Saturday, October 24, 2009

Process: Monkey and his acrylic paintings

So Monkey has recently come to terms that he does not like painting in the style of classical realism. While there are more musings on that on Monkey's personal blog, this post is about his process when coming up with one of his acrylic painting. So without further ado, take it away Monkey!

Hello! So, first off, I alway start up with some toned canvas or boards.
I like either strange colors (to give me a pre-existing color palette to work with), or a nice mid-tone gray. Working with a mid-tone gray is super helpful, as it allows you to see a better relationship between your darkest darks and your lightest lights. I find if you start with a blank, untoned canvas, I tend to paint my shadows too light, as I'm comparing them to the white of the canvas and not the local value of what I'm painting. More on toning canvas later.

Because so much of Monkey's work relies on the interplay between text and image, Monkey brainstorms a lot. Sometimes an idea will hit him while he's working his day job, and he'll jot it down on a sticky note and put it in his wallet for later use. Other times, when he has his paints ready, he'll start with an image and then use that as inspiration. In this instance, Monkey worked out a bunch of different concepts, and wrote them on an envelope as a guide for his painting session.
Because I hate wasting paint, a lot of times I'll tone some canvases with all my left-over paint that I have at the end of a painting session. I'll usually mix complementary colors to get rich mid-value browns to tone with, or, I'll go with analogous colors to get a nice rich background. If I do this, I'll usually save this canvas/board for a painting where the image will be the complement of the background. For example, if I paint a greenish background, I'll save the canvas for a painting that has orange-red hues for the majority of the painting.

Since I'm going to paint a barn, which has a lot of reddish-browns in it, I pulled out a greenish canvas I had been saving. I start by doing a quick sketch of the main contours of the image. This is mainly to get a sense of composition and scale of the piece.

Then, if I'm not doing a strong lighting statement, I'll mass in the local value. If I am working with strong lighting, I'll first mass in the shadows, then the lights, then I'll add the darkest shadows and the highlights last. Finally, I add the text. Notice that it's a bit different from the initial concept that's written down on the envelope. I wanted the barn to have a soul (as opposed to just being a "talking barn") as it adds some sort of moral implication to the barn's dialogue. Also, I wanted to make it a wee bit more obvious that Farmer Joe is getting nasty with someone/thing in the barn by using the text to really paint the picture in the viewer's mind about Farmer Joe's pants being on the floor.

And that's that. Thanks again for reading, and I hope it gives just a little bit of insight to my thought process when I'm painting. Maybe next time I'll do the process behind a more detailed piece, just for kicks.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Monkey's new work!

So Monkey has been working hard on some new paintings, as well as some new screen prints. Here's the sneak peek photos of a mere fraction of all the new stuff that will get up into the shop as soon as they're finished/better photos are taken.

Seasoning salt is the dark knight of easily adds tons of flavor to any dish, but is such a cop-out. You can just throw it in soup or whatever, and it's an immediate flavor explosion. I personally try not to use it and actually season my dishes with spices that aren't pre-mixed, but whatever. Actually, if Seasoning Salt is the dark knight, "Italian Herbs" is definitely the Joker. Wait, what?

Here are the preview for Monkey's small but bright line of screenprinted ties. He really likes the bright colors (the hazmat green is pretty awesome), but does anyone besides Monkey wear bright green/pink ties, or does everyone else wear sage greens, silvers, etc? Please comment with your opinions!

Post-modern Pomegranate. I guess the joke only really works if you a)think of PoMo as Post-Modern, and b)call Pomegranites "Pomos." Oh well.

Anyhoo, Seal will be taking a break from her Process Posts on Saturday, and Monkey will go over his method of conceptual painting. Monkey hopes you'll stop by again tomorrow!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


PART I: Starting on Your Art Project

Sometimes simply starting an art project can seem very daunting. Artists are often wrought with difficult questions regarding their work. What am I trying to say? Do I succeed in conveying what I mean? What is my inspiration? How can I translate the image I see in my mind? Where do I even begin? There are no easy fixes. The more personal or difficult an idea, the more anxiety an artist feels. For Seal, the process of art can be broken down into the following stages: incubation, starting, working, and finishing.

Incubation- is cultivating the initial inspiration or idea for an art piece. Like a snapshot. As mentioned in the watercolor process weekend post, Seal started off with a very vague idea of mahogany wooden counters. Something that feels old, frequented, a gathering, a bar, a Chicago bar. Then from that initial idea, she placed anthropomorphic characters inhabiting that world and a detective story about "looking for noah."

Starting - Some people think that everything up to the point of making the first stroke on a piece of paper is still considered incubation, and not starting on a piece. For Seal, starting means the smallest unit of action that get the idea closer to manifesting into physical art. For example, researching an idea, getting out the paints, cleaning the palette, preparing the image for transfer. Or simply doodling, making small thumbnails for composition.

When starting, an artist are most often in one of three states:
1.) I have a clear idea of what I want.
2.) I have some idea of what I want, but the rest is unclear.
3.) I don't have any idea of what I want to convey.

Starting is one of the most difficult stages for any artist. For Seal, if she has a clear idea (which is very rare), she starts with the smallest unit, like taking out her paint brushes, and laying them next to the blank canvas. Think of it like a child learning how to write. You start with the alphabets, not only that, but with the letter "a." Keep doing so and in time you'll have a novel. She also keeps in mind that even if she fully knows an idea, the idea may change as he/she continues to work. Maybe she doesn't want a complex novel, but just a three-word silly rhyme or something.

If she starts with not having any idea, she doodles. Sometimes the art just stay as doodles and it is what it is. Sometimes she keeps doodling until her brain starts to see pictures, or patterns with what were once incoherent scribbles. Sometimes an idea just doesn't come, in which case she does other things. Some of the things Seal does to help her start on her artwork:

-writing 3 pages before "starting." This process gets rid of all the mundane everyday thoughts out of your brain. ie. (must to laundry, and tomorrow's lunch with . . . I was supposed to have return that library book . . . what was that idea again?)

-get inspired, stimulate your imagination with images. Seal loves the local library, she learns about many different things, like dinosaurs, egypt tombs, architecture, forests, etc. She sees many colors, shapes, stories, and ideas.

-"Keep your palette clean, your markers stocked, and your tea/coffee nearby" It's easier to start on a project when all of your stuff is ready to go. You don't have to go to the store to because your marker ran out, or you don't have to waste time cleaning your palette before you get to the fun of painting, or you don't have to keep interrupting your work flow to refill your tea.

Regardless on how one starts, what's most important is that the artist has "something that keeps them going, keeps them working," whether its the initial inspiration, or excitement of where the piece is going, or finally discovering an idea that was not present before.

There are millions of reasons not to start on a project and a few, but absolutely meaningful, reasons to do so. The "trick" is to constantly remember the purpose of creating your art in the first place.

Please check back for Part II of this post, Seal will cover the topics of working and finishing.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Weekend recap, blog feature!

Hello! It was an eventful weekend for the M+S team as on Saturday, Monkey went to the Book Arts Jam to sell his serigraphs. After getting there, he realized that the Book Arts Jam is not really his target demographic, but sharing a table with Macy Chadwick of In Cahoots Press and artist Paola Horevicz made the time fly by. Monkey got to meet the lovely ladies of Pod Post, and friends Tom (Two Fine Chaps) and Megan (Aviary Press) were there as well (and Monkey also hitched a ride back with Megan - thanks again!). Monkey also had the debut of some of his newest prints - Panda Rage and Pandamonium!

Panda Rage - 2 color serigraph on Canson cover - limited edition of 11 - $25

Pandamonium - 3 color serigraph on pastel paper - limited edition of 11 - $25

As soon as he can get around to taking some decent photos (sorry about the glare - it's from the plastic sleeve they're in), we'll have them in the shop. In the meantime, if you really, really need your panda fix ASAP, contact us and we'll get you your copy right away!

Saturday night was super-nap-time for M+S as Seal had stayed up all night before preparing her latest works (the watercolor was shown in our latest Saturday process post), and Monkey was up packing and labeling his prints (good thing too, cuz we got a lot of orders over the weekend, yay!). We did manage to finish off the latest of the Japanese dramas that we watch, but nothing really productive.

Sunday was catch-up day, with Monkey packing prints, buying some paper for some new screen prints, and getting some painting done. Seal started thumbnails for her next illustrations, and both are catching up with laundry and cleaning the studio/apartment.

We were also featured on the Handmade Ho Down blog Monday, as Monkey is one of the committee members putting on the show. You can find out more about the genesis of Monkey + Seal over there!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Seal's Watercolor Illustration - Process

Seal is currently working on a watercolor illustration. This piece is titled "Looking for Noah," loosely inspired by the Noah's Ark story and Blacksad, a comic album series created by author Juan Diaz Canales and artist Juanjo Guardino. Juanjo Guardino's detective story features anthropomorphic animals in full watercolor illustrated panels.

Seal mainly wanted to convey the overall tone of low key bar lighting, facial expressions of the different characters, and "a moment" during an investigation. Seal had in mind a Chicago bar with mahogany counters.

Seal usually starts with small thumbnails for composition, that get enlarged into a detailed pencil drawing. The above stage was trying to decide lighting. In order to get the "old wooden bar" look, she mixed burnt umber, purline, and rose madder. That way she can also control value and temperature just by varying the degree of each color.

Seal's palette resembles the color wheel. It makes it easier to reach across the complimentary color to mute, cool, or darken a color.

Seal normally doesn't like to use masking fluid, but because the piece called for extreme highlights, she does masks some of the lighted edges on the characters and bottles before painting. If you rub some liquid hand soap on your brush before using masking fluid, it will preserve your brush and make it easier to clean the glue off. Once the colors are mixed, Seal layers monochromatic value using a big flat brush. Textures are layered with hard small brushes. The result is the top above illustration. Eventhough Seal likes this monochromatic piece, she eventually wants to glaze some muted greens and blues to make the piece much more richer in color.