Tuesday, April 08, 2014

To Be Continued ...

I have finally made a nice warm nest for my blog on my own website.  It's about time, really.

You can continue to follow the adventures of me in my studio over on my shiny new blog.  This one will be moth-balled from here on out.  Even all the art-related posts have been migrated over there!  Really, you should be very impressed with me.  I wasn't at all sure I could do it!

See you there!

Friday, April 04, 2014

Moma - Another Digital Portrait Painting

Digital painting (Artrage Pro)
© Xan Blackburn
Wow.  Well, I'm pretty happy with that, though it did take a lot of hours to get it there.
This detail shows a little bit more how much detail I squeezed into this 5 x 7 painting:
Moma (detail)
Digital painting (Artrage Pro)
© Xan Blackburn
Yes, those are all individual strokes, and yes, I really did do them alllll by hand, using a Wacom Intuos 5 Touch and stylus in Artrage Pro.  (I got the tablet in a trade!  Nice, huh?)

Since I'm bushed, and it's Friday evening, I'll just cut straight to the progress animation.  
Moma (Progress)
Digital painting (Artrage Pro)
© Xan Blackburn
So, what do you think?

Have a great weekend, one and all!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Bud - Digital Pet Portrait, and my Other Job

Bud digital pet portrait © Xan Blackburn
Digital painting (Artrage 4)
5" x 7" @300dpi
© Xan Blackburn 2014
My series of paintings of Ellen's dogs continues with handsome Bud.  I loved his gentle, relaxed smile, his soft hair and wonderful markings, but who could resist those bluuuuuuue eyes!

Working on paintings in a digital way allows a lot of freedom to experiment without committing irreversible damage to a painting.  That's hard to resist, and I had a lot of fun trying out backgrounds, experimenting with various brush techniques for the fur, and zoooooming in waaaaay too close to get tiny details that no one else will ever be able to see.  That's the potential down-side!  I had to keep stepping back out and lecturing myself about not re-creating reality, but enjoying a more painterly approach in this small format.

Here's a quick step-through of the painting's progress:
Bud in progress
Digital painting
© Xan Blackburn 2014

I kind of like that second step, too, where it's the sketch with the first whacks of color laid in.


As I have mentioned, my OTHER job is all about rescue and animal welfare work.  

Team Inch:  Right now, Team Inch is having our first online Auction, and I invite you all to be part of helping us rescue and find forever homes for sighthounds by bidding on some really pretty fabulous items.  

Team Inch coalesced last fall, out of a nebula of folks already rescuing dogs from S. Korea.  In just a few months, we've been through so much, bringing over 8 sighthounds, partnering with established adoption groups in N. America to find adoptive homes for them, establishing a Facebook and static website presence, and having some heart-breaking losses.  The risks and veterinary costs for these dogs is comparable to some of the worst-case scenarios we see anywhere in the world, and transporting these mostly larger dogs to N. America where they have a better chance at life is expensive.  But many hands make light work, and in this way YOU can be part of Team Inch.  See you over there!

Kindred Hearts Transport Connection

I'm also doing a top-secret fundraiser for this group which I can barely keep to myself.  Believe me, you'll know about it as soon as I can tell you!  Great bunch of hard-working volunteers.  Maybe you can be part of the network!

Greyhounds in Gettysburg:

Nittany Greyhounds runs this very popular event for greyhound families every year.  While I can't go in person, I will be sending a painting to their Special Art Auction - a first this year, I'm told.  This painting is very personal to me, and I'm proud to be able to send it out into the world for this.

This painting is a more experimental piece for me, using various media (paper, acrylic, graphite, pastel on Claybord panel) in one piece.  I love the layered depth, the complex feel, the moody emotional possibilities that arose from both my own emotions and the materials working together.  I'm going to title this one "Memories".
Memories (multi-media painting) © Xan Blackburn 2014
multi-media on panel, 8" x 10"
©Xan Blackburn 2014
Here's a detail, so you can get a little better idea of the complexity:
Memories (detail) (multi-media painting) © Xan Blackburn 2014
Memories (detail)
multi-media painting
 © Xan Blackburn 2014
Now it's on to Ellen's Moma.  

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Radar - Digital Portrait of a Golden Retriever

5" x 7" Digital painting (ArtRage Pro + Photoshop)
© Xan Blackburn 2014
Radar's portrait is one of 5 small paintings of my client Ellen's dogs, a series to add to two I'd done for her in the past.  This painting was a rich, and rewarding experience, but definitely time-consuming!  There are advantages and disadvantages to being able to zoom in very very VERY CLOSE.  

I love painting with ArtRage.  The ability it gives me to control every aspect is such fun.  I can make translucent colors layer up forever.  I can make minute strokes with all the personality of a brush.  I can add and take away layer after layer, and adjust each one's opacity and intensity 'til I get just the right depth, value, color interaction, texture.  I can blend as if painting with watercolors (not really well) or oils, or even markers.  I can lay on thick gobs of paint with a palette knife or brush.  I can airbrush, sketch, ink, dissolve and erase.  And, of course, if I make a mistake, I can un-do it!  Wish I could do that with regular paints sometimes!

I really thought I'd shared with you the progress I was making on this one, but I see I didn't.  Here's a screen shot of what the piece looked like in the program, as I was working on it.  You can see a couple of the layers in the small palette on the right edge of the window.  You can see the reference photo on the left of the painting.  I can zoom in on the reference, or shrink it down, or close it altogether.  The painting I can zoom (of course), tilt around to allow me to work at different angles like you do with a piece of paper, and also flip it with one keystroke, which is very helpful to get a fresh perspective on it, and to see areas that still need work.

Radar - work in progress
© Xan Blackburn 2014

And then I can take the whole thing, with all the various layers, into Photoshop for some final tweaking.  Then I can take that into ImageReady, and do an animated gif to show you how it comes together.  Like this:

5" x 7" Digital painting (ArtRage Pro + Photoshop)
© Xan Blackburn 2014
Next up is Ellen's border collie, Bud.  He's a cutie!  Don't miss that one.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Greyhound Katie's Portrait: Done

8" x 10", Acrylic on Aquabord
© Xan Blackburn 2014

The differences between this and the previous stage may seem small, but they are the difference between not-done and done.  Or thinking I'm done.  I thought I was done last night, but apparently, that was not the case, as I saw some things I wanted to work on some more after I had started this post!  

I'm always disappointed with how well these translucent layers show up here.  :(  The subtleties in the layers of colors is flattened and dulled, no matter how I try to approach reality in Photoshop.  In this case, especially in the background, which is jewel-like in person.  Still, you will get the general idea.  I hope Gayle and Steve enjoy the original, when it gets to them.  Working on this was terrifying in a whole new way because they are both artists, and Steve actually did the original photograph, which was gorgeous just as it was.  

Okay, so NOW I'm done.  I hope.  Here's how that went, in review:

Katie in progress
© Xan Blackburn 2014

Rescue: My other job

I'm maybe not the best at dividing my time between rescue-related work and actual money-making work, considering that we are not independently wealthy.  I believe my hard-working (but always supportive!) husband concurs.  

Meanwhile, what I do in "my other job" is also often artwork.
Team Inch is a collection of volunteers that have been working together in various arrangements over the last several years to rescue dogs in S. Korea.  As part of my contribution, I've developed the website, logo, Facebook pages and fundraisers (Virtual Bake Sale, Total Fantasy Dog Accessories Shoppe {with the help of a classroom full of kids doing illustrations}, and New Years Resolution Special Dispensations).   I also gotten to give a few dogs rides, and even got to foster one for a whole 5 days we're not likely to forget (although the bruises are finally gone  ;) ).  

We're having another fundraiser in March, and I would be remiss if I didn't invite you all for your shot at the goods.  This one will be an online auction, and I swear all the stuff is real this time.  If you'd like to donate any items, let me know, and I'll get you all squared away.  Everyone else, mark your calendars!

And some other rescue-art things

Another aspect of my rescue-art work is donating to various other groups' fundraisers.  I donated a small portrait recently, which was won by a very nice lady, and will let you know how that goes once we get started.  I'm also going to be donating a piece to a new Special Art Auction at an event called Greyhounds in Gettysburg.  I've been bemoaning (privately - poor husband!) about my lack of opportunity to play around and experiment with my art, so I can continue to grow and explore new techniques.  It occurred to me in a classic light-bulb moment that donations offer that opportunity.  So, I'm going to try out an idea I have been incubating, and I'll show you that as it develops as well.  I still have no idea what I'll be donating to our own Team Inch auction!  

See what I mean about balancing non-paid work and paid work?  *sigh*