Musician/Singer Series Pt. 3: T-Boz, Gwen Stefani, and Pink

Three Pencil Sketches
Three pencil sketches of T-boz, Gwen Stefani, and Pink

In one night, I had cranked out these three pencil sketches for my Musician/Singer Series. At this point, I was trying to pick facial expressions that were different from the other pieces. These were the three I also had love/hate relationships with during the making of them.

Ballpoint WIP of T-Boz
Ballpoint WIP of T-Boz

The composition of T-Boz (Tionne Watkins) from TLC had the most movement out of the entire series. She wasn’t too hard to ink, but I was trying to be as careful as possible with the hands. I have found that it is best to use the shadows to help shape your hands more rather than to draw only an outline of the fingers and palm. Especially when you have fingers pointed and some bent toward the palm, there will be a lot of foreshortening (Dictionary.com says it is “to reduce or distort in order to convey the illusion of three-dimensional space as perceived by the human eye”) happening within the drawing. Hands always feel complicated. Many kids that I have taught in drawing programs will avoid them like the plague by drawing characters with their hands behind their back, etc. Maybe the fact I do focus a lot on the face in my work, is a little sign that I am avoiding the hands as well without consciously making a note of it?

Final Mixed Media of T-boz
Final Mixed Media of T-Boz

Originally, I was going to paint her nicely creased shirt green and yellow, but as I was laying down the color I thought it looked HORRIBLE! In fact, I almost scrapped the whole thing then and there because I was getting short on time before the art show. Taking a deep breath, I grabbed a paper towel and tried dragging off as much paint as possible, wetting it with a clean brush, and wiping it again until I was able to get as much of the color off the paper. I already made her hair orange and skin blue, and was afraid making her shirt similar to the hair wouldn’t let her stand out. Once I painted the yellow layer, then my orange, and then a darker red, it looked better and you couldn’t even tell I had started making it green. The crosshatching of the ballpoint also made it different enough from the hair. Making the background purple behind her, pushed her orange and blue colors forward and toned down the more detailed pattern behind her. At the art show, this was the one that had the most exclamations and people recognized her right away. People seemed to respond to the more dynamic body position, and I couldn’t help but think I should have done more of them that contained more than just the head. Maybe next year?

WIP Inked Version of Gwen Stefani
WIP Ballpoint of Gwen Stefani

I was not happy with the inked version of Gwen at all! This was another point where I had put her aside intending to never use her again. The original screenshot I had taken was pretty blurry and I had difficulty with the angle of her face and the sunglasses. I could barely see her eyes, but drew in what I could. In retrospect, I wonder if it would have been better if I had never drawn the eyes in at all. Texting two of my best friends with the results, they kept pushing me to continue to work on it and they thought I was seeing it more critically than anyone else would.

WIP Beginning to Paint Gwen
WIP: Beginning to Paint Gwen Stefani

Deciding to give her a go, I started painting some color into her and was beginning to LOVE how the sunglasses looked. I felt like her hair should be pink, but I do think the color decision made people think she was Pink even though Gwen did dye her hair pink for many years.

Final of Gwen Stefani
Final Mixed Media of Gwen Stefani

For being a work that I almost threw away, it turned out rather nice! There still could be improvements made, but there are times when I need to keep Salvador Dali in mind,

“Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it.”

WIP Inked Version of Pink
WIP Ballpoint of Pink

Once I had a chance to ink this one, I felt it looked better than the pencil sketch. I allowed the pencil sketch to sit for a while before I went ahead and inked it. The angle of her head and sneer Pink was making made it seem so out of proportion. I also wasn’t sure I liked her thick fake eyelashes in the drawing, but once she was inked it seemed to ground her on the paper for me.

Final of Pink
Final Mixed Media of Pink

She was one of the few pieces I knew exactly what colors I wanted to use, and I had a blast with her. Since she didn’t have a lot of her hair showing, I balanced the composition by using the red in her earrings, eyes, and lips. I even mixed some of the red into the background and her outfit. It is something I try to do in a lot of my work. A lot of different colors can make up an object. Such as painting a blue sky on a landscape, maybe you can use that blue in the grass as a shading color. Trying to add the colors you use throughout your painting, drawing, etc can make it very cohesive.

Despite the struggles these three made me go through, I believe they added a little “oomph” to the series as a whole. It’s easy to work in a vacuum and convince yourself that your work isn’t good. So don’t be shy and show your piece(s) to someone you trust to get honest feedback from. You never know what you may have missed or what could be on it’s way to greatness.

“Even a mistake may turn out to be the one thing necessary to a worthwhile achievement.”

~ Henry Ford ~
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Musician/Singer Series Pt. 2: Lajon Witherspoon & Florence Welch

Lajon Witherspoon Pencil Sketch

WIP pencil drawing of Lajon Witherspoon on watercolor paper

This pencil drawing from my Musician/Singer Series depicts Lajon Witherspoon, who is the vocalist for the alternative metal group Sevendust. The screaming in some metal bands can make my toes curl, but Lajon’s smooth and deep vocals are haunting to me. Plus, it helps that they have a strong melody in their music, and it isn’t just hardcore two note riffing the whole time. Lajon’s vocal range makes their music even more powerful to me.

WIP Inked Lajon Witherspoon

WIP inked version of Lajon Witherspoon

If you haven’t read my previous entry introducing the Musician/Singer Series, I had gone through various music videos from each band or artist to grab screenshots that I could use for reference. As a side note, I began to notice that music videos where the bands were all male seemed to have dramatic lighting creating high contrast and switched sometimes between B&W to color. Meanwhile, all of the women musicians were definitely more sexed up. The Pop and R&B genres had bright colors and less clothing. It’s sad that so many of our women musicians are encouraged to flaunt what they have, but most of the men never do. Not to say it never happens, but I found it an interesting observation while I was working on this project.

Final of Lajon Witherspoon

“Life is changing. I can’t go on without you. Rearranging. I will be strong. I’ll stand by you.”
-“Angel’s Son” by Sevendust

In the painting stage of each drawing in my series, I wanted to keep the colors unexpected for the viewer. I love painting in tones that are not the typical skin color. I chose colors by the feeling I had for each image. It’s hard to explain, but some of them just screamed at me what colors should be within the piece. Since I knew it was going to be a series, I did try to stick within about 5-6 different colors and usually painted with only 3 of the 5-6 colors in each piece.

The acrylic I like to use is by Liquitex. Their Professional Acrylic Artist Color Heavy Body in tubes has strong color and can go on thick or thin depending on how much water you have in your brush. They can be pretty expensive, but they do last a long time if you do not paint in very thick layers. Grumbacher’s Academy Acrylics are also another type of paint that I enjoy using. They are not heavy body like the Liquitex and will be more transparent when you paint with them (plus they are cheaper). I like to use the Academy Acrylics like Dioxazine Purple painted over top of a Liquitex Cobalt Blue to get a darker shade. Some artist’s may use the tube of black intentionally for shading or to make dark colors, but I do find it flattens the work. When you see someone with black hair, it can have a blue or purple cast depending on the lighting. It’s difficult to get that if you use straight up black, and that is why I will use other colors to create “black”. Also, I tend to not mix my colors on my palette ahead of time. I allow them to mix on the paper.

Final of Florence Welch

“And when we first came here, we were cold and we were clear.
With no colors in our skin, ‘Til we let the spectrum in”
-“Spectrum” by Florence and the Machine

Another piece from the series is of Florence Welch, who is the singer from the English indie rock band Florence and the Machine. I am not that familiar with the band and have only heard some of their music. Her voice was what caught my attention, and I couldn’t resist not including her in my series.

Musician/Singer Series Pt. 1: Myles Kennedy

I will be trying to get the blog caught up to my work posted on Instagram and Flickr. Months back, I was trying to save drafts and have them publish during certain times, but since WordPress was fighting me I let the time pass. It’s too easy to fall behind!

Back in May, I was honored to be chosen as one of the artists in a two day art show/festival called Dayton Sideshow. We had many talented local artists who either had video installations, sculptures, or paintings. There were no restrictions to what we could create, which was wonderful! Since there were going to be musical acts going on during the entire two days, I decided to continue my artist trading card theme: my favorite musicians/singers.

At the beginning, I decided I didn’t want to hang the work traditionally. Remembering that I had seen an image on Pinterest where someone used clipboards to hang up illustrations and ideas, I decided it would be something to catch people’s eyes as they walked through the building. Grabbing my Strathmore and Canson watercolor paper pads, I cut them up in various sizes that would fit on the three different sizes of clipboards I had purchased at OfficeSupply.com. They had very reasonable prices and I recommend them for clipboards 100%!

Instead of just getting studio/stage shots of the bands, I went through many music videos and took screenshots of moments that I felt would make a good drawing. My first choice was Myles Kennedy, the lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist to the rock band Alter Bridge. I cannot get enough of his voice and so much of their music has such power or frailty behind it! My normal process lately has been to go directly to inking and work with my mistakes, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to do that successfully with portraits. I already had a clear idea of what I wanted in my mind, but penciled out Myles in the top right corner and leaving room for doodles on the rest of the paper later.

Myles Kennedy WIP

“On broken wings I’m falling, And it won’t be long,
The skin on me is burning, By the fires of the sun…”

-“Broken Wings” by Alter Bridge

The artist trading cards I created previously made me realize I wanted to ink these using my ballpoint pens instead of the Prismacolor Fine Liners. I did keep changing which ballpoint pen depending on what I thought worked better on the watercolor paper at the time. The one that stayed the most consistent for me was PaperMate’s InkJoy 700 RT 1.0 M. Once I inked Myles, I decided to look up what he had for tattoos. I found out he had an octopus on one arm and a Koi fish on the other. I love making connections in my work, so I doodled around Myles with a Koi fish swimming around the swirling waves and octopus tentacles.

When I started adding my acrylics, I thought I had ruined his face with the green on top of the yellow. It made him look sickly. Once I introduced some blue and pulled up a lot of the green with a paper towel, I kept going by adding more reds and purples to his hair and shirt to brighten things up. I chose to keep the upper left corner mostly white other than a few purposeful splatters of color that I dabbed with paper towel to keep the saturation down. It gives a nice weight to the right and bottom side of the composition. This piece turned out to be one of my favorites despite it being the first one penciled!

Final of Myles Kennedy

Vintage Post: Part of My Drawing IV Final Project

Here is another post from my older blog. I was in the last semester of college at the time and immersed in a project that I would like to eventually finish.

Original Post: March 15, 2009

For the past two days, I have been finishing up one of my drawings for Drawing IV class. It is my personal project that I am starting to freak out about because I am supposed to do 10 of these. Since I am drawing them in graphite and they have to be a large size, they are taking a lot of time!

The idea behind my project first sprouted from the old vanitas (which means vanity in Latin) still lifes. They are usually devoted to reflecting on the shortness of life by being subliminal in still lifes by using flowers, tabletops, smoking paraphernalia, or luxury goods. More obvious symbols of mortality used were skulls, burning candles, pipes about to burn out, bubbles, or clocks. The main idea is to make the viewer contemplate the work, look at it longer than a glance, and challenge a silent debate. Every person, who looks at an image, brings his or her own experience to that piece making it a type of symbolic still life painting.

Each of the 10 drawings I will be doing are going to be portraits of family members who have passed on or are still living. Only they are not going to have the actual person in them, objects that were their own items or things that remind me of them will be used to form the portrait. The one I finished last night is my Mom’s portrait because when I was growing up she would play the piano for me, and I was always fascinated by her jewelry box. I could even point out the music on the piano and items inside the jewelry box and what they mean too. I know the image isn’t the best. I took several pics with my camera, and it kept wanting to give it a fisheye appearance and bleach out!

Title: Mom 
Medium: Graphite
Size: ~28″ x 32″