broken to change ourselves, we must turn to Him. It’s a daily thing, a yearly thing, a lifelong process of learning to live, learning to breathe, enjoying the fresh air that is a life walked next to our I Am. It’s preparation for the full explosion to come – the explosion of Heaven where ALL things are always NEW!
Today’s post was a mural commission I finished over Christmas break. The owner has a spare bedroom where grandkids sometimes stay overnight, and she wanted a mural as the headboard for their bed. The room’s theme is children’s books, with photos of England and Scotland on the walls. So, the mural is a whimsical illustration of Scottish hills, heather, and “coos” (Scottish cows). While this isn’t watercolor, I did use acrylic glazing techniques in the background hills. Glazing is a technique of “thinning” acrylics with acrylic medium, creating a thin, translucent wash of color. It’s as close to watercolor as I can get with acrylic, and I enjoy building the translucent layers! My favorite part of the mural is definitely the coos with their dark chocolate eyes and shaggy bangs.