Making Of '3324 North Carolina'

Many artists can draw a decent likeness of a well known face, but to many it is hard to capture true character, or spirit. For me the most important thing is capturing this truth, or as I like to say the essence of a person or scene. I try to get a lifelike realism into my paintings, but not merely because of how I render, but by observing the unique qualities of the individual that I am illustrating.

I enjoy drawing my subjects in exaggerated form. The slightest push of an expression or posture in just the right place can tell the viewer quite a bit.

I am a traditional painter at heart, painting with oil, acrylic and watercolor. But I have also taught myself how to paint digitally, which is the medium that I prefer to use for my published work. I paint with a 21" Cintiq made by Wacom (Fig.01). The Cintiq enables the artist to work naturally and intuitively, drawing and painting directly on the surface of an LCD display (Fig.02). My technique when painting digitally is very similar to the way I paint with oils or acrylics. I tend to work from dark to light, with my main focus being on values and color harmony. I do not use any form of photo manipulation; the work that I create digitally is hand drawn and painted. Painting digitally has its advantages for both me and art directors. There is no fuss or time spent on scanning or color correcting. It is never a problem if changes need to be made and the time it takes me to create a painting digitally versus traditionally is cut in half. The best part about it is that the final result looks like a traditional painting.Often people confuse my traditional and digital paintings, not knowing which is which!

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To start my diner painting "3324 North California", I created several thumbnail sketches (Fig.03 - 06). Doing thumbnails is a simple and quick way for me to find an interesting composition and explore character shape and proportion. My thumbnail sketches are like shorthand notes. Typically, I don't share my thumbnail process with art directors, unless they have requested it. They can be confusing to others, so after developing thumbnails, I quickly move on to the sketch.

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By this stage, I have the idea and composition set. I then take my own pictures for reference. This way I can control the lighting, folding in clothing, poses, hand gestures and expressions. I have used my own face many times to create expressions for my subjects. After gathering all the reference I need, I do a final sketch (Fig.07 - 08). I love to draw, and I feel it is the foundation for the art that I create.

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Often times I prefer sketching on a toned background rather than a white background. This helps me to lay down my line work and quickly establish lights and darks, giving my sketch a depth and life of its own in a short amount of time. A strong drawing and composition must come first.

Once the sketch is approved, I prepare the sketch for painting. I usually cover my entire sketch with a thin layer of raw umber, turning the sketch into something similar to that of a traditional under painting (Fig.09 - 10).

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My paintings tend to have a lot of detail, but don't let that fool you. The details are only final touches (Fig.11). The most important thing is the drawing and once I have that the next step is to focus on capturing light and establishing strong values. I create a limited palette and stick with only these colors for the duration of the painting (Fig.12 - 15).

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Because of my experience painting with mediums such as oil and acrylic, painting digitally comes naturally. If you understand how to paint traditionally then mixing color digitally is done basically the same way, only mixing and blending your colors is much easier and quicker. It is easy for digital painters to get carried away and get near-photo realistic results. But for me, this approach is against all that I love about painting. I enjoy seeing a thumbprint on a painting, or loose hairs that have fallen from a brush becoming a permanent part of the painting. I purposely leave brush marks visible, and if the lighting and values are correct, the painting will still have a very realistic look and quality to it. (Fig.16)

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To see more by Jason Seiler, check out Digital Painting Techniques: Volume 5

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