Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Portrait of Carl Zimmer

For the most recent installment of The Primate Diaries I was asked to paint a portrait of author Carl Zimmer.  The portrait is painted with Gauche and Acrylic paint on a 140 LB Arches hot press watercolor paper. 

The first step in any portrait I do is to define the entire image in line with a complete drawing.  This drawing will be painted over and none of it will become part of the finished artwork but it serves two purposes.  During this stage I am exploring Mr. Zimmer’s face learning it with every line and mark that I put down I am also creating a rode map of structure, value and design, always mindful of the paint that will be layered on top.

The next step for me is strictly about blocking in shape and value.  I am laying down blocks of paint in basic shapes that I see in the face using the sketch I am painting on as well as previous sketches and any reference photos I am using. With every shape I put down I am comparing it to all of the other values I have put down paying close attention to my darkest dark and lightest light knowing that all values are only relative to the other values placed on the paper.

I have now gone into those shapes and found more and more shapes inside the larger shapes putting all of the values together like a puzzle. At this point I lay in the largest blocks of color (the hair, coat and background) based on the value of those areas all of the values in the face could change.  I am now comparing the face and determining if the values and colors laid in are the right ones for this painting in this case the background value changes three times before I was happy.

I now go in to the details that make this painting complete with a smaller brush and just a bit of color pencil. I am using pencil mostly on the shirt and coat creating a look that blurs the line between painting and drawing inspired by illustrators from the 1960s such as Robert Weaver and Austin Briggs

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Mental Health

This illustration is for the primate diaries this week.  The chimp is drawn with ink and wash but the background is created with a type of paint called Casein paint. Derived from milk casein, is a fast-drying, water-soluble medium. It generally has a glue-like consistency, but can be thinned with water to the degree that fits a particular artist's style and desired result. It can be used on canvas panels, illustration boards, paper, wood and Masonite but here I am using it in 4 ply Bristol board. Casein paint is reworkable and can be used for underpainting. It generally dries to a matte finish. This was the paint of choice for illustrators prior to the 1960s but once Acrylic came to be most illustrators dropped Casein paint but I think I will be exploring it more in the near future.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

occupy wall street

I was down at Zuccotti Park recently and decided to do some sketches. Ironically I found there to be many Wall Street types occupying Wall Street.

This young twenty something year old was more interested in checking his blackberry then protesting, most likely on his lunch break. Lets call this guy the lunch break protester a nice young guy a few years out of Grad School trying to remain youthful wanting to appear as if he is still part of some pseudo hippie culture but knows that if he gets back late from lunch he will be fired and his parents will be so mad they might stop paying for that blackberry or iphone he’s texting his girlfriend on.

The guy next to him was more interested in the 9/11 memorabilia that is sold on a constant basis at the construction of the Freedom Tower just another stop these days for the holiday season NY tourists

As you can see from this Sketch WORKERS ARE SLAVES well at least as far as that middle-aged woman is concerned as she stands there and preaches to the hipsters and homeless.

This guys walks by and stops for a second to see this sideshow attraction on his way to a very important meeting at the brokerage firm he works for...he looks at his pocket-watch like the white rabbit in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. He realizes he is late and he is then off to rob and steal.

Epilogue: I then left and got a dirty water dog for $2.50 I remember when they were a $1 well that’s capitalism for you.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Chimp Sketch of the week #6

With Respect to Dr Seuss

One Chimp

Two Chimps

Red Chimp

Blue Chimp

Monday, November 21, 2011

Chimp Sketch of the week #5

I had some scraps of watercolor paper that was toned with Lipton Tea from a previous illustrations (see Tradition post below) so I decided using black prismacolor color pencil to sketch out this chimp of the week with titanium white gouache for highlights.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Social Network

The most recent illustration for The Primate Diaries at Scientific American was a challenge. Unlike my usual chimp head on a human body I challenged myself to use the wild chimpanzee to communicate the narrative in this illustration. The idea was to show these wild animals in their environment holding mobile devices and communicating via facebook, twitter and text. The article was about how primate brain size increased over evolutionary time as an adaptation for increased social networks.

I started with a line drawing in ink on 140 lb Stonehenge cream color paper using black ink on the middle toned paper to begin to push and pull my values. I am already making choices as to were my darkest darks and lightest lights are.

My next step is using lamp back watercolor and watered down ink I create washes modeling the form and continuing to push and pull the values.

As you can see in this detail I use a kolinsky sable brush to model the wash. After this I put an acrylic varnish over the entire image creating a surface suitable for painting

Using gouache I add my lightest lights with titanium white and yellow ocher. I paint in the leaves and sky and for a final touch I paint the phones into the chimps hands.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Chimp Sketch of the week #4

Another one done in my sketchbook, this one was done with an ebony pencil, which gives you a large range of value. The background is an acrylic wash.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Chimp Sketch of the week #3

This weeks chimp was drawn in ink with a croquille pen direct into my sketchbook

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Friday, October 28, 2011


This image was created for The Primate Diaries on Scientific American my ongoing collaboration with writer Eric Johnson. This image was created on 140 LB Arches watercolor paper. I absolutely love this paper there is nothing it can’t do. This image is mostly acrylic and gouache but the body was created using a large amount of ink that was laid on heavily with a squirrel hair water color brush then when dried I laid in some color pencil to model the body slightly since this is such heavy shadow. I selected to paid a very specific scene from the 1922 film, this is the scene where he looks directly in the camera before he bites his victim. I always felt that there was something both romantic and terrifying about that moment. Happy Halloween.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Chimp Sketch of the week #1

I will be posting one sketch a week of a chimp. The purpose of this is to be able to create art that is 100% for myself where I can simply exam the animal and expose it on an aesthetic level. This will also serve as an ongoing exercise into a more classic approach to picture making with the ability of freedom and experimentation. My plan is to wake up every Monday and challenge myself with a variety of Media to create a piece of art in 5-10 minutes.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


This illustration is another for the Primate Diaries it was created with black and white pencil with just a bit or white acrylic paint for highlights. It is drawn on a 140lb Arches host press watercolor paper with a wash of Lipton Tea to tone the paper. My intention here is to make this illustration appear to be old as if it survived the test of time after the Russians expelled the Jews from their home Anatevka were they lived there entire lives.

"And among ourselves, we get along perfectly well. Of course, there was the time when he sold him a horse, but delivered a mule, but that's all settled now. Now we live in simple peace and harmony and..."
(1st Man)
"It was a horse."
(2nd Man)
"It was a mule."
Tradition, tradition... tradition
Tradition, tradition... tradition
"Tradition. Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as... as a fiddler on the roof!"

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

With Respect to Whistlers Mother

I started with a simple sketch with ink to define the contours and the overall design thankfully on this one the composition and design was done for me by James McNeill Whistler back in 1871, I changed the composition slightly but the fact that this is a homage to Whistler made this part easier.
Next I added my darkest darks as a point of reference. Since all values are relative to the values they are up against it is important to define early a point that all values are compared against, for me that is always my darkest dark.
At this point I began to define the form with a wash. This is when I begin to soften the values with lamp black watercolor, I am also using plain water to spread the ink that already exists on the page. Since the ink I used is non-waterproof the ink smears and creates more solid shapes.
Now I cover the entire drawing with one coat of acrylic gloss varnish. This does two things; it brings the image down two steps in value and also creates a surface available for painting. Once it is dry since the value has gotten two values darker I hit it with my whitest whites and use a little bit of paint and color pencils to define the shapes a bit more.
The last step is color, using acrylic paint and gouache. I carved the chimp out with a light color using simple temperature changes to show shadow. Here I am using the original painting for color queues but I am still making decisions to intensify them. A little paint and color pencil to detail the curtain on the left and I call it quits.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Evolution of Darwin

Darwin and I got to know each other well this week while I painted his portrait for Scientific American http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/primate-diaries/2011/10/06/vivisection-outrage/