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Saturday, October 1, 2011

My painting of Johnny Cash to donate to the CD Relief Silent Auciton

The high bidder, Sean Pound, with "The Man In Black" and Mikey:

Oct. 16, Oriental Theater
Sean was happy, I was happy to see the piece go to a good home, and we raised some money for LLS in the process. Everybody wins!

Here is the finished painting-
"The Man In Black"

Acrylic, 16x16"

This is the painting that I'm creating for the silent auction at the 1st Annual CD Relief Concert.

Progress shots:

Please forgive the mediocre quality of the photos; the camera is on the fritz, and I had to resort to using the webcam on my laptop. The final picture is professionally done by The Painted Pixel.
Here's a quick overview of some sketches, the realistic drawing, the exaggerated sketch, and the painting WIP:

Several talented local artists will be donating their work to the silent auction to raise money for the Colorado chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

After experimenting with several ideas, I decided on an 'exaggerated-features' painting of Johnny Cash – an iconic figure in the world of music. I felt it was fitting for an event featuring such great musical talent: Chris Daniels, Hazel Miller, Jock Bartley (Firefall,) Freddy Goudy (Freddie Henchi Band,)Tequila Mockingbird, Demon Funkies, Something Underground, Dave Preston, and of course, Ironwood Rain.

After gathering together a boat load of reference photos, I started exploring the concept with a few dozen sketches. I took the photos to work and 'workshopped' the concept with fellow caricature artist Ben Bloss. (That's one of the things I love about working for *LOL* Caricature Company – every day is another 'mini-workshop' and a chance to learn and share ideas with my colleagues.)
Man, what an interesting face! Here are just a few of the sketches:

This helps me to really understand the features, since I am not merely copying a photograph – I am pushing and pulling the features in an attempt to find an instantly recognizable likeness. The idea is that if you could look at a thumbnail of the drawing, and instantly know who it was, then it is a successful likeness. In order to do that, I'm experimenting with which features to emphasize, and which features to play down.
Once I really started to 'get' Johnny's face, and I felt I had gathered enough knowledge, I knew which sketch would work as the main concept.

Then I played with the drawing, exploring the exaggeration even more...

(It's funny, I thought I was exaggerating at the time I was doing the first sketch...)
I was amazed that Johnny's face lent itself better to stretching horizontally rather than vertically. And his mouth shape is really unusual. Then of course, there's the trademark creases and folds in his facial features. It's a constant push and pull, squishing and stretching...
I did an enlarged drawing to get a more concise plan.

Then I primed a 16x16” canvas with neutral gray gesso, and began blocking in the drawing.
Deciding that a black-and-white piece would be appropriate for “The Man In Black,” I mixed a 9-step value scale of grays using Bone Black and Titanium White. (I may add an accent in color at the end … we'll see...)
Next, I laid in the main shadow areas with a simple wash; then I began gradually laying in the light areas and building up the form in the lights.

After that, it's a matter of turning the from from the shadow to the light areas, building up the form in the light, and constantly stepping back to look at the result. At this point, I am taking care to keep the values in the middle range. I usually push to the extreme darks and lights early, which will not work for this piece. Once I am satisfied with the overall form I can begin to push the values out to the extremes.

Now the painting is at the stage where I start to glaze the shadows to get those really 'dark' darks, and drybrush the lights to get the highlights. This is tricky, and fun!

One of the main elements I want to retain through this whole process is the expression in Johnny's eyes; totally “badass” and at the same time "woeful..."

It's kinda strange - After getting used to the piece, it takes me a while to remember that the features are exaggerated. I feel that the painting is a much better likeness, and when I look at the sketches, they don't look as recognizable - even though they are more 'realistic...' That's the magic of caricature.

I took the painting in progress to show the guys, and also to get a look at it in a different environment than just my studio. I think they liked it... hopefully it will be even more dynamic when it's done!

Even now, I continue to do drawings and sketches - even though I have already gotten well into the final piece. It's a great warm-up for a day of drawing, it gives me a chance to explore the face more fully, and because it's just plain fun.

Building up the lights, layering the shadows... then going back in and unifying the whole thing; then doing it again...

More photos to come as the painting progresses....!