Welcome to Ventana Studios OnLine.

Originally, the focus of this site was to be centered mainly around Matte Painting, Illustration and Concept Art. At the time, my goal was to someday be creating digital artwork and CG environments for film, television, commercials, print and interactive media. It soon became apparent that I would need a better foundation in traditional arts if I wanted to be successful in that field. I have temporarily shifted my focus and am currently concentrating on the basics. The site will now focus on those efforts and whatever it is I'm working on at the time.

Hopefully, this website will serve as both a personal portfolio and resource for other aspiring artists.

Please view my portfolio by clicking on the category links to the left.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Week 1 - Mike Sibley course at drawspace.com

As many of you know, I'm a huge Mike Sibley fan. I could devote a whole month to writing about Mike but others have already done that, and much better then I could, I might add. The purpose of this post, and other to come, is a week by week laymen's viewpoint on his graphite drawing class on Drawspace.com.

Week 1.

After a brief explanation as to what we could expect throughout the course, Mike covered some basic tools we'll need. Of course, pencils and paper were at the top of the list.  He offered an insite as to what he uses and why. Besides the basics, he also introduced us to using Blu-Tack in place of a kneaded eraser. Having purchased Mike's book, "Drawing from Line to Life" I was already familiar with Blu-Tack and how he came to use it in place of a kneaded eraser. If you are not familiar with this product you definitely need to try it. In my opinion it is superior to any kneaded eraser I have tried to date.

We then moved on to actually drawing something. The exercises in week 1 are designed to give Mike a feel for where you are as graphite artist. Mike's feed back showed me that I need to concentrate on getting my darks as dark as I can as I have a tendency to hold back. By going dark I avail myself of a wider range of tone and in turn add more depth to my drawing. I also learned how to look for white content that will visually dilute the strength of the tone.

Oh, and before we read or did anything, Mike had us draw a feather without looking at a reference. It told Mike a lot but he's not saying.  All he said about mine was "interesting".  The purpose of the exercise was to have a yard stick that we could use for comparison at the end of the course. All I can say is we apparently have some very strange birds around here and in my defense , I'm a city boy, so the only feathers I see fall out of pillows and pigeons.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Pencil Test - Part One

OK, fold up that papyrus and put away your stylus and listen up. I'm going to talk about pencils.

Before I get to the test results, let me give you some background information and show off my INTERNET search abilities.

The opening statement would be valid if we were in ancient Rome. That's right, the modern pencil owes it all to some little known and some very well known scribes in ancient Rome.  We've come a long way, baby. Early styluses were made with lead cores and to this day, most people still call pencil cores lead even though they actually are made of non-toxic graphite. 

Thanks to the discovery of a large graphite deposit in Borrowdale, England in 1564, graphite came into widespread use. This discovery is an interesting story in itself and worth the time to google.  It was and still is, the purest and hardest deposit ever found.  So hard that it could be cut into convenient sticks, washed and sent on it's way.   Due to it's ease of mining and manufacture the potential to flood the market was very high.  In order to avoid that and to maintain a high re-sale value, sales agreements included a condition where the proprietors agreed not to open the mine again within an agreed period.  By the mid 1830's the pencil industry turned more and more to a composite mixture of powdered graphite with powdered clay and the demand for pure graphite diminished. 

Graphite leaves a darker mark than lead.  However, graphite, on it's own, is soft and brittle and requires a holder of some sort. Today pencils come in all sorts of holders, the best know being the wood-cased pencil but originally, graphite sticks, were wrapped in string.

Pencils are graded by their degree of hardness. The designations are “H” (for hardness) and “B” (for blackness). Your standard, run of the mill, writing pencil is graded HB. Along with it's alpha designation, a number is also assigned to each pencil. The higher the number the harder or softer the lead is. The various graphite pencil grades are achieved by altering the proportion of graphite to clay: the more clay, the harder the pencil.

9H 8H 7H 6H 5H 4H 3H 2H H F HB B 2B 3B 4B 5B 6B 7B 8B 9B

As artists, we are most interested in creating a full range of tones from light grey to black. Actually, we tend to use the basic 5 grades, HB, 2B, 4B, 2H and 4 H. A wide range of tones can be achieved using just these 5, with the occasional use of a 6B for getting some really dark darks. Due to the wide range of tonal overlap between grades, owning every one is not necessary.

Here's an interesting fact... did you know that pencils graded using this system are used to measure the hardness and resistance of paints? The resistance of a coating, its pencil hardness, is determined by the grade of the hardest pencil that does not mark the coating when pressed firmly against it at a 45 degree angle. Now you know, lol.

Here in the U.S. a common method to designate the grade of a pencil uses numbers. #1 = B, #2 = HB, #3 = H and #4 = 2H.

Two pencils of the same grade but different manufacturers will not necessarily make a mark of identical tone or have the same hardness. That's why I did the Pencil Test. Although individual abilities have a huge impact on results, using the right tools is just as important in art as it is in any other trade or endeavor.

I wanted to find what was best "for me", so I purchased the 5 brands of pencils that I've seen most often mentioned among artists and performed my own un-scientific test. In order to get a fair evaluation of each brand, each pencil was tested using the same paper, the same pressure and because the only way to test an artist pencil is to draw something with it, I tested them all drawing the trusty old shaded sphere.

But, all that's coming up in Part Two :-)

Oh, and if you haven't watched it yet, check out this video on the making of a pencil. How a pencil is made.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Quick Tip - Keep it clean.

From time to time, as I'm surfing the net, I come across some very useful little tid-bits of information.  Some times they make me go "Ah ha", other times it makes me wonder why I didn't think of that myself.   At any rate, as I come across them, I'll post them here and share them with you.

I picked this one up while watching a training video late last night.

Even the most meticulous clean freaks among us will, over time,  pick up some graphite on our fingers and/or the side of our hand.  If you're not careful, you'll wind of grinding that graphite into your paper and ruin your project.   So, from time to time you have to stop and wash your hands with soap and water.   Well, did you ever notice that you can't completely remove all that ground in graphite from your hands?  You can't because the graphite resists the water.  One solution is to squirt some liquid hand soap onto your hands first, using no water. and scrub the graphite out.  Then use a paper towel to remove the graphite and soap residue.  After that you can wash you hands as you normally would and you're good to go... or are you? 

Removing graphite as described above creates another problem that you must be aware of.  I don't care how long you dry your hands, you can never get them "completely" dry.  There's always going to be some moisture that will just take time to evaporate, unless you have one of those commercial hand driers that you see in public toilets.  Getting any sort of moisture on your paper will surly ruin it and many soaps contain moisturizers that will transfer onto your paper and resist any graphite in that area.

So, what I do, to save time and my work, is keep a bottle of liquid soap "NEAR" my drawing table.  Not "on it", mind you,  but "NEAR" it.  When I'm in need of a quick clean up I grab the soap, turn away from my work, and follow the suggestion above.  The only difference being, I don't wash my hands with soap and water when I'm done.  Instead, after removing the soap residue and graphite with a paper towel,  I grab a bottle of one of those alcohol based hand sanitizers and give them a quick scrub.  The alcohol base removes the soap residue and dries quickly.  I can now get back to my work without ever leaving my work area.  Just make sure the hand sanitizer does not contain any sort of moisturizer.

Anyway, hope this helps.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

WIP - Lauren

Just a quick practice piece of my daughter, Lauren.  There's still a lot to be done.  Some of the proportions are off.

Good basic tutorial on Perspective

vfxdojo.com - Learn new tricks and have some fun at it! Tutorials, content and stock resources for Visual Effects artists and professionals

Monday, February 28, 2011

Mike Sibley course on Drawspace.com

I'm so excited that I am finally able to get in on this course   My first attempt was interrupted by a very long hospital stay.   Let's hope that's all in the past.  I just can't wait for it to begin.

If you're not familiar with with who Mike Sibley is, then you owe it to yourself to check out his web site .  I first became aware of Mike's work one night while web surfing and stumbling across his website..  As far as I'm concerned, Mike's book,  "Drawing from line to life",  is a must have.  Soon after I learned that there was a Yahoo group centered around Mikes book run by Diane Wright"The group provides a unique opportunity to discuss the techniques discussed in Mike's book with other artists from around the world."   Mike himself is a regular contributor and will also be available to answer specific questions that you may have.  If you're interested, you can sign up at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/DrawingLinetoLife/

So anyway, now i get to be coached by Mike himself and I'm just thrilled to death.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

All you wanted to know about pencils?????

To those not interested in graphite drawing a pencil is just something we keep in the junk draw or if you're really cool or maybe a carpenter, behind your ear.  To those that are, it's a tool and like any other tool the better you know your tools, the better you'll be able to use them.  so, as a lead in to my upcoming pencil test results, here's a video that explains it all... well most anyway. .

Modified by and for Ventana studios