Monday, March 24, 2008

Reader Questions on Preliminary Sketches & More

"Cats of the Old Masters" - available on various shirts, etc. here.
All cats, no matter what strange outfit they're wearing, are copyright Maggie Stiefvater 2008.


Here are the questions from the last series. If I've missed anybody, please post in the comments!

1. Do you use any photo manipulation programs to do the altering or do you do sketch after sketch or some combination?

I use Adobe Photoshop (Elements would work fine) for a lot of my art work (notice there's a space between "Art" and "work" there) but not in the ways that you might think I do. For pre-art-making, I use Photoshop to punch up saturation and contrast in my photos to make them closer to how I remember the scene or to brighten a dark reference to see details. After I've begun a piece, if I'm stuck on it, I'll scan or photograph it and twiddle with in PS to try out drastic changes before I do them -- like putting in a dark background where I have a light one or warming up an area colorwise, etc. I really let my sketches do most of the gruntwork for me, because they're faster for most of the changes I make. If I was a slow sketcher or a super fast PS-er, I might do it the other way. I figure, what you do to work out your groundwork at the beginning is, like the color of your underwear, your business alone. Most everyone does some preliminary work (and wears underwear -- though not the 78th Fraser Highlanders Pipe Band from Canada, or so I heard from a scarred passerby at a Scottish festival) but what sort depends on what comes naturally to you.

Word of warning to those who have not used Photoshop before and don't own it -- it's a complicated program, so be prepared to put in some hours learning how to do the most basic functions.


2. When you do those preliminary sketches, how do you pick the best one? I do them and then find that I have a terrible time picking just one.

I had to think about this question, because it wasn't an issue I normally have, and I wasn't sure why. I think it's because before I start a piece, I usually know sort of what I want to do with it. I think part of this is a style thing too -- I'm very set in my stylistic ways and that defines what sort of crop I'll do. The odds of me, for instance, doing a horse in a wide open landscape shot where you see the horse's full body and lots of territory around it . . . very slim. The odds of me doing a close up, edgy crop that's a little off kilter? Much more like me.

So I guess I would say -- pick the one that feels the most like you, if you've got several options that all play nicely within the composition world. Pick the one that you'd be happiest to have hanging on a wall somewhere and brag about. If one doesn't stand out, maybe that means you need to do one more and push the envelope.

2. When you say “colored pencil on board” – what type of board do you mean?

I use a bunch of different sorts, but my favorite is Ampersand's Pastelbord, a nice gritty board that eats pencils like Cookie Monster eats cookies. I also use Colorfix primer on masonite board. Both of them are a lot different from working on paper -- they have their pros and cons. I'm always trying new supports for colored pencil. I've done canvas, wood, clayboard . . . right now I've started a piece on a new type of support for me -- the company sent me samples and it's interesting. More on that later.

4. How do you handle something like someone asking you to incorporate their pets into famous paintings?

I had to put my Master Cats series up on this post because of this question. I don't have anything ethically wrong with inserting pets into paintings well out of copyright (well out of copyright), because I think they're humorous and I like humorous. But that's also in my style. Everyone of those tiny Master Cats (the originals were 2.5 x 3.5") is a copy of another painting, but I like to think that they're all vaguely recognizable as mine as well.

So my answer to this one is, do it if it fits in with your style. If you normally do abstracts or only paint in blue or something else that means that these sort of spoofs would be a departure -- decline.


Tomorrow I'm going to one of two blog posts on Time Management & Motivation. If you have any questions on that front, leave 'em in the comments as usual! Thanks to everyone for being so enthusiastic about these series posts!

1 comment:

Stacy said...

Maggie these series are great! Thank you so much for taking the time to share your experience and ways of working with us.

One question about working on board. I'm doing my first colored pencil on board and also some watercolors on board. My goal is to get away from having to frame with glass. How do you protect your cp pieces when they are finished? Is it as simple as spraying with fixative or is more protection needed?