Sunday, 14 September 2008

Artwork Mondays: Of Two Minds banner

In the new year, Shelley Batts formerly of the Scienceblog Retrospectacle prepared to launch a new blog, with the inimitable Steve Higgins of Omni Brain. The new blog is Of Two Minds.

Doing blog banner art is something I immensely enjoy; the collaboration in illustrating someone else's visual voice can lead to unexpected places, and in each instance, I learn more about what I am capable of as an artist.

Since I never posted my "Making of" the Of Two Minds banner, here it is.

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Immediately I began to think about the Thalia/Melopomene tragedy/comedy masks. I whipped off a quick sketch, and played with some colours. At this stage it's all amorphous in my head, like the strange scroll-things on the masks: what're those?

Next, using some photos from their Facebook pages, I found what I needed: a picture of one author looking up, and the other down. I don't often use a projector, but in this case I did just to rough in their facial structures. A drawing like this can take about 20 minutes, being careful not to rock the easel.
Using some other photo references of Shelley and Steve, I polished off the portrait stage. As I've mentioned, using a projector sometimes felt like cheating. But after 20 minutes of using the projector for the rough above, I spent about 2 more hours without the projector finishing the portraits.

I like beginning with a portrait; it feels like a classic, solid foundation on which to start. Since blogs are so personal, it's an appropriate way to illustrate the blog in some instances.

Not wanting to ruin my original drawing, I scanned it into Photoshop, changed the pencil lines to blue, and kept drawing in some more elements to the piece.
Perhaps I should've realised here that the brains were a little lopsided and that this may not work. What I liked about it though, was the idea that our personas are masks, and we all wear a face in front of our brains.

Here's my set up, and the beginning of painting the background. You can see I've once again scanned the image, and changed all the pencil tones to a burnt sienna colour, so it will provide a warmer undertone for the oil paint on top.
I went for an unusual colour combination: orange, green and grey. It's not something the eye sees every day, so I hoped it worked. Here is the painting, as it was scanned before using Photoshop.
Sometimes, the artist just mucks up the paint, despite all the planning and careful drawing. I wasn't happy with the faces, and so using Photoshop, I tinted the original drawings, and overlayed the pencil faces over the painted ones. You can also see an early attempt at the text, with shadows hovering above the blurred Photoshop-extended banner. The brains are removed, giving it a cleaner feel. Scienceblog banners are pretty long and narrow, and the brains were perhaps not as pretty as they should have been.
At this point, I think the faces became a little too far-removed from being masks. Shelley and Steve were concerned. We began discussing something more mask like. It's good to know how far the client would like to push changes, so in the middle of the night, feeling all macabre listening to Juno Reactor and Delerium, I drew this:
Okay, too far. Shelley pitched the idea of going darker, and extending the floating banner to the right, and further into the colour spectrum. I hesitated a bit at the last suggestion: painting a spectrum on black is a sort-of shortcut to being eye-catching. I had to use my brightest paints, including real cadmium red. If you are going to go for it, you gotta go for it.

How to extend an image on a canvas-paper painted to the edge? Simple. One of the amazing things about a technology like Photoshop for even a mainly traditional oil painter like myself, is flexibility.

I pulled out my oil paints, and simply painted the new elements on a new sheet of canvas-paper, and it looked like this: Much better! Using a bit of an emboss tool, I added a gradation-shadow to the faces. The background was digitally painted black, and a bit of the blur and smudge tools helped bring the red and orange paint together - even though in reality they exist on two separate sheets of canvas.

Shelley had an awesome idea for the font, Blackadder ITC. It is based on Guy Fawkes handwriting after three days of torture. Goes nicely with the masks. The masks themselves were re-positioned, and a little clone tool digitally filled in where the real paint was now missing.

The final piece!

Click to enlarge, or better yet, visit Of Two Minds.

Special thanks to Shelley Batts and Steve Higgins, and to Len of Monster by Mail, who shares blog banner duty with yours truly.

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All original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow. The contents of this blog are under a Creative Commons Licence. See sidebar for details. Please visit my
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Shelley said...

Awesome work Glendon! Makes me wish i was done with this blasted thesis so I could get back to blogging. :)

Glendon Mellow said...

Your work will make the world a better place. Dig in to that blasted thesis, Shelley!

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