Monday, August 8, 2011

St. George Final

By Justin Gerard

As some of you may recall, I planned to tackle one of these two final St. George pieces in oil.  This was the piece I chose. 

Oil Underpainting

Things started off really well. But after finishing the underpainting, I ran into some minor health issues...  

Side effects may include...

And I turned into a monster and ate my neighbors.
Apparently my problem is that I cannot seem to manage to paint what I want without solvents and solvents just don't agree with me. 
So, while I sit here filing down my fangs and waiting for the manufacturers to solve this problem,  I tackled this piece digitally, in the same manner as the previous St. George painting.  

Digital Underpainting

St. George #10
12 x 16
Pencil and Digital


  1. It looks great, i think.
    hope your neighbors survived the shock of the crazy monsterartist.

  2. So sorry to hear about the solvent induced "monsteritis". I just went to a Q&A with Art Graham of M. Graham oil paints and he was a great resource about oil paints and health/environment issues.(and he loves to share) I used to mix my walnut oil w/ gamsol but now I just use walnut or walnut alkyd and if i am not too juicy with the under layers I am having pretty good luck w/ glazing over the next day w/ Blick's Masterstroke sables.
    Beautiful play between the greens and reds!

  3. It turned out superb! Some amazing glows and areas of contrast. Love the way the rock striations lead the eye and the way you manage to make your digital work really seem like traditional.

    An idea: All painting mediums need patience from the artist. Moving from watercolour to acrylics, or acrylics to oil, etc., doubly so. So, maybe stick it out longer (or try) with WMOils? Just a thought.

  4. There's still gouache, Mr. Gerard.

    And Montebello is still reeling from the giant footprints on their manicured lawns.

  5. Beautiful piece as usual Justin. Love the lighting and the play of the slight green and red. I hate to be "that guy" but I just have one slight critique; the handle of the sword does not seem to line up with the blade. It caught my eye right away so i figured it'd be worth mentioning. peace.

  6. That's a bummer about your reaction to the solvents. What solvents were giving you problems? I'm making a shift from water based oils to traditional and I'm curious what to look out for.

    Great piece though, I think you did a wonderful job giving the digital version the traditional touch. I'm also really enjoying the underpainting you did in oils, I love the texture and mood that's coming through.

  7. Justin, you started me trying out different water soluble oil paints when you posting your experiments with them (my bank account blames you for the latest large DickBlick order sampling every water soluble brand out there). My health concerns are more about my grandchildren and my young students. I have found Holbein's brand to be far superior to the WN and closest to regular oils. I've been using both the linseed oil and drying agents in their product line. The key is to avoid using water to thin them. Of course, this piece is beautiful as usual and perhaps the digital process is where you "fit". Just thought I would pass this info on to you.

    A thought: Have you ever thought to try Charles Vess' technique with acrylic inks? Your sketch is probably my favorite aspect of your work and anything that allows it to show through would be a plus, IMO.

  8. I gotta say that this piece is just beautiful. I really like the palette and subtleties, design, and spirit.

  9. Damn! I wanted to see you paint this in oil. Sorry to hear that the solvents affected you so adversely, I hope you can solve the issue. Still a great piece though, I love the way you handle the background, especially the cliff walls.

  10. sal,
    You are painting the right way, and that is probably the way I need to just get used to painting, but I am 1) Impatient and 2) I love working in tons of thin layers. (Too many years of painting watercolor and digital and of video games...) If the Walnut Oils were a little thinner and still non-txic I think I'd be all over them though.

    If the manufacturers will make a reliable, non-toxic, quick-dry white for them I will totally jump back into WMOils. Their quick-dry formulas are currently just not quite there yet.

    Ah, good point. I'll have to fix that.

    Odorless Mineral Spirits mainly. But most people don't have any problems with them. Gamsol for instance is way safer than normal Turps because it is so much more refined. You may find it works great for you and has no adverse effects. I am an odd case here. The other Muddy Colors guys don't have any problems with it.

    I have tried Charles techniques out and really like his approach. The Harry Potter piece is very close to his method, albiet less colorful. In fact at the IMC a few years back when I asked him what he would recommend I do differently on my pieces, he suggested making my shadows go to a color instead of to black. So while I tend to just use umbers to slowly work my shadows into place, he would actually be using ultramarine or prussian blue, which gives his work such a wonderful jewel-like quality.
    He makes a good point, but I don't tend to do as well with it as he does. He is really great at keeping his colors both unified and bright without letting them get garish.

    Thanks for all the great feedback everyone!

  11. Justin, I'm curious why you didn't chose to continue in digital from the oil underpainting you did, but instead went back to the sketch?

    Beautiful piece, in any case. I really really love how the dragon turned out. In places it almost glows. The head is really nicely sculpted (that jaw!!).

  12. Beautiful piece. Beautiful.

    ...Maybe it was worth a few neighbors.

    I'm just sayin'. ;-)


  13. Hope the neighbours were a tonic and you're feeling better. I'd make sure you get a fresh stock in. Love the humour, the generosity of the explanation, the attitude, and best of all: love your work.

  14. Benjaminba,
    Sometimes I do work digital over an underpainting like the one above, and it has a very interesting effect. The Reluctant Dragon painting was done that way:

    At some point I intend to share some experiments with this approach. Jon Foster was the first guy to really turn me on to the possibilities of combining the 2 mediums. His work with it is just incredible.

  15. I have recently discovered something called "Eco Oil Medium" from Maimeri. It's a solvent that is apparently supposed to be completely non-hazardous, and it comes without any warnings written on it, so in order to sell it legally it really must be pretty harmless. It still works as a solvent with oils. Lately, I have been using it mixed with Graham's alkyd medium - that's a bit too "oily" in itself for my taste, but mixed with the solvent it is just fine, and if I make a reasonably thin underpainting with that medium in the morning, it will be dry enough to work on late in the afternoon.

  16. This looks quite cool. It impresses me more that you can do both oils and digital painting quite well. Mastering a number of media is not easy.

    I sympathize with you on smelly paint solvents. That's the main reason I stick to gouache and colored inks - those only need water.

  17. Beautiful piece! How do you manage to take such great shots of your underpainting? Whenever I try to take a picture of a painting in progress, it's impossible to get a good one...

  18. I just wanted to point out you were mentioned on Lines and Color, in case it had escaped your notice.

  19. that's a great piece. do you plan to sell prints of it?

  20. Justin, at this point, even though you have realized the tremendously detrimental influence that oil paint solvents have on you, you must simultaneously recognize the truly amazing power that you have found in the digital medium. It seems as though you must have had contact with a strange alien intelligence which enabled you to act with such precision in pixels & styluses. This skill is a Force To Be Reckoned With, and should not be swept aside as a mere coincidence. I say, "on with the digital"! And may the Force be with you! Always!!

    P.S. This is probably my favorite of all of the St. George pieces.

    P.P.S. It's really cool.

  21. Have you tried Zest It? Turpentine was giving me headaches, dizziness and vomiting, so far I've been fine using Zest It instead.

  22. Cegebe and Anonymous,
    I've been meaning to give the Eco-House 115 Thinner a try for a while but haven't had a chance to yet. I have not heard of Maimeri Eco Medium or Zest-It. I looked them up and they both seem really interesting. I will definitely have to try out more of these alternative thinners. In the end that may be a better route than different paints or mediums.

    I actually had to assemble that underpainting shot from a number of flatbed scans. CS5's photomerge stuff can do some pretty amazing stuff. I think this was from 6 or 7 different passes. I can never seem to get good results with a camera.

    Hey awesome! Thanks for the heads up!

    Yes. (Expect to see some shameless self-promotion when I do.)

    Thanks man. It was a lot of fun to go back and monkey around in digital again. I do still love it. I'm still going to keep pushing the oils and watercolors, but it is nice to come back and do something I am totally at home with every now and then.

  23. @Justin,
    That's interesting about the number of scans it takes you. There's no way I would have guessed your drawing was made up of several scans. I have a really cheap scanner, so my abilities there are really limited - I need to fool around more with the Photomerge option (I may need to upgrade to CS5), it might alleviate some of the headache of photographing large images for digital work.

  24. Actually the drawing is about 11 x 15. So I was able to get the drawing in one pass on my old Espon GT15000. It was the traditional oil underpainting above (which was 16 x 20) that took so many passes to scan. Anything over 11 x 17 becomes a bit of a headache, and if it has surface texture that needs to be lit from a consistent angle then it becomes really tricky, but it is do-able and so far I am having more success with it over using the camera.

  25. Just painted a dragon in watercolors myself ^^ Thought you might be interested in it.

    I think I will try to make a better photo and send it to the 3rd crit round next week.


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