Monday, July 28, 2014

Where Isss It?!

I've got to say, I'm pretty excited for the new Hobbit teaser to come out today! I just saw this piece of mine was spoiled over on the Fantasy Flight Games website, so in the spirit of my hobbity mood, I figured I'd share it along with some of the preliminary and process work that went into it.

"Where Isss It?!"
This creepy creepy painting is a companion piece to my other Gollum painting (released earlier this year) for a new "Nightmare" deck expansion of FFG's Lord of the Rings card game. The goal: make Gollum look as terrifying as possible. He knows you (Bilbo) have stolen his ring and he is NOT pleased. I was actually really inspired by the terrifying androgynous old man thing at the end of the movie "Quarantine". Sure, he's fun to play riddle games with, but infect him with a zombie virus (or in this case, steal his precious) and he's likely to come at you with a hammer and lots of loose skin flapping in the wind.

As with all my paintings, I start with very very small thumbnail sketches to help me figure out the overall composition in miniature form. I decided to develop the top left and bottom middle from this page into rough sketches to show to the client.

They preferred the composition and feel of the top left sketch, with Gollum climbing out of his boat, getting ready to throttle his unwitting riddle buddy.

Since this painting would be just one of a total of three Gollum pieces (all being worked on at the same time), I decided that I needed a good "hero maquette" of his head so that he would look like the same character in any pose and under any lighting conditions. I've been experimenting a lot with Pixilogic's Sculptris program lately and decided this would be a good opportunity to put some 3D sculpting to use. I digitally sculpted this Gollum head in Sculptris and then lit and rendered the model in Blender. The advantage of doing a digital model for me is that I can play around with all kinds of lighting schemes and colors that I wouldn't be able to with a clay model in real life. And things can be edited on the fly much faster than with a physical model.

After gathering all my photo reference material, I set out to do the final painting! Here's a sort of step by step below.

In order to keep my shadow passages rich and transparent feeling, I initially paint everything in a deep brown tone, after which I'll paint cooler blue in with a layer set to "color" mode in Photoshop, or "colorize" mode in Corel Painter. After all the heavy lifting value planning and temperature relationships have been established, the rest of the process is basically just using opaque color to paint details and model the forms.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Color Charts

Last weekend, I purchased a set of Holbein Acryla Gouache paints in the hopes that I would start doing some color plein air sketches again (I have a watercolor sketchbook that doesn't get nearly enough love). I immediately cracked them open and began painting the first thing I saw out my window that evening. And what I ended up with was........well it was complete garbage. I realized afterward that I hadn't spent enough time actually reacquainting myself with the medium and its properties.

Now a lot of people think of artists as these flighty, feelings-driven people who just have some mystical perception and creativity that other people don't. And while some of that certainly is true, I am the type of artist that needs boundaries and rules. I like to think outside the box, but I have to know all the dimensions of the box before I do it.

I decided I needed to understand the "box" that was my new set of paints before I started painting with them again. So, based on a study model proposed by Richard Schmid's fantastic book, "Alla Prima - Everything I Know About Painting ", and with the spirit of self torture in my heart, I created these color swatch charts.

Basically, the way it works is that you make a complete chart for each tube of paint in your palette, excluding white (in this case I had twelve). Each chart represents one tube color mixed with all of the other tube colors across the horizontal, and then 5 separate tints (mixtures with white) of each going down the vertical.

The goal in doing this is essentially to try and map the entire range (or "gamut") of colors possible with the tubes of paint you're using. Better yet, when you're painting out in the field, it can help you not only figure out what color you need to mix for a particular object, but also the exact tube colors required to mix it!

When working with a limited palette of just a few colors, you can do this same exercise to determine the limitations and color possibilities of that particular palette. It's a very similar (if not basically the same) method shared by James Gurney on his blog, here.   

Thursday, July 3, 2014

A Historic Moment

It's a little known historical fact that "George W." (the original) and ol' "B. Franks", as they were called back in the day, took a selfie before signing the Declaration of Independence. Though the photo was never found, based on this artist's sketch it's plainly evident why Washington never smiled for a portrait again.

I hope all the Yanks out there have a happy Independence Day Weekend!

"Let's share this on George III's wall!"


Monday, April 28, 2014


Anyone who is friends with me on Facebook may (or may not) have heard that I recently became engaged to my wonderful and talented girlfriend of 5 years, Krysti Kalkman! While this exciting news may not at first seem to be the type of material meant for an art blog, painting played a huge role in the proposal, so I figured this would actually be a perfect place to share how it all went down.

So, sadly, it's been a long time since I've actually painted my girlfriend. In fact, aside from using her for more general reference in my client work, the last time I'd painted (or attempted to paint) her actual likeness was 4 years ago in our senior year of college (shown below).

...........My god. Those are hideous. Oh! I mean uh...not you Krysti! But I am pleased to see that I've come a little ways in my painting (and portrait) abilities!

So, wanting to rectify these previous atrocities against my girlfriend, I decided I'd like to do just a nice, loving portrait of her with the eldest of our flock of budgies, Johnny. Yeah. We're pretty much destined to be weird, old, bird people.

At this point, I was also seriously entertaining ideas of marriage and trying to come up with some grand scheme for how to pop the big question. Hearing all kinds of elaborate and romantic proposal stories through the years certainly puts on a good deal of pressure to the make the moment memorable. But, I realized that the more I tried to force the "magical romance" angle, the more likely I was to end up botching the whole thing because, let's face it, that's just not really me. And then it dawned on me; I may not be some magical knight in shining armor, but dammit, I'm a painter!

From that realization, and the desire to create a portrait of Krysti, the idea came to me to do what I like to think of as an "inverse portrait." Krysti already knew that I wanted to paint her portrait (and posed for some photos), but what she didn't know was that I would put a special little detail into it - specifically, painted onto the ring finger of her left hand. Whereas traditional portraiture strives to create an image that is true to real life, with this painting I would (hopefully) make real life become true to the image.

Once the painting was finished, I framed it in an old antique frame from my grandmother's house, and presented it to Krysti on April 19th, 2014. It didn't take her very long to notice the suspicious jewelry painted onto her portrait and that's when I took out the real ring, got down on one knee, and said, as romantically as I could muster, "Should we do this already?"


She said "yes!"

"The Proposal" 12"x16" Oil on Canvas

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Ad Work

Here's something I don't share very often! These are storyboards and concepts for a TV spot pitch that I worked on with a local Columbus ad firm, Salvato + Coe Group last year. The client was a local financial institution, and the concept is all about providing the right financial package or "kit" for making the customer's dreams come true. Unfortunately, the client passed on this concept (which is why all the logos in the images have been genericized), but I'm still really happy with how the project turned out. Sometimes it's nice to get away from the fantasy/sci-fi stuff for a project or two!

The coffee shop of your dreams

That outdoor kitchen you've always wanted

For the off-roading daredevil
Storyboard for 30 second TV spot

Thursday, January 16, 2014

My Precioussss

Gollum has always been an absolute favorite character of mine, so when I was assigned this card from Fantasy Flight Games for their Lord of the Rings card game, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to paint up the portrait of him that I had always imagined from reading the hobbit. This was definitely one of my favorite pieces to come from 2013! I'm also pleased to say that open edition giclée prints are available via my INPRNT store! INPRNT produces absolutely BEAUTIFUL gallery-quality prints (all of my previous prints were created by them, so I can vouch for the quality), so check them out!

"My Precioussss"

Image ©2013 Saul Zaentz Co.  TM Saul Zaentz Co. Under license to Fantasy Flight Games

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Limited Edition Elly Prints Sold Out!

Humongous thanks to everyone who purchased a limited edition Elly print! The response I've received on this series has really just been more than I could have hoped for, so thank you again. I'm currently working to make prints of some of my newer professional work (Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings!) available, so keep your eyes peeled! :) 

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Queen of Dragons

I just saw the new trailer for season 4 of HBO's "Game of Thrones" series (which looks awesome), and thought it would be a good time to share some recently spoiled Westeros art of my own! More for Fantasy Flight Games' "A Game of Thrones" card game, these feature everyone's favorite Queen of Dragons!

"Fire Made Flesh"
"First Flight"

Images in this post are © 2013 Fantasy Flight Games. All Rights Reserved. Shown with permission.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Age of Shiva

Just saw this up on Amazon, so I figured it must be okay for me to share it now. This is the cover for the latest upcoming novel in James Lovegrove's bestselling Pantheon series, "Age of Shiva." It's my second foray into this series after the "Age of Godpunk" novel and it was great fun to work on and research. Due out from Solaris Books in April of 2014!

art + type
Image ©2013 Jake Murray. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Artist Interview: RAOUL VITALE

I'm happy to say that things have been quite busy with work lately, but unfortunately I don't have much of anything that I can show off at the moment. However, fear not! For I bring you more artwork that is far better than my own and an interview to go with it!

For this edition of Artist Interview, the prolific Raoul Vitale was kind enough to participate!

"The Lady Of Shalott"
Raoul is an award-winning and self-taught fantasy artist and oil painter from Canton, Ohio. He has worked with such clients as Wizards of the Coast, Harper Collins, and Aladdin Books, and has had work published consistently in the Spectrum art annuals (which is where I first came across it). He also regularly exhibits at IlluXCon, and I have to say his oil paintings are just bafflingly beautiful to see in person. But enough from me. Let's get on to the interview!
JM: As a self-taught artist, what did you find to be the biggest challenges to improving your work through the years? What particular artists influenced you during your early years of painting and how did you first come across their work?
RV: The biggest challenge is being self-taught. When broken down, it just means that you learn from your mistakes. Plus I don’t really have a “technique” for painting. That is, no set way I always apply paint. I never do color studies or under--paintings. The only thing I consistently do is work from the background, forward - starting with the sky. After the sky’s color and value are established, the other objects coming forward take their color and value cue from the sky and sun position - or lack of it. I’ve always loved the art of the 19th century, but didn’t see much of it until I was about 18 years old - about the same time I discovered the art of Maxfield Parrish, the Brothers Hildebrandt, and Golden Age illustrators.

I don’t think there is one particular influence in my work. I love almost everything I see and am amazed by it all!
JM: Can you break down the average number of hours you spend on an image (i.e. sketches, reference, final drawing, painting, etc.)?
RV: I’ll spend a half hour or so making thumbnails, and when I like the composition of one in small scale, I project it actual size, just for the composition and refine all the elements until it looks like it should. Then the tracing is transferred to a piece of Gessoed masonite and the smearing of paint begins. I only know for sure of time spent on one particular painting called “Scouts”. January 1st I started and it wasn’t finished until the 31st. It was 36” x 24”. Of course, smaller pieces go much quicker.

"Bilbo at Bag End"
JM: What part of the creative process do you enjoy most? Which part do you find the most frustrating?
RV: The most enjoyable parts are the very beginning and the final rendering. Working out the composition, lighting and overall story is where most of the creativity is. The finishing touches bring the picture to life.
JM: What do you find to be your most useful and most detrimental work habits?
RV: Not sure about the most useful habit, but the worst is not getting reference material. Even when I’m lucky enough to find someone who’s willing to pose and somewhat fits the bill, I worry about the time they’re spending being quite uncomfortable and I’m not paying good attention to pose and lighting. Add to that the fact that I don’t have a set way of painting - it’s always like I’m painting for the first time!
JM: Nature seems to be a very big part of your paintings. What other aspects of your life do you draw the most inspiration from? Do you have any secondary hobbies that feed your art making?
RV: Nature is infinitely creative. You could spend a million lifetimes exploring those forms. Light - in all its various moods is also a big one for me. Sometimes a mood calls for vibrant color - sometimes the mood demands an almost monochromatic handling. Then there is the simple drawing. I love to see other artists’ drawings. There is something timeless and pure about a sketch or finished drawing that a painted piece can’t convey.

JM: Of the work you've done for clients, are there any projects that stick out in your memory as being particularly enjoyable? What is your favorite kind of commission to work on?
RV: Once I get commissioned, it’s usually enjoyable because there are no crushing deadlines, and there is no art directing involved with a private collector. You have free reign and can indulge in all the things you love to do. Last year I was really in the mood for a romantic Victorian kind of piece and a collector commissioned my version of “The Lady of Shalott”. I thoroughly enjoyed painting every inch of that piece
JM: Many artists who work in imaginative realism like to use sculpted maquettes as creature reference to inform their paintings. Do you utilize any sculpture in your process or do you use other methods for getting reference?
RV: I’ve tried the maquette route a few times and found it less than helpful. I did a commission for Dan Dos Santos and I wanted it to be special. So, after I had already drawn and figured out the lighting of the dragon, I thought a rough sculpt would help. After photographing it, I realized I liked my initial drawing more than what I saw in the sculpt. So I didn’t use it. On the other hand, I really should start looking at actual animals for ideas other than what’s normally in my head to avoid becoming a caricature of myself.

"Garden of the Enchantress"
JM: How has your painting process grown or changed throughout your career? Was there any point at which you felt like you'd achieved a level of skill that you'd been striving for in your art?
RV: I’m still searching and struggling to improve, but I don’t think I’ll ever achieve the level I’m striving for. I find that since I usually have little or no reference, it hinders my visual library. Making up trees, rocks, creatures and sometimes even people, holds me back from making a truly good image. It’s not that I’m after photo-realism. It’s just that when you constantly invent everything, the objects in your paintings become like your handwriting and keep you trapped and unable to expand your imagery.
JM: When and how did you start getting into the convention scene?
RV: The first (and probably only) convention I attended was IlluXCon, in 2008. It has opened many doors for me and there is something very intimate about the show. I have attended Spectrum Live, but it’s just too big for my tastes.

Many thanks again to Raoul for taking the time to participate in this interview! If you’d like to learn more about him and see more of his gorgeous oil paintings, check out the links below!

-Raoul Vitale's Official Website
-Raoul Vitale's Art Blog 

All Images in this post are ©Raoul Vitale. All Rights Reserved. Displayed with permission.

Did you like this interview? Any suggestions for future interviews? Leave a comment below!