SteelButt Jack: A Solaris Cover

(Pour cet article en français, cliquez ici)

In the illustration field like in the video game field, sometimes you work on something and then you just can’t show it to anyone. And then when you CAN show it, it feels like what you are doing now is completely different. This happened with this cover. It’s not that old, I only did it in September/October 2013, but I feel that I already work differently now.

Solaris is the oldest French language genre fiction magazine in existence. I was commissioned to do a cover by Joël Champetier, the editor in chief. His direction was basically: “We like both your digital and traditional stuff, pitch us something that doesn’t have tentacles.” Yep, that open ended. So I did tons of thumbnails in my sketchbook and I picked 6 of them to clean up and send. 3 that I would paint digitally and 3 that I would paint in acrylics.

The thumbnails I sent Mr.Champetier from Solaris. The brown ones are for traditional paintings and the black and white are for digital paintings.

The thumbnails I sent Mr.Champetier. The brown ones are for traditional paintings and the black and white are for digital paintings. The gentleman with the the suit would have been a portrait of Dr.Penfield with a humonculus on his back, it was supposed to be a kind of neurology/fantasy mashup.

Joël picked the guy with the jet pack. He said that in all of Solaris’ years, he didn’t think they ever had a jet pack on the cover, as cliché as they can be. With that, I started working on cool jet pack and outfit designs. I was going for a diesel punk look, but I didn’t want him to look too much like the Rocketeer, he was from the same era, but he was a different guy from a grittier world.

refrences_solaris

The references I used to make my final drawing. Actually, I used more than that. I used a few pictures of Matthieu for different details and I used images I found around the internet for things like brass fittings, jet contrails, jet packs, ancient outfits.

Armed with my approved thumbnail and my jet pack and outfit design, I asked my friend Matthieu Legault to model for the character. Matthieu is a writer with 7 published novels under his belt but I think it’s the first time he’s on the cover of one. He had a sweater that somewhat looked like the jacket in my outfit and I had a big packpack, goggles and goth boots so that’s the extend of his costume. We tried all kinds of poses, in my yard and in my kitchen, but in the end, the stool was the best way to make him look like he’s flying. Otherwise he just looked like a guy standing on one foot. I also modeled the basic jet pack shapes and stucked them on a mannequin to get the angles of the wings and rockets right on Matthieu and the shadows.

This is the design of the jet pack that I decided to go with. In the end, my model had hair that pit exactly the period I was going for, so I decided to use that instead of a helmet. I also included the progression of the drawing I did from the references.

This is the design of the jet pack that I decided to go with. In the end, my model had hair that fit exactly the period I was going for, so I decided to use that instead of a helmet. I also included the progression of the drawing I did from the references.

I choose amongst the pictures the ones that were the most dynamic and looked the most like someone flying. It’s not exactly like the thumb, but it’s an improvement. I went through several rounds of refining the drawing and several possible designs for the contrail. The line art with the smoke swirls is what I sent the client for approval.

This is the drawing that I used as reference when painting. All of the value problems have been solved.

This is the drawing that I used as reference when painting. All of the value problems have been solved.

When it was approved, I rendered the values in Photoshop so that I wouldn’t have to make decision in paint. I didn’t render the birds because the plan was to have them just be silhouettes in varnish on unvarnished MDF. They would be very subtle and translucent to make them look far away.

Le transfert de l'image sur le panneau de MDF.

The transfer of the image on the MDF panel.

I printed my line art in 3 different parts that I assembled and then rubbed the back of the drawing with Conté crayon, white for the smoke and sienna for the character and birds. I then clipped/tapped it to the board and traced all the line. The result is a bit messy and dark but I wipe it lightly with a dry paint rag and it gets much better.

first_steps_solaris

You can see the first 3 steps of the painting phase. I started with the graphic elements because they help me establish what the lightest value is going to be. Then I get started with the darkest darks. I don’t really do big washes because I try to avoid sealing in the conte powder under nearly transparent layers where they will remain visible. I erase a lot of the lines as I go. Also, if I put too much paint somewhere, I have to wipe it off very fast or else I will have to sand it off, I can’t paint in white on top of dark or vice versa.

Some people are surprised to learn that the painting stage is often shorter than the design stages. All the hard decisions have been made and all I have to do now is slap paint around and not screw up. The new screwing up part might be easier if I worked in oil. It’s in my plans, but right now I still work in acrylics. For this painting I used only two colors, raw umber and unbleached titanium. I am a very big fan of unbleached titanium, it’s quite light, but not dead or blinding like white. It fits well with the sepia style I’m going for at the moment. I the past, I have painted plenty of pieces on raw unprimed and unvarnished masonite and MDF but this was a different type of MDF that I had gotten at the hardware store, not at the art supply store and it was soft, like suede and the paint didn’t glide so well on it. I had bought a big piece and had it cut into several panels, so for my following pieces, I gave a few coats of gloss medium on the MDF before transferring the drawing. It works much better for me.

steelbutt_jack_web

This is the finished and retouched painting. I have removed tiny flecks in the MDF, added a bit of smoke, removed a bird and did various retouching of the character.

When I was done, I varnished the piece, only on the the already painted parts so the rest is raw and matte. Then I took a good picture and sent it to Joël. He wanted the contrail to end closer to the rocket, so I changed that in Photoshop and did some other touch ups. Then I sent him the high-resolution file.

And that is how that piece was done.

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Canyons in my stairs.

The slits in the steps allow the snow to fall and form these dramatic landscape without any human intervention.

The slits in the steps allow the snow to fall and form these dramatic landscape without any human intervention.

Before Christmas, we had several snow storms in a row, something which is not usual for Montréal, followed by two crazy cold waves (and now, everything has been melting for over a week, take that climate change deniers.) In itself, this is not very interesting or enjoyable but after one of the storms I found miniature canyons and mountains on my stairs. So after I shoveled the balcony, I went back in to get my camera. I think they are perfect references for dramatic landscapes. Now I’m not looking forward for the next snowstorm (especially with my broken foot in a cast) but when it comes, I hope I’ll get new miniature canyons to photograph.

A perfect snow mountain. The snow on my neighbor's shed (and a tiny snow pyramid on her planter!) and snow mountains on my neighbors' steps, but I wouldn't get there...

A perfect snow mountain. The snow on my neighbor’s shed (and a tiny snow pyramid on her planter!) and snow mountains on my neighbors’ steps, but I wouldn’t get there…

Shaun and C3P0

Here are pictures of some of the presents I made for the holidays. It’s the first time I actually give a painting for an occasion other than:”You like it? Here, have it.”

There is A C3P0 painted on top of a completely gilded piece of mdf. It seemed like the ideal subject to paint on gold leaf.

Gold leaf and acrylic paint C3P0.

Gold leaf and acrylic paint C3P0.

I also picked up a mini Munny when I was in Philadelphia a year and a half ago and only now found what I wanted to do with it. So it was turned into a Shaun of the Dead toy.

Shaun of the Dead mini Munny drying in pieces on my palette.

Shaun of the Dead mini Munny drying in pieces on my palette.

Shaun and a framed C3P0 together.

Shaun and a framed C3P0 together.

 

A Very Boov Smekday Coloring Mandala

I have been looking at my Smekday reference file a lot lately, and using Manga Studio. I’m overly fond of the symmetry ruler in Manga Studio so I jump on any excuses to use it. Since it’s soon to be Smekday, I tought a little coloring page would be in order. This Boov is strongly inspired by Sound-of-a-Crying-Baby-Riding-a-Duck, the first Boov to have touched a tree (and died of asphyxiation) along with a long-eared koobish and other holiday items.

In case any of my readers are not aware, The True Meaning of Smekday is a novel written and illustrated by Adam Rex. I was lucky enough to meet Adam when he was faculty at the IMC. The book is very funny, so if you haven’t read it yet, this is the perfect time to pick it up.

This should print nicely on a letter sized page.

This should print nicely on a letter sized page.

Please note that this is fan art and is not in any way affiliated with Adam even if he’s a very nice guy.

Time piece

I finished this piece yesterday and I don’t have a clever name for it yet. But it was my first foray into metal leaf patterns and I thought some of my readers might be curious. I previously tested the metal leaf by covering a whole mdf with it and painting on top, and while it was interesting, I decided that I’d rather paint on the mdf and use the metal leaf as accent.

This watch has quite a history, it used to belong to my boyfriend’s grand-father who worked on a railroad. The highlights on the glass are all speckled because the glass face has been worn so much, by being in pockets with change and keys and all kind of stuff. It’s broken now, but kept as a souvenir. A few months ago, I did a photo shoot with this watch, a more recent pocket watch of mine and other objects. This photo is one of those I took.

I also took many pictures of the painting process so I could walk you through it step by step.

Here is the prepared surface. It's just mdf from the lumberyard covered with two coats of acrylic gloss medium/varnish. The mdf is smooth but somewhat soft, like suede and the paint does not glide on it. The varnish helps.

Here is the prepared surface. It’s just mdf from the lumberyard covered with two coats of acrylic gloss medium/varnish. The mdf is smooth but somewhat soft, like suede and the paint does not glide on it. The varnish helps.

Here is my prepared photo clipped to the board. I covered the back with sienna colored Conté crayon and I will trace on the front to transfer the drawing.

Here is my prepared photo clipped to the board. I covered the back with sienna colored Conté crayon and I will trace on the front to transfer the drawing.

This is the transfered drawing.

This is the transferred drawing.

After the first pass of red paint. It was my first time using alizarin crimson in a painting like that. It's not as dark as other colors I use, but I like it. Notice that the printed file  clipped next to it is not the same one I used while tracing. This one takes into account the darker background. I treated it to make more of the image the same gray as the background, that way, I can use the color of the mdf as midtone.

After the first pass of red paint. It was my first time using alizarin crimson in a painting like that. It’s not as dark as other colors I use, but I like it. Notice that the printed file clipped next to it is not the same one I used while tracing. This one takes into account the darker background. I treated it to make more of the image the same gray as the background, that way, I can use the color of the mdf as midtone.

After the first pass of unbleached titanium.

After the first pass of unbleached titanium.

The rendering of the clock is done. Now I took a picture of the piece, put it in photoshop and painted ideas for the flourishes around it.

The rendering of the clock is done. Now I took a picture of the piece, put it in photoshop and painted ideas for the flourishes around it.

Here is the outline of the flourishes painted. You can see some of the white Conté on the red of the paint. This is wiped clean once the paint is dry.

Here is the outline of the flourishes painted. You can see some of the white Conté on the red of the paint. This is wiped clean once the paint is dry.

Here I glued most of the metal leaf and started brushing the extra bits away. I use regular metal leaf, not gold, so it's a bit thicker and sturdier to work with (not to mention cheaper.) THe way it works is I put some gilding glue in the spots where I want gold and I wait for it to get tacky. Then I place bits of metal leaf on top and burnish with a soft brush or my white cotton gloves. Then I use a stiff brush to remove the bits that are not glued in place.

Here I glued most of the metal leaf and started brushing the extra bits away. I use regular metal leaf, not gold, so it’s a bit thicker and sturdier to work with (not to mention cheaper.) The way it works is I put some gilding glue in the spots where I want gold and I wait for it to get tacky. Then I place bits of metal leaf on top and burnish with a soft brush or my white cotton gloves. Then I use a stiff brush to remove the bits that are not glued in place.

With the extra bits all brushed away. I was pretty rough with the brush to give a distressed look to the metal. Next step was to give 3 coats of varnish.

With the extra bits all brushed away. I was pretty rough with the brush to give a distressed look to the metal. Next step was to give 3 coats of varnish.

There it is. All done.

There it is. All done.

Like many of the paintings I post here, this one is for sale. It’s 115$ (+ shipping) and it’s 12″x12″. You can see other paintings for sale in my catalogue. If you are interested or if you have any questions about the blog, you can contact me at chantal (at) chantalfournier.com

A visit to Charlottetown

A few weeks ago, I traveled to Prince-Edward-Island for the first time. It was a lucky thing, my boyfriend was going there for work and I was able to tag along. It being october, a lot of the tourist attractions were closed, but fortunately, there were still a few cruise ships dropping by and some tourists at the hotel so some places were still open. The weather was quite good for the season too, we got almost no rain.

I took some of my time there to paint. I walked around a lot, scouting for good places to paint. On my second day, I chose to paint the cruise ship  and the Cows ice cream shop. Now, Cows is a big deal in PEI, they even have a big plastic Cows cow in the Charlottetown airport. I also traveled to The Port La Joye-Fort Amherst historical location. It was closed but the trails were still accessible. It was much bigger than I expected and I kept thinking I’d find a better spot just a little further. In the end I didn’t take time to paint as it took me long enough to trek around the park lugging my easel and paint around that I didn’t feel like going back to the good spots.

I also got to paint St-Dunstan’s Basilica, but boy did I freeze my arse (and feet, and fingers, and face.)

All in all, it was a great trip, the food was amazing (Fish and chips!) and the people were super friendly. I even found a comic book store where a lady spun local wool she got from one of her customers and sold the result. Comics and homespun is not a mix one expects, but since some warn geeks are as rabid as comic fans, it’s a good match.

It was my first time traveling somewhere with the goal being to get some painting done so I learned some lessons: If you find a good spot and the light is good and the weather allows, paint it RIGHT NOW. Don’t wait, tomorrow it might rain, or there might be a funeral at the church you want to paint, or you might not have time. Also, find a way to not have to carry everything in your hands, it’s a pain when you just want to take a picture or even zip up your coat.

Art Catalogue

catalogue_art_2013_coverwebI just finished putting together a catalogue of all the paintings I have for sale, and also a few who are already sold. I’ve wanted to sell art outside of shows for a while, but it’s pretty hard if I don’t have a list of the art available anywhere. So here it is. It’s pretty much a work in progress, I will be updating as new pieces are added and as pieces sell. I also have a section on commission because a lot of people don’t know that it’s possible to order a painting to their specifications.

The Holidays are coming, so it’s time to buy or order art, whether you want to give it away or just to brag to your visitors!

Click here for the CATALOGUE

Je viens juste de terminer un catalogue de toutes les peintures que j’ai à vendre, et de quelques unes qui sont déjà vendues. Ça fait un bout que je veux vendre des toiles en dehors des expositions mais c’est difficile si je n’ai pas une liste des pièces disponibles. Alors c’est fait. C’est une travail en progression où j’ajouterai les nouvelles peintures et noterai celles qui sont vendues. J’ai aussi une section sur les commandes parce que plusieurs personnes ne savent pas qu’il est possible de commander une peinture suivant leurs spécifications.

Le temps des fêtes approche et c’est le temps d’acheter ou de commander de l’art, que ce soit pour le donner ou pour impressionner la visite!

Cliquez ici pour le CATALOGUE

Time Killer

In an effort to build up my traditional portfolio with pieces that look more like book covers, I did this one this week. I’m trying to find a good balance between graphic and narrative. I’m also learning to use MDF effectively.  I got this MDF in a lumber yard and it’s not as smooth as the one I got at the art store. It threw me off a little the first time I used it (for a piece that is still under wrap.) For this one, I gave a few coats of clear medium before I transferred the drawing on the board. That made the paint glide on in a more enjoyable manner.

Time Killer, 12"x18" acrylic on MDF.

Time Killer, 12″x18″ acrylic on MDF.