Friday, July 6, 2007

Inside the Lines

Remember back in elementary school when they told you how important it was to color inside the black lines? They were right! When I first started doing these comic paintings it was such a pain to keep the paint inside the black lines, and lots of times I would have to go over the lines again and again and again as the color would spill over the edge. It was really irritating. When you add this the fact that many colors require a large number of layers in order to look right, we are talking serious pain in the tuchus.
Cobalt blue, for instance, isn't particularly opaque, and neither are the pigments in the deep-magenta (quinacridone) or deep-purple (dioxazine) ranges. Unlike house paints, which use cheap synthetic pigments that fade, artist quality pigments need to last for, well, centuries--which reminds me that I once became very cross with an artist friend who has sold many more works that I, when I was told the paints were purchased at the home depot. HOME DEPOT! Ugh. If these paintings are anywhere near the sun, they will be white canvasses in a matter of a few short years. The fact that a small tube of cobalt blue, which is manufactured with cobalt salts, can cost $15-$20 is an incentive to cut corners, but it's still wrong! At art supply stores you can buy reds and yellows that use cadmium pigments, or you can use paints that are still fine, but use pigments that cost maybe 1/4 as much. Maybe in a landscade showing dandelions it wouldn't matter, but in a comic painting I really value intense colors. Of course for the cost of a couple of ounces of cadmium red you can buy a gallon of red at the Home Depot.
Where was I. Oh. So cobalt blue requires many layers in order not to look blotchy. It's a beautiful color, but it's so hard to get it to look really smooth and nice on a canvas, even when you put down as many as ten layers of paint. This, and the fact that it's a very chilly color, means that I often favor warmer/happier shades of blue. Additionally, when small areas were involved I would have to use very short strokes to keep the paint within the lines, and this often keeps the painting from having a really smooth finish (I'll talk about smoothness another time).
So anyway, after going completely mad trying to keep the paint inside the little black lines, I realized that I was being a complete idiot. I should put down a simple underpainting, then add the color, and finally go back over the painting and put in the black lines after all the color is put down, all is smooth and the colors have sufficient depth. It was a revelation! I gotta say, it works great and the paintings look tons better.
Of course at this stage, the painting looks really dorky. Just you wait, though, it will look great in a few days.

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