zondag 17 maart 2019

Khazar Bagathur (2019)

Hi Everyone!

Every once in a while i have the urge to talk about the process of my artpieces. In this blog post i will talk about my newest image called Khazar Bagathur. My goal is to teach, inspire and simply guide those interested into my process as an artist.

The image is made as a part of a series, with an emphasis on the Dark Age factions, which delves into their tales of war, heroism and falling from grace through occultism. The character depicted is a ''Bagathur'' (meaning hero in old turkic) from the ancient Khazar Empire, a turkic tribe who converted to Judaism around 750 AD, while still maintaining their belief in shamanism.

Khazar Bagathur

''We embrace our new god with every fiber of our being, and carry him closest to our heart, however, ancestral stirrings still speak to. They guide our hand, teach our children, grow our crops, and defeat our enemies''. 





Inspiration:

  The Hermetic Tarot, The Knight of Wand

  I was always fascinated by the Tarot when i first saw a unique variation of them in the album ''Holy Wood'' by Marilyn Manson back in the day. Besides the divination aspect of Tarot, it holds a lot of archetypical imagery which, in my opinion serves as a backbone to a great amount of artwork in the entertainment industry. I fell in love with the artwork on the ''Hermetic Tarot'' deck when i saw it on my trip in Israel in a store. The artwork above is inspired by the ''Knight of Wands'' Archetype.

  

 

Nagato Iwasaki's Driftwood Sculptures

I always liked the haunting aspect of these sculptures, in the water. Originally i wanted the Bagathur to be surrounded by similar burning idols/sculptures, but i found that would require a horizontal and perhaps more dynamic composition. I settled with the main character itself standing in the water, without the sculptures with a more straight forward approach for the character to be in the main POV.




 Justin Sweet, Chronicles of Narnia

This is a painting by Justin Sweet, done as concept art for Narnia. I have been a fan of Justin Sweet ever since i saw his artwork on the Magic the Gathering set ''Legions'' . His mood and brush efficienty are just amazing, and i wanted to try something similar with my paintings, a warm hard light source coming from above.



Jason Rainville, Mardu Skullhunter

With Jason, i have a love/hate relationship; i think his work is absolutely stellar, but him entering Magic the Gathering as an artist, raised the bar tremendously for those needing to yet get in, haha. I studied the artwork for ''Mardu Skullhunter'', to push the rendering to the next level (and since both artpieces have the sime idea +/- too. I also got inspired by the gold coins in his braids, i added two on my characters Moustache!

.

Reference

Before i start to work, i gather as much reference as possible, because i dont want to get stuck not knowing how i should paint something. Here is a collection (not complete unfortunately) of items, and where i used them later down the road.

It varies from reference for the fire, furs, apparel/weaponry to overall gesture/anatomy/lighting, environment to smaller details like the Khazar Tamga (Rune) which comes out  of his staff and the Menorah Brooch on his chest.

 

Process

While every step integrates more rendering and details, there are other key parts that i would like to address in each phase:

Step 1: Shooting Reference

 I always like to shoot my own reference. I can guide the pose, lighting and overall expression/gesture. For this purpose i used myself as a model, trying different poses in front of a filming camera (on selfie mode) and eventually screenshotting a few poses that align with my interest. Filming yourself rather than taking pictures can help with your poses more fluent, due to your screenshots capturing a mid-action movement.

 

Step 2: Placing inside a scene

For a quick overview i like to place a cutout of my ref into a scene, which is a photobashed version of the water/sculpture showed earlier. Right now i just need to make the values and color correct and i have a base for my image in step 3.

 

Step 3: Block in

Right now its time to push the shapes and values. I use the mixer brush to blend all the pixels together and refine the shapes after. I should have a clear overview of what my painting should be from a thumbnail POV, and if thats not the case, i need to remain where i am until the image reads decently. I also changed the hand gesture to hold chains, as an extention of the wand he is holding.


 


Step 4: Detailing and enhancing focal Point

For my reference i used white sheep fur, which proved to be a great focal point behind the darkened background. I enhanced the overall contrast, and pushed the definition of the shapes/rendering.


  


Step 5: More contrast

Painting dark scenes, does not have to mean your painting actually needs to be dark, it just needs to have a clear contrast between light and dark areas. Step 4 lacked nuance, and was too dark. I pushed the contrast even more, and started to shape up the secondary, dim lit light sources on his sides.




Step 6: Auto Tone

 Local color (mostly reds) started to shape up in Version 5, which eliminated the depth. When that happens, i select the ''Auto Tone'' Function (Image-->Auto Tone) on a flattened layer. It searches for the best contrast and color relation and adjust your images that way. top create a more coherent feel. the tool isn't perfect obviously, so you need to adjust areas manually. While this version looks more coherent, it has a uncomfortable green hue that needs fixing.


 

Step 7: Not yet finished

 I enhanced the saturation around the flame/lit areas, to have saturated warms, and desaturated cools. On this exact stage i actually shared the painting online, and it received greatly positive response. When time came i spotted various minor issues with this painting that I decided to fix in version 8.














Step 8: 12 things i needed to fix

I stumbled upon various issues in Step 7 which are fixed in step 8:

1. In my reference i took in step 1, there was a lot of lens distortion going on. limbs looked bigger/smaller than they were. I copied these mistakes onto this character, who had a head too large and torso too thin.

2. The head missed a tremendous amount of rendering, as a focal point it should be perfect.
3. The arm holding the chain has a tube shape, and not an organic one that starts thin and ends up thicker at the arm-muscles.
4. The loincloth had too much contrast; It fought for attention with the focal areas.
5. The Chain arms needed to form a focal/depth area. I needed to enhance the contrast by lightening the lit part of the arms, and darkening the adjacent areas.
6. There was a tangent between the hand and painted fur beneath the armor.
7. There was way too much detail in the background. It fought for attention with the already detailed character.

8. the character took up a tad too little space in the piece, which resulted in a bit of dead space at the bottom of the water area. Since the illustration leans to a portrait imagery, i wanted the character to take more space in the canvas.
9. Silhoutte was missing around the leg area. I used the loin cloth to push the silhouette and make it more dynamic 
10. The blues in the painting were too saturated, which looked a little bit unrealistic. I desaturated them, so they still suggest the color blue, but dont fight with the dominant colors red and yellow.
11. Too little bounce light on the character from the surrounding areas. Needed to add more blueish/cyan tones on the sides of the character to balance things out.
12. Too many darks in the midtones, i removed those and added lighter/more saturated colors instead. Has a more dreamy look to it (needed to pay attention to not kill the contrast), and technically will also look better on phones and print.

 

 Step 7-8
 

Step-by-Step

 


Conclusion: The Final Step

In this painting i did not struggle that much in the process compared to earlier personal paintings. The problem solving went decently, be it technical aspects or conceptual aspects, however the ''dot on the I'' which i tackled in step 8 was a new experience for me to push myself further. I needed to ask myself more critical questions and make A LOT of comparisments with other artists to achieve that result. The final step made alot of difference to me and it gave me great insights on what i can improve in a future painting

As always, i'd like to read your thoughts; discuss!

All the Best,

JCH

www.joelchaimholtzman.com


dinsdag 19 juni 2018

Into Valac's Realm (2018)

Hi Everyone!

Every once in a while i have the urge to talk about the process of my artpieces. In this blog post i will talk about my newest image called Into Valac's Realm. My goal is to teach, inspire and simply guide those interested into my process as an artist.

The image is made as a part of a series, with an emphasis on the Indo Scythians/Biblical Lost Tribes, which delves into their tales of war, heroism and falling from grace through occultism.

Into Valac's Realm

The Goetic Memoires describe lands parallel to ours in ancient Arabia that is home to Valac, the Marquis of Snakes. Those daring to travel the lands bringing offerings and sacrifices can expect to be thaught the powers to find treasures and transmute simple minerals to the purest of gold, creating a pilgrimage for alchemists, magi and adventurers alike.



Inspiration:


1. Oxen, by Sebastiao Salgado.

When i saw Sebastiao's photography at his exhibition ''Genesis'', i liked everything about it. The atmosphere, nature and the in depth traversing into the lives of various african Tribes. Various of his imagery have been a major inspiration to my latest art pieces, and also this one below.




2. The Hamaxobii Scythians
I always like to do my research on the history of various outlandish tribes around the world. Thats where i stumbled upon the Hamaxobii Scythians. Descendant of the Persian Medes who, instead of other Scythians being horselords, they traveled and lived in their tents, pulled by Oxen. This proved to be a major selling point of the painting.


3. Medes and Scythians

After doing a bit more research on the Hamaxobii, i learned they were descendants of the Medes, who were a persian people, and Scythians (who were a mix of various people in the middle east, caucasus and levant). So i did some research on key elements of fashion from that time, and i found various elements that triggered my interest. One is the Mede gown, which had an interesting fold pattern, and the other being the Archetypical Scythian hat, staff and boots, which i applied to the painting later on.











Process

 

Stage 1: Block-in and finding a narrative

 This is the stage where i attempted to blockin the comp and narrative. I still wasn't sure what the story would be about and i let myself be carried away by the placement of the objects.

Stage 2: The Magus and the Worm

This is the stage where the image would have been leaning towards a magus with his entourage delving into a Lovecraftian Landscape after hearing a calling (hence the magus influencing the tentacles/worms), something i ditched for the most part due to conflicting narrative elements.


Stage 3: Reference for character + Polish

This is the stage where i applied reference shot for the character (Cheers Jesse!) I attempted to replicate the foldings of the Mede Robe shown earlier with clippers. Furthermore i recommend using the Auto Tone function once in a while to get some color contrast fixing in your image. (The image was mostly brown first, but right now it has blue on the light parts and red on the shadows.)


Stage 4: Almost finished the image. Not!

As i almost finished the image and showed it around, most people told me the same thing: The aesthetics work, but the narrative doesn't resonate. Mostly due to the following reasons;

The man, the cart and the oxen don't interact with their surroundings. They just walk like nothing happens and the tent on the cart doesn't tell a specific story. I had to push deeper. The tentacles don't seem to be adding movement or narrative to the image.

It seemed like i still had alot of work to do after all!

 

 

Stage 5: Lambs to the Slaughter

I decided that the image is about a Magus bringing human sacrifices to a Lovecraftian Entity. I changed the tent/cart to hold human prisoners and the oxen to be more afraid of the tentacles.

 Stage 6: Almost finished!

Besides the fact that the oxen and the cart have more narrative, the character felt a little stiff/lacking a story. I decided to have him interact with the oxen more, and have him push one annoyed. I re-shot reference for the face, looking towards the oxen, and the hand being in a more pushing motion. I also made the tentacles more aggressive and darkened the sky to decrease contrast and emphasise mood.



 

 Stage 7: Into Valac's Realm; The Goetic Alchemist

In this stage the image is finished. I finalized all the little details and i even added a final push to the story:

I changed the narrative to something more occult/mythological rather than Lovecraftian. I have always been intrigued by the lore of the demons of the Ars Goetia, the way they look, what they offer, and what they take from their victims.

The Man, descendant from ancient tribes mentioned earlier is a wandering alchemist (See the ornate jewelry and the pouches filled with coins), delving into a parallel universe (see the outlandish structures and turbulent sky), who is home to the fallen angel Valac, also known as the Marquis of Snakes (see the tentacles from previous iterations being turned to snakes). In return for Human sacrifices the demon teaches those who manage to get far enough with knowledge of finding treasures, and transmuting mundane materials into gold.

 



In this image i learned a lot regarding the use of deep narrative. I need to get more extreme with gesture and interactions rather than only making a ''nice picture'', to make memorable imagery. And also very important: i need to dare more

I hope you found use in this blog post. Please comment and let me know what you think!

All the best,

JCH

www.joelchaimholtzman.com










zondag 3 december 2017

Mjolnir Coil (2016)

Hi Everyone,

Every once in a while i would like to talk about the process of my more succesful pieces, made around 1.5-2 years ago. Besides the fact that i hope to help and inspire those who are reading, its a great way to delve into the realm of Nostalgia.

The piece itself was made within a series, of historical characters interacting with supernatural beings.

The painting depicts Nikola Tesla, having Captured the Norse God Thor and using his anger and hammer to fuell the Tesla Coil. These series were a great vessel to increase my inspiration for further painting i would make.

Mjolnir Coil
 
''As a human race we are weak. Countless Philosophers, conquerors and inventors did not change that fact of the matter. But look at us now. Together, we can make so called ''gods'' kneel, and serve as the footstone of our civilisation.'',

-Nikola Tesla's Pitch of the Mjolnir coil to Thomas Edison


 Idea Sketches
 
Here are a few sketches of ideas i had in mind, trying different POVS. I decided to go with the second POV however i changed a few things:

1. The manner Thow was chained to the coil, looks too much like a crucific. I did not realise the resemblence up until i made the sketches, and i decided not to go with this subject matter. Mostly because of the fact that the theme of a christ like figure being chained is overused/cliché and could be perceived as offensive. Furthermore it didnt add any interesting design or narrative to the story i wanted to tell, to i did some research about Tesla, and decided to use a full Tesla Coil where Thor is chained up to.

2. Thors Hammer, Mjolnir as shown in the Mythology (and the Marvel Cinematic universe) can only be wielded by Thor himself, so it wouldnt make too much sense for a skinny guy like Tesla to wield it. Even though Thor is held in submission. From this point i decided to make Mjolnir the main part of the Tesla coil, and let the viewer decide how it got to be a part of that contraption.

In this image i wanted to emphasise that Tesla is in a large ball room kind of area with thor. the setting, while wanting to show alot of energy, seemed a bit stiff and could have alot more power. Thor wasn't struggling, and the setting seemed a tad dull and boring.

So this section is a significant improvement. It shows alot of dynamics, where the lines of the ballroom, add depth, as well as pointing towards the Coil. There were still a few problems. There were a few perspective issies as well as Thor still needing a bit of Work. The tension of being bound was still missing!

Design wise i went slightly different with Thor. I really, really, didnt want go for a Marvel/winged helmet kind of look so i just took my liberties with the fact that he is the god of fertility too besides being the god of Thunder.





 Photos by Jimmy Nelson's ''before they Pass Away''. A must include if you are a character designer.


As you can see here, these are obviously not norse characters, but African. However, i thought it would be cool to combine the two elements. Part A of how we know Thor, and part B of something completely new. Adding two unrelated subjects together is a major way of creating cool and unique characters.




At this stage things are starting to come together. Thors hands tell alot about the Tension he is enduring, and them wearing metal gauntlets also give a nice contrast to the organic and shamanistic objects he is wearing.

Regarding Tesla and his consorts i wanted to go for a steampunk look, to make them look mighty enough to be able to challenge an entity like Thor.



At the finished piece, i played alot with the lightning from Mjolnir to show depth, action and movement. Thors red hair and yellow flowercoat prove an interesting focalpoint against the general blueish hue of the image. The lightning also connects the two main characters of the image. Thor and Tesla.

It was a challenge for me to utilize these aspects back then since i was mostly proficient with more static characters, so this piece proved a milestone for me using various elements to enhance the dynamics in future paintings.

I hope you enjoyed this blogpost, please let me know if you found any use in it and if you have any comments.

All the best,

JCH



maandag 11 september 2017

Promise of Power: My First Expo

Hi Everyone,

In this blogpost i would like to talk a bit about my experience on my first expo, especially the opening, and i hope it encourages you to set up your own!




How it all started

I went to an exposition of friends, around a year before i decided to do mine. They were present at a local art collective and they invited friends and family. Food was present, music even and a general good vibe. I wanted to try something similar.
So i am a regular customer at my local American Book Center and i noticed that they organize various expositions upstairs. One day i just asked the store clerk if i could enter, and after showing my work he was excited and then the preparations were being made.


First steps

At first i decided to just use prints and frame them, invite a couple of friends/family and generally have a good time. The news came to my dads ears, and as a man who was a succesful artist back in the day, with expositions around the world of his photography, he implied i should take this more seriously. I should ditch the paper prints for this purpose, and he would help me get some proper prints. 

The more we worked on this, the more serious the entire idea became! I decided to invite alot of people. Print flyers, ask friends, friends of friends, old friends, and future friends. Family and in-laws.


Ordering prints


I went to the local print stores and noticed a few options that caught my attention:

(I do not own any of the 3 images shown as example below)

Option on wood:  Artwork would be printed on wood. Either with or without white colors (so that the wood would replace everything that is white) I did not choose this option because my work contains too many value ranges on different places. It would be a mess. This option, however, would work on media with strong contrast and a limited valuerange.


Museum glass: This is the most aesthetic pleasing of all options. It is something, as the name says, that could hang in a museum. The colors come out nicely and the print has a nice coating of glass for an extra professional feel. I considered this option but it was a tad too expensive. I do not have an audience that generally collects more expensive artwork/originals, mostly prints, so i should find a nuance for now.


Forex print: This is the option i decided to take. Its a high quality form of cardboard which is very light. the colors come out extremely nicely even though the print is extremely matte. However, since the material was so light/fragile it couldnt be fastened with a hanging device. This proved to be a pain later on, since i had to fasten it myself!



Opening

 


90% of the effort was aimed towards the opening. The most people would be there at once, after that the expo would be present for a month where only a trickle of people would be there at the same time.
I invited everyone i have and had contact with, the latter aiming to reconnect and hopefully rekindle old friendships. In many cases it happened succesfully! I am working with old friends now to expand my business and i had great talks too with people i didn't see for a while! People who were important in my life connected with each other as well which was great to see.



To backup the costs of the event i had a booth selling prints, as well as showcasing work not hanging at the expo itself.



The most important part of this expo was not to sell prints necessarily, but mostly for the reasons mentioned above. its a great experience, and it adds alot to a professional atmosphere around your work in general.



I recommend every artist take a stab at this. Invite your family, friends, old and new, fellow artist and print alot of flyers! Spread the world and who knows who will come to check out your work. It's a great reason for you and enthousiasts to look at your work in a different light.




Hope this was interesting and even inspired you to take a similar initiative as i did! To this day i even hear at conventions that people saw my artwork IRL at this exact expo and i connect with them immediately. If you have any questions regarding setting up your own expo, make sure to message me!

All the best,

JCH