Sunday, June 30, 2013

Top of the Rock & Jose Maria Sert

My dorky picture with the Empire State Building...
and the One World Tower way in the distance.

It's a roasty toasty Sunday afternoon here in SoCal (108 F!) which is a perfect reason for staying inside and blogging a little more about NYC.

One of the most incredible experiences I had while in New York was going to Top of the Rock - the Rockefeller tower that is (also called the GE building).

 You have to take a $25 elevator ride in order to get to the tippy top of this building, which is 70 stories high.

The elevator is really cool! At first it looks like a normal elevator, but once the doors close, the lights go off and the ceiling becomes transparent, revealing the elevator shaft above. The floor counter was ticking incredibly fast as we went up up up. I could feel the pressure in my ears as it arrived at the top.

At the top of the Rock, you are awarded breathtaking views of the entire city.
Worth the $25 in my opinion! Being up there I kept thinking, "Oh my God, I'm in NEW YORK!!" I kept pinching myself, it was so exciting and hard to believe!

I am in love with Central Park, and I really just wanted to stare at this view all day long.

This city is called a concrete jungle for a reason! In the picture above, I am on the 70th floor looking down at people on the 69th floor, which is the main observation deck. Look how tiny they are! Puts things in scale a bit. To think there are tons of people in buildings, on the streets, and underground is so weird. Stats claim that 8.25 million people live in New York City (not including all the tourists who visit!)  That is crazy.

Some people decide to get married on Top of the Rock!

The camera I had with me has incredible zoom, so I snapped a few close-ups of people on the streets hundreds of feet below.  

Neat shot, but I didn't take this picture. Just wanted to show the lobby murals!

 After gawking at the amazing view, I made my way back down and wandered through the enormous Plaza Center lobby until I found the exit. If I had been in a rush, I totally would have missed some epic murals painted high up on the foyer ceiling. Lucky for me, I happened to look up and see a multi-figure narrative story being told on several walls.

The murals were created by Spanish artist Jose Maria Sert, a friend of Salvador Dali during the early 1900s, and is themed Man's Intellectual Mastery of the Material Universe. There are four murals, 17x25 feet each, depicting the evolution of machinery, the eradication of disease, the abolition of slavery, and the suppression of war. He painted these in his Paris studio (must be nice!) and then shipped them to Rockefeller to hang on the walls. *Got these tidbits of info from the brochure.

I love the somewhat caricatured depiction of anatomy and the way Sert uses line to create cross contour and show volume. This picture above reminds me of Velasquez's Apollo in the Forge of Vulcan...I wonder if he was inspired by that painting? He would have known it being from Spain and all!  There were several other series of murals, all very beautiful and really amazing to look at and study.

Interesting story:
Rockefeller Jr. had actually hired Mexican artist Diego Rivera to paint a fresco for one of the huge murals behind the concierge desk in the lobby entrance. He had first asked Picasso and Matisse to paint it, but they declined. So Rivera mounted a scaffold and constructed the mural the same way Michelangelo did for the Sistine Chapel, painting directly into wet plaster.

Rivera named his mural (are you ready for this?) Man at the Crossroads Looking with Uncertainty but with Hope and High Vision to the Choosing of a Course Leading to a New and Better Future. However, Rivera strayed from the approved sketches and altered the portrait of one of the models, making him look like Lenin to state his Marxists sentiments. The Rockefeller management ended up removing and then destroying the fresco and inviting Sert to paint a replacement!

The lobby pillars convincingly turn into footstools for the giant warriors in a mural that Sert called Time.

The illusion was stunning!

On another historical note:
The famous Lunch atop a Skyscraper picture was taken of workers who were building the Rockefeller tower around 1932. In the second photo, you can see it being constructed there in the middle.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Sketch sneak peak

Making progress on a fun freelance project - not allowed to share specifics - but here's a preliminary sketch.

Tomorrow I hope to post a few pics about the Rockefeller Tower in NYC, where I happened upon some breathtaking murals in the Plaza lobby. I think you will be inspired by these beautiful drawing/paintings as much as I am!

And I guess since we're talking sneak peaks - here's a glimpse of what I'll be sharing about: totally epic tromp l'oeil mural of a giant crotch! (plus other less awkward stuff).

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Underworlds Process

Hey! Trying something different, which is to consolidate all my process pics on one page and share a little about each step:

1. The Thumbnail - my sketchbook is filled with crappy little drawings like this. Sometimes I wonder if people think I can't draw when they look through my sketchbook. That's because this stage is simply ideation! I did several thumbs just like this of different parts of the story and decided I liked the part where the kids are in Hades crossing the river on a raft. 

2. Once I have a rough idea, I go straight into Photoshop and paint a color study. I tend to see the world in shapes instead of lines, so it's easier for me to conceptualize a composition by blocking in shape values, rather than trying to draw everything. 

3. After the painted study is worked up, I print it out and create a final line drawing on tracing paper. I use this drawing to transfer onto whatever surface I'll be working on. My first intention was to create the final in pastel, so I transferred it using yellow pastel (because I was using a dark-toned in paper). 

4. Here is the pastel version that I did not like at all. I wanted to go in and glaze on more yellow into the cool areas but the paper would not take any more material. I was running into other problems too, like pencils breaking, unable to get really sharp points to do fine detail, and correcting the main characters face. SO, I scrapped it and started over in oil because I have much more control in that medium.

5. I transferred the same line drawing onto a primed masonite panel, using graphite transfer paper. Then I tinted a bit of acrylic matte medium with red acrylic paint to create a warm imprimatura and also to seal the drawing. Once that was dry, I began to block in with oils. I don't use any medium in the initial block-in step, just turpenoid to thin the paint down a bit. 

6. Blocking in stage. I usually work top to bottom, back to front, big to small, general to specific. This stage is crucial. All the values need to be as accurate as possible. I really pay close attention to my value/color studies here. I also make sure to soften any edges before leaving it to dry.

7. Everything is generally blocked in. I wait for it to dry (in this case, 2 days). Once it's dry, the fun really begins!! I go over every section slowly and paint it to near completion. All but the fine details are added, edges are softened or sharpened according to atmospheric perspective, etc. During this stage I use Liquin to glaze and speed up the drying time. 

8. Once the second pass is made, I wait for everything to dry and then go in for the final touches. This includes subtle color glazes, tiny details, and touch-ups. Then I coat the whole thing in Liquin to even out the flat spots, photograph it, and add anything extra in photoshop. I try to get the original to look as good as possible because I like to show and sell my originals. I've placed the color study thumbnail next to the final rendition to see how the vision was executed. 

Below are a few close-ups and some photo inspiration I used for this project. I'm originally from California, and so when I moved to Florida I thought the vegetation there was really WEIRD, and I've been wanting to incorporate the landscape somehow into my work. So for this project, I used swamp reference that I took at a place called Lettuce Lake. I don't even know what these things are - trees? Mangrove roots? I'm still learning about swamp vegetation...but whatever it is, it worked out perfectly. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Ok! Finally done!

Here is the Underworlds cover, only oil on panel instead of pastel. I actually created an entire version of this in pastel, but then decided I did not like the way it looked, so I busted out the oils!! I love oils. You can paint over anything, anytime! I love how it holds brushwork texture and can can create a variety of effects, especailly with the use of a painting medium.

Pastel is fun but tricky. The paper can only hold so much pastel, making revisions and color glazing a major challenge. Plus, there are only a limited number of colors, meaning you have to layer them in order to mix. So after layer upon layer, the paper just won't hold any more! (and this is with several coats of workable fixative in between. If anyone has any tips for working this medium a different way, please leave me some tip comments! I've tried the Mi Tientes Touch paper, which is like sandpaper, but I find that it grinds through my pastel sticks too fast and creates a LOT of dust.

Looks like I will be switching back to oils for a while, which is good.

Other news:
I was contacted by Cobblestone Magazine this morning to illustrate a spread in their upcoming Nov/Dec issue. I'll be working on that this week, although I'm not allowed to post any artwork until it publishes. So in the meantime, I'll try to post another day in NYC and some cover sketches.

Thanks for reading!!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Underworlds cover comp

Hello again!

Making progress on the cover for Underworlds Book 1 - The Battle Begins. (I love illustrating stuff like this!!) The study was painted in Photoshop...

Here we have our main character Owen with sidekicks Sidney and John on the raft with the creepy Ferryman making their way through Hades to rescue their captive friend Dana. Owen is protecting the lyre of Orpheus, which is the secret weapon to defeating beasts of the Underworld!

I plan on creating this in pastel, about 16x20 in size. I'll be posting progress as I go.

Now that I look at the cover comp, I definitely think I need to go back and add a vignette to the interior spots...they just need to look a bit creepier...


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Underworlds - The Battle Begins

Hello there!

Got some new artwork to share...

I recently developed a new set of interior spot illustrations for a middle grade book series called Underworlds, written by Tony Abbott. The story has a great opening hook, funny moments mixed in with adventure and suspense, and leaves you wanting to read the next book.

For this collection of artwork, I'm thinking I might want to have a background or shadow of some sort for each drawing so that they really look like a set. We'll see...I'm going to explore options in Photoshop.

 On to the cover now! I'll be posting that process pretty soon :)

Thanks for reading.


P.S. I'm still not done blogging about NYC! Slowly but surely...

Sunday, June 9, 2013


My Mannerism-inspired modern day madonna!
Originally inspired by a kitschy garden sculpture, it also reflects Parmigianino's lady with the long neck.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Seeing Spots

New B&W spot illos! These are charcoal pencil on hotpress watercolor paper.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

NYC - Day 4

On the upper east side of Manhattan, along Central Park, there are several museums in a row known as "museum mile" (more like museum marathon).

This was a BIG day for me because all these museums had been on my bucket list for years. I hit the Guggenheim, The Frick Collection, The Met (again) and the MoMA. I was staying with a friend on the upper west side, so I had to cut across Central Park. It was cold and drizzly, but people were out exercising (crazy New Yorkers!)

Here are some highlights:

Central Park

The Guggenheim

Unfortunately the spiral staircase was closed for maintenance (or they were installing an exhibition, I can't remember what the guard said). The art in their permanent collection is mostly design and color abstraction. For some reason this museum had a lot of foreign tourists (I forgot I was in my own country). Strangely, the main thing I noticed here is that GREEN PANTS are really the trend. I saw at least 10 people (men, women and children) wearing Leprechaun green pants.

The Frick Collection

I really enjoyed this museum!
It was rainy and yet there was a huge line to get in during the afternoon. Found out later that between 1-3pm it was "pay what you wish" instead of $25. I got in for a buck :)

Before they told me not to take pictures, I snapped a shot of this wall painting because I couldn't get over
how BAD the anatomy of this child is. 


This museum was packed. Everyone wanted to see Starry Night. I almost protested when I saw people walking right by Wyeth's Christina's World, which was hanging on a side wall with no spot light on it.

Matisse's fans

Get out of the way people!!
Vincent the man

White canvas with a stripe. Did I really need to take a photo of this?