7/09/2014

THE TIME MACHINE: Visual Development with Armand Baltazar/Animation Collaborative

I recently took a visual development course at the Animation Collaborative, taught by senior visual development artist Armand Baltazar, who has worked for many years in animated film, with credits on Dreamworks, "Shark Tale", "Spirit", and "A Bee Movie", as well as Disney's "Princess and the Frog", and more recently Pixar's "Cars 2", among many others. Of all the classes I've taken in recent years, I found this course to be perhaps the most exciting. I've always been deeply interested in visual storytelling, although I've not always had ideal opportunities to practice that very fine art to the fullest I've wanted. So when Armand's course came up on the roster and time in my schedule allowed, I jumped.
 
Aside from my own interests,  I feel a good visual development class is an excellent experience for any artist at any level to go through. So many of us have grand ideas around stories, world building and stylization, but how many of us have really gone deep into our visual storytelling skills? If you've not had the opportunity to take such a class, I encourage you to find one or else pick up a few good "art of" books for film, games, and television.

 Regarding this specific class at the Animation Collaborative, I felt it was absolutely worth it. Armand was a fantastic teacher and really put in a lot of extra work and effort in teaching the class, even staying late to give back really valuable individual feedback, paint overs and advice tailored to each student. Each class was chock full of fantastic information about visual development, portfolio development, and tips and techniques for working quickly, as is required on any project in development.

For the class we each picked a classic book to visualize as an animated film. I picked HG Wells', "The Time Machine", a book that I illustrated years ago, but unfortunately didn't do a very good job of it due to the extremely rushed deadline. For years now I've wanted to revisit the story, and have imagined a reboot tailored toward an animated young adult film. I thought I'd share my character design concepts here, and later will share more development. Over the course of the next year I'll be working up ideas around this story and will share more as I solidify ideas.

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 In my reboot of "The Time Machine", the story begins in present day with a female protagonist instead of the Victorian era and a male protagonist in the original. 

I also envision the Time Machine device to be wearable tech made up of everyday things like hacked ipads, iphones and a laser tag vest. Like in the original book, the time machine does not move the individual through space, but only through time.

Hmmm, imagine what happens to those digits after thousands and thousands of years of swiping/touch technology...



 

I had fun developing these visual effects concepts. I could iterate on these forever, but I think this is about what I'd like to see in this version of the time machine.

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Below are some quick color comps and sketches of what I have been developing around story moment ideas. Most of these are pretty quick, like 2 hours each or even less in the case of sketches. All of these are meant to be exploratory in nature, and will eventually become more finished paintings. I can't wait to work on these!

 I've long been a fan of Douglas Trumbull, well known in the film industry for his innovative special effects on movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Blade Runner, and Star Trek: The Motion Picture. I wanted to emulate his effects in some way, and have envisioned the bottom row of images to be my take on time travel effects.

 This is my quickie version of a future city, although I have plans to iterate on this a bit more. Given that our class was only 12 weeks and I only had the weekends to work on it, I felt that I didn't have enough time to really dig through this juicy subject. Looking forward to exploring some more concepts!


Hey, who doesn't need a hot Eloi boyfriend in the future? Actually, this is one aspect of the story that I am quite excited about: the friendship between The Time Traveler and Weena, in my version female (time traveler) and male (eloi). I think this can be resonate with the story themes in some unusual ways - I'm so excited to work some more on these ideas.

I actually have a number of additional sketches and comps, but they are still a little too compy to share. Hopefully soon! 

As I continue to develop my ideas I will post. I hope to put a little book together by sometime next summer, if all goes well. 

Thanks for reading!!!




4/13/2014

My Latest Studio Work/Progress on Final Color Pass


First session after finishing the initial color block in stage. I spent most of this session looking at the value relationships between the white of the vase (which was really a very warm-grey), the white of the board the entire set up is sitting on, the white of the flowers and the white of the butterfly. I spent a good deal of time in this session comparing between the four white areas, trying to see what the difference between them was. 


 I focused first on the flowers. In the first color block in, I felt that the shadow areas were getting a little too dark and muddy, when what I wanted was luminous colors even in the shadow areas. I painted over all of the shadow areas of the flowers and strengthened the white areas. I also pumped up the contrast on the yellow flower stamens.




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Second session of the final color pass:


The focus of this session was on the butterfly held up by twine. The butterfly is made of white feathers, paper mache in the body, and has iridescent glitter all over the wings, making it a difficult challenge.


Sadie suggested that instead of painting each and every little dot of glitter, that I paint large swaths of blurry color - the shapes of the areas instead of pieces. I also remembered a passage in James Gurney's book, "Color and Light" about painting scales on a dinosaur. Instead of painting all of the texture everywhere, he recommended only painting the texture in the light, and especially in the highlighted area. As the textures moves into less illuminated areas of the form, it will become less and less apparent to the eye.


This was as far as I chose to push the glittery iridescent areas of the butterfly. In the next few sessions during the final pass I will revisit both the glitter areas and the string. 

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Third session of the final color pass:


I spent almost this entire session working on the pattern on the vase and the color shifts in the shadow areas of the white areas in the vase. 

I often struggle painting white objects. As I am observing the scene in front of me, I can clearly see the light area vs. the shadow side. But when I've sat and observed these same objects over a long period, like today's five hour session, my eyes begin to pick up the subtle hue shifts, bounce colors and variation in the value. 



In the past when I'd worked in the alla prima method (direct wet on wet painting) I would just simplify these areas for the sake of turning the form, with the brush work always on stage, so to speak. The Flemish indirect method, on the other hand, provides the opportunity to get the subtle variance of the light on the form by building up layers and layers of paint. With layering, you can push and pull areas into and out of focus, glaze areas, and continue to soften or sharpen edges endlessly. All of this makes it challenging to make decisions. I've resigned to working out the "mood" of each area in relation to the whole piece.


For the final finishing details in the next 2-3 sessions, I plan to work on the gradient of the blue-green in the  background. Working over many sessions, the color in the background has begun to creep a little. Some areas are not matching previously painted areas. That happens because each session I am working on a specific area and need to mix up the surrounding background paint color so that I can soften the edges.

In the next few sessions, I will work on smoothing out the hue shift and the shadow areas so that it is a little more harmonious. I might also make the green-blue a little more saturated. The flowers still have a few textures and details that are not yet depicted, and the glitter on the butterfly is not quite there yet. Last but not least, the pattern on the vase…is it too dark? I will most likely add a light glaze of vase color on top of the pattern in the center so that it does not call itself to attention so much.

Thanks for reading!


3/22/2014

iPad sketch videos

My partner, James Baker, and I have been sketching lately from the tv, in an effort learn together as he trains to draw with his left hand. He had a stroke last year which left him without the use of his right hand, and while he recovers, we thought he might try adapting the left hand in the mean time so that he can still enjoy drawing. 

Its been a difficult challenge full of ups and downs. As artists we are so tied to our motor skills that we tend not to even think about it. It is especially scary if you earn your entire living on your professional art skills which have been perfected in a very personal way over the course of your life. As I watch Jamie improve his leftie drawing skills, I am heartened to see how much of what we must know about drawing comes from the mind. The rest is output, and although it is very difficult to train with a non-native hand, it can definitely be done.  

My own recent experiments with iPad sketches from movie compositions are in tandem with Jamie's. We figure out a show that we'd like to study, usually something gritty from the fantasy or sci-fi realm, freeze frame a shot we both agree on, and start drawing. Jamie is doing it old school with pencil, watercolor and paper while I am trying out a new (for me) sketch tool. The important thing is that we are having a blast together while learning. There really is nothing better. 

I posted a few of these in a previous post, but I wanted to also share the videos. All are shots from Game of Thrones season 3.



the final image from the above video:



I can't figure out why this sketch exported at a cropped size - still working on figuring it out. In the mean time, the video is best viewed at full screen. 






Thanks for stopping by!



3/15/2014

Latest Studio Painting/1st Color Pass Finished

Sunday is my painting day. I paint from about 10 am until 4 pm, using that time as efficiently as I can. I put on my headphones, crank up the latest history lecture I've been absorbed in, and paint. My painting space currently is one of the still life stations at Sadie Valeri's Atelier, which has excellent light and overall great art vibes. I really enjoy watching new students learn and go through similar trials and tribulations I went through as an art student. The dedication and determination is so concentrated that it permeates the air and makes me feel motivated all week long. It is an experience I feel fortunate to be a part of. 


This past week I finally finished the first color pass on my latest still life painting. This pass is about establishing the main color relationships in general terms rather than details. At this point, I will go into the fine details and creating areas of focus.  Below is a series of process images from the closed grisaille state into the 1st pass color stage.


The finished closed grisaille, the 2nd underpainting that establishes a full value range. Although as an alla prima painter by training I've never separated out the value stages in this way, I've found that painting the grisaille has enhanced my understanding of how deeply value relationships are tied to color. 


Beginnings of the color pass. There is a subtle range of color going on in the light areas of the flowers. Instead of focusing on those colors, I've painted them pure white in this first color pass. 


 In this stage I am also focusing a lot on the edges of things, making edges very blurry instead of sharp in any one area.


The details on the vase are painted very softly on purpose. Later when I work on the final color pass, I will sharpen up the detail where needed, including the highlight area which falls over the flower details of the vase.


Notice how blurry the edges are all around the subject. In fact, I probably should have painted them even softer. 


After the flowers and vase hues were painted, I began working on the hue shift in the background area from the bottom left up toward the top right. This is not necessarily a smooth transition in the actual set up, but an improvement in the light pattern that I felt worked better for the composition than what is actually happening in reality.


As I moved toward the butterfly and the shadow underneath it, I roughed in the color in very simple terms making sure to leave the edges extremely soft. The tricky part of this area is going to be the glittery, shimmery surface of the wings, which are feathers that have glitter applied to them. Instead of painting all of that detail, I just noted general colors and made the upper right area pure white.


The finished butterfly. I sharpened up a couple of areas in the light, but left the rest very soft.


The finished first color pass. As you can see the background gradient is still quite rough, as are patches in the vase and flowers. All of this will be addressed in the next stage as I refine the painting.

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Meditations on Still Life Painting


 The subject matter in my painting is a little odd, I know. When I set it up, I had been thinking about the fantastic dioramas in the Chicago Field Museum and thought I'd try recreating that feeling of an artificially arranged environment. Instead of using real flowers in my set up, I crafted paper flowers which I dipped in wax to preserve their shapes. Likewise, the feather butterfly is not a real preserved butterfly, but is instead crafted. I chose to show the way I set up the still life by including the string, clothes pin and tape so that the viewer knows this is a set up and is not real.

As a modern viewer of any still life painting, the audience knows that the subject has been set up by the artist, every detail carefully composed, including the direction of the light. We have a relationship to narrative painting that is different than it was in the past.

Dioramas from the Field Museum in Chicago. Taxidermy animals displayed in an artificial environment  made to look real, depicting a certain narrative of a scene that might have occurred in real life. The images in the far background are realistically painted murals. The foliage and tree branches are silk, wood and painted plaster.


Originally, still life arrangements were not seen with the same eye as we see them now. Natural History dioramas and still life paintings were similar in that they were narrative arrangements that represented a story to the viewer about something not widely known about the world, like animals on the plains of Africa or they were representative of religious beliefs or values like in many of the Flemish still life paintings of the 16th century. Viewing these depictions in our modern era, we know more about these subjects due to availability of travel, familiarity brought to us by stories told in film, the wide use of photography in remote places, and globalization via the internet. As a result, the still life in the traditional sense now holds less importance to us as an informative vehicle than it has been in the past. 


And yet, I am an artist in this modern age who has a desire to paint elaborate and narrative depictions in the still life format, creating the cart before the horse, so to speak. I wonder if in our modern era the tradition of still life painting can bring to us something of equal value or perhaps something new and different. It is a question I am thinking about a lot as I work on this painting. 

3/08/2014

The news from Disney Interactive & iPad Sketching

This was a rough week at Disney Interactive. 700 of my coworkers, many of them talented and accomplished artists, were subject to a massive layoff and restructure. Over half of my office, which is Disney Social/Mobile, a division within Disney Interactive, was let go. The fact is that we all knew lay offs were coming for at least three months now, making our lives incredibly stressful. What none of us knew was how drastic the cuts would be. 

I am deeply sorry to lose so many wonderful artists at Disney Interactive, ones that really should be employed at companies so they can continue to contribute to the way in which we encounter Art in our everyday lives, in games, online entertainment, mobile devices, television, and film. 

Surviving in the entertainment industry as a professional artist is difficult no matter how you cut it. If you work as an artist in games, television or film, you are constantly subject to the whims of the market and where it decides to spend money, or new technologies, or shifts in the philosophy or ownership of the company. In the 20 years I have been working, I have had to refocus my portfolio and career numerous times, first working in traditional animation, then in cd rom games, print illustration, book illustration, then web cartoons, to various platform games, to online games and now mobile gaming. I can't say that I ever feel secure. As a way to cope with that, I've found that constant study keeps me motivated and feeling in control of my artistic interests, regardless of what happens at work. Even so, it does not take away the sting I feel when fellow artists lose their jobs, as I've seen happen a lot over the years, including myself at times. I feel fortunate to survive, and also sad for Art.  

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iPad Sketching

I recently got an iPad air over the holidays. In addition to my tree studies, for some time now I've wanted to study the lighting and staging of various live action shows that I admire. So I thought I'd start with a few shows, freeze frame the shot I like and do an observational study. 

I like to use two styluses, the Intuos Creative Stylus, which has a bluetooth connection with the iPad (although I can't really tell what the difference is between when its on and when its off) and the Nomad brush stylus. I like to use them together as each has a different feel, much like I would brushes of any real life painting.


I've also played around with various apps. There are so many out there, and I'm pretty sure I've tested them all at this point. The app I like the most is Procreate. It feels like photoshop, but has the basic stripped down interface that I need for painting, and adjusts that interface to work well on a touch screen. Other apps are clunky for various reasons, but Procreate has gotten it right.


Violet Crawley, The Dowager Countess of Grantham in "Downton Abbey". 


My first few attempts were frustrating because it seems that I cannot get the brush size or shape working well enough for me. Also, there is a slight lag between touching the screen and the brush stroke that is a little distracting. Other problems include the color palette; so often the color I thought I chose in the palette is not actually the right value. 


Worf from Star Trek Next Generation. 

The above painting of Worf was a little frustrating too because I felt like I was fighting the pen controls the entire time. Also, when I exported it to my photo stream, the painting became darker. 


I then tried a bigger scene to see how it works for capturing an entire shot, not just a portrait. I found the brush controls really difficult in that case. The city in the distance for instance is really rough, not all how I was attempting to paint it, but an ok study of the general set up and lighting. 

 Game of Thrones, Season 3, episode 2. Daenerys Stormborn on her newly acquired ship headed to Astapor.



Game of Thrones Season 3, episode 3. Daenerys Stormborn after she unleashes her dragon Drogon on the leaders of Astapor. (that must have been supremely satisfying!)

I love the lighting in this shot. I struggled with the styluses in this painting, trying to use the brushes to obtain a likeness in the eyes, nose and mouth, but finally decided that I need to think of these studies as just that, color studies. 

I plan to continue on to study shots and lighting. Its so far been a pretty enjoyable exercise overall. My hope over time is to build up some color script studies from sequences in shows I like. It will be cool to put them all together to see a progression. I have a massive list of shows and films I'd like to analyze…I'll need to chip away at them a little at a time.

Thanks for reading! My next post will be about the flemish still life I am working on - lots of progress on that!








2/17/2014

Latest Tree Studies

These days my life is pretty busy. While I have a few long term projects I'd love to finish (my unfinished/unpainted animation collaborative assignments mostly), they have been put on hold for a few months. At work I am concepting on a new game in development, which is a lot of fun, but also often means a 24 hour turn around on visualizing an idea. I've worked late nights and weekends for about a month now, leaving very little time for any personal projects. So for now its back to my very long term and much more slow paced relaxing art project, tree studies.

All of these I usually create in about 1-2 hours. They are all in places about town, usually areas where my boyfriend Jamie Baker and I can sit comfortably away from too many people. We've been to Golden Gate park, the Presidio, Stern Grove and Lake Merced. We even went on a trip down to Palo Alto where I work and did a tree study in the parking lot one Saturday. Fun times!

Here is my latest batch.



Palm trees in the Presidio. It was a bright sunny day. We set up camp right across from the Disney Family Museum - a great place!



Ok, so this is not exactly a tree study. I painted this in oil, a medium I haven't used outside for awhile. I think the darks in this are too rich. I'm working on keeping them a little more luminous.



pastel study of some redwoods in Stern Grove. 



Another oil study of some buildings in the Presidio. If you aren't familiar, it is a former military base located right next to the Golden Gate bridge. Quite a spectacular base, certainly gives West Point a run for its money!



Little palm right next to the DeYoung museum in Golden Gate park. Pastel study.


A quick oil study of a huge palm on the manicured lawn of the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park. 


This is a grouping of trees in the parking lot where I work, Disney Interactive, in Palo Alto. I think the red tree might be a Japanese Maple, but I'm not certain. It was difficult to paint since I only have a couple of red pastels in my kit. Probably will get a few more soon.

I am also working on Sundays on a long term more tightly rendered still life painting, which I posted about below. Hopefully in the next few weeks I'll be far enough along to post some progress shots. 

Thanks for stopping by!

1/11/2014

Character Design Course at Animation Collaborative

I recently took a really great character design course at the Animation Collaborative with Pixar Character Designer Dan Holland. 

During the last several sessions of the class we worked with the Story Class team and their teacher/director Louis Gonzales to develop character designs for their story. I focused on the satan character, "Booker", who is a voodoo supernatural otherworldly creature. 

I first started with a lot of research on voodoo both in the Caribbean and in Africa. I found some amazing reference and riffed on the designs keeping in mind that the creature underneath was supernatural.

These are my first pass very rough 5 minute sketches meant for exploration:


I also explored some ideas with incorporating alligator features in his face, since alligators are a common animal in the New Orleans region. These were super quick, like 5 minutes each - just gut reaction sketches.



After creating lots and lots of quick "gut reaction" sketches like the above, I started seeing if I could combine the two ideas into one. I gravitated toward a black gown, a skull with alligator like teeth embellishments as well as possibly gold filigrees, and necklaces that have lots of jewels and charms. I wanted the hands to suggest that the guy under there was not a human but some other being. I wanted the eyes to look like alligator eyes.


I narrowed in on the historical concept of satan: a former man who then became an angel, who then fell from grace and became the devil. I thought about what he looked like as a man, then an angel, and then the devil. I wanted to incorporate some evidence of that story into his design.





I wondered what he looked like without his mask - a demon with alligator teeth and eyes, alligator skin and maybe even snakes crawling all over him. Perhaps the mask he wears is the skull of his former human being self.




The Booker/devil character in the story presents the main character, Lou, with a magical trumpet that can play anything he wants with the expertise of a seasoned artist.




I thought he might also sit on a throne of sorts made of animal skins, horns and imagery that symbolized fate. I didn't have time to explore the throne more than this - I would like to go back and do a much more thorough exploration.




After presenting these to the director Louis and the story team, Louis felt that the Booker character was even more of a human being than I depicted him rather than a demon like creature. I went back to the drawing board and did some more sketching. The story team really liked the quick sketches I did of the character in a zoot suit with charms and a head dress but wanted a human face.



So I worked up some exploration of variants of the head dress, all based on the alligator motif with feathers, shells and sometimes horns. I also like incorporating charms which seem common in voodoo art. 


The one I liked the best is in the middle. His design is derived from african mask animal designs. I thought his beard might be dread locks with some charms worked in. I looked at patterns of fabrics from African voodoo culture and tried to think about how I might incorporate those designs into the zoot suit. I also tried adding some pins like you would see in a voodoo doll.




I think I could probably come up with many, many more concepts for this character, but I want to make some final decisions now that the class has ended. I'd like to paint these up and also put them into some compositions. 

Over the next few blog posts I'll post my progress. I realize this is very different than the painting work I've been posting. Who says an artist has to be interested in one kind of thing? Character design is a fascinating subject with lots of rich opportunities for research - and oh how I love research! I am still painting on the weekends working away on my diorama-flower painting, still working on my tree studies 2x a week and working away on Art Directing a new game. In the mean time when I have some moments I chip away at trying to compete these Booker/Devil ideas. I find it fun, interesting, and full of things that keep me artistically motivated.

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I recently updated my website. I am still figuring out how to add a few quicktime videos and add more work, but probably won't get the chance to update again until the late spring.

julialundman.com


12/23/2013

New Studio Painting In Progress

A few years back, I started taking classes at the fantastic crafting store in Berkley, Castle in the Air, where I met the most wonderful artist, Ulla Milbrath. Up until then I had mostly been working as an illustrator in games in the bay area, and was feeling quite isolated in my home office. After I was divorced in 2007, I told myself enough was enough; I decided to step out into the world again and start making connections back to the things that I truly love - not for the sake of my career or becoming anyone important in the arts, but for myself, my soul, and my own love of crafting fine things that bring me joy. 

When I was growing up my mother was always making something or other. One of my earliest memories is of my mom crocheting snowflake ornaments for our Christmas tree. If she wasn't making new ornaments for our tree, she was sewing my and my sister's wardrobes, making dolls and doll clothes for us, making all sorts of decorations and whimsical creations for the many houses we moved into as a nomadic military family. Almost every toy and piece of clothing that I wore growing up was made by my mom. 

So I started taking crafting classes and eventually stumbled into Ulla Milbrath's classes where I learned to make paper flowers. Ulla is one of the most wonderful and inspiring artists I know! She is incredibly inventive and creative, and stitches the most lovely things you can possibly imagine. She even paints on porcelain! You must check out her blog and be sure especially to follow her Pinterest account where she posts the most amazing reference material. 



Some of the flowers I made in her classes. I've since become quite obsessed with paper flower making. They are also a fantastic way to study botanical subjects.



Paper flower making was a popular past time in the 17th and 18th centuries in Europe. Botany at the time was all the rage as people became interested in plants from around the world and learned about classification of various species.  



Having lots of flowers around the house I had been wondering if it might be possible to compose them in a still life. I was thinking however that I wouldn't want them to be merely props for real flowers, but intentionally composed so that it is understood that they are crafted flowers. I played around a lot with this set up. I even included lots of other things at one point like scissors and glue, but took them out in the end because I preferred the look to be a little more subtle, kind of like a diorama.



The above monochrome is the open grisaille, the first pass underpainting. Below is the start of the closed grisaille, which ended up a terrible disaster...



I started this grisaille with a new tube of Michael Harding Titanium White no. 1. While I was painting I noticed the quality of the paint seemed thin and somewhat odd. I got as far as I could in one day. When I came back one full week later I found that 100% of all of the white areas of the painting were still very wet AND several of the half tones in the gradients were far darker and patchy than I painted them. On close inspection, I narrowed down that it was the white paint I'd purchased which was ground in safflower oil as opposed to linseed oil. When the manufacturer was contacted, he assured me there was nothing faulty in the paint and that it must be something wrong with my process… 

I decided to make the tough decision to wipe off all of the white paint that I could, feeling that it was obviously unstable paint. I did not want to risk this paint pulling up subsequent layers in the future layers.



I wiped off all the paint and found strange patchy areas underneath. 



So then I decided to sand to make sure there was no white paint left and a more even surface.



I waited a little more than a week, came back and found my painting was dry enough to repaint the grisaille again, this time using my old classic Vasari titanium white (along with burnt umber and a tiny bit of ult blue). 

The next stage will be COLOR. For this little painting I'm going to do a one day alla prima color study so that I can work out the subtle whites and reflected light in the composition. After that I will move forward with the final.



This year has been my 20th year of working as a professional artist. I am in the midst of completely redesigning my website, updating it with new art from this entire past year and a half at my job as Art Director at Disney Interactive. I have a lot of new work to share and will do so as soon as I can! I also have quite a few more tree studies to share soon.

Thanks for visiting! 

10/15/2013

Tree Studies

For the longest time I've wanted to do an entire series of studies focusing on trees - just trees... single trees, groups of trees, macro views of bark, tree trunks, tree roots, various leaves and how the light falls on groups of leaves. Some trees seem to shimmer in the light while others have a distinctly light absorbing quality. I've always loved the various shapes, colors, and sizes but I can't say I understand them very well, at least from the perspective of an artist. Being primarily interested in botanical subjects in general, I've felt for some time that I need to do a serious study of trees and get to know a variety of species.

So I've just started my tree studies. Here are a few. I have been painting in the mornings before work in Palo Alto with a couple of really talented and passionate coworkers - kindred spirits in the brotherhood of paint. I've also been painting on Saturday mornings, early, and usually in the late evening on Saturdays on my nightly walk. 

These days my medium of choice for plein air is pastel, a medium I've fallen in love with over and over again. Painting with pastels feels so natural, like playing with crayons or colored pencils until I get something close to what I want. I can't say I ever feel that way with oil. There is also something really neat about seeing a giant box of pastel colors together that makes me feel good. It feels like harmony.

Lundman_fallcolorPaloAlto
Hilly bank in Palo Alto, pastel on toned paper. I think I spent about 3 hours on this.

Lundman_treestudy1_PaloAlto
A little tree, maybe an aspen, in the parking lot where I work, Disney Interactive. Pastel, about 1.5 hours.

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Tree on the bank of Lake Merced in the late afternoon, just off the side of the path near the parking lot on Sloat. Pastel, about 2 hours.

Lundman_treestudy2_PaloAlto
This was a majestic evergreen variety that I was looking up at from the parking lot at work. Not the best perspective to be painting at. I tried to compensate for the foreshortening but I'm not sure it worked. I also painted this on sanded pastel paper. I don't like sanded paper at all. It just grabs up a ton of the pastel pigment and is difficult to blend soft edges. 
Pastel, about 2 hours

Lundman_LakeMercedsunset
Lake Merced in the evening. Another pastel on sanded paper. I started to get the hang of the paper here a little more than the previous pastel, however it occurred to me that if what I want is thick texture as the paper seems to provide, I may as well just paint in oil. I enjoyed the light in this one a lot. The San Francisco Zoo and Ocean Beach are just beyond those far trees, one of my favorite places in the city.

 As I painted this scene a giant raccoon creeped around my blanket looking for food. Dogs would smell something but not see the raccoon near my set up and would snarl and bark while their owners yanked them on chains. I felt like the raccoon and I were enjoying this little hidden view together. A unique experience. Usually I'm swatting flies and flicking ants off of my pants and hoping ticks haven't crawled down my back for a nice cool drink of O-. 

 Hopefully in a few weeks I will have more than a few more studies. I've also realized this year that 2013 is my 20th year of working as a professional artist and illustrator. I'd like to commemorate that that soon and share some of the early work I did painting backgrounds in animation - a great job that I owe just about everything to in regards to landscape painting and just being an adult. 

Thanks for stopping by!








8/25/2013

Found in the Minarets, Sierra Pack Trip

Earlier this month, I went on a fantastic six day painting adventure with artist friends Bill Cone, Paul Kratter, Ernesto Nemesio, Michele DeBraganca, Jeff Horn, Eric Merrell and Sergio Lopez to the Eastern Sierras - John Muir-Edgar Payne country. It was precisely the kind of uninterrupted painting time I so yearn for but don't very often get. 

Lake Ediza was our destination, a steep hike up from about 7,000 feet to around 10,000 at the lake. As we hiked up from the Agnew Meadows pack station where we dropped off our gear for the mules to carry up, I was floored by the incredible views along the rocky trail as I breathlessly made my way up slower than my group, despite the conditioning/training I did a few months before the trip.

Lundman_muletrain

Our mule train arriving after a long hike up to Lake Ediza. Eric Merrell on the far right on top of a boulder.

Lundman_tentatEdizacamp

I set up my tent just under a tree, situated rather close to our cook's food storage/prep area due to the view of the Minarets from my tent. Given that we had a 4:00 am bear visit to the camp site, I think in the future I'd place my tent much farther away from the food source. I'm sure the view was just as magnificent a little further away.

Lundman_Minaretsviewtent

Zipping down the front flap to my tent each morning gave me the most amazing view! I did a few little pencil sketches from my tent in the mornings but mostly sipped coffee while staring at the mountains and feeling like all was right with the world. Probably not the most efficient use of my painting time, but deeply enjoyable nonetheless.

Before I went on the trip I planned out how I would approach the week of painting. I intended to sketch out a couple of long shots, a few medium and a couple of close up intimate scenes so that I could create a portrait of the area from large scale to the very small.

What I hadn't counted on though was how much the altitude seemed to factor into my experience within the first 24-48 hours. After we got up to Lake Ediza from a long and difficult climb up to almost 10,000 feet elevation, I found that even after a long rest and some water that my heart was beating quite fast. I tried my best to ignore it, but my worry distracted me and I didn't paint very well the first day.

Lundman_oilsketchnewkit

After the first 24 or so hours, my heart slowed to it's usual pace and I felt pretty comfortable. Still, I decided to stay close to camp to further acclimate to the elevation. While my camp mates were hiking up steep terrain in pursuit of painting gargantuan landscapes, I crawled along a stream bed close by looking for miniature wildflower compositions.

Lundman_wildflowerstudy1

I attempted several minute scenes, but these two are my favorites of the lot. Most of these tiny compositions were along stream banks underneath tree growth bathed in beautiful cool sunlight with reflected light bouncing in and deep warm shadows. The pastel set I brought did not have a yellow that was as bright and pure as the yellow I saw in the light, so I tried my best to layer a few colors together and tried adding some transition color along the edges in order to brighten the color.

Lundman_wildflowerstudy2

I also had some fun playing with the outside edges of the compositions, layering blue and accenting the edges with an emerald green. These little compositions reminded me a lot of the kind of watercolor paintings I did a lot of in my 20's. I would really like to get some hot press watercolor paper and do some more of these little flower studies. 

In keeping my goals, I decided to venture further away from camp in order to attempt a long shot landscape. I found a bank of trees at the opposite end of Ediza near to where we hiked in and made myself comfortable by the lake shore in a shady spot. I always enjoy large view paintings but do find them daunting at times. Part of the reason for this is probably technical on my part; I feel the need to hang out in one area until I get the entire area correct in terms of value, hue, and saturation before moving on to anything else. This I am sure is due in part to the lessons I learned early on at the Palette and Chisel via Richard Schmid, who often lectured about the importance of getting everything correct within the focal point first. It is entirely possible that I misunderstood his point, but still, there it is, imprinted on my art mind forever and the way I've approached painting since I was 19.

Bill must have wondered what the heck was going on because at one point he came up to me and said, "Commit Julia! Commit!" I had to laugh because I knew exactly what he meant. From that point on I told myself over and over, "stop the bullshit and lay in some more color!!!" I did find it helpful to stop lingering as much as I was in my focal point and get some more color down.

Lundman_sketch1

Lundman_treegroupingLakeEdiza

What attracted to me to this grouping of trees was the deep shadow within the bank of trees at the bottom. I liked the way the shape looked and liked how it was juxtaposed against warm and cool greens in the light. I'm not sure this photograph picked up the variety of color in the shadow very well, unfortunately.

Also, while I painted the mountain in the far distance behind the bank of evergreens, I noticed that the colors were muted variations of reds and greens, a color scheme I saw near the foothills of Zion National Park in Southern Utah. I wondered if these mountains have some of the same elements.

Switching to oil, I wanted to make a few studies of the light on rocks down by the water. I was attracted to the color in the shadows on the rocks - just jam packed with rich color that made it really fun to paint.

Lundman_rockfaceontheshoreofEdiza

However, this simple study was more challenging than it might look. I'd look down to mix up some color, look up, and all of the sudden the temperature in the light was completely different! I decided it was probably due in part to the reflection of the shimmering light coming off of the water from Lake Ediza. This one is also on Arches oil paper. I layered the paint thicker in this study to compensate for the absorbency of the paper which seemed to make my values at least a full value darker about ten minutes after I laid down the paint. I did another few studies of the Minarets but became frustrated with the oil paper. I think I'll switch back to my usual L219 new traditions panels for oil studies. 

Lundman_rockfaceEdiza

Switching back to pastels, I decided to turn around, move down the beach and paint a close up study of this rock face and shadow. The rock had a blue-grey local color and in the shadow side had some oxidization that made rich brown patterns along the cracks. The entire time I was painting the main deep shadow of the rock I could barely wait to paint in those wisps of grass in the light. When I finally put those little lights in, it was like going to the circus! 

Lundman_LakeEdizaview

I tried a longer view from across the lake. I had to work very quickly on this one since the shadow and reflected light was changing by the minute, it seemed. The triangle of shadow at the bottom was filled with cool deep greens while the shadows above had warm light bouncing into cool shadows.

The amazing thing about the Sierras, at least the Minarets and Lake Ediza, is the reflected light. I found it quite difficult to paint such bright bounce light in the shadows, always thinking to myself that no one would  believe my painting if I painted what I saw in front of me. It was challenging to keep the reflected light within a value range that was in keeping within the shadow while also trying to define form. I've always found rocks and boulders challenging more so than other subjects for this reason.

Lundman_RockSlab

I am so fortunate to have spent time amongst the Minarets with this band of talented mountain loving artists. What made it so deeply enjoyable was the kinship with fellow artists who were all equally enthusiastic about painting. As we sat around the dinner table while Kelly cooked we all talked about what we painted that day, the places we explored and the light we saw.

Lundman_Edizaatdusk

 The light at dusk was just stunning, absolutely my favorite lighting of all, the time of day when all of the color is blanketed in a blue grey bath. Apparently I wasn't the only one interested in this; right after dinner each night, Eric Merrell would begin to set up his pochade box for some nocturne sketching. He had an excellent night time set up with little led lights on his palette that were perfect for illumination and did not blow out the light when you looked up at the dark scene in the distance.

Lundman_EricMerrellnocturne

Eric painting around 9:00. Although you can't see it in this photo, the moon was quite bright, illuminating the landscape and flooding it with warm and cool grey light.

I attempted a nocturne, but quickly learned that in order to do it well I needed a much better lighting set up. Every time I looked down at my palette with my headlamp to locate a color I wanted, I would look up and find my eyes completely unadjusted to the light making everything in sight a giant silhouette. I tried using a dim book light on my palette instead which was an improvement, but then had problems locating the colors I wanted to use. Below is my result, for better or worse. 

However, I did indeed learn A LOT by making the attempt. Not only would I come with tiny LED lights like Eric's, but I'd lay out a limited palette ahead of time full of cool blues, neutral greys, and even warm greys and a few rich violets too. 

The sky was so rich, full of violet and ult blue. I also vividly remember a thin sliver of very warm yellow value 2 light on the outer lighted edge of the moon - very surprising since the rest of the moon looked cooler in the light. 

Lundman_nocturnesketch

Besides developing a nocturnal lighting obsession, I became completely enamored by the lighting around waterfalls that were close to our camp. These areas were typically surrounded by rocks that when wet became a deep brownish color, almost black in some areas. This looked really stunning against the white water washing down around them and the green patches of vegetation nearby.

Lundman_waterfallintoEdiza

I felt like one day's time was not enough to study this waterfall area. I really want to go back and spend a full week exploring the light and color of this incredible dynamic.

Lundman_waterfallsketching

There is something about the mountains. When I was a little girl, my father, a newly promoted Captain in the Army, was stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado. Of all the places we lived as a military family, Fort Carson was my favorite. My mother and I were so heartbroken when we left. It was just outside of Fort Carson that I spent every weekend learning to ride horses, became obsessed with wildlife, the mountains, the air, the snow, the birds, horses, horses, horses, and the outdoor life.

At age 5 I thought that I'd live at Fort Carson forever and grow up to be a cowgirl that took care of horses. Every weekend I tucked my white blonde tresses into my child sized cowboy hat, put on my five year old cowboy boots, and jeans, got in the car and drove with my mom to where I took horseback riding lessons on my best friend, a Golden Palomino with blonde hair just like me. I spent every Saturday all day riding up and down the trails learning how to trust a horse while he walked down steep mountainsides with little me on his back. I learned how to brush a horse, learned about changing his shoes, and how to feed him hay. I watched as the caretakers put saddles on all the horses and wondered when I would be big enough to put a saddle on a horse myself, since at that time I was too small to even get on a horse without someone picking me up and dropping me on his back.

These memories came flooding back to me constantly since our camp cook Kelly wore a hat and a t-shirt that said "Mule Days" on it, in addition to the charming tin camp plates that had mules and horse shoes printed on them. 


I am so fortunate to have spent such sacred time with fellow artists and friends in the Sierras. I really could do this forever. 

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