Posted February 19th, 2014 by Patrick LaMontagne with Comments Off
My commission work to date has been dogs and cats (and one beautiful horse), but a friend of ours recently tasked me with painting this gift for his wife. As she loves cows and is now pregnant with twins, he wanted a painting of a mother and two calves to hang in the nursery. I cautioned him that comparing his pregnant wife to a cow at a time when most women’s sensibilities are heightened, might be a recipe for disaster, but he assured me more than once that it would be fine. The canvas is still in the proofing stage, but he showed her the digital image of the piece this past weekend and she loved it. Apparently there were happy tears. So, with his permission, I’m able to share it now.
This was one of my most challenging paintings to date. The hairs on a cow are very small and short and the features aren’t as malleable as I’d first imagined. When painting one animal, I can usually find reference that will allow me to see all sides of the subject to decide which will lend itself best to my Totem style of painting. First, I had to find multiple reference photos of the right breed of cow (Holstein Friesian), which was not an easy task. I bought twice as many photos than I used as I couldn’t play around with the composition without the full resolution files. There ended up being three different comps and thankfully my wife helped me decide which was best for the painting. With three subjects in the image, it became a juggling act to try and show the best sides of all of them, in the correct proportions with the right lighting. Then I had to make them look cozy, cute and comfortable, but not crushed together. Finally, I had to lay down all of the right conditions to allow all three personalities to show up after many hours of painting, something I’ve often said never seems to be quite my doing, or under my control. When it comes to the life in these paintings, I’m often surprised (and grateful) when it arrives.
While I don’t consider this part of my Totem series, it is definitely painted in that style. Even though it was a commission piece, I will be offering prints of this image in the store in the coming weeks as well. The commission piece will be printed at 18″ X 24″ as a giclée on canvas with a black shadowbox frame. I’m hoping to be able to deliver it next week.
I honestly have no idea how long this took to paint as I worked on it during a very busy time, while juggling other deadlines. There was at least one session where I worked through the night on it. I’ll admit to being very frustrated with this piece at times when things weren’t going as well as I wanted them to, but to be honest, that happens a lot and it always turns around. I learned a lot from this painting and had to experiment and adjust brushes and technique to get the look I needed in places. So there was artistic growth here, too, which is always welcome.
Posted January 24th, 2014 by Patrick LaMontagne with Comments Off
It was suggested this morning on social media that it would be interesting to compare the reference photo I used for my Parrot Totem with the finished painting. Since some digital painters trace over photos, I thought it would also be a good opportunity to show that I don’t, so it kills two birds with one stone. OK, that’s probably a really bad metaphor, especially considering the subject of the painting.
Pete Collins is one of the Photoshop Guys with the KelbyOne organization and I’ve had the pleasure of hanging out with him at Photoshop World in Las Vegas a couple of times. Pete’s a great guy, loves to encourage creative types and is a very talented illustrator and photographer himself. One year, he sent me a folder full of pics he’d taken at the zoo and told me I could use any of them for reference, which was incredibly generous of him, but anybody who knows Pete wouldn’t be surprised by the gesture. He’s good people.
Click on the images to see them larger.
I’ve used a few of them for painting sketches and now two of them for finished paintings. Pete also supplied me with the main reference for my Ostrich Totem. While I usually end up using more than one reference, this one was pretty good and was my main reference for the finished painting. I bought a couple more from iStock for the close detail reference, as Pete’s wasn’t a large photo so the anatomy for some of the fine detail wasn’t visible here.
As you can see, it’s obvious this is the reference I used, but with my style of painting, especially with the Totem paintings, I take a lot of liberties with painting the anatomy, especially in the face and proportions. It is a caricature of the animal, rather than a copy of the photo. Zooming in on the detail, the photo doesn’t provide a lot because it wasn’t large, so you can see where I took more liberties with the details. My painting is very large, so I could still zoom in quite a bit further. I rely on reference photos because I can’t exaggerate an animal’s features or paint the relationships in the anatomy accurately if I don’t know what the animal looks like. Most artists will either paint from life (in a perfect world) or will use photo reference when available. When I’m painting commission portraits of pets, I need VERY good reference pics in order to get the likeness as close to reality as possible. When I’m painting my Totems, however, I can get away with a little bit less because I’m going to be distorting reality anyway.
Posted January 24th, 2014 by Patrick LaMontagne with Comments Off
As sometimes happens, I hadn’t planned on painting this Totem anytime soon, if at all. I just happened to do a painting sketch for practice of this Macaw a little while ago. When I posted the rough painting on social media, the response was very surprising. People really seemed to like it. I asked my wife, who is always my harshest critic, a trait I both love and loathe about her, and she said she really liked it as well. Since I needed to get another Totem done fast in order to meet a print deadline for my Calgary Expo booth in April, I figured it might as well be the Parrot Totem. I realized while finalizing the files that this is my 20th Totem painting. Where does the time go?
While it has become a cliché for me to say that ‘I really had fun with this painting,’ it can’t be said for this one, at least not entirely. From the original sketch to the final hours, this one kind of felt like work, couldn’t quite get in the groove for most of it. However, I woke from a sound sleep last night around 1:30AM for no reason in particular, and I lay in bed for a half hour until I realized I wasn’t going back to sleep. One of the benefits of my office being mere steps from my bedroom, I did what I usually do on the rare occasions I can’t sleep, I got up to paint. And from 2:00AM to 730AM when I finished the painting, I was really enjoying myself with it, so insomnia turned out to be a good thing. Or perhaps the reason I woke in the first place was that the parrot was squawking for closure. Either way, I’m happy with the finished result.
I’ve stopped keeping track of how long these take, but were I to guess, maybe around 20 to 25 hours in between my other work. It was painted in Photoshop CC on both the Wacom Cintiq 13HD Cintiq and the 24HD Cintiq, moving back and forth between the two, depending on whether or not I was working in my office or painting in the evening while watching TV in the living room. Thanks to Pete Collins for the reference photo he gave me a few years ago. I finally got around to using it. Pete’s a generous soul and a great guy, but don’t tell him I said that. It’ll go to his head.
I think another reason that I wanted to paint it was that people seemed to be just fine with the painted sketch being a finished product and I most certainly was not. Add many more hours to it and here’s the difference between the two.
Posted January 13th, 2014 by Patrick LaMontagne with Comments Off
This is just over an hour of sketching, drawing, and painting, condensed down to two minutes. From sketch to finished work created digitally using a Wacom Cintiq 24HD display and Photoshop CC. While the majority of my editorial cartoons are sketched on paper first and then scanned, this is pretty much the whole process I go through for each cartoon. This is best viewed at full screen in HD. To learn how this is done, you can purchase my cartooning DVD at PhotoshopCAFE.
Posted January 13th, 2014 by Patrick LaMontagne with Comments Off
Finding that I’m really enjoying sketching and painting these little guys. The fact that I’ve amassed so many reference photos from the Calgary Zoo meerkat enclosure means there will likely be more on the way. This was painted in Photoshop CC on the Wacom Cintiq 24HD display
Posted January 11th, 2014 by Patrick LaMontagne with Comments Off
As anyone who creates digital art for a living will tell you, it’s difficult to do without a Wacom tablet or display. Beginning with the Graphire and the first generation Intuos tablets in the late nineties, I’ve used almost all versions and evolutions of Wacom products. Currently, the one I use on a daily basis is the Cintiq 24HD display. When I want to get out of the office, which usually just means moving to other parts of the house, I’m drawing and painting on the Cintiq 13HD.
Many people have asked me if I’ll be getting one of the new Cintiq Companion displays, but having just purchased a top of the line laptop to supplement my desktop PC, I don’t need another computer. I make my living with my artwork and have daily editorial cartoon deadlines. I can’t afford any downtime, so having another full system that I can work on if my main computer needs repair is very important to me. As I work at home and spend 90 percent of my time here, a fully functional portable Cintiq Companion would be wasted on me, so the 13HD and a laptop suits me just fine.
From time to time, however, I do enjoy the portability of drawing and painting on my iPad. I bought my first gen iPad about three months after it came out in 2010 and I used it almost every day. I began with finger painting, and then I probably spent a couple of hundred dollars in the first year, trying to find a stylus that would work well for drawing and painting. Eventually, I settled on the Wacom Bamboo Stylus and it worked very well for its intended use. Having tried many different drawing apps, I found that the ProCreate app suited my drawing style best and it’s the one I use above all others to this day.
I like to rest my hand on the screen, so I cut the thumb, index, and middle fingers from a light glove and wear that while drawing and painting on the iPad. I worked around the lack of pressure sensitivity by manually varying the opacity in the app. A similar method is to add a new layer and vary the opacity of that as well. A little awkward, but I managed to create some iPad drawings and paintings that I was pleased with, even if they took longer than they would have on my PC with a drawing tablet or display.
Recently, Wacom introduced their Intuos Creative Stylus for the iPad and I was intrigued. It connects via Bluetooth, has pressure sensitivity, programmable buttons like their other tablet and display pens, and palm rejection capability, which means you can rest your hand on the screen without your palm creating any digital pen marks. The key word here is ‘capability.’
As my first gen iPad had been proving unreliable and twitchy over the last year, I finally retired it and bought the new iPad Mini with Retina display, preferring the smaller size to the iPad Air. The Wacom Intuos Creative Stylus arrived last week and I was eager to put it through its paces.
The first thing I was impressed with is that it comes in a very nice case. With space for five spare nibs (it comes with two spares) and battery included, you feel you’ve purchased quality. My Cintiq 13HD came with a very nice case for the stylus as well and it gives me peace of mind that these portable styli are well protected while they’re being carted around.
First, the stylus takes an AAAA battery (that’s 4 As). It comes with one of them, so it’s ready to use. But I happened to be out running errands the day mine arrived so I wanted to see how hard it was to find replacements. Fortunately I found a set of two at The Source, a small franchised electronics store. A package of two batteries set me back $12. Our grocery store battery display didn’t have AAAA batteries, so you might have to look to find them. The Wacom site says a battery will last you 150 hours. I spent a few hours painting with the stylus and the battery still reads 100% in the ProCreate app, so I’ve no reason to doubt the claim.
Second, I have a wireless keyboard that connects to my iPad via Bluetooth and you connect it in the iOS settings. You can’t do that with the Intuos Creative Stylus, since it doesn’t even show up there. The stylus connects to your iPad inside of the supported apps (click here and scroll down for the list). In ProCreate for example, there’s a dropdown menu that shows a device option and sure enough, the Wacom Intuos Creative Stylus is one of the choices. The connection was very stable and putting it away in the case seems to shut the pen off so it doesn’t waste the battery.
I didn’t bother to try any of the other drawing apps, so let’s just talk about ProCreate and this stylus. I haven’t done any iPad painting in a while so I was very impressed with the recent updates ProCreate has made to their app. They’ve got great blend mode options for layers, adjustments for color, sharpness, blur, multiple transformation tools and their brush engine allows for a LOT of customization. ProCreate is a very robust app and I see no reason to change my preference. It didn’t crash once while painting my funny looking rat, so it’s very stable.
I was disappointed that I couldn’t get the palm rejection to work well in ProCreate, so I ended up wearing the makeshift glove again which doesn’t really bug me. It was only later that I found out that it isn’t the stylus that doesn’t support palm rejection, it’s the app. Again, refer to the list of which features work with which apps.
The pressure sensitivity on this stylus works like a dream! With the programmable buttons, ProCreate allows you to choose which task you want each button to perform. I set one button to activate the color picker, and the other button to Undo. You don’t even need to have the pen in contact with the tablet to get these to work, either.
Bottom line, this stylus works as advertised. While the price may seem steep to some ($99.95 from Wacom), I’m a big believer that you get what you pay for and my experience with Wacom devices is that they last and work well for a long time. I’m being careful not to drop this stylus, though, as it’s still a precise electronic device.
A couple of final thoughts. It would be unreasonable to expect this stylus to perform as well as a Cintiq display. I can make quicker brush strokes, enjoy much more precise pressure sensitivity and paint with larger documents with higher resolution on my professional displays than I would expect to on the iPad. This stylus does not turn your iPad into a Cintiq Companion display. Also, keep in mind that Wacom created the stylus, not the apps with which it is used, so if there’s something that doesn’t work the way you might expect it to, it’s likely the app, not the pen.
I’m very pleased with the Wacom Intuos Creative Stylus and I expect to use it often for sketching and rougher paintings. Beginning the rat painting you see at the top on the iPad was quite enjoyable and the image will eventually become a much larger, much more detailed rendering using Photoshop and my Cintiq 24HD display.
I would recommend both the Wacom Intuos Creative Stylus and the ProCreate app without reservation, but as always, the tools are only as good as the artist using them. For best results with your artwork, keep learning, follow the work of other artists, and draw and paint as often as you can.
Posted January 5th, 2014 by Patrick LaMontagne with Comments Off
One of my favorite stops when I visit The Calgary Zoo is the meerkat enclosure. A colony will always have one meerkat standing guard, which puts him or her at the highest point in the area, keeping a lookout for predators. It’s an instinctual trait as it occurs even with meerkats who are born in captivity. They just take turns. While they have nothing to fear from predators at the zoo, this behaviour is fantastic for taking reference photos. You couldn’t ask for a better subject as one will turn this way and that, remaining as still and posed as a fashion model in a photo shoot.
This painting is still pretty rough but it was a lot of fun. I will probably be painting more of these little critters in the near future.
Posted January 2nd, 2014 by Patrick LaMontagne with Comments Off
In my continuing efforts to paint more, I decided to do another rough painting sketch of a gorilla this afternoon. I just couldn’t stop, however, so I took it further than I had intended. I was having fun, dammit! While I think I might compose it a little differently, maybe show a little more of the body, this may end up a Totem painting.
Posted January 1st, 2014 by Patrick LaMontagne with Comments Off
Woke up earlier than I wanted to this morning on the first day of the year. As I’m usually an ‘early to bed, early to rise’ type, the cat is used to me getting up at 5AM. Creatures of habit and routine, she was pawing at my legs at 5:30, clearly not concerned that I had stayed up late last night. As I’m not one who is able to get up for a half hour and then go back to bed, it was a good excuse to do something creative first thing. With hot coffee and tunes in the headphones, I decided to do a sketch painting of this parrot. With no intention of it becoming a finished painting, it was nice to just work on it without any expectations and you can never get enough practice. I plan to do a lot more of these this year as I quite enjoyed it.
Happy New Year!
Posted December 29th, 2013 by Patrick LaMontagne with Comments Off
Here’s the last painting of the year and another addition to my Totem series. At present, I’ve got about eight to ten animals waiting in the wings to be painted. I’ve had the reference photos for a number of them for quite some time and even though I don’t have an order in mind, it just seems that each gets their turn whenever it feels right. I had not expected to be painting the Raccoon Totem this year, but when choosing which would be my last painting of 2013, I went through the different folders and reference images, and it just seemed the right time to paint this one.
Whenever I try to manipulate which Totem I’ll paint, whether it’s for commercial reasons or a request from the gallery, I never feel completely good about it. I learned a while ago to just paint whichever one feels right for the time I’m ready to start a new one and my best work will come through. This time, it was the raccoon, and (say it with me)…I had a lot of fun with this one.
There appear to be new challenges with each Totem, whether it’s features or fur and for this one, the fur and hair was different. It wasn’t particularly difficult, but the wiry raccoon hair is unlike any of the animals I’ve painted before. Just as the Bison and Otter Totems required me to paint hair a little differently, the Raccoon required me to paint on more layers than I normally would, in order to get that deeper layered look I achieved with the hair in this painting. I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out.
This was painted on both the Wacom Cintiq 24HD and Wacom Cintiq 13HD displays, using Photoshop CC. No photos or overlaid textures were used in this image, it was all done with brush work. I don’t keep track of how long it takes to paint these anymore, because I usually spend an hour or two here and there over a two or three weeks when my other deadlines allow it. As always, I relied on a few reference photos for this painting and would like to thank my friend Susan Koppel who provided me my main reference for this Totem. Susan takes wonderful pet portraits, and also donates her time to her local Humane Society in Nevada and you can’t help but want to adopt all of the pets she photographs as she makes them look their absolute best. Rather than me ramble on about her skill and talent as a photographer, check out her website and you’ll see for yourself. You can find her at susankoppel.com
Happy to end the year with a Totem painting and looking forward to painting a lot more of them in 2014.